Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 16, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with 5 comments

“….with a billion stars all around.”
Peaceful Easy Feeling. The Eagles.

A few mornings ago, I left my Alburgue (hostel) at 5:00 a.m. alone. Normally, there are always pilgrims (other masochists who like to start administering pain to their feet first thing in the morning)already out the door but not this day. With no towns or villages in the first 10k, I had the trail to myself.
But on the Camino, you’re never alone. I was joined by billions of stars including the Big Dipper. The moon was a stunning orange colour. Thousands of frogs were croaking.I walked through a stand of trees, the only ones for miles around. There, I was greeted by the cacophony of hundreds of birds. A brilliant sunrise greeted me 90 minutes into my walk. I felt in awe and very serene.

I was feeling particularly blessed on this morning having had the best sleep of the trip the previous night. Besides a great sleep, I realized unadulterated joy when I discovered that I had a pair of fresh, unsullied underwear in the bottom of my knapsack. It’s hard to believe that finding clean underwear could evoke such joy but on the Camino, you travel light and clothes tend to get recycled as laundry facilities can be hard to find.

Two days earlier, I had slept with 100 other peregrinos (pilgrims). After a night of enjoying the sounds and smells of a hundred people burping, farting and, of course, snoring (there were even arschlochs who kept their cell phones on, a no no in the albergues), and a 41 kilometre walk I treated myself to a private room in this small village.

When I arrived in El Burgo Ranero that afternoon, I was nearly dead. The last three hours of my 41k jaunt were in 30 degree heat. You’ll have to read my Camino book later this fall to understand my apparent lunacy.

Victor, a pleasant young man, checked me in and checked me out. This wild eyed Canadian was in desperate need of a cold beer. Realizing my plight, he scurried off and returned with two frosty Estrella’s. I could have hugged him. Actually, I did. He popped off the tops, we clinked bottles and I slaked my thirst. It didn’t do a lot for the three new blisters I acquired that day.

After a second beer and a shower, I was in bad need of sustenance. Victor told me that the best restaurant in this tiny village was on the Main Street. It turned out to be the best and worst restaurant in town as it was the ONLY one in town!

Walking very gingerly on achy feet, I arrived at my destination to discover that the owners, a youngish couple in their thirties, were having a full scale war. Their little son was crying as the two went toe to toe in an epic verbal war. Charming.

I was ignored for five minutes. I was deliriously hungry and the plastic flowers adorning my table were beginning to look appetizing.

The man and his son left and the female, dabbing tears from her eyes, approached my table. I pointed to the menu board on the wall and ordered chicken breast, along with a glass of red wine. I practically begged for the immediate delivery of some bread.

With hand gestures, she indicated that this entree would take one hour. I gathered that this would entail the killing, eviscerating and de-feathering of the helpless bird. It was obvious that what she really wanted was for me to leave so that she could compose herself or administer the same treatment to her husband as the chicken.

A wee bit exasperated, I pointed to the chalkboard once more and waved my arms indicating that she could choose my supper. Another interminable 10 minutes passed as delirium set in.

My gracious hostess (a one person staff this day), approached my table with a plate of cheese, fresh baguette and a bottle of the finest red wine on the planet. I could have hugged her but decided discretion was the better part of valour, concerned that hubby might return unannounced provoking World War 3 and possibly ending my life.

The cheese, bread and wine nearly brought me to tears, such was their exquisite taste. The second course was a fresh salad of chilled prawns, fresh tuna, tomatoes and onions topped with a salad dressing of Spanish olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Had I died right then and there, I would have died happy.

She then called me to the counter and produced trays of home made sausages of different varieties. I indicated that sausages were fine. She might have worried that I was a vegetarian! I can’t begin to describe how delectable these tasted when pan fried.

She insisted I have dessert… ice cream. I was too full and filled with bliss to say no.

I was running low on cash and wondered how I would pay after this feast. Oh yes, when she opened the wine bottle, she just left it on my table allowing me to pour my own.

It was easily the best 13 Euros I had spent during my time in Spain. She then walked me through a hallway to the back of the building so that she could show me her magnificent garden.

She kissed both of my cheeks and gave me the biggest hug imaginable. A potential nightmare turned into a highlight moment of my Camino.

One last thing. It will be a year tomorrow that our mother died. She was an O’Flaherty, of proud Irish stock. On Monday when I arrived at my albergue, I asked the desk clerk if there might be an errant ball cap lying around as my Tilley hat was drenched with sweat and quite disgusting. I wanted to sit outside with my friends and wanted a fresh chapeau to protect my bald head from the hot sun.

The clerk disappeared. “Only one hat, sir,” he said. Slightly misty eyed I looked to see a slightly oversized black baseball cap adorned with a bright green shamrock.

Have a great weekend.

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on May 8, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with 5 comments

It it the end of day 5 and I’ve had to go down a notch on my belt. I guess when you’ve walked 162k and put on 228,330 steps, you’re bound to lose a few pounds!
So, I’m walking out of a town yesterday and someone whistled at me and said Buen Camino. NO ONE has ever whistled at me before. When this was repeated, I thought I had a secret admirer. I looked up in the window of a house and there was …. a parrot! So much for secret admirers.
The Camino is full of folks carrying backpacks and personal baggage. People are dealing with loss, emotional issues, health and relationship problems.
To survive the Camino , you must be adaptable or you probably won’t have a very good time. For example, snoring is the music of the Alburgues , the hostels where we share rooms with bunk beds. You do get used to it and after a long day on the trail, sleep eventually comes.
Today, exiting another town, a young woman in front of me was singing “What do you do with a drunken sailor.” Of course, I couldn’t resist chiming in. Katerina is a young woman from Slovakia and unless another candidate emerges, she will get my nod, hands down, as the most spirited person on the Camino. Her walking partner, a 60 something from Holland were the fastest walkers I’ve met so far. The wind howled all day from the west at 50k. I followed them for 10 breathtaking kilometres. Katerina swooped and soared like a bird. She sang and she danced and she begged 18 wheelers to honk their horns. Most of the 10k was uphill, into the wind but I scarcely noticed as I was mesmerized by her zest for life. When I finally caught up at a cafe, she told me she had come to the Camino to have fun. No kidding!
I don’t have wifi at my Alburgue tonight so I’m sending this now from a bar.
With the high winds, I had a very bad hair day, but then again, everyday is a bad hair for me.
Have a great weekend.

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Thursday Tidbits

Posted on April 25, 2019 under Thursday Tidbits with no comments yet

The winds of change blew across the Island on Tuesday.

 

12:8:6

The remote control got a severe test of endurance on Tuesday night as I tried to watch three sporting events at the same time. I clicked every few minutes to check the progress of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Toronto Raptors and the P.E.I. provincial election. You’re probably humming “One of these things is not like the other” but truthfully, politics is sport for many of us and a serious blood sport for hard core partisans. Oh yes, the Toronto Blue Jays were playing too but trying to watch 4 events simultaneously is a stretch, even for me.

Let’s dispense with the hockey game first. While not a Leaf fan, I was certainly doing my patriotic duty cheering for Toronto as the only Canadian team left in the N.H.L. playoffs heading into Tuesday’s tilt. Sadly, today, there are no Canadian teams left. Toronto played well enough to win this series against their fierce rival, Boston Bruins but there is a very fine line between winning and losing in an era where parity rules.

The Raptors were expected to prevail over Orlando and even though they were giving the Magic a good old fashioned butt whipping, I still flicked back and forth. I’m sure this is a character flaw but I guess it’s no worse than going to a car race and praying for a crash.

It was a good week to be “green”. Monday was Earth Day and Canada’s own “Mother Earth”, Elizabeth May, chose this day to get married. I saw some of the wedding photos and I swear to god she looked like a tree! The Earth Day wedding was billed as a low carbon affair. Guests were asked to come on foot, by bike or some other carbon friendly mode of transport. My invitation arrived late otherwise I may have walked to Vancouver Island!

The Prince Edward Island election was fascinating. Democracy in the free world seems to be undergoing a massive stress test. Ordinary citizens around the world appear tired of “politics as usual” and are electing some people with rather extreme views. The recent Alberta election was a bruising affair. Backstabbing, internecine warfare, high sticking and elbowing were all in evidence. And this was just among the supporters of the winning party! I was particularly interested because I know Rachel Notley, the outgoing Premier. She was a young teenager when I first met her in Fairview, Alberta back in the late 70s where she grew up (and I taught school).

To be honest, I didn’t get engaged in the P.E.I election until 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday when CBC provided live Election Day coverage. I didn’t know much of the back story other than the fact that polls had the Green Party showing up strongly. Now, Islanders are a pretty conservative lot. That’s “small c conservative, by the way. The last time they had a minority government was in 1870. In a province where horse racing is huge, elections in P.E.I. have always been a two horse race. The Liberals and Conservatives have taken turns holding the reins of power. That is, until Tuesday when the landscape changed precipitously.

I watched a bit of the interview with the Premier elect.  There had been some criticism of him and his party’s election strategy of NOT throwing red mud at the sitting, long in the tooth, Liberal party. His approach was civil and he appeared very modest moments after winning one of the most exciting horse races in Island history. Maybe Canada’s smallest province can lead the way in a revival of democracy that actually works and is not rife with acrimony and small mindedness which is too often the norm in modern democracies.

12:8:6.

These are not partial lottery winning numbers. They are not Kawhi Leonard’s stats from Tuesday’s basketball game. These are the final standings from the P.E.I. election 2019:

12- Conservatives; 8 Green Party; 6 Liberals.

The “Road to Avonlea” should be fun to watch.

Have a great weekend.

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