We Have Arrived!

On 16th May 2019, five weeks after leaving Saint Jean Pied de Port, my friends and I finally arrived in Santiago de Compostela. Today, we went straight to the flat we had booked for the night. Tomorrow, we’ll head down to the cathedral and the pilgrim centre.

Two years later I still think of walking the Camino as one of the two great achievements of my life (the other being earning my degree from university) and I remain as happy and honoured to have been able to do so as I was when we reached Santiago.

I would still like to walk the Camino Francés again, though I don’t know if I ever will – maybe health and financial status will not allow it – but if I don’t, I am immeasurably glad and grateful that I got the chance to do it even just the once.

As I write these words, the coronavirus continues to plague the world. Here in Britain, we are recovering: the government has made many mistakes since COVID-19 started to spread, but has done brilliantly with the vaccination programme. The Indian variant is causing concern but all being well, the country will be fully ‘open’ again this summer. After a slow start (to put it mildly), the European Union is getting on with its vaccination programme as well. As it does so, pilgrims will start to walk the way of St. James again. I applaud their bravery, for they will not only be undertaking what will be at times an arduous journey but doing so at a time when there will invariably be lingering concerns about the virus.

If you are one of those trail blazing pilgrims, or if you are reading this further into the future, here is this one-timer’s advice for making a good pilgrimage:

  1. Don’t walk without water!
  2. Travel as lightly as you can
  3. The Camino isn’t a race. Go at your own pace

There is lots of advice that one could give but I think the above are the most essential. I would dare to say that the above is the most critical, as well. Some advice (like ‘leave your phone at home’) can be happily ignored. The above, I believe, shouldn’t be.

As for me, I bought a little bottle of wine to toast our success in 2019. Here’s to what we achieved and the Camino – long may she be a guide to souls.

11th June 1901: A Black Day

Today, Belloc walked from just before Burgdorf to an inn just before the Brienzergrat

11th June 1901 was Hilaire Belloc’s most difficult day on his pilgrimage to Rome. At the end of yesterday’s ‘entry’ in The Path to Rome, he describes how he thought he was suffering from ‘fatigue’ (Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press 2003) p.188) whereas it as actually ‘a deep inner exhaustion’ (Ibid).

I have read The Path to Rome several times but only really took in that line – ‘a deep inner exhaustion’ – when I read the book last year. What caused it? Is Belloc close to a nervous breakdown?

To answer the latter question first, no; if The Path to Rome is a true account of his pilgrimage, he is nowhere near it.

To answer the former question, Belloc has only been on the road for eight days, so I would rule out the stress of travelling as the cause for the exhaustion. It is more likely the symptom. To my mind, Belloc’s ‘deep inner exhaustion’ has its roots in his life before his departure from Toul.

Belloc left the inn where he had spent the night and began walking.

All that day was destined to be covered, so far as my spirit was concerned, with a motionless lethargy. Nothing seemed properly to interest or to concern me…

The Path to Rome, p.189

Part of the problem was certainly that Belloc felt intensely lonely.

I had the feeling that every one I might see would be a stranger, and that their language would be unfamiliar to me, and this, unlike most men who travel, I had never felt before… I had no room for good-fellowship. I could not sit at tables and expand the air with terrible stories of adventure, not ask about their politics, nor provoke them to laughter or sadness by my tales.

The Path to Rome, pp.189-90

As for being among strangers whose language one cannot not understand – I can relate to this. I took my first solo holiday abroad in 2002. It was to Tuscany, Italy. Upon my arrival at the hotel, I had a two hour panic attack because here I was now in a strange land surrounded by strangers whose tongue I did not speak. There was no one here to help me; I was entirely alone.

Eventually, I forced myself out of the hotel*. Belloc continued walking. He had breakfast at the Burgdorf railway station where he lamented the sight of tourists just as my friends and I did with the ‘tourist pilgrims’ at Sarria when we did the Camino this year.

[It was] a day without salt. A trudge. The air was ordinary, the colours common; men, animals, and trees indifferent. Something had stopped working.

The Path to Rome, p.193

‘Something had stopped working’. This line gives me the chills. When applied to the spirit, it seems so profound. It seems to go much beyond just feeling blue or a bit sad. Again, it takes me back to my panic attack described above, and the time I felt ‘holed’ (see post here).

Nothing went right for Belloc today. He was in a deep funk; to make matters worse, he was also let down by those around him. Case in point – a peasant asked him to hold his horse while he – the peasant – went into an inn. Belloc, being a horse lover, was happy to do so, but on the understanding that the peasant would bring him a drink. The peasant did not speak English or French so this understanding was only implicit. It was also not known, or ignored. The peasant went inside and stayed there. Belloc grew more and more irritated at being ignored; finally, he lost his temper; he gave the horse a whack and sent it galloping down the road. Now the peasant – and his his friends – came tumbling out of the inn. Belloc took hold of his staff and resumed his walk.

That evening, he was cheered up by the sight of children dancing. They gave Belloc the strength to continue walking. The weather deteriorated, however, and it began to rain. Fortunately, he was able to find a hotel, and there he stayed the night.

*I’m happy to be able to tell you that once I left the hotel, all was well. I had a brilliant holiday

Camino Postcard 3: Zubiri to Pamplona

Gateway to the Future

13th April 2019. I got a good night’s sleep in Zubiri and so set off for Pamplona the next morning in good spirits. It didn’t last. As soon as I left Zubiri, I had to climb a long slope, which hurt my right leg a bit; it would take nearly two weeks before it got anywhere near used to climbing upwards and even then I would be glad whenever we came to a flat path.

At the top of the slope was a very welcome water tap. I filled my water bottle. As it turned out, this would be the only time on the Camino that I would use these taps.

Ninety or so minutes later I arrived in Larrasoaña and stopped to take a photograph of its medieval bridge (above). Thinking back to the early days of the Camino now, I feel like I crossed quite a few of these. I don’t know how many I did actually cross but you have to hand it to medieval architects and builders, they certainly knew how to make things last.

Somewhere between Larrasoaña and Pamplona I passed the above farm building and entered Basque country. I wish I knew more about the Basque people. About the sum of my knowledge is that they are fiercely independent and that their language is not related to any other in Europe (is this correct?).

Certainly, it does look very different to Spanish; with its use of hard letters like K and X it has a rough hewn, dwarfish, feel about it – it’s as if the language came out of the earth rather than from the people. But maybe it just means that the Basque people are of the earth in a way that no one else in Europe is. I don’t know. Before I go back to Spain in the future, though, I hope I can learn at least a little more about them.

It was about this time that I noticed a habit of at least some Spanish people – saying ‘hello’ to you as they pass you so that it is next to impossible to say ‘hello’ back. That was a bit vexing as one wants to be as friendly as possible.

By the bye, one or two of the people that I met today had a very proud bearing. They reminded me of the Spanish as depicted in the Asterix books.

Graffiti is popular feature of the Camino Francés; the vast majority of messages are positive, though a few are sadly negative; sometimes, like above, they are questions. I saw many political slogans as well

Further along the path I stopped at a bar-hostel called the Parada de Zuriain where I met a little cat who liked to beg but was not so fond of the cockerels walking around. Not long later, I came upon a group of people who were getting ready to climb a nearby cliff face. This gave me a chance to be witty and say to another pilgrim that if we did the same it would be a shortcut to Pamplona. Rather shamelessly, I am still laughing at my own joke!

All in all, the road to Pamplona was not a difficult one. Although periodic climbing was involved, I think it was still the easiest day yet. That’s just as well as it was surely the hottest.

To reach the city of bulls I had to first walk through a town called Burlada. That didn’t take too long but after a day of walking, I really wanted my first urban environment to be my destination. I took one last break in Burlada, strapped on my backpack and began the final push. Presently, I was approaching the city’s walls. Between us was one final road crossing.

Now, and for a brief moment, things got difficult. The yellow arrows told me to cross the road and go straight on behind a large wall. However, the other pilgrims with me were ignoring the arrows and walking up the road on the outside of the wall. This was a test of my resolve: did I trust the yellow arrows or other people? Did they know something I didn’t?

I trusted the arrows. My reward was to take a short cut along the Paseo Vergel to the Portal del Francia. The road taken by the other pilgrims was the Calle Vergel. It also took them to the Portal del Francia but by a longer path. I have to admit, I felt quite pleased with myself for sticking to my guns and trusting the arrows, thus finishing the day’s walk ahead of those walking along the Calle Vergel.

At the French gate, I took the photograph below. Afterwards, I looked it at and admired the way I had managed (by accident) to catch the sun’s rays. Unbeknownst to me at the time, however, I had also caught something else in the photo. Or rather, some people. Some people who would turn out to have a very great impact on my pilgrimage. Unfortunately, if you are reading this between 29th – 31st May 2019, you’ll have to wait until Sunday 2nd June to find out who!

Once I entered the city, I made my way to the Jesus and Mary albergue, and checked in. That afternoon, I got confused by a grumpy bar lady, ditched my sandals (too heavy and bulky for my backpack) and bought a pair of flip-flops, went to my last Mass in Spain and failed to tell the difference between a washing machine and dryer in the albergue. Oh, and visited the bullring to pay my respects to one of my most favourite writers, Ernest Hemingway.

Hemingway loved watching the bull running in Pamplona. He also set one of his books here – Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, which is based on a trip he took to the city in the 20s

When I arrived in Pamplona, there were a lot of people there – drinking, laughing, chatting, walking about, seeing the sights. It was good to see them enjoying themselves but I felt no desire to be part of it. In fact, I couldn’t wait to leave – pilgrims need quiet; they need villages and hamlets. I hadn’t considered before arriving in Pamplona, but I knew afterwards that towns and cities were not for me. Not if I wanted to be true to my pilgrim spirit.

Camino Postcard 2: Roncesvalles to Zubiri

Rommel was No. 1

The monastery albergue at Roncesvalles

12th April 2019. My second day on the Camino Francés got off to an inauspicious start when I couldn’t find the token that entitled me to a cheap pilgrim’s breakfast at the Roncesvalles monastery-albergue. I later found it in my note book. On the day, however, I just went to the bar and ordered what I now rather think is Spain’s staple drink – a café con leche (coffee with milk).

How was I feeling after yesterday’s exertions? Not so bad, actually. Perhaps a bit achey – I needed ibuprofen during the day – but ready to walk 790 kilometres.

Actually, it’s a funny thing: I was walking the French Way but as far as the Spanish are concerned, the route begins in Roncesvalles. No. My start was in St. Jean Pied de Port. I had walked 25 kilometres already and was ready to walk the next 790.

After my café, I got going in damp but dry conditions. I managed to navigate my way through the narrow aisles of a small convenience store without knocking anything over with my backpack and outside passed some stone picnic tables that reminded me of the stone altar in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Today’s path took me through woodland without ever being too far away from the road. I also had to cross a bridge that was made of separate stone blocks: a very interesting experience when you are still getting used to your backpack!

Following the rigours of the Valcarlos route, the way to Zubiri was a lot easier. Yes, there were elevation changes but nothing like yesterday’s. The only significant difficulty came towards the end when I had to descend a broad path made of stone embedded in the ground – not by human hands, alas, so it was uneven and awkward to navigate, even with the help of my trekking poles.

Oh yes

At the end of the descent was a van-café, which I was delighted to stop at and buy a couple of drinks from. There, I met a man named Frank who was walking with a big pair of headphones. He used them and his phone to hold business meetings as he walked, which still seems to me a very pro’ activity, albeit not one I would recommend: I think it’s better to enjoy one’s surroundings than remained separated from it. Each to their own, though.

Going back to Frank, though; he was the first of a number of Germans that I met on the Way, two of whom would prove to be very important to me. If you read the first post in this series, you have actually met them already, but I’ll say no more for now.

After leaving the van-café, it was a short 3 kilometre run (no, not literally!) to Zubiri. My original intention had been to walk on to Larrasoaña but having walked 25 kilometres I was ready for a rest. There was a problem, though: when I arrived in the town, I found that the municipal albergue had closed down. Fortunately, a private albergue nearby had plenty of beds available for only a few euros more and so I checked in there.

Free advertising: This albergue was called the 2 Etape. If you stop in Zubiri on your Camino, pay it a visit; the rooms are small and the lady in charge very friendly.

In Zubiri I finally got rid of some of the weight in my backpack. It wasn’t easy. I decided to leave a pair of trousers behind, some of my medical equipment, and – most painfully of all – my favourite copy of Arrian.

Why did I ever bring it? I had another translation on my iPad (although I shouldn’t have brought that with me, tbf). So, it had to go. On Day 1, I learnt about the preciousness of water. On Day 2, the importance and necessity of letting go of anything – no matter how good – that weighed me down.

That evening, I had dinner in a local café. The previous evening, I had sat at the same table as a woman who was more interested in her phone than with talking (or maybe she couldn’t speak English). In Zubiri I was put at a table with a German father and son. For a while I just kept to myself. Then, the father very kindly offered me a glass of their wine. We got chatting and things went on from there.

Kind of. Either out of a perverse desire to ruin things for myself or because I like lobbing verbal hand grenades into peoples’ laps and seeing what happens next I ‘happened’ to mention my friends E. and T. who once got into trouble at work for creating a list of their favourite Nazis.

Before you think that you’ve strayed onto the blog of a far right lunatic, I should say that E. and T. were being dry, banterous and ironic. My favourite types of humour. Although I explained this to the father and son I have to admit I’m not sure they really appreciated the whole anecdote. To their credit, they didn’t have a go at me, order me to leave or beat me up.

As it happens, this would not be the last time I mentioned the infamous list and E. The list would get an airing again – in conversation with Germans, because of course, and they actually laughed! But more on them in the next post…

Just before dinner, I met the lady who gave me a bottle of water yesterday. We had a good chat (not about Nazis) before going our separate ways. We would meet each other again a few more times between Zubiri and Santiago. I also met a fellow who I would not see again until Finisterre. By then, I had forgotten him; he remembered me, though, and the fact I had to get rid of my favourite book!

Writing The Camino

My last post on this blog was on 10th April this year – Camino Postcard: St. John Pied de Port. I wrote it on my iPad the day before I began the Camino.

My intention had been to walk every day and in the afternoon or evening write a new ‘postcard’ to let you know how the day had gone.

As it was, however, that did not prove to be a practical idea: after finishing the day’s walk, I was either too busy, too tired, or, I have to admit, too lazy.

Well, I am happy to report that I am writing this post back home in London a week after finishing the Camino – I reached Santiago de Compostela on 16th/17th May (two dates? This will be explained).

So, let’s stop being lazy and start writing my Postcard account of the journey, which turned out to be the most wonderful experience of my life.

As of today, I will try and write three posts a week – on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday. If this does not prove possible, or I find I have time to write more, I will let you know. Don’t forget, though, you can get my posts delivered to your e-mail inbox by following the blog (see the sidebar on the left).

Without further ado, then, I shall end this post, and start writing Camino Postcard: St. John Pied de Port to Roncesvalles.

A Camino Postcard: St. Jean Pied de Port

Today was my designated acclimatisation day before the big walk over the Pyrenees tomorrow. It has felt, however, a bit of a nothing Day: as beautiful as St. Jean Pied de Port is, I want to be on the road, pushing on step-by-step to Roncesvalles and Santiago de Compostela. As a result, my wandering around town took me only up and down the citadel (the down part being the descent of muddy and slippery steps) and to sundry benches where I stopped to listen to some music and write. I wrote a few notes for the Fixxbook. This was a mistake as it accentuated my Nothing Day blues. Tomorrow, I’ll leave at 6-6:30am. The pilgrims’ office said the Napoleon route will be unsafe due to the weather so I’ll take the Valcarlos. It won’t be spectacular but it will be safer.

I must break my one paragraph rule here to acknowledge the fact that today is the 55th anniversary of Evelyn Waugh’s death. As a man he had a lot to object to but he knew this and daughter God’s help. As a writer, he gave the world some beautiful and hilarious stories for which we owe him a great dent of thanks – EW: Requiescat in Pace.

click the sidebar link for more Camino photos on my Instagram account

Camino Prep Update

One week today I hope to have just arrived in Roncesvalles or be very close by!

How is my preparation going?

It is pretty much complete. I now have my travel insurance; I have ordered my euros from the bank (to be collected tomorrow); I was going to take £300 worth but settled for £200. I don’t want to have too much money on me at any given time just in case the worst happens and it is stolen. One or two toiletries aside – which can wait until Saint Jean – I have bought everything that I’ll need.

Medical Matters
I am pleased to report that I have not experienced any more flashing in my right eye since the episode a week last Monday. I would be lying, though, if I said I wasn’t nervous about the possibility of it happening in France or Spain and then having to go to the nearest hospital to get it checked out. And what do I do if it happens next Monday night or Tuesday morning? I shouldn’t worry about this; it serves no purpose and makes me needlessly anxious but unfortunately, me being me, I find it hard to let go.

Also, I had to go to see my G.P. a couple of days ago. As I suspected, the problem I had turned out to be a non-serious one but I was determined to go Just In Case. I’m glad I did; I’m determined to be responsible about my health: I don’t want to be the kind of man who pushes health issues to one side and then gets really ill. If it happens even though I tried to do something about it, that’s okay, but not otherwise.

I have spent more than I should have these last few weeks. Oh dear. The upshot is that I will have £1500 to last the Camino and get me home. That’s £200 less than I really should have. As my predicted spend is £1050, it still should be plenty enough, though.

What’s Left To Do?
Guess who hasn’t quite managed to learn any Spanish… gulp
Guess who hasn’t yet planned his daily route… still time

As I will be leaving London in the early hours, I should probably see if I can buy my Stansted Express ticket in advance. By the way, I thought I had to go to Victoria Station to pick up the Express but my friend M. told me it leaves from Liverpool Street. I dodged a bullet there even if my friend laughed at me!

Also, before I leave, I need to let one of my sisters know my laptop password just in case the very worst (or best given the shape of the world happens) and I die abroad. Of course I hope it doesn’t happen and I’m sure the odds are very much in my favour but if it did I would like my family to be able to have access to my laptop so they can close e-mail and social media accounts, etc.

Finally, I leave on 9th April, if the political worst happens, Britain will leave the E.U. with ‘No Deal’ on Friday, 12th April. It doesn’t look like that will happen, and I am glad. I wish Theresa May hadn’t asked Jeremy Corbyn’s help but if her own party refuses to support her, what else could she have done?

Items Bought, Calls Made, & Medical Matters

In my first post of 3rd March, I mentioned the Camino items that I hadn’t yet bought,

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

Today, I am very happy to be able to say that with just two exceptions (although see below), all these things have now been bought and are ready to pack (incl. waterproof trousers).

The two outstanding items are toiletries, which I will either leave until the last minute or buy in Saint Jean, and travel insurance.

I’ll come back to travel insurance in a moment, but first, a money update.

I have had a quick look at my earlier Camino posts and it looks like I didn’t share as much as I thought I had about this important topic, so I will here. Please excuse me if I am accidentally repeating myself.

I am paying for my Camino out of my savings. I initially took £2,500 out*: £1,050 for the Camino journey itself, the rest for everything else. E.G. all equipment, the flight out and back, the hotel in Saint Jean and Santiago, and any other bills that might crop up along the way.

In regards equipment, when I first visited Cotswold Outdoor I had no idea how much buying it would cost – backpack, clothes, trekking poles etc; the figure of £500 swirled around in my head but it had no basis in reality.

Indeed it didn’t because having now bought everything that I need, except the two items mentioned above, I have £1,112 left of my £2,500. I have spent, therefore, £1,388. (BTW: If you are reading this in Britain and are thinking of doing the Camino, join the Confraternity of St. James: I saved about £300 thanks to the membership discount).

Now, if I had truly bought everything I needed to get me started on the Camino on 11th April, I might have been tempted to leave the £1,112 alone. However, I know that when I arrive in Biarritz I will have to pay for a transport to Saint Jean. And I haven’t yet bought my hotel room in Santiago or my flight home.

So, today, I called my bank up to ask for a further £700 to be released into my Camino account. It was no problem – I called, the call centre man listened, asked me the relevant security questions then completed the disbursal process: the money will arrive next week.

The thing is, though, I hate using the phone. I don’t know why, I just do. As a result, even though I have known for the last week or two that I would have to make this call, I have kept putting it off until now. I feel very stupid for being so apprehensive but there it is. I wish it was otherwise. When I ended the call today, I was so thrilled I got hope and did a few fist pumps! I really did feel like I had conquered the world. How silly, but it’s true.

* Not literally. I created a new ‘Camino’ account with my bank for the sole use of Camino related expenses. I didn’t want to put the money in my regular account in case I ended up accidentally spending it on books or iTunes

Travel Insurance
At the start of this week, I logged on to the Compare the Market website to find a travel insurance policy. A backpacker deal by a company called Cover for You seemed to fit the bill so this morning I started filling out their online application form.

The medical section asks you to tell them if, amongst other things, in the last two years you have been to see your doctor for an unresolved condition.

I have, and the condition does remain unresolved. It isn’t a serious one – I am not receiving any kind of treatment for it – but as it is there, I thought I better mention it on the form.

However, the website also asks you to tell them what exactly it is. The problem is, I don’t know. When I went to see the Doc. I didn’t ask, and he didn’t tell me. As it approximates to a muscle strain in my right leg, though, I initially wrote that. But then I thought, I better find out if that is enough. So, I called Cover for You up to ask.

It’s just as well that I did because they recommended I find out from my doctor what specifically he wrote down (if anything). This, I was told, will make things a lot easier if I have to make a claim.

So, I toddled along to my surgery to ask for my medical record. Receiving it is not the thing of a moment. I had to fill out a form and will now have to wait a week until they are ready to pass me the information. Once they do, I will go back to Cover for You’s website and complete the application form. Once it is done and ‘sent’ has been clicked, I will have completed the last necessary action before leaving for France!

I am very happy that I didn’t leave sorting out the travel insurance any later than I did. I do regret, though, not dealing with it first. I leave the U.K. in just 18 days. I would have preferred at this stage not to be waiting on any forms.

There we are, then; today has been a day of little achievements that mean a lot to me. Just 18 days to go!

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.