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The Journey North | T E Shepherd

The Journey North

Day 1. 15 June 2004

Tuesday. A circumfluent route is taken to get to Oxford when Julian arives at my house a little after 7 o’clock. Missing the turn that will take us through the Oxfordshire villages of Ambrosden, Merton, and Islip, and instead we take an alternative road through the squaddie village of Arncott, with its Tornedo, and the bouncy rouad through Horton-cum-Studley.

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When I get my Heathrow bound bus from the shops in Headington, I am leaving myself way to much time for a 11 o’clock check-in but it’s either this or pay for a grossly expensive taxi and all the cuffufal that that entails.

I am a little concerned when the first bus drives straight past the bus stop, but the next one stops and I make way to Heathrow with no further excitement—by one o’clock we am taxiing across the airport complex in our Icelandic Bowing 757.

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Descending in across the I Icelandic coastline, we land amongst the lava fields and lupins at Keflavik airport, and I am back. For the third time in as many years I am walking through the clean stone lines and glass frontages of the arrivals building and then through the airport, within no time I am walking out the doors to the carpark and boarding the bus to Reykjavik.

Last time I took this bus it was 2001 and I was in the company of Helen, Jemma, Tara, Richard, Ian, Vicky and Mark – and it was my first inspirational visit to this country. Now it is different. I am not with a group of strangers, and I am not about to embark on a trip into the wilds. I am here, alone, about to go and stay with my family: my dad’s sister, Janet married Aðalstein Ingolfsson, an Icelander, and they had three daughters, Elva Brá, Signý, and Drífa.

The difference this time is that I recognise the landmarks as I pass them, and I understand the geography. When we approach the junction with Snorresbraut I recognise it and I know the bus station is just beyond.

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At the bus station, Janet is there to greet me, and we head off back down to their house in the Funafold part of town – up the main road, left, and over the harbour. In the garden are perhaps some of the biggest trees in Iceland.

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I enter in, to be greeted by Tyra – the wobberingly effectionate family dog. It’s a modern house (I remember it being built) filled with books, cds, and art, and typically sparsely, simply furnished.

Drífa is the next to arrive home – it’s how many years since I’ve seen her, ten years at my brother’s wedding – she is the youngest of my cousins. Then Adi arrives back from work, and we settle down to my first meal back in Iceland.

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As the evening winds on to 11 o’clock, the light is that of an English afternoon and the wind drops to an unearthly nothing. It’s so quiet, like the middle of the night that it is, but with the light that tells me the opposite.

I realise now, as I write this, that I am tired. It is time to make my way to bed.

Day Two: Re-aquainting oneself with an old friend…


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