An unreliable memoir

Archive for December, 2014

Northern Lights

Northern Lights
The reason there is no Icelandic mythology about the northern lights (apart from that invented by the tourist industry in the last 30 years) is that because during the Middle Ages (where the folklore comes from), the magnetic north pole was close to Iceland, so the band around the pole where the aurora occurs was far to the south.

We drove to the south coast and arrived about 9.30pm. It was cold, around -5°C but with another 10 degrees of windchill, but the skies were clear. So clear and dark that you could make out the milky way. I tried, but the milky way was a little too much for little cam to cope with. And we waited, got colder. After an hour or so, five layers just weren’t cutting it any more. And we waited. And got colder. By 11pm I’d just about had enough. I was so cold and so tired I was ready to pack it in. The Kris said, It is starting.

To the north we could see the thin, vertical milky band we had been told to watch for. And then there they were, the northern lights. Mostly green but with a faint touch of orange. Then they were all around us, to the north and to the south.

I shot and shot and little cam performed magnificently, far better than a pocket sized camera has any right to. I carried on shooting until I was so cold that my hands wouldn’t move and I couldn’t work the camera any more. So I put the camera in my pocket and stepped out into the wind and watched. And then they started to dance, the lower edge rippling and bucking like a curtain in front of an open window.

Then it was too cold and just too dangerous to stay any longer, so we drove back to Reykjavík. It was one of the scariest drives of my life, drifting snow obscuring the road and nearly getting blown into the ditch by cross winds several times. And they followed us all the way, all around, even into Reykjavík after we hit the street lights.

I got to be about 2am but I couldn’t sleep. I was buzzing. Never, ever dreamed I would see anything so magnificent.

Northern Lights Northern Lights

Sony DSC-HX20V ƒ3.5 7mm 1/4 ISO 800


The Blue Lagoon

The Blue LagoonWe set off in darkness, and frankly, it was looking a bit grim. Then, after an hour’s drive, just as we arrived, we were blessed with the most spectacular light I have even seen (since the previous day!).

More Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon
Blue Lagoon Moon

Stunning. So glad we did this trip in the winter. So lucky with the weather and the light.

Sony DSC-HX20V  ƒ3.2  5mm  1/400  ISO 400


The Golden Circle

The Golden Circle
During the Cold War in the 1960’s, the Americans, trying to court the Icelanders and limit Russian influence in such a strategic territory, granted Icelandair permission to operate the first low cost transatlantic flights. There were just two problems. European national carriers were pissed off and successfully lobbied their governments to refuse Icelandair permission to land. Luxembourg didn’t have a national airline, so that’s where they finished up. (I’ll be honest, I didn’t know Luxembourg had an international airport.) The other problem was that the American airlines were equally pissed off and successfully demanded that all passengers must break their trip in Iceland and spend at least 24 hours on the ground before finishing the Atlantic crossing. Good for the bars and restaurants in Reykjavík, but then people got bored. So the Icelanders invented The Golden Circle, seven hours of Iceland’s Greatest Hits – Now That’s What I Call Vulcanism 69.

This was the only day we had “bad” weather. But it wasn’t really bad – it was good. I’m so glad I saw Iceland like this, not in the summer and rammed with tourists. At Thingvellir it was still dark and snowing – but so atmospheric, and so beautiful. At Geysir and Gullfoss there was driving snow, but by the time we reached Selfoss, it had stopped.

And then, on the way back, something magical happened. An hour of the most perfect light. Iceland at its very best. Unforgettable.

More Golden Circle

Sony DSC-HX20V ƒ4 9mm 1/15 ISO 400


Reykjavík

Reykjavík
First impressions of Reykjavík were very favourable. I like the relaxed small town feel and the attitude of the Icelanders, who are as likely to tell you to f**k off as to have an nice day (sometimes both in the same sentence). Sure, it’s expensive – but not as expensive as London.

And then, when the sun hit the Esja mountains, I started checking house prices and looking for jobs. I could live here.

More Reykjavík

Sony DSC-HX20V ƒ3.2 4.5mm 1/15 ISO 800


Every One Is Different

Ice Crystal

Sony DSC-HX20V ƒ4.5 17.5mm 1/100 ISO 100


The recipe after the day before

Christmas Pudding
No-one here likes turkey, so Boxing Day is all about left over Christmas pudding. As a change from fried, fritters or other variations on a theme, today it’s going to be Christmas Bread And Butter Pudding.

Crumbled Christmas pudding, cubes of bread and butter, a little spice, grated rind of a clementine. Dash of rum? Don’t mind if I do – though with yesterday’s flaming brandy hair removal incident in mind, I think I’ll put it in the custard rather than risking flames again.

Nikon D5200 Nikkor 18-55mm ƒ11 55mm 1/60 ISO 3200


Sage and Onion

Greylag Geese
Sage and Onion would like to wish you Merry Christmas!
With roast potatoes, parsnip, leeks, gravy.*

Sony DSC-HX20V ƒ4.5 21.1mm 1/125 ISO 640

* No (Greylag) geese were harmed in the making of this lunch.


You know how it is on Christmas Eve

Robin
Get up early, rush to the supermarket, fight for a parking space, spend a fortune, rush home, peel the sprouts, pick up relatives from the airport, wrap presents, eat too much, watch TV.

F**k that.

Super day at Cossington Meadows – 26 (confirmed) species:  Black Headed Gull, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Coot, Cormorant, Crow, Gadwall, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Heron, Lapwing, Lesser Black Backed Gull, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Peregrine, Pochard, Redwing, Robin, Shoveler, Teal, Tree Sparrow, Tufted Duck, Wood Pigeon, Wren.

Merry Christmas!

Nikon D5200 Tamron 70-300mm ƒ5.6 300mm 1/500 ISO 250


Chim chim-in-ey

Chim chim-in-ey
I’ve developed a weird (non-priapic) fascination with this chimney, having shot it several times before. But when the light is this good…

Sony DSC-HX20V ƒ5.0 30.0mm 1/160 ISO 800