She sat with all her friends on that great day,
New friends she'd made when walking on the Way,
And many more she knew, but not their names,
Here, in the Cathedral of Saint James.
You might mistake her for an Aussie chick,
Except, instead of saying "deck", she says "dick",
And every night a hiddy beer she sps
And washes down he briddy fsh and chps.
And if she meets her friends when on the go,
T'is not "G'day mate," but "Y'alright Bro."
And proud she is to be antipodean,
But no, her land is not marsupial-ion.
By now you've guessed a Kiwi lass she was,
That land whose flag resembles that of Oz,
So they designed a new one, as they would,
But then rejected it. No bloody good!
"I guess we'll keep the old one," said the boss.
Despite its Union Jack and southern cross.
Perhaps those Aussie bastards over there,
Will change their flag. After all, fair's fair?
Her folks were not religious, born or bred,
No holy roller crap for them, they said.
No Sunday school for her, or catechism
She knew less of Holy Writ than Hinduism.
Her father said, "It's all a bloody hoax.
I'm gunna have a beer with the blokes."
Her mother said, (She's quite a nervous Nelly)
"You go, my dear. I'll stay and watch the telly."
T'was now her very first time in a church.
Perhaps her folks had left her in the lurch!
But if at times she felt quite overwrought,
I'll just do as others do, she thought.
And so she stood and sat and knelt in time
Through holy creeds and prayers and sacred mime,
And if she didn't understand a word,
At least she didn't feel a total nerd.
And then the ritual ringing of the bell.
What's happening now, she wondered. Who can tell
What's next in this strange theatre of sorts?
She sat with nervous, apprehensive thoughts.
And when some people rose and left the pew
To take communion, she got up too.
She followed them, not knowing what they sought,
I'll just do as others do, she thought.
She waited with the others in a line.
A nice man all in white then made a sign,
And from the holy wine he took a sip
And put a sacred morsel on her lip.
O how pleased she was at such an act
Of hospitality, the wafer still intact
And in her mouth. But then, she ate the bread
And savoured it, and to herself she said:
"How nice! I'd have another one of those.
Quite thin, but tasty, bit like Aunty Flo's.
There's probably not enough for all us lot
Or I'd go back for seconds like a shot."
Communicants in silent prayer return.
And so she follows them, without concern,
And says to friends beside her on the seat,
"How nice to give us bikkies for a treat!"
One of the joys of the first day in Santiago, after sleeping in, is breakfast, knowing that you will not have to leave in a few minutes and start walking. I lingered a while, and then walked up to the cathedral for the pilgrims' mass.
There were more beggars than ever before, some sitting, heads bowed in silent hope, others more agressive, wandering among clients at the tables or accosting pilgrims as they filed into mass. There were no Galician pipes in the tunnel at the side of the cathedral, but a musician playing an Elvis tune on a strange mouth instrument with a keyboard.
Love me tender,
Love me sweet,
Never let me go.
A bearded, gilded, silvered Saint James was trying to keep steady in the wind. I was watching the tourist train with Muson River on the engine and Dotto on the carriages, when I was summoned by a few of the Primitivos, Paul and Mary and Earl and Virginie. We went into the mass together.
Inside, I found a nice possie at the base of a column in the transept, thinking that this time the censer would sweep over my head, but then a young lady came and stood in front of me so I couldn't see, and an old lady with a large posteria sat down beside me and gradually edged me off my stone perch. So I stood for much of the time through the creeds, the Pater Noster, the Homily, the collection and Communion.
I thought of the New Zealander whose tale I have told above. It may be, as they say, apocryphal, but I heard it second hand.
Much of the service was sung by a nun with a beautiful, pure voice. She was participating as much as the rules allowed I suppose, for the rest was carried on by priests from around the world. Then came the moment we had all been waiting for, a thundering of the organ, and then,
Nothing! Where were the little men in red robes? Where was the swinging censer?
Across the church from side to side it swings
And as it passes through the air it brings
Fire, and flaming frankinsense to quench
With purifying scent, the pilgrims' stench.
Apparently, no one had paid the €150 necessary to get the censer-swingers out of bed. I asked for my money back, the few coins I had put in the collection box, but to no avail.
Outside, the huge plaza in front of the cathedral was a place of poignant meetings and emotional arrivals. Most moving of all was the arrival of an incapacitated man in a wheelchair, who had been wheeled in his chair from Roncevalles.
Of course, who should I meet but Judith and Jurgen.
It is impossible to exaggerate the variety of shape and size and age and race of pilgrims who arrive in this town, singly, in pairs, and in groups, with and without poles, and wearing caps, hats, scarves and toques. And there were as many selfie-sticks as hiking poles.
How lucky we have been with the weather on this walk! Only twice, I think, did I put on my poncho.
At last I have achieved a certain fame as a pilgrim, not in my own country, or in France or Spain, but in Japan. I was strolling through the town, holding my Compostelle in its cylindrical tube, when I was approached by a tour guide leading a group of Japanese tourists. Could they, he asked politely, see my Compostelle? Of course, I said, pulling it out and unrolling it in front of me. Ah so, they said, and snap, snap, snap, snap, snap. And then, even more politely, could they see my pilgrim's passport? I unfolded it, displaying all the stops from Santona to Santiago. They were even more delighted. Thank you, thank you, thank you, they said, and we wished each other well
Tonight I leave for Bilbao on the overnight bus, a painful journey, with stops at many of the towns along the Camino del Norte. All being well, I will make the connection with my flight to Munich, and then on to Toronto and Victoria.