Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Winter of Discontent - Iceland

The following is an actual quote from the in-flight magazine on Icelandair:
"If you have had enough of the Lamb Testicles (Can one ever get enough) "
Now I thought Reykjavik Iceland would be a destination of Vikings and Fisherman, not frustrated contestants of "Fear Factor"

Try as we might of the next few days to see if this delicacy existed it was to prove allusive, although the Whale burger was mighty fine and did not taste like chicken.

What is it about Iceland that a nation of 300,000 people in an area smaller than Kentucky, has the oldest democratic Parliament in the world, (apparently in 930 some Viking decided democracy would be a fun experiment, in lieu of plunder and war and choose this island in the middle of the North Atlantic and to this day the Althing as they call there parliament exists).

The trouble is that a few years ago, a few modern Vikings in Armani suits decided to continue their heritage and launched global raids on financial institutions, everyone thought this was good and money poured into Iceland as it never had before, then as we all know, someone just had to ask some questions and all of a sudden the world discovered that the foreign exposure of Icelandic Banks was 10x the countries GDP.

Now it does not take a Rocket Scientist, let alone an Economist to figure out that they were in deep trouble.

The Stock Market dropped 94%, every Bank was nationalised, and the value of the local currency halved and the 3 month unemployment safety net is due to expire in a month. Add to this that in the good times every Icelander took out large loans to buy a new SUV or Mercedes and book overseas holidays, of course all loans were taken in foreign currencies and now everyone is about to default. End result the normally placid Icelander's took to the streets the other week, banged saucepans and threw rocks at the Parliament. Police came along bit of violence and the Government collapsed. The first elected administration in the world falls to the Economic crisis.

So with Correspondent Greg Palkot and Producer Tadek Markowski we arrived in Reykjavik to look at what happened and could this become a domino effect, as the Winter of Discontent spreads across Europe.

Now the first thing we should of realised in the worlds most Northern Capital city is that it does not get light enough to film before 11am , we found this out sitting around at breakfast at 8:30.

So at this point we decided to adapt the Icelandic approach to values, as everyone here can, change a tire, strip an engine, ride a horse, sail a boat, dress a sheep, cure a salmon and maintain an open mind about elves. If they can do this then we can film in the dark. It should also be pointed out that here "elves have to be asked before a new road is built" who and how the authorities ask was never answered.

So we ventured out onto the streets as the snow started to fall, locals also explained that they do not have four seasons here, only two: Bright and Dark. Which seemed very apt given that 9:30 it was still pitch black?

The shoot went well and before dark returned we were back in the hotel, editing a package for Special Report.

Thursday had been planned for Live Shots for the News Channel and the Business Channel. We had booked a hotel balcony overlooking Parliament Square; Hi Speed Internet had been established so that we communicate to New York. The only problem was that when we came to stream live. Nothing happened, Transmission could not see us, and the curse of the firewall was upon us. Ok Plan B swings into action.

Take the portable satellite dish down into the main square and find the bird in the sky. Never a problem from Afghanistan to Iraq it is a fairly routine matter of locking onto the bird. BUT, I pointed here, I pointed there I even pointed down to the ground and nothing, absolute silence. Back to the hotel and check if there were any provider issues as to why the satellite might not be found. And there on the main page of the provider a map showing temporary blacked out areas in the worlds as they realigned their satellites. A small black band was revealed affecting 3 countries on the entire planet – Greenland, Ireland and you guessed it "Iceland".

Strike 2 this was looking like a bad day was going to get worse technically speaking. However Greg found a hotel around the corner near the square and after a fast test using the camera built into the camera we had a link with New York established.

Thus from a nation that has produced 3 Miss Worlds, 1 Nobel Laureate, countless Worlds Strongest men and list amongst their greatest sporting achievements a Silver Medal for Handball (no one remembers who won the Gold) , we spent the day transmitting from a very cold balcony.

Although we never got to find the lamb testicles, there was a business that never lacked for hungry diners. A small hot dog stall that has been in business for 72 years, that according to Norse legend has "The best hot dogs in the Universe" and for the record they just could be.


Anonymous said...

Geez, Mal - no lamb testicles?

Might as well just go back to rock farming in Afghanistan. At least you can get a half decent goat nut there.

Glad to see you posting again!


Sir CaptainC said...

Welcome back to your blog. Although we were supposed to track together in Iceland, I view this as a reconnaissance mission for our trip.

Anonymous said...

Funny man...Wonder if you are in Iraq now with Mr. Palkot. Tell us, how come he always has beautiful hair. Is it his? And what happened to yours? You used to have such interesting wild hair and a gold earring. Are you getting mellow or something? Good to read a new blog on your site, Mr. James. Always good.