|The natvie Icelander|
At present there are not many wild land mammals here, in total five types: foxes, minks, reindeer, mice and rats. Rats still arrive by ships but are regularly exterminated so they are not a continuing presence, despite recent local hysteria involving rats conspiring to attack Icelandic children. This occurred following a single rat sighting in Reykjavík and probably just goes to prove how unaccustomed we are to rats here. And how prone we are to rather ridiculous bouts of hysteria.
In my recollection past animal hysteria bouts have involved spiders on the south coast that supposedly grounded people in their summer cabins as they felt unsafe outside due to all the spiders – odd taking into account that we do not have any poisonous arachnids here. Foxes were said to be on the attack in Grímsnes and again summer cabin owners were involved and wanted to arm themselves in defence. Regularly cats cause epidemics of panic with various by-laws being passed to ban them from being outside as they might suffocate babies sleeping outside in prams – which incidentally is how babies nap here, all year round.
The cat scare is more common in towns in the countryside than in the Reykjavík area for some reason. But it is more than baby suffocation (of which there is not a single incident) that make cats the target of such frenzy. They believe kids’ sandboxes to be rather disproportionately sized litterboxes and the (gasp!) kill birds. It is hard to understand why people disapprove of the latter, seeing that the biggest bird killers in Iceland are the humans. Be it wild birds or framed poultry – there is no contests between people and cats.
Historically we have an odd relationship with animals and animals as pets are a pretty recent development at least when it comes to being a general arrangement. Dogs were forbidden in Reykjavík and most of its suburbs until the 80s and the import of dogs was also totally forbidden until that time. As a result the types of dogs in Iceland were very, very few. Growing up I remember the Icelandic sheepdog and Lassies. A golden retriever was highly exotic, even more so toy dogs that were unheard of.
Things are changing however. Now Icelanders are for example allowed to keep chickens in their backyard within town and city limits. Most people opt for the Viking chickens or settlement chickens (landnámshænur) as they are called here. This is due to these birds being more colourful that the more modern version.
We can now also buy cherry trees to plant in our yards which might be a step up for us when it comes to our tree knowledge – limited to: leafy trees (all trees with leaves), Christmas trees (all trees with needles) and palm trees (the kind you see on desert islands).
As my backyard has finally been fixed up we planted three of these cherry trees to celebrate the improvement. The trees came with cherries yet to ripen. At the same time, a couple living further along our street decided to set up a chicken coop. This is all well and fine except that the rooster of said chicken coop is quite the loose cannon. He runs around the neighbourhood looking for things to eat in the various yards. Sometimes he is successful, for example last week when he ate all the cherries off our cherry trees – which are not very tall as you can imagine. A single cherry on the highest branch remains. It will be difficult to split it between the five family members coveting it.
But as many are negatively impacted, the adventurous rooster is the main topic of discussion whenever people from the street meet. Turns out everyone has similar experience of the bad mannered beast.
I think I see a bout of chicken hysteria looming.
Yrsa - Wednesday