I woke this morning to the dawn chorus, just before the sun rose and then looked out of my attic velux and the sky was was lit up pink above Hebden Bridge. I made some tea and thought I’d read the first chapter of How Iceland Changed The World by Egill Bjarnason, a young Icelandic journalist and author. Egill has written the foreword to James Rushforth’s Photographing Iceland that I am publishing, and both James and myself have purchased Egill’s book.
Egill’s writing is engaging and draws you in and as he set the scene in the first chapter for the rest of his book I learnt of Egill’s background growing up in Selfoss an inland town of 8,000 souls and of an adventure he had on a bartered bicycle, that was payment from his boss at Sunnlenska, a local newspaper – times are hard everywhere for newsprint. Egill set off on this bicycle to ride the Route 1 ring road, the 828 mile road that circumnavigates this beautiful and wild island. Buffeted by the wild Icelandic winds that respect no season after 300 miles or so he decided to stop off a while at Húsavík on the north coast, just below the Arctic circle.
By chance here he met Captain Hordur Sigurbjarnarson, the skipper of Hildur, a wooden schooner, (James and Egill, met on the Hildur) and before you could say Hákarl (fermented shark meat, an Icelandic delicacy) Egill became a crew of one with Captain Sigurbjarnarson. Egill’s adventures on the Hildur (see James’ photograph above), sailing to the fjords of Greenland and Norway over several years was the stimulus for his book as they take paying guests on Hildur and some of these tourists ask silly questions about Iceland, like, whether there are enough educated people in Iceland to form a functioning government! If you didn’t know, Iceland has had a functioning parliament since 930 CE when Icelander’s met at Þingvellir to discuss matters legislative and judicial under the guidance of a Lawspeaker. As Egill recounts, ‘Iceland has never had a military. Never shot at another country’ (no mean feat that they won three Cod Wars against the UK without a shot fired). And if it wasn’t for Iceland ‘Neil Armstrong would never had practiced the moon landing on earth’ and ‘we would have waited longer for the first woman elected head of state’, Vigdís Finnbogadóttir was elected President of Iceland in 1980. These are just some of Iceland’s progressive achievements.
Egil discusses Iceland’s discovery, and Greenland’s and North America’s, including stories about the Viking explorers Erik the Red, Leif Eriksson and Gudrid Thorbjarnardóttir. It was Gudrid, the daughter of a Viking chieftain by the name of Thorbjorn of Laugarbrekka, who discovered North America, five hundred years before Columbus.
Oddly, my eyes began to close and I had to stop reading. I gone to bed at 10pm, but I think an intense session at the climbing wall before that was catching up. I have a cushion in the hallway next to my office and I thought I’d put my head down for a while as the Photographing Iceland high-resolution proofs arrive today and I was still working on finishing a big Icelandic map.
I lay down on the carpet, put my head on the cushion and started dreaming almost immediately. In this dream I was in my house with Egill, James Rushforth and Björk Guðmundsdóttir, the pixie-like Icelandic warbler. We were sat round my kitchen table chatting and I was cooking, I love cooking for people. We were discussing the recent Fagradalsfjall volcano on the Reykanes peninsula and Björk told us that she was nervous that it might engulf her house—James Rushforth is actually visiting Fagradalsfjall next week (that’s not a dream). Anyway, Egill, and James, were in the middle of packing for a trip on the wooden schooner the Hildur and soon left the house with their backpacks leaving me alone with Björk. Björk started singing and insisted that I join her on my Gaelic whistle. Just as I started to play, Alfie the little Jack Russell who I am looking after started to lick me on the face and woke me up from my dream.
I think I’ll read some more of Egill’s book this evening and after I fall asleep I will continue my duet with Björk.
Meanwhile, back to the big Iceland map.
You can buy Egil’s book HERE
Find out more about James Rushforth’s Photographing Iceland, Volume 1 and 2, plus map HERE