Friday, 19 July 2019

Thoughts. ..

This morning's early wander was an opportunity to think about thoughts ... how busy lives cause them to race along without pause for reflection, joining forces to become ideas, finding comfort in familiar patterns and imagining evidence for their validity ... a concept and trap known to psychology as confirmation bias ... ideas, of course, lead to stories and beliefs, since language plays such a key role in our lives ... the trigger for this particular thought stream the reflection on recent return to radio, previously rejected along with television in an attempt to clear the mind of clutter and conditioning ... strangely, even though radio sets offer many channels, this one, bought for its ability to play CDs, stays tuned to BBC Radio 4 ... a sophisticated service offering lots of interesting information along with dramas and comedy along with "News" ... and it is the latter that comes under scrutiny as the latest versions of current affairs invite us to believe that the Benighted States and its implausible President is still a civilised country, despite all the evidence to the contrary ... a longer view might assemble historical facts to suggest, having shaken off the yoke of the British Empire, it steadily applied the lessons it learned from the erstwhile master ... timing military interventions in both major wars of the last century to allow the combatants to weaken themselves and then throw decisive force behind the likely victor. .. emerging as the strongest Empire, having sent a chilling warning to the world by destroying the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, along with hundreds of thousands of their inhabitants ... war crimes indeed, though winners get to write the history books and choose the language to be used ... further military adventures followed in the 20th century and into the 21st, all aimed to maintain economic ascendancy. .. gradually, as is the way with Empires, degenerating, though not passing the baton gracefully ... the BBC, meanwhile, offers ostensibly unbiased coverage, though certain basic assumptions go unchallenged ... its reputation for honesty enabling the smuggling of deception undetected ...

Anyway, the post is not meant to revisit the old stories, rather to reflect on the perspective achieved along the pilgrim ways, free from the daily dose of propaganda. .. which mostly led to the view that all the world really is a stage and cartoon characters in positions of power are possibly there to challenge our credulity and maybe invite us to look inside and see if there is any residual rubbish to clear out before we project it outwards yet again ...

Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Gala ...

July sees the annual gathering of socialists of various persuasions plus thousands of local folks from the surrounding area parading behind banners from their now defunct pit villages ... the Durham Miners' Gala, the Big Meeting, running on nostalgia and enthusiastic leftists from around the country ... attendance estimates vary between 100,000 and 200,000, which is a big variation, though even the lower figure is impressive enough ... the star of the show, Jeremy Corbyn, takes the tributes on the balcony of the County Hotel as the parade winds its way patiently through the streets, taking over 4 hours for the last banners to reach the racecourse and the speeches along with light rain ... plenty of tub thumping and rabble rousing from the platform, including a direct hit on the duplicity of J.C.'s disloyal deputy, TWatson, promoting the Big Lie drama of alleged anti-semitism, at the behest of its creators, Mossad, cleverly conflating anti-Zionism and anti-semitism in order to undermine Corbyn, a well known opponent of war crimes against Palestinians ... TWatson and others on the payroll as shown in the declared parliamentary records ... liberal sensitivities of public figures scared of being labelled anti-semitic harbour the plotters, prominent anti-Zionist Jews like Noam Chomsky are rarely heard in mainstream media or characterised as "self-hating Jews" ... and so the story runs on, along with the lie that Iran is destabilising the region, when some years ago the Pentagon plan to destabilise the Middle East was approved and has rolled out remorselessly ever since as the Benighted States and loyal allies, the Disunited Kingdom, Israel, Saudi Arabia and others have removed stable (not to say liberal or democratic) governments in Iraq, Libya and, maybe soon, Syria ... the economic war on Iran is well underway, along with gunboat diplomacy in the Gulf and threats of military intervention ...

Readers bemused by this diatribe need not fear that equanimity has been compromised by Saturday's day out with the comrades ... a cool head is still needed and old loyalties no longer hold ... polarised politics don't serve, Brexit is not the question, war is not the answer and neither is a centrally planned economy ... looking at the level of alcohol consumption and junk food at the Gala, despite the fine words, the vanguard of the revolution are in no condition to bring down capitalism any time soon ... still, capitalism is destroying itself through its inherent contradictions anyway ... all we need is a viable alternative which transcends the polarities ...

Proposals on a postcard please ...

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Joy ...

A long weekend workout on the woodland at the Land of Joy Buddhist Retreat Centre near Bellingham, not far from the Scottish border ... the task: to clear the brash left behind after the Sitka plantation was cut down two years ago, in preparation for the autumn planting of 1100 native trees of 12 varieties ... enabling the regeneration of a diverse ecosystem, signs of which are already appearing with Rowan and Oak seedlings sown by wind, birds and squirrels. .. a post on FB with photo (still struggling with that on here) elicits an enquiry from a friend seeking an opportunity to sponsor some tree planting ... which is serendipitous. ..

Breaks between the rather tough physical work enable some exploration of the Nature of Reality ... the Buddhist perspective having plenty to offer the topic, of course ... the question of whether folks may arrive miserable and find joy is also explored a little ... probably better to bring a modicum of joy at least, to add to the joyful ambience ... misery maybe not a thing intrinsically valid, but an overlay suffocating the joyous natural state ... still, the psychological roots of the misery often run deep, digging them out not so easy, and launching into esoteric spiritual practises prematurely is often dangerous ... especially when the practitioner becomes a guru and plays out his or her psychodramas at the expense of gullible seekers ... which happens in all traditions ...

Energy, it seems, is the name of the game ... at the fundamental level found by scientific exploration so far, all is energy vibrating and coming into form and returning to energy maybe depending on an affair with consciousness. .. tricky to comprehend since consciousness is usually ascribed to humans and the geological record suggests matter appeared long before humans ... raising the interesting question of universal mind, or Universal Mind if you prefer ... anyway at the level of human interaction energy trading is the currency of our dramas ... attention being energy and attention deficit identified as a problem, we play our games, as partners in an equal positive exchange of energy, as victims of the energy stealing of others, as vampires hunting out likely life forms whose energy we may steal ... our roles in these games the result of our psychology ...laid down in early childhood, maybe even in previous lives ...

As the summer solstice arrives, misery mongers muse that it's all downhill now, whilst another reality suggests summer is getting started and warmer weather is likely, on and off, through to September ... as for shorter days, at this latitude that will help with sleep, since the organism tends to perk up with sunlight and calm down with darkness ... not that sleep is a problem here, equanimity prevails and that is the key to a calm mind and conducive to healing sleep ... joy meanwhile, pops up now and then, sometimes whilst sleeping, sometimes awake ... mostly in response to events in nature: the heady scent of an azalea in flower, a rainbow, a river in spate, the heron patiently fishing, the snowy owl on the fence post ...

Promised politics postponed ... all rather meaningless at the moment as the long drawn out pantomime of the election of the next Prime Minister of the Disunited Kingdom polarises a disenfranchised, disenchanted populace ... the prospect of a leader to match the standards of the commander in chief of the Benighted States hopefully alerting us to the dangers of nurturing shallowness and fear of the other. .. all entertainment at one level, our continuing attention somehow encouraging the charade ...

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Flaming June ...

Blog has enjoyed the rest, readers too maybe ... shredded feet fully repaired, lessons learnt, though embodiment of the teaching that whilst pain is inevitable suffering is optional perhaps worth the experience ... May and June in Stanhope marvellous as days stretch out, enabling 2 hour walk before breakfast, through the woods and over the fells ... fresh and green from intermittent rainy days ... organism settled for summer, occasional minibus driving with the elders, thoughts of sharing process of exploring the Nature of Reality with others ... maybe at the Land of Joy next month ...

A winter adventure in a different culture takes form in the imagination department, wherever that is located, probably in the brain, whilst the skin votes for Sun and summer temperatures. .. Sri Lanka perhaps the destination, with 30 degrees on offer and UK Foreign Office advice not to visit an added attraction ... neighbour's granddaughter recently reluctantly recalled ... a K retreat centre right there in Colombo ... let's see, plenty of time to decide ... before that 3 weeks of volunteering at Brockwood Park, supporting the 50th Anniversary Reunion ...

Today is an indoor day, with persistent rain set in ... 2 hour wet walk before breakfast probably enough exposure to the elements, a reminder of epic wet days from the Camino. .. an attachment having so far fallen away, at least the routes in Spain and Portugal ...

And for any readers wondering about the random post about the Google Shop in Sunderland a few weeks ago: having delivered passengers to the theatre in Sunderland and with a few hours to pass before returning them to Weardale, a wander through the shopping centre, observing palpable poverty and distress, the Google Shop, set up, they said, to help reduce the digital divide, with basic IT skills essential for most jobs these days ... plenty of staff on hand and few customers meant an interesting hour addressing tablet related issues, including the unhelpful barring of certain sites such as the Bank for online transactions as well as the loss of photo upload on the blog ... the pic and post was the result, though whether the problem has been solved longer term will be tested with this offering, with a lovely photo from Sunday's sunny outing to Cragside to see the blooming rhodedendrons and elder daughter, though not in that order of priority, obviously!

Well, rain has eased and organism requests outside wander along river to enjoy the extra energy after all the rain ... politics tomorrow perhaps ...

Friday, 26 April 2019

Slowly to Stanhope ...

After 24 hours afloat a swift train from Portsmouth to Petersfield and a longish wait for the bus to Bramdean leads to a taxi and Brockwood's favourite driver, Duke, waiting for a pre-booked passenger also heading to the K Centre ... quite confident that the mystery customer will be happy to share, the pack goes in the back and Duke continues his snack, apologising for eating chicken ... explains the situation to David, who arrives a little later ... a long term K student, part-time editor of the books, sometime Buddhist, organiser of visit of HHDL to CERN for discussions on deluded search for smallest particle ... wonderful source of  information over 3 day stay, including filling out the K and Rosalind story mentioned in recent posts ... scandalous news reports in response to slanderous Radha Sloss book (yes, it would be libel if proven untrue, but accuracy sacrificed for linguistic elegance) ... contemporary observation from American insider, "young people in love", and Mary Zimbalist, "she seduced him", suggest the love affair happened and explains subsequent actions of "a woman scorned" and a "husband cuckolded" ... no need to prolong a potentially gossipy story, maybe just to affirm K's humanity and his teaching that it is the message that counts, not the messenger  ...

Bluebells blooming beautifully, sunshine and showers releasing delicate, elusive perfume, trees leafing, The Grove enchanting ... while in nearby fields muckspreaders are releasing stronger agricultural smells, herbicide sprayers a sweet, slightly sickly scent ...

Cast list of guests and staff include Maria and Alvaro from London, he from Colombia now a bus driver, she from Grandas, where coffee was taken a couple of weeks ago on the overlong day from Berducedo to Fonsegrada ... the family house there standing empty, maybe awaiting a Camino business? Stephen, CEO of charity supporting damaged children and offering insights, hope for recovery ... services shockingly underfunded, whether examined through lens of compassion or long term costs of inaction ... Peter, retired counsellor, previously slave to banking software, starting 2 month stint as guest helper ... Kimberly, young mature student, on Easter break from duties as mentor to school students ... Hamid, doctor from Norway, via Iran, here for 2 week retreat, finding a unique quality of silence ... Chris, retired BBC producer, from London and Teesdale ... and David, of course ...

Top deck front seat bus trip to Winchester winds through wealthy villages in time for train across England ... fellow passenger, Alex, student of German and History at Sheffield. .. entertaining group of three youngish women behind, happy to share their dramas ... or oblivious to the audience ...

And so to Stanhope, one month on, the cottage warm and dry ... glad of some company ... just some bookshelves to sort out ...

Monday, 22 April 2019

Biscay and beyond ...

Extra sleep and shower in San Glorio, since facilities frugal for tonight ... meanwhile, the morning wander uncovers the funicular to an effort free view and a very special place for coffee and early lunch, Primo de Origen, Charles and Mary running a stylish enterprise with ingredients sourced and prepared with care ... it shows in their attitude too ... houmous made to order, since chicken in the wrap not desired ... relaxed ambience to rest and write, eat and drink ... and some background from Charles, presenting as Irish, his mother from there, father Swiss, brought up in Hong Kong ... parental plans thwarted by Charles' choice to skip scientific career and first degree in biochemistry, his heart not in it ... disinherited .. second degree in sustainability in Norway, where higher education is free, if you are prepared to learn Norwegian ... London job with Bloomberg philanthropy division ... then into business life with Mary's Venezualan parents, their coffee and cacao plantation ready for harvest ... city venue for roasting, wholesale and retail required, Santander chosen ... and here we are ... for a while ... expansion plans underway, Venezuelan political problems notwithstanding ... still under 30 and flying in a world of their own creation. .. and conscious of alternative worlds ....

On the boat a brief exchange with returning pilgrim Michael, a quiet route from Alicante to Burgos and still in the zone ... a long exchange with Vaughn, with his long term wife Ann, both with Lancastrian accents though having lived in many places, his work as an engineer leading him to Canada, Mexico, BSA, Ireland ... concurring with theory that our DUK PM May have played a devious game to deny the brexiteers their unlikely referendum victory. .. hmm, history may tell the tale one day ...

A short night in a reclining chair rests the brain long enough, then the morning on a calm sea, long conversation with Dom, who left his South London home at 16, now lives mostly in Southern Spain, with Spanish wife and children, working in the oil industry, fully aware of its impact and ethics ... looking forward to retirement a few years off ...

Early lunch, since an hour has been gained and stomach still adjusting ... plenty of time for train to Petersfield, bus to Bramdean and wifi free K centre for a day or so ...

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Around Santander ...

Thousands on the streets, children playing late while parents chat ... in a back street bar it's quieter. .. empty actually, perfect for a beer and maybe a pincho of tortilla, though that's not forthcoming from the rather morose owner, his mood maybe only attracting similar miserabilists. ...

Tonight's boat comes in and discharges its cargo of cars, campers and lorries ... economy of carrying goods so far at such cost a question, though of a philosophical nature rather than economic ...

Other questions arise .... what's really going on, when the President of the Benighted States plays the role of buffoon and draws derision from millions and admiration from millions too ... while the teenage hero Greta somehow gains access to the highest levels of power in the mundane world and lectures them about the need for action on climate change ... inspiring a related non-violent direct action movement, the Extinction Rebellion, currently disrupting cities ... if all the world is indeed a stage and humans merely players on it, to participate or to abstain, that is the question ... or one of them anyway ... maybe choose a role which resonates as if real, whilst remembering its illusory nature and retreating to review from time to time ... rather like the between lives review described by ancient philosophical systems ...

Meanwhile, Easter Sunday in Santander dawns fine, with light cloud, perfect for a walk around the peninsulas ... the Magdalena Park and Palace, a beautiful resource for the city folks and tourists, though captive sea lions and penguins mar the experience for this sensitive soul ... speaking of which, first coffee overlooking the bay brings out shifty soul seller, avoiding eye contact as he asks €1.30 for the small coffee, previous native Spanish speaker having been asked €1.20 .. 10 cents rather cheap for a fragment of your soul ... next coffee along the coast, young waiter smiles, mentions €1.50, as smile is returned, handful of change offered, price swiftly amended to €1.30, the difference left on the plate ... the outside table a good place to rest and write before resuming tour ... on to Cabo Mayor ... coast path shared with walkers and runners ... 12.30 a little early for lunch, olives offered with the shandy ... a little more resting and writing ... resurrection procession scheduled for 1pm, though Nature preferred ... each to their own, the old story, deeply embedded, embodied, no longer serving, though never strongly held this time round ... older stories more persuasive ... though stories all the same ... is authentic experience without a narrative possible? Why not? Since stories starting as pointers to the Truth seem so often to be mistaken for it, with dire consequences ...

Along the ridge, off the tourist trail, through suburbs with glimpses of the sea on one side, city on the other ... a restaurant without television, Spanish music instead of Britpop,  an early and filling lunch while locals linger on pre-meal drinks ... English not spoken, but somehow a mixed salad plus patatas bravas appear anyway ...

Returning over the hill, procession still going on, drums a little lighter today ... interesting to observe ... Spanish 4 day holiday comes to an end, British one continues another day ... to be spent by this Brit afloat on the Bay of Biscay ...

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Oviedo to Santander

Mind quite relaxed yesterday on the very comfortable Alsa Super Service. .... mostly motorway ...  at Aviles a request to the universe for a simple bed near the station in Oviedo ... and wandering along a sign on the Sidreria says Camas and since limited vocabulary includes this word an optimistic enquiry establishes that there is indeed a single room available for just €25 ... booking dot com, having declared the whole city full, clearly not aware of small Pensions ... anyway, thanks are offered and lack of WiFi or fellow sleepers enables a deep sleep ...  morning options do not include the very scenic train ride, since 7 hours is excessive for a trip taking 2 hours 15 minutes on Alsa's Super Service. .. slower, cheaper off motorway bus trip skipped ... this route has been walked and local scenery not required today ... Santander calls, ferries tonight, tomorrow and Monday ... let's see what's free ... Monday best for timely arrival in Portsmouth. ..

Oviedo an interesting mix of trendy, expensive and older, reasonable ... pedestrian friendly streets ... a €10 menu del dia last night, €3.60 coffee and croissant this morning ... both greeted with a smile and interesting to note the woman serving the overpriced breakfast avoided eye contact until the final sarcasm-free farewell Muchas Gracias ...

On contrasts, an angry alsatian with an extended sense of territory appeared the other day, after Olveiroa, requiring a balance of keen awareness and reduced focus, until it moved too close with its teeth when full attention caused it to skid to a halt and resume barking a little further off ... 20 minutes later, another alsatian emerged silently, unseen, came close for a stroke and left ... weird ...

In Santander a visit to the Maritime Station secures a ticket for Monday ... other sailings not keen on foot passengers ... a reclining seat will do for one night's sleep and other locations are often available later ... so, two days in Santander, the sun is shining and the city packed with wandering long weekenders ... day 3 of the holiday, shops re-open, religious tale pauses until tomorrow's happy ending after yesterday's gory story ....

And after a wander to stretch the legs, Marianna's vegan restaurant provides lunch without meaty discussions ... busy today, a sign of the times, changing fast ... vegetarian menus popping up along the Caminos ... even a little dog joining its humans, safe from predators ...

Still early for bed seeking and even booking dot com suggests budget options available ... let's see ... mind wanders momentarily to the Convento at nearby Santillana, though pilgrim persona on hold for now ...

A little fruitless wandering leads to the 2 star Hotel San Glorio, a reasonably priced comfortable and simple room, without view to distract the imagination ... well, tomorrow's price is reasonable, tonight's is an Easter special ... seems rather unfair on slaves, but that's the capitalist market for you ... the price is what the customer will pay ...  anyway, it's a central base, close to the boat ... itself parked more or less in the centre of town ...

The editor writes from France, suggesting the tone of the blog has turned despondent ... maybe his projection, mood here stable enough and quite content with a shorter than usual Camino season ... the Primitivo has been in view for a while and well worth the effort ... as other pilgrims have noted, the whole enterprise becomes crowded towards Santiago, especially in Easter Week ... no ambition to walk in busier seasons or, for now, other routes ... even pilgrimage can become an attachment!

Friday, 19 April 2019

Negreira to Oviedo ...

Organism rested and even a solid six hours sleep between the late night whispering and the first alarm at 6 ... not sure why, since first light is still an hour away ... anyway, a top bunk in a full 50 bed hostel is an experience and lucky enough to find it ... others turned away ... humans being a social species, mostly, groups of locals are using the 4 day break to play pilgrim to Finisterre ... the blessing of extended solitude and trusting the evening bed without reservations maybe for another time ...

Anyway, the extra early start, an early opening bar, enable a peaceful stage almost all the way without delay ... pilgrim groups going the other way ...

After first and last stop 8km out, folks from Santiago pass ... many rather late for a full day, maybe attending religious ceremonies before departing ... approach to Santiago perhaps the best of all the routes, rural, a decent Calvary before the Cathedral appears ... soon at the Hospedaria San Martin to check on pilgrim rooms at 12.30 ... no room at this inn (possibly a different chapter of the story), all rooms reserved ... ah well, it is a special weekend for the Christians ... this sceptical traveller can go elsewhere ... same story at La Salle, which provided last time San Martin was full ... on towards bus station for other options and a death cult procession passes ... sinister hooded characters, a big cross, drums evoking a resistance to the charade, or parade, and swiftly on ... a brief enquiry at a Wellness Hotel, where a single room is available ... €75 a little steep, massage not included ... and so to the bus ... Oviedo tonight, quite late, though known hotel near the bus station ... internet suggests it is full ... so this post had better go now, from the Cafeteria near Santiago Bus Station, in case tonight is spent in Oviedo Bus or Train Station ... anyway, plan for tomorrow is the train to Santander ...

At Santiago Bus Station, Mackie is waiting for the Muxia bus ... a warm reunion ... a nice coincidence ....

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Olveiroa to Negreira ....

After last night's carb loading, the organism is fired up for the day ... the plate of potatoes cocida too much to finish, but since Lola had them prepared specially, it seemed rude not to eat them all ... which meant a little digestive discomfort in the night and a light, early breakfast fine for the 30 plus km to Negreira, with an epic Santiago in the possibility field ... still there past first stop at Santa Marina, 15km, second stop at Vilaserio, 26 km and another bar before Negreira where some time is passed with Chris, from Kettering, happy to share his rather unhappy story of Asperger's, depression, planned escape to Ecuador, where his wife and son live now ... and on, pondering his story, missing the arrows, finding an arrow free alternative, rather further on the other side of the mountain ... arriving tired and without further interest in Santiago today, at Negreira, and the Cafe Imperial and David, who suggests Albergue Anjana is closed ... more conversation in English, since he started life there , many years ago ... holiday today and tomorrow ... most of town closed, but his place full of folks ... a good menu del dia at 3.30. ... walking group of 18 arrive at four for food, since their hotel isn't serving food today ...

At the Albergue San Jose only upper bunk beds available, underneath a snoozing youngster, hopefully not preparing for a late night of fun ... anyway, after the single room luxury last night, it's all experience ... a basic shower, though towel provided ... sheets too ... 4 hours to Santiago tomorrow, carrying the cross ... represented by the rucksack, of course ... this one light enough ... as for morning coffee, it could take a while ... maybe all the way to Santiago ... and the temptation once there is to skip through on a bus to Oviedo, en route to Santander ... though nothing booked and Algarve still there in the possibility field  ...

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Muxia to Oliveiroa ...

Rose from Albergue Delfin predicts a rain free day, though after 20 minutes a few drops bring her forecasting skills into question ... the afternoon persistent rain confirms she should stick to running the excellent albergue ... she also tells of a new route being developed, the Via Mariana, from Braga to Muxia, with blue and green arrows ... maybe another time ... meanwhile, following the Camino Santiago route towards Santiago proves tricky, since the official markers are pointing the wrong way ... or maybe  .... anyway, there is a relaxed approach, with options at 20, 25 and 30 ... and plenty of pilgrims walking the wrong way, or the right way if you're following the markers ... a chance to engage folks with a little conversation ... pilgrims and bar owners ... and the Italian couple last seen in Berducedo ... a very warm and unexpected brief reunion ...

On the Mariana theme, news comes through about a fire at Notre Dame, a big church in Paris, named after Our Lady, though a cause of dissension, since the other Mary in the Jesus story was his wife and written out of history in that role, since sex was shrouded in shame and celibacy elevated to a point of principle ... with all the ensuing problems of suppressed sexual energy which we don't need to go into here ... well, it's a pity about the fire, but nobody died and in the end all these redundant forms decay, their purpose long since lost ...

Recent observation and reflection suggests a relationship between the weight of the rucksack and the weight of the thoughts in the head, or wherever they hang around ... not so strange really, since the relationship between possessions and peace of mind has long been accepted ... more is less, less is more ... everything is nothing, nothing everything ...

Semana Santa is well underway, lots of Spanish pilgrims on the road, though at Casa Loncho, there is space in the albergue and private rooms too ... the decision still in the balance whilst waiting patiently at the bar, with passports ready ... a tired and assertive peregrina arrives to jump the queue ... checks in to the albergue and makes the decision to choose a private room for a little peace ... and radiators to dry the clothes soaked during the walk as well as socks washed in the shower .... playing a stereotypical role, the peregrina turns out to be from the Benighted States of America, and later manages to miss the late arriving tired and wet peregrina and jump in front of her too ...

Feet feeling fine after morning dressing with lip balm and pads from Nil ... stomach griping a little last night after supper of beer, banana and a bar of chocolate ... complaint confirmed by this morning's evacuation ... needs of the temple, which is whole organism, demanding more attention ... oats for breakfast, soup for lunch, lentil soup and salad with boiled potatoes fits the bill ...  feedback tomorrow, though feeling rather full .... still, it's early enough yet, time to digest before bedtime ... tomorrow Negreira, maybe more ...

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Fisterra to Muxia ...

After a few day's rest and yesterday's wander up to the lighthouse, along to the sacred stones and back home, the feet are fit for some more work and the weather looks fair for a walk along to Muxia ... the cast at the Espiral changes as the Italian folks take the bus to Santiago, Nil prepares supper, Mark arrives from Santiago via Cee  and Northern Ireland .... Hans Christian from Santa Marina via Denmark, having done the Santiago walk in two days, hence his rather knackered state ...

This morning porridge is made, Pietro prepares for Muxia with a plateful and we set off late enough, just before 9 ... his plan is to follow the lighthouse way, considerably more strenuous and scenic than the marked Way ... and since philosophy is on the agenda it's upping and downing, sometimes almost vertically along the cliffs to Lirres, the halfway point and parting of the ways ... menu del dia and rest ... he heads on to lie in nature, eat a picnic, maybe sleep outside later ... a beautiful soul ...

Afternoon 15 is inland, off road, through woodland ... feet and legs happy enough ... Albergue Delfin calls, run by Rose, a pilgrim from Hungary ... only two tonight,  Dieter on the early bus to Santiago ... an option, though a wander back via Dumbria more likely ... the morning will decide, but the energy is moving towards a Santander crossing next Monday and a few days at Brockwood Park, before returning to the neglected house on Railway Terrace and the bookshelves required to release the library from its boxes ...

Monday, 15 April 2019

A quick trip to the restaurant at the end of the universe ...

Late night supper leads to latest morning for quite a while ... and rain ... never mind, the organism is settled and feet ready for first reunion with their walking shoes since Santiago ... and laced in without complaint for the post-breakfast wander the few kilometres to the lighthouse ... and the restaurant at the end of the universe ... or bar at the end of the westward Ways anyway ... North  lies Muxia, with its own energy and a decent day's walk for tomorrow perhaps. .. meanwhile more philosophy at breakfast with the very deep duo hospitalero, Pietro and Simone ... plus Nil and new peregrina Nina, from Germany ... temptation to discover nationality persisting, though the dangers of identification with such arbitrary boundaries acknowledged ...

French duo, Antoine and Nathan, prepare for Santiago and debriefing on results of first month of amazing programme to reprogramme young people away from a life of crime ...  seems to be working for 16 year old Nathan, already planning his next Camino, though more work at a centre in Andalusia is required next ... these projects run by a voluntary sector association an inspiration for other nations and their justice departments, too often driven by outdated notions of punishment ... troubled youngsters so often demonised as a problem for society, rather than the more enlightened view ... a young person produced by a dysfunctional society ... so, dear readers, here's our choice, shall we punish the child for failing to fit in to a world of violence, coercion, fear, greed .... batter them into shape to become a broken, obedient slave for the decaying system? Or ... open their hearts to love and the More Beautiful World Our Hearts Know is Possible ... which, if you wonder about the capitalisation, is also the title of a book by Charles Eisenstein, available via Hive, your ethical alternative to the tax avoiding, people exploiting, high street destroying behemoth whose name need not be mentioned ... attention being energy and without judgement of good or bad ... which is why this traveller through the parallel universe(s) of the Camino(s) de Santiago chooses to clear out decades, maybe lifetimes, of conditioning and coercion to old stories, keep all the illusions, including persistent parables of consensus reality, in awareness, while focusing on the new world we create with our energies of love ... the immortal role models of Lao Tse, Buddha, Jesus, J.Krishnamurti, Ramana Maharshi, Martin Luther King, John Lennon and others, joined by new inspirations ... like Greta Thunberg ... Nathan ... 

If any of these ramblings offend sensibilities, especially in Semana Santa when the myth of suffering, crucifixion and resurrection is so strong, then ... sorry! As seen and described before on these pages, the separation is the fundamental problem, or error, or original sin (sin actually only being an error covered with layers of judgement) ... and once the numinous is experienced and seen as not separate we fall into the ancient heresy, for which many were burned, crucified, shot or otherwise martyred ... ah, well ... truth is truth and better spoken than suppressed ... blocking our divine nature never turns out well in the end ... the end being only a phrase of limited use in a cosmos of beginingless and endless universes ... as suggested by contemporary scientist Jude Currivan, prophets through the ages, systems in Buddhist and Hindu cosmology and so on ...

Sunday, 14 April 2019

Fisterra philosophy ...

Feet gratefully embrace the rest and spend the night in the remarkably quiet dormitory without a twinge ... another day or two will set them up for Muxia maybe ...

Meanwhile, philosophy begins early with Nil, Hil and Pietro ... Chinese systems explored ... Confucianism, Buddhism, Tao ... out into a misty town to stretch the legs ... a Palm Sunday procession passes ... followed ... with Zena, German pilgrim from another albergue. ... her very interesting Vipassanna experience ... subsequent difficulty readjusting to this world of suffering sometimes called reality, normality ...

Home for lunch ... pasta and background music of Italian exuberance ... maybe the language will be absorbed by osmosis ... Antoine arrives, another practitioner of the wonderful French alternative justice system where young people walk the Camino for a month to see how that helps ...

Lenka,  from the Czech Republic, arrives from Muxia, having walked the Frances from Pamplona ...

A stroll along a very quiet town in the afternoon brings The Family bar for a beer with some English folks ... tuning the frequency to Hippie channel for some discourse ... and back to La Espiral where the energy is more compatible ....

Jay arrives, having walked from Santiago via the Frances from St Jean and Korea ... intrigued to see blog pic of his compatriot who went the whole Way on a unicycle a couple of years ago ...

Hot chocolate cheers up the damp pilgrims, some singing too ... supper to be decided but in any case likely to be in Spanish time ... and if there is none, that's ok too ... little energy expended these last two rest days ...

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Santiago to Fisterra ...

Unusually restless night, considering the full day's walking, as feet mutter mutinously ... by the morning the decision has made itself and it's a 3 hour bus ride to Fisterra and the Espiral family ... Santiago in Semana Santa suffused with the story of suffering and full of pilgrims exuding holier than thou vibes ... comparing distances, routes, number of Caminos, weight of packs, onward baggage ... anyway, the organism surrenders to the foot soldiers, who have suffered enough ... or tolerated the discomfort anyway, twinging at the beginning, then settling to the task ...

Simone opens the door with a warm welcome, Nil joins for a cup of tea ... a discussion ensues on blister treatment, Compeed not recommended ... Nil ( from last year's visit, has been on the Portuguese coastal route) gets to work with sterilised scissors ... feels better already ... booked in for three nights respite, after that, let's see ... maybe Muxia ... after two sunny days, rain resumes ... 
As for pilgrims, five Italians are already here, plus Nil from Turkey, Hil from China arrives so Nil can demonstrate her fluency in Chinese as well as Spanish and English ... then four Germans ... the place is filling up .... Fatima arrives with her usual exuberance and amazing embrace ... Michele also ...Simone cooks pasta for lunch, pizza promised for supper ... no stereotypes there then ...

Friday, 12 April 2019

Arzua to Santiago ...

A late start ... single room, shutters shut means Sun is up unnoticed  and breakfast is past 8 ... fast pace to Pedrouzo ensures 38km stage is comfortable ... briefly dropped to chat with John from Australia, who offers technological information on mysterious disappearance of photos on blog (data limit on free platform, though Google is to rich to bother telling you) ... Agnes from France passes some time, then Juan from Denmark (his father is Spanish)... lunch at halfway point is 12.30 with Monsi entertaining the room with her singing and wisecracks ... back on the road by 1.15 for slightly slower second half ... mostly off road and briefly chatting with Martina, from Prague via Slovakia, Agnes again, Martin, from Prague via Slovakia (he sounds interested but hasn't met her ... yet ...) and finally to the Hospedario San Martin Pinario, where a pilgrim room is available, though only for one night ... Easter having started ... a small problem, since revolting feet have been promised a rest day ... so, another bed, bus to Finisterre, short stroll to Negreira? Right heel needs a blister stabbed and dressed before too much more walking .. hmm ...

Meanwhile, in the bar, Anne, a psychotherapist from Sussex, offers conversation for a while ... and shows some interest in Krishnamurti Centre and K teachings. .. especially: "It is no measure of sanity, to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society".

An opera singer busks by the cathedral ... supper in the Hospedario is solo ... bed calls, a later start tomorrow will suffice for the short stage ... if the feet can be coerced into their shoes and the blister sorted ... or tolerated ... after all, if pain is inevitable, suffering is optional ...

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Ferreira to Arzua

As Santiago grows closer, the Way slows down ... breakfast  includes porridge and more conversation ... option to stay another day always open and seriously considered ... Ton keen o pursue ideas, especially about the gift economy ... donativo Albergues under some scrutiny from regulators ... this one they bought fully regulated and changing its form may be tricky ... meanwhile Ria is mourning the recent loss of the family dog ... a lovely couple living the life of supporting the pilgrims ...  in the end the legs are ready for action, feet settled down, mind set for Santiago and Finisterre. .. Melide at 20km and the joining of Ways offers more options and Arzua, 15km on,  enables single stage to Santiago, or two short ones ... intermediate Albergues along the way ...

Mary and Brian from Galway offer Irish pace ... relaxed ... great connection between periods of solitude ... a few others on the road as the rain desists and Sun returns ... a little climbing through woods and small villages until Melide for lunch and a busier afternoon, with an English group from London, having started in O Cebreiro ... Spanish school groups, with one having started in Sarria ... in Arzua, student peregrinos everywhere  ... lovely to see, but albergues best avoided if a peaceful night is preferred ... a cosy pension is chosen, a good, early breakfast booked ... Santiago in sight if the feet and legs are willing ... under 40km, not easy but doable ... let's see!

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Lugo to Ferreira

Sunshine and showers, though not in that order, all the way to a lovely albergue with vegetarian food and porridge promised for breakfast ... Annabelle and Francois from Luxembourg the only other pilgrims ... the the Dutch couple running the place, Ton and Ria, are pilgrims too ... Late now for blogging, more tomorrow ..

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Cadavo to Lugo

Awaken to rain, forecast to stay all day, though after porridge, banana and kiwi in the San Mateo kitchen and a coffee in the Bar Eligio next door, it has abated and comes and goes all the way to Lugo and since waterproof kit is happy enough in such conditions all is well ... a little banter with Carmen our hostess, who suggests a bus to Lugo and when the idea is swiftly dismissed observes that the peregrinos are loco ... and laughingly accepts the riposte that while we walk, walk, walk, her life is work, work, work, so who is loco ... or loca ...? Anyway, she retires in November and seems to not be looking forward to the intervening Camino season ... 150 a day on the road in summer and many of them staying at her Pension and Albergue ... there are two others in this small town ...

Plenty of time on easy tracks to examine thoughts as they come and go ... first 9km to Castroverde fast enough, a juice and coffee there, then on another hour or so to unexpected al fresco bar, with Luxembourg pair installed ... a small beer and large slice of Tarta de Santiago and short rest before plodding on, and on and just after 3pm it's Lugo for lunch, menu del dia of vegetable soup, merluza with potatoes, crepes with honey, washed down with a suggested sparkling water with red wine and coffee to finish ... on through the tourist centre, though not delayed by interesting history ... city energy not required. .. on the road out is a rather tired Albergue with a rather morose owner and his more enthusiastic daughter, demonstrating her command of English ... no one else here, good WiFi, sheets, blankets and towel provided, view of the river and sunny room to sit in as rain takes a rest ... poor reviews about the owner or the run down ambience, who knows? Anyway the reviews seem to be from a small sample ... enough facilities and cleanliness  satisfies this rather footsore pilgrim, whose standards are hardly five star or even three ... enough is enough ... less than 100km to Santiago now, two days to join the French Way at Melide ... or as David says, for the French Way to join the Primitivo ...

Monday, 8 April 2019

Fonsagrada to Cadavo

After yesterday's exertions, today is a stroll ... albeit with some serious climbing ... solo room perfect for deep sleep, while organism gets to work repairing tissue damage ... left foot taking a while to make friends with its shoe ... double breakfast nearby makes up for yesterday's neglect ... lots of pilgrims about, though first couple of hours through woods and hills blissfully solo ... before steep climb up to La Lastra and first stop, a Spanish woman is going the other way ... Santiago to Madrid via Oviedo ... then a Spanish man preparing for the ascent ... and halfway up a Frenchman and his Portuguese wife, both residents of Luxembourg ... the bar offers more pilgrims ... three young Germans and an Englishman ... the most scenic toilet in the world ...  shandy, coffee, banana ... and onwards, catching up with David from Cumbria and a conversation all the way to Cadavo ... fascinating ... his company working with disadvantaged folks around the world ... savouring his suffering, some residual issues from active service in the Marines to resolve ... information about a cryptocurrency based in Bulgaria working in medical assistance ... at Cadavo he carries on to the Municipal Albergue 9km ahead, having travelled with the Germans and an Argentinian couple along the stages ...

Casa Eligio offers the menu del dia plus adjacent albergue bed ... Santiago from Madrid is waiting there ... hostel two years old and very comfortable, including the first heated boot rack so far observed ...

Rain arrives later, but today's earlier finish means it is dodged. ... an excursion into the small town enabled in a brief break from the rain ... fruit for tonight and the morning, a kitchen to make porridge ... the simple things in life ...

Tomorrow, Lugo, the first city since Oviedo, under 30km and easy enough ...

Sunday, 7 April 2019

Berducedo to Fonsagrada

Day dawns dismal but dry and a fast pace means Grandas de Selima at 20 km is reached by noon, notwithstanding much upping and downing .... leaving an afternoon 26 perfectly possible ... warm and dry weather with a little sun supports the effort and it's head down and walk for 5 hours, more or less without a break ... over the Acebo Pass in slushy snow, the rain starts lightly as Asturias is left behind ... Galicia all the way now ... after yesterday's calorie packing, today is more of a fast, and lunch opportunities are absent until 5km from the destination and the kitchen is closed ... a sausage tapa is kindly offered and declined ... a banana and chocolate from the pack will do ...

In town the Albergue Catabrica is chosen ... ten or more pilgrims settled, all new after the double stage, no energy to socialise so a separate room is chosen by this rather wet and tired peregrino, just wanting a hot shower and a rest ... and since it is still raining supper is skipped ... some oats soaked in water will do ... there is a blog to write and an early night calls ... a shorter stage tomorrow ...

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Campiello to Berducedo

Today's stage has two alternative routes, the high, shorter way; the lower, longer way ... local advice, given the snow forecast, is to avoid the high way, which has no services and is potentially dangerous ... such advice divides pilgrims into those seeking security and those tempted by risk ... Emily is in the second group and at the junction we head up at speed to get over before snow sets in, which mostly works ... in any case, the fluffy snow blowing over is exhilarating and drier than rain ... also Emily has a whistle, which is reassuring ... after the summit the universe offers her some solitude as she takes the main way and your hapless blogger an older route marked with arrows for a while ... then the track goes missing and after half an hour or so off piste rejoin the Way where it was abandoned ... equanimity holds, even a little relief to be back on the marked Way ...  and Emily located in the first bar at the destination, having arrived ten minutes before ...

Vanessa, at the Albergue Camino Primitivo, offers a warm welcome, radiators to dry clothes, an evening meal later ... other pilgrims arrive ... the Italian 3, 3 young British women, all having taken the high road ... Czech Mark is already in having come from Pola on the low road ... Daniela reported waiting at Bar Barin after loose arrangement to hook up for possible high road stage. .. whoops ...

The Albergue filling up, the question, after last night's snoring symphony, is whether the snorers from last night, who must remain nameless, will appear. .. there are three other hostels, so let's see ... weather sets in and early start rewarded by early finish ... tomorrow a choice of short 20 km or overlong 45 ... perhaps too much with the climbing and variable weather ...

Community supper provides social interaction and calorie loading for tomorrow's effort, whatever it turns out to be ...

Friday, 5 April 2019

La Espina to Campiello

Having agreed common wake-up time of 7.30, Ave Maria greets us, followed by Rodrigo's Guitar Concerto ... group breakfast and fond farewells for 28km stage with altitude. .. snow capped mountains close by ... consideration of coming choice of high level route with 360 degree views plus danger of snow, wind and poor visibility for arrows and vistas ... a decision for the morning ... current forecast suggests an early and swift ascent may beat later storm, but let's see ...

Two and a half hour walk along muddy tracks brings Tineo and coffee, plus review of today's options, basic and possibly austere Berres or 3km before two other albergues in Campellios ... three hours or so away and shared with Daniela, philosophy and psychology making the time much shorter ... vegetarian menu del dia and cosy ambience wins out, while Daniela pushes on for Berres ... and Emily arrives for lunch ... in Albergue, three French, Spanish, Australian ... Irishman in hotel, Italians seen passing for 3km to Berres ...

Grado to La Espina

A day full of pilgrims delays posting. .. wonderful walking in the mountains, rain holding off until after lunch stage from Salas to the amazing Albergue Bodenaya ... all donativo, bed, evening meal, laundry, breakfast and information from David, hospitalero from Aranjuez, where Rodrigo came from ... most importantly the donativo principle, like the generosity model at LoJ, an attempt to transcend the toxicity of money ... it's been working for David for five years, who does not consider it work, open 7 days a week for 10 months the of the year, walking Caminos in December and January ....

... vegetarian lunch experience involving chicken soup, specially strained to remove meat, which is replaced by chick peas ... evening meal fully vegetarian ... a concept still to be embraced by most restaurants ...

Community supper means late night and group photo with international cast ... Italians, Romanian, German, Australian ... plus David and friends ...

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

Oviedo to Grado ...

April showers all the way, heavy enough to test the raingear ... which survives and dries in sunny interludes ...

Oats soaked in water plus banana in the room provides fuel for the day, orange juice and cafe solo in hotel bar the spark and place to wait until heavy rain desists ...

Oviedo reluctant to say goodbye, directions from the Cathedral tricky, conches set in the pavement considered more aesthetically pleasing than yellow arrows ... meaning a meander around engaging the locals in route finding, a second coffee while very friendly young bar person explains the way ... keen to speak English and taking classes ... soon leading to third coffee at bar where arrows start ... to pee and deploy cape to combat heavy shower ... after which two bars appear after two hours, both closed and another an hour later, this one helpfully pointing 200 metres off route, and more accurately at the bar itself informing wet, tired, thirsty, hungry, possibly bursting for relief, a particular problem for female pilgrims especially in wet weather, that between January and May they only open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. ..

Meanwhile, on the pilgrim front, things are looking up, especially with a later start and fast pace ... an international selection encountered from Sweden, Ukraine, Italy, Spain and Korea ... mostly older, except Bomi the Korean woman ... the only one detained for much conversation, Annelille from Gothenburg, Camino veteran having already walked the Primitivo amongst others ... retired from teaching in Steiner schools and resonating philosophically ... eventually abandoned as rain persists ... on and on until 3km from Grado, at 1.45, a restaurant and menu del dia ... potato salad with grated carrot, onions, hard boiled egg, for first course, egg and chips second ... vegetarian options rather limited ... rice pudding for dessert, red wine and coffee all for a filling bargain €10 ... and welcome rest for feet and legs ...

In Grado, Albergue Quintana located with more local help ... Lorena opened it last year ... municipal albergue resisted though likely destination for other pilgrims ... chocolate and churros plus language practice, avocado and banana from supermarket make healthyish evening snack ... weather looking drier tomorrow, though unsettled for a while ... and in Stanhope, snow ...

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

Vilaviciosa to Oviedo

A late start for a long day ... Oviedo the target, in two stages ... climbing steeply for three hours before first coffee stop .... plus tortilla ... on for another two to Pola de Siero for lunch and rest before plodding to Oviedo and the start of the Primitivo as well as routes back to the Norte at Aviles and to Leon for the French Way ... Daniel and Mackie heading direct from VV towards Gijon, slowly, since both are suffering with feet ... plus other burdens ... Daniel yearning for a child, Mackie mourning his, killed by its mother .. suffering with the awfulness and laden with a 24 kg pack ...

Porridge is prepared and shared ... slow release energy for the 40 + day with some alarming climbing, preparing the organism for the mountains ahead on the Primitivo ... feet settling down, shoes ready for the task, mind prepared for evening arrival ... plenty of light in April and mostly cloudy weather cools things down, though rain holds off ... some forecast for the week ...

Pilgrim free day after farewells with Daniel and Mackie, offer of special pilgrim benediction in the Cathedral at 7.30 skipped ... albergues also elusive and Hotel Favila recalled from previous visit, located opposite the FEVE rail station, though assistance from friendly locals required to find it ... Camino signage and enthusiasm notably improved since leaving the coast ... settled and showered by 7.45 and new experience of evening menu del dia means another late night ... tomorrow's stage is 25 with climbing, so early start not required ... and given the forecast of rain a rest day is an option. .. a decision for the morning ...

Monday, 1 April 2019

Ribadesella to Vilaviciosa

As a contrast to the heat-free Albergue in Llanas, the 2 star pension in Ribadesella is comfy but overheated ... fine for drying socks, not so good for sound sleeping ... tonight it's back to an Albergue, this time with two others in the dorm ... Daniel from Germany and Mackie from the Czech Republic ... so far ...

Another early start and glorious over the bridge and along to Vega on quiet roads and tracks .. at Vega Beach there are several bars ... all closed at 9 on a Monday morning ... no pressure, since coffee was found in Ribadesella ... after Vega a Spanish pilgrim, Manuel, appears ... walking in stages from his home in Santander ... finishing today in Colunga and setting a swift pace ... possibly trying to escape ... a teacher of Spanish to immigrants in Torrelevega, a job he finds very satisfying, we converse in Spanish all the way to Colunga, where he heads for his bus ... the clock shows 9, but it is noon and after tortilla, juice and coffee its a more sedate pace for the afternoon 17km, with some climbing and no services until Vilaviciosa, where the people are really quite peaceful ... arrival is too late for lunch and too early for supper, so it's snacks and fruit and pilgrim conversation ... fascinating as always ... other pilgrims about, but not at this hostel ...

Sunday, 31 March 2019

Llanas to Ribadesella ...

Clocks go forward an hour, though Sun is up only a little earlier ... breakfast at Albergue, coffee, juice, bread and jam a wise choice, since first open cafe on the road arrives 3 hours later after a coastal track, some woods, a little road ... shorts on as Sun comes up and gorgeous all the way to Casa Raul near Navas for fresh orange juice and good coffee though no meat-free pinchos to be found ... never mind, Sun brings energy directly and almost half the stage is done by 11 ... an hour later Nueves appears with lots of cafe choices including tortilla ... after that it's a steady plod mostly on dirt tracks all the way to Ribadesela by 3 and a filling menu del dia before looking for a bed ... which turns up in a 2 star pension for a little comfort after yesterday's austere delights alone in a 6 bed dormitory with heating spared and three blankets to keep warm ... proper sleeping bag skipped for sake of weight and volume in the pack ... possibly a problem in busy hostels, but they seem very quiet now ... no pilgrims seen all day ... perhaps things will pick up for Easter ...

Saturday, 30 March 2019

San Vicente to Llanes. ..

Soaked oats, banana and yoghurt enables extra early exit and epic stage  ... crescent moon in clear dark sky ... uphill for dawning and along quiet roads to Serdio for first coffee at 8 ... quick second coffee at 9 and juice plus pastry at Unquera at 10 ... the last town in Cantabria ... over the river and up to Colombres, where a bus load of children from Gijon are roaming round asking questions ... the teachers trying to get them to speak English (it's important for them) ...

On into Asturias on back roads and hard shoulders with occasional dirt tracks ... feet complain at all the asphalt, left knee joins in, then shoulders ... all connected and conspiring to find softer surfaces and shorter stages ... a brief excursion on coastal tracks lift the spirits, before returning to hard shoulder and lunch an hour before Llanes with extended rest ...

The rather fine town finally arrives at 5, tourist info is open for update on coming stages (each region is responsible for Camino info and infrastructure) ... hostel located in search of pilgrims, absent all day, though there none here ... too early they say ... season starts in May ... except for Germans and the odd Englishman ...

Ribadesella tomorrow perhaps, 32km a little gentler than today's hard 45 ...

And for readers who like pictures, the blog has decided not to load them ... users of FB may find a selection there ...

Friday, 29 March 2019

Santillana to San Vicente

Perfect walking weather for a 30+ stage with sea to the right, snow capped mountains to the left, beautifully restored buildings along the Way. .. early start and brisk pace means San Vicente and main meal of late lunch is reached by 2.30 ... though since the Albergue closed a while back alternative accommodation has to be found ... which turns out to be the rather lovely Hotel Luzon, where Jose Antonio plays the game of haggling with the pilgrim and finds a reasonable offer ...

Before which, a diy breakfast at the Convento is laid out before 7 ... muesli, an apple, coffee, some sliced white bread for toast, skipped for the sake of the stomach ... Lena shows up first, then  Hubert and finally Claudia ... the rest taking it easy ... Remo with inflammation of the leg, advised to rest, but thinking of a few kilometres, others aiming for Comillas, where the Albergue is closed until May, when the main season starts ... ringing ahead to find alternatives ...

The first pilgrim, Peter from Switzerland, appears after Comillas ... fluent in Romansch, German, French, English and Spanish, though more in speaking than listening ... he seeks a dune diversion to avoid the road and asks a passing local, who points the way ... he heads duneward prematurely and has not been seen since ... the river may possibly be forded at the sea, updates if he turns up later ...

Meanwhile, the forecast looks fair for a few days before some rain appears next week ... hopefully not turning to snow on the mountains after Oviedo ...

Tomorrow, out of Cantabria, into Asturias ...

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Santander to Santillana

An early night and an early start sets up a decent first day of 40km  give or take a few miles. .. or kilometres ... since the stage is confusing, with marked routes leading to a stretch where the train is recommended for safety reasons ... experience confirms the danger ... in any case the first bridge available to pedestrians is at Puente Arce where the N611 runs, motorway and railway bridges being downstream ans shorter, but prohibited to walkers ... so, some hard shouldering is chosen since the 611 goes to Torrelavega via Puente Arce ... a tough enough challenge for feet with tarmac all the way ...

So, 7 am is coffee in Santander, 8, first breakfast of tortilla and coffee in the outskirts, 9, second breakfast of fresh orange juice and croissant and after the medieval bridge at Puente Arce a change to shorts since Sun has emerged from clouds and briskly to the impressive chemical factory ... the universe's way of offering contrasts, since beautiful Santillana is coming up ... a barber produces a proper pilgrim short shorn look, not shaven like the Buddhist monks, but short and comfortable ... then a quiet back road with protected pedestrian space all the way to Santillana, Claudia, a nurse from Germany met along the way as she was talking to a Basque cyclist heading home, having been robbed in Llanes ... checking in at the Convent Albergue by 2pm suggests the distance was more like 35 km, but still a good effort for the first day ... perfect timing for a shower, rinse some clothes and hang on the line and off for a filling menu del dia ... enough for today with a little fruit for later ...

The group which has been together along the Way is German speaking, except for Andrea, from Vigo ... as usual they speak English since she speaks that, but not German ...

Tomorrow a 7 am breakfast leaves plenty of time for Comillas or San Vicente de la Barquera, though the Hostel there has closed ... let's see what the morning brings ...

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

Portsmouth to Santander ...

Skipping the party, a peaceful night is passed in cosy cabin without views of the sea to distract and an early walk up, down and around decks remind organism what it's here for, which is to walk ... amongst other things ... the phrase "I'm here to walk" has stuck somewhere in the memory store, wherever that is located ...  the quote from the 40+ km per day woman who resisted the meandering pace preferred by others ... the name lurks in the recesses, though the blog knows if you care to scroll back to a day in the Bierzo region, heading towards O Cebreiro ...

Biscay quite calm, though a brisk breeze brings a swell ... Pont Aven apparently has superior stabilising equipment ... anyway Sun rises in a clear sky and forecast is fine for a few days ... after that, who knows? The pack is light, but sufficient layers are available, including waterproofing, hopefully not needed quite as much as last year's Spring and Autumn outings ...

Early musing processes insights gleaned from the very special Emma ... modelling a human of the future, free from fear and unencumbered with easy access to reading and writing ... not to trivialize the potential for problems with a diagnosis of severe dyslexia, just to note that sometimes a divergent skill set may be a gift disguised ... in an amusing riff on normality, she observes that at her art school eccentricity is highly valued ... prompting recall of K's remark that it is no sign of sanity to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society ... though, of course, cultivating a crazier than thou persona is like cultivating a holier than thou one ... better to feel into one's deepest self and relax ... play the parts that resonate, drop those that don't. .. and in each life we may play many parts, to paraphrase Shakespeare ...

At lunch a conversation with Devonian Michael, on a Pont Aven round trip ... coach to Portsmouth, cruise to Santander, a few hours ashore, return to Plymouth ... it seems the Brittany based crew do three trips from Roscoff before having some days off ... as for the excursion, it seems a fine trip if Biscay behaves ... anyway, it's another way to pass retirement ...

At disembarkment a pilgrim turns up for a conversation in the queue ... a disenchanted social worker from Fordingbridge, taking a break from work and busing it to Irun in the morning to start the Norte from the French border ... no names exchanged or photos ...

At the Hostel Liebanego, near the ferry terminal, bus and rail stations, a rather morose chap finds a room at a slightly higher price than suggested by research, reduced after a friendly haggle ... at Tourist Info a map of the Ways in Cantabria and at the Cathedral a very helpful security guard locates someone to issue a pilgrim passport ... a snack of tortilla and churros with chocolate is enough nourishment after a sedentary day and substantial lunch and an early night calls, ready for a dawn start and a possible 40km tomorrow ... as cities go Santander is amenable, but it will be good to get out and on the road ... Buenos Noches dear readers!

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Towards Santander, slowly ...

Finding flying rather fast and finding train travel often convivial, the Camino is set to start in Santander ... some forward planning ensures economical tickets to Portsmouth Harbour via London ...  two buses lead to Durham and then a fast enough train where the gods of ticketing kindly connect with a premature pilgrim - the delightful Emma, who walked to Santiago from Lisbon with her father last summer ... and found it inspiring and rather hot ... a student at Glasgow School of Art, she is returning to see her family in Penge  and open to a three hour conversation about what's going on beyond the mundane world ... a generous hour and twenty minutes to reach Waterloo is swiftly walked in less than half that time, stretching the legs and testing the weight of the pack, which seems fine, even with food prepared for today on the train and tonight and tomorrow on the boat ... not so much from parsimony, more a wish to use up food stocks, waste being something to avoid where possible ... the London skyline from Waterloo Bridge radically changed since the bus driving years, poor old St Paul's dwarfed by weird shaped office towers thrusting to the skies, symbols of Mammon ... Portsmouth train offers a contrast with few passengers and no apparent pilgrims ... and for future reference Portsmouth Harbour is rather large and its train station is not close to the continental ferry port ... still check-in is timely enough and a rather over rigorous security check has a confused octogenarian beltless and confused, not to mention a peaceful pilgrim having a Swiss army knife scrutinised for terror potential ... after which, with queue building and departure time approaching, passengers were waved through ... compact cabin located, entertainment ensues, food and drink abounds and it's party time all the way to Spain. .. and a calm sea for the Bay of Biscay, hopefully ... anyway the connections all worked, Santander tomorrow evening, maybe Santillana del Mar for day one of the walk ... let's see!

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Spring 19

After joining the rest of Nature in a winter retreat, Spring inspires a train and ship trip to Santander and the previously imagined Camino Primitivo, along the coast for a few days, down to Oviedo, over the mountains to Santiago and on to Finisterre ... maybe three weeks, then see what's next ... return tickets avoided in order to keep the options open and the mind free to wander ... home base in Stanhope still only tenuously held and disposing of it and the car always in the possibility field ... Stanhope itself continues to nurture and friends encourage the regular excursions ...

Defining Spring is not simple, of course ... by calendar it's the 1st of March, by the vernal solstice, the 20th ... a week of warm weather mid-February seemed like Spring as did the perceptible return of the light, enabling early morning walks to greet the Sun. ..

Today's wet day looks like the end of a stormy period and a chance to resume writing after the winter rest ... plenty of reading though, topping up before the book-free walking time ... Charles Eisenstein's "The Ascent of Humanity" offering support for current world view, especially on the major error of humans in thinking ourselves as separate from Nature ...

Meanwhile, another contemporary guru, Mooji, stands accused of abusing his position of power ... allegations of sexual misconduct and beef eating amongst the allegations ... the kissing of feet and according the guru the status of a god are indications of gullible disciples, themselves complicit in the inflated ego almost inevitable in such cases ... and having no personal experience of the guru, who was away from the Monte Sahaja ashram each time I passed through nearby Sao Teotonio, no opinion is offered ... only observation that K's teaching about avoiding gurus is followed here and the question of energy trading examined again ....

Volunteering opportunity at the Brockwood Park 50th anniversary reunion means three weeks in August with the K tribe ... before that some local volunteering at the Land of Joy next week to complement occasional minibus driving with Weardale Wheels to Meals ensures some balance for the seductive solitude ... and Andrew Harvey, on You Tube, a guru with lots to teach, though not apparently gathering disciples, was elected a Fellow of All Souls, Oxford, many years ago and horrified to find himself surrounded by men running the country exhibiting signs of being psychopaths. .. perhaps a book or two to be ordered for the library, still mostly stored away as alcove awaits competent carpenter ... Sacred Activism is his current thing, prompting introspection on how to be an activist for good without falling into the trap of political polarity ... Thay's example during the Vietnam War was to promote peace without supporting either side, which did not endear him to the winners who made him unwelcome in his own land until his recent return to his root monastery as he prepares to die ... Harvey meanwhile contributed to the seminal work "The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying", which maintains that fundamentally there is no dying ... as experienced floating off the coast of Portugal ... Sogyal Rinpoche, main author of the book, himself in disgrace after sexual misconduct allegations ... this ancient drive so often the downfall of the powerful, even when money love is transcended ...

Rain eases as river spills over and rushes towards Sunderland and the sea ... a brief visit to feel the power and take a photo for you, dear neglected reader(s) ... ten days until Spain again and the long winter evenings have yet again not been spent improving language skills ... strangely unmotivated even though a working knowledge of Spanish would be helpful in the coming adventure .... perhaps Maria at the Land of Joy next week will help improve the Portuguese instead ...

Sunday, 27 January 2019

The Cosmic Hologram

Harari is replaced by Jude Currivan, discovered on You Tube, her latest book The Cosmic Hologram arrives via Hive, your ethical alternative to the tax avoiding, bookshop destroying, worker exploiting Amazon ... not just bookshops but most of the High Street under threat if we allow it ... Hive promotes local independent bookshops and donates cash on every sale to support them practically ...

Before leaving Harari, who claims to meditate for two hours every day, an observation on his residual conditioning, which allows the dismantling of Syria as part of the ongoing U.S. plan to rearrange the oil fields to their advantage, to be referred to as the Syrian Civil War ... lazy language, though perhaps not different from calling the 1936 military insurrection, supported by the Catholic Church, to destroy the democratically elected government, the Spanish Civil War. Harari also, though identifying as a liberal secular Jew, finds it acceptable to characterise the rogue state of Israel, which has ignored dozens of warnings fron the UN over its violation of human rights, as a civilised nation. Still, his book is worth a look, along with his previous Sapiens and Homo Deus ...

Currivan's cv is compelling, with a combination of scientific training, including an Oxford Masters in Physics, focusing on quantum and cosmology, and a sense of the numinous starting at the age of five and miraculously surviving through the rigours of an academic system geared to suppress ways of seeing not currently in the mainstream ...

The book is hard going for one not used to scientific concepts ... and swiftly disposes of the Many Worlds Interpretation, a story faintly integrated into the W&D worldview. .. an infinite and eternal universe also is disposed of ... the problem of what lies beyond dealt with by positing our universe as only the latest in an infinite cosmic plenum ... let's see how the rest goes, though she is quite persuasive ...

Meanwhile, morning walks turn bracing as snow arrives beautifully on the hills ... a snowy owl flies close by magically. .. feet think they are resting with two or three hours walking daily, legs happy to move and whole organism fires up for its own sake each day and in preparation for longer stages with full pack in Spring ... March or April maybe ... as for looming EU exit it's unclear why a crisis is called for ... what exactly will change except for different queues at passport control ... delays on freight ins and outs as tariffs are sorted and maybe a new smuggling opportunity all round, especially on the proposed new EU land border in Ireland, though an all Ireland solution might look attractive to some if not the DUP ... all the more reason to encourage a referendum on the question ... after all they manage to play rugby under one banner without any noticeable problems ...

What with reading, walking, visiting and occasional minibus driving time passes gently and spaciously ... this retirement idea a liberation indeed ...

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Stories

A rest from K story means contemporary philosopher Yuval Noah Harari's "21 Lessons for the 21st Century" has a turn and sets off the mind on a tangent with his story of the 3 competing macro stories of the 20th Century - Communism, Fascism and Liberalism ... suggesting that whilst the first two were archived, the survivor is currently struggling, with no clear successor in sight ... sceptics will note reworking of the first two as reactions to the obvious failures of the third ... whilst Charles Eisenstein and friends are writing a New Story with "The Beautiful New World Our Hearts Know is Possible" ....

The worlds as stories is not a new idea of course ... Shakespeare, said to have covered all available stories in their essence, gave us "All the world's a stage ..." to ponder ... the insight from the fuller quote is to remind us not to take ourselves too seriously, whilst choosing and playing our roles authentically, as if they were real ... beyond the roles, as previously observed, no substantial individual self is to be found ... whether this realisation is experienced as liberation or not is apparently dependent on our preparation for such disturbing news ... ongoing acceptance dependent on resisting the trap of the Gurus, who, having seen it, fail to notice the persistent, pesky little ego returning to bask in new found fame ...

Using the frame of nestled hierarchies, we might imagine stories within stories within stories at all levels ... the macro stories mentioned above as micro stories at cosmic scale suggesting the insignificance of our little dramas ... maybe a misreading of the nature of Infinity and Eternity and the potential for each of us to create our own stories, therefore realities, therefore worlds. ..

Meanwhile, in Stanhope, the weather turns cold and clear, ideal for early walks through the woods and over the fells ... later walks a little marred by the custom of heather burning as part of the management of the land for rearing grouse so wealthy killers may satisfy their blood lust by blasting semi-tame birds for sport ... the Buddhist story might point out the Karmic perils in such activity, though reincarnation is by no means fully embraced in contemporary Western stories, nor anything much beyond a life of slavery and a final exit ... the last chapter, The End ...

A visit to a friend nearing the end continues the question of ongoing consciousness, though as a convert to the once true faith his focus seems on the binary choice of heaven or hell and some doubt about what any of it means ... still, he seems reconciled to departing soon as the system slowly shuts down ... the vital spark flutters persistently,  as often seen, raising the question of conscious dying ...

Energy and its transmuted form, Power, and how the need for it drives the stories is next up ... Sun is still shining and outdoors calls ...

Tuesday, 15 January 2019

More K

The story of Krishnamurti continues to hold the attention, between longish walks and the routine of cooking ... a satisfying creative process with no pressure of disappointing fellow diners since they are rare, especially as the downstairs room continues its slow transformation ...

Mary Lutyens' biography fills out Mary Zimbalist's, whilst a surreptitious peek at the autobiography of Radha Sloss, nee Rajagophal, "Lives in the Shadow of Krishnamurti", offers the suggestion of an answer to the question of her parents' rift with K ... the book itself yet to be sourced, the revelation quite compelling, its suppression by K supporters understandable, if misguided ... truth will always emerge ... if indeed K's oft hinted at sexual experience was with Rosalind ... other devoted female admirers, of which there were many, seem to have been content with platonic love ...

The biographies offer a fascinating perspective on the amazing story, big news worldwide throughout the middle part of the last century, with politicians and celebrities keen to meet K, yet nowadays information is confined to smaller groups, the messenger, despite insisting that it was the message that was important and not the messenger, has left a space yet to be filled ... his insistence on resisting any attempts to form new religions in his name after his death so far observed ... his legacy of schools and Centres in India, England and California still alive ... the question, raised by himself, as to whether any individual has radically transformed as a result of attending the places or studying the teachings is still open .... though it seems that Freedom From the Known played a big part in Wear and Dao, the journey ... enlightenment, however, is not claimed ... though life does become more and more interesting by the day, and Brockwood Park continues to offer a spiritual home ....

Thursday, 3 January 2019

2019

A belated New Year post after the wifi and alcohol free retreat at Brockwood Park ... wonderful connections, new perspectives, fresh information ...  and the simple, clean, warm Centre a welcome respite from house half finished, albeit habitable for one with low standards ... however, a small room upstairs provides a sanctuary for study between morning and afternoon walks ... Mary Zimbalist's "In the Presence of Krishnamurti" providing fascinating glimpses of the prophet and his teachings ... a detective story in itself, appropriate since K and Mary enjoyed reading novels in that genre, as the life they led, travelling between  California, Switzerland, India and England, giving talks to thousands of devotees ... the following that K explicitly warned against consistently ever since quitting the Theosophical Society in 1929 ... having been discovered by Charles Leadbeater and Annie Besant on a beach in India, recognised as the long awaited World Teacher, surrounded by wealthy aristocrats, educated and groomed for his destiny ... naturally many TS folks were not amused, though some stuck with K and others hedged their bets ... hardly surprising if your whole social circle revolves around that esoteric life ...

Mary Z was a relative latecomer, without TS conditioning, and attracted to K's teachings in California before becoming married to Sam Zimbalist, the film director and producer ... a few years after his death she became closer to K and spent the last 17 years of his life dedicated to taking care of him, as companion, administrator, housekeeper and friend ... herself from a wealthy family, she was able to take up the mission without worrying about money, which was just as well, since K's years with Annie Besant, Emily Lutyens and others left him with expensive tastes in clothes, cars and fine food, albeit vegetarian ... none of which infers ego, since he was just about universally recognised as being without one ... simplicity has various levels ...

Much of the book details the long legal battle with renegade TS folks who had control of K's early writings ... Rajagopal and his estranged wife Rosalind, both living in California ... the virulence of these two towards K is only partly explained by the financial aspects of case - copyright issues and lack of transparency in accounting for charitable funds ... what is not mentioned by Mary is the love affair between K and Rosalind, a startling omission and perhaps an attempt to conceal such carnal matters for the sake of K's reputation ... though he never proclaimed celibacy or promoted it as a necessary element in the spiritual life ...

Anyway, the tale continues, Mary Lutyen's three volume biography of K arrives, internet searches reveal other aspects and the detective story unfolds ... not leading to any particular conclusion, least of all about Rosalind, but fascinating to follow the journey of one sometimes referred to as the reincarnated Buddha ...