EPI and I went grocery shopping just before closing today in Bónus and the shelves were EMPTY! [Well OK not entirely empty, but close.] We felt we’d been propelled back to the East Bloc circa 1985 and sort of stood in the middle of the store scratching our respective heads and trying to figure out what the bejeesus was going on. The fruit and veg cooler, normally stuffed to overflowing, was gaping with empty plastic baskets. In the refrigerated section [hey, did you know that in Icelandic supermarkets you actually walk into a refrigerated room for the milk products etc? Tip: wear mittens] we discovered that they were also sold out of milk and skyr* and cod liver oil and ground beef. The little juice containers AAH takes to school were similarly all gone. Meanwhile, empty boxes and various containae were strewn hither and thither at random. Truly, we felt we’d wandered into a Twilight Zone episode and sort of kept giving each other these Very Dubious glances, like “Whaddaya say we blow this popsickle stand while we can still get out alive…”

Slowly it began to dawn that this was all part of the Rampant Price War that has Icelandic consumers raiding stores like The World Will End Tomorrow. Brief history: Icelandic food has traditionally been VERY EXPENSIVE. Then c.a. 1989 came the Nation’s Saviour in the form of the Bónus discount supermarket chain. [Which went on to spawn Baugur, which is currently posed to eat the United Kingdom, and which everybody loves because, well, for many reasons, but especially the fact that they’ve brought reasonably-priced food and have also rocked the establishment.] Then two years ago came discount-schmischount supermarket Krónan [which purports to be the genuine article but is in fact a total rip-off plus they routinely offer only decaying fruit and veg for sale, and few things piss off YT more].

So. About a week ago dis-schmisch Krónan decided to wage war against everybody-loves Bónus, which rose to the challenge like a seasoned trouper. Now what ensued was, from what I gather, absolutely fierce – at least that’s what they kept saying on the news. They price of milk, f’rinstance, kept dropping and dropping until they were literally giving it away. And while all this was going on EPI and I were sort of listening absently and going, “Oh, too bad we don’t need any milk right now,” and going off to expensively-priced [and conveniently-open-evenings] supermarket Hagkaup for all our dietary needs.

Little did we know that it was not only the price of milk that kept dropping, but that prices for everything were a fraction of what they are normally and that’s why the shelves are EMPTY and all this time that we’ve been injudiciously trekking off to Hagkaup [which to add insult to injury is practically next door to Bónus] we could have been saving thousands and thousands of crowns on our grocery bill and stashing it away in a Swiss bank account and we could have had a wonderful retirement in a few years’ time in some blissful location just north of the Equator.

But noooo. YT and EPI turn up to find the shelves EMPTY. And had to resort to Hagkaup again just to get the basics for our dinner. Damn.

Kudos, kudos and kudos again to those remarkable folks up in Grímsey. As the ice gets thicker around their little island and closes them off from the world in terms of supplies [at least those that have to come by sea] and they cannot go do their fishing [this place is incredible, the average age of the population is 25 years and they have one of the highest average incomes in the country and everyone is so happy and full of energy – and there they are, in the middle of the ocean, five hours north of Iceland by ship, and having a blast] they appear on the evening news perfectly sanguine and predict that in nine months’ time the population will substantially increase. On account of it being so cold due to the ice and whatnot and the fishermen have nought to do but stay at home in bed with their women. Meanwhile, down here in the warm south it was a nippy day, started off bright and sunny but became gradually overcast. Tomorrow is set to be awful, with gale-force winds and very cold temps – but after that, we’re in for a respite in the form of temps above the freezing mark for once. Currently –1°C and daybreak was at 6.55, nightfall at 20.19.

* Skyr: a ubiquitous Icelandic dairy product somewhere between cream cheese and yoghurt.