Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Swim for your lives

In the Icelandic daily Morgunbladid today, news that unemployed people will receive free swimming passes.

If you were unemployed, would you want, particularly, to go swimming? Of course you would.

As unlikely as it may sound, swimming is the main recreational sport in Iceland. The pools are friendly, open places: one of the few places in Iceland where strangers speak to each other. The tourist brochures call them "the cafes of Iceland" (even though there are now actual cafes in Iceland), but I prefer to think of the pools-- the Reykjavík pools, at least--as the villages brought to the city. That's because there are outdoor pools dotted throughout the country, even in the smallest villages where the post office, banks, and shops have long since left.

Halldór Gunnar Pálsson and I have written a song called "Swimming", which is unequivocally about swimming. (I think it's about a fisherman trying to swim while he is drowning; Halldór thinks it's about swimming in a beach in Queensland.)

Now it can also be a song about swimming your way out of a recession. Or, past a volcano.

Here I am on a summer's night swimming in the Icelandic sea. No pass needed.