Friday, August 31, 2007

Some photos of my trip to Iceland

On the edge of Lj├│tipollur (ugly lake) - a huge crater formed in the 15th century.

Our tour guide - what a fabulous beard!

About to walk on a glacier.

My fella put his foot through the glacier - I can't take him anywhere.

Being pensive on the edge of a waterfall.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

On behalf of the Icelandic tourist board

Just spent the first half of my holiday in Iceland and now in New York for the second half. I've never been to Iceland before - despite being so close to the UK, it's rarely mentioned in the press and not really seen by many as a tourist destination - the Brits traditionally prefer their holidays to involve getting skin cancer while drinking beer by a tiny swimming pool. Several people who I told I was going to Iceland looked at me blankly and asked "why?"

Anyway, I'm pleased to report that Iceland is fab! Granted, even in summer the temperature rarely goes higher than 20 (and is often much lower), and everything is expensive - and their idea of fun is something called a "Herring Adventure Museum" (I'm not joking), but apart from that I had a great time. The food is amazing, the countryside is beautiful and varied (bits of it look like the moon, while other bits are like Mars), and almost all the tourist attractions are free. We bathed in a geothermically heated river, which was really weird. I also walked on a glacier (my mobile phone went off on it, oddly), drove up a volcano, saw a geyser erupt and went whale watching only a few miles from the Arctic circle - now that was cold. I was wearing five layers and still felt so cold that all I could do was close my eyes and hunker down on the side of the boat, hoping it would soon end.

Reykjavik, the capital city is on the bijou side as cities go - with a total population of only 300,000 in the whole country, with 2/3 living in or around Reykjavik, it has the feel of a small university town, rather than a metropolis - there is one main street of shops, where you can buy a lot of striped knitware. We went out on Saturday morning and it was like a ghost town - presumably everyone was recovering from a heavy night's drinking, the night before. The lucky Icelanders produce more energy than they need, it seems - the fact that they have access to so much naturally heated water is lucky. However, the tap water in the hotel had sulphur in it - drinking it was like having someone break wind in your face after eating lots of eggs. Not nice.

As for Viking stereotypes - we saw a lot of blondes - though I'm sure a lot of them came from a bottle. The women are very attractive - the men, um, not so. While everyone spoke English, I got the impression that some of the men just weren't very comfortable interacting with people. And Iceland is the country that fashion forgot. I guess there's only so much you can achieve with knitwear - and Icelanders are a very sensible people - when you're trying to stay warm, looking good has to come second place.

Anyway, as Iceland doesn't seem to be the sort of country that does well at singing its own praises - on behalf of it, I'd like to say, next time you're thinking of spending a week in Ibiza or somewhere equally vulgar - think on and go to Iceland instead.

Monday, August 20, 2007

How Clean is your Office?

One of my favourite things in the world is throwing stuff out. I've had a big clearout of my office at work this week - got rid of two filing cabinets (all containing stuff I'd never looked at in 5 years). Now all my work surfaces are so clean, I feel like getting rid of most of my desks too and putting a sofa there instead. All I need now is a rug to hide the dark grey, industrial-looking carpet. I've also cleaned my PC keyboard at work, which I'm ashamed to say, was getting rather brown due to years of accumulated muck. Kim and Aggie would have been disgusted.

Speaking of disgusted, I've noticed that since the smoking ban, cigarette butts seem to be everywhere. Downstairs from my office is a student bar and outside it has become a walking ashtray. It's the same at my new flat. I cleaned up all the cigarette butts last week and they've all magically come back again. Walking through town now, you seem to see more people smoking and walking than before - they're getting a quick fix of nicotine before they have to go inside. I am hoping for a freezing cold winter this year, which will make it even more inconvenient for them to smoke, resulting in more people giving up. In my imaginary facist dictatorship, where I rule, smokers would be forced to take out their own private health insurance. Oh, and the drinking age would be 30, along with the driving age. There'd also be a 7pm curfew for everyone aged under 20. Just as well I'm not in power really.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


Last night I slept for the first time in my flat in Lancaster - I'll be moving in properly in mid-September, but will be spending a few nights there between now and then. I had been renting it out to students for 3 years. For budding property developers, I would advise against purchasing cream carpets throughout. Also, buying an ironing board is a must if you want to avoid black imprints of irons all over the (sadly no longer) cream carpets. Banning bicycles from staircases is also recommended - unless you enjoy spending an evening with your hands in a bucket full of sugar soap solution, in order to remove tyre marks from walls.

I will have to get used to having different neighbours. There was loud music blaring out of someone's open window for a while - it's the sort of nihilistic bass beat you always hear from cars which have young lads driving them. (Why is it that whenever someone plays loud music out of their car, it's always gangsta rap or techno and never a rousing classical march or a cute song from a Disney film?) Also, someone has been leaving cigarette butts outside the front door. That'll have to stop. As an owner-occupier in my mid-30s, I intend to mob the resident's association with constant complaints until I get a reputation as a bitch.

I was woken up at 7.30 by the sound of the post office vans reversing loudly down the street (an admitted negative to living next to the central post office in town). However, it only took 3 minutes to get to a Cafe Nero for breakfast - so that's an advantage which cancels out the noisy vans.

I have to decide on a colour scheme for the whole flat by tomorrow. It is "doing my head in". The flat is dark as it is east-west facing and trees block the light from most of the windows. My fella has suggested doing the main bedroom in pink, but I don't really fancy it. He likes very strong yellows also. After having put up with magnolia for 2 years, I don't want to be boring - but I'm not sure I want to live in a battenburg cake either. Any ideas would be welcomed.

I am going to miss Bristol - especially socially-stratified Clifton. I haven't really seen any poor people in 2 years. Or anyone with bad hair. In Lancaster, everyone lives side by side. And fashion is rather more edgy (or non-existent). It'll take some getting used to.

But at least I won't have to dress up to post a letter anymore.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

All camped out

Some friends were going camping just outside Glastonbury and persuaded me to come along. The last time I went camping was in 1991, with two ancient tents borrowed from my Dad's scout troup. The tents took ages to put up and were uncomfortable and stuffy. I have avoided tents ever since - my idea of a good holiday is never leaving an enormous air conditioned room on the 53rd floor of a glitzy art deco hotel, overlooking a cultural capital, watching foreign tv and phoning down for people to bring me cups or tea and sandwiches with the crusts cut off every couple of hours. So spending the night in a field was a novelty. "It'll be a lark," my fella said. It was.

Fortunately, tent technology has come a long way since then. The whole tent fit into a tiny package, it was so easy to put up that there were no instructions, and it was made of some sort of clever material (no doubt initially created for astronauts or something) which kept the inside at just the right temperature, despite the fact that it rained pretty much all night.

It was still uncomfortable though - and Heath Ledger didn't come knocking in the night either. Though I did think I spied Barbara Windsor and Kenneth Williams.

We had the smallest tent on the campsite - quite an achievement. We'd arrived the night after everyone else and I found that our group had already been "told off" by the site owners for making too much noise the night before - apparently they all got drunk and were singing and dancing until 1.30 in the morning (this is what happens when you arrange to go camping with 10 gay men, of whom you only know 3 in advance). Luckily, everyone was more sedate last night and we were all tucked up in our tents by 11pm. Within our cluster of tents, two separate "camps" had formed - the "fabulous" group whose sole topics of discussion were vintage French and Saunders, Madonna, sex and clubbing. Then there were the boring academic gays, who sat around talking about constellations and film technique. I was in the latter group.

We also went into Glastonbury - what a weird place. It's great if you woke up and said "Hmm, you know what, today I really must stock up on crystals, incense, hemp, a model of a fairy, some druid clothing and a book on how to cast Magick spells". But if you, say, wanted to buy something as mundane as a washing machine or a DVD (unless it was a DVD on how to read auras) then forget it. Many of the people walking around had that frazzled look that you get from spending 3 decades smoking hash, not keeping proper sleeping hours and thinking you are descended from Merlin. It was a very easy place to be the most fashionable person in - because, let's face it, purple hair and a willowy kaftan with a few moons and stars drawn on it are never really going to make it down the catwalks of Milan. With that said, they weren't doing anyone, any harm - and they all looked so out of their heads on drugs relaxed, that they were never going to summon up the energy to start a revolution. And I had a lot of fun skitting them, so that's always good.

One night was enough though. We got home and went back to bed for 3 hours. If we do it again, I think it might be worth investing in an air mattress or something. Sleeping on the ground in a sleeping bag isn't recommended...

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

To celebrate the release of Season 2 of Dynasty in the UK, here are some of my favourite clips:

Joan dances

For years in our family, this has been known as The Joanie Dance. I don't remember the exact storyline, but it involves Joan swindling some old cowboys so she can get her hands on their fortune. My fella can do a very good impersonation of it, if persuaded sufficiently.

Alexis takes the mansion

Take this JUNK and your BLONDE TRAMP and get out of my home!! A good way to get any guests who have overstayed their welcome to leave.

Fake Krystal

Rita (also played by Linda Evans, with a slightly common accent) has taken Krystal's place. Will Mrs Gunnerson realise? I can never decide between fancy French foods either.

The Moldavian Massacre

A little cast grooming for the end of Season 5.