Recollections of my Father

AT SOME POINT in the 1950s, to the excitement of my three sisters and I, Dad ordered Woman’s Weekly magazine to be delivered to our house each Wednesday. We soon learned it wasn’t anything worth holding your breath for. The zingiest bit was the washed-out pink and blue cover. The rest could never live up to such sheer lack […]

Early autumn on a rocky Arctic Islet

THE LAST THING you want to a pack for a small island in the Arctic is a mobile phone. And I don’t mean it’s the last thing you want to pack, I mean you don’t want to pack one at all. Leave the thing at home. Like packing a low slung Colt forty-five in Dead Man’s Gulch, […]

Arctic life can be a real beach

HAVE YOU EVER woke up after a couple of drinks feeling a like gang of Ancient Egyptians must’ve broken into the house overnight and mummified you? So it’s not just me then? Seriously, opening my eyes to find myself wrapped tight in a sleeping bag, in a very small attic, of a very small schoolhouse, in […]

Friday Night Fever

FRIDAY NIGHT FEVER had arrived on Værøy. Dance night at the pub with a local band playing. When you’ve been living on a tiny Arctic island for some time little things like that get your pulse racing. I felt like a seventeen-year-old all over again. Oh, how the memories come flooding back. At seventeen I was a […]

My new home

EVEN THE sunniest of mornings on the island of Værøy can see endless low clouds appearing as a magic waterfall tipping over the mountains in slow motion. Driven upwards by the prevailing northern air currents, to which the mountains act as a windbreak, as soon as the wind drops they literally dissolve into thin air. From time to time, the […]

Island Fever!

THE ISLAND’S ONLY PUB had run out of cigarettes yet again. Just in my hour of need. Island fever had struck. It’s  a bit like cabin fever only on an island. A contradiction of emotions had me feeling like Ben Gunn, Sinbad the Sailor and Lemuel Gulliver all rolled into one. It was like being cast ashore and marooned, […]

Postcard from Værøy

Postcard fromVærøy EVEN THOUGH THEY couldn’t quite fit the entire island on a postcard, you can tell from photo that Værøy is pretty small. Particularly the habitable bit. A couple of mountains, a bit of green here and there and not much else. It can’t boast much more than five miles (8km) from one end […]

Life on a small Arctic Island – part two

ROUSING FROM HAVING snatched a short nap, I switched on the box to watch a bit of Norwegian TV. An experience that can only be fully appreciated if you don’t understand the language. As I speak more than a smattering it only served to nudge me back into the state of semi-consciousness I’d just struggled out of. You […]

Life on a small Arctic Island – part one

FOR THE FIRST time since starting my epic northern journey, I managed to write the whole day with hardly an interruption. The other hostel guests had either checked out, or gone sightseeing shortly after getting up. That left the table in the kitchen-cum-dayroom all to myself. Well, not quite; Ann-Ulrika was about. The Swedish photographer […]

The Morning after the Morning Before

THE MORNING AFTER the morning before, when all feelings of fear and self-loathing had virtually dissipated into the thinness of the Arctic air, I felt almost alive again. Just a few dusty cobwebs of half-remembered doubt lingered at the frayed edges of my mind. Nothing a couple of beers couldn’t fix. But that wasn’t the […]