My travel companion, the much-decorated Anne Giardini (and I don’t just mean her necklace and earrings, she has a QC, Jubilee Medal, is president of Weyerhaeuser, a writer, and new Chancellor of Simon Fraser University) and I arrive in Iceland for the inaugural Iceland Writers Retreat. We spend the first night in Reykjavik learning that: Iceland boasts the smallest gender gap in the world; subsists almost completely on renewable energy (geothermal, wind); continues to hunt whales which are then mostly consumed by tourists on a dare or luxury dogs in Japan; and has a pervasive sense of humour that has the quick wit of Westjet attendants but with something mordantly ironic added.
The next morning we pick up our sad car rental on the outskirts of Reykjavik – Sad Car is the name of the rental agency. The car, a red Subaru, has a couple of warning lights on permanent yellow, and a few rattles and dings, but its 240,000 km on the odometer proves it’s too tough to break down, right? Anne and I are taking two days on a tour to kickstart our muses before the retreat, where we will attend workshops lead by authors including Joseph Boyden, Geraldine Brooks, Susan Orlean, James Scudmore, Iain Reid, Randy Boyagoda and Sara Wheeler.