Day 15, August 8th: leaving Iceland

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

And now I have to leave Iceland! It’s a weird time to leave, because there’s this summer school for Scandinavian manuscript studies which starts next week. I don’t particularly want to go to the summer school (apart from missing the doubtless excellent contributions by my housemate-for-four-hours, who from a careless glance at a press release I once mistook for the „Shrek“ des isländischen Mittelalters). But it’s bringing all sorts of cool people from around Europe to Reykjavík (not least a couple of the Leeds grads), and it would have been lovely to see them. And the sun’s come out! It’s lovely! Today I have not put a jumper on ALL DAY! I found myself wandering dazedly round Reykjavík wondering why it was so pretty all of a sudden.

Gay Pride, Reykjavík 2011

Gay Pride, Reykjavík 2011

Ten cool things this warm, sunny weekend:

(1) Going to a party with the groovy Árnastofnun people and staying in Icelandic pretty much all night; while still actually having fun! A couple of times, in between being inarticulate, I even managed to be funny. Like, on purpose and everything. I’ve never got as far with a foreign language before as with Icelandic, and it’s been a really gratifying trip. Hats off, of course, to the noble Icelanders who put up with me working away at it.

(2) The Nexus Pilgrimage, obviously.


A proud mannequin on Laugavegur

(3) I’d had grand plans to blog about Reykjavík’s gay scene (not that I have any intimate acquaintance with it, but then it’s not like it hides its light under a bushel), but after my rambling essay on Icelandic music, I guess you can do without further philosophising. For now. If you can spare a couple of quid for a good short film with very little dialogue in which some urbane director imagines what life might be like out in the sticks, you might try the darkly comic, and poignant, Bræðrabylta. Anyway, me and one of the scholars who just arrived to look at pictures in manuscripts and freeload on the groovy summerschool action, and most of the rest of Reykjavík, went to the parade, and it was sunny and fun. I even caught, if fleetingly on the back of a lorry, a live performance by the great Haffi haff. (His appellation, not mine. He announced it, loudly, from the lorry.) But my favourite float was probably just the one with a dozen nondescript, boring men in grey suits sitting around an office table reading papers, drinking coffee and listening to the news, with a big sign saying ‘Which one’s the homo?’.



(4) Pictures Girl came with me to look at the flashy new concert hall Harpa, and helped me diss it, which I appreciated. I have this pet theory that one reason why Finns got so into Jugendstil architecture in Helsinki (which I do really like) is that, because it is pseudo-medieval, it kind of gives the city this medieval, Hanseatic architectural heritage that it never actually had. It appears that just before the financial crash, Iceland’s power-brokers felt the need to give Reykjavík the crass Thatcher/Reagan 1980s yuppy architecture it never had. Okay, the building does have its attractions, including a sort of Escher-like staircase inside; there’s even a photo here where they make the outside look really nice. But the black-and-a-bit-of-yellow interior, with the mirror-ball ceiling… Blimey. And the signs inside were in English, not Icelandic. How sad.

Free bikes!

Free bikes!

(5) A big trawl of children’s literature and harðfiskur (dried fish) from Kolaportið, Reykjavík’s amazing fleamarket. Tea and file-sharing of Icelandic movies there with some of the Norse scholars.

(6) ‘You don’t need to steal a bike! Come along this week and make one instead. We’ve got all the tools and spare parts to lend you!’ Back in the old days, lots of folks cycled (my landlady assures me). But then they all started driving cars, which got bigger and bigger until they got so big they BURST! At the same time as the economy did. But there in 101 Reykjavík, with all the cool, colourful, 1920s sorts of buildings; and the interesting cafes; and the poets, local and foreign; and the people making the eminently endearing rockumentary Backyard, someone’s making bikes happen again. (And knitting too.) Me, my landlady and Picture Girl approve.

knitted bike

I want my Mum to knit me a stripy bike...

Since I’m now posting about bikes, I can’t resist posting the praise-poem I made about Bike Guy singing at a folk music session. It’s a bit stupid, I know, because anyone who’s actually able to read it will be, like, what idiot wrote this? While no-one else will be able to make head or tail of it. So either way I lose. But it’s my first ever verse in the infamously untranslateable metrical form of dróttkvætt that I’ve composed actually in Icelandic, so I am quite proud that I tried:

Hægt fór hjól-örn fróði    —Harðstjöls frekjuskarðið
alltof engt— að kveða;    öll þá spjöllin þögðu.
Án kraftbendils kenndi    karl um skeið mér fallegs.
Hjörtu glöddust höll í;    hjól-láfur ól á bröndum.

(One Friday, the Sceptical Expat, disdaining my claims to the difficulty of this verse-form, announced to me that I just had to tell her the rules and she’d compose three stanzas by the end of the weekend. And, sure enough, she did, and they were very good too. Whether she could sustain this while translating I’m not sure…)

Probably the best fish and chips in the world

Probably the best fish and chips in the world

(7) Groovy free dinner on Saturday with Norse scholars. Woo! And thanks. Not at the venue depicted. I’m just throwing that in to make my friends in Yorkshire feel jealous.

(8) Dropping in on the Bergstaðastrætingar to cadge yet more hospitality off them at their homely house and to express my farewells. Thanks again!

(9) Finding out from another of the various interesting characters floating through Mávahlíð, this time a film-maker, what the good people of Portugal want to ask Icelanders:

(10) Starting to see the next wave of Norse scholars rolling in at Mávahlíð: Pictures Girl on Day 14, „Shrek“ des isländischen Mittelalters in the small hours of Day 15, as the dawn light crept up in the north over the Hallgrímskirkja. Good to know the house won’t be without manuscript experts in my absence.

Iceland says 'Ég elska þig'I’m going to miss Iceland! But like Torfi Torfason in Halldór Laxness’s Nýa Ísland, I find my destiny lying in the West. Let’s hope I have a better time than him and his mangy dog! BYE ICELAND! Ég sakna þig!


About alarichall
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7 Responses to Day 15, August 8th: leaving Iceland

  1. Viqueen says:

    I see you belong to the ‘whole long line on one printed line’ school of dróttkvætt… Hmmm.

  2. alarichall says:

    Which, moreover, required a bit of faffing around with the HTML, which shows how committed I am! Sounds like you’re a fan of the half-line-at-a-time approach: I must pin you down on the matter sometime.

    • Viqueen says:

      Well, it’s the Scandiwegian way…. The other is Anglo-Saxonist propaganda to make us think everything is Beowulf. The issue is already prejudged by the terminology (‘half-line’ etc.).
      Actually, intellectually I don’t have very strong views on the subject, I just like to stand up to anything I perceive as an Anglo-Saxonification of Old Norse. 🙂
      Am enjoying your trip blog, anyway. Did I gather you’re going to Victoria? If so, give my regards to the place, I loved it (and Vancouver) the one time I went there many years ago.

  3. Alaric! Obviously I couldn’t sustain the metre while translating into Icelandic because I don’t really know any Icelandic! But I am meaning to get back into my elementary saga translation efforts with the help of your (other) website.

  4. alarichall says:

    I was more meaning translating from Icelandic into English, as the point that I was originally trying to make about the verse-form is that it’s untranslateable into English. But, you know, you did so convincingly prove that the verse form is sustainable in English that maybe one day, further into your Icelandic-saga-reading career, you will prove me even wronger 😉

  5. Pingback: Day 56, September 19th, revisited: Bjarni Harðarson, Sigurðar saga fóts: Íslensk riddarasaga (Selfoss: Sæmundur, 2010) | alarichall

  6. Pingback: Days 2-4: THE RETURN TO THE BLACK DIAMOND | alarichall

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