Monday, September 27, 1999 11:48 PM
part 19

It was the Icelandic Culture Day. Really. I walked downtown to have a look and, as I arrived, a truck was passing, containing percussionists percussing. Most of the crowd gathered to watch, and I managed to get to the front, which was a bad move - not only was there little to see, apart from a truck containing instruments that obstructed the view of the people, but after the truck passed, there was even less to see and the crowd began to follow, drawn as though the percussionists were the Pied Piper. I thought to be an immovable object, the crowd thought to be an irresistable force, and we all know the paradox presented there. The result was that I was moved. In fact, I was swept along with the crowd towards the harbour where fireworks would start when the truck arrived. If I had known that beforehand, I would not have resisted. Resistance is futile. Those people who drove made a terrible error - a truck with police escort travelling at five kilometres per hour, followed by a crowd of several thousand people, pays no heed to traffic rules. Such rules become merely suggestions which are ignored. Thus, thought the lights were green, no cars moved.

Eventually, the truck arrived at the harbour and the fireworks started. The show was brief, comprising mainly of a display of the latest wares that will be available for the end of century celebration. I suspect that most people here are convinced that it is also the end of the millenium and will celebrate it as such, despite being a year early. However, considering the projected cost of this new year's party, another party next year might well be out of the question.

I like a fireworks show, even though it is essentially an enormous waste of money. Bringing fleeting happiness to so many people does not justify such an expense. However, the fireworks were big and flashy, with some effects that I had not seen before. Just before the end, the controller paused for effect, and the crowd began to cheer. Then there was a big finish and the crowd went wild. There's nothing like that sense of antici......pation.

Someone at work organised a mystery tour. It was so mysterious that even the boss didn't know where we were going. It began... with a trip to the basement. There was food and drink - a good start to any tour. Eventually, a bus arrived to take us further afield. A "reasonable" amount of alcohol was allowed to accompany us. The Icelanders understood this to mean "as much as one can carry". Pockets were filled with bottles. Some people looked like a new species of spiny animal. There was a direct proportion between pockets and sudden popularity - the guy wearing the survival jacket, literally covered in pockets, was the centre of attention. My two pockets contained my hands only briefly, until someone replaced them with bottles.

First stop was a maritime museum, which houses the last of the old fishing boats. It would have been a hard life for the thirty souls who worked on it. The mess hall was barely tall enough in which to stand. Thirty people present at once would have jostled for personal space. The beds were merely a hole in the wall. It was much like being inside a wooden submarine. The Icelanders sang a song and swayed from side to side, no doubt to induce sea sickness among the susceptible people. Apparently, it is a tradition to sing that song in this boat, but no-one was able to tell me why.

Next stop was a fish processing plant. The smell was strong enough that one could wad it and kick it around. Someone found a soccer ball and we played for a while. How symbolic.

Last stop was a restaurant. The choice of food was red meat or red meat. I don't eat red meat. Such a simple life causes so much trouble. At least there were vegetables. There was a brief flurry of conversation on my behalf and, some minutes later, a fish dish was brought to me. I was happy. It came with fries. I was envied. I share my fries with no-one. :-)

It was dark on the way back but the moon was full. It shone like a spotlight on the water of the bay - a rare sight, I was told - and lit a section of the sky. It was an interesting effect, if nothing else. The sight of Reykjavík across the bay lent itself to the appearance of being on fire - the electric lights made visible the low layer of clouds, which looked like smoke hanging over the city, glowing red and yellow. Fortunately, it only appeared that Reykjavík was on fire, and no other disasters had befallen the city while we were elsewhere. I would be quite at a loss to know what to do in the event that Reykjavík was there when I left and not there when I returned. It would make a good story, though.

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