Friday, 20 September 2013

Pure Spain

It was strange to have a free afternoon,especially as there wasn't much to explore. As I was writing my blog a couple from the USA came into the dormitory. Later they were joined by two French ladies who were part of a bigger group. I was talking to one of them and they are going all the way to Santiago.
I had arranged to meet Jan for supper at 7. Charles was staying in the same lodgings. At 6.30 he and I set off. It was a dry but cold evening and we both agreed that it was too cold to have supper in the square. We found a hotel which had a 12€ menu. I established that it was open at 7 and that there was no need to book. We went back to the square, ordered a glass of wine and waited for the others to arrive. Charles told me that he had been scheduled to do the walk in the spring but got injured. It was a happy accident as his elder brother was dying of cancer. We would have missed the conversations which I had before he died. Jan turned up with the Danish lady and then the Swiss man who turned out to be a chocolate maker! We had a good supper although my plate of chickpeas raised some ribald comments.

The pilgrim' s day now takes a clear pattern. Usually you are up before 7.00am and walking at first light . I have a routine of prayer which I say aloud if there is no one nearby. I usually fall into a reflection, this morning it was on Psalm 50. The particular lines which affected me this morning were:
"O wash me more and more from my guilt
and cleanse me from my sin"
 I am certain that the pilgrimage is a way of spiritual cleansing and renewal. During the 5-7 hours of walking there is ample opportunity to reflect on whatever comes up. Often it is a memory of a person or an event and it is easy to offer it to God in a spirit of repentance.
Today there were two lovely Spanish moments. The first began most inauspiciously. When I arrived yesterday I booked breakfast even though it was not until 7.30. I mentioned this to Charles last night and he said that he would do the same. I bumped into him just after 7.00am and he asked about breakfast. I said that it didn't start until 7.30. We went and sat outside. Jan and Gony passed by. Gony came over to get my blog address. By 7.30 there was no sign of anyone. I told Charles that I would get my sack and head off. When I returned with my sack there was a light on in the room. I tried the door and it was locked. Then the shutter opened. I rang the bell and, after a few minutes, a large and dishevelled lady appeared and told me to wait!  Eventually, when she let me in, I could observe that the table was not set. With little ceremony she put a cup of coffee in front of me. I couldn't help noticing that her generous figure was having difficulty in staying in her blouse!  The coffee was disgusting!  Despite this, I asked for a second cup since taking on liquid at the start of the day is important. She gave me this with good grace and then a man appeared and put two cakes in front of me. She said that toast was on the way. When she asked me if I wanted a third coffee she asked if I was American. No English I said. But you speak Spanish without a foreign accent. When I told her that I am a priest and that I had worked in El Salvador she was most interested. The man appeared with a bottle of whisky and poured a generous measure into his coffee. He insisted in pouring a ( thankfully) smaller amount into mine. They were most impressed with my sandals. When the girl who I had met yesterday arrived she greeted me with: 'hola guapo' which is what youngsters use as a chat up line!  In the end it was a lovely encounter even if the breakfast was awful.
The second moment was almost as funny. In Torres del Rio there is a church which is in the same style as Eunate. Sure enough when you entered the village the similarity was evident. The church was closed but there was a notice on the door with a phone number. Instead I headed for the nearest bar hoping for better information. In the courtyard were three locals who all greeted me warmly. I asked the barman about the church and he said that the lady in the courtyard was the custodian! She seemed quite happy to oblige me.  As we walked down the street I told her that I am a priest.  She opened the door and I said that I would leave my things outside, No, bring them in, she said. I saw that there was an admission charge. "I can't charge you, she said, as you are a priest!". The chapel is clearly by the same architect as Eunate. There is also an exquisite 13th century crucifix. I knelt before it and said some prayers. I had heard that the chapel has a wonderful acoustic. I stood and sung the Taize chant O Lord hear my prayers, when I call answer me,  O Lord hear my prayer come and listen to me. The other visitors didn't mind. On the Camino you lose your inhibitions as well as your illusions. I went to take a photo outside and then got the lady to stamp my creencial.
Outside Viana I bumped into Gony who was sitting on a bench rolling a cigarette. I explained that I had got his name wrong on the first day he appears in the blog. He is staying the night in Viana and it could well be that I don't see him again. It has been one of the memorable encounters. I was in Logrono by 2.30

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