It was a sort of primeval landscape I had often drawn from the unconscious, the actuality of which was more amazing than imagined – elemental and unpredictable. Keeping focus on the road ahead was a necessity whilst absorbing the spectacle of surreal ever-changing nature. There was hardly any other traffic, but the roads were steeply banked on either side with no hard shoulder and quite often a sharp drop to the sea. No margin for error and a great deal of possible metaphor. Future astronauts have been taken there to acclimatise to life on other planets. It’s understandable why David Hockney got some of his best ideas while driving.
Volcanoes are all linked underground so that no one knows where or when they will next erupt. The earthquakes move horizontally so are not too serious, but homes are built accordingly – mainly out of corrugated iron and concrete. There are only a couple of volcanoes Icelanders are actually scared of, and one is near the airport.
Most of the 300,000 inhabitants of Iceland live in Reykjavik. They turn their backs on the north, ‘an outside world’, concentrate on the Internet, writing, studying, storytelling and singing. Elves are taken very seriously in this historically isolated land of myth, magic, religion, a wealth of boiling hydrothermal power, and fewer fish than ever. A giant crater remains from the Icelandic banking crash. Financial wealth was approached with the ardour of a few young men with the optimism of fishermen used to gambling for a living. The Governor of the Central Bank is said to have shut himself in his office inside the bank whilst writing poetry throughout.
In Reykjavik they always talk about the weather. It changes each way you face Snow on your front, sun on your back and sleet at your feet. It was a journey to remind how blessed we are to be alive in such a mysterious, fragile, wonderful and contradictory place as this tiny planet hurtling through space.