Wednesday, December 16, 1998 10:37 PM
part 12

Mainstream movies in Iceland are in English, with Icelandic subtitles. This is very convenient, except when the characters speak in a language other than English, the subtitles remain in Icelandic. Logical, but somewhat less convenient.

I was wondering if an Icelander would ever be interested in snow. Perhaps if it were hot pink, didn't melt, bottled, and sold from the back of a truck:
- Come one, come all! GET the latest miracle CURE! Step right up, and see this AMAZING tonic!! Cheathem and Howe's Snow-Good! Cures EVERYTHING from arthritis, bronchitis, and hepatitis... RIGHT UP to rabies, scabies, AND zabies! Don't miss this GREAT offer!!! WHO will be the first to try this amazing invention?
- What are "zabies"?

It has been raining and an unseasonably warm 4°C. The snow has disappeared, and it certainly is a freak weather condition. Of course, having said that, I expect the temperature to fall, the wind to pick up, and snow to return. Predictions like that always come true eventually, so that's cheating, really.

Another earthquake. 3.7 on the Richter scale. It passed so quickly, that it was over before I realised what it was. I suppose that if one lives long enough in a country that experiences earthquakes, eventually one simply lifts one's bowl of soup to prevent it spilling, even as building are collapsing outside.

When I arrived in this country, I thought that a nearby mountain, covered in snow as it was at the time, was a glacier. When the summer came, and the snow melted, it became obvious that it is only a mountain. Now that winter has returned, the mountain is again covered in snow, and looks like what I thought a glacier might look like. I am assured, however, that a glacier doesn't look like that.

One of the guys here studies Iaido and Kendo. I went to watch one night. It's a testament to the skill involved that makes an heavy sword appear to be light, swinging it as though it were almost weightless, yet positioning it with such precision. Hearing Japanese words was a surprise after ten months of Icelandic.

Sometime during mid-November, some nondescript shapes, made of fir tree branches, were put up in the main street. Shortly afterwards, some strings of lights were added to them. It was a novelty, but I didn't think anything more about them. About a week later, the trees in the main street had lights added to them. I still didn't think anything more about them. Then the Christmas decorations appeared. And the wailing of banshees... er, people singing Christmas carols on the radio. And the junk mail had more mentions of Christmas than descriptions of the things that they are selling. It was at about that stage that I got the hint.

Of course, it's not all gaudy Christmas baubles suspended from every available surface; some of it is actually very pretty. In the courtyard of my apartment block, some Christmas trees have appeared, threaded with tiny lights of red, yellow, and green. When the wind blows, the lights twinkle. This is acceptable. In a nearby park is a single tall fur tree, draped with lights. There are no other lights nearby, and so the tree represents a single incandescent beacon shining on the maudlin cosmos of nothingness... I've been reading existentialist lightbulb jokes again. Anyway, this is also acceptable.

The temperature has fallen, the wind has picked up, and snow has returned. The reason for this is probably because I noticed the good weather. One of the guys here suggested that that is how Icelandic weather works: as soon as you notice it, it changes.

I saw three Santas working the main street. They stayed together, which is rather inefficient. And targetting children! These people have no shame.

I wonder what is the collective term for a group of Santas? Perhaps a "pack", a roving pack of Santas; or "gang", wild gang of outlaw Santas? If highwaymen dressed as Santa, people might have been less unreceptive to them. After all, anyone who dresses as Santa to rob people *really* needs the money.

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