Rock CD

At home with Björk

‘Sorry I’m late—have you ordered yet ?’

Coming to a cafe in West London seems a strange way to start a guided tour of someone’s house but then this is an At Home With feature with a difference. A stark constrast of child like black pig tails and brilliant white clothes, the ‘hostess’ collapses into a chair and sighs : ‘I was in the studio until late last night and I’ve just got out of bed. I think it’s time for breakfast... where’s the menu ?’

Björk is still getting used to London. The ex-singer of the Sugarcubes, native of Iceland with a voice that can shatter glaciers, has just moved house and hasn’t quite settled in yet. This explains her insistence that we meet up at her favourite nearby cafe in Little Venice.

‘Actually I spend a lot of time here so I suppose it is like my second home !’ she laughs. Tucking into poached egg on toast and Earl Grey tea, Björk enthuses about the cafe :

‘I love it here because it overlooks the canal. I know you can take trips from here to Camden but I haven’t done it yet. I like to come in here to eat and it’s always on the list of places to take friends who come to visit. The people are friendly and I can sit and watch the boats go by.’

Björk deserves such times to relax because she’s been busy over the last few months working on and promoting her recently released album, Debut. This is of course a misnomer as it certainly is not her debut solo album—in fact, before the Sugarcubes Björk was involved in various bands and started producing solo work at the tender age of 11. Back home she spent her formative years involved in various artistic projects—so why move to England and settle in the capital ?

‘I have to be straight with you and say that London is not my favourite place on earth but I had to think of Sindri (her seven year old son). I’ve been travelling around for the last 10 years, touring and promoting my work and for most of that time he has come along. As a result he is very well adjusted but now I have to think of his schooling. I thought about Paris but the language would have been a problem—at least we know English.

Basically, my work is here, Sindri goes to school here and it’s only a couple of hours to see relatives in Reykjavík.’ Finishing breakfast, we move out of the cafe to look round chez Guðmundsdóttir (her surname) but Björk stops by the canal to admire the house boats.

‘It would be wonderful to live on one of those,’ she smiles, ‘I think it’s so peaceful here. I was living in a house in Belsize Park and looked all over London to find the right place. When I found this area I couldn’t believe my luck. Such a beautiful place in the middle of a city.’ She takes a fancy to a small boat and sits on it, reminiscing about her youth.

‘I used to go fishing in Iceland. I would go out in a little boat with a fisherman, I used to love it.’

Unfortunately this pensive moment is ruined by a concerned-looking man from the adjacent house boat, wondering just what this woman is up to. We beat a hasty retreat but before stepping into the garden Björk shows off her tattoo situated behind her right ear. . She tells its history :

‘It’s something else from my past. I was in a band before the Sugarcubes and it’s a reminder of the time I had with the band.’ And so, finally to the house. A former ballet school, it still feels very much a house and not a home.

‘Yes, it’s true, I haven’t pissed in the corners of the rooms yet’, says Björk, nonplussed when I show my horror. Of course, she doesn’t mean it literally, it’s just an Icelandic expression which doesn’t travel too well in translation, but the meaning is still clear—she hasn’t as yet made the place her own. The empty house is silent, young Sindri is at school and boyfriend Dominic is still sleeping upstairs so we tiptoe around. The house is split level with wooden floors and white walls throughout—apart from green walls in the kitchen.

‘I had that done,’ announces Björk, ‘it shows I’m slowly starting to make my mark on the house.’

The green matches the bright colour of Tracy Island, the amazing work of art that is Sindri’s birthday cake.

‘He loves Thunderbirds so when we celebrated his birthday recently we decided to get him a special cake. He couldn’t believe his eyes when we presented it to him at his party.’

His obvious appreciation is shown in the island’s obvious reduction in size and it must be said that it was even smaller after Rock CD’s visit. Well, his mum did insist that it was tasted !

Björk places the cake on one of her treasured items—the kitchen table. ‘This is one of my favourite things. It’s from Morocco but I bought it in London. Most of my possessions are in Iceland and I do miss them.’ Ah, Iceland—there’s no doubt that she loves her country, her conversation is peppered with childhood memories and information about the place. Björk states : ‘I’m very proud of my culture. We are a small but proud nation of 250,000 people and I can’t get away from that. I miss my home town of Reykjavík. It’s so beautiful with its harbour yet it is a capital city. It’s small but also cosmopolitan.’

So how does she rate the English against her fellow countryfolk ? ‘There are lots of things I find funny about the English. For instance, you are so polite but sometimes I get tired of this and wish you could be more upfront like Icelandics.’

She starts humming tunes as she leads us into her main living room. The expanse of white walls and wooden floors shot with the sunlight flooding through the window is stunning. There is no TV, music system or vast library of books, just a fax and phone on the floor. Björk sits down in the room’s focal point, a seat shaped like a Viking ship which was a housewarming present from a friend.

‘I suppose you could say this is another favourite of mine. I haven’t had it long but I think it goes so well in this room.’ Looking out from the room’s balcony onto her small but perfectly kept garden she cries :

‘Look at that,’ pointing at the ivy growing on the house opposite, ‘it’s shimmering in the wind !’ Such innocent wonder is shattered by the shrill noise of the door bell, which also wakes up Dominic. It’s George the gardener who’s come discuss the finer details of their hardy perennials. But before Björk goes off to examine her shrubbery, I ask something that’s been on my mind all morning. With her white house and matching clothes, does this point towards a subconscious desire to wipe the slate clean—solo career, new house and new country ? ‘Hmmm I don’t know about that but I do like the fact that the house is empty and we can start afresh as a little family.’ And given that deep set love of Iceland, how long will she stay in England ?

‘I don’t know, I have to think of Sindri’s education but I guess we’ll be here until this hullaballoo that is my career is over !’ And with that she sweeps out into the garden to join George and Dominic.

publié dans Rock CD - 01.08.1993

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