18th October 2020

A day late, but never mind. The banners were still there. Yesterday was World Poverty Day, as celebrated by the 4th World Movement. So, this is for Pili.

A well trodden path for me gave me a feast. A sunrise that took its time, and I ‘caught’ some of its moments as I criss-crossed the river.

A few jarring images, one of which shows a modern attraction, invented happiness.

Mostly, the beauty of the natural world, the light of the sun that is everywhere, whether we can see it or not.

The edited photos just follow one another over around 45 minutes.

just before the feast began

this might have been such a warehouse in its day… now the hoarding hides more apartments and office buildings

An old church sandwiched in between a modern glass building and an old building. The sun reflecting through the modern building.
reflected light, and the building houses Mammon.

A Camino Like No Other

A long, long time ago… in 2006 I walked from Roncesvalles to Santiago. A friend had an unexpected two month period free while she was in transition between jobs. She asked if I would walk with her. I was terrified! Me? A lazy being with no history of any exercise whatever? Long story short, 150km practice walks, bought the usual minimum of gear and set off on Friday 23rd June. 29 days later, arrived in Santiago. Plenty of ups and downs along the way, but this story is not about that camino.
So, why is this one not like any other?
Well, my camino is not listed on any forum. It consists of a concrete laneway at the back of our house in Dublin, Ireland. It takes me 80 steps from end to end but then I do have short steps. At present I am not allowed to leave the house or garden. Well, the lane is the equivalent of a garden. It is shared by 20 houses, ten on each side. So far, since lockdown, I have only seen a dad and son playing football, and my own community companion using the lane as well as myself. The dad and son were very happy to leave out the football for my companion. She likes kicking it up and down. The lane is closed at one end by a wall, and at the other by a gate.


I had been forcing myself to walk up and down for a certain amount of km. I got tired of that. A friend was admitted to hospital, probably not with the virus, but… in fact, no sign of the virus, but another health problem. In any case, that led me to say: here I am, safe and sound, able to walk where there are three other users of the space, and I can roam around the world in my mind and heart while I walk up and down. I can focus on the wonderful people who are right there on the frontline of this battle with the invisible enemy that is Covid19. Then there are all the supporting actors in every possible walk of life, protecting the frontlines, as well as the backbenchers.
So my camino that is unlike any other calls on an element from my first camino: dedicating the joys and sorrows of each day to someone in my life. That person did not know, but I knew. Equally, the tens of thousands I am thinking of do not know, but I know. That is what keeps my feet moving. Speaking of which, it is time to go out while there’s nobody else in the lane! See you later…
Now, a word about the albergue. Singular, in more ways than one.
No matter how far I walk, I always find the door open in the same albergue. I do not know how this happens, but it is always the same one. I walk through the door from the lane into the yard, and then into the kitchen. The kettle is always on, and I am free to use whatever is there. In the fridge, on the counter…Before leaving this morning I had a toasted home made wholemeal muffin with some cheese. For my first rest period I had a cup of cafe con leche – a rare treat! then I just popped in from time to time for water.
At lunchtime, the hospitalera had prepared sausages, with some leftover potatoes from yesterday. Just what the doctor ordered. Shoes off, and some social time. Then, el vecino offered to bring the newspaper. Very kind, for reading later.
So off I went again. At 15km I decided: enough for today.
Who did I dedicate my walk to today? To the countless unnamed persons: daughters, sons, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, fathers, mothers – who are going out every day into the lion’s den. Whether medical personnel, or other essential workers – such as the pharmacist who will drop in my prescription when she is closing at the end of the day. such as the people who have dedicated their time and resources to supporting the elderly who have been told to stay at home, the people who are waiting to support the vulnerable who cannot manage to keep a level balance as a result of the Covid19 and what it is doing to their mental health.the delivery couriers, the bus drivers, the drivers for the Cancer patients, and there are so many more. It took me a while, but I roamed around Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, and all the other countries in Europe. Let’s not cut UK out just yet.
So, as we approach the vigil of Palm Sunday I can look out of the upstairs window at the back of the albergue, and I see some pretend palm trees. Good enough. I still have some from last year, so all will be well. at this time, everything is happening ‘like no other’. we won’t go back to normal. At least, I hope not. We have to learn from this not normal first.
till next time!
View from upstairs window:
Screenshot 2020-04-04 at 12.43.21

A journey, part 2.

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And this fellow! Guess what he is holding under his arm! An ipad! No sooner had he heard my country of origin than he exclaimed: “och aye, the noo!” It was a sign of his knowledge of music hall humour…
He is one of the few people we asked for permission to take a photo. He was proud to tell us we would find him in Lonely Planet, and no problem with taking a photo.

 

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Lasting impressions will include the spontaneous smiles of welcome from many people, the omni-presence of the police, the never-ending looking through piles of used clothes and shoes, the multitude of storage nooks piled to the brim with junk… and the cats! Oh, the cats… sniffing around food, reigning over everything…

 

 

spontaneous invitations to ‘come to my house, my mama will be happy to see you and offer you some food’ (this from a lovely young woman who had come into the church as an act of brave curiosity and who was pleasantly surprised not to be attacked because she looked different).

 

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The total ignorance of what was being said. Being a real stranger in a foreign land. And yet, the non-verbal agreement that if you scratch skin, blood is the same colour… we are, to use a word from my school German, ‘geschwister’: sisters and brothers.
Finally, imagine the music, the shouting, the smells, the tastes, the contrasts… and watch a short slideshow of some of the many photos we took…during an unforgettable visit to Morocco.

 

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A journey

Morocco
What does that word conjure up in your mind? Before I went there, I had a vague notion of noise, heat, strangeness, alien culture.
Well, it was cold. Wet. Noisy. It was white, and it was blue. It was mysterious, mountainous, ‘mazing.
With some days in Tetuán and Martil and a day in Chefchaouen, plus the final day in Tanger, we had a taste of different places, each with its own special atmosphere.
How reassuring, the obvious desire of the Moroccan people we met who were so helpful, willing us to be happy with our visit to their country.
How striking, the vast numbers of young men, and older ones, ‘los sentados’ :– a child replied when asked what her father did : “es un sentado”. That means, he sits around and maybe plays cards, or chess, or parchís.
How absolutely heartbreaking, the weariness and dejection on the faces of those young men sent back from the frontier after weeks trying to find a way, any way, out of misery and hopelessness.

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How beautiful to see them after the permitted 25 minutes in the shower, wearing clean pyjamas while their clothes spin in the washing machine and they sip hot tea or coffee.
How utterly humbling to see a local successful builder giving bus fares to those young men, telling the youngest, who was fifteen years young: “Go home. Better a beating from your father than one from a strange man.”
How shocking, to see the old women and men begging. To see those selling nothing at all of value on the roadside, hoping for a few dirhams…
How intriguing, to watch the action among the men who would crowd around on arrival at the bus station, vying for the job of leading us to the right counter for the bus to our destination; the passing over of coins among the directors of business at the taxi ranks; the acceptance of everyone being crushed into a car intended ““for four passengers. Those cars often held together with sellotape…
Hilarious, being offered guidance around a Medina, escaping with firmness, only to be caught a few bends later, and realise that the all-seeing eye had been following from the start of Bab Ruah. (Tetuán: the Medina there is breathtaking in its complexity and stark white beauty). Such a blessing, the knee massage offered because the follower had observed and passed on the word…
How intricate, the work of the Berber women, in their rugs and cloths, weaving their age old colours and histories.
How furious, the man who thought he had found a purchaser. No, he had found some people who truly appreciated the skill of the women, and hard work that each piece represented, but who did not need to, nor could, spend the money that would properly ‘repay’ those women.
So many people. So many people without work. The routes the King might use are shined up and beautified, but behind them… life is hard on the way up those inclines, out of the modern roads. A tiny woman, a bundle of firewood loaded on her back so that she was hardly visible, making her way uphill. Little children selling individual packs of tissues. Guys on the street selling individual cigarettes.
Two little boys with dirty plastic bags, inhaling glue.
And these words from The Selfish Giant, came to me:
“Who hath dared to wound thee?” cried the Giant; “tell me, that I may take my big sword and slay him.” “Nay!” answered the child; “but these are the wounds of Love.” “Who art thou?” said the Giant, and a strange awe fell on him, and he knelt before the little child.
And the child smiled on the Giant, and said to him, “You let me play once in your garden, to-day you shall come with me to my garden, which is Paradise.”
And when the children ran in that afternoon, they found the Giant lying dead under the tree, all covered with white blossoms.

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