15 Dec 2017

47. Back from Hell

The dramatic light as we left El Hierro reminded me of
the romantic illustrations in the books of my youth.  The
tiny dot you can see on the oily surface of the water in
the distance may be Charon and his ferry crossing the
Styx with souls on their way to Hades.
I’m not saying Tenerife is Hell. Far from it! But sometimes it feels like it. We recently travelled to Tenerife where I was to have an urgent hip replacement. The whole adventure, if you may call it that, took a week. A hellish week.

To begin with, although I usually take things in my stride I felt apprehensive at the prospect for it is an operation that requires quite a bit of cutting and chopping. The consideration shown by everyone only heightened my feelings of helplessness and vulnerability as I was pushed around in a wheelchair. Drugged with painkillers I was in no way able to react rationally to the professionals at the hospital: I just went into automatic “obey” mode. After four hours of surgical oblivion, our large family came to see me: a Goyesque nightmare of unfocussed, barely recognizable faces asking me how I felt as I floated in whatever the nurses were pumping into my veins.

So, really, psychologically I wasn’t exactly in a condition to enjoy myself. That’s the inside bit. But Tenerife, the place, did have a lot to add to my visit to Hades. First the traffic. Cars everywhere: the journey up to Santa Cruz on the motorway was simply an enormous traffic jam speeding along at 110 km/h: one steady three-lane stream of vehicles so dense I soon felt we knew the family in the car beside us.
Everyone was wonderfully considerate,
at the airports, on the ferry, at the
hospital, but, as the song goes:
"Isn´t it nice to be home again ..."
photo: C. Axelsson

Vehicles also produce a lot of noise and emissions in addition to the mercaptans spilled out by the refinery, a gas which affects my insides. Most probably my brain was registering my surroundings in slow-motion and in contrast everyone was busily hurrying everywhere and noisily doing things, babbling shrilly. I just wanted to get back home.

Back to our home in the hills, to the clean fresh air, to the silence in which you can hear your heart beat and the blood coursing through your veins, to the trees which sway in the wind but don’t run about, to the light and colours of the landscape and the darkness and stars at night, to the curry-smell of last year’s fennel and damp earth and pines, … We who live on El Hierro are privileged. I cannot think of anywhere I would rather be. Certainly not …


  1. Although it looks like a really beautiful place but I think getting there will be a pain. So I guess I will talk to my friends about visiting some place else next year.

    1. Sorry about that. It's true we are out in the ocean somewhere. But how far away a place is and how difficult it is to get there all depends on where you start out from, doesn't it. I'm sure there are plenty of superb places near you. Australia, isn't it?

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