I have fallen into good fortune
It was not a very happy evening Chez Ghislaine. The three-storey house was something of a menagerie. She had two cats of her own, and her daughter who was staying with her had brought along two dogs and several cats as well. During the afternoon I heard a tremendous commotion and much squealing. I thought that perhaps one of the dogs had gone for a cat, but no, one of the dogs, frightened by thunder, had attacked the other and bitten off part of its ear.
The aggressor had formerly been a fighting dog, before the daughter had rescued it, and in its panic, had reverted to what it had been trained to do. Surely it would have to be put down, but really, it is the men who train animals to fight, against their nature, who deserve that fate.
Ghislaine was understandably upset, and she couldn’t devote her full attention to the preparation of the meal, but did my washing, gave me a snack for the day, and was not at all expensive.
There are certain hazards on the Camino. You might fall in the water as you’re stepping from stone to stone as you cross a stream or you might take a tumble as you’re going down a stony path. But the exterior hazards are nothing compared to those in the old buildings we stay in. There is the circular staircase which descends around a central axis, with no width to the step on the inside. And there are unexpected rises or falls from one level to another as you move from room to room. In the night, if you’re not careful, you stub your toe or step out into space. At Ghislaine’s there was a treacherous staircase without a railing but a thick nautical rope instead.
I left the gîte, crossed the bridge, walked for a few yards along the road and then climbed up the rocky path to the 17th century chapel. Abandoned in 1892 and restored a century later, it is quite beautiful inside with simple drawings of pilgrims on the wall, nothing excessive.
Thinking about the Church and its excesses, I recalled that abortion will now be legal in Ireland. Personally, I agree with the Church that life begins at conception, but I think the decision whether or not to end it, is the woman’s. Anyway, I gather the result was decisive. The Irish may have been persuaded by a slogan carried by one of the advocates for abortion:
Keep your rosaries off our ovaries.
A brilliant slogan that, and I was challenged to think up similar ones for future protests against the Church’s excesses.
Keep your beeds away from our seeds
Self-expression, not intercession
Profligacy, not celibacy
To no avail. It kept me occupied for several kilometres, but I could not come near the brilliance of the Irish slogan.
By then I had walked into a new valley, along streams, through cherry orchards and plum trees, past a farm with bleating goats, and through fields of grain sprinkled with poppies and corn flowers
When I first started walking in France almost fifteen years ago the grandes randonnées were marked by red and white horizontal stripes painted on poles or stones or walls or trees. Often these had faded over time, eroded by the sun and the wind and the rain, or the trees had protested against this offence to their person and had simply grown through the paint. Sometimes as well there were red and yellow markings indicating not a grande but a petite randonnée, a local circuit. But that was all you would see.
Today some of these old markings remain but most have been replaced by plastic. And they have been joined by markers in different designs and colours for other local and regional walks, sometimes stretching for several feet up the pole. I suspect that it won’t be long before the guardians of these trails recognize that this use of plastic runs contrary to their environment principles.
Eventually, I left the valley and started to climb, up and up and through a pass into the next valley. I had gained 1600 feet since leaving Chavanay this morning. A few kilometres further on I reached Saint-Julien. I had booked a place at a gite, but found myself alone in a depressing building with no shops or restaurants open where I could eat or buy food, so I left and moved to a chambre d’hôtes Chez Frank Pennet. I was lucky. Just as I arrived, the rain which had been threatening all day set in for good.