Camino 1 – 18 October 2014
By Parson Thru
18 October 2014
Yesterday, I took a small, sharp pair of scissors and cut off a flap of skin from under my foot. The scissors were curved so that I was able to get as close as possible to the healthy skin. I don’t like having flaps of skin around wounds and sores – it sets me on edge – so I was glad the blister had healed enough to remove it.
It had taken two weeks for the soreness to go. The muscle pain had disappeared within a couple of days, the tiredness maybe over the space of a week. But something inside persists. Not the longing to return to the simple routine nor the need to meet up with new friends in some stop or another, but a kind of peace that somehow still remains under the chaos and turmoil of daily life.
I try to cling on to that and to the memory of walking the Camino de Santiago.
Time goes quickly and I have what is probably an unhealthy habit of counting first the weeks, then the months, then years that pass after something good. We walked the final twenty kilometres into Santiago with friends two weeks ago yesterday – two weeks before slicing off the remains of that blister.
Four weeks ago – on 20 September – we left the flat in Weston with everything we’d need for three hundred kilometres of walking stuffed into cabin-baggage-sized rucksacks and a bum-bag. We walked my usual route down to the station, but this time with a different goal in mind – the work lap-top remained in the flat.
We made Paddington station by lunch-time, planning to call at Ed’s Easy Diner en-route to Liverpool Street and the Stansted Express. I was knocked sideways by the number of people flooding into the Underground and became flustered trying to buy a cheap Zone 1-2 Travelcard from a machine.
I lived in London for nine years, but that was a long time ago. A lot had changed - or I'd forgotten. In the end, I let my ex-Londoner self-image fall to the floor and resorted to queueing at a ticket window. We gave up on the cheap travelcard and on Ed’s and took the less busy Bakerloo Line to Piccadilly Circus for a Chinese.
Maybe I’ve just forgotten how crowded London is.
We dived into a restaurant in Gerrard Street – one of those with ducks in the window. There was a small amount of confusion in our heads, which resulted in us walking into the office by mistake and being waved into the restaurant through a door marked “Staff Only”. Further misunderstandings followed over where the waiter wanted us to sit and what we were ordering from the set menus. N and I finished up ordering enough to feed four.
It was only four months since her return from a year in Malawi. We’re a pretty tried and tested pair, but there’s been an element of “White Album” about us since she’s been back. Two individuals trying to work together, rather than the tight band we’d previously been.
We somehow managed to eat all the plates and bowls of different flavours, but were stuffed. The food was washed down with cocktails in TGI Friday’s. Crass? Maybe. Suits us now and again though. We got talking with one of the bartenders. He seemed to be Head of Flamboyancy, spinning bottles and glasses. I asked if he’d ever laid anyone out. We watched him fill the glasses, blind, from cocktail shakers held above his head.
When someone has a talent, all you can do is smile and appreciate it. It was so good, we ordered another. Pretty much everyone behind the bar had something else going – our man ran his own business very successfully, he pointed to the bloke behind who was a medical student.
We shook hands and cut across to Tottenham Court Road for the Central Line to Liverpool Street. Along the way I saw the new buses that are supposed to replace the Routemaster. It was a shame to see the old ones withdrawn – they were so well built and iconic and millions had just been spent refurbishing them. They were, apparently, dangerous – but not as dangerous as their successors, bendy-buses.
Tottenham Court Road tube station was like a depiction of hell. We agreed that we wouldn’t move back to London.
Recently, I’ve been watching the orgy of building going on in the City. We’re constantly told that the economy is sick, that we have to make sacrifices, take a pay cut, lose our job security, work harder. Services to the sick, the poor and needy are constantly reduced, and yet the glass cathedrals mushroom ever more vigorously over EC1. I stared at it from the train as we left Liverpool Street.
We spent the night at a budget hotel on the edge of Stansted airport. It wasn’t a great night’s sleep. I’ve been carrying a heavy cold for weeks and I lay sweating it out in the night. When I did sleep, I snored and was woken by a tired and frustrated N. The Chinese food swelling our guts probably didn’t help. The following day, we weren’t in the best of spirits for negotiating airport security and niggled each other as we waited over coffee for the gate to open.