jacktellslies: (this machine)
I'd assumed that I was the first of my family to see Iceland. But apparently my grandparents were married while my grandfather, the naval captain, was on shore leave. He thought he had a month during which his time was his own, but the day after the wedding he was told that he had a day to get to port before being shipped back to the American military base near Reykjavik, where he lived for some time. He laughs when he speaks of it now. But how immensely frustrating it must have been! I stood at the bay for a day, once, waiting. Strange, that I wasn't the first to do so. They lived that way for most of their young lives: he was on a submarine, the location of which was blacked out by some military censor in his letters. She was on some tropical island or another, raising five babies alone.

My mother drove south yesterday, but blind, deaf, and barely conscious, my grandmother didn't know she was there.

She died at five o'clock this morning. My grandfather was asleep in the apartment of the assisted living home to which they'd recently moved. She was in the nursing home wing where they'd placed her. An aunt and an uncle were there with her. Surrounded by children again, and no husband.

I'm saddened by the idea, and angry on behalf of both of them. Her deafness has been swelling since I was young, but she could always hear his voice. It was the one that could always make it through. I keep asking my mother how he is doing. She says he's fine, but won't say more than that. What kind of bullshit is fine? What does that mean?

They were married for seventy years or more. Her father was reasonably well off and Catholic, and he was a Jew, poor, the son of a suicide and an orphan. They were rarely in the same country. But they wanted each other. The last I heard on the matter, they continued sleeping together regularly into their eighties, sometimes on my grandfather's boat on the river that ran through the town where they were married. Not a bad life, then, was it?
jacktellslies: (tea)
In case you'd prefer the new Icelandic Saga in Stephen Colbert's words rather than mine, please allow me to direct you to the 2 February episode of the Report.

However, I must protest one error in his usually flawless journalistic integrity. Skyr is delicious. You tell lies, Stephen Colbert, horrible, horrible lies.

If you'd like to try some, Skyr is available in the States; Whole Foods Market has an exclusive contract on a number of Icelandic products. Icelandic butter is also quite good. (I'm of the opinion that Irish butter is much better, but for some reason I don't think it travels as well.) The lamb, obviously, is phenomenal. Perhaps I ought to mention, however, that fish caught in Icelandic waters may not always be as sustainable as those of us who attempt to sell it to you might claim.
jacktellslies: (bear girl)
Recent Events in Icelandic Politics:
A Brief Summary by a Useless Dandy Who Doesn't Know Very Much About Politics At All

by Jack Grey


I was in Iceland very shortly after the collapse of the banks. The administration in power then was seen as incompetent, having failed to prevent the economic crash and incorrectly and inadequately responding to it after the fact. There have been protests going on since that time, the vast majority of them non-violent. Usually protests there involve people banging pots and pans and making noise, demanding attention. But more recently the tone changed: protesters began throwing Skyr, the Icelandic yogurt; snowballs; and eggs at the main government building. A few threw rocks, and the police responded with pepper spray and tear gas. The heads of government were secreted away through hidden underground tunnels. Talks occurred between the police and the people of Iceland, and the vast majority of the people agreed that violence was unacceptable. When at a subsequent rally rocks were thrown again, non-violent protesters formed a human wall, protecting the police and the agitators from one another. It's a beautiful image. When Obama was inaugurated, the Icelandic response was actually jealousy, and the situation there intensified. Most of the news I've been getting hasn't included this fact, but my host claims that when the Prime Minister and the Foreign Minister both stepped down, they did not officially do so because of the protests. They resigned because they were both diagnosed with cancer. Icelanders seem to be treating this as deus ex machina. The new Icelandic Prime Minister is Jóhanna Sigurdardóttir. Most newspapers seem to be referring to her as Ms. Sigurdardóttir, which is incorrect. The Icelandic patronymic simply indicates that she is Sigurdar's daughter; her name is Jóhanna, and she ought to be called such in print. And Jóhanna is, among many other things, a former airline stewardess, a former labour union organiser, and a lesbian. She is, in fact, the first openly gay leader of a nation in the modern world.

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