Days 7–9, 31st July–2nd August: horticulture

Greenhouse gas emissions (CO2eq): 361 kilos
Sigurðar saga fóts: 67/252

So, on Sunday me and the Bergstaðastrætingar and my landlady’s son went and heard some music at a kind of bank holiday weekend indoor mini festival affair called Innipúkinn. I’m looking forward to doing a proper post about that, but maybe after I (hopefully) catch some more music on Thursday. And on Tuesday I fed, to varying degrees, what turned out to be a large collection of people: some straightforward dinner guests—people whom I owed at least a dinner invitation and in most cases an actual dinner—including Bike Guy and (perhaps inevitably, this being Iceland) someone who’s about to publish her first children’s book, and the ubiquitous but no-less-excellent-for-it Bergstaðastrætingar (one of whom turns out himself to be busy language-checking some English-language Icelandic stories); and my landlady and her son; and then even, on account of the surfeit of apple crumble which I’d produced, my seldom-seen co-lodger, whose existence has mostly been attested in my time at Mávahlíð only by the occasional disappearance and reappearance of his shoes from the hall, who threw in a surprise dinner gathering of his own and cunningly advised me that given a choice between putting some apples in the apple crumble and putting all the apples in the apple crumble, it would be best to go for all.

But in between, I’ve just kept focused on seeing to the postgrads and to hacking at the thickets of editing duties surrounding things like Leeds Studies in English—and getting through a few more pages of Sigurðar saga fóts, woo!—so nothing very blogtastic there.

But I did want to share something I noticed yesterday. It might have something to do with explaining the smell of Reykjavík discussed on day 1. Or maybe that really is just the birch. Anyway, it’s the gardens, which it’s finally dawned on me are different from in Britain. I don’t know why it’s taken so long to conceptualise this point, but a few things fell into place when this observation floated from my subconscious up to my, er, superconscious mind.

Let’s take three well known measures of horticultivation, and south-eastern English statistics for these measures (I think the rest of the UK is similar, but I happen to have the southern figures nearer the top of my mind).

  • The Thrupp scale of garden grass-length, where 100 is the putting green on the eighteenth hole of St Andrews Links; and 0 is the waving, tiger-stalked grasses of the southern African savannah. The English score here is about 90—somewhere around the St Andrews Links fairway—with a low standard deviation.
  • The Griebel scale of garden furnishing, where 100 is the finest hand-glazed antique garden gnome, specially imported from the ceramics emporia of Thuringia; and where 0 is a mouldy matress, three battered tins of dried-up paint, a collection of unidentifiable pieces of broken furniture, and the shards of broken beer bottles. Although the standard deviation is wide in both urban and rural areas, the mean score is also around 90, in the vicinity of hand-made wooden birdtable (well-stocked).
  • The Brown scale of how public authorities respond to pieces of ground where there are no buildings and no tarmac, where 100 is PUT TARMAC ON IT THEN!; and 0 is untouched primeval forest. English ratings here show a steady upward trajectory since records began, but tend to come in around 88, which more or less equates to grass on the Thrupp scale, and to geometric ornamental flowerbeds.

Now, it’s not like Reykjavík is a fourth-division player here, but the differences from England are noteworthy:

  • Thrupp scale: 67, at the upper end of neighbours start to worry about their property values. Driveways seem never to come into contact with weed-killer.
  • Griebel scale: 65 in Reykjavík, precisely at large rusty anchor, dipping in the countryside to 61, around interestingly shaped driftwood; or even, in the Eastfjords, 52, flotsam (decorated or undecorated).
  • Brown scale: debate surrounds the applicability of the Brown scale to regions which cannot muster forest, primeval or otherwise, tending rather to produce undomesticated shrubberies. Consensus puts Reykjavík, however, around 45, with extensive representation both of grasses and birch.

I like to think that the consequent biodiversity might be part of the explanation for Reykjavík’s aromatic superiority.

And if nothing else, it might help to explain the nagging sense I got when I moved here that everything in Reykjavík is either only 92% finished, or 8% in need or repair. Which, to be fair, is also more or less what I felt when I moved back from Finland to Britain (though that might mean that relative to Finland, everything in Reykjavík is only 85% finished, or 15% in need of repair). Still, with practice, it is possible to view all this simply as part of its charm.


About alarichall
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3 Responses to Days 7–9, 31st July–2nd August: horticulture

  1. Pingback: Innipúkinn! Which actually happened on Day 7, 31st July | alarichall

  2. Pingback: Lots of days! Days 16–24, August 9th–17th: all about Toronto! | alarichall

  3. Pingback: Day 30, August 23rd: Niagara Falls | alarichall

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