Left or right?

I have the choice of turning left or right on the way back from work.

Left involves going through the main town and, whilst slightly shorter, may delay the journey during rush hour, to eventually join the motorway.

Right involves a slightly longer route with lighter traffic, which usually means a shorter journey. It eventually joins the motorway.

I chose the right path and I was stuck on a motorway accident for around an hour. This was just before both options merge again, which means that I could have saved a substantial amount of time by going left instead.

Or the accident could have occurred slightly further down the motorway.

Or I could have been in that accident.

Or a million other possibilities.

I think a motorist died on the accident.

Someone who chose one way instead of the other, or someone who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or someone who made a series of catastrophic choices, or simply made one fatal one.

It takes little to lose everything, so I am trying to take nothing for granted.

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A Dying Wish

Readers, I want to apologise for my silence.

In a way, several things have happened in life, however I seem to have settled nicely for the time being. I (we) only need to deal with a pair of solicitor bureaus that are simply doing their work. I can’t fault them, they get paid and they gnaw at us. However, I can fault those who have engaged them against us. But that is that, not much I can do at the moment but wait for further instructions.

I read on the news the sad case of an elderly couple. Both in their mid 60’s. She was found dead with a stab wound to her neck, and suffered from dementia, and had been living in a care home. The husband was found seriously injured with a knife injury to his stomach – he survived and is now facing charges of murder against her.

I do not know the case in full, however I understand that he claims that they had a pre-arranged death pact. The wife’s sister has written a “victim personal statement”, option given by the court to the relatives of a deceased.

I can understand why someone would want to have a death pact with their loved ones, especially if their children have fled the nest and they are, mostly, alone.

I can understand how hard it is to live the rest of one’s life on their own. How long do you have? Days? Years? Decades? After a significant relationship, can you survive this time on your own?

I am not sure I would survive.

The news article is here

 

A move and the notice

I moved out.

 

Eventually, after years of personal silence, of things that I wanted to say but that I did not.

I am now in a temporary location where friends have been kind enough to give me lodging. It’s not a rent – or so they say – despite my paying following a contract that stipulates the rent.

Today I have been given notice to depart – 28 days or so.

I am still awaiting for the things to happen – for the deal to be finished – to finally be able to move somewhere permanent, at least for a few years.

On the meantime, my ex has decided to reach out and contact friends, family, and acquaintances, to give his version of the story. I have not challenged him on that, but who am I to do so. He can make a fool of himself if he so wish to do so.

I have no interest on any bickering or discussion as to what didn’t work.
I know I have learn my lesson, and I am saddened that he will not have learned his.

Be as it may, I am, again, on the move.

A dying light

This is the last sleep.

I am in bed thinking about all the things I could say. All the things I’ve wanted to say in the last 6 months, year, 18+ months. All the things I wanted to say and I could not, and I did not.

It does not matter now.

I am guilt ridden and I cannot simply ignore it.

I have tried to make amends. A phone call whilst driving back from work. Stating the obvious and yet utterly meaningful. My flaws and weaknesses, are those the ones who drove me to perdition? Was there something else? The chuckle when the reply is “I kinda noticed that”.

The understanding across the miles. Compare that to the loneliness across a few inches. The abyss on the other side of bed. How the person once considered the significant other, the brother soul, the better half of the couple, is now a mere stranger, not because any specific incident, but because of the lack of stirring the fire up.

The lack of kindling of the relationship.

The drift apart, torn asunder by the mere inactivity on each other. Not boredom, slightly more subtle.

The being taken for granted and taking the other one for granted.

The gap is too wide to try to bridge, but I will not make the same mistake again.

From now on, I will never doubt to express what I feel. I will aim to tune it to a lullaby of sorrow instead of an apotheosic climax.

I need the “Ars subtilior”

Miracles happen.

To cross the river of life full of rocks and obstacles, hold together, be bold, and draw on those powers that are beneficent. Empathy, care, and sacrifice, are the most heartwarming of human traits.

May I rise above different and dissent, and experience unity in my heart.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold

And I’m not talking about the novel.

I have a big decision ahead of me. It feels like doing something when you know you have something else just up further ahead. I struggle with, say, doing things in the morning when I know I have something to do at 2pm, or if I’m working in the evening.

I have wasted days “not doing stuff in case something happens that stops me from doing the really important thing later on”.

Not anymore.

I am about to cause irreparable harm to someone when they are informed of my intentions.

I am not looking forward to it, but for the last year and a bit everything I have been doing appears to have been leading slowly and steadily towards this end.

It feels like having a last supper when you know the other person is about to go to prison for 15 years. Or knowing that they will die that very evening. “The last time we did x” is a phrase that comes to mind, and yet we hardly remember “the first time we did y”.

Once again, we get used to doing things, to the comforts of life, very easily. Untangling ourselves out of them is the hard part.

I have written a list of things I will have to take with me – to minimise the time fretting around when I move out.

Sometimes you just need to grab your stuff, pack your bags, and run.

And then of course is the admin that goes with it. Changing the correspondence address. The banks. All the small things that will continue to be occurring even when I have left.

I am lucky that my entanglement is, mostly, emotional.

I think I will cope, but then it strikes me, and tears come to my eyes.

I will be a new man next week.

 

A desolate island

Keys in the ignition, the engine beeps a few times before turning on. We all feel the diesel vibration on our feet, and the little boat is starting the journey. It will take nearly an hour to reach our destination, a remote island off the coast of Ireland, now famous for other accomplishments.

Back in the day it was the site of an early Christian monastery. We’re talking 6th century here, and hosting 12 monks at its heyday. This is also prior to the orders as known today, and therefore they would be fully self regulated and, more or less, on their own.

The island is some 12km off the coast and is quite hard to get to.

Monks were estimated to live up to their mid 30s, and died with severe arthritis due their living conditions and the hard work they had to endure.

What pushes a man, several men, throughout six centuries to live and improve an island in the middle of nowhere? To build a monastery where most of the food flew in the shape of puffins? Where they had to climb over 600 steps just to reach the base of the monastery?

It amazes me the drive of those men. The strength of their willpower. She sheer power of their want.

I also think about those supporting them, from the mainland. Knowing that they would expect a visit via boat in a few weeks time at some point in the day, to bring supplies and whatnot? Would they send a monk inland to collect news and food?

Imagine being the boatman of the nearby town. Would your thoughts not be, on a daily basis, on the monks? It is believed that a slight cooling during the middle ages and the reformation of the monasteries in the mainland led to harsher conditions on the island and the integration of the monks as Augustines in a nearby town.

The island changed hands. Lighthouses were built. The conditions remained harsh.

Here is the tombstone of two of the children living in the lighthouse after a particularly hard winter.

May all their souls rest in peace

A sunset. Muxia

The third sunset since I have been in this town. I have now managed to leech off the WiFi from the loud bar downstairs where local fishermen appear to be drinking their lives away.

The town is a small quiet one. I do not know the exact population but it is small and sleepy, its only features are their being on a very extreme of Spain and having had the bones of St James land at some point in a rock that allegedly is visible to day.

I grab a beer and go downstairs to the nearby beach. It is not the westernmost point of the town, near the church of St Mary of the boat, but it is one of the ones with a sandy approach and a view west. To the sunset.

I walk to see the sunset about to occur. Obscured by the clouds, invisible to me in full, but present nevertheless.

I sit there listening to some music – about a man stranded in the Hebrides after a car accident – music that I thought would be appropriate for the occasion.

I am on my own. I have been in company all day and yet I feel this utter feeling of isolation. I cannot feel joy at where I am. People are in tears when they get here, and carry on to Finisterre, the other end of the world, which is another day’s walk. I will bmnever make it there for illness has struck. I do not want to say it is laziness but it has sapped all my energy and I simply cannot carry on.

A few things hold me in place, or rather, hold me back home.

I carry a stone from home that I thought about throwing into the sea. A symbol of an ending and a new beginning. I carried another one that I was very close to leaving next to the tomb of St James. Would I have been on my own I would have done it. But alas the moment passed and I travelled away. It did not deserve to be thrown into the tomb like a ruffian throwing a discarded beer.

The sun is now gone. It is getting colder but I am here typing this on my phone with cold fingers, trembling and slightly shaking. I observe life around me. Hundreds of limpets attached to rocks. Granite bounders on my left, the sea on the right. The sun, now gone, was ahead. Behind me, my life. My bag. My walking companion in bed, ill.

Sometimes one must be alone to realise what one’s missing. Having someone nearby won’t do.

This godforsaken aerial…

I am now in the coast of Galicia. What was once thought of the westernmost point of the known world is now one of some with a similar claim.

I am once more without Internet, nor phone network. There is a phone mast nearby yet I seem unable to connect to it. I stare at it in anger at the fact that it doesn’t want to communicate with me, yet everyone appears to be happily bouncing their wireless to it.

This makes me realise what I do not want to be here. I want to be back, end this stage of my life and simply return to what I need. In another context this would be a beautiful backdrop to the end of a 5 year trek. Now it feels like the never-ending slog at the end of a 5 year crawl.

I do not want to be here. I stare at the aerial once more. I imagine the blinking beacon at the top, smiling at me and at the irony of my situation. Damn you, antenna. Damn you a hundred times.

I have little else to do here. I am nearly finished with the book I’m currently reading and I feel unable to escape my walking companion. There was a debate whether we could or should see the sea today. Whether my companion could be bothered to walk the 15 minutes to the edge of the world.

“Only if it is that important to you”, I hear.

I’d rather go alone, I think. I say little unknown whether I have the strength.

Damn you aerial. Damn you.

Arrival. Departure. Santiago

I have finally made it to Santiago. In fact I made it a couple of days ago. I have been staying at the very luxorious Hospital dos reyes católicos.

Essentially, a pilgrim’s hospital that now is a luxury hotel. Similar to Roncesvalles (where I spent my first night after walking 5 years ago in 2014) and their pilgrim hospital (that had been running uninterrupted by 1300+ years in the service of pilgrims, with groups of monks leaving each morning to pick up the bodies from the previous day in the mountains).

The passage of time. 5 years in my case. 5 years of my life which have included significant changes on, essentially, mostly everything.

Pilgrims walk this same distance in a month.

Thanks to the wonders of Facebook we can keep up with those who have been there and they’ve moved back home. Or to finisterre, or muxia, or wherever. But I remain for another night.

I sleep in what is called a minor seminary. I reckon there could be in excess of a thousand beds here, all open to whoever, not just pilgrims (and definitely cheaper than anything else including my hotel for the last two nights). I have a private room with two beds and I notice that above the door frame there’s a sign, tutor, which leads me to believe that this was a small room for the master of the class. A low level cleric who would be able to open the door and catch the children misbehaving as usual.

The room is in a corner if the building so I do get the views and a bit of a draft if I open all windows.

I think of the worth of winning an argument. Today I shut up after trying to discuss whether the UK would have more churches than Spain. Of course I don’t know the exact answer, I could check Wikipedia for that. But nevermind. My opinion is duly shut and I return to the idle silence and gazing around distractedly. Someone might care but not today.

I leave Santiago tomorrow. I will take a bus to the edge of the world and I hope to swim in the ocean.

Rubbish. Menu. Pedrouzo

After my post last night I went out to have some dinner. I ended up speaking to some of the ladies who had been present in the river.

One of them mentioned that I looked like out from Father Ted, to which I laughed. Oh how close she might be to the truth!

After that one remained. I had seen her a few times before and we chatted about the camino. She had started in St Jean pied de port (where I also started 5 years ago) but her start was closed due snow and she had to manage without the 10+ hours in the mountains where Napoleon invaded Spain. I think we connected in some way, especially in the invisible threads that connect pilgrims from different backgrounds. She was waving hello to several other pilgrims as a surprise reunion of friends. She had touched many lives, including mine, yet she was not sure how and whether she would have changed when she would return home. I tried to reassure her that I thought the changed had already begun, how she was attuned to the camino and to herself, and how she had reflected on the pacing of life in the camino. Sometimes we might need to be reminded to slow down and stop. We also reflected on the graffiti incident we both witnessed and said nothing (she was one of the 6 present) and how that had affected us. I do not think I mentioned this before, but essentially a group of 6 of us walking noticed another group of pilgrims under a bridge drawing some graffiti. Nobody said anything but I’m surt we all expressed some sort of anger internally. I thought about it, and I decided to let it go. It was unimportant, under a bridge and, to be fair, nearly expected with the amount of graffiti in many parts of the camino (distance markers, road signs, bridges, etc) so would one more make a difference? I doubt it. They looked like troubled people trying to simply get something out. I agreed with her that they looked completely out of place but at the same time that we hoped they would find what they were hoping to find.

I hoped I was able to reassure her.

Today I saw an inscription in a bin that read “the camino stopped talking to me in Sarria”. Sarria is the place where the ‘bare minimum’ can ver achieved to obtain the compostela, which is slightly over 100km (compared to 600+ some people carry by then), so there’s some sort of snobbery about the property of pilgrims vs tourists. I understand that feeling of silence, but maybe the camino speaks differently at each stage.

Initially you have the pyrinees. They begin with a test of your body.

Then the plains of Spain. Those test your inner strength.

Then the massification and the rest of tourists. That will test your patience and tolerance on others.

I also thought (prior to writing this) how it might reflect on the evolution of religion. Firstly the raw element, rock and mountain. Then the inner path of self discovery in the plains. And then the organised groups where there is a lot of noise and we may forget where God is. I think they are quite similar to each other, in a way.

Today I also felt like utter despair, wanting to cry my soul out. I was too exhausted to actually emit anything other than a quiet sigh, but the feeling was there. My travelling companion ordered his food and at no point he noticed or cared much about what I was doing. Once he got his food ready (for which there was no menu and only the counter stuff) he simply left to the toilet leaving me without an order, having his to deal with, and still having to place my own order. The lady at the bar did pay me some attention and whilst speaking to another chap (she was glad I could speak the language) she cheerfully asked him where he was from. He said coke and croissant not understanding what she was going on about.

She proceeded to stop preparing my order and complete his.

I felt in the middle of nowhere. Isolated yet able to understand what was going on. Lacking strength to even process or say anything, even struggling to wait, cry or moan. I felt utterly ignored and trumped by everyone.

I never had coffee there. I wanted to have some at the following bar (which also featured on the BBC programme and included the hand drawn stamp) however once more ‘we had just left the previous place and didn’t feel like stopping again’.

I eventually made it to the destination. I wondered why I bothered with today.

Tomorrow, Santiago. Under 20km to go.