Friday, 19 December 2008

'Twas the night before Christmas

Just under 1 week till the end of 2008,and then all being well comes the year of change!
not just for Rosie and me, but for virtually all of our family.Daughter number 3 starts university possible in London,while her older brother graduates and starts his art/music/MacDonald's career in Brighton ,Daughter number 2 concludes her masters degree and starts her plan of world domination somewhat moodily, based somewhere in the midlands (you have been warned!! ) Son number 1 is doing well in education and with Kate producing beautiful grandchildren,
for Sally daughter number 1,2008 has brought big changes,ones that can only make her strongerThe 5 bed roomed family house is now too big and expensive to run,me and Rosie can spend whole days wandering round the house without tripping over each other,but not this time of year,the halls are decked and all are safely gathered in and once more the family home rings to the sound of drums,heated discussions and raised voices some unfamiliar,last night 10 people slept within its walls or at least I think it was 10 its still only early afternoon,plenty of time for more to emerge.
For more than 35 years my needs have not come first,I have been at the end of an ever increasingly long Que,and willingly so ( sound of hollow laughter) other peoples lives were more important than mine,and while they still are, all of my children are over 18 and if not already flown from the nest not far off.
This opens up so many opportunities for me and also for Rosie-bring it on---

Meanwhile this Christmas has a special poignancy for lots of reasons,so I welcome the increased noise level and maybe I can put up with being a taxi driver once again??. Merry Christmas.
Preparations are all in place for the English Camino in February,We are champing at the bit for the challenge, equipment and clothing have all been purchased (mostly online) and we are now ready,believe me I'm so ready.
Have just finished reading a blog.
A young couples Camino to Santiago in the snowy winter months,the man Justin does the whole journey in flip flops!!. It made me smile with the remembrance of what its like to be young and foolish.
I believe that like trees people can be dated by the rings or layers and amount of clothing they carry
I have bought so much stuff off e-bay lately that if you were to cut me in half and count the layers you would think I was ancient,but in my mind I'm wearing flip flops.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008


Each morning we set off and walk 10 km,this time of year it's in darkness and well trod paths become unfamiliar lit by sodium street lights.
Most of the walk is on well lit stretches some across Norfolk marshes and a long cycle path/footpath alongside the railway line pools of light inter spaced with darkness.
even at 6am these footpaths are relatively busy with dog walkers, joggers and people cycling and walking to work,the walk takes in 3 different social areas
The quite residential estate at 6.30am these people mostly office workers and management are still in bed. the second along the railway is a 1960's feeder estate for the large industrial site across the bridge,it is said you can judge how developed a country is by the way it separates traffic from people,this section is uncivilised with bikes coming silently at you from all angles ridden by people with sullen faces all intent on getting to work not liking the hindrance of backpacking hikers with time on their hands.

most of the time we walk two abreast
Ant and Dec style (two tv entertainers who always stand in the same positions) through this section we walk cautiously in single file ready to take avoiding action.
the third section starting through the woods is quite with just the odd walker on his way to work,we pass silently viewing each other with suspicion,no one brave enough to say good morning for fear of inviting a mugging or worse, we have tried greetings in the past only to be met with sullen silence, coming out of the wooded area seems to put a smile back on peoples faces and the odd good morning from the dog walkers and the first batch of joggers flanked by cycle outriders, cross the main road and up the hill to home. This morning we discussed recreating the morning break on the camino and just stopping at home for coffee and then repeating the loop all over again....

Saturday, 22 November 2008

The English Way

El Camino Ingles from La Coruna (or Ferrol) to Santiago de Compostela is just under or over 100km depending which of the two Galician coastal towns you start from.
Initially a landing place for boats from England and Ireland so that pilgrims could avoid the enemy France, fair enough I thought, so as a starter to the main course of the well travelled Camino Frances and thanks to Ryanair me and our Rosie plan to walk "The English Way" in February, when not only will we avoid the French but probably the rest of mankind as well.
This has acted like a bomb being dropped in to our safe cosy walking round the houses like a teddy bear way of training,The excitement is back the thrill of moving out of my comfort zone is a heady thing, This baby-boomer is in danger of becoming an adrenalin junkie I may have to open another packet of ginger biscuits.
Since booking the flights it seems like I haven't been off the computer checking this and that, fun fun fun.
No appropriate photo to post, so here's one of daughter number two after getting a FIRST from Essex University this summer

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Pining for the Rias

Rainy Days and Wednesday always gets me down.
nothing like a damp English morning
in November to get you thinking and planning. I love this part of England
where i now live,Norfolk is beautiful
but there is only so many sun rise sun set pictures you can take without like topol in "fiddler on the roof" be reminded of old age.
and while I'm on song titles as in"Clare to here"
I long to see white horses dance across another
ocean, and where better than the coast of death in green Spain. Galicia with the longest coastline in Spain due to its fjord-like rias .
One of the benefits of old age is you qualify for certain things i.e. in England a free country wide bus pass and in Spain a golden days(yuk) reduction at the "parador" hotels based in grand
buildings. the one on the left is considered Spain's best and is a castle in Bayona
the view out of our window was breathtaking.This harbour first heard the news of the "New World" when Columbus and "Pinto" sailed in.
The view of the pigeon is on the castellated walls of the hotel looking toward "the islas cies"
the view on the right is from a Celtic settlement above "La guardia" the Rio Mino and Portugal
beyond, A beautiful and tranquil place.

( spot the Englishman)
Santiago de compostela

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

I've sunbathed on Kinder

In late summer we had the first proper holiday with just the two of us for 25 years,it rained most of the week but it was bliss and a taste of things to come now our children are all grown up.
As part of our training for the camino we took the caravan and headed for the derbyshire dales the first national park in England which in part came about by the mass trespass on "Kinder Scout"of 500 ramblers in 1932 and immortalised in the song "the Manchester rambler" by Ewan McCall
Kinder at 631 meters is the highest peak in the national park,hardly a mountain, but enough to challenge these Norfolk dwellers.
another reason for visiting derbyshire was my first grandchild she who must be obeyed queen Izzy, a great day was had and I'm fairly sure all got home safely at the end of the day.

The week was made up of mostly low level walks in the rain not too testing for these seasoned walkers,It seems strange to talk in those terms about me and Rosie but seasoned we are, nearly a year into our "new life" and all is well.
This hasn't always been the case 25 years is a long time, half of Rosie's life has been spent with me and while I would like to say its all been sweetness and light I would be lying,but somehow walking gives you the space and time to talk,argue,shout and slag each other off if need be without any distractions or blood being spilt.

The mass trespass of kinder scout was always a major focal point of my fathers life,this pre war mass demonstration of working men demanding the right to roam.
"I'm a rambler I'm a rambler from Manchester way I get all my pleasure the hard moorland way.
I may be a wage slave on Monday but I am a free man on Sunday"
so actually to do the walk and follow in the footsteps of those 500
men who were unable by law to do what I now take for granted .
was something special.

starting from Bowden bridge quarry the first landmark is Kinder reservoir where in 1932 the first fighting took place between the gamekeepers of the duke of devonshire and the 500 hikers, as there was only 30 gamekeepers the fighting didn't last long and the jubilant hikers stormed up to the kinder scout plateau.
I love this picture of Rosie £13000 worth of teeth veneers and breast augmentation hoping to get 500 hikers fighting over her.

A steep walk up a water gully takes you to the ridge below the summit, the main benifit of daily walking isn't that the pain gets easier but the recovery is quicker,this was the point when I first truely realized that the camino was possible.
At this point the long distace walk "the pennine way" crosses kinder.
I was only sitting down to admire the view honest!!

I love looking back on how far and how high you have climbed,
this view of the kinder reservoir seems so far away but only seems moments ago I was taking rosies photo.

Lunch break on kinder with rosie chatting up some old ram

Below rosie in this pic are steep steps into the valley below,you can see the small figures in the distance,
the day we did this climb was the only clear day of the whole weeks holiday.
after the mass trespass 5 people were arrested and later imprisioned but this was the starting point in england of the "right to roam" which went through many changes untill full rights to roam uncultivated land became law in 2003.
As well as a pleasure it was a privaledge to walk on land made possible by a group of working men who not long after fighting for the right to recreation in englands green and pleasant land were fighting other wars.

how would you like to carry my pack on the road to santiago?

-home again home again jigerty jig.
coming to a country near you soon

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

Pilgrimage to New York

Watching the truly amazing story unfold in the American elections,who would have thought it,from Rosa Parks to Barack Obama in my lifetime.
My generation "The Baby Boomers" came through the 60's/70's with a love hate relationship with America, hate for its foreign policy and the uncivilised way it treated some of its citizens.
and love of its culture-music-and great writers.
So despite having done the marching,the demonstrations,the protesting I had always fancied living in Greenwich Village New York,hanging out in Washington Square Park with the rest of the beat generation singing " The times they are a changing" with Mr Zimmerman playing his guitar.
It never happened,mainly due to the lack of money but also London was a happening place too.
last year was a major landmark for me "60 years" and in answer to Rosie's question of where is the one place you have always wanted to go? it was a no brainer.
Delivering 2000 telephone directories and the selling of a original poster from the Spanish civil war on e-bay provided most of the finance and endless surfing the net got us a forth floor illegal sublet apartment on Thomson and Bleeker for one week.
I spent hours on the Internet researching and in particular the Greenwich village web cam on the corner opposite bleeker street and macdougal watching the locals come and go passed the Italian cafe on the corner,impatient to be there.
One long flight two films one mad taxi-ride (he had a map on his knee asking ME for directions) and carrying suitcases up 4 floors and we were there, our own "village apartment" sorry i will just repeat that, our own village apartment, that's what us locals call Greenwich village.
The week passed in a blur so much to do so much to see-No-Ho So-H0 Dumbo-empire state building ( not me,too scared) flat iron building-Ellis island, the statue of liberty, grand central station, time square by day and time square by night but always at the end of the day back home to the village, and back home it truly felt, I could have stayed there the whole week, and longer.

They say that there is always one moment that defines a pilgrimage,mine came at the end of the week, Rosie and number 3 daughter Emily had serious shopping to do and a sex and the city tour to attend. I had one day one whole day to myself,
on the stairs I met a young women and her child struggling with a pushchair, as i gave a hand the child called me daddy,and in my best polite English I said I would love to be but unfortunately i wasn't
the mother then said my accent was charming and was I Australian!!!,I explained who I was, chatted a bit longer and then went on my way.

The day was spent in nostalgic wanderings along well known but unvisited places subway out to Brooklyn heights walk back to Manhattan across the bridge,viewing the place of George Washington's retreat across the east river,subway to the start of bleeker street and walking the whole length right through to the Hudson
Stopping for a break at Washington square park where the students still play guitars but viewed me with suspicion watched the chess matches taking place ,too shy to sit down and play.
walked positively along west 4th street saw the basketball taking place by the subway.wishing I was just a few years younger and able to take part.
Finely sitting down at my cafe on bleeker and macdougal opposite my well watched web-cam ate my meal at the pavement table drinking too much wine ,reflecting how foolish this old man was trying to live the past in this tourist town, when i was hailed from across the street by my neighbor and her child,I smiled and waved back and continued to smile for the next half hour because for a couple of seconds this mother and child had made me feel like a local,sad maybe but this simple greeting made my week.
so all those years ago maybe change was happening and still is " better start swimming or you'l sink like a stone for the times they are a changing"

Friday, 31 October 2008


Yesterday as part of our Christmas preparation we took the car on the ferry across the English channel or "La Manche" as the french call it. Our mission to search out bargains and quality wine, this was made harder by the exchange rate for the English pound (damn those bankers).
Unperturbed we headed north from Calais to just over the Belgium border ( tobacco products and Belgium chocolates) back down through Flanders, a beautiful part of France synonymous with war to the town of bergues famous for its bell tower and its carillon also the setting of the biggest grossing film ever "bienvenue chez les ch,tis" welcome to the sticks.

The film is about northern France and its strange dialect,a "big hearted place where tough centuries have bred not crime and desperation, but warmth ever-open doors and a propensity for simple pleasures" That's what the Internet says, and surprisingly this northern English cynic found it to be true, people smiled spoke to us on the street,the rough looking bar and its chorus of "bonjour madam bonjour monsieur" as we walked in.

This wasn't just Bergues,Our next port of call "cassel" was the same,the town is built on a hill, the only hill for miles in this flat Norfolk like landscape,so much so that the locals call themselves "mountaineer's" its supposedly the hill that the grand old duke of york walked up in the English nursery rhyme, so bearing in mind most of the wars fought here where with the English I've never sat down to a meal with so many people wishing me bon appetite.

I've always hurried through this part of France before in my rush for the south and the sun,i won't make that mistake again.

and now to the main reason for the trip "citi europe" the large shopping centre and hypermarket on the outskirts of calais,the girls (Rosie and Emily our youngest) left me in the wine section while they went in search of the more mundane
but my mind was on other things
early this year i gave hurried advice in the pilgrim forum of the road to Santiago, on the topic of chafing i recommended a particular brand of pants with polypropylen, other recommendations were made including seamless Lycra from any carrefour supermarket in france.
the pilrim took my advise and set off to walk the camino, this sadly gave me enormous pleasure that while i could not yet do my own camino my recommended pants could.
Intense testing as since proven me wrong, pants with seams are not the way to go,I feel guilt and hope the pilgrim didn't curse my name too much.
the giver of the advise on seamless Lycra was Sil someone who i now know to be wise in all things relating to the camino and whose advise you ignore at your peril.
so having got my Christmas supply of french wine i went in search of Lycra in gents underwear.
bearing in mind my youthful experience of walking was rugby shirt jeans and baseball shoes in summer and replace the baseball shoes with doc martins in the winter this year has been a steep learning curve, apart from a new language-(wicking-elaston-cool max-dri-fit and gore-TeX) I have had to get my head round smart wool?? micro fibre-day bag-bivy bag and that somehow rucksacks come in litres- plus worst of all my great trekking socks from lidls are marked left and right-when did that happen? so the concept of lycra and gents underwear is a bit alien to me and was not a big topic in the Yorkshire of my youth.
to say i like a bargain would come as no surprise to those that know me,i can take months searching charity shops-car boots-Internet sites for that one item i need-just last week i found a nearly brand new "Dri-fit" stretchy Nike top that i have worn as a vest on nearly every walk since and is the first peace of clothing that is defiantly coming on the camino with me, so to see the bargain bin and reductions at the end of the isle made me a very happy bunny.
So i am now the proud owner of three pairs of "Athena sport pro"with "cool max" for sechage ultra rapide for 9 euros.
The new metro sexual me was proud to walk through check-out with my lycra nestled among the "crozes hermitage" and "saint-emilion"
Having been away in London and France for three days to get back to walking was a sheer pleasure and armed with clothing with enough wicking ability to dispel all that Norfolk could throw at us, was slightly disappointed with the fine morning .

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The story so far.

'What book are you reading?' an innocent enough question to ask, but one that has brought me and my wife here, halfway through preparation for the longest walk we are ever likely to do.
"El Camino Frances" the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela from St Jean Pied de Port in France across the breadth of northern Spain a distance of 780km, that's like 500 miles in real money.
The book was "Spanish Steps" by Tim Moore, a good book but hardly one to make you follow in his footsteps. but more research and we were hooked plus it seems the Camino is the new black, everybody and his brother we meet seem to have done the walk or plan to do so in the future. Most seem to dip in and out doing the walk in stages, it can take up to a couple of months doing it slow walking, a walk for people with time on their hands, the young or the old.
They say that the moment you plan to make a pilgrimage you become a pilgrim - a term known to me only through John Wayne films and a song sung at school, as it was never my vowed intent to be one I'm quite surprised to find myself thus.
Approaching 25 years of marrage and our children reaching maturity ( lol) we were looking for a big challenge, something to mark this new chapter in our lives, something for us!! So pilgrims we are.
We started slowly having not done any serious exercise for years, I'm from the north of England and did a lot of walking in my youth (Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District) while Rosie is from South London and did no walking.
So 3 days a week we walked a circular route from our house just short of 6km. If it rained we didn't go.
I discovered the pain of splints and that playing lots of sport in my youth-rugby-cricket-badminton can play havoc with your knee joints plus maybe smoking doesn't help.
I was soon outstriped by Rosie who started running the course and entering us for 10k runs, or walks in my case, culminating in Rosie doing a half marathon while I watched with pride from the sidelines.
Due to the pain and maybe the need of a hip replacement, Rosie's plans of a London Marathon are now on the back burner, but nothing Rosie does surprises me. Two years ago she applied to go on "Extreme Makeover UK". No chance, I thought, but gave my support and had to continue giving that support during 5 weeks of filming and £36,000 worth of plastic surgery laser eye surgery and new teeth!
So now the training got serious - walks most days including packs and the distances got longer - now 12km. I gave up smoking, put on weight and lost it again.
We got a tent and then a caravan so we could travel to places with more rugged terrain than Norfolk where we now live.
As a publican I never got out of the pub unless to go to other pubs to play darts, dominos, pool, crib. So discovering Norfolk for the first time and rediscovering other parts of England was a sheer pleasure. King John lost his treasure in these parts while crossing the Wash so who knows - can't be that hard to find. In the meantime what we have found is a new zest for life and each other, and we look forward to what the future holds. It's not training for the Camino any more, but a way of life. "We're on a road to nowhere. There's a city in my mind Come along and take that ride and it's all right, baby, it's all right And it's very far away But it's growing day by day".