Monday, October 23, 2017


This year I decided I'd like to return to Iceland in October, to attend the annual lighting of the John Lennon "Imagine Peace" memorial on Viðey Island, very close to Reykjavik. The memorial was 10 years old, and John Lennon and Ivaan share a birthday, October 9th, so I felt this was a significant year to attend.

I've been to Iceland many times, but never this late in the season, and never twice in one year.  I'd also never been there alone, so I was looking forward to the adventure. I decided to stay in an expensive hotel instead of the bare-bones apartment I normally occupy in a very old house. Frankly, next time I'll stay in the bare-bones apartment, but that's another story!

Yoko Ono chose Iceland for the location of the Imagine Peace memorial because it is a country without an army, and because there is so little pollution that the blue light from the memorial shines straight up into the heavens. Every year, she attends for the lighting. As she's becoming frail,  and the weather was cool and rainy, this time she opted to stay at the Reykjavik Art Museum, on the mainland just across the harbour from Viðey Island, and to appear at the lighting by video link. At five-thirty p.m. on October 8th, public transportation is free of charge in Reykjavik, in honour of John Lennon's birthday.  This includes Gestúr, the ferry to Viðey Island.  Special buses took us right to the ferry docks.  We climbed aboard and headed for Viðey.

We wrote messages of peace on paper tags and hung them on the branches of trees that were collected in bunches for this purpose.

Food and hot drinks were available. We listened to music by John Lennon.  We attended the tiny Lutheran church on Viðey Island.

When nine o'clock came, we were all assembled around the Imagine Peace Memorial, a white marble cylinder bearing the inscription IMAGINE PEACE in 24 different languages.  A beautiful women's choir sang a gorgeous rendition of John Lennon's song Imagine, and you couldn't tell if we were crying or not because it had started to rain.  I had a good umbrella with me so I was protected, but  still it was very cold.

There were about a thousand people on hand from all over the world.  Babies.  Elderly people. Young people. Couples.  Families. Individuals.  We didn't all speak the same language, except the language of peace.  We all spoke that.

It was a great week for me.  The weather improved day by day, until the day I left when it was basically sunbathing weather.  Icelanders were thrilled.  Other highlights of the trip were visiting the Art Museum and Háskólann Í Reykjavík: Reykjavik University.  It is modelled on the Star Wars X Wing Fighter.

It's a small, brilliant university and I wish I'd had more time to explore it (and the geothermal beach next door). The various corridors are named after planets in our solar system:

This working Formula One car is a class project by the Mechanical Engineering students.

 I also slept a surprising amount, ate very well, and had plenty of time to think - something you can't always do when you're playing tour guide.

Each time I visit Iceland, I come away with a few new words and expressions in Icelandic, and I am amazed how many similarities there are between Icelandic and Russian, both in grammatical structure and in actual words.  Iceland is becoming increasingly expensive.  The locals tell me they can't afford the restaurants and clothing shops frequented by tourists.  One bus driver told me that it's cheaper for him to fly to Germany and buy clothes than it is to buy them on Laugavegur, the shopping street, or at Kringlán, the little shopping mall.

My purchases were simple this time:  Icelandic liquorice as gifts for liquorice-loving friends and relatives, an Art Museum t-shirt for my Reykjavik-loving nephew, and a brand new vintage suit for myself from Rauđi Kross, the Icelandic Red Cross thrift shop.

I came back feeling light and free, energized and happy.  And I felt that for one night, I had been among totally kindred souls.  I could, in fact, imagine peace.


About a year ago, I started to miss listening to my small but excellent vinyl record collection, so I decided to invest in a fully restored vintage stereo system.  Naturally, I went to Ring Audio. I'd worked part time at Ring Audio in the mid 1970s and I liked the equipment from that era. Ring Audio is no longer in the original location, nor is it owned by the original proprietors, but the current owners were part of the Ring Audio community back in the 1970s.  Ted Syperek and his son, Nick, now run it out of a warehouse at the foot of Carlaw Avenue.

I emailed Nick (honestly, I remember when that kid was born, and he's now a married man) and told him what I wanted.  He said he'd look after it, but it might take some time.  It did. It took so long that Nick went to Korea on his honeymoon before I had my stereo.  So I exchanged a few phone calls with his dad, Ted, and one fine day Ted called to say he had an admirable system put together for me.  It was exactly what I wanted: a Dual turntable, Boston speakers and a Luxman receiver...all at a substantially discounted price. I was so excited, I rented a car and drove right out to pick it up.

Luckily, I remembered how to hook those things up.  But it didn't feel quite complete so I looked on Kijiji and found a Harmon Kardon CD player for sale that would blend in well with the system.  I now have an awesome sound system. I was so thrilled with it, I invited Ted to let me return the favour by providing a piece of jewellery, as a thank you.

So Ted and his beloved, Victoria, came over.  It's a miracle that she and I hadn't met before.  She owns a vintage clothing and accessories shop called Gadabout, and we've been at many of the same vintage clothing shows. We know quite a few people in common.  So Victoria tried various things and finally selected a pendant for herself.  It looks terrific on her.  Then she mentioned that she has quite a few good gemstones and has always wanted to have them all set in a ring.  So she looked through the inventory of Ivaan's rings and was very drawn to one in particular.  Oddly, that ring and my stereo system are the same vintage exactly.  She brought me her gemstones and I made up the ring in white gold. It ended up looking spectacular, partly because her diamonds were absolutely terrific.

 Every time I turn on my stereo, I think of Ted and Victoria and her ring, and I do a little dance of joy, because I am so lucky.