18th June 1901: Belloc Almost Gives Up His Narrative

Belloc stepped out of the inn and into the rain. It rained all day.

LECTOR. It does not seem to me that this part of your book is very entertaining.

Hilaire Belloc The Path to Rome (Ignatius Press 2003), p.303

Here is a ‘friendship’ that I don’t think I have mentioned yet – that between AUCTOR and LECTOR. I shall do it now to stop this post being about five lines long: Belloc’s account of this day is dominated by the story of how a ‘Learned Man’ sold his soul to the devil only to outwit him and keep it, and then by Belloc’s musings on the subject of Germany. When these are finished, so is his day.

The AUCTOR (capitals as that is how Belloc writes it) is Belloc himself and the LECTOR supposedly his reader. In reality, of course, LECTOR is a rhetorical ploy that allows Belloc to banter with the us the readers and take the narrative in directions that would otherwise have been closed to it.

I was not quite correct to say that today’s entry ends after his ruminations concerning Germany. Belloc trudged through the rain and mud to Piacenza. There, he ate in a run down palace, now a hotel called the Moor’s Head, before resuming his journey. Let us tarry there a little longer though, for we have the inn keeper of the Moor’s Head to thank for stopping today being a total wash-out in terms of looking at friendships that Belloc made or experienced along the way to Rome. He writes,

He was a good man, the innkeeper of this palace. He warmed me at his fire in his enormous kitchen…

The Path to Rome, p.317

From Piacenza, Belloc walked to Firenzuola where he stayed the night. Tomorrow morning, he will wake up to find the weather ‘still cold, still heartless, and sodden’. The memory of both breaks his patience and he refuses to discuss either Firenzuola or the morning in the book.

Camino Postcard 8: Logroño to Navarrete

Evil hates being laughed at so we should make it a priority

18.4.19. Today’s walk was just 13 kilometres. As we had now been walking for a week, we decided to have a short day today in lieu of a rest day.

Six feet, one Camino

The weather was not our friend. Rain was coming down when we left Logroño and it was still wet when we arrived in Navarrete.

Today was also not a good day for my right thigh. We were not yet completely out of Logroño when it started hurting. Thank goodness once more for Ibuprofen.

I took my tablets when we stopped at a park café for breakfast. There, we met the same Frank whom I had met on the way from Roncesvalles to Zubiri. Today, he was busy using duct tape to make his shoes waterproof.

Fortunately for my leg, today’s walk was pretty flat. There were no climbs of any significance. Along the way, we saw a huge sculpture of a bull on top of a hill and many crosses entwined with a wire mesh fence. As far as I recall, the stretch of path where we saw them was not religiously significant – I imagine one pilgrim had the idea and many decided to copy him.

Reading my journal, it looks like I sold myself short. In today’s entry, I note that Ellena ‘has been talking about the three of us getting Camino tattoos’ for the last couple of days. I write that, ‘If I have any money left I will definitely be down for that!’.

That, however, is not the full story, for in my journal today I wrote, ‘I can’t believe [Ellena and Carolin will] want to walk with me all the way to Santiago so I must try to appreciate it while we are together.’ Sad to say that that rather sums me up – if something good happens, I can’t simply enjoy it, or live in its moment; no, I end up considering that I am unworthy of it and that as a result it will surely end.

A great aid to prayer

I may have been down for a tattoo, therefore, but in my worried, insecure heart, I didn’t believe that I would still be with Ellena and Carolin when we arrived at the end.

We arrived in Navarrete in the early afternoon. There, we found a lovely little albergue (the Albergue la Casa del Peregrino) halfway up a steady incline). We stepped into the dinning room area which was decorated with so many postcards and even a completed credencial before climbing the stairs to the second floor dorm.

After claiming our beds, we went back down the road to a café where we ate and drank beer. That evening, we had a lovely meal prepared by the hospitalero. The pilgrims sat at two long benches which was great for the atmosphere. I met one who would become a very firm part of our circle of friends – Lilian from Canada but who now lives in Thailand. Cats came and went. Spain is a dog country and I loved them whenever I saw them but cats will also come first for me.

After the meal – back to the dorm. This evening, I was surrounded by German pilgrims. We met so many during the Camino that I felt sure that Germany must be empty. Up in the dorm, Ellena and I had this conversation.

Ellena: So, how does it feel to be surrounded by Germans?
MJM: (Thinks to self: Don’t say ‘Like Dunkirk’; Don’t say ‘Like Dunkirk’; Don’t say…’ etc) I… many thoughts are going through my head…
Ellena: … and all of them inappropriate?!
MJM: (Indignantly) … my head is full of pro-European thoughts!

Nah. All of them were Dunkirk. I didn’t fool her.

That’s the great thing about Ellena – I could tell her my funny anecdote about the Favourite Nazi spreadsheet* and she wouldn’t mind. When I did tell her, she laughed. In the 90s, I lived for a while with a German girl who was lovely but who once apologised for the war as if it was her fault. Ellena, on the other hand, could laugh at a video of Adolf Hitler dancing in a bar. Remind me to tell you about that when we reach Sarria.

*See my Roncesvalles to Zubiri post here for more details

Outside the albergue in Navarrete