I’m not suited to this heat. I don’t know if it’s genetic or merely a side effect of being raised in Iceland but my comfort zone for outdoor temperature is anywhere between 10–18˚C, 15 degrees being ideal.
So, in an effort to keep going during very English heatwave (‘30˚C! how will we survive?’) I headed out to a café with a book (Black Mass by John Gray) intent on surviving on icy cold lemonade for the afternoon.
Sound plan, as far as it goes. And it didn’t get too far anyway. I hadn’t stepped out of the door before thoughts began to crumble into my headspace. Normally, I find it very easy to just pick a task and lock in on it—indeed lose myself in it so much that I have to rely on my phone alarms to let me know when to eat—but this time my mind was choosing its own topics. It definitely wasn’t keen on letting me read.
What was on my mind?
The state of being in between. Of being both and neither.
I haven’t felt completely Icelandic for a very long time now. And I’ll never feel English or British, no matter how long I stay here, no matter how vague my accent gets. Being partially removed from a place you know as well as a native gives you a perspective shared by neither the native nor the foreigner. You know the place and the culture well enough to understand the subtleties, forgive some of the foibles, and know the context to some of the things that just seem plain weird to foreigners. But you maintain enough of a distance for you to see some of the larger patterns and the cultural artefacts the locals don’t even notice. You become a fish aware of the water. And the other fish don’t see the water so you never quite blend in.
I go to Iceland and I see things they don’t see. I go to Britain and I hear things they don’t hear. At times it almost feels like you’re going mad—delusional.
Then you turn around, see another fish noticing the water, and the both of you can laugh, nod to each other, and carry on, knowing that the ‘heatwave’ hasn’t driven you bonkers yet.