Thursday, 8 May 2008

American Turkeys, Arab Bricks, & The English Way. And the Generalissimo.

We now live at The Peaceable full-time, so of course that means I am off to someplace else.

Tomorrow morning I´m getting on the train north to Oviedo, and from there another train west, to Ferrol, which was Generalissimo Franco´s home town. (No, I really am not obsessed with Mr. Franco. He just keeps coming up somehow.) Ferrol is right up on the upper left-hand side of Spain, a port town stuffed with military types. I won´t stay around too long, however. I´m starting a long walk right away, a five- or six-day pilgrimage southward called the Camino Ingles. (A map is here: .Click on "hybrid" and it looks really cool! Ferrol is just across the water to the north of the big A Coruña.)

Like most of the Caminos around Spain, this one also winds up in Santiago de Compostela, and it´s been traveled by zillions of pilgrims for hundreds of years. This one´s only a bit over 100 kilometers long, and it was used in years past by pilgrims coming over from England and Ireland, whose boats crossed the Atlantic and dropped them off at Ferrol or nearby Coruña. They walked from there. Thus: The English Way. (It has nothing to do with The UK Ministry of Silly Walks, BTW. Compare these photos. You may note the subtle differences between John Cleese and the average Camino Ingles pilgrim.)

The Camino Ingles a darn sight shorter than the insanely popular Camino Frances, which we live on... so named because it comes from France. It´s also a darn sight less popular, which is one reason I´m taking it this week. I´m told I may not see another pilgrim the whole time!

The path passes through a semi-remote part of of Galicia, a green and rainy part of Spain with a wild and weird beauty sometimes reminiscent of Scandinavia. It´s a tough camino, with lots of hill-climbing and not too many places to stop. I am hoping it´s not so hard as the Camino Aragonese was last year. I look back on that with a smile, but I´m not doing it again anytime soon! (Talk about knackered. ) And this time, at the end, I get a Compostela: the certificate that says (in Latin, here´s a picture of one) I completed the pilgrimage and so get a free pass from Purgatory. Or something. Woohoo! (I can´t help wondering if that means when I die I´ll just go straight to hell?)

This blog is supposed to be about Moratinos Life, however, and Moratinos is a long way from Ferrol, so I will get back to biz.

Yesterday, our first real full day here, we took our usual dog-walk in the morning, and returned to find the place all a-buzz with workmen. They did a good bit of plumbing and assembling of things, they put in the massive wooden frame for the front door, which meant hacking out great chunks of concrete and adobe to make it fit snugly. And down about knee-level they ran into bricks -- The same flat, dense, red brick so evident inside our barn. It´s Arab brick, Jesus told us, and it won´t budge. So we will leave it there, visible. The place is a lot older than we first thought!

I received an email from my sister Beth, who lives in rural Western Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh, in the USA. Her son Joey shot his first wild turkey this week, and she sent a lovely photo to commemorate the big event, and the even-bigger turkey: 14 pounds, dressed-out! I printed out the photo and showed it to Jesus, the tile guy, who showed it then to the plumber and the plumber´s assistant, and to the guy installing gutters. It was a sensational bit of cultural disconnect. I wrote to her about it:

"....Lots of questions, all about turkeys, and how wild are they really, and how can a wild turkey be intelligent if the tame ones are so intensely stupid, and what does the meat taste like, do you really eat these animals? And what do you do with all those feathers? Is there down you can use for quilts? Are the feet any good for soup? (some really rural people here evidently use chicken feet for stock.) And then there were the questions about guns: Is that a special small child-size rifle Joey used? Is it a shotgun, did he use birdshot, or is it a real rifle, with sights? What´s a gun like that cost? Can you get one here? How could anyone sane let a small child handle a gun? Is that legal in America? Americans are all insane, it´s no wonder they´re all killing one another if 9-year-olds are out in the woods shooting turkeys, yadda yadda. And that man holding up the turkey -- why didn´t he smile for the picture?" I can´t say I had an abundance of answers for them, (except that the not-smiling guy is my brother-in-law) but two or three of them want copies of the unbelievable picture to show to the guys at the bar.

And during all this, another knock came on the door: Anselmo, the Valencian pilgrim/hospitalero is back! He agreed to stay til Wednesday, to help cut up the mountain of scrap wood out back, work out our Spanish, and drive the car when needed while I am gone. He is strong and low-maintenance and very hardworking, a real Camino gem. I think he makes Paddy less introspective... Pad´s now blogging a bit, and painting pictures, even!

I am potting plants, and re-potting the unknown trees and vines, and trying to get some flowers to germinate in the patio and out in the wasteland along the highway. It´s not raining enough. Yet another good reason to go for a backpacking hike -- that will surely open up the heavens and bring down the showers!

The Camino Frances is very very crowded just now. It seems half the world decided to start their hike on May 1, and great waves of humanity are now washing down the path and crowding into the albergues, bars, and restaurants. We are not seeing much of it at our place, as we still don´t have doors or kitchen counters or faucets, and thus we are not yet "open for business." Having just Anselmo around is fine, for now. He is happy to sleep in the windowless despensa... it really IS much nicer than a lot of pilgrim hostels I´ve seen.

I enjoy most pilgrims, but I still am enjoying our long, quiet afternoons. Nothing like a sparrow chorus in the patio. The chainsaw is howling away in the huerta out back, singing a song of progress: a cleared-up back yard, and tons of firewood cut and stacked for next winter, and a young man fed and housed and gainfully employed for a few days.

The workers didn´t come back today. No reason given. Tomorrow I´ll go away and stop thinking about it for a while. If you don´t hear from me, you know where I am!


Elizabeth said...

I don't know, but it could be all that time hunkered down in the suburbs of middle America that has left me with a lot of the same questions as those Spaniards concerning that photo.
I'm jealous that you get to do the Camino Ingles. I wanna do it too!

Anonymous said...

Concerning guns let's keep the cultural disconnect, please. The Spaniards, in this case, got it right! Show them pictures of Glacier Park, Yosemite Park, Mount Rainier Park next time and you might be able to establish better cultural connections. said...

I don´t worry too much about showing Spaniards images of Real Life America. They can take it. Heck, they show bullfights on live TV.
Questions are good; they´re what keeps us all talking to one another.
There´s a whole lot more to America than pretty scenery, and I´m not in the PR business.