Rumour has it that when Cameron Diaz visited Iceland this summer she had her assistant call the border control in advance so that she could clear customs at Keflavík privately, without being mobbed by apoplectic teenagers and drooling middle-aged men. She needn’t have worried. This is Iceland and seeing a star here, albeit maybe not quite so world famous as this blonde Charlie’s Angel, is a common occurrence. Nobody blinks an eye when a celebrity walks by. In fact, you can’t say you’ve really “arrived” in Iceland until you’ve seen Björk in some bar or another (don’t worry; it will happen). <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
I didn’t learn this lesson right away. There was a time, in fact, when I was star-struck by an Icelandic celebrity. One evening in the autumn of 2000, in that jewel of the English landscape known as Basingstoke (readers familiar with the town will note the irony), my other half informed me that we would be having an unexpected visitor to dinner. One of Iceland’s main television anchormen was in town, and he’d been calling his friends back home to complain about how little there was to do in that corner of Hampshire. These friends informed him that there was an Icelander who actually lived there (my other half), and that they should try to meet up, as expatriates around the world do when in a strange land and on an expense account. The two got in touch, and I got ready to prepare dinner. And then, as if as an afterthought, my husband mentioned that our imminent guest had recently been voted Mr. Sexiest Iceland by the listeners of Rás 2 radio (and a discriminating lot they are too).
Shocked by the prospect of having what was therefore clearly a major star about to set foot in our tiny bed-sit in English suburbia, I tried my best to instantly prepare a gourmet meal that would meet the standards he must have no doubt been used to. All I managed to procure was a can of Chicken Tonight and a bag of Doritos. The evening that followed was one of the most surreal I can remember, as we all relaxed in the living room, the two Icelanders chatting amiably in their language’s sharp staccatos, while my friend (an old university mate who was in town for a few days) and I tried not to be too obvious about gazing at the specimen of Viking manhood now in our presence.
… What was my point?
Sorry, I was getting distracted by the memory.
Ah, yes. This story was told – aside from the gratuitous attempt to put the word “sexiest” in a Daily Life heading – to illustrate the point that one of the refreshing things about Iceland is that everyone is either a celebrity or knows one. There is no need to be concerned that you are serving sub-standard cuisine to someone who has their own personal chef: there probably is no chef, and they probably eat out of a can just like the rest of us.
There’s something welcoming about that. Former Eurovision representatives regularly DJ at weddings and I’ve seen the first Icelandic Pop Idol winner wow the 10-year-old crowds at a local primary school. That’s not because these people’s stars are fading. It’s because celebrities aren’t put on a pedestal here. They enjoy their professions and aren’t “above” some activities.
They might even stop round for some Doritos and a chat about Cameron Diaz.