Poppets, lovlies and dear ones,
I apologise for my absence on the blogosphere. I hope you haven’t missed my weekly updates too much- I truly have missed writing them. After a months hiatus how do I begin to round up the last 6 weeks?! An intense period of work and deadlines, book ended by trips to Reykjavik and visits from dear family and friends. It has been an overwhelming and emotional time. So here, in what counts for brief in my world, is Part 1 of what has been occurring in my strange little corner of the world- and it may be easier to begin at the end…
I didn’t want to say until I knew the outcome but there has been a big reason for my radio silence. The reason for my trips to Reykjavik was primarily to make some important visits and decisions. And the reason for the intense working schedule and lack of contact was because of an application. Which I can now tell you about with much excitement. I have a place to study for an MA in Fine at the Iceland Academy of the Arts, starting this autumn.
Many of you know, it has long been my dream to go back to art school and it has been a complicated journey to find where I fit and get to this point. When I came to Iceland I had no idea it would lead me down this path, but in re-finding my creativity and a supportive community both here in Stöðvarfjördur and in Reykjavik, it feels like the opportunity I’ve been searching for. It is a big scary commitment to staying in Iceland (2 years) and there are many details to iron out, and some mildly anxiety inducing prospects. But mostly I’m just overwhelmingly excited by all the unknown doors that are about to open. It hasn’t really sunk in yet.
So now to go back! As I said in one of my oh so brief April blogs, at the beginning of the month I set off with Una. A last minute decision- all roads leading me to Reykjavik. Not only did two months feel like the right timing for a trip away from the fjord, but I wanted to visit the art school before making the decision as to whether I would actually apply. After my slightly shaky arrival in the country back in January, I wanted to know whether this was a city I could be happy in. Could I really make a life here? This well timed visit, was also the perfect excuse to surprise my Mum (because I had’t surprised her enough in the last 12 months 😉 ) by meeting her upon her arrival in Iceland.
Our long drive along the south road was essentially a seamless ten hour conversation, punctuated by alfresco pee stops- the only time we did not talk! We stopped to take Tumi (Una’s dog- still a puppy- albeit a very large one!) for walks in picturesque spots. Tumi who had not travelled far from Stöðvarfjördur and certainly had never seen so many people before was as good as gold. This was probably helped by the wonderful sausage wielding Dutch man who instantly appeased his barking with warmth and salami! I think from that moment on Tumi thought that all strangers were potentially concealing meat-based treats, so all barking ceased.
During this trip I finally got a chance to see the glacial lake of Jökulsárlón. When I had passed it last time by bus it had been completely dark. And now finally stopping, in glorious sunshine, it was beautiful and terrifying in equal measure. One of the most extraordinary places I have ever been. On one side the floating eerily quiet lake, with icebergs silently gliding past. On the other, a raging ocean- where blocks of ice settled like centurions guarding the beach. In honesty I felt like I was witnessing global warming in action. Whilst oblivious happy tourists took selfies in front this strange slightly apocalyptic scene.
We also made a stop at the black sand beaches at Vík- another tourist hotspot. Where the winds howl- this place often comes with a weather warning for good reason. The cliffs and caves like huge cathedrals- another place that felt both ancient, and dystopian. Pure Tolkien.
After our long journey/conversation (via an ice-cream stop in Selfoss- two words, LUXURY SAUCE. That is where it is at!) and almost without voice again, Una bid me goodbye and I checked into my hostel. I was all set to settle in for the night when I got an invitation to go out. Ten minutes later I was reunited with Brynja and it was wonderful. I was a little concerned that the transient times and relationships where residency friendships are forged may not translate in to the real world- but this was not the case. I finally got to sample the delights of Cuckoo’s Nest, a bar/cafe just by the harbour. I had had several recommendations and was not disappointed. Cosy and surrounded by great company, this already felt like a very different Reykjavik to the one I had visited in January.
The next morning, having told Mum I was in Reykjavik (Zanna told me it may be one surprise too far to just appear at the bus stop) I went for brunch back at Cuckoo’s. It is funny how you sometimes you don’t realise you miss something until you are reunited. Like actual friends or family- or in this case brunch! After two months, poached eggs had never tasted so good. Oh how I had missed you old friend…
The next few days have now blurred into a haze of site-seeing, swimming and socialising. I sampled two of the city pools. Visited galleries, Hafnarhús and Kjarvalsstaðir, where I fell in love with the paintings of Icelandic artist Jóhannes S. Kjarvall. I had ice-cream for dinner- because when you are an adult you can do that sort of thing. I had chips for dinner for the same reasons. Perused the flea market. Caught up with Susan, one of the March Factory residents who was still around. Hung out together at Harper. And of course there were hot dogs. Many hot dogs.
In this short stay, I made new friends- Sirry, a wonderful human who I had been emailing, having been put in contact by a mutual friend, and her lovely daughter Anna. Meeting them was like meeting long lost family or old friends- I instantly knew I would always have people I could turn to in Reykjavik now. I then got to go to an Icelandic house party with Brynja. It was tremendous fun. Lovely people, and despite slipping between English and Icelandic I found my way and laughed a lot. One of the highlights was meeting little Baldur, one of the coolest kids I’ve ever met. Three years old, not speaking the same language and yet we managed to find a way to communicate by crawling around on the floor, throwing things at each other and pulling silly faces- so just a normal night out for me! By the end of the first couple of days I was left in no doubt that I could make a life here and find my tribe.
Una had put me in touch with a friend who worked at the art school, and she agreed to show me around. I immediately got a good feeling for the place. A real art school vibe. I bumped into someone I’d met at the party the previous night- it was already feeling uncomplicated and easy. I met some students, chatted, got a sense of the course, and saw the studio space. The usual chaotic studio feel, but with better views, looking out over the sea and to the mountains. I knew I wanted to apply.
So after a very cool few days getting to know Reykjavik, I woke up on Wednesday (5th April) with much excitement. I was going to see my Mum 🙂 I finally would get a chance to share my adventure with someone I loved. I set out from the hostel, having a vague plan for finding her. I had PROMISED I would meet her from the bus. Having had two days of goodish weather, the snow (of course) set in. I checked out and wrapped up. I knew she was on a Gray Line bus, but where it was stopping and when, I was not sure. I managed to find a helpful local and found the stop. And waited. For forty-five minutes. Pacing and jumping, asking every bus that stopped when the bus would arrive from Keflavik. Staying more or less in one spot, I was the coldest I had been in this country. Even through my windproof fleece-lined gloves, with liners I couldn’t feel a thing. So when the next bus arrived and told me it would be at least twenty minutes I left the stop. (You know where this is going…) I headed to a cafe 50 meters away, with a clear view of the square, settled down, ordered a hot chocolate, and… looked out of the window to see Mum stepping off a bus and wandering off in the opposite direction. I grabbed my coat- shouted to the lady that I would be back, leaving my bags behind, I tore off after this person, who I was 80% sure, was my Mum. I ran to the bus- yes, there was a confused English lady expecting to meet her daughter- she went that way. I ran down the street- not the reunion I was hoping for but I found her- somewhat bewildered, windswept and of course reminding me I had promised to meet her off the bus! But we were together.
We returned to grab my bags, and drink the abandoned hot chocolate. I enjoyed a few moments warming up and settled into a relieved happiness. We had a whole day in the city together before we would be flying east. It was cold, and grey, so not ideal for site seeing. But it didn’t matter. We enjoyed Harper together, had lunch in Cuckoo’s Nest (my third visit in three days), Mum met Brynja, and we visited Hallgrímskirkja. It was a long day for Mum, with a particularly early start. By the time we made it to Kjarvalsstaðir she was flagging. I wanted to show her the paintings but too tired to traipse around a gallery we had coffee, and chilled before her second flight of the day.
Whilst all the other artists had flown to Egilsstaðir- this was my first experience of the small AirIceland plane. Once we found the domestic airport- which was challenging in itself- I begun to prepare myself for the flight. No security and barely looking at our boarding passes we got onto the plane. I am terrible with take-offs. I compulsively have to chew on something until a plane evens out. Stupidly I had not planned for this, in the excitement of a day with Mum so had no sweets. I had to make do with what Mum had to offer. Natural ginger chews. Without thinking I stuffed three into my mouth. By the time we took off I couldn’t breath, I was dribbling, and my eyes were watering- Mum in hysterics, trying to feign concern by asking if I was ok. “So FIERY.” came the repeated whispered reply. So fiery. I barely noticed the take off. Maybe Gin-Gins really are the way forward…
Once we landed there came another challenge. I had hired a car for five days to make getting about easier. Favouring short journeys in familiar places back home in leafy suburbia, and having never driven in another country on the “wrong side” of the car and road, I was a little anxious. There was also the snow to contend with and the fact I had agreed to give a lift to an unknown, late arriving artist, who had been stuck in Reykjavik for two days. What if he judged my driving? Or made me feel stressed? What if he didn’t feel safe…? This was the last thing I needed… BUT, the artist turned out to be Yasser. A wonderful soul from Pakistan, and one of the most infectiously excitable people I have ever met- so I needn’t have worried. He was my cheerleader. He was excited by the snow, excited to meet us, and amazed that I was happy to drive in this weather. Just happy to be here after such a long journey, and happy to be with me and Mum. I couldn’t have wished for a better car based support team. And slowly but surely we made it over the mountain pass together, and through to Stöðvarfjördur. Where we could finally all rest up.
Being in Stöðvarfjördur with Mum was amazing. And of course the time went all too quickly. It was like seeing everything anew exploring with her. Even just taking a trip to the supermarket! She was of course excited to see the Factory, to meet my Factory family, see what I had been doing, but most of all to just have the chance to catchup. I took her to my favourite places. The top of the fjord, the bird hide, out stone hunting and to Petra’s Collection, where we were welcomed with tea and stories in the sun room. I also inflicted pizza with jam upon her. I think she approved…! And if she wasn’t sure of that, she certainly appreciated Thristur bars.
We got to know the new April artists together. Mum particularly bonding with Jonathan and Yasser- “those lovely boys”. She felt like one of the gang. It was going to be hard to say goodbye…
We had a wonderful day trip to Seyðisfjörður. We braved the hair pinned mountain road, had a typically Icelandic picnic in gale force winds, hiked up to a waterfall, found the rainbow road and yodelled in the Tvisöngur sound sculpture (I even made a special video for Alfie and sung his Baked Potato song! Luckily there was no one else around at the time).
That night, albeit a little mildly, the lights came out for my Mum. It really was a perfect day.
But all too soon it was Mum’s last night, which also coincided with Hong’s, (an artist from South Korea) birthday. We had a typically eclectic feast- Korean bibimbap, Turkish mezze, German spaetzle, spiced fish, bread and butter pudding. And Yasser (as we would come to realise, with every meal) cooked potatoes 😉 Crammed in to a few short days, the Mothership got the true Fish Factory experience.
The next day it was beautiful morning to set out on the drive to the airport, and a very sad goodbye. It had been such a wonderful visit. I had waited for 2 months and now it was drawing to a close. Mum understood my connection to this land, and had fallen a little in love with it herself. I had her blessing to apply to art school- and Reykjavik, she said, was at least a little easier to get to! I said goodbye and watched the plane take off into the blue. I felt sad, but it really had been such a special time filled with incredible moments for us both and that’s what I held on to.
I feel like this might be a time to take a break and let you digest part one. But I promise the next instalment will be coming soon…sooner!
TTFN my lovelies, much love,