Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Symphony in grey

Symphony in grey 19.07.16

And so it seems I have calmed. No longer the angsting searching mass that I was, I have found friends, a community, a price I can afford. In my newly relaxed state I made a critical error at 12.30am last night. I failed to check that the plug was actually switched on and I am now out for the day yet carry both an empty iPad and phone. Of all the days when I could be without fully charged equipment, this is perhaps the least desirous. I will not return home until this evening. 

The clouds are barely off the water. As we leave Nolsoy I can just about make out the path I took yesterday and even the landscape here is now my friend. Tamed. The low northern hills are clear but yesterday's  southern path is barely visible. I am pleased to see Bordan lighthouse at the end, I think..... I recognise the jut on the top of the cliff from my views yesterday but visibility is poor and I am still uncertain it is the light. The clouds descend. I find a beauty in the layers of dull, heavy cloud with just the tiniest of light peeping through and risk a phone photo. The ferry chugs on.

The rowers leaving Tórshavn harbour, sit still in the fog and wait for the ferry to pass. I will miss the highlight of the Faroese year, the national celebrations of independence from Norwegian rule and the esteemed rowing championships. Celebrations of past and future. My hands feel cold and I am pleased I have brought all my layers with me today. My journey will be a cave concert on the the Nordlysid, the boat on which I had the chance to be deckhand, but first I must while away four hours in Tórshavn.

Disliking capital cities maybe I can learn to love this one. My body sways as I sit. Just a 25 minute ferry ride but my body is still rocking. Ferry options are limited and my early trip means cafes are not yet open. 8.50 am and I sit outside a cafe I noticed last time I was here, on the edge of the harbour. I write and wait for it to open. Stay lady stay, Bob Dylan sings, I long to see you in the morning night. Perhaps I am home.

Can I get into the basement, find a space to write I wonder, the house is full but I am a welcome guest, I must approach the subject with Hannes when I return. Could I work in Levi's room, I wonder? not easily I think and anyway, soon he will return and need it for himself.

Greeted by a girl from the Nolsoy cafe as I walked out to the ferry this morning, hey she says was it you who wanted the recipe for pickled rhubarb, I have printed it for you. Another friend. I feel a sexual stirring and know not whether it is Bob Dylan or a lust to live here. Cafe lights switch on, will I order coffee or rhubarb lemonade. Goan Marken, says the girl as I order my city price £4.20 latte, small in size but at least not made with condensed milk!

Wandering Tórshavn, the park, the art gallery, the old graveyard, I have learned that it might be wise to avoid Tórshavn when the huge cruisers are in port. Being surrounded by Americans is not desirous but I have learned that my hei is sufficiently local sounding for me to pretend that I cannot understand their questions. I have no yearning to engage in conversation with them. Of course, the reverse is also true, my hei sounds convincing enough to locals and shop assistants that I find myself expecting to engage in a full conversation without me understanding a word of what is big said, until I manage to say, I'm sorry I don't understand.

In Midvagur I was told there were no homeless in the Faroe Islands. In Tvøroyri  I was told they stay at blue cross hostels. Today, I purchase a dvd, 100 year history of the Faroes, 50p, from the Red Cross shop and am informed they stay with the Salvation Army. Later, I will be told that the city provides housing and benefits for them and they they have no need to be homeless but are alcoholics who choose to have nowhere to stay. Understanding the truth then is as difficult as it might be anywhere in the world.

I explore a blue cross shop, hoping to find Faroese knitwear for Poppy and Edward but remain unimpressed by the dimensions of the short, wide garments and think that if this is what happens on washing, it is not a good advert for the expensive new items.

Waiting for my five hour excursion on Nordlysid or pronounced, norlysieu, I wonder how the experience will be for the fog has not lifted and the rain continues to spit. I wonder about finding volunteer work in Tórshavn but think I would rather pickle rhubarb and help the little cafe in Nolsoy to sell it to tourists or indeed, just be an almost resident, lunching there each day, watching the world pass through. A couple come to sit next to me and I am pleased they don't converse in English for I do not want to engage in conversation.

There are of course, times when despite water ingress insurance, it might not be wise to use ones iPad in the rain. This is just such one of those times. I sit awaiting departure and find that with four hours charging from my battery pack, my iPad reads 39%, an improvement from the 2% when I awoke and I have now let my poor little phone take some juice. I write longhand and sit without waterproofs despite a very fine spit in the air. 

I learned yesterday that the fishing industry is struggling due to salmon virus and the commercial shipping industry struggling due to lack of contracts. Thus, some tankers have been emptied and filled with salmon. Tanker farmed salmon. I wonder what the quality of salmon that is grown in the dark. I have deposited my bag and coat in the smelly depths below but think perhaps I need a back support and may retrieve it. A man eats and I realise I am hungry. I fetch my bag and from it, my rye bread.

I learned previously in Corsica that sailing vessels owned by elderly gentlemen can have a tendency to be smelly and disordered. This one is clearly no exception. I find that it is indeed a very smelly boat and not one in which I would want to sleep. The mattresses that I see propped up in the hull are very stained and look most undesirable. A lucky escape I think.

I get a chance to study the captain, Birgir Enni, as he takes call after call on a seemingly over large mobile phone. Perhaps approaching seventy, but clearly still doing much of the physical work involved in the running of his schooner he is an impressive character. Short white hair and a round smiling face with black spectacles, he sports a cord lined parka style coat with blue crew neck tshirt over bulging belly and jeans still holding the cardboard 'stretch' tag, visible as he leans over in front of me.

Now untied and ready to depart, smelly diesel fumes take over from the ancient odour of fish and years of heavy use, a late comer jumps aboard as we drift slowly away from the rubber barrels protecting the sides of the boat from the harbour walls. Fortunately just in time, for it will later emerge that he is one of the musicians.

A bell rings for the safety briefing but it seems that those of us in the stern do not need to hear it above the diesel engines roar.

Our journey is uneventful, other than the fog. Grey upon grey upon grey. Puffins bob beneath the surface as soon as we draw close enough to try to take a picture and fulmars cross and recross our bow as in a game of chicken. But of land there is little sight. A dim shape of Sandoy lies to our left, little more than dark shadow at the edge of the water, the island becomes clear as we close in on it. Hestsur or Kultur I know not which.  

Rock in fog looks much like any other rock in fog. we close in and caves appear. A skiff that has been following us pulls alongside and picks off people and instruments, heads off into dark schisms in the rock. Nordlysid lies idle as we wait for the skiff to return but Birgir, as though waiting too long, suddenly pulls up a rubber dinghy and a few brave, nimble souls are invited to descend, timing their leap just at the right moment. There are not enough life jackets to go round.

I push to clamber into the skiff when it returns, not wanting to risk the drop into the rubber dinghy and we head out. There are not enough seats for everyone in the skiff so a woman and I share bums on a box. Torch lights in the cave become visible and I feel dismay when I watch earlier arrivals clambering up the rocks to a platform some 3 meters above the ocean. I have no desire to scramble wet rocks in the dark. 

Thankfully, the invitation we are extended, to leave the boat and climb the rocks, is a token one despite many in the skiff wanting to do so. We sit in the boats, repeatedly drawn in and returned by the moving water. Ernst Dalsgard, Ingibjørg Hansen and Ólavur Jakobsen begin to tune and then play but I am unsure when one ends and the other begins. It is experimental, improvised music, devised, I will later understand, with conditions on the day. 

Difficult to get any sense of rhythm or connection, sounds disappear with the waves, I close my eyes. The skiff drifts slowly towards the cave entrance and turns with the water. My ears hear waves crashing with tenor horn, pipe and organ occasionally playing clear whilst bright light from the entrance forces its way, sporadically, through my closed eyelids and the rim I find beauty. With the gentle lull of the rocking boat, I am tempted to drift into sleep until the numbness of my bum, tips me half off the edge of the box. I am pleased when the performance ends but I do not applaud.

As we move on the fog has lifted slightly and we stay close to the edge of the rock. Puffins, fulmars, gulls and terns, noisily chatter on the cliff edges.

The fog stays with us, and pulls in again, it is hard to make out landfall. Those of us trying to work out our location are frustratingly confused. We finally pull close to shore to see a small flat island to one side and a steep road, descending in hairpins to a harbour. It is apparent we are pulling in. We learn that the fog is so thick we cannot return to Tórshavn but must make the journey by coach. The girl who has been deckhand makes a comment, I ask her if she is a volunteer, yes, she says, here for the summer but so many dishes to do and she doesn't sound too overjoyed about her task. I think I made a lucky escape and must remember to be wary of elderly sailors and their boats.

As is sit on the coach and ponder my five hour Nordlysid experience, forty five pounds without refreshment, I stroke my shrivelled fingers, I find I am growing fond of the fog, of the unknown quality of the landfall, the hidden beauty it hides. I reach for my phone, load up facebook and cancel my swim with the ladies of the village,mashing I need to warm up, once home.

And, as so many times, I think again, how pleased I am with my waterproofs, absolute essentials for anyone coming here. Quality.