I sat on the Oxford Tube heading to London this morning. Beautiful, beautiful, warm sunshine. Listening to an accidental playlist I don’t remember making. As we approached Lewknor unexpected tears kicked in. Alan Silvestri’s Forrest Gump? Christ. Silent weeping at the back end of a packed coach to London.
I started the surreptitious eye wiping routine. Left cheek. Swift wipe with the back of the hand. Wait a mo. Right hand, right cheek. Swipe.
The woman sitting next to me studiously studied a Housing related journal. Two beautiful young boys on the other side of the aisle silently swung their legs, gadgets charging. Absorbed in technologies that weren’t a distant speck when we used to chug up to London on days out. Bus and heavy haulage spotting. Waiting to get there.
Are we nearly there yet?
I stared up at the skylight trying to back the tear flow. A half arsed study of sky through dirty streaked tinted plastic. Forrest Gump. Where did that come from? Those fucking tears. Falling in a space of strangers.
What do you do with those tears?
The Bayswater Road was closed. I got off at Shepherds Bush.
Wave for Change Day. Muswell Hill. Mixing, mingling and fun. Thorny issues around who speaks for who discussed in a space of openness and acceptance. I rolled with the waves. Listening to people talk about lives and experiences. Imagined futures and fears.
My phone ran out of charge on the way home.
I turn to memories. Dusty photos and love. The kind of love that makes tears tumble at the drop of an unexpected tune.
Pembrokeshire. Circa. the good times. Paddling in the shallow shallows. Orange binoculars. Early Learning Centre police tabard. Baseball cap. Hoofing up your shorts. Living your best life.
I love you.
A short ferry hop to Videy Island, a small, beautiful island packing a punch and cracking cup of hot chocolate. The first building built of stone in Iceland. A space of blues and greens and heavy clouds. Shades of grey and layers of mustard. Last ferry back 6pm.
Given the Reykjavik coach tourist industry we kind of assumed a lot of people would be tramping round Videy. It was deserted. A couple of people on the ferry we never saw again and the odd figure in the distance.
So much to see, absorb, wildlife, wildflowers and silence. Dotted with artwork and memorials. Yoko Ono’s Imagine Peace Tower; a blue light installation visible between 9.10-8.12. Fifteen men died when HMCS Skeena sank off the island in 1944. Einar Sigurdsson and rescue team saved 198 men via a line secured to the island over several hours during the storm. The men who died set off on floats before the ‘abandon ship’ call was cancelled.
Later, the Bravo bar. Pints of Viking and brighter colours. Reds, yellows and orange. Turquoise and sunshine.
Day 2. Rain. Solid, grey, vertical rain. And little response to it. No dramatic posturing, rushing or jostling in doorways. Locals and tourists, snug in a smorgasbord of artic-type weather gear, ran with it. Without running. We walked to Laugardalslaug public pool. Twenty minutes along an office lined road into a neighbourhood of grey, pebble-dashed chunky residential buildings with open garden areas. Scattered bikes and BBQs.
I learned the pool rules during my summer research: shoes off outside the changing room; naked showering with important areas for suds highlighted in posters; cozzy back on and out.
I hadn’t realised two shower inspectors would sit in a booth opposite the open shower. Minutes later, after asking a few, nerve generated (did I pass muster on the sudster?) clarification questions answered with charm and politeness; “Er, you can take your towel if you want but it is raining outside”, we were basking in a steaming geothermal pool. The now light rain peppering our faces.
That evening we discovered ‘happy hour(s)’ in the Bravo bar on Laugavegur.
Day 3. The sun was out. We had a plan. A trip to Videy Island. Would you just look at this:
Mount Esja beginning to reveal unimaginable strength and beauty. And Videy Island that thin slice of mustardy coloured land laid out in front of her (although we didn’t realise it at the time). A walk around the headland to find the ferry port.
No words really. An Icelandic director’s house next to the Sigurjon Olafsson Museum and artwork to graze en route. Heavy haulage action I could only dream of talking to Connor about. And a short wait for the ferry across to the island.
Postscript. In writing these posts I keep coming back to the composer Olafur Arnalds.
He apparently refused to translate Georg’s poem because it would lose some of its beauty.
Eight days in Reykjavik*. A long time for us to be on holiday. In a city with temperatures around 10 degrees and steady rain forecast. We went plan-less having planned the trip the whole summer. Hiring a car: ditched. Iterations of the same tour in a range of different colour and sized coaches: ditched. Temperatures steadily rising at home. I stopped googling. And reading.
Day one. A five minute walk to the sea early morning and glimpses of Mount Esja beneath heavy clouds. Following the sea wall alongside a dual carriageway and backdrop of highish rise flats we passed the opera house and reached a picture postcard harbour. Whale a minute! This was never in our non-plan.
Kitted out in thick red onesies, goggles, life jackets and gloves we were bouncing out to sea on a speedboat within 30 minutes. Our guide a Prisoner of Cell Block H guard type with layers of understated charm, humour, orders and persuasion. Vertical arm for help. Horizontal arm and clock position shout out for whale spotted. The puffins had pretty much left for the winter. We waited, engine off, bobbing in the North Atlantic. Grey drizzle. Deep, dark waves. Exhilaration, joy and intense horizon studying. Minke whales and a porpoise dolphin whale pitched up, late season. Thank you.
That first day was particularly blue. With tots popping up in the nearby Punk Museum and a shop window display.
*There’s a kind of non back story behind this.