Camino de Madrid

Camino de Madrid
Camino de Madrid

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Day 32. April 10, 2017. Asturianos to Puebla de Sanabria. 14 kms.

She may very well pass for forty-three

In the dusk with the light behind her


The little hostel with its six beds was full last night, and that meant that I had a sleeper above me, Michael the German, in fact. As he turned over in the night I would feel the bunk sway. Jac the Dutchman, who is a big man, had told the story at supper about being in the top bunk of a triple decker on the Camino del Norte, and as he moved about, the whole structure swayed alarmingly like a sailing vessel at sea, and the people below panicked and made ready to abandon ship.

We had a late supper at the Bar Carmel,  which had a reputation for doing decent meals, but also for the presence of a "grumpy landlady" who had become something of a Camino legend. I didn't know what to expect and I ordered a lentil dish for my first course and steak for the second.

Suddenly we were all startled out of our wits by a piercing female voice coming from someone who looked like a cross between Katisha and an East German weightlifter gone to seed.

Now I have mentioned the shouting of Spanish men in the bars, but they were mere whispers compared to this woman's voice. We cowered back in our chairs as she continued to shout. What was she saying? We looked at each other in alarm.

Fortunately, we were rescued by a young man, perhaps he was the son, who appeared from the bar next door, and offered to translate for us. She's saying that you can't have lentils, he said. So I settled for chick peas, and all was well.

Nowadays, most people won't find Katisha very funny. She belongs to that tradition of British humour that made fun of unattractive women. Katisha was an old maid, who was desperate to marry Nanky Poo, but had to settle for Koko. 

My love of classical music really begun with G&S. I had a friend in grade 12 who was singing in the Mikado, and I went along to the Capitol Theatre to see the show, and I was hooked. 

I bought, or my mum bought for me, the Doyle Carte comic operas, not operettas as some people persist in saying, and played them again and again. I still know many of the songs by heart.

It is a great joy to walk in the early mornings. There is an almost timeless tranquility, a soft light, and the only sound the chattering of the birds. And the colours!  In this early spring, dead brown leaves leaves are still hanging on some of the branches, and the furry lichen on the oaks is a  colour almost impossible to define, a kind of melange of grey and green and white. Some green is evident in the shoots of young trees and the stranglehold of parasitic vines. And of course the cherry trees are "wearing white for Eastertide".

As I entered the village of   I noticed a series of steps jutting out of a stone wall, 


and a tiny little bridge which perfectly illustrated the principle of the Roman arch. 


Who had climbed these steps or walked over this little bridge, I wondered.

It's a bit like looking at old photographs that capture brief moments of time. Who were they? What were they saying? What were they doing on that day? I look at my parents' old albums and see my grandparents and great uncles and great aunts, frozen in black and white in their stern hats and Victorian caps. Once every few years they come alive for a few moments and then they are forgotten. And I don't even know the names of most of them.

It will be worse for us. We won't even survive on photographic paper. For a short time we'll be a few miserable megabytes of memory on a computer, and then Click! Off we go to the junk folder, where we'll survive for a few weeks in digital purgatory where salvation is still possible, until the computer eventually decides we are a waste of space.

Thou art lost and gone forever. Dreadful sorry.

After these gloomy thoughts, I came upon the little Romanesque church at Otero de Sanabria. There was a brigade of cleaners entering the church with buckets and mops, and I was welcomed inside. It was stunning. Now I'm  not one for ornate decoration, and every square inch of surface wascovered with paintings or carvings, but this church was quite beautiful. The ceiling above the altar was painted in the 12th,the wooden retablo was added in the 14th, and the rest of the decorations were painted in the 18th.


I thought it was as beautiful as any cathedral.  A girl told me that in winter they may have as many as 30 congregants, and in summer this number would swell to 60. That's enough to fill the church. 

Dare I say I was drawn back? I returned for a second look, and almost a third.

I walked a few kilometres farther on to Puebla de Sanabria and checked in at the Albergue Casa Luz. Only 14 kilometres today, but I have to look after my feet. The smudgeons are becoming bludgeons.

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