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Inspired by Iceland, Part 2

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It started out quite clear today. I met up with Gunnar in the car park next to his huge four wheel drive Landrover. We were joined by Martin from the Sunday Times who would be travelling with us that day. Martin and I wrangled over the events that morning as I wanted to duck out of a mountain hike early and move on to the farm to pick delicious mussels, shear sheep and make Icelandic haggis. But Martin wanted to do the hike so we decided he could hike and I'd go on ahead to the farm.

On the drive out there we were surrounded by a huge lava field of indiscriminate age. Well, it looked new but is very old, if you know what I mean. It was broken and covered with moss. As I looked out of the window I imagined that all earth or soil is just millions of years of moss and forests built up on top of lava. But here in Iceland you can see it in its initial state. Iceland really lets you know that we live on a planet; it reminds you how connected we are to the land. The way the lava fields crumpled and broke over each other reminded me of something John Ruskin, the 19th century artist who championed the idea of the sublime, wrote about the earth. He asked if the geology and landscape all around us is in it's prime state or is it the ruins of something great from the past, is it the wreck of paradise? Iceland shows you that it's always been a wreck, from the moment of creation onwards, and that paradise, is in fact, a building site.

About half an hour out of Reykjavik we parked and waited for the hikers by the allotted roundabout.

Robert, below left, of the previous day's 'Footbath with Minister' fame, arrived at the hike but hadn't been to bed yet. Despite the Icelandic Schnapps known as 'Black Death' I imagined still pounding through his head he was still standing on a mountain in the rather chilly early morning drizzle without even a hat. I asked him if he was up for some more outdoor experiences and he just said, 'I'll do anything,' and I knew that he really meant it. He would do anything, probably without even knowing what the thing was. I like that attitude. I pressed Rob further and he came up with a terrific idea; caving inside a lava tunnel outside of Reykjavik. I plan to organise it and luckily it's not weather dependent.

Anyway, Martin took one look at the hike and said, "Er, maybe I'll be here for 10 minutes and then we can go to the farm?" At this point I surprised myself by saying "I'm up for doing a bit of the hike'. Seemed rude not to. So we set off on a black volcanic track carved into moss covered mountains with some nice people and three dogs. We did about ten minutes and then turned back. Off to the farm.

After a two hour drive Martin, Gunnar and I arrived at some windswept farm buildings to be greeted by a strong smell of lamb. This time (unlike Frosti's dinner party) the smell was of raw lamb, or rather raw sheep, as there were a large selection of body parts on display in the kitchen. Stomachs, blood, mashed up liver, heads cut in half; all ready to go into the oven. It was, as I said, quite a strong smell. We were met by the charming and lovely Arnheidur who lives on the farm with her husband and extended family. She had two invites; Mussel picking down by the seashore and sheep shearing. Today they were preparing 'slátur' or 'slowter' as it sounds in English, which is Icelandic haggis and black pudding. We met her husband shearing the sheep which was great and I filmed the sheep with their incredible long wool being shorn before we tucked into our meal of haggis, black pudding and sheep's heads.

So, the haggis was excellent and the black pudding was really good but I do have to admit to having a few problems with the sheep's head. Every time I looked at the jaw bone and teeth on the plate an image of the sheep that I had just filmed nibbling on the hay jumped into my head. Helped by the fact that we were also watching sheep shearing videos with a Shawn the Sheep soundtrack. When Arnheidur picked up a flute and played to us all, I felt much better. It was lovely. I can't wait to go back and film the mussel picking in the 'Whale's Fjord'. I really liked Arnheidur and her whole family and it should be really good fun.