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Thursday, 16 February 2017

Melancholy, tower climbing, gin and French Plaits

Hi Hi!

I have exactly 12 days left before I touch down in Blighty and the last few days have been a real mixture. For starters, the weather (sorry it's the English person in me - starting with the weather) has been what I can only describe as 'English' with a smattering of magic thrown in. Yesterday was dull, drizzly and tepid - really reminded me of Chesterfield on any given day in February, however, as often happens in Derbyshire, there was amazing light in the sky which was breathtaking. Sunset a couple of days ago was so beautiful and so pink that we all stood outside for ages watching it. This is Rhona, from Scotland, entranced, who, by the way, gets on a bus in Edinburgh, whose livery was designed by my multi talented nephew David Cook. Small world...

Our little studio by the sea
There has been no more swimming yet, but today was the perfect weather for it. Instead we decided to have challenges. Riding around the studio on bikes is a bit tame now, so the tower it was. This is a 10m steel structure outside the studio, set in concrete. You can go up the inside, where you would only break an arm or leg if you fell, or the outside, which would be a much more dreadful outcome if the handhold didn't in fact, hold.....

We are now up to 4 people having scaled the tower. It's very scary as you climb up, worse coming down...

victory wave on an outside climb
victory lap
What a setting though! The weather today was spring like. Icelanders talk about the weather all the time now as well as they have never had a milder winter in memory.

Yesterday was different. It stated with rain, moved into drizzle and ended up dull. I did however stand in the same spot watching the mountain when this happened:

I also walked further along the coast from the studio than I had been before trying to get to an outcrop of rock which I thought would be interesting to photograph from. I walked for an hour to get there and found this massive fence - to keep me out? or to keep something in?

if I go around to the waters edge, does that mean I can officially keep walking?

stretching all the way to the main road
It was a bit disappointing and I can't understand why the fence was there? No livestock at the moment, but perhaps it was for sheep in the summer. 

I also found a brilliant blue box on the beach which I played around with, moving the camera around the subject.

abstract blue box
My studio wall
The other thing that happened today was an impromptu hairdressing salon. French plait tuition for Sophie and I had a moment of thinking about Lizzie and doing her hair, which made me get a little emotional. I then listened to Chiquitita and had to go to get a tissue to blow my nose #notcryingmuch...

Sophie is an amazing writer and one of her poems really moved me. Here's a line or two:

"But my hands are white starfish and I've never broken a bone." The whole poem is wonderful and will be out soon for release. I will let you know when. 

I can't remember Tess this young, but came across this picture and went 'ahhhhh'.

So, I'm going to finish this as I'm tired and need to eat and sleep. Sorry it's short, but I was soooo happy about climbing the tower, I wanted to share the euphoria.

I'll be in touch soon, promise.

Bless Bless,


Aly x

Monday, 13 February 2017

6 Days since the last blog.... Sorry folks. It's all go here.

I am currently keeping warm indoors after braving the Icelandic waves and plunging into the surf for a swim..... Well, the surf was none existent as the water looked more like a millpond. Also, the water was so shallow to such a distance out, that it was more of a crawl on my stomach along the rocks and slimy things of the sea bottom. I call it swimming because I was submerged, except my head and wooly hat, I moved my arms in a breast stroke kind of motion and tried to kick my legs, resulting in a cut foot. From a distance it probably looked like Sharon Davies or Rebecca Adlington, obviously. 

the harbour on the way to the 'beach'

It was a lovely day today, around 4° air temp and colder sea, no wind, so we decided that we would do it. It has been the topic of discussion virtually every day since getting here with lots of brave people saying 'yes yes, I'll do it'. Well, 4 swimmers and one photographer made it to the beach and got on with the task of deciding how quickly it would be possibly to take clothes off, go into the sea, swim, get out (across the rocks) get dried, get dressed and walk the 10 minutes home for a gin. In fact we stood in our swimsuits after getting out of the sea as it felt so warm in the by now 2° air temp. 

I haven't got any photos of me yet, but will post on f/b, Instagram tomorrow. These are a few from my phone of Sophie, Luccia, Caroline and Marija.

High Five - Sophie and Luccia

Sophie with bright red freezing legs

Marija - Photographer!

Sophie - Apres Swim

and Luccia Apres swim

Caroline, trying to get warm

What an amazing zingy wonderful experience. Loved every second. We are planning to go again but I only have 11 days before Tom and Linzi come to visit me before I leave Iceland.

Yesterday I made a photographic studio in the freezer at NES with some old lights that were lying around. They are fluorescent tube lights that are supposed to hang from the ceiling and I wanted them to stand up on their ends, so I tied them to a chair each. The chairs in question arrived a few days ago for the artists to 'use in some way'. They were from a trawler and not only weighed a ton, with metal chains to hold them down on the boat, but they also stink of fish. Really badly. The whole place now stinks of fish. Anyway, I took some images of my house mate Caroline, who is very beautiful and has stunning bone structure and eyes. 

Caroline is an author and has described her previous works and current novel to me. I am desperate to read them, but she is Dutch and they haven't been translated into English. I don't think Google translate could cope with a whole book, it struggles with single sentences... 

Apart from swimming in the sea - did I mention swimming in the sea? - today was another photo shoot day with Marija who is equally stunning.

So what else has been happening in the 6 days since last we met...? Well, I made the initial stage of a layered piece of work which I am happy with. There's a lot to do, and I can't work on these here as my computer screen is too small. But this is the work in progress.

I left the blog to find the layered image and have now spent the last hour searching for it on my computer.... to no avail. This is a photo of it from my studio wall. I'm a bit upset as it took me a day to make it. I'll have another look in a minute.

Ah well, the file is gone. I will attempt to recreate it, but it won't be exactly the same.

What else??

I have been living on veggie curry for much of my stay. The reasons for this are 1) spices keep me warm, 2) the veg is often a bit limp and wouldn't look great 'au naturel' as it's often travelled a long way to get here from across the sea and 3) I am trying to be healthier in general. That's working if you don't count the bars of chocolate and half price pick and mix at weekends. Oh and the chips at the Ollis Garage. I haven't had any normal potatoes since I got here - except the chips!

The whole village were out today - which is unheard of. Why? because Samkaup is being transformed. What is Samkaup? I hear you ask. Samkaup is the 'supermarket'. It's about as big as a normal sized Lidl and serves the whole village for everything from knitting needles, through light bulbs, to chocolate, veg and cous cous. (called Kus Kus here). Anyway, it is being renamed, revamped and refitted. It is actually closed on Thursday for the WHOLE DAY. People were saying goodbye to their favourite aisles, they're all changing. No longer will one be able to walk in, turn right, then left and find the praline salted chocolate on a shelf with other chocolate. I went in today, DAYS before the change around and the chocolate had been taken off the shelf and replaced with some air freshener. Not an appropriate transformation methinks. What if a visually impaired person goes in and grabs the air freshener and starts to eat it......? Or what if I go in and grab the air freshener and eat it because it's the nearest thing to my salted praline???? It's all so stressful...... They have a new freezer too. I wonder if they will keep the little customer satisfaction machine? It has happy green faces moving to sad red faces that you press to say how satisfied you are with the shop and the service. Well I'll not be pressing Mr. Green if the chocolate doesn't reappear.

my walk to the studio every day
I just put this in because every single day there is beauty in this place.

Marija has just uploaded some images from our swim! Here they are:

Heading towards the black sand beach. That's me in the middle!

pointing, at something. Probably some ice floating on the surface....
getting ready. Woolly hat stays on obviously
We're in. We did all go fully in, promise  but there is not
currently a photo showing this.

Thinking of South Shields

Happily on our way home. We had a G&T
What a way to spend a couple of hours. Already planning the next one. I have been searching and searching for my photoshop file but it is lost. I will have to start again....

Our gorgeous little village. 350 people, one supermarket, one
bar/restaurant, bank, school, post office, old peoples' home, soothsayers museum...
Oh I forgot, yesterday we had incredibly strong winds and nearly got knocked over walking to the studio. The sea was amazing and we kept running outside to take pictures and feel the wind. Michael, the only other English person went out in his t-shirt..... It wasn't actually too cold, around 4 degrees, but the wind chill made it freezing.

Camera movement trying to keep still to take Michael's photograph

Silly English people...

Ok folks, that's all I think. I need to try again to find this lost file. I don't hold out much hope but it's 11.10 now and I want to find it tonight or let it go......

I can't believe the time has gone so fast. I have been here for 41 days and I have 15 left. I've missed everyone very much, but I don't feel ready to go yet. I'll have to come back again, and again. And again. I love this place.

Bless bless


Aly x

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Only 18 days left in Skagaströnd....

I can't believe that I only have 17 days left in Skagaströnd.....
The time has gone so quickly and I feel that I haven't achieved enough yet. I am meeting with my friends Tom and Linzi on the 24th of February where we will spend some time in the South of Iceland before flying back to the UK on the 28th.

So today is Tuesday and we have had a hurricane warning! I'm so excited. I know I shouldn't be, but the idea of watching 110mph gusts of wind from the warmth of our little house is brilliant!!!

I have walked quite a bit since last I blogged and had an interesting experience on the cliffs in what felt like the middle of the night, but was actually 2am. Beautifully still, with only the sound of the waves crashing below me. I feel so privileged to be here and have made it my spiritual home, for the time being at least.

The northern lights are very difficult to find sometimes, as you know they are there, but you can't see them fully as they are too weak. Enter the Nikon D810. A stunning piece of equipment which can capture what the naked eye cannot see. I have a routine of pointing the camera to the northern horizon and exposing for around 30 seconds. If there is green, I know they are there, and then I can focus and guesstimate the correct exposure. This is what I did to capture the following images. It's a bit of a cheat, as the eye doesn't see this, but it is there...

very windy, but no green. The moon is stunning however

so this was my first look at Spakunofel with the tiniest bit of green on the right

just windy and nothing else
My first foray into blackness was a tad disappointing but I stuck it out and waited, knowing there were aurora to be found...

The rewards of waiting and hoping, scared of bears and shadows, and axe wielding maniacs.....

All of this was virtually invisible to the naked eye. But the aurora were going mad behind the clouds. Wonderful to get to the studio, pull up the exposure a little and find this.

I find it quite sad that people come to Iceland to see the Northern Lights for 2 or 3 days and feel disappointed when they don't see them. It's not an everyday occurrence and we are lucky, so lucky to get the bright displays dancing around the sky. Tonight is a very good prediction, but there are also 50mph winds..... Decisions, decisions. I will be safe, but I can't promise not to go out.

I am playing with the idea of creating images, abstract images for large scale prints, which explore the idea of the sublime. Anyone who knows me, understands my fascination with pathetic fallacy, the works of Turner and Blake to some extent. I feet that I may have some images which could convey some of the emotion of this intangible thing. I'm probably delirious however, and will look more carefully when I'm back in Blighty. I don't want to work in black and white - which I usually do, because there is so much colour. I also don't feel like creating layered pieces as the abstract ones could look good as they are...... Oh decisions decisions. One of the main reasons I haven't experimented with layers, is the major difference between a 12 inch MacBook and the 27 inch screen at home. I'll have to be patient.

In the meantime, here are a few of my recent car trip and around our own personal cliffs.

This is Caroline, one of my new housemates. She's fabulous and a writer from Holland

The village, looking fine, from the sea cliffs
Oh and in other news, the fallout from Thorablot, was that someone (not one of the artists) decided to go onto the roof of the community centre and the police were called. Everyone got ratted and ate all the food, danced and had great fun. There's a mantra of 'What happens at Thorablot stays at Thorablot' going around. Glad I wasn't there in some ways!! Can't keep a secret to save my life. Seems that the after parties went on until the morning. I was tucked up in bed, having consumed 3 G&Ts. Sad old git.

Tonight we are having a communal meal next door. I have made a giant veggie curry and Caroline and myself felt we should have a bottle of wine while cooking.... so that's gone. I am now far more appreciative of wine (or alcohol of any type) as it is very scarce. 

I am now going to have a little sleep in preparation for eating, drinking and being merry, in a hurricane....

Have a lovely evening.


Bless bless,


Aly x