Camino 16: The call.

A hand cranked water pump – not working.

1st June 2010

Woke to yet more rain so we tried M’s idea of removing the inner tent and storing it separately to keep it dry.  By the time we had packed up the rain had stopped but it stayed grey and threatening all day. Made our way out through the town.  Met a German couple having a fierce argument because the balises had been re-routed to take us out along the town side of the river which was nicer and which had pavements.  The upwards and seemingly endlessly upwards and a lot of the walk (31-32K) on the roads.  It certainly seemed endless and grinding.  At the very top of the section we stopped for a rest and some chocolate on a forest track.  I fell asleep and M woke me and there was the most lovely hare staring at us from about 20 feet away.  When it spotted us it loped away, but minutes later it was back on the track quite unconcerned as we were sitting very still.

Made it to Cajarc completely exhausted.  GR65 took us right round the outside of town and the campsite was on the river on the way out.  As we’ve become familiar with, the site was open but building work was not finished and most of the facilities unusable.  Met Alain and his wife again.  His feet are so sore he’s wearing women’s plastic sandals – identical to his wife’s – and women’s knee length tights.  Very funny.   Put tent up and wandered off into town.  Absolute stunner – perfect SW France town.  Had a couple of beers, bought breakfast and ate burgers and chips at a local restaurant.  Brilliant.  Bed at 9.00 with a couple of ibuprofen for the feet and slept 10 hours.  I’m losing one toenail, and the blister plasters were stinking so I changed them. 


It was as we approached this large pond – designed I suspect for washing sheep – that Madame phoned and told me about the imminent arrival of the bailiffs. Someone very close to us; a student living away in Cornwall had adopted – let’s say – a relaxed attitude to grown up concerns like paying the rent and communicating with the bank, and so the grown up world was biting back. It wouldn’t have been so worrying except for the fact that we were his permanent address and guarantors and so the bailiffs seemed to be coming after us!

I’ve hesitated for ages before writing up this section of the journal but I’m writing it now because it needs to be said that life at home doesn’t stop just because you’re on a pilgrimage. Every step you take you’re accompanied by the normal everyday constellation of worries and all of your history. You can’t find yourself by becoming a pilgrim. At best you can find a bit of yourself you’d never discovered before, but unfortunately it might not be that much coveted halo of sanctity; it might be the fact that you’re a pretty dreary person who can’t manage without all the familiar things at home. What I did know at that point that I was being relentlessly ground down by living so uncertainly, but also by the knowledge that I’d walked out on Madame one spring day without really explaining what I was trying to achieve, and leaving her to cope with a full time job and a situation with legal consequences. In the hierarchy of concerns, my pilgrimage limped home well below the responsibility for a young person with a history of serious self-harm, hovering on the edge of disaster. We needed each other, me and Madame, as much as he needed us – however hard he pushed back.

I couldn’t really bring myself to talk to M about it but it seemed as if a dark cloud had begun stalking us. There was a decision to be made where either choice – to continue or to give up – involved a lot of hat eating; a crisis, even, without the tiniest opportunity for any heroism on my part.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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