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Don’t get out much, but when I do…

Today was one of those days that managed to be action-packed and full of fun and completely free of stress. [Well, almost. There was one moment when we were just going out the door and were already very late and EPI’s cell phone rang and he tried to talk intensively on it with his shoulder to his ear while applying shoe polish to his shoes with a shoe brush and YT saw in an instant that all the little flakes of shoe polish were about to land all over the floor and said in a calm, measured, insistent voice: EPI DO NOT DO THAT. DO NOT DO THAT. DO NOT. DO THAT. – He was talking on the phone you see, and I had to be very insistent so that he would hear me and grasp my meaning.]

The day started with a workshop-slash-conference that went from 10 am to 3 pm and that I can’t tell you much about for various reasons.

Next we went to a 50th birthday party that one of EPI’s friends was throwing. EPI’s friend is an artist and was giving the party in his studio between 4 and 7. It started at 4 but we didn’t get there until 6.15 [hence the tense moment with the shoe polish, we were late] and by the time we got there it was dark and trés atmospheric – a low building at the back of an alley with candles lighting the way and lots of people inside having a great time. And everybody was in such a happy mood and so happy to chat [a rarity in Iceland] – possibly because the studio was not very big and had all these people packed inside so you were kind of forced just to talk to the person next to you. In other words, the best kind of party. Just like in college.

I don’t know EPI’s friend all that well [they went to school together] and so was a little surprised to discover that nonetheless there were loads of people there I knew, and some that I hadn’t seen or spoken to for years. People like:

* The film director who was one of the first people I interviewed when I started working as a journalist 12 years ago and who I had not talked to since…

* The architect I first met in Toronto over 20 years ago when I was slinging beer at the ratty old El Mocambo on Spadina and who at the time was studying at the U of T. He came in with a bunch of his friends and when they found out I was from Iceland they went into conniptions. We went on a couple of dates back then but nothing serious; then when I moved back to Iceland, having lost touch, we discovered we were neighbours…

* The graphic designer I worked with at Iceland Review 12 years ago and his wife the costume designer, who also belonged to our hiking group [they’ve sort of dropped out, I think]…

* The newspaper editor who is one of the few people in Iceland who has read my first novel and who believes in my book even more than I do; who keeps crossing my path and reminding me that it’s a great novel and that its time will come…

* The former Artistic Director of the National Theatre who is one of my father’s closest associates but who didn’t recognize me all grown up like this…

… And lots more.

Anyway, the party was soon over [on account of us getting there so late] so EPI and I walked back and no sooner were we home than we decided to go back out again to get some food at our favourite Thai place, but alas, on arriving there we found only a note on the door saying the staff was having its annual party [árshátíð] so they were closed for the weekend. No matter; our Plan B was to head to an Indian place that’s actually called Shalimar but that we always call ‘Halim Al’ [an inside joke that only resident Icelanders will get] – in fact we’d passed it half an hour earlier and said ‘Hey! We haven’t been there for ages we should go there sometime,’ but who would have believed we’d go there so soon?

[We used to go to Halim Al a lot when I worked at the British Embassy. That Embassy job was extremely cushy in a lot of ways, and one way in which it was cushy was that we had the Embassy driver at our disposal and among other things he could be sent out to get lunch for us each day. [Not to mention drive us wherever we wanted to go during work hours, so long as he wasn’t busy.] So every lunchtime there would be the regular brainstorming sessions about what to get for lunch; sometimes it was vegetarian, sometimes Thai, sometimes KFC, occasionally a greasy burger, and frequently Halim Al. And the driver, Óskar, would always go out and get us whatever we wanted. Because he was a sweetheart. And had this absolutely rare quality that some people have – he enjoyed serving people.]

So anyway, EPI and I go into Halim Al after searching for a parking space for ages and are remarking on how weird it is that we haven’t been there for a full three years and then I hear my name being called. And I turn around and who do I see? Óskar, the Embassy driver! Sitting there with his wife and the two of them just polishing off a bottle of red wine. Two of the most wonderful people in all of Iceland. This was followed by copious hugging and kissing and getting caught up and gossiping and we didn’t even think to order our food until much later and by that time we were practically passing out from lack of nourishment. But who cares because what are the chances? Three years since I quit the Embassy, three years since I was at Halim Al, and the day I venture back inside, who’s there but Óskar! And now I shall stop because it appears I have verbal diarrhoea. Which – it suddenly occurs to me – was one of the main reasons I stopped visiting Halim Al back then. There were a couple of times that it didn’t quite, er, agree with my constitution. Only there was no verbosity involved at that particular time. Ahem.

It’s been quite lovely. This morning and early afternoon it was gentle and beautiful with the sun shining and just the slightest breeze. Mild, too. Late afternoon we had a sun shower, and since then it’s been generally damp but still very mild and calm. We walked all the way to the party and back [30 mins each way] and it was superrefreshing. Temps right now are 2°C and sunrise was at 08.57, sunset at 17.25.



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