Brynja: Scenes from a hardware store/Í búðinni Brynju

by Elísabet Indra Ragnarsdóttir Length: 13:12 Original language: Icelandic Consultance: Tim Hinman This piece was produced as part of the radiofeature/documentary project RANA. RANA is funded through EU´s Lifelong learning program. More information about the RANA project can be found on

Recordings made in March and July 2008: Several months later Iceland experienced financial meltdown.

Hafsteinn: These two days have been really busy, both yesterday and today, considering that it is the 24th (of July) today. And this is a warm and sunny day. I coulnd´t be bothered to be repairing my home on such a wonderful day. But it has been a very busy today. Client: Coffee upstairs? Salesman (mishears): No he is in the back-room. Client: What? Salesman: He is in the other room. Noise from the shop – receipt printing. Music starts. Hafsteinn: My name is Hafsteinn. I´m working at Brynja. I have been working here for seven years. Yes well I started working here in 2001, on first of May. Not first of May but in the beginning of May, I started working in Brynja (the shop) and I was pleased to get this work. I had heard a lot about this work or, you know, about the people here, and I liked it a lot and I got to know them and ... there is a good spirit here. You get to know a lot of people here in the city centre. And this is very lively, I think. Always something new happening. Noise from a drilling machine. Receipt printing.


Client: Give me some coffee. Hafsteinn: Should I give you coffee? Fades out. Hafsteinn: It was like … ehm … my friend who used to work here, you see, he started working at another place and we were working together at a bar here downtown and … ehm … and he told me he was leaving, that he had resigned. And I jumped to my feet and asked him to recommend me. And I got this job and I have been very pleased for the seven years I have been here. Client: They weren´t born in 1960, these boys, when I started coming here. When are you born? Hafsteinn: 1970. Client: Yes (laughs) I could tell you a lot of stories here, from this station. What has happened here in this station. Hafsteinn: He has a printing factory here in the back yard. Has been running it since Ice Age. Client: Yes, you are quite right (laughs). This is a very clever guy. Hafsteinn: You don´t know anything apart from Laugavegur. Client: What? Hafsteinn: You only know Laugavegur. Hafsteinn: I have been a salesman before. And I have been praised for that. And I like being a salesman. It is. It is perhaps not suitable for everybody but I feel good here. Key-copier. Client: Well dammit, I wrote a poem about this shop. You should give me some time on the radio for it. Well bring me the coffee. I don´t remember who was with me but it goes something like this. Of course it’s made the modern way: Two men at a table. . Two thinkers. Outside, the earth is covered with snow. The street -black from oil -, paints the snow black. A small child watches the car splash salt-polluted snow,


black all around. Client: You see, if I woul be working with the machines I have now, I would be around two weeks, along with six to eight men to work, compared to what you did in the old days. Today it takes only one day … (fades out). Hafsteinn: It is fun when, you know, well when you meet guys that are like, from the old school. Old guys who are you know, one has heard something like, well: ”I want to be assisted be the old man you know”... because they think I am so young and stupid and I don’t know the thing, you know. And then there are, yes there are a lot of, what should I say, difficult clients etc. Well, I have also heard some ancient Icelandic words for some tools that are perhaps called hammer or something today. Client: (sips coffee) This floor could tell some stories. That’s for sure. Hafsteinn: A lot of creaks and noises in this house. Sales-man: This is a regular client? Client: Is this what? Sales-man: This is a regular client here. Client: This is a regular client yes. Hafsteinn: It is just the atmosphere is so nice. Nice and varied clients. The grass is not greener elsewhere. I would hate being closed up in a mall when the sun is shining. No, I will probably grow old in this job. Start snuffing tobacco (laughs). Drilling noise. Client: These are real characters. No question about that. You see, I have been living in this area since I was sixteen years old, for forty-six years. First I lived in this house, than in Laugavegur 35, than in Laugavegur 42. So you see, I just stay in this area. I don´t want to move from it. Not from Laugavegur. I was born in Haðarstígur in a private home you see, just up on the hill; so that you know this is just; these are just certain types of people that live and stay here in this local you see. Music and Key-copier. Client: Good day! Salesman: Good day! Client: It is is a quiet day.


Salesman: Yes rather. Client: Oh it is warm and nice in here. Salesman: The crowd went away when you shut your store down. Client: What? Salesman: Then the clientele disappeared. Client: Closing it down was probably for the best. No one hardly ever came in there? Salesman: No one ever came there? Client: No you know. Far too few people. Running a store today is a difficult thing, I can tell you. Salesman: Well, that depends. Client: What? Salesman: On what kind of a store you run, isn’t that so? Client: It is everywhere, every shop is empty and the situation is just going to get worse. Salesman: Yes? Client: The Icelanic krona drops constantly. Salesman: They don’t say it is like that, what you read in the papers. Client: Huh? Salesman: That the people are showing any signs of a depression, Client: They just, they just don’t reveal the truth. I have a brother, a brother, almost a brother who is a bank manager and I can get all the information I want. Salesman: Yes, but considering the number of new cars that have been registered etcetera, it has only been increasing. Client: Tss, and then this country is so expensive. Everything is so expensive here in Iceland. Salesman: Yes?


Client: I think this is crazy. The most expensive country in the world. Salesman: We also have the best salaries in the world too. Client: What? Some people. Salesman: Some people, yes! Client: The pensioners don’t get that much. I don’t get that much. Salesman: No. Client: What? Salesman: No! Client: This is a disgrace. This is all the fault of The Independence Party. Hafsteinn: I think it is, I think – you know I like if I can you see, if one is making some keys for old keyholes and the client is just throwing it away, and I make it like brand new for the client and then he, he gives me a big smile, and these are perhaps keyholes one can´t find today. We are talking about perhaps 70 to 80 years old keyholes that you can not find today. And I remake them and the clients become so happy. Things like that. Client: I think they should stop building all these new houses Salesman: No? Client: Have you seen the glass house in Smáralind? Salesman: Yes. Client: That is some dump. Salesman: The new glass tower? Client: Tss, it will drift away next spring. Salesman: Do you think so? (Laughs) Client: No, it sways you see. Like the house I live in. The supports are flexible you see. Salesman: Yes. Client: It is, sometimes I have thought, when it is windy, then I can, I have often been thinking, won’t it roll over?


Salesman: Yes? Client: And the guy that built the house, he was not scared that it would tumble into an earth quake, but he was afraid it would, you know.. Salesman: Yes, sway to much? Key-copier Client: No no this is, just fun. I had a repair shop here on Laugavegur 37. A small house there on two floors and there were eleven people living in this house in the old days. This is; I think that the square meters there are around 40 for each floor. You had two families with private entrance, their own bathroom and some place to cook, but just imagine how people lived back then? Salesman: Yes people were content with a bit less than nowadays. Client : Tsss, but that was just, you know, when you walked up the stairs they creaked and the place was so haunted that when I was working before during christmas, you know, late hours it was; there were windows opened and closed and people walking up and down stairs. Salesman: Receipt? Client: Yes please: So you see, this is something you won’t find in the cement. That is just for sure. Key-copier and a saw being banged on. Hafsteinn: No. Salesman: No you have to sway it about. Hafsteinn: No, I just turn it upside down. Hi, do you know anything about playing the saw Hörður? (Laughs). Client: You need a bow. Hafsteinn: I need a bow. I know that. I just don’t have it you see. Client: You can’t use any saw you want to. Salesman: No you have to have, this is an orchestral.. Hafsteinn: This is a Stradivarius. No, I don´t get any sound out this crap.


Salesman: You just sway it about, then you will get the tone. Hafsteinn: This is a real Stradivarius. Fades out, mutter in the background. Hafsteinn: Well, there was this guy from the countryside who, who, he bought a carpentry-machine or no a saw, should I say, and he, the saw is delivered to his home, and well, I sent some more stuff with it, and then he asks me whether I can, whether I can get him a refrigerator. Just an older man. And I say: Well a fridge, we don´t sell refrigerators”. And he asks: Can’t you find a good refrigerator for me and send it to me (laughs). And I say: Well listen, you must come to town or read the papers or you must find something; you must just call some places.” Well just some used refrigerator”. Well I couldn’t do that. I just tried to point out some shops to him, junk stores etc. (Laughs). Yes yes, one has been asked about a lot of things Client: I am here in order to buy screws. Here one comes with all one’s problems, and solves them. It is just like that. Everything regarding carpentry and overhaul and whatever. You always come to the boys. They solve 99 percent of my problems. Hafsteinn: What? Client: 99 percent … Hafsteinn: Yes isn’t that so? Client: Yes yes. What would one do without Brynja? That is…us town rats. Hafsteinn: Yes, I must say, what would Laugavegur be without Brynja? Client: My point exactly. Hafsteinn: Huh? Client: It is the glue in Laugavegur, Brynja. It keeps it all together. Banging on a saw… Hafsteinn: The last…one of the last mohicans Client: Here? Hafsteinn: Well, there is Gudsteinn (a shop). There is Visir (a shop). One and one you see


Client: Yes, yes. Hafsteinn: Stella over there (a shop). Client: Ancient Hafsteinn: Yes yes, that are around 100 years old. Client: But isn’t Brynja the oldest one? How is that? Hafsteinn: No, Visir is 100 years old I know, it became 100 years old last year Client: Oh, the one on Laugavegur 1? Hafsteinn: Yes. Client: Yes Hafsteinn: Then I know Gudsteinn Eyjolfsson, the shop, is one year older. Founded in 1919 – this one was founded in 1918. Client: Is that so? Hafsteinn: This one was founded in 1919 Client: Yes yes. Hafsteinn: Gudsteinn is… it is that old you see Client: Yes I didn’t know that. Hafsteinn: Then you’ve got Stella. I don’t know how old it is. Here down in Bankastræti. One sees that shop on every photo, old photos from Reykjavík. Then you see Stella always standing out! Client: Is that so? Hafsteinn: You always see the sign, Stella. Banging on a saw Client: So. Salesman: So great. 20 Krona Client: 20 Kronas. The prize is just…


Salesman: The prize. Client: Is just like 1919. Thanks Client: It is just 20 krónur Hafsteinn: We don’t know how to raise the prize here. Client: This is how it is supposed to be Hafsteinn: Way too complicated for us Client: Yes there is no need to calculate too much. Thanks a lot and goodbye Salesman: Yes bye bye. Sound from the saw, fading out…. The End

©2008 RANA/Elísabet Indra Ragnarsdóttir


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