Jörmundur Ingi Hansen, 76
Jörmundur runs a popular thrift shop in Reykjavik. He has also been the head of the Church of Norse Mythology, a sculptor, and an architect, among other things. He is currently trying to revive his country’s weaving trade. Bolder photographed him on location in Iceland.
“I was brought up to be well-dressed and went regularly to the tailor to have my suits made. My shop began because I kept buying clothes as gifts for my relatives, which they sometimes didn’t want. All the unwanted items started piling up, so I had to do something with it all! I’ve been here for four years now and I will never stop working, I can’t imagine how I would pass the time!
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you have to be content with what you have.
I grew up in Reykjavik and still live here now. I was a little abnormal as a child as I was always very interested in older people. At 95, my grandmother used to say, ‘I don’t know if something is wrong with me but I always feel like I am 16 inside.’ I feel exactly the same; I am both 16 and 76. I have youthful curiosity, which keeps me going; when you’re no longer curious, you become old. If you’ve retired, the best thing you can do is go back to school.
I’m interested in everything from religious history to science; I only wish I had studied more. I realise now that the times when I was learning something new are always the times I look back on with most pleasure. My period at art school learning sculpture was very pleasing, as was the time I moved to Lithuania for a few years in the Icelandic horse breeding business. I didn’t know anything about horses but that phase was very interesting as I had to learn a new language and customs and everything was different.
I definitely have a daily routine today, which involves waking early, especially during the summer, when I get up around 4am, and going downtown to have coffee with my old friends. We’ve been meeting since 1930 and we’re all in our 70s and 80s now. I open my shop at 2pm and stay there until 7pm, then I’ll go home and have dinner. I eat quite healthily, with lots of fish and I drink moderately – it bores me if I get drunk. Instead, I do most of my cooking with alcohol, so I get all the flavours without the effects.
The best things you can collect are experiences and good memories.
I used to exercise but I always found it made me gain weight! I exercise nowadays by standing on the bus instead of sitting on my way to work – it works wonders! I did smoke for a while then I got a cancer of the throat and agreed with the doctor to stop. I now enjoy one Havana cigar every New Year’s Eve, although I’ve forgotten the last three years! It was never a problem for me to quit.
I don’t think anyone treats me differently because of my age but maybe I just don’t notice it! Possibly young people think older people are obsolete but it’s not so bad here in Iceland, lots of people keep on working. My grandmother was still working until she was well over 90. She was a herbalist and would run up to the mountains to get ingredients. Even when I was 16 I had difficulty keeping up with her.
The most important lesson I’ve learned is that you have to be content with what you have. We are too prone in modern society to collect goods and money – although I shouldn’t be advising this given that I am trying to sell people expensive suits every day! But people who think they can fulfill their lives by having more ‘stuff’ are missing the point. The best things you can collect are experiences and good memories.
It’s also important to keep good relations with your family and friends. Cherish what you’ve achieved and be consistent in the things that you do. Or, as the Americans put it, K.I.S.S – Keep It Simple, Stupid!”