Bringing the Camino Home

Bringing the Camino home, is also about returning. Even the planning, the anticipation is life enhancing, releasing the desire to write about it. Giving time to other pilgrims is a way of saying thank you not only for the very positive experience of walking but for all the blessings bestowed on us along the Camino.

We haven’t returned to Spain in four long years either as tourists or pilgrims, but plan to return in April 2018 to finish the Camino and serve a turn in Miraz the albergue run by the Confraternity of St James.

Four years ago we began walking the pilgrimage to Santiago along the coastal path, the Camino Del Norte and relished the dramatic views and the towns we passed. We took time to enjoy the Guggenheim in Bilbao and the pavement cafes in San Sebastián as we walked through, intending to revisit in tourist mode some time. At Oviedo we got the train forward to Santiago for a stint as hospitalero in the Camino Fin Del Camino. It coincided with the Feast of St. James, a joyous time to be in Santiago and enjoy the singing and dancing of groups from all round the world. Sadly, that was 2013 the year the rail tragedy cost many lives.

The atmosphere of sadness as the news spread through the thronging square that was prepared for fireworks and partying is hard to forget. So too the dignified return home or to the hospital to offer to donate blood, of the many who had gathered there. One thing is sure. Nothing is certain in this life.

Bringing the Camino Home


Walking my first Camino was a liberating and a creative experience. The physical activity, the spiritual dimension, the beauty of the place and the encounters with other pilgrims’ daily, if not hourly, kindnesses all played a part. For me, as it does for many, it led to writing.
Since then I have written consistently, publishing short stories and blogging.
My first book, Murielle’s Angel, a novel based on my own experiences of walking the Camino Frances, was published four years ago.
Now a second novel, ‘Honeymoon’ is about to be published.

Ostensibly, ‘Honeymoon’has nothing at all to do with the Camino or Spain, but the creativity and learning to trust myself and the universe certainly is thanks to the Camino.

Happy Feast of St James the Great


Oh to be in Santiago de Compostela today. What feasting there will be. Happy Feast Day.

Of the many depictions of St James or Santiago reflecting aspects of his mythology  – humble pilgrim, warrior, patron saint I like the Pre Rafaelite golden image.


For one of the best descriptions of the life of St James check out Camino Adventures


Tarta Santiago versus Sachertorte or Poetry with Cake


The first literary evening at the Viennese cake shop, Aber House in Barmouth, has come and gone. The cake turned out quite well using a combination of recipes from the web.

One Spanish recipe added cinnamon and alcohol  but, a bit of a purest, these were left out. However, the recommendation to grind the almonds leaving some texture and then to roast them in the oven to dry out, wholeheartedly adopted.

Another recipe, American I suspect, offered  a stencil for the cross of St James – or is it a sword?  He was a warrior saint after all and claimed by crusading Spaniards wanting to drive out the infidel.  (Plus ca change) Only the icing sugar disappointed as it sank into the cake almost without trace before we got to eat it.

The sachertorte was chocolately and unctuous, but then I did not make that.

And the readings?

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Bernard Young is a performance poet with  a light touch, a delight of whimsy and wistfulness. He mostly writes poems for children these days who, one suspects, would  love his gentle delivery and humour too.

As for Murielle’s Angel? one can only hope and keep putting it out there.

There is to be a second evening, with different cake and different readings, but the welcome will be the same.

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A Lonely Goatherd in Spain


A large herd of goats crisscrosses the road.  Traffic stops to accommodate them as they veer first one side then another.  It is quite a sight.   I get out to take a photo.  There is a boy shepherding the  goats, dressed in long shirt and trousers and a Berber hat. A dog is with them, almost an airedale to look at.  I  follow a few meters off the road along a sun-drenched dirt track now heaving with goats.

When I am ready to take the picture the goats are in shade, their dun colour horns and skin merging effortlessly with the earth, only some of their toggles catch the light.

The boy stands proprietorially scrutinising the herd as I watch –  neither of us seeing what the other sees.  I try to comment on the weather, his age, what it is the goats find to eat in the dust-bowl here; inanities all. He does not rebuff, but it is plain as the jostling backs of the animals that I am not behaving well in his world and the best way to be rid of me is to ignore me.

The boy does not register surprise when he sees me with the camera.

Do you mind? I ask not giving him a choice.  The goats and the dog, he does not mind. Not today, the answer for himself and he disappears into a semi derelict, ramshackle concrete shack and rummages. He is probably ‘sin papeles’ and would not like  any proof of himself to be known. Maybe there is nowhere else for him or his goats to go.

Soon he has whistled up his dog and the goats have turned so that they are all running towards me. The herd splits like brown, running water  round me.   An empty plastic container abandoned in the scrub is caught up with their running and the tapping of their cloven hooves on the hard earth so that the noise crescendos as if a veritable flood swirls round and threatens to wash the feet out from under me. Then they are gone, down another dirt track, with the boy in his Berber hat whistling to them.



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We have heard that there is dancing in Agost, a small town in the hills above Alicante.  The dance is to do with coming of age and harvesting oranges, from what we can glean, and has nothing to do with the industry that once made the town famous.

Potters made pots here from the stony earth from as early as the 6th century.  Every household in spain used pot for storage, for cooking, for tiling, for plumbing. Every bride collected a trousseau of pots varnished inside and out for special occasions, or just inside for daily use.  Now there is plastic and making pots the traditional way using  hand sealed ovens, three tiers high, built into the hillside, is a dying art.  The last of the ovens closed this year. The fire that had to be stoked to burn for five days and nights, husband and wife, father and son working  one alongside another, is to be replaced by gas and a switch that can be remotely controlled.

The dance is so steeped in tradition that none of the old dears lined up in their plastic chairs outside the local police station to watch could tell us much except that it was always this way. Today was the day mothers danced with their eighteen year old sons and this in some way prepared the sons for the orange harvest.

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The sons  dressed as if for Jack Vettriano pictures in neat black suits and black fedoras, perhaps the traditional Sunday best of Spanish peasants. The mothers wore snoods made of many tiny flowers and knitted dresses with a bright zigzag weave, (pre Courtauld, or Mary Quant)

The dance, more of a procession, was very repetitive.  We could not decide if the main male move was a scything action for picking up oranges or more of a cape swishing.  The mothers resolutely kept their hands in front as if holding a net for oranges or even an invisible train.Think Emperors New Clothes.  All the young men disappeared for an hour allowing for many changes of partner. The mothers had sweets tipped on their heads and the young men were hit a few times with the packets. The children were a law unto themselves. Some danced alongside, others made up their own game pulling each other round by the hoods of their coats.  Everyone seemed to really enjoyed it.

It was, however, a privilege to see this ‘not for tourists’ fiesta.  The only other outsiders were a German couple who, fortified with drink, thought it  deadly dull and left early.

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Spain and Los Reyes

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We are in Spain for ‘Los Reyes’.

Here, Christmas comes at Epiphany when the three kings deliver their gifts. Last night we watched the kings’ arrival by boat along with whole towns-full of others and truly delighted small children. The Kings were joined by an entourage that must have taken months to prepare. A cavalcade of horses, angels, bands and pages accompany each king  and parade through the streets handing out sweets by the handful.  Some of the pages, mostly teenagers,  stop to eat loads on the way.

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Small children are invited to sit on the king’s knee and tell what they would like.  Some, of course, are so terrified they run off screaming.