Dark and light

Wednesday, June 11th, 2003

I'm in a cybercafe in Reykjavík, a dark cavern with no light except what filters in from the mall and what reflects from the screens of the online gamers. Gunfire, explosions, gory death – all in silence because the gamers are wearing headphones. A very strange place.

Have just tried to read back through my friends page and got blown away by the quantity… will sit down when I get home, read properly, and post some replies. Hello to all of you, anyway.

Dalvík is a small town in the north of Iceland. Much further north and you hit the Greenland Sea and the Arctic Circle. It's got a swimming pool – an outdoor swimming pool. We went in. Well, you've got to, haven't you? It's the oddest feeling sitting outdoors in 42° water surrounded by snow-capped mountains.

Kerið and Viti, two crater lakes – looking down into what were once active volcanoes, but now are just craters, with the darkest blue water forming lakes deep in them. Heh – 'just' craters, he says. Wherever I went in the volcanic areas, I couldn't shake the feeling that the ground was about to blown open again and spout fire… Iceland's overdue another big eruption and it'll probably hit in a tourist area.

Seeing Sauðarkrokúr at last – it's the town where I had a penfriend when I was at school… you see kiddies, you may find this hard to believe but when I was young it was the days before the internet and there was no such thing as Deadjournal… if you wanted friends abroad you got yourself a penfriend. Mine was in Iceland and we wrote to each other for several years before it petered out (my fault). When I came here last year the hotel receptionist tracked him down (no-one else in Iceland has the same name as him) and I spoke to him on the phone. It was a very odd moment indeed. He vaguely remembered me and when I suggested we meet up he made excuses… Ah well, such is life. But since we were pretty close to his hometown on the drive back to Rekjavík we stopped to have a look. It's a pleasant little place but I can see why he wanted to escape, first to college in the US, then to live in Reykjavík.

Yesterday we saw Skálholt, which for centuries was the seat of the bishops in Iceland. There have been several churches on the site over the years and now there's the biggest one since the middle ages, a tasteful modern construction with beautiful abstract stained glass windows and a two-story high mosaic of Christ in sea blues and greens behind the altar. I don't 'do' religion as a rule, but I can appreciate art and architecture when I see it and there's no denying that religion is the trigger for some of the world's finest examples of both. I also love lighting votive candles in churches… one small dontation later and there was a candle burning in Skalholt, dedicated to and . Hope they don't mind.

More churches: Tuesday was the final day of a long festival of religious music at the Hallgrímskirkja, which is right opposite our hotel. So we went to the closing concert, some shorter Bach choral works. Glorious music in a magnificent setting. The only fly in the ointment was that each piece was linked by some modernist clarinet music written specially for the concert 'in the style of Bach' by some really famous composer. Well, all I can say is if it was in the style of Bach, it was a Bach who'd just come home from the pub pissed and sat heavily on his clarinet. The musician – who kept popping up in random places in the church to play the links – was excellent, but the music sounded like a cat being strangled. Everything else, though, was perfect.

The postcards are away… in many of them I found myself writing about how you could really live here because it was so much more relaxed and cleaner… and why isn't real life like that? It made me wonder… am I running away from day-to-day living? I think I am…

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I'm Andy Darley. Sometimes I want to say things. This is where I do it.