Since then we went to Belgium for a week of riotous indulgence: art deco, opera, oysters, roast goose, and five days of steady downpour. A good time was had by all, but I bet Filipe is very glad to have his little house back.
Paddy behaved well, seeing as he hates going anywhere. He even admitted that Ghent is a wonderful place. He declared it "very civilized." But he swears he will never leave home again. (Paddy swears a lot.)
Ghent is beautiful, (and so are Filipe, roast goose, and art deco) but I cannot show you the photos.
The trip home was frightful. The airplane from Brussels sat on the runway for an hour before taking off. We got to Madrid airport, onto the subway, and into Chamartin train station just in time to see the Kafka Express, the last Sahagun train, pull out and head north. (I call it that after Franz Kafka, the Czech novelist who took bureaucracy and boredom and turned them into hair-raising literature. If you´ve seen the movies "Sliding Doors," or "Groundhog Day," you will understand what this eternal train ride through darkness does to the mind.) Our computer couldn´t get internet access at the station, and the locutorio was closed.
After much discussion and a flurry of phone calls we learned that Hostal Isabel, our favorite Madrid boarding house, was full-up. We let the travel agent in the station book us into a place downtown. On our way there the subway was packed. Three professional-looking young men at the second-to-last stop took off with our zippy little camera, which was (I thought) securely zipped inside my daypack. And so our Belgium photos are now, perhaps, being admired by a family of Rumanian pickpockets.
They also took Paddy´s wallet. It upset Paddy mightily when it happened, but when we calmed down and checked over our belongings we realized there was no money in there. Just his bank card, his healthcare ID, and his Spanish Legal Alien ID.
I still have all my cards and ID and cash. We have another camera at home. We were not left without resources. Just a monumental pain in the ass.
We got to the hotel. It was noisy, overpriced, and grubby. We took a walk, found Restaurant Bangkok, and drowned our troubles in Tom Yum and lemon grass. We were in the swinging tourist hotspot of Spain´s capitol, but all we wanted to do was go home.
Which we finally did. The next morning we took the Zen Train, the morning Regional, which stops every couple of miles. You see the backyards of castles and cattle-pens all across Castilla from that train. It´s great meditative practice, if you have a great expanse of time.
At home the house sparkled, Kim smiled, the dogs wagged as hard and fast as their bums could wiggle, and Murph uncoiled and stretched himself in our direction. Even the chickens seemed to mass ´round the window to welcome us home. We unpacked all our loot from Belgium, took a long walk across the campo, and opened the mail.
|Rosie, or Rosey. Or "Rosalia Castro de Arzua"|
I looked up the legal process one faces when one loses one´s Spanish Alien ID card. It is as Kafka-esque as the night train from Madrid. (Spanish bureaucracy is a marvellous thing.)
The complicated dichroic 230v. cable-lights failed in Kím´s bedroom. I went to change one of the bulbs and it broke off in the socket. We called an electrician. He has yet to arrive.
One of the brown hens is ill.
The girlfriend of one of Paddy´s sons has taken up with someone else.
Kim left this afternoon, off to America. We do not know if or when we will see her again, and that makes me sad indeed.
Still, today is not so bad. Paddy is making pulled pork in the crock-pot. Bruno is back from Italy, and great progress is being made at the albergue. A few of the bulbs I planted in November are poking up sprouts from the black mud of the patio. The trees in the ditches are turning yellow, showing signs of life to come.
After dropping Kim at the train station I went round to the Redondo Stihl Boutique to order one of those huge vacuums Miss April is so fond of. Señor Redondo said no, that is too expensive. I must first test-drive the smaller model Stihl vacuum he uses in the shop, a vacuum that sells for less than half the price. He went to find it, and learned his sister had borrowed it. She is building a house, and needs to clean up after the drywall installers. Which made me think this might be the vacuum for me -- three dogs and a cat each day create at least as much dust as the average sheet of gypsum board. But I will have to go back tomorrow, and see the machine at work. Señor Redondo apparently doesn´t want me to buy too much vacuum. I can appreciate that.
For the first time in weeks the sky is clear and bright. Tonight I will take out my telescope. The moon is brilliant, and Saturn´s moons and rings are said to be breathtaking this time of year. I have my little planisphere sky-map, and I think I remember how to use it. I can´t wait!
And so I am reminded: When the world all around me is gray and muddy, I don´t have to just stand there with my head hanging down. I have options. I look elsewhere.
I can even look up.