Last evening was an absolute hoot! In 2000 a group of about 8 of us sat around a table and enjoyed a wonderful summation to our pilgrimage/travels. I then went to Italy and had my birthday on the train to Bari. This time I thought why not invite people to a party? The numbers grew and grew and people who knew people invited away. I was getting quite concerned as it appeared 12 would be going and where could we be sure of accommodating that number? I spent two hours in the late afternoon exploring and soon discovered that most places were opening around 8 or 8:30. So I went further afield, close to my abode but a little off the beaten tourist track of the cathedral and its surrounds. Soon, near Alameda Park (and Sa Garcia, Manfred), I found just the place at the end of a blind alley with umbrellas. They had a menu del dia for 10€ and said I didn´t have to book as they were open all the time from 11:00am. It was perfect.
At 7:00 I stood at the steps of the cathedral wondering if I had any friends at all but by 7:10 there was a bigger bunch than I had dreamed of! Eventually we started moving off, but one guy had forgotten his camera so the second bit was later arriving. A German guy I had never met said he would help round up the stragglers and may well have done so but he was not sighted again. (A pity. Who did he eat with?) I told people I was paying 8€ a head, and if they spent more would they please cover it. More confusion as MdD was 10€. Mine Host was staggered and flustered. All these people! He had plenty of room but it transpired there was only himself and his wife working. Tables were grouped together, then regrouped until 21 folk sat laughing, talking, and eventually eating and drinking. Sharon, the Scot speaks Spanish but the host was having great difficulties. Eventually all were served but at pay up time so much money was put on the table I ended paying less than 8€ myself, even after leaving a tip!
How to describe the mood. Frankly, I can´t. Everyone was of one mind, and we shared and listened and contibuted and interrupted, laughed, told jokes, and laughed again. It was much less a birthday party for me (though what a party! and I lay exclusive claim to it) than an immaculate finale to a wonderful camino.
Charlie, bless his heart, led the singing of H Bday to me and then I sang, as he had previously suggested I may, though at a different time and place. It was a song of a bloke´s secular and lifelong camino, text by ?, music by R Vaughan Williams.
Give to me the life I love,
let the lave go by me.
(Mumble mumble rhubarb rhubarb)
Bred in the bush with stars to see
Bread I dip in the river
There´s the life for a man like me,
There´s the life for ever.
Or let autumn fall on me
where a-field I linger.
Silencing the bird on tree
Biting the blue finger
White as meal the frosty field,
Warm the fireside haven.
Not to austumn will I yield
Not to winter even!
Let the blow
fall soon or late
Let what will be o'er me
(Mumble mumble rhubarb rhubarb)
Wealth I ask not, hope nor love
Nor a friend to know me.
All I ask, the heaven above
and the road below me.
I sang only one "verse" made up from the first and last verses and people seemed most appreciative. But of course the song is nothing like the real camino or John, because without people earlier on I was in serious disarray at times. Buildings and churches and monuments and history are all very well but it is being part of each other´s caminos which will be remembered and talked of - probably for years. And the mood among us was so warm and loving.
Charlie spoke again and gave a most generous speech on me and I replied to it, putting in as much of my camino-bought wisdom as I could. Soon after, people started to go and by 9:30 we were all on our way. A few of us saw the cathedral bathed in the red-gold light of the setting sun and headed off there where me met a Spanish couple aho invited us to hot chocolate (thick stuff - you wouldn´t like it, Jenny, Kate, or Deb!) and churros (Spanish doughnuts, only they´re sticks). I had decaf. But again we had a wonderful time with our genial companions talking mainly about politics, the new Europe, and why the E Constitution had just been rejected decisively by the French and Belgians. MOST interesting. One item was that the constitution had not one word about Christianity. How is it possible to leave that out when it is the basis for law? No doubt a new Constitution will be written, maybe several times, but it does appear that Europeans want closer ties and are very happy with the Euro, etc which have already happened (except in UK).
I must tell you a story. I walked part of two days with Henry from Canada and forgot to invite him to eat with us. As we turned into the alley towards our restaurant, there he was! but very worried. Oh he said he was having a terrible day when I apologised and invited him. Had he eaten? No. But his ankle had been sore for a week and a half and he was worried, too worried to eat, as he could not find his hotel, and the print was too small to read on his card. This was quickly sorted out and he was prevailed upon to sit, first to chat, then to drink, and last, to eat. He talked and laughed and felt quite at home. At the end when I asked how had his day been, he said excellent, especially the end.
We all have had angels on the track (I told you of Flemming, one of my many, who has now walked on to Finisterre). I was given the opportunity to be angel to Henry. There are just too many items here to be coincidences: we were off the beaten track! He was there just as we came! Fortunately I recognised him! (no mean feat as we see so many people and I have a good forgetory) and was not so bound up in my own probs that I could not give him the brief time he needed. We all get opportunities to be angels every day, and I pray that we all, more and more, will be given the grace to take those opportunities.
In the cathedral shop today I met Petra. She had waited last eveningat the wrong steps! Anyway, she´s coming tonight. So far there seem to be 12 as there were 8 of us for lunch (paella, and good, and cheap too - 9€ a head) but as these things go it may be there are many more. To make sure our host was prepared, Jean and I sought him out after lunch. It transpired that Sharon´s Scottish accent had been too hard for the guy and he had not understood one word! I guess he panicked and then nothing made sense. Well, he understood Irish Jean OK, so he should be a calmer chappy this evening.
The botafumeiro swung yesterday but not today, which was a pity. I had a trial run with the camera in video mode and it worked wonderfully so I hope to see it again before leaving permanently. I have to hang around a couple of days at least as my replacement jacket has not arrived.
All the very best to you all!