Friday, November 30, 2012

In Search of Natural Light

These past few weeks, I have been knitting and reading with an Icelandic theme.  I am still reading "Names for the Sea:  A Stranger in Iceland".  The author spent a year teaching 19th century English literature in Iceland.  But she hardly ever writes about that.  Mostly she writes about the absence of fruit and vegetables and how strange it feels to be "a foreigner". 
Now, Iceland is a place I have always had on my "must visit" list.  But the threat of a 3-day journey by ship over rough seas followed by the torture of a diet of cottage cheese and dried fish?  Um... no thanks!
Except... maybe it's not really like that.  There doesn't seem to be a ferry from Aberdeen anymore. I would have to fly to Copenhagen  and then to Reykjavik.  Expensive and complex, but at least sea-sickness would not be an issue.
Continuing on the Icelandic theme, last weekend I picked up a copy of Knitscene and devoured an article by Cirilia Rose about a gathering of the knitterati in Iceland.  There's more on her blog. She talks of boutique shopping and wonderful hot chocolate and amazing yarn, set in an awe-inspiring landscape. With Jared Flood, Stephen West, Ysolda Teague.... the whole gang was there!  That's more like it! If I ever win the Lottery (unlikely, as I never buy a ticket) I will go on a Knitting Iceland holiday.
I see that Cirilia has also written a piece for the latest issue of PomPom.  Has anyone seen this?  Is it worth £9.50?
So I returned to "Names for the Sea" with a more circumspect eye and read a little deeper. Isn't it funny how you trust your narrator?  Maybe Sarah Moss isn't like me after all!  Maybe we wouldn't get on if we met in real life!  Or maybe she was just rather depressed.  I wouldn't blame her:  two young children, a new job, living in an unfamiliar country in the midst of an economic crash with a volcano erupting down the road.  Yeah, that could get to you! 
She writes of the absence of daylight in winter.  As if this was unusual.  And I realised that even within the UK our experience of light is very different from North to South.  Talking to The Girl on Sunday, she was shocked to hear that there had only been daylight between about 10am and 3pm that day in Aberdeen.  She said someone at school had asked her if it was darker in the North and she hadn't really known.  Yes.  Yes, it is.
Other things about Icelandic living rang loud bells for me - the prevailing driving style:  too fast, too close,  in big cars, with zero use of mirrors or signals. Sarah Moss's reaction to this was to stay indoors, avoiding driving wherever possible.  Yup.  That's me.  Only to discover she had spent almost a year in Iceland and seen nothing beyond the domestic and working realms?  Yup.
And the local attitude to money among those of working age? The same.  There are very few second-hand shops in Aberdeenshite, unless you mean charity shops.  People buy new and throw away last year's model. Interiors are cream-carpeted and glossy.  Children here do not wear patched hand-me-down clothes like the middle-class kids of London, they have the latest designer labels.
Remoteness, insularity, over-inflated consumerist expectations and debt:  that's what Iceland and NE Scotland have in common!
And yet, there must be pockets of resistance here, as in Iceland. I just need to find them.
Until then, I have blogland.
And this last week, with an office unexpectedly to myself, I have spent my lunchtimes listening to knitting podcasts while knitting - wow!  Creativity in the workplace!  This is a whole new realm of knitterly exposure!  I recommend Student Knits (UK) and A Playful Day (UK) and also enjoyed an episode of Dramatic Knits (USA).
And with the exciting news of a one per cent annual payrise, back-dated to 1 August I am treating myself to a glorious necklace (as seen on Attic 24).
To hell with Burgundy! (Or Reykjavik.)

14 comments:

Valerie said...

While working in the UK last year I made friends with a German woman who told me about her ambition to one day visit Iceland. At the time the most exotic place I had ever visited was the north of Scotland. (I am from Australia.) Then when I googled photos of some of the fantasy-world scenery of Iceland it has become my passion to get there one day too.
BTW I'm going to find a copy of Names for the Sea. It sounds fascinating.

Linda said...

Icelandair fly direct from Glasgow. I went to Iceland in 2009 and managed to eat loads of vegetables and salad. Cheap geothermal energy means they can grow lots of things in greenhouses. An amazing country.

Unknown said...

I'm with Linda....flew out of Glasgow, quick and painless. Iceland is my favourite journey ever and we have been traveling the world for almost 30 years. We went in the spring before the tourists arrived and had all the beauty to ourselves, even some of the inns to ourselves. Great veg restaurants....go!

Anonymous said...

I recently discovered Sarah Moss's two novels and love them. Have you read Night Waking? That should let you know if you and she are alike or not. Her description of living with small children is spot on for me.
Mary

LinB said...

We lived in central Indiana for six years, which is east and south of Lake Michigan. We lived just below the zone where you got "lake effect" snow all winter, but well within the zone where you got "lake effect" clouds all winter. There was one stretch of 50 days in which we did not see the sun at all. I can commiserate with all folk who live where the sun is rarely seen in wintertime. I made my husband move us to North Carolina twelve years ago. It's often sunny here.

My only experiences of Iceland: 1. The star soccer player at my daughter's university, when she was a freshman, was from Iceland. 2. Volcanic eruption that stopped air traffic over Europe a few years ago delayed my husband's business trip to Italy.

Anonymous said...

I'm with Linda and Unknown above. I went to Iceland six years ago (on a trip sponsored by Vogue Knitting) and loved it. Would go again in a heartbeat. Amazing, amazing land. Go in summer if you want hours and hours of daylight.
-- stashdragon

Twelfthknit said...

I am still working my way through the 76 balls of yarn I bought in ICeland. Naturally, that hasn't stopped me aquiring more ;0)

Sadie said...

I always notice when I come to Glasgow that it gets light later and dark earlier than it does down here (I have only ever been to Glasgow between the autumn and spring equinoxes, and it was most noticeable the first time I went which was in December!).

Have you tried the Caithness Craft Collective podcast? She's even further north than you are!

Sadie said...

I always notice when I come to Glasgow that it gets light later and dark earlier than it does down here (I have only ever been to Glasgow between the autumn and spring equinoxes, and it was most noticeable the first time I went which was in December!).

Have you tried the Caithness Craft Collective podcast? She's even further north than you are!

sulkycat said...

Best typo EVER: 'very few second-hand shops in Aberdeenshite' .

Thanks for the grin Roo ;-)

Katy said...

I also was going to comment on the aberdeenshite comment, but maybe I'm more cynical and presumed it was intentional instead of a typo! Having spent a year living in the granite city (my now husband is a reformed aberdonian i.e. unlike the rest of the population doesn't sing its praises and would rather live elsewhere), I can relate to your comments about newness being best. So much money but so much unhappiness, in my experience. I think more from the NE could benefit from a thrifting, creative way of life. But I also know some definite resistors to drab beige lifestyles, often with artistic backgrounds...one you can google is Gabrielle Reith. One of the reasons we flew south was the darkness, though admittedly glasgow isn't much better. The countryside in A'shite was stunning though x

Scruffybadger said...

Truly interesting as always !! Now I have a balancing question, coming from the south with no experience of living above Gloucestershire.... You talk about the winters and the lack of light, but what are the summers like? Do you enjoy longer lighter summery days? Does it compensate / allow you to forget the dark days of winter? I am fascinated to know what it's like for you, because of course it's easy to read about the Scandinavian all day sun, but what about here, within our shores?

Linda said...

I'm with you on longing to go to Iceland, but an even stronger desire is to visit the Faroes. But strictly no knitting - I'm allergic to it.

I don't think the whole of the North East of Scotland should be judged by Aberdeen and its commuter belt. I come from Moray and visit very regularly, and it's quite different to Aberdeen and immediate environs. There seem to be more Range Rovers in Aberdeen than in plummy, old-money Edinburgh - it is a bit of a world apart. Every time we pass through Aberdeen on our way south we keep a Range Rover tally.

Is the middle-class hand-me-down-ness in London not just a teeny bit self conscious and self-congratulatory? I am increasingly weary of being set a frame of reference by metropolitan types - and I'm categorically NOT a Scottish Nationalist.

Annie @ knitsofacto said...

If you find those pockets of resistance please let me know ... N. Wales sounds a lot like Iceland too!

(If you haven't seen it there's a woolly giveaway over at my place Roo that might be your kind of thing.)