Poetic detail.
Oct17

Poetic detail.

My sister Sarah was a fan of the detailed observation of a lamp that Ellen made during our stay with the nuns in Leon. In the spirit of editorial collaboration I feel the need to replicate this level of poetic detail, but as I look up from my bed at the simple metal lamp hanging from the rose in the ceiling above my bed, I am overwhelmed by the shiny black satin knickers she has hanging and drying from one of its arms. Maybe I'll stick to politics....

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Restored in Astorga.
Oct16

Restored in Astorga.

In the dark days of the Meseta, it was easy forget the camino. It had become a dusty barren trail, most of our compatriots had vanished and the food was just awful. We had forgotten about comradeship, the pilgrimage, food and views. This lingered into Leon, so we left early. Being in Astorga, the bad days have been forgotten. We realise lots of people have been ill or using wheels or both. We are becoming reunited, it feels like a camino again. We have lingered in Astorgia for another day as it is such a nice little town. It has the mandatory cathedral and a rather strange Gaudi bishops palace that was never used but stands in its full glory. More importantly it has a prosperous busy air and very good food. The weather has also improved today, no rain and warmer. The nuns don't provide breakfast so I quite fancied hot chocolate and churros. Both are served in a unique way and we are in chocolate town so no trouble finding what I was looking for. Astorga is for opaque reasons, the historic centre of the Spanish chocolate industry. Cadbury's it is not, the hot chocolate is what it says it is. Chocolate that is hot. It is thick, extremely filling and not to be drunk lightly, one a day would constitute a major health hazard. Luckily the churros (a Spanish favourite) come to the rescue. Long thin sausages of serrated dough deep fried and covered in sugar, thus ensuring this has to be the most unhealthy breakfast. Churros need to be served hot and fresh, but today's offering was possibly an hour old so a little disappointing, oh well. Astorga marks the point where the Meseta is dead and buried. We have a 550m climb all day tomorrow. We may stop before the top at a small settlement, or go over the top. The guidebook comfortingly informs us that should we flag in the perpetual cold mantle of foggy rain there is a small welcoming Albergue. It has no heating, no food, cold showers and an outside kitchen. Knowing there is backup like that available we will probably reign ourselves in and stop short. Discretion and all that. We have used the day for some sight seeing, a luxurious afternoon kip and shopping. Check out the hats. The rare camino youths shamed us into buying some more 'awesome' stylish head gear man. My most treasured acquisition is a pair of socks, words of excitement fail me but it is a great moment, putting a new pair onto the old feet. Speaking of which I have no further...

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Dealing with the Meseta.
Oct15

Dealing with the Meseta.

This is officially a retrospective post, six days after having lost my mojo. Being ill saps the mind and body, so the will to write has been somewhat reduced. Dare I think it, the sap seems to be rising again, watch out Ellen. I really was pole axed for a night, day, night. Most orrifices kept me busy. However as with other things on the camino I discovered I was not alone. Mid grot I received a text from our pathfinder Edwina, saying there were water problems with the water and many pilgrims were dropping. She has spy like qualities our Edwina, but how could she have perfected her timing so. At least the episode was not infectious but more toxin related. A short sharp shock. I was sapped but not fully wilted. I awoke after 36 hours of sleep pretty keen to get out of there. Ellen couldn't believe her luck. She had exhausted the tourist potential of the settlement by breakfast the day before. She had a taxi number and was prepared to bundle me into a vehicle before I could raise any objections. The girl was not for staying. We manage 23, 32, 25 (not my beer belly figure) to get us into the fine city of Leon. Coincidentally it was a city in full fiesta party mode. Not desperately enticing to tired pilgrims. To cap it all, despite the best efforts of some old friends we met in the fiesta mayhem, the inns were most definitely full. I have to admit my fuse was growing a little short at this point. The tourist information girl who told me that helping people find accommodation in the city was not her job almost received both barrels. But no, calm prevailed. We headed for the Benedictine nunnery Albergue knowing it was pretty basic. Happy volunteers told us the doors shut in three hours and dorms were segregated. Mmmmmm. Not happy, but no problem, let's go outside and consider options, this was the first accommodation hitch of the trip. Sitting on a wall overlooking the adjacent square I happened to notice another door next to the medieval Albergue affair, clearly part of the same building. A give away sign said Hospedaria Paxa. Mmmmmm again. Wander in, habitacione doble, Por favor. Si, came the reply. The nuns really had come to the rescue, this was their posh hotel venture, and very nice too. We were saved! Today we are 2 days beyond Leon. Don't think the moment was right to enjoy all it's offerings so we only stayed one day. I must mention this Meseta business once more. We put...

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Straight talking. The Meseta stole my MOJO.
Oct11

Straight talking. The Meseta stole my MOJO.

Line, not homosexual, edge, face, man (comic's foil), laced, edge, ahead, bat, down, jacket. The most important one today is 'as far as the eye can see'. (Late additions from Martin…to Jail (do not pass go). And narrow. Dire). We walked, Ellen listened to music, we walked some more, the music replayed and so it continued in a pretty well unbroken straight line. Deciding that nuns were altogether too distracting, I switched to thinking about not much at all. Any additions to my straight words would be much appreciated. Finally we pitched up at the third of the advertised picnic spots that punctuate the route. This was change, this was excitement. We turned off the straightness into a service area and sat on a covered bench, little knowing that many compound eyes were watching us. Still, there we were, shaded bench, rucksacks off, legs spread, food emerging from various pack orifices. Just a single wasp joined us, but we are English, we know how to deal with them. A quick wave of the arms and he was off. Or so we thought. This was scout wasp, an advanced party of one. Soon he was back with a few mates. Never mind, we are still English let's hurry off to that other seat over there. Well no not really. All his mates had joined by now, they smelt blood or at least food. Being English we really knew we were beaten, at least we hadn't taken our boots off, we ran. A hundred meters down the straight the final wasp buzzed goodbye, they hadn't had any of our food but neither had we! We managed 23km finally pitching up at Calzadilla de la Cueza, a one donkey town but to give it it's due a multi tractor town, serving the infinity of cultivated fields in these parts. We met Philip walking back the wrong way, maximising his distance before catching the daily bus to Bilbao and home to Hamburg, very sorry to see him go, swapped blog addresses. I really must mention agriculture at this point. We pass enough of it, and something here just had me absorbed. As you may recall from a previous entry, there are numerous sunflower fields, all becoming blacker as the season progresses, and no blacker than the field I was looking at as I enjoyed my evening cervezas. First of all a big 4×4 Tuareg and and an old Peugeot went by and turned off into the field. The Tuareg left the Peugeot and both drivers set off back to the hotel. The sun was setting. A few minutes later over the horizon, all...

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Bluegrass
Oct09

Bluegrass

Today I have been plugged into blue grass, moby, bakermat and some music from Adams playlist. My ears are still buzzing, every time I looked up the same thin cream path, same shaven fields, the only option was to turn up the volume and watch the tiny stones a metre ahead getting closer. Never mind Paul's nuns what I want is a horse. I can see myself as a sort of El Cid, or maybe a female Clint Eastwood galloping along past all these weary peregrinos, yee ha………. What I didn't hear as the music swelled to epic volumes were the twanging bicycle bells as three riders charged past chewing up those kms. Before the dust had blown away they had crossed the event horizon. Another big preoccupation is food. Today I made a fresh red cabbage salad with pine nuts , lemon juice and coriander along with a koftas and lightly fried rice………. but i know it will all evaporate to be replaced with another another ensalada mixta, some anaemic floppy asparagus and the inevitable flattened meat!. What are you eating?……. Do tell me….. So I can salivate vicariously. So , I'm sipping my beer, watching a giant sunflower harvesting machine scrunching by, the massive engines throbbing at the same rate as my pulsating feet. Off to scrutinise the menu for minute variations....

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