Sunday, 3 May 2009

In Which Sometimes Work Is Done, or at least Begun

We knew Thomas the traveling handyman was coming, so we met him at the gate Saturday afternoon with a list of heavy, boring labors: measuring up the garage for a new set of doors; painting the rest of the walls all along the outside of the house; building window screens (somehow Spain, one of the most fly-infested countries in the world, hasn´t cottoned onto window screens!) paving the patios, front and back; chopping up firewood...

He immediately found something even larger and more ambitious to work on. The walls that surround our little Peaceable Compound are made of adobe brick, set without foundations directly on the ground. They´ve stood there for at least 200 years, but some cracks are beginning to appear.

And long story short, Thomas is going to use concrete and chemicals to keep rainwater from splashing back and soaking upward and into the innards of the walls. They´re made of mud inside. Get mud wet enough and it liquefies. And someday, slowly or maybe fast, the two-foot-thick chicken house wall will ooze down the alley.

This is not a sexy way to spend a 500 Euros. But we rather like our walls, and our house, and our chickens. So now Thomas is hard at work again.

But not until he´d told us a few good stories of the Road.

Thomas was last here in August, painting and plastering. In the months between he traveled north to the Basque County, followed the Camino del Norte down to Santiago and then into Portugal. He visited the shrine at Fatima, which he found "just as disgusting as Lourdes." He followed the Atlantic coast, stopping to earn money wherever he could find work, staying at pilgrim hostels when he was on caminos, and sleeping under overhangs and haystacks and in garages when no place else could be found. And in Portugal he stayed with the firefighters.

In Portugal, firefighters cover 12-hour shifts, and their firehouses always have extra rooms, showers, etc. They double as doss-houses for down-on-their-luck travelers, and the often-bored firefighters seem to enjoy these visitors. Thomas now carries a stack of little flags and stickers, gifts from his volunteer hosts. He stopped at Sintra VFD on Christmas Eve, and feasted on a smorgasbord left over from the departmental banquet -- the chief gave him a week´s worth of leftovers to take along on the road.

New Year´s Eve found him in another small city, where the hostels were sold-out and even the jail was at capacity! Thomas found a place to sleep at the municipal museum, where the guard let him curl up in a storage room. In the morning he woke to find a gift box perched atop his bicycle seat, filled with homemade cookies. A note from the museum security staff wished him a Happy New Year.

Next spring, if I walk a camino, I want to do the Ruta Portuguese!

Today was bright and windy. While Thomas was excavating outside the walls, Kim and I spent a chunk of the afternoon at the labyrinth, digging out and replacing sunken stones, making the curves a bit more curvy, and just generally clarifying things. It was heavy work. Naps were required afterward. Patrick herded the chickens out onto the deep green grass, and he and Murphy Cat kept careful watch on their scratching and clucking. (Kim took the mystical photo.)

Kim and I are planning a trip to Ikea to buy another couple of pilgrim beds.
A German lady is coming tomorrow afternoon, to stay overnight.
On Thursday I am off to Madrid to collect my mom at the airport.

Just because things are buzzing here does not mean we don´t waste a lot of time online, anyway. Here is a lovely (and quick) video for you, made by a man who walked across China. Enjoy!


claire bangasser said...

I did not see the labyrinth becoming. How could I miss it? Where was I?
I feel your mother is going to love your home and will be fascinated by everything in your life.
Have a wonderful time!

Kelly Codd said...

Camino Portugues is what we're planning to do this fall! Glad to hear such wonderful things about it.

As always Reb, LOVE your blog! Have a wonderful visit with your mom.

Best, Kelly