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In praise of bad service

Went out with my friend Sandy tonight, who is visiting from Canada and who I haven’t seen in about eight years. We became friends about 13 years ago, when I’d just moved back to Niceland and had my first whiplash injury [have I ever mentioned that the Icelanders have the most horrific traffic culture in the Western hemisphere? No? Well, they do] and I was sent to a physiotherapist who turned out to be Sandy and who just happened to be from Canada where, of course, I grew up. So over various exercises on big balls and balancing gadgets and suchlike we started yacking away about anything and everything, including men and our assorted problems with them. Finally, a couple of years later, Sandy threw in the towel with her man and moved back to Canada with her sons and has now made a life for herself there and it’s all good. And now she’s back for a visit.

As ever, from the moment Sandy and I get together, we start talking and don’t stop, and when we part ways it feels like we have even more things unsaid than when we started. Of course we had lots of catching up to do and very little time in which to do it, so our chins were wagging at a frantic pace all evening. First, we went to the little café above the IÐA bookshop in Bankastræti, which is my favourite café for a chinwag because it’s relatively quiet and the tables aren’t all squished together like in most other places, so you can actually reveal fairly intimate details of your life without the whole place knowing about them. So we ordered tea and she told me all about her boyfriend and her work and her house and her ex and so on and so forth, and then she asked me how my neck was, which made me all warm and fuzzy because I do believe she’s the only person in the world who ever asks me that and who is actually, like, fascinated by the details. And so I told her.

So right around the time I was finishing it was ten o’clock and IÐA was closing and of course we had far more things left to talk about than when we started, so we decided to go somewhere else. We walked up Bankastræti and on to Laugavegur and decided to go into that little place called Kofi Tómasar frænda [Uncle Tom’s Cabin], even though we really didn’t feel like drinking any more liquids – we just wanted a place to sit to continue blabbing. So we go in there and I noticed immediately what everyone’s been complaining about since the smoking ban was imposed in June, that now the cigarette smoke is gone, the places just stink – of old stale booze and ancient smoke and BO and toilets. Anyway, we sat down at a table and in between yacking were sort of glancing at the menu deciding what we might force ourselves to order so we could continue sitting there. And you know what? We sat there for a full hour, right next to the bar, and nobody came to take our order. And after half an hour I was, like, ‘Should we go up there and order something?’ and she went, ‘Um, well, I’m OK’ and I said, ‘Great, because I’m OK too,’ and for the first time ever I was actually not in the least bothered by the atrociousness of Icelandic service.

On the way back to the car, Sandy outlined for me the three things she’s noticed have changed since she lived here. 1) There are more flowers everywhere, 2) the grass is brown for the first time ever, 3) people are fatter. Make of that what you will.

… and the lack of rain we’ve had for the last month. Really, this is a most unusual state of affairs for us – normally this place is brilliant green in summer, but right now the earth is scorched. Meanwhile, the weatherman sez it’s just a weather system that has locked into place – fortunately for us it’s been locked in sunshine, whereas for the poor Brits it’s locked in rain. We’re in for some of that this weekend, though, and the grass will breathe a sigh of relief. Right now it’s 12°C [54F] and the sun will come up at 3:46 am and set at 11:19 pm.