Archive for July, 2008


weather we’ve got here at the moment. New heat record in Reykjavík, 25,7° Centigrade (78,3° F), people bathing in the local river:


and trying not to melt in the garden:


Went for a long bike ride, glad that we didn’t take the 8 yr old with us, he’d probably have given up half way. The 16 yr old teen never wants to go biking with us anymore :( 12 year old would have enjoyed it but stayed home, so it was only the old couple biking around Reykjavík.

The freaky weather here (also unusual thunder and lightning in the North) is apparently the remains of Hurricane Bertha. Same thing happened here in August 2004, unusually warm air coming here. I must say, I won’t complain. Hope the hurricanes aren’t wreaking too much havoc in the more southerly realms…

Just for fun

here’s one out of 10 violin duets I made last year. Violinists Hlíf Sigurjónsdóttir and Martin Frewer. Enjoy (I hope). More later.

good answer:

No matter who you supported in the primary,
this is just simply a wonderful response by
Jon Stewart to a stupid question:

Is America ready for a black president?

In Larry King’s interview with Jon Stewart,
Larry brought up the subject of the primaries
and asked Stewart if America was ready for
a woman or a black president.

Jon looked at him quizzically and said, “This
is such a non-question.

Did anyone ask us in 2000 if Americans were
ready for a moron?”


look at this!

Doesn’t seem to be photoshopped, apparently a safe “pool” just there. don’t know if I’d dare try, though…

a bit

less tired, still lazy and not doing very much, that’s nice. Went swimming with the eight-year-old yesterday and today, not bad at all.

The plan is to recommend that we go next time as well – haven’t the faintest idea where in the world the symposium will be next time, maybe New Zealand, who knows? (will be announced tomorrow, I think, exciting). This symposium is every 3 years. Then we might want to frequent the ACDA thing too (American Choral Director’s Association), have to find out where that is. And if all this happens, I can look forward to jetsetting around, whee!

Would want to take my choir with me sometime, though…


from Denmark, brilliant to be back home.

Had a great trip, though, (one of the best things being having this great free internet at the hotel – definitely paid for the breakfast not being included in the price, which I didn’t realize beforehand).

Well, actually, hearing all those great choirs in concerts, listening to interesting composers in workshops and more, I can’t and won’t complain. It was a brilliant trip, I managed to give all my booklets away, plus the 10 CD’s with my own material – didn’t want to promote myself too much, since the trip was paid for by Iceland Music Export Office, and I wasn’t supposed to use it for my own promotion any more than my fellow composers’s.

Heard choirs (choruses to you US citizens) from the whole world, Korea, New Zealand, Philippines, France, then all the Nordic countries, followed the Icelandic choir around, since their were the venues to give away our promo material. Didn’t have any time off at all, hardly, and now I’m totally tired.

Next trip looming

yes, Denmark this time, the enthusiasm for travel’s started to wane, I must say, especially when I don’t have any of my family with me. Glad this isn’t a very long trip, I’ll definitely have a good time but it might be hard, I’m going to be a public relations person for Icelandic choral music in a big international forum for choral conductors and composers, in Copenhagen.

Never been a public relations anything before, though. At first, someone from the Icelandic Music Export Office was going to go along, but the last I heard (3 days ago) he hadn’t given a definite answer. Hmm. I don’t even know him by sight. Well, we’ll see.

Sort of looking forward to coming home for a hard-earned holiday, next Wednesday.

back home

been in Skálholt, an hour out of Reykjavík for a week, we had concerts Thursday and then yesterday and sung in a Mass today. Been great, especially the Thursday concert, Rachmaninoff’s Vespers are such a brilliant piece, I wouldn’t mind singing it at least once a year, preferably more often.

Really good to be back home, we tend not to sleep all that much in Skálholt, so I’m looking forward to my bed pretty much, right now…

den ottende og sidste dag

well, last day of the trip, we wouldn’t be flying home until half-past ten in the evening, so we had good time. Check out at twelve hundred from the hotel, we woke up, got another English breakfast, back up, shower, pack, it was only 10 o’clock. Decided to go out, to the book shop and buy a book by Sara Blædel, one of the best Danish crime writers, and maybe just a bit more walking around the shopping street or something. Wanted to maybe get a new poster for our kitchen, there’s a good poster shop on Strøget.

Anyway, didn’t take the backpack along, came out and it was raining just a tiny bit. Did we run up to the room again to get the umbrella? Nope.

Well, I suppose you can just guess what happened, when we had bought the book and were halfway up Strøget…


Wet and shivering we came back to the hotel, had a little time to crawl under the duvets to dry, turned the towel drier in the bathroom on and some clothes on there. Didn’t want to pack the wet clothes – didn’t really have fitting dry clothes anyway.

Just before 12:00 we were warm again and the clothes a bit drier. Checked out of the hotel and took the train to Kastrup Airport, found the Left luggage counter and kept our bags there, then train onwards to Sweden. Called our friend Bryndís whom we had planned to meet, and she came and picked us up at the train station.

She and her family have this huge house in a very nice suburb of Malmö, took ages to look at all the rooms, I wouldn’t mind some of that space, I must say.

Then we went tourist walking in a newish quarter of Malmö, really nice, all sorts of things, various houses, no two the same, small springs, low houses, tall houses, colours, beach, I wouldn’t mind living there.

snúni turninn

manngerðir lækir

Bryndís and Edda


ah, THERE does all that water come from…

Had a coffee/hot chocolate and cake at an outside restaurant, the birds waited eagerly until we left:

and then we did…

They weren’t quite as bad as the seagulls in some places in Finland, where they just fly up to people and snatch the food from their hands. One second you’re about to bite in your sandwich, next one you suddenly don’t have a sandwich any more.

Rest of the day not especially eventful, went back to Bryndís’ and Rein’s place, had a nice dinner, were driven to the train station, back to Kastrup, forgot to take the blasted tax-free notes to the tax-free counter (grrr), didn’t get seats together on the plane since we were fairly late, but we could live with that, just wanted to get home. I sat with a couple of women (mother and daughter, I think) and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what language they were speaking.

Took off in darkness, then we flew into the light to the north and west. Got some midnight sun, just when we were about to land:


Good to be home, always is. The teenager (who had stayed home alone for the week) was awake when we came, great to see her.

Well, that’s it, for this trip. Been sort of fun, at least challenging to write an itinerary in English. Maybe again later, who knows?

dag syv

let’s switch to Danish with the numbers, now, since the day before we had left the Czech and now we’re in Denmark. Felt pretty good to be back in a country where you actually understand what’s being said.

Breakfast at Ascot Hotel was excellent, even though it was sort of funny to have to look for the cutlery in various places (knives and forks one place, spoons another and teaspoons yet another). English Breakfast, American (pancakes and maple syrup – that’s sort of American, isn’t it?), plus a very good continental, loads of bread, ham and cheeses, yogurt, cornflakes and muesli, even porridge, I think).

Up again, called Irme, turned out that the poor woman had waited and waited for us to call the day before, as I had told her we’d be arriving that day, but didn’t think to say it would actually be late in the day. She didn’t have time to see us, had other plans for the day + saturday too. Shame. But we decided to meet up when I go back to Copenhagen, in 2 weeks time.

Also called Bettina, our former landlady (hehe, sounds old – but actually she’s only 3-4 years older than we are), she was going to Sweden that day, so she didn’t have time to see us either – will also meet up with her next time.

Kept calling, our oldest friend, Bryndís, (actually the one that introduced us in the first place – can’t thank her enough) lives just over the water, in Sweden. She did have time, we decided we’d spend most of the Saturday visiting her and her family, before flying home.

Last phonecall, Hafdís, an ex composition student of mine, she also had time, and we decided to meet her for lunch. Went on a smallish shopping spree, sent Jón off to the wine shop and myself to H&M, more clothes for the kids – nope, didn’t buy a thing for myself, honest :D

It was raining, the umbrella I had bought in Paris a few weeks earlier (yep, jetset, me!) came into use. Thunderstorm and all. As we were 3, the umbrella wasn’t quite enough, so we took shelter – in a candy store. Of course couldn’t resist and bought some.

Lunch at a mexican place, I and Jón bought a litre of beer to share, got it in a huge pitcher:

l�trakanna af bjór
felt like in a biergarten in Germany, really, except there you don’t share the litres.

Great fun to meet Hafdís, she also promised me to help when I get back, that will probably be hard work.

Spent most of the rest of the day just walking around enjoying Copenhagen, we studied there, and our eldest daughter was born there. Visited Charlie’s Bar, amazing bar with tons of beer types, always different ones from tap.

Charlie's Bar

Then, when it didn’t stop raining, we went to the hotel, on the net again for a short while, then down to the restaurant we had ordered a table, a Reef N’Beef. Actually, we almost didn’t go at all, we were so shocked over the wine prices, it was actually quite a bit more expensive than you could get the same wines in restaurants in Iceland. Especially one, well, I’ve never seen it in a restaurant here, but from the shop it costs about $170, normal pricing in a restaurant here would be maybe $210, but there it actually cost $590! (no, we didn’t buy a bottle). Ended up with buying a couple of their most expensive wines that we could get by the glass – the food merited good wine, not a light one.

Had an amazing cocktail there, made with fresh strawberries, light rum, some Triple Sec and some lime juice:

also like the glass :)

Ranted about the wine prices to our waitress, who turned out to be Icelandic; she promised to bring the objections to the owner’s attention. Pretty sure nothing will change, though, since the place was stuffed with people.

Food was excellent, and afterwards we went for a stroll around Copenhagen’s Lakes, as the sun was back out.

view from Tycho Brahe Planetarium

some ugly ducklings?

Back to hotel, and a good night’s sleep.

čas šest

sixth day

Telephones beeped at eight oh oh, up, shower, some washing up, breakfast, pack, in a fair hurry, not too bad, though. Jaromír was going to pick us up at 10:00, we could come back to finish packing, decided just to try to finish, so we wouldn’t have to come back to the flat.

Boy, was that the right decision!?!

Anyway, Jaromír came and we were ready, bags, clean flat, and all. Off we went to find an iron bar, as explained here, took a short while to find the first place, no such bar, off to the second one and there they had miles of the stuff.


Had to wait a bit, but when we got help it took only a few minutes, then a happy couple went out, with the means to fix our iron gate. Even bought two, to be sure.


Jaromír then had to drive to his mother’s place with some documents, not far from her house I spotted a Jysk (a Faroese conglomerate) and mentioned the – well, what do you think? – window drapes.

Jaromír said, well, let’s check another shop first, in a smallish shopping center, close to his mother’s place. And what do you think? Yep, we got them! Cost about 700 korunas, the shop didn’t take cards, we only had 100 korunas, Jaromír insisted to pay, took our 100 korunas and the rest was a present to us.


We then went to a drug store in the same center and got some cough drops for Jón (I got to pay for those!), then to pick up Jaromír’s car, which was being repaired, he had been on a loaned car from the garage. On the way we ran into Eydís, waiting for the bus to come to his place (yes, it’s a small world, indeed). Turned out the car wasn’t quiiiite ready, waited there for over half an hour, the time for our goulash lunch at Jaromír’s and Alena’s place shortened.

Finally the car was ready, and we drove off. Had about an hour to give and receive some presents, I’d also like to live somewhere that you can walk out with a 2 liter jug, to the next bar, and return with it, full of the greatest beer!


Goulash made by Jaromír’s father – same as the meatballs mentioned earlier, every bit as good, a nice bite to it, we got rice and bread along. Tried the Czech way, to break the bread into small pieces and pour the goulash soup over, could have disposed of the rice, this was good.

Then after saying thanks and goodbye to Alena, Jaromír and Eydís drove us to Prague International Airport. For a short time I wondered how come an airport for a country this size seemed to be so much smaller and less busy than our Keflavik Airport, for a nation of 300 thousand people, but then of course realized that the Czechs can drive abroad – which we of course can’t :(

Sorry to say goodbye to Jaromír, the others too, but especially he’d been so great to us, going to such lengths to help, can’t think of how to repay.

Airport check-in went really quick, then we sat down in a pub advertizing Master beer, but then only having Kozel dark, which is nowhere close to as good. I was glad I decided not to order one for myself. Grrr! Jón used almost half of the beer for an aspirin to dissolve, that’s how bad it was!

But, well, flight as usual, a normal SAS flight, not the Faroese Atlantic Airways, had to wait a while for the iron bars, in odd-size baggage, (naturally we didn’t try to take them with us inside the cabin, weapons as they could be), in to Copenhagen, found our hotel and fell on our beds, pretty well exhausted.

Had meant to call our friend, Irme, but simply were too tired, definitely too tired to take the metro to her place, in Birkerød, north of Copenhagen, so we decided to call her the following day. Walked to Strøget, Copenhagen main shopping street, found a 7-11, got some rye bread and chicken salad (a salad we really miss, from Denmark), and a couple of beers and a Coke, were scandalized by the price, back to hotel, feasted on our shopping items, got ONLINE, finally! longtime no-online, free wifi in hotel (not a terribly good connection, and I couldn’t connect to my beloved IRC channel), but started to read my huge rss list and check my pages – not my mail, as my home computer would have picked all that up.

Jón Lárus watched the final game in the European Championship in football (soccer) for the time I was immersed in the Intertubes, then we just fell asleep in our lovely bed. Niiice!

čas pět

or day five:

House key worked fine in the morning, we didn’t dare go outside both at once, but it wasn’t a problem.  Weird.

Jón Lárus fell asleep again after breakfast, this was actually his worst cold day.  I let him sleep for a while, but then we had to go to town, wanted to maybe buy some clothes for the kids (might be cheaper than home) and look for the drapes once more.  Went to a Tesco downtown, but it turned out to be way more expensive than the Interspar, so the only thing we bought there was a sweater for the eight-year-old.  No drapes around there, either.  Wanted to buy some Bohemia Sekt to take home, but in Tesco it cost almost a third more than in Interspar, so we decided rather to go there on the way back.  Then we found it even cheaper in a little wine shop on the way downtown, so we got 2 bottles there, one for us and one for our hosts.

Went to the same pub as the day before, for some beer, in the same house was the Beer Museum.  Bought a dark beer from Prazdroj, called Master, it was probably the best beer we had the whole trip.  Even the dark Budvar (which we admittedly only got from a bottle, not from tap) couldn’t compete.

Wanted to buy the glass, (no, we don’t steal them – not anymore), asked the waiter, he said:  In the museum.  So we went there, but they only had boring old Urquell glasses, told us to go to the brewery to get a Master glass.

(as an aside, see our beer glass collection):

Didn’t have the time to go back to the pub to try again, nevermind the brewery, rehearsal in Plzeň’s City Hall ten minutes later:

We helped the players carry their equipment upstairs, Jón only managed one trip, then sat down, terribly weak, I’ve hardly ever seen my poor husband so weak.

Andrea, the singer had her little son with her to the rehearsal, a really sweet little boy who can almost crawl:

The group ran through all the pieces, sounding good, the city hall has good acoustics so it was a huge change from the radio studio, which is of course really dry.

After my pieces had been ran, we headed back, Jón for some needed sleep, and both of us to change clothes for the concert.  Meant to take the bus to the concert, but when we were back, we had thunder and lightning and of course the pouring rain to go with it.  (Temperature dropped from 31° to 19° Celsius in an hour, that’s quite a lot).  Called Eydís to ask if somebody could pleeeeaze pick us up, or maybe call a taxi for us.  Not a problem, Vašek came for us, a bit earlier than we’d planned to leave, so we changed in a hurry – then had to wait, since there was an accident on the way and he got stuck in traffic.  Never mind, we were in good time for the concert.  Jón got an aspirin from Jaromír, which helped a great deal.

Concert was excellent, both I and Bezdék had to stand up and introduce our pieces (I got to speak in Icelandic and Eydís translated into Czech).  Sorry not to have a recording of the pieces – well I do have some rehearsal run-throughs, taken on my little camera, but don’t want to publish them without the permission of the players.

Afterwards we went to a private little pub, for something to eat and drink.

Found out that Katka had contacted Freyja via Stardoll, that was fun.

Keys worked, thankfully, when we got home after a loooong day.  Set the mobiles to ring in the morning, and fell straight into bed.

čas čtyři

Sort of needed fresh bread that morning, got some excellent sourdough bread from the little shop. Eydís called us, and told us there would be a bus strike from 13:00-14:00 that day, so we’d have to figure out how to plan our day, I had a lecture at the university (gaah!) at 4 o’clock.

Downtown, met up with Eydís, again to that window drape shop thingie, but no, didn’t help having a Czech speaking with us, they still didn’t have the material on stock. Oh well. Went on a tour of the city’s catacombs, pretty amazing, miles and kilometres of underground caves and tunnels, we only walked through 800 meters (about half a mile) but the tunnels are way longer. The old city is really small, and when they wanted to expand, they seem to have just burrowed deeper. Layers and layers of tunnels.

Back to the flat, meatballs, uhmmm! along with sauerkraut and bread and butter.

My lecture was looming, at 4 o’clock, I had almost chickened out, really don’t like speaking about my music, my fellow composer Jiří Bezdék had agreed to make it a question-and-answer thing. Anyway, back in the flat, I decided to try to organize myself, sat down with my laptop with it’s damaged screen and ended up writing the lecture down to the point that I didn’t really need the questions. Had made a CD with the music I wanted to present, and sort of knitted my lecture around that.

Jaromír picked us up from the flat and drove to the University, Music department. Then a bit later had to drive off for an interview at the radio, I was supposed to be there too, but they changed the schedule so it got to be at the same time as the lecture (typical, but oh well!).

waiting for the clock to turn 4

Met up with my translator into Czech, poor girl of course hadn’t had the chance to read through the lecture, as we hadn’t thought there would be a real one, she borrowed my computer, had a few questions but turned out just fine. Not quite sure anybody needed a translation, though, most people seemed to understand my English just fine (laughed in the right places, anyway).

Now, what was I going to say, just now?

Anyway, the lecture went just fine, might develop a taste. (well, wouldn’t mind doing it again, since I wrote it and all. Didn’t really stick to the manuscript, but that’s me. Will need to put the CD in the correct order, and not forget Syngur sumarregn, nope)! Didn’t see anyone falling asleep, anyway, and got some questions at the end, though I didn’t leave much time for questioning. Applause seemed a bit long to be just courteous, so I hope it meant people liked it.

Sort of glad when it was done, the only thing in the whole trip I was sort of nervous about. Jirí Bezdék was awfully sorry how few had turned up (about 15), exam time at the uni, had I been there, maybe March, the room would have been crowded. Said I must come again, not that I would mind!

Went for dinner with Eydís downtown, to Restaurant Svejk (suppose there will be one in every Czech town, definitely in Prague and Plzeň). I noticed wild boar on the menu and being an avid reader of Asterix, of course I had to order just that.


Was going to order potato croquettes along, but the title American Potatoes intrigued me, so I had to order those as a side dish:

oooh kaayy, what’s so American about those? A long time favourite. Hmm.

Walked all the way to the radio house, after dinner, this we saw on our way:

a camembert burger, there. Hermelin means camembert or brie, this is a burger with white cheese instead of meat. Hmm, special.

At the rehearsel we listened to the 5 Birds (my premiére piece) again, plus the folk song arrangements, I added recorders to some songs I’d already arranged. Now look at Vašek with this amazing instrument:

contrabass recorder
a contrabass recorder and player :)

After the rehearsal, Jaromír drove us home. Lucky for us that he decided to stop and see if we got in, because we just didn’t! Tried the key, back and forth to no avail. Gaad, wouldn’t have wanted to tackle that by ourselves! He tried to call the owner of the flat, no answer. After much hesitation, he decided to knock on a window on the ground floor, but apparently the lady behind the window knew of the problem with the lock and keys and let us in, no questions asked. Whew! Really, really glad to get inside, can’t really tell you how much. Key to the flat inside worked. Good. Sleep.

tercie čas

(hope the automatic web translator isn’t letting me down)

The lemon tea was made with bottled water this time, and no extra sugar, so it tasted quite a bit better than the first morning.

Got the bus into town, our hosts had provided us with bus tickets, really easy once we found out how to make holes in the tickets on the bus’s machine. Loads of beautiful buildings downtown, a bit like Prague, people obviously take pride in their buildings and surroundings, cleaned up, used to be blackened with smog but no more.

Town square in Plzeň
town square in Plzeň

In our flat there were some really pretty window drapes, we decided we’d like to find the material if we could, so when we found a rather well stocked shop we went in, but to no avail, they had some nice stuff, but not exactly this:

Didn’t help that the sales people didn’t speak a word of English nor German. Never mind, no big deal. Found a book shop, bought a map of Plzeň and surroundings (like to own one, of course we had been lent one by our hosts) and a new English-Czech-English dictionary instead of our old one, which was small, few words and falling apart.

Hungry, found a place where the menu was printed in English along with Czech, sat down there, sort of nice to be able to understand what we’d be ordering, who knows, might end up with fried brains or something. Excellent lunch, didn’t know whether to tip the waiter or not, left him 20 korunas anyway (turned out you don’t have to tip, but can if you want). Saw this while we were waiting for lunch:

of course this is the only way to take beer kegs to restaurants in narrow streets!

Eydís the Icelandic oboe player in the chamber group called us, and we decided to meet in a café behind the church at half past three. We took the bus back to the flat, or rather to the Interspar supermarket, needed a few things, then back to town.

Took the tram with Eydís to the South Czech Radio Plzeň house. Rehearsal was to start at 5 o’clock.
Met up with the rest of the group, Jaromír, the flute player, Alena, his wife, cembalist and Andrea, the singer.

Rehearsal was fine, for a first time round, I had a few things to say, not too many, really, I sort of like my players to make my music their own, it’s seldom I have big objections to peoples’ interpretation.

Afterward we went with Eydís and Jaromír to his old favourite pub, for a light evening meal and some excellent non-filtered Urquell. Even sent a friend of mine, a beer enthusiast, a sms, telling him about what I was doing – to his chagrin, as he couldn’t have a beer for the next several hours.

Jarom�r og Eyd�s
Jaromír and Eydís

Jaromír managed to snatch the bill and pay, before we knew, so all we could say was thanks. Walked us to our bus. We asked about something we’d meant to check on, an iron stick, 15 mm wide, 3 mm thick and a meter long, hadn’t been able to find one in Iceland, and as the Czechs use loads of iron, intricate gates and fences, we thought we should be able to find one. Jaromír instantly took up his phone and called someone, and after a minute said this wouldn’t be a problem. Asked also if they knew where the window drapes were bought, but he didn’t know. Maybe Alena would know, they’d check.

Walked straight into our bus, which was nice. Apartment, a glass of Bohemia Sekt rosé and bed didn’t sound too bad.

of course

there are photos to be found on the net, from inside Chateau Kozel:

July 2008