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Take Two on Sachertorte

Thursday, August 31st, 2006

Yep, it’s that time of year again. John’s birthday is here.

I’m still broke, so I thought I’d make him another chocolate cake to show off in the office.

Last year, the effort ended in near-disaster, took 6h instead of the advertised 75 minutes but in the end yielded an impressive result (if I may say so myself). I doubt that this year’s effort will look as good, primarily because I’m not using frosted rose petals for decoration (we’re out), but I’ll see what I can do with marzipan and chocolate. At least I now have a camera to record the result for posterity.

The version of Sachertorte I remember eating as a kid always had a layer of marzipan under the chocolate glaze, so this year I’m including it. The recipe loosely follows Orangen Sachertorte, but with considerably less (apricot only) filling and brandy instead of orange liqueur (the local shops aren’t sophisticated enough to have miniatures of Cointreau or Grand Manier for sale).
[read on]

I’m back…

Thursday, August 24th, 2006

…and the Greenland write-up will resume tomorrow. All my photos have now been uploaded to Flickr (much quicker from home) and I’m in the process of sorting them. On a disappointed note: I spoiled the film in the Nokia when I tried to change it (it wasn’t fully spooled back) and some very good pictures of humpback whales off Disko Island have been lost. I carried that brick of a camera and the big, fat tele-lens with me specifically, but got carried away in the heat of the chase.

In other news: Jessie has asked me to become a BNA moderator. I’m thinking about it.

Finally: A hectic weekend lies ahead as I may get my paws on a ticket to the Reading Festival on Sunday. In keeping with the annual tradition, there will be engineering works on the trains. I may have to fix up Rob’s old bicycle (yes, we still have it Rob, if you’re reading this blog…).

Sound-bite from Saturday afternoon in the pub in Ilulissat: “You’re from London? Are you Muslim?” That was a new one, but this is how we’re currently perceived in certain corners of the world….

Qeqertarsuaq, ‘The Big Island’

Sunday, August 20th, 2006

20th August 2006

When the sun comes out, with the clouds still hanging low in the sky, the light of the arctic summer is unique. The sky shimmers with mother-of-pearl shades of baby-blue, light turquoise and just a hint of gold. It is the same light we sometimes see just after dawn, but it had just turned 9am, and it was already full daylight.

We were approaching Disko Island on the Najaaraq Ittuk and I stood on deck, rubbing my mittens and looking out for humpback whales.
[read on]

More Rainy Days

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

19th August 2006

Last night, for the first time in 48 hours, the clouds lifted. It was an opportunity to shower and wash my stuff without it feeling futile. Afterwards, I sat at the picnic table outside the campsite and watched the shadows lengthen, spellbound by the luminosity of the ice in the blue-grey light. However, as soon as the sun descended behind the rocky outcrops, the temperature dropped. I had to smoke with my mitts on. The magic moment was further disrupted by some of the Germans (whom I dubbed the �Hitler Youth� because of the way they�ve taken over the living room) coming outside for a smoke and talking at full volume. I was determined to finish my book, but by the time they left and I could again concentrate, it was so dark that I had to hold it right up to my nose.
Picnic Table with View
It was just as cold in the tent as during my first night in Greenland. As soon as I stopped moving, the warmth seeped out through the sleeping bag and blanket, and even with a sweater, mitts and a towel wrapped around me, it was too cold to sleep.

Apart from that, I was paranoid about the time. I have an early start on Sunday, so I set the camera alarm to 6 am to try whether I would hear it. As a result, I kept waking up in the increasing light, thinking it must surely be six by now, but when I checked, it was 3:34 am. When the alarm eventually went off, I didn�t hear it.

I woke up at 7 or 8 am, to the familiar sound of the tent pane flapping in the wind (I hate that tent), with the rain offering its piddling accompaniment. I went back to sleep, but the weather did not change by nine, ten or even eleven o�clock. It was an affront. I had enough of the constant rain.

I stayed inside the tent for as long as possible, because at least it was warm by then and struggling into my boots and wading through the mud seemed like too much work. By the time I eventually got to town, it was a quarter past one and the stores were shut. At least, I still have some ship�s bisquits, tinned fish and processed cheese for the whale watching trip tomorrow. The forecast looks brighter and I�m keeping my fingers crossed.

Rainy Days

Saturday, August 19th, 2006

18th August 2006

To recap:

  • It�s pissing it down with rain
  • The campsite is full of Germans
  • Not one picture has come out

I don�t know why the latter happened. Apparently, the little knob next to the rewind lever wasn�t turned back into the right position after I changed the film on the boat. But at least the digital pictures have come up alright.

Today was a day for smoking a pipe in the bar. Failing that, I retreated there for a few cigarettes. David Gilmour was up on the big screen, looking like one of my old college professors, pumping out �How I wish you were here�. He reminds me of my age. They were good once—how does it feel to be seventy-something and look back at that?

Slowly, the fog was creeping in from the sea, obliterating all the colours outside, wrapping everything in a grey blanket. Ping Floyd are a hell of a soundtrack to the fog.

Another excursion boat left the harbour. Hell of a day for it. It is too expensive to go on these boat trips and for once I was glad that I didn�t have one planned until Sunday.

On the screen, David Gilmour laid down one hell of a guitar solo. He still has it, but it is scary to see how old he is now.

The humid cold seeped through the walls of the bar just as it did through the pane of my tent, my sleeping bag and my woollen blanket the night before. It chills right to the bone.

Gilmour made his guitar howl. I think of the dogs howling last night, every time the rain picked up.

�Shine on you crazy Diamond� came on, and it reminded me of my time at the Danish boarding school, where we always used to play that song; then of the Pink Floyd gig John took me to just after we met. Life�s coming full circle.

The fog was lifting. The prospect for tomorrow and the weekend should be brighter.


Dishing out the local Wildlife (II)–The Buffet

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

17th August 2006 (later that day)

As soon as people approached the imposing dining room, with its tables, covered in starched linen and silverware, overlooking the iceberg-strewn bay through large picture windows, the murmur of conversation ebbed to a whisper; but when they clapped eyes on the central display—which was spread across three tables—they fell silent.
Greenland Buffet, Hotel Hvide Falk
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Dishing out the local Wildlife (I)

Thursday, August 17th, 2006

17th August 2006

There is a press release pinned to the town noticeboard. The new season’s quotas for belugas and narwhals have been set: 285 narwhals (but minus the number caught in the previous year by some of the communities in excess of their allocations) and 160 belugas.

The narwhal quota will be re-evaluated in the autum, as many of the later (spring) catches seem to derive from the Smith’s Sound population for which there is no biological monitoring. As far as West Geenland is concerned, the biologists’ advice for belugas is 100, not 160, while that for narwhals is 135—less than half the number decided on.
[read on]

Town of the Icebergs

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

OK, so I’m not going to do this in sequence. Too boring.

I’m struggling a bit with my English at the moment, so flowery descriptions will have to wait for my BNA writeups…

16th August 2006

I have travelled the world—well, fifty countries or so—but only rarely have I seen a sight which literally made me gasp.

This morning, after I had peeled myself out of the tent and piled some rocks on the pane to keep it from flapping in the breeze—which would be called a ‘gale’ back home—it happened again, just as I turned around on my way to the toilet block.

The mundane reality of campsite life was brushed aside as the Northern hemisphere’s mightiest glacier lay spread out in the bay below like a dish on a plate:

Icefjord seen from Campsite
[read on]

Greenland: Photos

Wednesday, August 16th, 2006

Photos are going up on Flickr gradually, but I’m not yet in a position to blog (When I am, my traveljournal will gradually appear, with pictures. It will be back-dated so that the whole trip comes up in sequence. Good old pen-and-paper).

Check it out. However, internet here is slow, I’m not used to the keyboard, Flickr keeps crashing and the people at this internet café just had the most terrible bust-up—of which I understood every word. So, I’m outta here! Be patient, and better photos and more sensible entries will follow soon.

Greenland: Sculptures of Ice

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

15th August 2006

We were floating among magic sculptures of ice in the evening light.
Drifting past Icebergs

Ahead, the Sydney Opera House just floated by.

Sydney Opera House in Disko Bay

I couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like to do this trip on acid in the midnight sun.

Sculptures of Ice

But however magical our surroundings seemed, the weather hadn’t improved. I kept the lens of my camera covered as best as I could, but there was no way anybody could light a cigarette in this rain. So I thought shelter in a niche away from the driving wind.

“Sure is real shit-cancer weather!” A teenage girl, likewise struggling with a fag.

“Yes, this is belief.”

My Danish was still at the ‘listen, but don’t talk’ stage. But I grinned broadly anyway. Icebergs which looked like piped cream and spun-sugar sculptures were literally the icing on the cake of what were at least six humpback whale sightings plus dozens of seals. I felt that I had truly arrived.

Arctic Sunset