Thursday involved drinking. Lots of drinking. As in - meet up with 
someone for lunch and crawl home at 1am drinking. Evidence suggests that 
on the way home I purchased a Cornish Pasty *and* a Kebab. 

This explains why, at 5am, I'm slumped on the floor of my downstairs 
toilet praying to a previously unpetioned god (any flavour, I'm not 
fussy) that either I throw up and get it over and done with or that the 
walls stop crawling in my peripheral vision.

As the great prophet Radiohead said

     "You do it to yourself, you do."

Matters are complicated by the fact that I need to be on a plane in a 
few hours.

     "And that's what really hurts."

I am not the brightest tool in the box, am I?

                               - * -

A lot can probably be garnered from the fact that I considered the 
following email a compliment.

     From: John
     To: Simon
     Subject: re: Insanity!!!

     I think you're probably the only person I know 
     who's stupid enough to do this with me.

The 'this' in question involved going to see a gig. The Sugarcubes to be 
precise - Icelandic purveyors of quirky pop-indie-rocks known, 
unfortunately, primarily to most people as being the launchpad for the 
elfin Björk Guðmundsdóttir (or just Bjork to most people). 

To do this post 1992 would normally have involved either 

  - a time travel device 
  - a convoluted blackmail scheme,
  - an active imagination

but John, connoisseur of all things aurally Icelandic, had got wind of a 
20th anniversay concert they were going to play. Next week. In Iceland.

John's plan revolved around several cost cutting factors.

  - Recently IcelandAir's monopoly on flights in and out of Keflavík 
    has been broken allowing new budget airline IcelandExpress to 
    compete thus lowering prices.
  - Flights are cheap if you fly out at weird times
  - Why don't we fly out early-afternoon, watch the gig, stay up all night 
    and then catch the 7am flight back

All told we planned to be in Iceland for around 12 hours.

Clearly this is a plan with no drawbacks. I signed up immediately.

                               - * -

Miraculously I made it to the airport on time and with both my 
passport and sufficent warm clothing to survive the arctic chill. I was 
still what some might politely call 'feeling delicate'. Attempts at 
sipping water bought on fresh bouts of rolling nausea that required 
extended periods of breathing steadily through my nose and out through my 
mouth. Regrettably the flight was only 2 and a half hours preventing any 
further attempts at sleep. 

Under ideal circumstances I can stay up late - I've done any number of 
all nighters both business and leisure orientated but, to be honest, I'm 
better at getting up early than staying up late.

These were not ideal circumstances. 

For the first time I began to realise that once on the plane there was 
really no plan B. All hotels and hostels were fully booked in Reykjavík 
so the best to hope for, in the event of complete bodily malfunction, 
was to sleep in the airport or bus terminal if such a thing was allowed. 

It's not even like I could use alcohol to quieten the creeping doubts. 

I took another sip of water and concentrated on keeping it down. 

                               - * -

Reykjavík is tiny. 100,000 people tiny. According the the Lonely Planet
guide a favourite past time of Icelandics when meeting each other for
the first time is to work out how they're related. They use a patronymic
naming system - you take your father's first name (or, in rare cases
where the father is not known, your mother's) and add 'son' or 'dóttir'
depending on whether you have boy parts or girl parts respectively. Since
this means that there are a lot of Magnus Magnussons and Jon Jonsons the
phone book is ordered by first name and includes a person's profession.

Danish Vikings would raid Ireland, steal pretty girls and then stop off
at Iceland on the way home and swap them for beer. This is my kind of

                               - * -

Flying into Keflavík is pretty much what I'd expect landing on the moon
would be like. The long FlyBus ride from the airport into town wends its
way through a lunar landscapre punctuated by Aluminium factories and
sculptures. For nearly an hour it's nothing but odd buildings then a
brief glimpse of a ring road, then a KFC and bamm - you're at the bus
station. The main bus is too large to make it to the hotels so we
walked.  The map gives no sense of scale whatsover so, even though I
know that, geographically, Reykjavík is small, it comes as a shock that
it only takes 10 minutes - past the pond and turn right onto Laugavegur. 
That's it. Mentally we'd blocked out more time for travel so there are
about 4 hours to kill before the concert.

                               - * -

We holed up in Kaffibarrin , as part owned by one Damon Albarn, and sip beers and
watch the people go by. People worked, people gossipped. The cognitive 
disconnect meant that it was hard to fully process that we were in 
Iceland. Iceland! Just watching the world go by seemed to be an apropos 
thing to do. 

The sordid subject of food raised its head - mentally I knew that it was 
a necessity but my body was still in the severe state of distrust common 
to abusive relationships. We ummed and ahhed over pylsur med ollu (hot 
dogs with the works - a staple by all accounts) but, after much 
shennanigans we opted for Lækjarbrekk - a restaurant worryingly close 
to the tourist information center.

The food was spectacular. 

In retrospect it saved my life.

I love you lamb tasting menu. 

                               - * -

Many other people will write better reviews of the concert. There are 
bound to be thousands of photos neatly tagged on Flickr. The 
intersection between people who like The Sugarcubes and people who like 
Flickr is large and obsessive. Múm appeared in a new line up and were 
agreeable batshit in terrifyingly catchy way. Surrounded by an age 
spectrum that ranged from 5 to 50 we bopped along to the main event. 
Icelandics appear to share a common gene that means they can't dance but 
equally can't seem to care either. The whirling arm waving on stage, the 
hooting uluations, the screeches, they were all mirrored by our fellow 

Almost pathologically friendly, the obscure slogans projected on giant 
screens were helpfully translated by our neighbours as was the singular 
repeated phrase from the final encore in case we couldn't work out what 
Lüftguitar!' meant-


The songs that I'm used to in English remained as good in Icelandic, the
sing song accent seems almost better suited to the brand of music - 
lilting lyrical traipse through whimsy. I felt myself slipping into the 
same detached trance I felt in a field in Glastonbury, on my own in a 
melting crowd of ravers watching Orbital's last hurrah. 

                               - * -

We were accosted on the way back to town by a woman who demanded that we went 
into Dillon's bar with her. She was on her own waiting for friends, she 
said, and wanted to talk to someone. She was a journalist. Her sister's 
daughter part owned the bar. Her other sister owned a horse riding 
stable out in the countryside. She'd lived in Barcelona. She hated her 
(impeccable) English which wasn't as good as her Spanish. She introduced 
us to random people, many of whom we bumped into later that night. It 
later transpired that she didn't know them either. It wasn't even that 
we were a good conversation piece to be used as an opening gambit. This 
was Just How It Was Done.

We tested the theory by leaving our guide book on the table and asking 
people to sign it with something Icelandic. We met Sara, Jakobina and 
Helga who recruited us for The Runtur - the pub crawl up and down 
Laugavegur. Sara knew the keyboardist from The Sugarcubes. Or it was her 
aunt or cousin. We might see them at Sirkus or Vegamot or Olstofa later.  

The bars on Laugavegur are like someone personally consulted with John
and I and designed The Best Night. Out. Evar! The Cafe/Bars are chilled,
the pubs agreeably bustling without ever seeming to get too crowded. And
the music. Oh the music. Early to mid 90s indie. Every place we went to
played some Pixies within about 12 minutes of our arrival. Bar 11 was
like the best house party you've ever been to - a towering twisty old
building packed with people talking and doing their best impression of
dancing. I made a hundred new friends that night. The girls told people
of our plan to stay awake until the flight was met with warm approval.
That and my ginger stubble was clear proof that we were Vikings. John's
nigh on encyclopedic knowledge of Icelandic musical trivia was a further 
string in our bow. A large bearded man took an instant liking to me and 
fed me whisky every time I bumped into him.

It was loud and crowded and genial and there was singing and pushing and 
we loved it.

                               - * -

By the time we walked back to the station and caught the bus back to 
the airport I was so wired, hopped up on my 8th or 9th wind, that I 
couldn't sleep. Home seemed disapointingly normal.  I reread the guidebook. 
I watched as Flickr got populated and videos trickled onto YouTube and 
went to the cinema and stayed up til midnight again, cruising on the 
adrenalin residuals and slept like the dead.

As a text message I sent sometime during the trip said -

                "im in ur icelands eatin ur sugacubes"

                               - * -

Alternatively just watch Triumph of a Heart. But, you know, without the