I’m sat with Bjarni Bernhardur, 25 years ago, he butchered his landlord to the sounds of Louis Armstrong. Today he’s invited me over to drink some tea, eat some salami and hear about his life.
Like a lot of rotund old dudes living out their pension dreams, these days Bjarni smokes a pipe, writes poetry, takes regular walks and smells like leek soup. But before becoming a murderer, Bjarni was a moderately successful poet. It's a career he's taken up again today as a way of coming to terms with the tragedies that have dogged his life. Everyone in Reykjavik knows him – he stands out on the corner of downtown Pósthússtræti shouting “Poems! Poems! Come and get your poems!” on Mondays, Wednesday and Saturdays. Go find him.
Back in 1986, when Gorbachev and Reagan met in Reykjavik for the summit that would mark the beginning of the end of The Cold War, Bjarni Bernhardur was sat just up the road, caught in the midst of one of his frequent LSD-fuelled psychotic attacks.
He tells me this well-rehearsed tale of how he sat at his bedroom window and watched the two private jets flying in from their respective datelines for that historic meeting. To him, this summit seemed a dire portent of some fascist conspiracy. While Gorby and Big Ron chatted nukes and a new world order, Bjarni paid a call to his landlord – who in Bjarni's visions had morphed into an undercover Fuhrer working in cahoots with the Soviet Union and America. Once the landlord had let him in, Bjarni asked if they could listen to some Louis Armstrong. Then it all got dark.