Friday, October 10, 2008

Iceland

The stones are cold, dirty, moss-covered, like the pebbles on a beach. Like balls of dough arranged on a baking tray, in a house of long-ago forgotten times. They are as warm to the touch. Underneath, though, is not a thin layer of butter.

It should have been obvious, really, that I would have to face the possibility of death during my journeys through family history. Unexpected stark truth, though, there's the rub. A child wiped out from history through just some clicks on a computer screen, as easily as the assasination of a character in a novel. As if she had not existed at all. I cannot mourn for her as a member of my own family, not quite, and yet...An unusual feeling rests on my mind, it reminds me of the heavy clouds which effect the mind following a bad job interview or the empty silence which comes after a bad punchline. "It's all about the tag," says the old sage. It is all about death, unfortunately, so coldly administered in plain black text.

I was not expecting the next character in "The Great World Financial Headache" to be Iceland. It is almost quaint, funny. One great stand from an unexpected quarter. Deadly serious, of course. The Icelandic Prime Minister - whose name sounds like Kier Hardie, but isn't - has the appearance of a bank manager with a headcold. He made a cold, barely hidden threat about the new powers in the world a few days ago when he said that, when the West does not help, "you make new friends". In the case of Iceland the "new friend" is Russia. And we all know how they like to ensure the West are reminded of the power in their muscles.

My worry is of storms we cannot control. Of all the graphs pointing further down, deeper into the ground, through our skins, our muscles, our flesh. Of arrowheads tipped with poison, of percentage signs used as handcuffs. The nightmare freezes the most tiny text from the thick columns in the financial pages into icy shards of glass, which shatter from the sheets of iced newspapers, cut through the hands, slices the eyes, digs under the skin...The nightmare turns the positives into negatives. Remember where you came from...