And so the next step of the journey comes round… Tomorrow I begin my quest to write the next bestseller novel. Don’t worry, you’ll all feature… names changed, obviously. And yes, Tracey, I’ll thank you in the acknowledgements!
Thanks to my lovely mum and dad I’m heading into deepest darkest Devon to a Writer’s Retreat for a handful of optimists reckon they might have a bit of latent talent. Or at the very least want to spend some time seeing if they can drag a skerrick of something resembling talent from their mushy grey matter (that’s me testing out a bit of fancy descriptive work, right there… “mushy grey matter” is a creative high, don’t you think?).
So I’m off to try my hand at a bit of creative writing and then… on Tuesday 17th May I fly from London Stansted (only the most inconvenient airport in the UK, what with not actually being attached to an actual city… not even London, despite the name) to Biarritz in France. From Biarritz I catch a train to St Jean Pied de Port at the base of the Pyrenees and by Thursday I expect to be starting the Camino de Santiago by hauling myself and my over-sized baggage over the Pyrenees themselves, which brings me to my chosen title for today’s post…
It turns out that (as everyone on the forum agrees – www.caminodesantiago.me.uk) 10kgs is the ideal maximum weight to carry on one’s back over the course of the Camino… So it is a touch concerning that, despite some serious stripping back of my pack contents I can’t get the load below 15kgs… As it is I risk alienating my fellow walkers with my lack of fresh clothing. If I take out anything else I will be walking naked by day and dining of an evening in nothing but a pair of undies. I’m sure a wise person has said at some stage that ‘a naked pilgrim does not a new friend find… at all… for the whole walk’. So I think I’m going to have to suck it up and strengthen my legs quickly. My heaviest single item is my camera, which I refuse to leave behind… I have already jettisoned the laptop (yes, Meaghan and Jurgen I did consider the ipad, but I considered too long and now I’m out of time… not to mention the impact on my budget).
So, my lovelies, prepare for some erratic communication (I’ll hold back on the erotic communication). The Writer’s Retreat has no internet (one doesn’t want one’s creative flow interrupted by Facebook) and I’ll be accessing internet from public internet cafes along the Camino as and when I can (and as and when I feel like it). If you’re interested and fancy a bit of a giggle I did find these Extracts from a Caminoist’s Diary very amusing and perhaps a little more informative than I needed.
I can’t even begin to explain how excited I am about this next stage. I’ve been so fortunate in having the time and space to lie low and relax with my family, but my muddled head is starting to crave some meditative walking space and the chance to push and challenge myself to think, create and grow. I’ve done enough reading and researching now to know it’s pretty straightforward on the Camino in terms of following the right trail, finding food and shelter and other basics. I’ve also read enough of the personal accounts to know that everyone walks the Camino for different reasons. Some head out with a mission in mind, others just have the instinct to walk, some are on a spiritual journey, others are expressing their faith and in some cases people don’t know their motivation until they start walking. For me it’s a mixture, but I can sum it up with a brief story…
Many of you will know I used to run a fair bit. I got into running (despite being built for comfort, not speed) and I loved it. I built up over time until I was able to run a half marathon (21.1kms), which I did, four times over about a year. I found it addictive, meditative and I was surprised at my own ability, never having been a sporty child. And then, about a year ago I decided to run the big one – to take on a marathon (42.2kms). I chose London, partly because it’s one of the famous ones and partly because it would mean I could run my first marathon in a place my family could come and shout on sidelines for. So I started training, building up as usual, bit by bit. But instead of finding my meditative headspace I seemed to struggle with every step. I started to dread runs, or avoid them altogether. I was getting injured all the time. The prospect of a marathon had killed my running mojo… I didn’t do London this year (I may one day still – never say never), because it turns out running half marathons is my limit for running for now. But walking? I had tucked some memories away somewhere and forgot that thanks to the striding pace of my mum and years of being dragged along cliff-top walks, over fields and hills, through parks, along beaches, up and down valleys at a pace most Olympic walkers would envy, it turns out I have been training since a very early age to walk long distances. Walking is a space where I find logic, peace and inspiration. I can walk for long distances without tiring too much. And it makes me really happy. So this Camino, this is my marathon.
I’ll look forward to keeping you posted along the way.
Loads and load of love,
p.s. In case anyone is interested, the sign on the road to the village has changed… There’s a Skittle Festival on at the Appley pub this weekend. They know how to rock out round here ☺