Hazel McHaffie

Riches indeed

What do you think of when you hear ‘riches’, I wonder? Opulent collections of jewellery and antiques, maybe? Billionaires? Bank vaults? Material wealth, in other words.

But, of course, riches can mean abundant or valuable resources, as well. As in health or oil or friendship. And it was this meaning that hit me foursquare when I visited the Canary Islands recently (a Spanish archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean). Situated as it is, off the coast of Morocco/Western Sahara, it gets more than its fair share of wall-to-wall sunshine, and the exuberance of plant life that owes its colour and abundance to that valuable resource, offers a real sense of luxuriance.

And once you start thinking along these lines, abundance and extravagance are everywhere.

And particularly in these tropical islands, the precious commodity of fresh water – in such short supply in some areas, husbanded with such care and pride in others – with its concomitant luscious green vegetation, represents riches indeed.

But the thing that really struck me was a comment made by a native Canarian guide. His English was good – honed by a spell in Bath! – but he not infrequently searched for a word. English, he said, was such a rich language, there was always another word, another expression, to capture what you wanted to convey. It stopped me in my tracks.

But it’s true. And we take it so much for granted, don’t we? I know I do, immersed in words in my day-to-day work. Just as the Canary Islanders take sunshine for granted all year round.

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