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Stuart Lennon

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A plan for a pilgrimage

caminopic

My last post, I talked about the Camino Francés. The more I thought about it, the more exciting it became. Should we start in Arles? Or Perpignan? Perhaps even Paris? Six weeks walking in France and Spain. What fun!

“Ah Stu”, said Stu “There is not a hope in hell that I am getting a leave pass for six weeks.”

Come to think of it, there was no chance that I would get a leave pass for six weeks either. There is a limit to the patience of the long-suffering Mrs L and abandoning her for six weeks “to go for a walk” would overreach that limit.

What was needed here was a plan.

Starting in St Jean Pied de Port (Basque country) would make for a 500 mile walk to Santiago, that is estimated to take 5 weeks or so. Might we manage a week a year – and finish up the route in 2020? Perhaps, even aim to finish around my 50th birthday in April?

Now, that’s a plan.

A friend told me of a movie, ‘The Way’. Directed by Emilio Estevez. Emilio was struggling for a lead, so he cast his Dad, Martin Sheen. Surely a bit of Hollywood would convince Mrs L that I had not taken leave of my senses? Certainly, I could alleviate any concerns about safety.

Within five minutes of the movie starting, Emilio’s character had wandered off the path and died. Oops.

Gliding over that slight hiccup, provisional approval was sought and obtained on both sides of the Irish Sea.

We have a plan.

We will fly into Bilbao, transfer to SJPDP and then walk ‘The Way’ for six days. On the seventh day, we will head back to Bilbao and return to the real world.

A wee walk

CaminoFrances

On October the 8th, I’m catching a plane to Bilbao in Northern Spain.

I love to travel, particularly to places where I can find good food and wine. This trip is a little different. I’m going for a walk. No. Really. I am.

I am walking with one of my oldest friends, conveniently named Stuart. There is a school of thought that Stuart and I are both results of some kind of botched cloning experiment. Close your eyes and it can be difficult to tell which of us is speaking.

As we both embark upon our mid-life crises, Stuart ventured “Shall we walk the camino?”.

“Absolutely. I’ll have one, if your having one.”

I fully expected to embark on an eccentric ritual method of drinking wine.

“No. Seriously. El Camino de Santiago. Have a think about it.”

I got googling.

The Camino is a pilgrimage. One that has been around for centuries. It is believed that the bodily remains of St James (an apostle) are interred at Santiago de Compostela, in north-western Spain. Pilgrims walk to Santiago by many different routes, but perhaps the most well-trodden is the Camino Francés – the French Way. The walk starts from St Jean Pied de Port in the Pays Basque region of France, crosses the Pyrenees and then meanders across Northern Spain to Santiago.

A tidy little walk of 500 miles or so.

Yes. 500 miles.

To date, my mid-life crisis had been evidenced by buying a two-seater sports car. Now I was agreeing to walk 500 miles (cue Scottish folk band).

I have thought about setting up a separate blog for the walk, but decided against it. I will post about it here. (Categorised as Camino)

What on earth have I got myself into?

 

Sunday. Restful Sunday.

Lazy Sundays

What a day!

I awoke early, having volunteered to be starter for a competition at the golf club. Hardly a taxing job, I simply tick off the competitors on the start sheet, remind them of what competition they are playing in what format and send them on their way with hearty “Play well Gents. Enjoy your day.”

Just after dawn, I set out to give the dog his walk. Both he and I enjoy the early mornings, especially on a Sunday, when the village is quiet, but for the birdsong.

The sky was darker than the weather forecast had indicated, with some drizzle looking a certainty rather than a possibility. Nevertheless, I put my trust in the BBC and donned shorts and a polo shirt. As a precaution, I put a waterproof jacket in the car.

Drizzle? It was bloody raining sideways. I briefed each flight of miserable looking golfers from the shelter of the starter’s hut, promising them all drier weather to come. (It’s nearly always best to lie in these circumstances, after all without hope, what is left?)

Discretion being the better part of valour, I left the course as soon as I had sent the final group on its way.

A friend was due to drop by. We chatted, drank tea until the mighty Mrs L proposed lunch. Those who know me are aware that I have never knowingly declined an offer of lunch. As it was a Sunday, I graduated from tea to chardonnay and was soon in a state of blissful contentment.

As Murray cruised to a two set lead, the sky brightened, and Mrs L suggested we might play a few holes ourselves. (She is a zealous convert).

Off we went and played nine holes before retiring to the club house.

“Drink?” She enquired.

Here I was, at the golf course, on a Sunday afternoon, with a chauffeur.

“Pint of London Pride for me!”

This was shaping up to be a fantastic Sunday. I set a quick pace on the pint, and had another ordered before Mrs L had managed a sip of her soft drink. The beer gently acquainting itself with the wine in my tummy, I sauntered to the passenger seat full of bonhomie and good cheer.

As Mrs L prepared to reverse through the drive gates at home, she pressed the button to open them. (We are terribly posh, you know.) Nothing happened. As is the way with all things electric or electronic, she pressed the offending button repeatedly, and with increasing force. All to no avail. She was obviously doing it wrong. I took the fob from her and repeated the strident button-pressing.

I suppressed a hoppy belch with a honeyed gooseberry finish and clambered from the car. The keypad that usually glows blue was dark.

“There’s a power cut. Give me the front door key, I’ll go around and open the gates manually.”

Mrs L showed me a solitary key in her hand. An alarming habit has developed where to avoid the massive bulk of two keys, Mrs L sallies forth with only a back door key. An admirable strategy – unless of course the back gates become disabled for any reason. It was not clear whether I was more furious at her for only having one key or at myself for having none at all.

I sized up the gate in much the same way as I imagine a Royal Marine Commando looks at an assault course.

“Go and ask someone for a ladder.”

Fortunately, Mrs L has a more realistic view of my commando abilities.

A step-ladder was provided, tested and ascended. At the top, I took a moment to breathe and admire the view. (I was, after all five or six feet up; heady stuff.) A few neighbours looked on, in what I can only imagine, was unbounded admiration. Determined, I tucked my shirt firmly into the waistband of my shorts. The dog, locked in the house, was going bananas at the sight of his Lord and Master, slightly pissed, teetering atop a step-ladder at the back gate.

With the grace and agility of a hippopotamus putting on cycling shorts, I heaved my myself over the gatepost, onto the wheelie bins. One made a worrying crack as my weight settled onto it. Fearing calamity, I dismounted the bins at pace, and strode to the back door to release the frantic hound and get the manual override key.

Much patting of backs ensued, with some wifely concern over a scrape down the inside of one leg. As I fought back the tears, (and another of those hoppy belches) I assured her that I would be OK. John, our neighbour, took his stepladder back, eyeing it with a degree of concern. I suspect he will test it extensively before trusting it to take his weight.

With the electricity down, no means of cooking supper and the hound needing a walk – there was only one option. I would walk the dog to the pub, while Mrs L got changed and drove to meet us there.

“Pint of Ringwood and a bowl of water for the little fella please…”

Is Summer coming?

UK Summer

Andy Murray just won his semi-final at Wimbledon, so it must be summer. The weather doesn’t appear to have caught on.

Ah well. Maybe the sun is on its way.

Terrible events unfolded in the US – lots of shooting. Horrible.

The UK remains devastated by Brexit. Those who wanted to Remain – continue to voice their fears and concerns, as is their right.

An unfortunate side-effect of this is what the markets call sentiment. A large portion of the population and a majority of the media are constantly warning everyone how the Leave vote will lead to a huge financial downturn. Sentiment is, well, negative. The markets therefore are, well, negative. The doom and gloom becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

There are many brighter people than I talking about each individual element and what it means – but frankly, I’m bored of it. I urge any and all thinking people to be measured and sensible – and question every ‘fact’ you hear.

I was in Dublin for a weekend with friends. As a consequence, I switched back to my iPhone, to give me internet access while away. This was a change from my ‘logged off’ state that I wrote about here.

I was soon checking my e-mail every hour, posting photos onto social media and was never more than six inches from the phone. Upon my return, I found myself in the midst of many social media debates on Brexit.

I found myself feeling anxious – not specific, just a general malaise. It took me longer to go to sleep at night. I didn’t sleep too well. My productivity plummeted.

Yesterday, I moved my sim back to the Punkt ‘dumb’ phone. I’m now ‘in withdrawal’ – wanting to check my phone all the time, but not being able to: However, I’m already more relaxed and productive and I know that I will reap increasing benefits over the next couple of weeks. I even managed to get some writing done today.

This technology stuff; be careful folks. It’s as addictive as heroin.

One thing that I won’t miss from social media is the vitriol. I have had friends message me that they voted ‘Leave’ but are frightened to admit it on social media because of the trolling. I have tried to be sensible and reasonable in all of my posts – sometimes in the face of very strident, righteous proclamations.

I have also learned that I am a ‘xenophobic cockwomble’.

So there.