The last autumnal crocus
The day was fine but cold, a chilly wind at my back, but the sun came out mid-morning and made for very pleasant walking. I trekked along minor roads and country lanes, brambles on either side, and at times the track was deep in the earth, twelve feet below the fields. How had this happened, I wondered. Was this a constructed road or an ancient track worn down over the centuries by horses' hooves, wagon wheels, or even marching legions?
I ate lunch in a field with my back to an old gum tree-ee. It was an idyllic moment, all alone, with the sun in my face, and such a gentle breeze stirring the leaves, already turning, even falling some of them, birch and poplar.
As I ate, a couple of young girls passed, one Czech, the other Hungarian, who had become friends on the Camino, and I reflected on others who would never have met otherwise, the German and the Pole, the Israeli and the New Zealander, all unlikely liasions. A good reason for walking alone, I think, unless you are partners.
I pressed on. Conkers cracked and their soft spiny coats squished underfoot. Crocuses appeared along the edge of the lane, some snapped, not by frost, but by careless pilgrims' feet. And a very strange assortment of mushrooms, some like something Coleridge might have dreamed up, another more like a ripe tomato.
Stone slab walls enclosed many of the fields, and I saw the same slabs used as a roof of a barn.
Another entrepreneur had driven his car towards oncoming pilgrims, handing out leaflets advertising a private albergue, in town rather than one kilometre before, at 10€ rather than 6€, and I decided it was worth the premium for a little more room and the certainty of hot showers.