Fear, Inc.


The third of three posts today. The first post is here, and the second post is here.

So, yesterday, I said I had two fears about the Camino. What are they?

They are nothing terribly dramatic, so don’t get your hopes up.

The first is flying. Flying makes me nervous so I should never have watched all those You Tube videos of ‘plane crashes. If only they hadn’t been so informative – the ones I watched explained what happened and why; but still, I should probably have given them a pass.

The second is crossing the Pyrenees. This comes, ironically, from The Way. In the film, the reason why Martin Sheen’s Tom Avery undertakes the Camino is because his son, Daniel, died while walking it himself. And he died while crossing the Pyrenees. The film doesn’t explain specifically how Daniel dies, saying only that it was an accident after he was caught in a storm. I assume, therefore, that he slipped and cracked his head against a stone.

I have been told that the Pyrenees are nothing to worry about but I can’t help but wonder what will happen if the weather does close in. I have to remember though that, firstly, Daniel Avery is a fictional character, and secondly, while real people have died on the Camino, their stories are not mine. Just because x happened to them it won’t necessarily happen to me.

The Tale of a Wren


The second of three posts today. The first post is here, and the third post is here.

After finishing my shopping at Cotswolds, I went to the counter to pay for everything. As the shop assistant checked everything out, my eye fell on a box of animal badges that were for sale on the counter in aid of the RSPCA.

One of the animals featured was a wren – my favourite bird. When I was younger – at the end of the 80s – I wrote a series of stories about a would-be rock and roll band in America. I was very into Guns ‘n Roses then. In time, I stopped writing those stories and moved on to other ideas.

Kind of. I took with me a character who had been a member of the support cast and as I grew up, so did Nicola Fixx. As a result, I have rarely finished a story in which she stars.

Not useful! But let me say no more about it – she is for another post. The reason I mention my stories here is that Nicola wasn’t the only carry over. Another character, one called Shelley Keagan at the start, and then Shelley Eddison when she married the lead singer, did as well. In time, I changed her surname to Wren (and her Christian name is now Elisabeth, but again, she’s for another post)

I don’t recall why I chose Wren as a surname but it fitted her perfectly and in the years since, I have become interested in the bird as well.

Admittedly, not on any deep level; more like, if I see a real life wren – or hear one sing – for a small bird it has an amazing voice – I smile extra wide, and I take care to read about them whenever I see them mentioned.

So, when I saw the wren badge, my heart yearned to donate the £1 and buy it. Unfortunately, I had no money on me – only my debit card. So, when I left the shop… dear reader, I went to the nearest cash machine, took out £10 that I should really have left there, returned to Cotswolds and bought a third bar of Kendal mint cake so that I use the change to buy the wren badge. Here it is:

A wren flying higher than an osprey

I tell you, of all the things I have bought this weekend, this badge is definitely the most precious. I love it! So much so that I don’t trust the airport people not to damage it when I fly out to Biarritz next month. I think I will detach and put it back on when I am safely ensconced in Saint Jean. Either way, I will certainly appreciate having this wren (maybe I will call her jenny) accompany me on the way.

Shopping for the Camino, Pt. II


The first of three posts today. The second post is here, and the third post is here.

This morning, I headed back to Cotswolds Outdoors, this time at Covent Garden, to – hopefully – finish off my shopping. I was more-or-less successful. Here’s what I bought:

  • Gloves
  • Kendal Mint Cake x3
  • Pants x2
  • Socks, smart wool x4
  • Top and leggings
  • Trousers x2

My feet are Size 10/10.5. The socks are XL so were made for feet Size 11 and upwards. I chose them, however, because I was told yesterday that when walking my feet will expand. I don’t want to wear anything that gets unnecessarily tight on me.

The pants are (deep breath) Ball park pouch, quick drying, moisture wicking, anti-microbial and semi-compression – whatever that means.

The top and leggings are in lieu of pyjamas. Made by a company called HH (‘Alive since 1877’, which seems pretty impressive) they act like thermal underwear.

The gloves are very thin and really just in case I need them on cold days. Hopefully, when April turns into May, I’ll be able to leave them at the bottom of the backpack with the rain coat.

Last year, I took a bar of Kendal mint cake with me on the annual G. K. Chesterton pilgrimage (from Kensington to Beaconsfield). I ate half of it as I started to flag on the long canal section of the walk. Instant sugar rush! I felt, well, pretty glorious, actually. The mint cake is basically all sugar and there in case I need a dose of energy.

I can’t say the same will happen again, but after I ate my mint cake last year, I was worried that I would experience an energy crash. But, for the rest of the very long day, it never came…

Today’s bill – after discount – came to around £300, making a total bill for my preparation £1,100. For me, and I imagine for many people, this is a huge amount. Of course, I am not buying goods that will self-destruct after I have used them. The backpack, boots, clothes will all be usable for a long time after the Camino has ended.

Despite the above, I am still not quite finished. I still need to buy the following:

  • A hotel room in Saint Jean Pied de Port for the 9th April (I intend to stay in an albergue on the 10th before leaving SJPdP on the 11th)
  • Walking sticks or staff. I so want to buy a staff like Gandalf’s but I imagine I will have to ‘make do’ with sticks.
  • Sandals

And some ‘minor’ (i.e. cheaper) items:

  • Toiletries
  • Adaptor
  • Sewing Kit
  • Travel Insurance
  • Waterproof trousers (Possibly. I might stick with what I have got)

Before I leave the house, I will also steal a roll of toilet paper in case of need. By-the-bye, one of the Cotswolds’ staff yesterday told me that tampons were very useful – I guess for their absorption capability. Part of me would be very happy to take a couple, as well as two of this, that and the other just in case I need it but I shall do my best to resist such an idea.

Shopping for the Camino

Hello! In my first post, I mentioned that in just under two months I will be going to Spain to walk the Camino to Santiago de Compostela from Saint Jean Pied de Port. In fact, as I leave England on 9th April, my departure is just over a month away!

Saint Jean is on the border between France and Spain so I’ll be walking the Camino Francés – the French Path. By-the-bye, the Confraternity of St. James reports (here) there are more than a hundred routes to Santiago de Compostela! Many routes to God. That seems fitting.

Between now and 9th April, I will try and keep you up-to-date with my preparations. This, I hope, will encourage me to prepare as I am very good at leaving everything to the last minute and hardly preparing at all.

In that spirit, what have I done so far?

Well, a few weeks ago I got my passport renewed for another ten years. I wouldn’t have bothered doing this as my now old one doesn’t expire until September this year; however, the possibility of Britain leaving the EU under a ‘no deal’ scenario has led the Government to issue advice saying that if your passport expires less than six months from when you travel, get it renewed. We obviously hope that the politicians will be able to get a deal sorted out but there’s no point leaving this to chance.

Just before my new passport arrived, I booked my flight to Biarritz. Of course, I shouldn’t have done so before it arrived but I was impatient!

So far, I have booked one hotel; actually, a pilgrim hostel (albergue) in Roncesvalles, Spain. This will be my first stop on 11th April after I have crossed the Pyrenees.

I wouldn’t have done this but when I attended the Confraternity of St. James’ Pilgrim Day a few weeks ago, it was suggested that booking it would be a good idea due to limited bed numbers there. I suspect that in April I will be fine but I would not want to spend six hours crossing the Pyrenees only to find no beds available.

From this time onwards, I hope only to prebook one more hotel – the first that I will stay in at Saint Jean on 9th April. After that, I aim to turn up at each albergue and see what’s available.

This morning, I visited the Apple store in Regent’s Street to buy a portable battery for my iPhone. Some people say you shouldn’t take a mobile phone with you which I can understand but at present I have no desire and feel no need to disconnect from the world that much. As my phone battery has a tendency sometimes to decrease at an alarming rate the portable battery should allay any fears I have of it happening right in the moment when I need it – really need it – though, of course, I hope that never happens.

Did you notice I just called my mobile phone ‘her’? I wonder if that is accurate.

After leaving the Apple store, I went to Cotswold Outdoors in Piccadilly. There, I bought the bulk of all that I will be taking with me to France and Spain:

  • Backpack
  • Earplugs
  • Fleece
  • Headlight
  • Headphones
  • Medical bag
  • Mini towel
  • Neck bag
  • Portable charger
  • Raincoat
  • Shirt x3
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping mat
  • Swiss Army knife
  • Toiletries bag
  • Trousers x1
  • Underwear x2
  • Walking Boots

There are still a few things that I need to buy:

  • Adaptor
  • Socks x3
  • Thermal underwear x1
  • Toiletries
  • Trousers x2
  • Underwear x1
  • Walking sticks

And then I will be good to go!

As this is the first time I have gone on a journey where specialist equipment is required, I have had to buy everything that I need for it. As a result, I spent about £800 today. I would have spent about £1,000 if I had not been given a discount for being a member of the Confraternity of St. James. The good news is that, unless I get lost on the Pyrenees and stay to haunt it, the clothes that I bought will serve me for many years to come. That’s good because I already know where my next pilgrimage will be – to Rome.

Looking through the list, you might be wondering why I need to buy things like shirts, socks, underwear, etc; don’t I own these already? Of course, I do, but they are made of material like cotton that is not good for long walks when you get very sweaty, etc. The clothes that I bought today are synthetic and made with trekking in mind.

I have read that it is very easy to buy things that you don’t need. Looking at the list of things I bought today and what I still need to buy, I am very pleased with myself for sticking to essentials. Although… will I need a headlamp, really? Headphones…? I will make a final decision on what to take with me on 11th April when, at daybreak, I set off from the albergue with, I hope, all that I need and not one thing more!

Gosh, what a long post. Well, I shall bring it to a close here. Tomorrow, I will write a blog post on the two fears that I have about the Camino. See you then!