The Gerald Bostock Diaries
Latest news from the lyric writer of the original “Thick as a Brick.”
To Iceland – Part 4
Iceland was rather splendid. A full three nights to enjoy the land of midnight sun. The weather – far from the much-touted promise of rain, wind and misery – turned out nice again. As George Formby used to say. Sun shone most of the time – even out of Mr A’s arse – and there were only one or two showers which stopped as quickly as they began.
Anderson has been there before, of course. This was his 7th Icelandic concert, so I was told just before the first of two shows in the shiny new concert hall by the harbour in Reykjavik, only completed in the last few months. A proper Classical venue in a glass-covered structure, it is a fine example of modern construction technique allied to traditional interior materials and acoustic values. A teensy bit lively for raucous rock music perhaps but I’ll bet the local orchestra love it.
Might go there again sometime with the old bag and absorb some serious kulcha. And even a few rays, if we get lucky. I might arrange a whale watching trip and see if whales can be persuaded to tastier morsels than plankton and krill. Thigh of bag or a rump fat wifely fillet, perhaps? Hell they can just have the whole thing if I can tip her over the side without anyone watching. Cripes – better be careful. She might read this, although computers and media technology are not her forte. A wheelbarrow, long-handled Dutch hoe and olive green gardening gloves don’t chime well with the subtle delights of Facebook and YouTube.
The shows went quite well from where I sat although Mr A is never satisfied and always feels he can do better. Technical issues bother him the most. But luckily, all the audio-visual bits seemed to run on cue, after a few nervous moments at soundcheck.
I took to the 101 district of town with the “Jazz Trio” – Messrs. Goodier, O’Hara and Hammond, who tend to gravitate towards the delights of coffee houses, museums and art galleries. We sat in a few funky coffee places where local musicians often entertain in the evenings, pretending not to notice the local Icelandic lassies in their short summer dresses exposing pale moonlit knees and ankles quite unused to the long hours of June sun. They pretended (much more convincingly) not to notice us either. Made a damn good job of it, in fact.
Mr A went off with with wife and bairn to the West of the island to visit a glacier and shoot a few minutes of video for Icelandic Television who will broadcast the concert later with some interviews and other material.
Local promoter Daniel Birgisson was a nice young man with earnest expression and a good line in dry wit and cutting humour. His small team had taken care of everything and it was easy to see that band and crew were more relaxed knowing that business had been taken care of and things ran like clockwork.
The food was a touch different to the Dirty Duck and whale was indeed on the menu as was puffin – the local avian symbol wildlife to be found in all the local gift shops. The Icelandic Horse was a close second in tourist tat terms but not to be found on the restaurant menu, sadly. Hardly prime cut of donkey, I would think, but might have been interesting. I stuck with the whitefish and the lamb for the most part downed with an expensive Icelandic beer. We met up with the crew at “the Angry Puffin” a greasy watering hole near the German Pub where FO was busy with some rather fruity language lesson to a bemused blonde waitress who had probably never been closer to Berlin than the Icelandair check-in counter at Keflavik….
There were a couple of Indian restaurants in town and Anderson chomped on a specially-provided take-away midnight snack back at his hotel room after the show. I should know. I was sent out to get it from the Shalimar in the show intermission. The Shalimar is actually proudly Pakistan rather than India in cuisine and some spineless locals tend to shy away as its reputation for the fierce and fiery rivals the geothermic activity which abounds in this beautiful Northern Isle.
We Brits apparently invaded Iceland in 1940 to combat German initiatives in the North Atlantic but after initial formal protest, a nod and wink seemed to herald acquiescence on the part of the government of the day who issued the edict to the natives to offer no resistance and to treat the invaders as honoured guests. Better the next-door neighbours than the Hun, they rightly thought. So we (The Brits) settled in as an occupying force but passed our territorial conquest on the to American cousins pretty damn quick as the costs and demands of the expeditionary force were too great in the mounting and difficult days of early WW11. The Yanks, of course, stayed until the bitter end a few short years ago when the last few F-15s took off for the flight home to heroes’ return and decommissioning. And so, the longstanding US military presence, so redolent of 40 years of cold war hostilities, finally drew to a close in 2006.
After the economic meltdown in 2008, when the three big Icelandic banks went bust, precipitating – at least in part – the collapse of the house of cards the fat-cat bankers built, Anderson and his pals went out to do a couple of charity concerts in aid of Icelandic families who had been made homeless as the mortgage crisis ensued and also for disadvantaged Icelandic children, in conjunction with Icelandair. He wisely involved some local artists as guests in the concerts and played with them performing their own songs.
Fishing, Aluminium processing and tourism are the three main money-spinners. Go there when you can. Go there while you can as one of the most violent volcanoes and seismic areas threatens to blow its top faster than you can say “Yellowstone”. Last time it did so was over two hundred years ago and it is said to have caused the deaths of 23,000 poor folk in the UK alone with the resultant plume of ash-fall and pollution. It has, of course, yet another unpronounceable name. A few short hours from North America and Europe, Iceland straddles the N. American and Eurasian tectonic plates. Very evident in the thrusting little country bravely surfacing above the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Icelandair, Iceland Express and a few other airlines can whisk you there in the blink of a puffin’s eye.
The self-professed “smallest watchmaker in the world”, The JS Watch Co., has a little shop in the main drag where, in a tiny workshop, Gilbert O Gudjonnson lovingly assembles a range of Icelandic watches designed by the four-man JS Watch team from parts and movements manufactured specially for them by Swiss and German suppliers. His latest creation is the the Sif N.A.R.T. Icelandic Coastguard model, as supplied to that elite force of intrepid air and boatmen. Anderson wears a JS Watch as do other notables, including director Quentin Tarantino, the Dalai Lama, Elvis Costello and, the now most punctual, Yoko Ono. Visit their website at http://www.jswatch.com for the low-down. Tell ‘em I sent you. Gilbert might make you a cup of coffee.
Iceland has an ancient language of Old Norse. Just like that spoken by the Viking hordes who settled a thousand years ago. So don’t try to pronounce local towns, streets, mountains, or public facilities unless you have swallowed some Novocaine. Toungue twisted beyond recognition and in throes of terminal spasm might well result. The toilets in the airport have a name like “Snyrtingar” or some such. Anderson took himself off for a quick “squirt in the snyrt” as he loudly announced, before the flight home. At least we all finally learned some bloody Icelandic…..
I write this from the heady hills and woodlands of the Czech Republic, having just landed from Switzerland after three days in Montreux for the Jazz-fest. Another marvellous place, Montreux, and popular with the Anderson family, band and crew.
We play in a Czech castle tomorrow night and apparently Anderson’s dressing room is in the tower. Lock the bugger up, I say. The key is a whopper. But knowing Mr A, he will probably just invite everyone up for a bondage party after the show. Maybe Berlusconi is flying in for a triple B event. (Bondage, Brick and Bunga.)
Over and Out. GB signing off. Kisses and soupy dribbles, you rascals.
Send a copy of the Guardian if you get the chance. Or even the Daily Mail. But only for the crossword.