Pork Chops and the Pied Piper
I’ve always considered myself a practical man. Handy around the house in a modern sort of way. I’ve never met a blocked pipe I couldn’t clear, a broken gate that couldn’t be mended or a fried circuit board that couldn’t be replaced. All it requires is a credit card, a telephone and a touch of ingenuity. In my considerable experience, I’ve always found that the better handyman is the one on the other side of the phone line. Now, I know you rugged DIYers are chortling into your sawdust-filled beards in cold disdain at my simple pragmatism, dreaming of the lathe in your garage, your oversized Black and Decker jigsaw and carbon-tipped drillbits whilst fondling your Builder’s Warehouse membership card with your gnarled, calloused hands, but my method is efficient and undeniably effective. It yields results. And yet, despite its success and the total conviction I have in my approach, there are times when I think that maybe, just maybe, having a bit more hands-on experience in matters practical would be useful. Like when camping. In Iceland. In a campervan.
Take pork chops, for instance. As a lapsed Jew, I long ago made peace with my Deity that this particular little swine-cut, although not my favourite, could be consumed without fear of eternal condemnation or imminent worm infestation. Still, in our prolonged negotiation on this matter, He failed to mention to me that one shouldn’t cook these little fellas on a gas cooker in a closed campervan. Nasty sense of humour, That Bloke. But it was late and cold outside – as it seems to be most of the time here (perhaps the name of the place should have given me some sort of clue on this) – and we were hungry. Surely a quick little fry-up would do the job? Besides, you can only keep fresh meat for so long.
I thought we were successful. Food cooked, no flame damage and the incomparable feeling of a man with a tummy filled with pig and potato salad. But the van was a bit smoky, holding the not-so-alluring, lurking aroma of fried pork chops. Being a practical man, I opened the door and a few windows and allowed the sub-zero arctic breeze to gallop through the van, testing both my expensive London-purchased winter gear and my wife’s notorious inability to deal with a slight chill. We both survived, but so did the smell. It seems to have found its way into the very fabric of our campervan, its curtains, its cushions, it’s frigging rattling dashboard. Even worse, it seems as if fried pork odours are particularly fond of taking up residence in recently-acquired, expensive London winter gear. Our camper now has the smell of a derelict abattoir, we are a two man roving band of carnivorous delight, a portable, over-sized pigs-in-blankets wonderment. Fortunately we have not seen many dogs here or I have little doubt that we would be the Pied Piper of Campervans – cruising through Icelandic fjords with a trail of salivating hounds behind us. I’m sure I can hear Jehovah chuckling away somewhere.
For those of you who don’t know, we are in Iceland at the start of what one friend called, “an annoyingly undefined hiatus”. We will be traveling until we get bored, run out of money or die, whichever comes first. Although both death and boredom have kindly stayed away so far, bankruptcy is a step closer as we have seen the rand tumble whilst staying in what is one of the most expensive countries in the world. Fortunately, Iceland has not disappointed as the landscapes for which it is famous have thrilled and delighted. Towering fjords, impossibly colourful beaches, myriad waterfalls and outrageously textured rock faces abound. The country is carved, chopped and hewn into spectacular gorges and valleys and sculpted into an endless series of alien landscapes whose surfaces are covered with weird volcanic rock spewn forth from ithe earth’s deep geothermal centre. It is a land filled with gravelly switchbacks, precipitous cliffs and white-knuckled one-car bridges. We’ve been here for a week or so now idling around in our trusty campervan, always leaving the soft whiff of our presence and frustrated dogs in our wake. But some of these stories will be told in subsequent posts. There should be a little subscribe option on the site where you can fill in your email address if you want to be notified of any future posts.