Chemin Q-Z

Does it matter to anyone else? Has anyone noticed that I haven’t finished my A-Z? I doubt it, but in the spirit of Mastermind – ‘I’ve started so I’ll finish’ – I’ll draw a line under the walk (which I didn’t finish) today.

That’s the problem with blog posts: you need to do them while your mind is fresh with ideas and humming. Otherwise they go stale and become arduous and dull to write and probabIy duller still to read. I  can’t imagine how it must feel to have an idea for a novel, or any book really, start all fresh faced and enthused with plot and characters a-buzzing and to then settle into the routine of writing everyday whether you like it or not. Whether you like the characters or feel the plot holds together or not. That’s when it becomes work. And things take years to write and rewrite and how gruelling that must be, (and that’s even before editing and submitting it to be published).  A bit like marriage really. You start off all dewy eyed and hopeful and then after a few years, a few kids maybe, a few quarrels and differences, some not quite resolved, you realise that it’s all an act of faith. That you are building something which is bigger than the sum of its mundane parts and hopefully it all hangs together somehow. But if it works for you both, then great.

Well that was a tangent. Where were we?

Q – you can do without quite a lot. And quote of the day.

Eg “I am not sleeping in a bothy even if it would make a good blogpost.”

“I’d rather be following Jesus than Rasputin.” Which refers to two young men on the chemin. One of saintly beauty who was suffering with his rucksack and the other who looked his evil twin. And one from last year which has stayed with me: “I’m a pilgrim, not a martyr.”

R – Randonnee as opposed to pilgrimage? This walk did feel different. The French have cleverly integrated the chemin into a long distance walk GR65. And lots of walkers were doing just that. It did change the feel of it for me and there wasn’t the attachment and pull onwards that happened last year. Almost everyone booked accommodation ahead, so that meant you had to too. It changes things. More security but less spontaneity, less choice in a way. It was just different.

S – Stuff. Lots of people we spoke to were doing the walk just to see if they could:not just as a physical challenge, though it was that. To see if they could live more simply. And not as a penance, but as a toe in the water experiment. It was for many a time of refreshment  and opportunity to reconnect with the natural world. To have a break from the news and mediated experience we are force fed – if we allow it. It helps me understand fishing and caravanning a little more.

T – travel. Yes, it broadens your mind. I am a homebody and reluctant to be sociable, but I enjoy the snapshots of the lives that intersect for a moment with mine. Last year on O Cebreiro I saw a tiny wizened woman, probably no older than me, in the pouring rain and sleet getting her animals into her farmyard, thick with muck. Tumbledown fences held together with rotting rope. She was wearing an old dress and overcoat and built up wooden clogs. I would like to have taken a photo of her, but it felt impertinent. This is how she lives.

Tired jollies. Better than ‘panger’ – pre dinner anger. When Helen and I get tired it all gets a bit silly and we start making fun of place names and people and all of it, and I expect it saves us from devouring each other … you had to be there.

Underwear. Three pairs of pants and two bras. Not always dry when you put them on, but clean – ish. Seeing other people in their underwear is  – can’t think of a suitable adjective – an education. The three French ladies we met near the beginning had a complete set of night clothes. They performed an extensive toilette. And after vespers they buttoned up their pyjamas to the very top and turned on their sides and started snoring.

Our last day walking began very early with a surreal breakfast. It happened in an underlit kitchen. The coffee had been made the night before and had to be reheated in a kettle. The bread we retrieved from a paper sack like one we buy large quantities of potatoes in. Toothbreakingly stale. And at the table was a man wolfing  down couscous – his own – in a red t shirt and tight pants. Through a gap in the doorway we could see his wife, still in bed. You don’t get these experiences everyday.

Vaseline. Despite much lubrication I still got a blister. Next time, I’ll wear trainers and change my socks more often.

W wifi. What did we do before it? And offering a Welcome. It’s such a gift and so simple. Of course hosts need to make money from the walkers but some do it with grace and some without. Eye contact doesn’t cost anything.

X – can’t think. Y likewise.

Z – we met Zen boy last year who was pretty gorgeous, though we never spoke to him. He consumed a tiny cup of strong coffee with one cigarette slowly and thoughtfully and could make it last an entire Helen and Verity meal . This year we met Zen man – Racing Snake. He was lean and lovely too. Walked in sandals. Surprising what you remember 🙂

But the final Z goes to Katrin of Asperge fame who was telling a horrified roommate that she had set her alarm for 6.15. “But,” she said, ” It’s very Zen.”

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One thought on “Chemin Q-Z

  1. Hi you have finish your quest. Thought you could slip in an x-ray story or an itinerant xylophone player on the chemin, but never mind. The lady with her animals, mud and clogs will live in my minds eye for always now as if I saw it myself. Did not know what a bothy was but do now, and have stayed in some in the mountains. Thank so much for sharing your adventures and insights as always in your company either by Blog or in person is a privilege .
    Yours kate.

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