The Joy of Minor Injuries

It is a relief to have something wrong that is not life-threatening. Something that one can resent, complain about but not lose any sleep over, no waking during the in terror because the line between life and death has become narrower and narrower.

While I was on Salt Spring Island cutting up old lumber and a tree for firewood for JO, I jammed my little finger into a piece of wood. It hurt but only momentarily and it wasn’t until the end of the day that I noticed I couldn’t straighten out my little finger. It looked like a hook. I could move it down but couldn’t straighten it out.

When I got back to Victoria, I went to see my doctor. He said “Mallet finger.” And filled out a form so I could go to Hamilton Orthotics. I would, he said, have to pay for the treatment. If I didn’t want to pay for the treatment, I could just settle for having a finger that looked like a claw.

Off I went to the orthotics people and a very nice therapist explained that when I jammed the wood into the finger, the tendons same loose. I needed a stent for six to eight weeks so the tendons could reattach themselves. Any time I took off the stent, I had to support the tip of my finger on a pencil or edge of a book so that the end didn’t drop. If the last digit dropped, the healing process had to start all over again.

I’ve been whining about my finger. My good friend Jim Anderson isn’t sympathetic. He pointed out that he’s just been through two years of chemo-therapy for prostate cancer and I’ve been through a prostate cancer operation and a triple bypass. I’ve also been through an exploratory on my abdomen before which the surgeon said that they had no idea what they were operating for but if they didn’t find out what was wrong and stop the pain, I was going to die.

These are things that are too scary to whine about. Life hangs in the balance and good as modern medicine is, the balance sometimes tips you into death. Here today, gone tomorrow, and saying that dying is okay because it’s someone else’s problem once your gone isn’t comforting. A lot of Facebook truisms don’t hold up all that well in the face of confrontations with the Grim Reaper.
That’s why I’m whining and complaining about my mallet finger deformity and having to wear an orthotic device.

Mind you, as trivial as it sounds, it is a pain in the ass. It doesn’t hurt. I can take a shower with it on. But trying to type resulted in a blister. So, I’m learning to type with nine fingers. I mustn’t clear the moss off roofs, clean gutters, saw wood, chop wood, move stone slabs, dig, etc., all the things I like to do because they can interfere with those tendons which are valiantly trying to reattach themselves.

I will put on weight. Or I fear I will put on weight. So I need to cut back on calories for the next six to eight weeks. That means no ice cream. Normally, I will work hours just so I can eat all the ice cream I want and I want lots. It is an addiction. No ice cream in the freezer is like life without hopes and dreams. I’ve cut back from two eggs for breakfast to one egg, from four strips of bacon to two, from two slices of toast to one. I don’t want to buy pants with a bigger waist.

The bunged up finger is a small problem but small like a mosquito in the bedroom after you’ve turned off the light. It buzzes around your head and you thrash around trying to chase it off and either end up sleeping under the sheet or turning on the light and hunting the little bugger and killing it. You don’t want to kill the finger or take off the stent.

I see the therapist for a follow up appointment tomorrow. I need advice on how to take care of my skin under the stent. It’s not like going for a follow up appointment with the cancer surgeon or with the cardiologist. I don’t need to hold my breath and screw my courage to the sticking place because they might say, you should start getting your affairs in order.

Laughter: Jeg (I), the cat and the cream jug



It is 1892, my lang amma has been in Canada for 17 years. She is married, very Icelandic but has chosen an Englishman, an army officer, the son of minister who has a master’s degree from Oxford. Surprisingly, shockingly, he leaves the army at Fort Garry, moves with her to Gimli, Manitoba, and learns how to fish. However, letters reveal that, like everyone else, his struggle to feed his family means hunting, often without much result, taking on construction work. The fact that he is English, speaks English, has an English name, Bristow, doesn’t make life any easier for him or Fridrikka in the Icelandic settlement of Gimli. Perhaps, if they’d moved to Winnipeg where his name and accent would have counted for something, life would have been better.

Like the cat, Bristow, as he was referred to, needed to find another way of getting at the cream in the jug. Just as the Icelanders needed to find other ways of getting the cream out of the jug or the fish from under the ice.

These were real people, people who when they got up every day, wondered where the next meal or the meal after that was coming from, wondered where they could go to make enough money to buy basic food stuffs, clothes, equipment, dogs, a horse and sleigh. Santa Claus didn’t come along and say “Here you are. All the cream you want and you don’t have to do anything to get it.”

So, maybe when they saw this cartoon about the cat appear in the Almanak and his having to work out how to get the cream, their laughter may have been partly from self-recognition.

Here is my translation. Corrections and additions not only welcome but sought. Give me a more accurate translation and I’ll make the necessary changes.

It’s painful to be as hungry and thirsty as cat is. She cannot get her head into the blessed cream pitcher. She has tried and it is impossible.

Wonderful  is the taste of the cream even though the cat had to wait but patience, after all, is a virtue.

Pussy is not used to thinking things out and planning but when there’s a goal in mind, she can manage it.

And I, how often have I longed for the cream in the cream jug and how hard have I had to think, to plan, to work to figure out a way to get the cream out of the jug?







The Little Book of the Icelanders


I’m reposting t his review. Kolla mentioned it on Facebook and reminded me how much I enjoyed it.This is one of those books that someone with any Icelandic background at all will find humorous because they’ll recognize themselves and their friends and relatives. Those without an Icelandic background should get a laugh because the short essays reveal the silliness of Icelandic society without being unkind.

This is the second time I’ve read The Little Book of The Icelanders. It was just as funny and as insightful as the first time. Although I’m four generations away from Iceland, I still recognized quirks and behaviours that made me both laugh and cringe.

Tragedy is easy to discuss. We all agree on tragic. Humour is hard to discuss. What is funny to one person isn’t funny to another. However, there is likely to be something humorous for everyone in Alda Sigmundsdóttir´s ebook.

Laxness is concerned with social injustice, Yrsa and Indridason with murder. That can all be leavened by laughter.

Alda had moved abroad at the age of five. She returned to Iceland twenty-five or so years later in 1994. Although she was Icelandic and had been in the Icelandic school system between the ages of seven and ten, she was now a foreigner with a foreign perspective. That has allowed her to observe her fellow Icelanders with a keen eye and make note of their quirks and oddities. She is definitely not heimskur.

She points out in her introduction that tradition and conforming are important to Icelanders. Because of their history sticking together and not rocking the boat have been important. Something that is interesting is how this has changed with the financial meltdown and its aftermath but those comparisons, you will have to do for yourself.

She explains about people, young and old, being addressed by their first names. We should have had this explanation when I was in high school and we got a new principal who was outraged by our disrespect because we addressed him by his first name.

She explains about the oddity of the phone book listing everyone by their first name and their profession. While there are official controls over what you can call a child, there are no controls over what profession you can claim. The result is that the Icelandic phone book has “nine sorcerers, three alien tamers…59 Jedi Masters and (my personal favourite) two hen whisperers.”

Some people have written essays on whether or not Icelanders have a sense of humour. They obviously didn’t grow up in an Icelandic community. Alda says “The Icelandic sense of humour is dry, self-effacing, sarcastic and has a special penchant for the absurd.” Taking yourself too seriously is considered a minor offense in Iceland. In the Icelandic community in Canada, the tradition holds for a cutting criticism is to say that someone is full of himself.

She tackles explaining naming, family names, the politics around the naming of babies including the role of að vitja nafns.

A section on driving in Iceland made me greatly relieved. There are things I do that I can now blame on my Icelandic genes. “Take indicator lights, for example. Icelanders use them very sparingly, if at all. Frequently they’ll put them on in the middle of a turn (as in: look, I’m turning!) or right after they’ve turned (I just made a turn!).

Twenty-to-twenty-nine year-old Icelanders are 95% on Fésbók. Fésbókarlýðræði, or Facebook Democracy is having a major influence on the political situation.

There are too many topics covered to mention them all but only a book about Iceland and the social habits of its population would have a chapter on The Invaluable Social Function of the Hot Tubs”.

Buy it. You can’t put it under the tree but you can put it on someone’s computer. Laughter is good medicine. Alda says she’s signed a deal with Forlagið, Iceland’s largest publisher, for the publication of this book in print form (and electronic form too, in fact). Publication slated for 1 May 2012.

If you want a paper copy, you should be able to buy one in Iceland this coming summer.

You can go to this address on your computer:


There is information about the book and you can purchase it there. Just click on a credit card symbol on the page. It will open up and provide PayPal. The book is 24.99 and worth every penny.