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  • I spent my first year in Iceland living in a wooden house with no furniture. I had nothing but two empty crates, a mattress, and a set of fairy-lights to my name — and it was one of the happiest times of my life.

    "Er, no it wasn't," says my friend Cathy on the phone. "I remember you telling me at the time. You said you were quite depressed, actually."

    "I wasn't depressed!" I say. "That was one of the happiest times of my life."

    "Hang on," says Cathy. "I'll get the email up."

    She puts the phone down and searches her mail for 'I'm quite depressed, actually', but I can't believe she'll find anything. I'm often overwhelmed with joy when I think back to that beautiful, wonderful time in Iceland.

    "Hello?" she says. "Here it is: March 2004. Dearest Cathy. I still don't have any friends or any furniture. All I have is two empty crates and a mattress to my name. I'm going to walk into the sea tomorrow with rocks in my pockets."

    Oh. Really? That's strange. I don't remember writing that.

    "I'll forward it to you," says Cath. "You don't even mention the set of fairy-lights."

    Nostalgia is a strange thing, isn't it? Of course, if I think about it properly, I do remember being lonely in Reykjavik. I remember staring out of my kitchen window at all the people on the main street in the evenings, wishing they'd beckon merrily at me to join them. They didn't. It was a very long, dark winter. I drank tea. I ate sardines from a can. I took long walks by myself out to the old lighthouse and I sat in fishing shacks and drew clumsy, poorly-observed sketches in my notebook. It was almost ten years ago and I didn't have a camera, or a computer, or a blog. It was very cold and I slipped on the ice a lot. I was 22 and beginning to think that I should have gone to Ibiza with my friends.

    But I also remember that the empty house was where, eventually, I did manage to make some friends. I remember the girls from work coming over to drink Víking beer on the floorboards with me. They brought cushions. I remember them laughing at my (frankly ridiculous) stories, most of which I completely made up just because I didn't want them to ever leave again. Ursula started inviting me over: a Swiss mountain guide who I liked to call 'my Swiss Army Wife'. She cooked elaborate Italian meals with one hand, rolled smokes with her other hand, and opened bottles of beer with her teeth. A postman called David moved in to my spare room and baked a lot of bread. Spring came along, the midnight sun shone, and I loved everything about it.

    Although, I never did get any furniture.
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