Thursday 26 April 2012

The Joy of Blog

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One of things about this Blogging thing I find most gratifying is the extraordinary number of nationalities of my visitors. Not all are drawn because of the Camino de Santiago connections either although my post on The Scallop Shell of Love is probably one of the most popular. Another one is Trasna: The Crossing Place, a beautiful poem by Sister Rafael Considine. I was at a local flea market once and noticed a painting on canvas of a simple wooden bridge and a path leading onwards around trhe corner and into the trees. "That's Trasna!" I said. It put me in mind of the ancient bridge you encounter by the shrine just heading out of Tui on the Camino Portuguese. I bought it of course, and now it is on the stairs just as you enter the pilgrim loft at The Little Fox House. My series of LIVE blogs from the Camino Portuguese also attract a fair number of visitors. I have walked the Frances, the Aragones, and a goodly stretch from Le Puy and I can never repeat my first Camino experience,(although I did relive it writing Miranda's story in Pilgrimage to Heresy) but I still recommend the Portuguese as a good first Camino. The albergues are never crowded, the terrain is gentle, the food is good (and the beer is cheap!) and the people are very helpful. It was on the Camnino Portuguese that I met my friend Fernanda who opens her home and her heart to pilgrims every day of the year just 22 klms from Barcelos. I have been back several times to see her and always am welcomed as one of the family. So very special! In fact, it has been folks like Fernanda, Jacinto and Mariana their dancing daughter, and Rebekah Scott and Paddy at Moratinos on the Camino Frances who inspired me to move to the Camino de Muxia and open my own home to pilgrims despues (after) they have finished their Camino. A Casa do Raposito (The House of the Little Fox) is my attempt to "give back" to what the Camino has taught me. The idea of opening a "Post-Camino Sanctuary" has been in my mind for 13 years now, but I needed to see how to do it - i.e. not as an albergue but as a form of "homestay" before I could make my decision to pull up (very shallow) roots in Marbella and dig a deep hole here in Carantona. I love it! So back to my stats: there are 21 countries represented today. Twenty One! And that doesn't include the "unknowns" or the others who have visited before: Korea, Russia, Japan, other countries in Africa and S.E. Asia and S. America. I’ve had visitors from India and Saudi Arabia and even a few from The Vatican! At times the Canadian number is much higher, and at one time I was getting a full 25% visitors from Australia. It is a seasonal thing. Americans remain the highest with a generally high proportion of visitors from the UK. Believe me, I think about each visitor and picture your surroundings as you enter my world. You are all very much appreciated; all 11,000 plus of you in two and a half years. I hope one day to meet you at The Little Fox House, but please don't all come at once. There are only 14 people in the whole village! I am currently putting the final touches to the manuscripts of two books, St James' Rooster - my novel which concerns first archbishop of Santiago, Diego Gelmirez - and The Indalo Quest. Both of these will be available in English in June and as El Gallo de Santiago, "Rooster" will be published in Spanish in September. I hope you will join me on those journeys too. I shall be continuing to blog about the History and Mystery Tours in the Costa da Morte, something I hope to be offering to those of you who can pass my way. There is so much of natural beauty, culture and history here I just have to share. The next one will be about Castros: those vestiges of a Celtic past which can be found all over Galicia and particularly here on the Costa da Morte. In the meantime, please do keep coming. And remember to leave a comment as feedback is every writer's reward. 

Sunday 8 April 2012

The Madwoman of Carantoña, or how Camelia's Babies Found Homes...

Where to start?

When I left Marbella, I had to find a home for Ruby, my lop-eared rabbit, with whom I had frequently learned humility (rabbits are the most misunderstood animals in the world)and frequently cursed for over four years, especially after the last of my ADSL cables got chewed in half!

But I missed her.

In addition to the donkey next door at A Caso do Raposito in Carantona, there appeared some hens and five rabbits. Then four rabbits, then three ... well you get the idea. Rabbit is a delicacy here in Galicia.

Finally we were down to one white rabbit with skew-wop ears and pink eyes who had become my special friend. I went away to Malaga.I said to my daughter: “If she is still there when I get back I am going to ask Alberto if I can buy her and maybe keep her where she is, with the hens.”

Well, guess what? I approached Alberto: “Don’t laugh,” I said (he did; totally cracked up), “but I would like to buy this rabbit, as a pet.” When he had straightened up, he said: “Ay mujer. Es un regalo!” (She’s a gift.) Camelia – for her pink eyes: the flor de Galicia - became mine.

All well and good until three days later she began to tear out chunks of fur: “She is making a nest,” said Alberto: “I think she is pregnant”.

Sure enough, on St.Paddy’s Day there is not one rabbit there are .... many squirmy little things under the fur and hay nest.
When I approached Alberto with certain concerns, he shrugged his shoulders: “They’re yours now,” he said.

What can I say? Like a proud Grandmommarabbit , I waited for them to look less like foetuses and more like rabbits (mice actually); I couldn’t wait for them to open their eyes! And when “Harris”, my favourite, (a little brown and white guy with great markings and an adventurous spirit – I like that in a rabbit) was the first to put his head out of the nesting box – you can imagine how my heart beat with pride.

In the last week, they have become a bit a nuisance to Camelia who clearly is a Feminist rabbit. They have started to eat “grelos” (Galician cabbages, which is a good thing because here we grow little else) and my nightly carrots and apple are a big hit. So, Mama is no longer necessary and waiting for a reprieve.

“I think it is time for them to have new homes,” I said to Balbina, Alberto’s mom, yesterday.

Now, first I have to explain: as far as Alberto was concerned they were no concern of his. But, Balbina is a Gallego widow. She dresses in Black. And (forgive me but I must) she knows the value of a buck.

I should have seen it coming: “The mother is yours, of course,” she said, “but the babies are mine. Soon we will take them from her and fatten them up with corn.”

“To eat?” I said. It was probably rhetorical. It was certainly pre-hysterical.

Si!” said Balbina, rubbing her substantial tummy. “Y muy ricos!”They were going to take my babies and ......ay que no puede ser...!
I want to buy them,” I said trying to keep the tears from my eyes. OK, so it was a bit impulsive.

Pues...” said Balbina suddenly turning into Shylock: “they are worth 6 euros a kilo when they are grown.”

A kilo ... oh my! Pass me the smelling salts!

“I’ll give you 10 euros each,” I said. “Eighty euros for all of them.” Meanwhile my other self was saying: “Are you MAD!!!?”

“I’ll have to talk to Alberto,” was the reply and sure enough, a half an hour later I had legal ownership of all eight of the rabbits I had formerly worried about finding homes for!

Today, I took the whole rabbit kit and caboodle to Santiago de Compostela. They stayed in the car park while I went to mass, but then I skrewed up my courage and retrieved them. “Where shall we go?” I asked them.

By that time, the cathedral steps were almost empty. I walked for a time realising that people were attracted to the sign but that no-body had` tried to wrest the cat carrier full of conejitos from my grasp. I chose a space where the two main streets divide in the old town. I sat....

For two minutes! I attracted a crowd. “Ayyyy! Que bonitos son...” and she took Harris, my favourite; the only male and the only one I had named.
WELL! If I could only do a book signing with this success. At one time there were two women arguing over which white ones to take. “Ayyyyyy. Que preciosa!,” she looked at her husband/partner. “Podemos...?”“Si te quieres.....”Finally, there was one white one left. The rest had `gone in under 30 minutes complete with my favourite shoes’ boxes (my beautiful and expensive Georges Reichs are now desnudo in the closet). One lovely gay waiter finally gave in: “I had to wait for my break,” he said. “Ayyyyyyy, que preciosa!” He gave me my only donation: Five euros .(I didn’t really press the point).

40 minutes, no mas!!! I had made the reverse of an investment by 5 euros. And I could not have been happier if I tried!!! Eight baby rabbits with homes; eight people really happy with their new pets. If there was money in this I might throw over the writing game and...

People were SO grateful when I wanted to be so grateful to them, for restoring my faith in humanity and reminding me that not EVERYONE licks their lips when they see rabbits. The horror on their faces when I pointed out the part on the sign which said: “No somos para comer” (we are not for eating) reminded me that some creatures – maybe just the cute ones, I don’t know – are just untouchable when it comes to butchering and eating.

What a great way to spend Easter Sunday!

But Camelia’s sex life is OVER!!!

There is now a pig next door... I have given him a name too. It is “Roast”.

Nunca Mais!!! Galego por: Never Again!