Unleash the Inner Nerd


by Esmerelda Weatherwax (May 2007)



Can nerds be women? I have some habits which could be described as nerdish.
I am after all the woman who spent a Saturday evening 15 years ago in a hotel in Reykjavik reading the Icelandic telephone directory. And fascinating it was too.


It’s a country of just over a quarter of a million people, about the size of Newcastle and like Newcastle is very friendly. People know their neighbours. No one has conventional surnames like the rest of Europe. Icelanders retain the old system of being Erik Svensson. He marries Helga Magnusdottier and their children are Bjork Ericsdottier and Magnus Eriksson. Or if they prefer Hallgrim Helgusson.

Virtually everyone (or every adult) has an entry in the phone book. Along with a slew of Scots, or former Scots, MacPherson, McKenzie and MacDonald. I told you it was fascinating. And while I take Wikipedia with a pinch of salt, this entry confirms my recollection.


But it was -22o outside, too cold for another brisk stroll and we had spent all the afternoon walking and wondering where everybody else was. Indoors we found out later, in the warm, watching TV and moaning about the unseasonable cold snap (this was February). We couldn’t afford another trip to the bar so having taken advice to buy some duty free on the way in it was a good book and the tremendous view.

In those days I usually travelled with tea bags and a water heating element (with continental adapter) for making tea. This trip I had tried something different, instant tea, with milk. I knew that Iceland is heated by the warm water of the geothermal springs. I didn’t realise that it comes straight out of the taps. Very hot, reeking of sulphur, totally unsuitable for tea.  Lucky we had that bottle of something else.

We visited Strokkur the geyser the next day which is an amazing sight. Of course I wouldn’t have tampered with such a natural wonder but the naughty gremlin inside my head did wonder what would happen were I to pour the rest of the instant tea powder in while it was quiet. A 200 foot gush of fresh PG tips.

I have written before about my husband’s arcane purchases in the internet and mail order. He enjoys his purchases – I like the wrapping. I bought a piece of porcelain from a seller in one of the Baltic States a few years ago. It was wrapped in some local newspaper. Look I cried, the adverts for pizza delivery and minicabs are almost identical to those in our local paper, except for the language.

As remarks go it did make sense when it left my brain. The words for pizza and taxi are the same.

Yes, the Italian word for a dough base with cheese topping is the same in England and in Lithuania. Fancy that. If I analyse my reaction I think the layout, fonts and headings were so similar it took a second to realise that I couldn’t understand the words.

Except pizza and taxi.

And telephon.


Two parcels arrived last week. One was some fishing gizmo for my husband from a northern town. It was wrapped in two pages from last weeks Daily Mail which went straight into the recycling bin. But my parcel was from the US and wrapped in pages from the Des Moines Sunday Register.

Oh joy.

I am sure that the mothers and grandmothers of the champion Ankeny Hawks are very proud of their young boys.

I note that the Iowa Ice Hockey league is benefiting from an influx of good players from Eastern Europe, although they are having some problems with homesickness and settling into a new country. You must be careful that you don’t make the same mistake English football made a few years ago in relying too much of imported players for quick results and not nurturing local youngsters. 


I couldn’t get into the Major League 07 season baseball run down though. There are some things an Englishwoman, even a nerd, can’t do.




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