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Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The truth about Iceland

Ice News reports today that members of the Icelandic travel industry believe that the spate of cancellations and the reluctance of visitors to confirm bookings due to the volcano could be turned to an advantage if the country plays it cards right and keeps the world up to date on what is really going on on the ground.

Fridrik Palsson, owner of a chain of hotels, which incluces Hotel Ranga near the eruption site told RUV’s (the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service) Kastljos current affairs programme that this summer need not be a total disaster if the industry pulls together and makes use of the effective free advertising that the volcano has provided. Many countries after all, would give their eye teeth for this amount of free publicity, and I for one believe that he makes a very valid point. Iceland has a lot to offer the traveller, whether they want to rent a car and stay in five star luxury or as I will be, use public busses and take a sleeping bag. Iceland is one big adventure playground for nature lovers of all ages, with hot springs, bird life and 24 hour daylight in which to enjoy it all.

To this end, the Icelandic government has invested some ISK 350 million (USD 2.7 million) in a global publicity campaign aimed at boosting the travel sector during this crucial year. As Palsson though said, the funds need to be used wisely, to keep the world updated as to truth about how the violcano affects day to day life and what the country is really like, after a frenzy of media attention amd many mistruths. Facebook in particular (I myself am a member of several Icelandic groups and pages) could be an important tool in getting the message across.

Where a volcanic eruption of this nature would spell disaster to some, the Icelanders have picked themselves up and literally dusted themselves down. Headlines such as "Volcanic dust cloud closes air space" may be more attention grabbing than "life as normal", but the latter is closer to the former in truth, and the world needs to know this. As Palsson quite rightly says, people will continue to visit the country if they are aware of the facts, and the facts are that no one has died, shops and other facilities are functioning as normal, and the travel chaos that was reported throughout Europe has for the most part, not affected Iceland itself. Both Icelandair and Iceland Express, the two airlines based in Reykjavik, continue to operate, finding ways around the recent closure of Keflavik airport, by diverting services to Akureyri in the north.

Of course there is no way to predict what the volcano may do next, or for long it may keep erupting, but that in a way is part of the fun - and for me at least makes my own forthcoming visit all the more appealing.

Friday, 23 April 2010

Keflavik airport closed today

With the lifting of air restrictions late on Wednesday night, things are slowy returning to normal here in Britain, for the first time since the eruption began, Iceland faces the prospect of air space closures of their own. A change in wind riection necessitates the temporary closure of Keflavik International and Reykjavik City airports in the south west of the country.

The volcano, which is situated beneath the Eyjafjallajokull glacier, about 120km south-east of Reykjavik, has been erupting now for eight days. Tremors are continuing, with a thick cloud of ash and smoke pumping out into the surrounding air. The cloud may be lower, but it is still volatile, posing a potential health risk due to large amounts of flouride.

A statement from the Icelandic aviation authority last night said

"With a view to the ash distribution forecast for Friday April 23 it can be expected that the flight zone for Keflavik and Reykjavik Airports will be closed for a certain period of time."

They went on to say, "This is for the first time that the flight zone around the two Icelandic international airports has closed since the beginning of the eruption,"

Meterological forecaster was more circumspect, stating "The wind at low levels is an easterly wind and so that is blowing it (ash) across Reykjavik and Keflavik, but the wind at high levels is still westerly". It was the high level winds that spread the ash towards Europe.

Speculation is mounting with regard to the nature of this eruption, which continues to pump its deadly cloud into the atmosphere. Minor tremors have also been reported. Seismologist Bryndis Brandsdottir said these tremors could indicate a build up of lava, or molten rock, within the crater.

She said that if the lava found itt's way out, which eventually of course it will, it would most likely flow down the north side of the mountain, where the floods took place last week. Opinion though seems to be divided, as another seismologist indidated that things seemed to be quietening down. It is as always, pure speculation and no one knows for sure what will happen or when.

Travellers to the region can though breath a huge sigh of relief with the news that the ring road has now re-opened, and although Katla is being monitored, the two volcanoes are not connected, and there is no sign of any activity there.

The latest news releases on the evolving situation can be found here

The website for Keflavik International can be found here

Sunday, 18 April 2010

A lesson in sustainability

It is incredible sometimes to watch my mind and see how it gets caught up in the drama of so many events - my sister and her problems, issues relating to work, and more recently of course, the Icelandic volcano, which seems to be affecting us all in one way or another.

Several of my acquaintances are stranded abroad - some in Portugal and some in Spain. One of my work colleagues husband's is stuck in Madrid, where he works (he spends his time commuting between London and Madrid as some sort of computer boffin for a city bank). She has only recently returned to work after suffering a slipped disc, and is missing him terribly, as I am sure he is her.

I have been racking my brain since this whole thing began as to what it could all be about, and quite what mother nature is trying to show us all. There has to be something with a crisis of this magnitude. One things for sure - whatever or whoever the lesson is for it is clearly not for the Icelanders, as the wind is blowing the cloud away from them, their international airport remains open, and life there, apart from in the immediate vicinity of the volcano, continues as normal.

Knowing that the universe works on an economy of the energy, and the amount of energy that clearly lies behind this blast, it is evidently a lesson of great magnitude for us all.

All sorts of scenarios are coming into play - the possibility of airlines and hotel companies going bankrupt, small business owners who are stuck abroad also going bankrupt, those affected raking up huge bills and getting into debt, food and other goods from overseas upon which we have learnt to depend, being unable to reach us and the suppliers consequently losing out. What this means is difficult to say, but it is clear that many things need to change.

The culture of cheap overseas travel and the way in which the industry has bloomed in the past 20 or so years clearly cannot be sustained environmentally. The idea that we should have access to fruit and veg from overseas outside of its season also cannot be sustained. It may be good (arguably) for the growers as it means more jobs, but would they not be better off growing the food to feed their own populations? I mean, potatoes being grown in the Egyptian desert, asparagus being flown in from Peru - what next?

Maybe we need to start thinking a little more in terms of self sufficiency, growing our own food and providing our own goods, and allow other countries to do the same. The lesson will differ for each individual that is affected by this - perhaps my friends husband needs to rethink his job in Madrid and start to put his wife first, perhaps my friends in Portugal, as they said in an email earlier, need to acknowledge the fact that they should be flying less and trying to reduce their carbon footprint. When I go to Iceland myself in 11 weeks time (and I will be going), it will the first time I have flown since March 2004, when I went to Egypt. The helicopter to Lundy isn't quite the same.

I have to say though that the Icelanders have found a very neat way to alleviate their own financial woes, as interest in the country has mushroomed because of this, and all that foreign currency that will be coming in as a result of this interest will help pay their debts in no time!

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Go with flow - it's what volcanoes do

I have certainly chosen an interesting time to travel to Iceland, with the eruption of the volcano Eyjafjallajokull a few days ago. This was the second eruption in the area within the last month, the first being somewhat less volatile, the effects of which have been confined to Icelandic shores. The second eruption though was different, as the volcano erupted from deep within an ice cap resulting in a huge plume of ash containing minute particules of silica (volcanic glass) which then drifted on north westerly winds towards Britain and the rest of Europe. This has resulted in the closure of airports in 23 European countries, with thousands stranded at both ends. No one knows how long the disruption is likely to last, with the deadline extended half a dozen times already. According to some reports it could last well into next week or even beyond. It is something that is completely beyond our control, as nature always is.

Although I feel desperately sorry for those who are stranded, my own concerns are more long term. I am due to travel to Iceland myself in 11 weeks (4th July), and am unsure whether this will even be possible. I am telling myself to trust that it will be all alright, that the worst is over, as the cloud drifts off towards the continent, but it is not that simple. British air space may be re-opened making it theoretically possible to travel to Iceland, but what will I find when I get there? Will the roads be open enabling me to travel around the country. I have to travel through the affected zone in order to get to Skaftafell National Park, which I had hoped to visit. How will it affect the weather in that part of the country, what will happen if the seismic activity continues or starts up again while I am there? What if it spreards to other nearby volcanos and triggers them? So many questions with no answers.

It has left me somewhat in limbo, uncertain as to whether I should go ahead and book domestic flights and make other internal arrangements prior to my arrival in the country. The advice from the Embassy website is simply to keep up to date with the news, which really doesn't tell me much, as it difficult to get news from within Iceland itself to ascertain how things are there. Villages near the affected zone were said to have experienced prolonged darkness with a thick layer of ash, and there is also some damage to roads. The Icelanders I will imagine, will be keen to get these repaired as quickly as possible to get help to the affected areas in clearing away the debris, and also so that the local people, who were evacuated can return home.

For the moment at least it is really a waiting game - along with everyone else all i can do is wait and see. If the volcano has a message for us at all, it must surely be to go with the flow, for that is exactly what volcanic lava does !

Monday, 12 April 2010

How have things got to this stage?

When Karen Bishop wrote on the latest Wings post a few days ago, that the recent spate of earthquakes and volcanic activity (first Haiti, then Chile, the eruption in Iceland, and of course yesterday's quake in the Solomon Isles) had stirred up the dark energies giving them the opportunity to rear their ugly heads, she clearly was not joking. During the last week, since The Police made their faux par and gave my sister my telephone number (a number which incidentally is ex directory), I have come to the reluctant conclusion that she represents those dark energies for me, as things have rapidly gone from bad to worse. It leaves me wondering how things have come to this state, that our relationship has degenerated so far that she appears to have such little respect for me and my family life.

Since her first call, which was one week ago today at approximately 11.45pm, there have been 12 more calls from her, at various times throughout the day. On Saturday I got so fed up with it that following Coran's suggestion, I phoned BT to see whether we could get her number barred. We can, but it will cost us around £10 per quarter. Coran then suggested that I phone The Police to see what other remedies they may be able to offer. I did not seriously consider asking them to pay, as the money that they get should go to Policing and not things like this, even if it is their fault. I spoke to a very nice and helpful Police officer who was able to track the call and found that it was clearly their fault, as a trainee operator had given out the number when he or she should not have done. But as he said, the damage has been done and cannot be undone. Even if they were able to cover the cost of having her number barred, which is highly unlikely, the problem with her will always remain. He did come up with one suggestion though. As he pointed out, BT have very firm policies regarding what are termed as nuisance calls, and these clearly fall into this category. However, before they and The Police can take action against such callers, they need evidence. He therefore suggested that I start recording the time of her calls, with a few brief notes as to their content, if and when they are abusive (which they often are). This will take time and patience, but if she is confronted with this from a legal standpoint, is something that even she will take notice of.

Yesterday I had quite a nice conversation with her, and began to have hopes that our relationship may be salvagable after all, but I should have known better to have thought that. Once again just before midnight last night the phone rang. This time it was not her, but the Casualty department at the local hospital, asking me to call them back. Fearing the worst, I naturally did, only to be told that she had been in there and had left without being seen. Of course once my sleep was interupted (again), neither Coran nor I was able to get back to sleep, so that meant another sleepless night - it's just as well that I don't work full time or have to drive for a living or operate machinery, not that she would care.

I rang the hospital back this morning anyway to query why they deemed it necessary to call at this time, when there was really nothing I could do, and they apologised and explained that they had been worried about her and what she might do and wondered if I knew where she may have gone. I hate myself for this, but I have this persistant thought that won't go away. As I am her next of kin this situation with her will not go away either, so maybe I would be better off if she weren't here in my life at all. I can see that this is the only way that this will ever truly end - I will not be free of this until I am free of her.

So, as usual I have two choices, put up with this or take action. The only question that remains is what action to take. Do I bite the bullet and block that number or do I put up with this for however long it takes to report her for making nuisance calls. I suspect that in the end it will mean having that number blocked.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

I am sorry sister

Just in case you blinked, or have been on Nibiru for the past few months, my last post was of course an April fool, originally published in the village newsletter that I edit, and therefore familiar to those around the village. I was hoping that the local paper would publish it last Thursday, as it is not that often that April Fools Day falls on the day in which the paper is published, and I at least, thought it was a brilliant opportunity to inject some humour into what have recently been dark an dismal times. They could have really gone to town and called the paper for one week only, The Porking Advertiser with a pigture of a pig alongside the title, but for reasons best known to themselves, they chose not to use the story that I handed to them on a plate. Maybe it was not PC enough and they were afraid that the Council would not like it ? I will never know, but cannot help feeling that a wonderful opportunity has been lost. I am not the only one around our village who thinks so. Still, it is up to them ...

Unfortunately this morning I have more pressing things on my mind. At 11.45 last night, Coran and I were just drifing off to sleep when the phone rang. The answerphone picked it up and as half expected, and half dreaded, it was my sister. She told us that she ha lost our number, and we had no intention of giving it to her, so I don't know where she got it from, I can only assume that she found it in an old address book or something. Anyway, five minutes later she rang again, annoyingly just as I was drifing off to sleep again, and this time she left a rather long message. The gist of it is basically that she misses us and is desperate to see and/or speak to us - hopefully this evening when she claims she is free (while at the same time informing us that her ex boyfriend is coming round - which hardly makes her free). Given hers and our history, I do not know what to do. I know what I want to do - ignore her and not call, but the guilt is always there gnawing away in the background.

She suffers from scizophrenia and has done for the past 20 odd years. Coran and I both find it incredilbly hard to deal with someone who is so needy and seems oblivious to our needs - ringing at all hours of the day and night, expecting us to drop everything to help her out, sucking up to us one minute and abusing us the next. She says she cannot help it and it is part of her illness, but I think this is rubbish. I am prepared to concede that some it may be that, but she was brought up to know right from wrong and to understand how to treat people to get people on your side, and with us, I am sad to say she is going about it in completely the wrong way. Understand that I have had over 20 years of this, and Coran 13.

My brother has more or less cut off contact with her, and for the past year or so, to all intents and purposes, so have we. It breaks my heart to do this, but I really do not think that we have a choice. Her attitude has driven her away, for all of the reasons stated above and a lot, lot more. I know that this is not all about her though, btu also about me and my inabilty to cope with and accept her situation. I miss the sister I grew up and loved so dearly, before Coran came along, she was the best friend I ever had, but I know that I will never get her back. It may not be fair to punish her for my own inabilty to deal with things, but sometimes it is the only way - something that even Mum realised in the end, for my sister used and abused her too, and my brother. I am sorry then sister, but for the moment at least, I cannot have you in my life, causing disruption and mayhem and giving me grief and stress, I can no longer live like that. She is not despetate to see us anyway, I know her, she is lonely as her other so called friends have tired of her, and so she thinks that she can drain our energy instead of someone else's. There might be some truth in all those vampire stories after all ...

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Historic name change for Dorking

Mole Valley District Council have voted unanimously to change the name of Dorking following an important discovery late last year. This is the first time since the compilation of the Doomsday Book in 1066 that the name of a Surrey town has been changed from its original nomenclature. A spokesperson for the Council said that they were very excited at this move, as it marks as decisive turning point in the town's history. He also said that the change would be relatively easy to implement, with the minimum of inconvenience for residents and businesses alike, since there is only one letter in the town's name to be altered.

The Council came to this decision after a team of archaeologists, headed by Professor Andrew S Winehouse from the University of Surrey, unearthed the remains of a prehistoric civilisation of scrofa domestica (otherwise known as wild boar) on the outskirts of the town. The remains, which were dated to approximately 2000 BCE, include fragments of teeth and jaw bones with several intact skeletons of both male and female animals.

Following this decision, I can exclusively reveal that the Council have also unveiled plans to replace the current sculpture of the cockerel at the roundabout near the Council offices at Pippbrook in honour of the town's earliest inhabitants. The new sculpture is due to be unveiled at the beginning of April. Attached is an artist's impression.

The Council will write to everyone in due course advising them to change the D to a P ...