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National Day Chronicles

National Day today. Whoo-hoo!! That’s right: this is the day when Iceland celebrates becoming its own Republic, declaring its independence from Denmark 63 years ago today. Do the math and you’ll discover this happened in 1944, just at the end of World War II, while Denmark was still busy being occupied by the Nazis. They barely noticed us waving goodbye.

As ever, the day started with a ceremony downtown – first the laying of a wreath in the colours of the national flag at the gravesite of independence leader Jón Sigurðsson, then formalities down on Austurvöllur square: speeches, the Prez laying another wreath, this time at the statue of Jón Sigurðsson [get the feeling we’re indebted?], and people standing around stoically while a men’s choir sung the National Anthem. The only person who wasn’t standing around stoically was our incomparable First Lady Dorrit Moussaieff, who married our President Ólafur a few years back and who has totally won over the hearts and minds of the nation. I could devote an entire post about how this woman has endeared herself to the Nicelandic populace, but for now suffice it to say that, while all our public officials and their spouses were busy standing around stoically while the men’s choir sang the National Anthem, Dorrit [who was born in Israel but holds a UK passport] stood there and sang along. In Icelandic. During this, her first National Day as a Nicelandic citizen. We’ll take more like her, please!

Anyway, watching all this I felt my wee Nicelandic heart swell with patriotic pride [although not patriotic enough to actually get up early and physically go down there – and anyway, you can see better on TV]. I can’t tell you how I love the feisty independence of this tiny nation [pop. 309,000 if you’ve just joined us], which since its bold shaking of a fist in the face of its imperial rulers has gone on to become one of the wealthiest countries in the world, with one of the highest standards of living. Seriously, I can get all weepy. I was talking about this to my cousin on the phone this morning and she said something about the importance of having ‘your own place on this earth on which to stand’ and I thought, ‘yeah, this is my very own place on the earth on which to stand’ – and I daresay I probably appreciate it a whole lot more than some people, because of course I passed many, many years in which I did not have ‘my own place on this earth on which to stand’, and I missed it terribly. But I digress.

EPI and I headed downtown around mid-afternoon, just to have a boo at the crowds and such [and snap a few photos]. Downtown Reykjavík was hopping – we met some people we knew, saw some weird things, and were vastly entertained by Wally the Clown, who claimed he was all the way from Australia, which is very strange because he definitely had a UK accent. Although methinks he probably earned a lot more dosh by claiming he had to buy a ticket back home to Australia, than by claiming he had to buy a ticket to the UK [which by now costs about the same as the fare from Reykjavík to Akureyri].

We ended by heading into this café [Vor, on Laugavegur] where we had cappucino and cake. When it came time to pay, YT was scandalized to discover that they actually added a 15 percent surcharge to our bill, because it was a national holiday. Have you ever heard of anything so absurd?? When I [very tactfully] voiced my objections, the waitress just looked at me and said coolly, ‘It’s a red day. They have to pay us all double’. Yeah? So? I mean – I would have thought they’d have made it up in excess business anyway, seeing as how it’s a national holiday. I mean, I know cabs charge more during times of high traffic – but cafés?? And in any case, isn’t it their choice to stay open or not? Boo!

Anyway, we went home and the girls came over for grilled hamburgers [except AAH, who was working, poor dear, but who is making up for it downtown as we speak – there are bands playing everywhere and people getting plastered], and while chowing down we watched Niceland beat Serbia 42:40 in handball on TV, thereby making it through to the European Championships. You’d better believe the collective patriotism practically blew the roof off the stadium – it was a home game. Huzzah!

And now I’d say it’s about time to quit because, well, tomorrow is just a regular old Monday. Temps currently 10°C [50F], sunrise was at 02.55, sunrise at 24.02.

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