Saturday, December 23, 2006

A little harmless boasting

I've been away for a bit. Sorry. But here is some boasting to disarm you. I had my viva on 14th December - very polite and surprisingly nice handpicked examiners - and they agreed to give me my doctorate. So, I've spent the past few days in sybaritic luxury, waving away questions and annoyances with a lordly flick of the wrist. This'll last until the beginning of January, perhaps, when I really need to think about getting a job. But until then, let the good times roll.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Malory 4

'And sythen he hath no name, I shall gyff hym a name which shall be called Beawmaynes, that is to say Fayre Handys. And into the kychyn I shall brynge hym, and there he shall have fatte browes every day that he shall be as fatte at the twelve-monthe ende as a porke hog.'
Sir Kay taking the mickey out of a nameless wight, who proves two pages later to be 'Garethe, and brothir unto sir Gawayne of fadir syne and modir syne.' That's one of the perelest knyghtes to make an enemy of, and no mistake.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

An Adventure

This is a story of heroism and derring-do, travel and alarums. But first a picture of my brother walking safely on the frozen Tjörn. We call this proleptic irony.

On the last full day my brothers had here with me in Iceland, we decided to rent a car and go to see Vík, a beautiful black-sand beach at almost the very south of the country. It's about 180 kilometres from Reykjavík. The town's real name is Vík í Myrdal (I can't work out how to put an accent on the letter 'y', but just imagine it's there), which means 'Bay in the Marshy Vale'. But don't let that put you off. Ben drove all the way there and back, excellently.

We left as the sun was coming up, at about eleven am. It's not a particularly exciting drive, but you know, it's authentically Icelandic. We stopped at various points to drink coffee, take pictures of waterfalls

and admire Icelandic agricultural machinery.

We also noticed the desire to live in large communities which is so manifest an element of the Icelandic character.

We got to Vík at about two pm. There are some nice stacks there

and Tom and Ben performed a few characteristic activities, viz. taking photographs of sand and walking about looking rugged.

The adventure started shortly after I took this photograph. I was standing on a rock facing the beach, when suddenly a larger-than-normal breaker hit me from behind and knocked me over. The North Atlantic ocean is particularly chilly in early December. I got up fairly quickly, certainly before the next wave came along, but I was sodden wet, in the middle of Iceland and without any dry clothes. So, we hurried back to the car and I took my trousers off. There is a photo of me, naked from the waist down, in the passenger seat of the car, but I'm not going to share it with just anyone. Ben and Tom were both incredibly competent and highly compassionate. Ben picked me up. Tom gave me his spare jumper and bought a large beach towel covered with puffins in the souvenir shop at Vík for me to cover my modesty (which, given the cold water, was a more-than-adequate fig leaf). Ben allowed me to sit my naked self on his jumper so as not to get the car seat wet. Oddly enough, he decided not to wear the jumper today. We drank a lot of coffee and then pottered home, because it was getting dark. Excitement enough. One interesting thing is that in the time it took me to get hit by the wave, fall over and get up again, all my pockets were filled with sand. So I am finding little bits of gravel and pummice and basalt all over my bedroom today. Time for a spring-clean (pre-Christmas-clean) perhaps.

Twilight looks pretty much the same at both ends of the day.


These are my two brothers, Tom and Ben. You have to guess which is which.


This is the first all-steel boat made in Iceland. It's in the process of being decommissioned. I learnt these facts from a man who saw us looking at the boat and asked us, 'Do you like this boat?' Which makes a change from the traditional question, 'Do you like Iceland?' Also, an easier question to answer. My brother is at the front for purposes of scale.

Sign of the Times

This is an official streetsign. It seems that the owners of the burgerjoint just to the east of it petitioned the authorities for the naming rights. What's wrong with Karlmarksgata, we ask ourselves?

Icelandic Graffiti Redux

I went walking round Reykjavík with my brothers. We found lots of grafitti - the picture in the middle is the most self-effacing. Although the idea of self-effacing grafitti sounds like something town councils have been trying to invent since tagging began.

Monks on the Run

We went up the church tower again to see Reykjavík from on high. With us was a party of Buddhist monks. I speak no Tibetan (Tom says they looked Korean; neither speak I Korean), but it is possible to deduce that they were interested in the church bells. My evidence:
1. 'ding-dong' seems to be a universal piece of onomatopoeia.
2. When the clock started striking, they immediately got out their expensive digital cameras and started recording the resounding two pm.

Ice Cream

A slight hiatus in the posting: my brothers have been out here visiting me.

We went to this ice cream parlour: it had enough neon and shiny packaging to make me imagine I was either in the future or in one of J.G. Ballard's nightmares. The ice cream, sadly, was not great: the range of toppings available was wide, as long as you like chocolated liquorice.