So all day long the noise of battle rolled
Yesterday, about 1200 years ago, I might have seen Charlemagne and Roland on their way to fight the Moors at the Battle of Roncevalles. Today, just over 200 years ago, I might have met the forces of Wellington coming towards me to confront the French. Had those campaigns gone the other way, we might not have been singing the Messiah every Christmas. We might not have been singing at all. But sometimes it doesn't work out so well. Think how different the world might have been if Al Gore had beaten George Bush.
Today, I followed the path across the hills. I climbed steadily into gentle rolling hills and caught my first glimpse of the coast. This was not wild country. Everywhere about me I could see the little white houses with their orange tiled roofs. Then I was cutting across country along a rough dirt road.
To one side of me was a dense maple forest, and on the other, the redoubt, the fortifications surrounded by a deep ditch, constructed during the Revolution to counter Royalist troops, and then used again by the French to stop Wellington's army as he marched up from Spain. The dirt road was worn down to bedrock, and I could imagine Wellington's troops dragging their cannon up this road. Apparently 400 French died on one day.
Then down to cross the Nivelle at Pont d'Amotz. I made a little detour to see the old bridge. You come across these ponts romains everywhere in France, named for the style of architecture rather than their date of construction. Some are Roman; others, medieval. Of this one, one arch remained, trees growing out of it.
Then I climbed again towards Mont Suhamendi. On the way up I passed a parcel of Brits on a walking tour, strung out in dribs and drabs along the track, some walking, some resting, some eating. By the time I had reached the last one I had quite a full picture of their itinerary for the day.
I read an article in the Guardian yesterday saying that the Norwegian prime minister keeps her mobile phone in her bra. I wonder where our prime minister keeps his.
I came down from Mount Suhalmendi into what seemed to be a large mountain park. Gorze and heather grew on the Rocky slopes, and wild horses roamed at will. And on the slope to my left as I walked down towards Ascain was an example of European funding at its most enlightened. Scattered along the hillside at intervals of about 200 yards were little pig runs, a dozen or so, each with a shelter and water trough on a concrete base. The purpose of the project was to allow the pigs to live in the fresh air and roam freely. Two Basque porkers were already in residence at one of the sties. I asked them what it was like to be the first to live in this progressive community. "Four legs goooood, two legs baaad!" they said.
What enlightened government policy! Our government turns a blind eye while hog producers build bigger and bigger barns to cage more and more pigs that will never see the light of day. Here they were living en pleine air.