Monday, 27 July 2009
Company on the Road...
Sunday July 19th: (Readers please note: I notice that I am once again weaving backwards and forwards in tense and time. I am sure you will understand why, only please don't let Begoña, my editor, find out. Also, since all of this is done in an internet cafe in Santiago mas tarde I am sure you will excuse the occasional typo...?)
My Edilesa/El Pais guide out of Pontevedra appears to miss all the most interesting historical bits so I decide to do some waymarking of my own and find that this must have been the original way, judging by all the crosses and churches. I am stopped by three young people. "Santiago?" the tall man asks me. I nod. He asks me where I started and looks impressed. I am surprised as surely a lot of pilgrims pass this way (actually only 2% as it happens). He seems interested and I encourage him to walk, even from his own city.
Bet there will be one more Spanish entry in the pilgrim statistics very soon!
The Church of La Peregrina - the patron of Pontevedra - is closed, even at 10:30 on a Sunday morning so I walk by. I don't mind. I'm not much into Baroque architecture anyway (or is it a bit later?). However, the doors to the Church of San Francisco are open and I go in. I have always had a soft spot for St. Francis (interesting thing I noted in the Basilica of St. Francis in Santiago is that although most of the clergy I have seen so far look like they a octogenarians, Francis still sems to attract younger men into his Order).
I stay for the Mass. I think I have written before that despite the fact that I have serious misgivings about the (Capitalised) Catholic Church I really do love catholic churches, and the consecration of the Mass which I have no difficulty with whatsover. I love symbolism, metaphor in all forms: this to me is the ultimate in poetry.
As I have written in Pilgrimage to Heresy, the Priscillianists refused the transubstation and did not drink wine anyway. One way to find out whether you had a closet Priscillianist in your midst, after Priscillian was executed, was to ensure that the recipient consumed the wafer at the time it was offered. Despite vigorous attempts to stamp it out, and many atrocities commited in the name of the Roman Church against "heresy", Priscillianism not only survived its master's death but grew, even, in Galicia especially, it prevailed. But this is not the place to write about this, though you can be sure I will do so at a later time.
After the Mass, I left Pontevedra rather leisurely visiting an open air antiques market, taking lots of photos of families of cats in the street, and trying to get an African Grey parrot to learn a few simply phrases of English somewhat unsuccessfully, though he did shout "guapa" at me as I was walking away.
Hey, you take compliments where you can get them at my age!
Overlooking the marshes just outside of Pontevedra I see a familiar face wheeling his bicycle. It is Martin the man from Glasgow I met yesterday. It is good to speak in English! He decides that the day is good for walking so the bicycle becomes a third.
One of the things we discuss is the man-with-the-long-grey-hair-tied-at-the-back-two-inches-from-the-end. It turns out it was he who had the unfortunate, and still sound asleep and snoring, pilgrim across from him, turned out into the lobby last night. Martin had talked to "Out Cold" pilgrim this morning and discovered that he was in fact a very depressed individual who had taken rather too many tranquilisers the day before. I find this very sad.
The way is truly beautiful on this stretch and I am enjoying the comnpany having walked alone for so many kilometers. We fall into step both in pace and discussion. Martin is a Catholic from way back who has little time for the church he once left: "What right does the church have to tell me whether or not I want to produce children," he says. "Sex is something that those sad old men should have nothing whatsoever to say anything about." We both agree that love and procreation should not be separate issues and discuss the literacy of the 21st century where the church is failing to keep people poor and uneducated so that they can then interpret what faith should be. And it's true when you think about it: more children = more need for food = less money and time for what used to be an unnecessary education. Of course people lived in fear for their souls! And as Charlotte said to me, way back at Fernanda's: "You only have to look at the incredible control over people's lives the parish priest had since he knew everything about them!"
We reach the village before Barro and Martin makes a reluctant decsion to carry on to Briallos. He has a bike and less time than me. However, we stop into the Bar Pulpo for a hamburger (probably the best on the Camino Portuguese, and they have the pilgrim Sello too) and a beer. Martin treats me, and then he goes on. I sahll miss his company.
It's damn hot! The Albergue in Barro is somewhat "simple" in that it has mattresses on the floor, cold water in the showers, and no cooking facilities. It also is completely deserted! No-one, not even a "worker of the Government" is there to welcome me, and it stays that way until later that evening when in limp two girls. I have misgivings about the company as by then I am rather enjoying having the place to myself. They introduce themselves as Karen and Katrina. Katrina looks to be in bad shape. She is hugging her knee. I ask if it is swollen. "Swollen? No - it HURTS!" she said. I offer a Neurophen which is politely refused: "We are Austrian."
There are no shops and the Bar Pulpo is too far back up the hill. I should have anticipated this (John Walker of the Confraternity of St James: you LIED to me! You say I would be surprised at how many bars and tiendas there are...NOT!) I have water and some bread I saved from yesterday's lunch when I met with Leika the puppy, and that is my supper before an early night.
Never mind, we pilgrims have to suffer these things once in a while to make us appreciate things like good hamburgers!
P.S. If you are a strict vegetarian you might like to think about making another pilgrimage, to Burma or somewhere like that...