Circumventing Iceland part 4

[previously: June 5-8, June 9-12, June 13-16]

Friday 17th June 2022, Reykjavik

The restaurant breakfast service closes at 7.00am this morning: our slot for getting off the ship is at 9.15am. That gives us a bit of time – conveniently for the structure of this write-up – to have a few thoughts about the cruise that’s just happened. And I keep thinking back to something that one of the Hurtigruten expedition staff said during the briefing for, I think, Grimsey: "if you only get off the ship once during this cruise, you should get off here." Was that just a rhetorical flourish along the lines of "if you only see one film this year...", or are there people on board who really did that? Treated the Fridtjof Nansen as nothing more than a great big hotel where the view from your window changes every day?

If that’s the case, I’m sorry for either their mobility issues or their fear of small boats, but that's just wrong. Because this has been an absolutely glorious trip. The ship itself has been lovely – the sauna and hot tubs easily being the one bit of decadence I could get used to – but all the activities on and off it have been terrifically well organised. At the start the expedition leader Erin warned us that the schedule we’d been given was potentially just a plan A, and weather conditions could at any point force us into a sudden detour into plan B. But that never happened – maybe we were just lucky, but every place we were told we’d be going to, we got to. We experienced all possible aspects of the Icelandic coast, from bustling cities to microscopic islands. We might do another cruise in the future: we will almost certainly get back to Iceland one day, if only because as I write this (two months after the holiday) I’m getting kind of fed up of people asking "so, did you see the Northern Lights?"

And as you can see from the size of this page, we’re not done just yet. Bang on time at 9.15am, we walk off the Fridtjof Nansen for the last time, and back onto dry land at Reykjavik harbour. We’ve got a couple of days before we fly back to London, and the plan is to chill out in the capital after a very busy week. At least that was the plan, until we realised that we were going to be arriving back in the capital on Icelandic National Day, the anniversary of the founding of the republic in 1944.

Plan B, then.

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Simian Substitute Site for August 2022: Spanking The Monkey: The Etymology of Onanistic Euphemisms

Spanking The Monkey: The Etymology of Onanistic EuphemismsMONTH END PROCESSING FOR JULY 2022

Books: We finally wrapped up the audiobook of Janelle Monae’s The Memory Librarian – the last story is basically an Afrofuturist remix of A Christmas Carol, if that sort of thing’s your bag – and moved straight on to another book by a pop star. Good Pop, Bad Pop is a sort of memoir by Jarvis Cocker, inspired by a clearout of his attic: he goes through its contents item by item, talks a bit about how they featured in his life, and decides whether they’re worth keeping or binning. Sure, it’s an arch literary device, and the multimedia curlicues added for the audiobook edition make it feel even more so – there’s a full Foley track so we hear each of the objects as they’re being handled or chucked in the bin, and an accompanying PDF of pictures. You know Cocker, so you can imagine what an enjoyable experience this is: the easy conversational tone of his reading, the self-deprecating wit, the expert handling of a good anecdote. At the same time, he’s happy to reveal just enough of what’s going on under that ironic surface: in particular, it’s astonishing to hear about the school exercise books in which he documented his plan to become a pop star and change the course of music. The book ends a bit before Pulp really started to enter the public consciousness, so perhaps there’s a second attic he’ll write about in a few years.

Food & Drink: Think back to about seven years ago, when I posted this piece to announce that I was moving out of Walthamstow after living there for some three decades. Irritatingly, since I left they’ve opened half a dozen breweries within walking distance of the former Spank Towers. They’ve called them the Blackhorse Beer Mile, with an obvious nod to its Bermondsey equivalent. However, the breweries have been careful enough to create an official Blackhorse Beer Mile website, and not made Bermondsey's mistake of letting some chancers set up an unofficial one. Anyway, like the old days of Bermondsey, we currently have just six venues situated within a one-mile stretch of industrial estate, so it’s possible to have one beer in each without causing yourself permanent damage. They’re all very different, too. Truman’s don’t brew on site, so have tons of room for you to explore and drink in: Signature Brew use their connections with the music biz to run formal and informal live events: Exale is the most delightful thanks to its courtyard: Beerblefish is the closest to an old-fashioned pub (cask ales and a piano with the Tom Lehrer songbook on top of it): Wild Card are quietly cementing their position as the OGs of Walthamstow craft beer: and Hackney has the most interesting range of things to drink. The first three have decent food made on site, while the last three have a delivery arrangement with Yard Sale Pizza down the road - so purely on the level of being able to eat while you're crawling, Blackhorse has the edge over Bermondsey.

Music: Time for another one of these ten-track thingummies, I guess. Use the Spotify playlist below or try the individual YouTube (with one exception) links.

  1. Aside from the oddness of KAF x MIYAVI being the collaboration of a virtual computer-generated vocalist and a real-life guitar legend, the most bizarre thing about their song Beyond META is that if you search for it in Google, it assumes you’re a dyslexic looking for vegetarian burgers.
  2. Not really enjoying Kendrick Lamar's new album all that much, which is a surprise because this non-album single that preceded it is an absolute corker. This may be in part to the string line constantly reminding me of the theme from Department S.
  3. Hey, Regina Spektor’s back! And, um, she’s gone a bit weird, which is fine by me.
  4. I’m still trying to get my head around the filthy racket that black midi are currently making: once people started making comparisons with The Cardiacs, it made a bit more sense.
  5. There's no YouTube video for Evan Ziporyn’s lovely performance of Philip Glass’ clarinet trio, but you can stream it on Bandcamp from that link back there, and even buy the EP if you enjoy it enough. (Its second track is literally the first one played one-third slower.)
  6. Hey, Young Fathers are back! And, um, they’re much the same as they were before, which is fine by me.
  7. Not quite sure about GoGo Penguin, to be honest: I loved the first album I heard of theirs, but everything I've listened to since (whether made before or after that) appears to be just more of the same. Still, I’ll keep on listening just in case.
  8. The recent passing of Cathal Coughlan has made it apparent why in the last couple of years he was putting out new music like there was, um, no tomorrow. We’re now getting the last few recordings from his Telefís project with Jacknife Lee, and it’s sad to realise there won’t be any more after this.
  9. It’s been a common dodge during the pandemic for bands to remix old stuff and put it out again with the current year added to the title. At this stage in history there’s no real reason for Underworld to give us Juanita 2022, other than the fact that it still sounds great.
  10. In the weeks leading up to our Iceland trip, The BBG and I stayed away from public gatherings to reduce the risk of our holiday getting trashed by a Covid infection. My main regret from this was missing the London gig by xPropaganda, in which the two ladies from Propaganda came back after a 37 year absence and did all the old songs along with some new ones like this.


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Circumlocuting Iceland part 3

no you're not going to get any pictures of me in my swimming trunks STOP ASKING[previously: June 5-8, June 9-12]

Monday 13th June 2022, Akureyri

You’ll notice that I haven’t said much so far about the other 500-odd passengers we’re sharing this cruise with. For the most part, we haven’t really engaged with them. There are two old people I’ve been quietly keeping my eye on who are both independently convinced they’re the leading characters on this cruise, and have something to contribute to every event whether the rest of us want to hear it or not. Them aside, it’s a more age-diverse group than I was expecting generally, but still skewing quite old. (And possibly skewing quite German, given the cruise’s choice of secondary language for announcements.)

The other thing worth pointing out is that there aren’t many opportunities when you find yourselves casually chatting to other people - everyone keeps themselves to themselves during mealtimes in particular, partly down to the erratically-enforced Covid restrictions. The idea is that you turn up at the restaurant in a facemask, give your name, wash your hands, and go to the table you're allocated to so that they can maintain distancing and run contact tracing in emergencies - but as the cruise progresses, more and more steps get missed out of that process. (A couple of months ago, Hurtigruten were insisting everyone should wear N95s when moving round the ship: by the start of this cruise it's been knocked down from 'insisting' to 'politely suggesting', and the masked/unmasked passengers are a 50-50 split.)

In this case, though, we end up chatting to a similarly-aged English couple as we disembark at Akureyri, possibly due to the novelty of being able to walk directly off the boat without the aid of tenders. As we walk away from the Fridtjof Nansen, we share our mutual experiences of having our bookings kicked down the line for a couple of years. Eventually we have to part ways, because they're walking into the centre of town, while we're heading off in a different direction to see if a local brewery is open at 9.30 in the morning, which is very much on brand for us.

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24: The Unaired 1994 Pilot

The Unpleasant Lair Of Spank The Monkey first appeared on the internet 24 years ago today, on July 14th, 1998. Alarmingly, anyone who was born on that day probably won't have the faintest idea what's going on in this video. Sigh.

Anyway, thanks to all of you out there still reading, no matter how many of those 24 years you've been here for. Shall we see if we can make it through to the full quarter-century?

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Circumcising Iceland part 2

MS Fridtjof Nansen, named after the Norwegian explorer who was one of the first men in history to send a woman a dick pic. (No, it'll be more fun if you look for it yourself.)[previously: June 5-8]

Thursday 9th June 2022, Reykjavik

After breakfast in Grái Kötturinn – pleasant enough, but it does seem to be coasting on hints dropped in tourist guides that Bjork occasionally eats there – we have a morning to kill. We end up in the Reykjavik Museum Of Photography, and by pure coincidence we stumble into the opening day of a new exhibition. Landvörður (running till September 10th) is mostly made up of Jessica Auer’s photos of park rangers, wardens, and other people maintaining the Icelandic landscape in the wake of its increasing tourist population. The accompanying texts and videos make the general theme more explicit: tourism – and especially cruise tourism – is changing the nature of this country, and not for the better.

It turns out that because it’s the opening day, Auer is actually present in the gallery chatting to visitors, and we’re among the first she’s had. And she asks the inevitable question: oh, you’re from London, so what are you doing in Reykjavik?

”Well,” we answer. “If we pass a Covid test later on today, this evening we’ll be getting on that thing” – and we point at the MASSIVE CRUISE LINER THAT’S LITERALLY VISIBLE THROUGH THE GALLERY WINDOW – “and going on a nine-day cruise around the coast of Iceland.”

Awkward.

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