Hooray, I managed to get a job. As of Monday I will be a general skivvy at a mostly vegetarian café based in Kringlan, Reykjavík's horrible shopping mall. I mean, what's horrible about it is that it is a shopping mall. I'm sure it's fine if you like shopping malls, although for me they are like IKEA - I can feel my will to live ebbing from me as soon as I step inside. I'm sure I will get used to it, though! The café also has a premises on Laugavegur, but sadly it is no longer open and they are trying to sell it. 

I had a trial day yesterday, and after a while I got the hang of the cash register and the card-reading machine OK. It is not that hard, seriously I have no idea why advertisements for jobs in shops demand experience, you can learn it in less than an hour. I still don't know how to use the coffee machine, but I'm sure I am up to the task. Other things I will be doing include putting food on plates / in bowls, clearing tables and converting dirty cutlery/crockery that is in the wrong place into clean cutlery/crockery that is in the right place. And that's why you should go to university, kids, because it totally pays off. I know I sound like I have a massive entitlement complex and I'm sort of sorry, but it is only because all through my school days we were told: "Work hard in school, get good GCSEs, get good A-Levels, go to university, get a good degree and your reward will be a good job." Liars. I suppose they didn't count on the economic crash, though. 

No, but I am super pleased that I will be making some money and the job is fine, really. I get free lunch and cake, and I will be using my Icelandic a lot more than I am now (I am kind of slack about using it with my Icelandic friends, definitely not speaking it every day at this stage). It is my fault for learning to read poetry and conduct historical research instead of getting a marketable skill. Which incidentally I don't regret for one second - I love literature and history and I am really happy that I got to do that for four years. I just hope that one day in the future I will be lucky enough to work with what I love again. It's silly to expect these things to happen immediately, and nice to have a goal I suppose.

Anyway, to celebrate this important step on my journey to becoming a real human being, I went to Byko today and bought a toaster, because the house didn't have one and doing toast under the grill is stupid and takes ages.

The plug wouldn't work in the UK, so this toaster represents a big commitment to staying in Iceland.

Wisdom from the Days of Yore

One of my old university acquaintances posted something on Facebook today - his girlfriend was reading him extracts from the Hávamál and he wrote something about the bit where the slumbering wolf does not get the ham. It reminded me of all the excellent advice in there and I wondered if there was something that could help me with my current situation. If you don't know, Hávamál is a collection of little stanzas, each outlining some tip from Óðinn on how to live your life. The title translates to something like "Sayings of the High One" I think. It's extremely helpful stuff, a surprising amount still relevant today. Like:

Best is the banquet one looks back on after
And remembers all that happened.

So don't get so wasted that you forget the party, kids! Óðinn says so. In fact, some of the anti-binge-drinking stuff makes the Ancient Scandinavians look a bit less hardcore than they are usually depicted:

Drink your mead, but in moderation,
Talk sense or be silent:
No man is called discourteous who goes
To bed at an early hour.

But aside from maybe drinking more moderately, how can I benefit from Óðinn's wisdom in my daily life? I used to read my room-mate Emily this one all the time:

Foolish is he who frets at night,
And lies awake to worry,
A weary man when morning comes,
He finds all as bad as before.

That's not advice I need, though. I very, very rarely have trouble sleeping and even though I have a quite high level of worry at the moment you'll be pleased to hear I'm not losing sleep over it. But this might be a problem! Later in the poem, we find this stanza, which the translation I have back in England definitely rendered more amusingly, but never mind:

Early shall he rise who has designs
On another's land or life:
His prey escapes the prone wolf,
The sleeper is seldom victorious.

Now this might actually be something to think about. If I got up earlier, I could get more done, maybe be a bit more victorious in my life, maybe kill someone else and take their land.

There's also quite a lot of stuff about friendship, and that reminded me that I am super pleased that I am doing this whole depressing search for employment after having already lived in Iceland for a year. If I didn't have friends here I would be genuinely miserable, but luckily over the past year I've met some great people and they help me maintain my sanity and general will to go on, as well as being kind enough to encourage and support me in my quest to become a real person. If you're reading this and you're one of the people that I visit and exchange thoughts and gifts with, then thanks. You're a big help.

To a false friend the footpath winds
Though his house be on the highway.
To a sure friend there is a short cut,
Though he live a long way off.


If you find a friend you fully trust
And wish for his good-will,
Exchange thoughts, exchange gifts,
Go often to his house.


Young and alone on a long road,
Once I lost my way:
Rich I felt when I found another;
Man rejoices in man.

And if none of this had made me feel better, hey, at least I'm not dead! It's rubbish to be dead, because you can't keep cows or anything.

It is always better to be alive,
The living can keep a cow.


The halt can manage a horse,
The handless a flock,
The deaf be a doughty fighter,
To be blind is better than to burn on a pyre:
There is nothing the dead can do.

That last stanza doesn't have a line about the socially awkward still being able to do stuff as well, but I think it's implied. Anyway, say what you like about these people, they knew what was important: friends, not drinking yourself into oblivion and being alive.

P.S. Quotations from the W. H. Auden and P. B. Taylor translation, in the public domain, since the only hard copy I have to hand is in Old Norse.


Hey, team. Sorry I haven't posted anything in ages. That is mostly because, confining myself to the categories that I am willing to write about on the internet, not much is happening in my life, unless you would like to hear about various parties which I have been to. Those are just stories about me drinking too much, talking rubbish and getting over-excited about songs I know. Or about me applying for jobs and not getting jobs, which is even less interesting because it's mostly filling in forms. So instead I thought I would tell you about what I'm reading.

Mávahlátur, or The Seagull's Laughter, is the name of my favourite Icelandic film. I once went to Bíó Paradís, the little cinema on Hverfisgata that shows old and slightly less mainstream films (and also the only cinema I've been to in Iceland that doesn't do intermissions), all by myself because Mávahlátur was on and I wanted to see it again. I was actually the only one there, and that's how cool I am. It is a great cinema, though, kind of like the Showroom in Sheffield for those of you who are familiar.

Anyway, this film was based on the novel of the same name by Kristín Marja Baldursdóttir, which I am currently about three quarters of the way through. I suppose essentially it's about women, more specifically Icelandic women in a little fishing town somewhere near Reykjavík in the 1950s. Of course there are male characters, but it's the women that run the show. Freyja comes back from America one Easter Day, where she emigrated after the war. Her US Army husband is now dead, and she moves into a little house that's already full of women: the orphaned Agga, her grandmother, two aunts and her grandfather's sister. Agga's grandfather is the only man in the house, and he's a fisherman, out to sea for long periods anyway. The expensively-dressed, purportedly vegetarian Freyja with her long hair and unnervingly pale eyes causes a bit of a sensation, especially when she gets involved with the son of the late doctor, a member of the town's upper class. This social drama / battle of the sexes takes place against a backdrop of post-war economic depression and male political unrest. So you've got class and politics and gender issues, all with a genuinely entertaining plot and some of the most beautifully drawn characters I've ever come across. It's a really excellent book - seriously the characterisation is so sharp and witty and it's brilliantly written. As far as I can judge such a thing, not being a native speaker of Icelandic. If you can read Icelandic (or I think it has been translated into Dutch and German), you should totally give it a go! Otherwise, you should try and get hold of the film, or simply wait many, many years for me to become an acclaimed literary translator, because this is a novel I would absolutely love to do.