S C's Story

21 strides

A fascinating 21 act play depicting scenes from Josephine's book, "Tommy Turns Cars".

(Josephine takes) 21 strides in 21 days is a delightfully dysfunctional piece that amuses and antagonises as it twists its way across the Camino to Santiago de Compostela. It is thought provoking, melancholic, but ultimately uplifting and hysterically funny as the characters unravel over a 500 mile Spanish stroll.

An ambitious production given that each act is only delivered once and effectively there is only one complete performance, the use of a narration to commence each show helps with the delivery and the daily programme sales will undoubtedly help with the funding.

As the 21 acts are delivered consecutively on its 21 day run, it has the potential to be a hot ticket as the mid afternoon slot wont often find conflict and aficionados will want to say they attended all 21 performances, but each act stands up on its own.

The title is taken from Act 7, at the end of the first week.

Jose gives the game away as halfway through the performance she cuts TC short.

"You have your way!" she shouts at Tommy, "I like doing it my way" Josephine smiles as she turns narrator to the audience.

"But counting to 21, you'll do that a lot over 500 miles" interjects Tommy Carruthers

"I do TC, but often I dont make it to 21. I only start counting when my mind is empty and its never empty here. I look at the path for my feet, I look left and right for the views, I look straight ahead for my soul and I look back and smile. My achievements are behind me and so are my car crashes."

"Aye, like when I pummelled into you coming down from Pamplona"

"And more besides Tommy, more besides"

The conversation carries on and the sticks clatter off the stage floor, while the projected image displays the countryside and the setting.

There are three main settings, which the set designers have pulled off superbly. Namely, these are the paths, the bars and the Albergue Dorms.

The paths and walkways of the camino. There are different surfaces throughout the camino but cleverly and perhaps obviously, the surfaces are the same in each act. Asphalt, dirt path, rocky, sandy and the luxurious pine needles. After hearing about the pine needles I wanted to carpet my flat in them!

Most of the Camino is in full sun and the views as produced by the displays are enticing enough to make you want to go to Azofra, Villares, Arzua or the many places depicted. The excellent coloured light used when the cast are walking through forests emphasises the deep and lush woodlands of Galicia. was very effective.

That the bars all look the same is a bit unfair. The uniquely different provinces of Northern Spain are clearly identified with flags coloured differently and if one beer outside looks the same as another, its to do with the backdrop being the countryside. There is undoubtedly only one joiner and the budget didnt extend to different draught beers, but now I'm just being picky. The owner changes in every cafe/bar but we usually get the same one for the scene when its a pueblo and its the only cafe in town. The joy of this is when Jesus Gonzalez of La Trebede in Leon or Jose in Cafe Ligonde demonstrate the intrinsic role played by the people of Spain in the Camino. In the notes we are reminded that real characters and bars have been used although all the Pilgrim characters are fictitious or composite. I thought Jesus and Jose were so good I wanted to ask if they had just played themselves and were they enjoying Edinburgh, but decided I didnt speak any Spanish.

Finally the setting of the Albergues. There is no greater sense of the claustrophobic nature of the camino than a cramped stage and a packed audience. Had this been an evening performance, the snoring might just have extended to the audience. Its not easy to depict a bedroom scene where the joke is the snoring if you dont leave it on long enough. ~It can be like getting warm bread instead of toast, but equally for the audience, it can feel like the bread is burnt toast. I'm not sure if the producers wanted us to feel the anger of the snorers, if they did, it worked! By the morning when the fun and laughter of the bold snorer takes over from his snoring as he rustles his polythene bags, coughs, splutters and asks in a stage whisper if his fellow pilgrims are still sleeping, to be greeted with "its 5.55, not yet you schnacker, fuck off, get a coffee and let us get an hour at least." The laughter from the other beds in the dorm isnt universal, as is the audience's reaction, although clearly a lot of people did get it and laughed. I think I felt the pain too much, maybe I'm too precious. The other Albergue scenes were well handled with topics ranging from the changing and modesty, noisy mid afternoon siestas, ("Looks like we've a live one tonight" laughed Jose as TC dangled his headphones from the bunk above), early to bed, late to bed, the staggered start with shining headlamps and finally the emptying out by 8am.

The complex nature of the characters make it difficult for me to sum up but the variety of characters is what makes '21 strides', this so endearing. The absolute genius is clearly that the camino represents a society that is multicultural, multilingual but fundamentally friendly.

The play opens with the complete cast walking past a sleeping Jose saying "Jose Archer", in their own accents and intonation, from the singing lilt of the Celtic nations, through germanic northern Italy central Europe, Scandanvia before jumping continents through the middle east and Asia before completing the tour with Australasia and the Americas. The world seems all the more diverse as the say the same words with their own pronunciation.

The common cause of walking forth together, of helping people out not just in adversity, but in gentle comradeship. As Scotland meanders towards a second indie referendum and England vote for Brexit, 21 strides reminds us that we want to walk together, nations from Korea to Ireland, people from Vancouver to Berlin. There is a global community on the camino and whilst their ethnicity may be diverse their values are peculiarly common. As Paul tries to teach the young Korean Dari how the Limerick game works, the audience is poorless as she keeps answering him in perfect English but he just increases his decibels. Its such a British stereotype that we cant help laughing at ourselves. Not for a second does Paul comprehend that Dari does not know what a Limerick is. When the helpful Australian Polly offers up Haiku as an expression to find a global context Paul says its not a dance. That the writers milk this conversation for 5 minutes is testament to their faith that the audience will laugh and they do. Later as one set of pellegrinos leave the stage another set arrive and a different set of conversations are unloaded on the eavesdropping audience.  "Atapuerca, is where they found the missing link between Neanderthal and Homo Sapien." Simone from Berlin quietly informs the big Irishman Conor, as they sit in the cafe at a table adjacent to Jose and Harry.  Jose, a one time novelist, tries to evade the pompous prick Harry who idolises her because of her genius, but is yet again leading the young apprentice on a merry dance as she deciphers the code of 'The Egg Hatcher' for him. The action moves swiftly onto Jose as fast as she throws lines out, Harry's jaw clamours for more. She's a joy to listen to and superbly acted by Judy Walters who ironically looks a cross between Judy Dench and Julie Walters, although she's sounds very Scottish.

The random thoughts that occur can be summed up by Saoirse and Louise from County Clare as they discuss irrigation while walking along the canal at Fromista.

"I love the way this camino is irrigating my mind", laughs Saoirse,

"Open the sluice gates and the let the thoughts flow" sings Louise in return

"What a great song" shouts Saoirse and off they go on the musical interlude.

What I like about the musical interludes (there are one or two songs in each act) is the actors almost come off the camino and wander into centre stage. They engage the audience and as the stage hands sneak in and change the set we're treated to a jolly little number Julie Andrews would've been proud off.

I'm not sure I would give all 21 acts a five star rating as there are days that I adored the play but equally the snoring gag was lost on me, but I guess like the camino, there are good days and bad. My journey with 21 strides was my own, just as I'm sure it'll be yours too.

When I have the 2017 dates I'll put them out.

The book detail is below and excerpts are attached......

Ardnamurchan girl, 68 year old author of 60's Sci fi classic the "Egg Hatcher", Josephine Archer, strolls through a lost paradise as she walks the 500 miles Camino Frances from St Gien Pied de Porte to Santiago de Compostela.

57 year old Tommy Carruthers from Carluke, known as TC and made famous by his vans, "TC turns cars, it does what it says on the van", wants to lose 2 stone on the best pub crawl in Europe.

Set in the majestic landscape of northern Spain where derelict churches and beautiful people decorate the landscape. The pilgrims take the same trail but there are many styles along the route.

As pilgrims stop to look at the wild life and smell the rich scent of the heather, other pellegrinos rush by with giant strides.

"So many ways to crack an egg", muses Jose.

"Aye, and if we dont get there by 2pm the pub'll be closed for siesta" replies TC.

The first Chapter is below and the completed story will be on the fatal-bananas.blogspot.co.uk website during November 2016.

If you want to read more there's another 80,000 words scattered about that I'm collating badly so I've decided that its going to be a bit more surreal and Jose and Tommy are going to start dreaming more often so that we can merge my realities. As a device I think it'll work, and I'm going to add a few hallucinations on the Meseta where many a wild herb does grow.


       DAY 18 Foncebadon


Jose sat bolt upright and turned to Tommy. "I just had the weirdest dream."

"Aye, its the wild dugs in these parts, its aw that yelping, they get in yer heid when yer sleeping" Tommy was quickly snoring again.



"You're Josephine Archer?" shouted Harry, "Really, Jose Archer, the author, Mental, BRAVATARIUS!"

"Yes, just Jose thanks, just a pilgrim on a long quiet walk." responded Josephine Archer

There were 14 sat around the dinner table at Montjardin. All hungry and tired looking specimens. Some had washed up having arrived earlier in the day but the last three had just walked up from Estella and were introducing themselves. They looked washed out.

"Yeah, ah'm Tommy the tired pellegrino, and d'y' have a cerveza por favor?"

The words stumbled out of him as he heaved his weary carcass onto a rickety looking chair.

"There's probably mair life in this chair than there is in me. That was a fair old step from Puente la Reina. No swimming pool tonight then?"

"No just the marvellous setting sun," replied Peter, the hopitalero who ran the establishment. 

It was indeed, a magnificent end to the evening. Looking out over the plain you could see all the way back to the hills outside Pamplona and whilst squinting through the setting sun, Logrono to the west. Villamayor du Montjardin is set high on the hill, although not as high as the old derelict fortress. The old fortress offered outstanding protection in its day and was suitably ignored by all our tired pilgrims, perched as it was another 400 metres up the hill.

"I cant believe its you Josephine. This is just unbelievable. I am your biggest fan." Harry's mouth was wide open and it really wasn't a spectator sport. It was one thing conversing during dinner but another thing altogether when the entire contents of the bean stew were on display.

"This is so, so, so amazing" Harry continued. "I read the Egg Hatcher when I was in 6th year, did it for my A-level."

"Yes, I've been told it was compulsory 6th form reading, but its a long time ago now" she replied curtly

"I'll put this in my diary tonight!" Laughed Jim.


"Bonsoir, Je m'appelle Bernadette"

Bernadette took the spare seat next to Jean and sat down. 

Jean asked Bernadette how far she had travelled today and who she'd met. 

"Just'que Puente la Reina, mais maintenant je suis tres fatigue. Je rencontre Tommy et Jose pres de la fuente de Irache"

"Oui? Moi aussi" replied Jean and he laughed heartily for the benefit of the others.


Tommy looked around at Jose. "An author eh? You're a dark horse. Five days in and I finally find out what you do. You'll have to tell me the story of this Egg Catcher?"

"Egg Hatcher" shouted Harry, as he sprayed his bean stew across the table in his excitement. "It was the most pivotal book of its genre at the time. There was so much that wasn't science fiction too. So much was cutting edge. It was one of the books I based my thesis on. I got a first Jose!"

"I'm sure it was down to your great work rather than the odd quote from my humble wee story" Jose replied. "Thank you for the kind words but we must eat and then sleep. Bernadette, Tommy and I haven't had a morsel since we left Estella and climbing our way up these last few kilometres has been torturous.  There'll be plenty time tomorrow Tommy to tell you the story, although Harry can probably do it more justice than me"

"You've really got to read it Tommy" said Harry, still not appreciating the others were putting on their ponchos every time he spoke. "It has a real life about it. Every page has you turning the next one to get a glimpse of what will happen next. It is compulsive reading."

"Aye, sounds great. ah'll do that when i get back", replied Tommy as his face hit the plate.


Bill turned to Harry and said "This is Jim, look at the state we're in!" Harry ignored him. Harry stared in wonderment. Frozen in his moment, looking at Jose, no, staring at Jose. Jose looked back at Bill and Jim and Harry.

"Hi guys, its good to meet you. I'll excuse myself as I'm away to write my diary"

"Diary?" shouted Harry

"Yes, she said diary" said Bill, even you know that we all write a daily diary Harry. Dont start thinking you can steal Jose's and sell it on ebay"

"No, I would never think of that"

"Just as well" said Jose, "I dont want anyone to see the blank pages and think I've got writers block!"

"Hi, I'm Jim, and I'm away out for a fag, so I'll say good night"

Tommy had slipped out the side door and when Jim came round the corner he was startled.

"Sorry pal, is it Tommy?"

"Yes, TC, Tommy, whatever you fancy, or JUMPEE...Ah dont know why but ah'm a bit on edge tonight"

"Its the walking. It takes it toll"

"Aye, yer probably right, see you in the morning"

As the sun set Tommy's head hit the pillow and a hush descended on Montjardin.




The dry dusty trail to Los Arcos cut through the valley taking a more direct route than the road. It might not take the shortest route around the fields, however the Pilgrims path does as the worn and well trodden track suggests the farmer could've saved some seedlings for another field, crushed as they were under the sturdy strides of the pellegrinos. Clearly pilgrims are no respecters of farmers' fields or possibly tired limbs make for trampled tomatoes. As the sun rose higher the shadows grew shorter and the speed of the pilgrims clearly sagged. Scattered along the shadier spaces on the camino were some parched and sunburnt souls. The ginger Scots at the forefront of this fallen troop.

"Make hay while the sun shines" Bill cried, "Aye, and walk when it disnae" sighed the strawberry blonde Jim as he called time on the days endeavours. "Its too hot if I go another 3km, I'll be bust, if i go too far I'll be out for the day and tomorow. The sun cream is finished, I'm finished. I need watered and fed. In that order. You know me I cant eat on an empty stomach"

I wanted to make it to Logrono" said Harry, "Jose said she was going there tonight"

Dinnae fret you'll catch up with yer precious Jose soon enough, we're not even 10 days in yet, you'll see her plenty."

But I said I'd see her tonight when we got to Logrono."

"You and your fuckin Jose, leave poor Josephine alone, enjoy yer camino and just settle doon ye'll see her again. Gie the girl a brek, its her camino too"

"Bonjour", Bernadette waved, "Buen Camino" she said as she walked stealthily by, Jean smiling at her side. Jim looked up to wave but they'd already gone by. As he raised his arm to wave at their backpacks he thought, does it never fuckin rain in Spain and then muttered, "Aye, mainly on the plain"

"What you saying, I'm not paying, I paid last night" welched Harry

"I said the plain, the fuckin plain. The rain in Spain, falls mainly on the fuckin plain"

"Yes, but that's the Meseta and we're not there yet......." Bill pithily pitched in cheerfully.


Up ahead Jean and Bernadette were making their slow and steady progress to Logrono. "Trop chaud pour Les Eccossais" said Bernadette with an economy of words designed to ensure her breathing patterns weren't distrurbed.

"Oui, je pense", replied Andre as he equally considered the slight incline in front. They had left Villamayor du Montjardin long behind and were now only 2km from Los Arcos. It was 11am and the sun was well and truly up.

"Ils sont tres vite dans le matin, mais maintenant, je pense",

Oui, les soeil is trop brilliant"

How they chuckled, the 80 year old tortoises who would keep walking, slowly, slowly, slowly, but keep walking. Some pilgrims took 7 hours to travel 25km, some took 9 hours, and then there was Jean & Bernadette. A 12 hour day, that started at 6am and finished at 6pm would see them traipse gently through the countryside, stopping for breakfast, elevenses, lunch, afternoon juice and finally at their next staging post. They walked together, very contentedly, with impeccable pilgrim manners. Not for them, the treading of the tomatoes or the crushing of the corn, the pilgrims walk had no shortcuts, no taxis no buses, and certainly no shaving the edge of the path. 
Jean would usually do the last stage on his own as he liked to make sure they had their bunks booked and everything was ready for Bernadette. As he carried the bulk of the toiletries, he could get his shower and everything would be ready for her on her arrival.

Clearly it was too hot for the boys after 11am, never mind 1pm, Los Arcos was achievable, Torres del Rio possible but Viana was impossible and Logrono was the target of the criminally insane, or so thought Jim. After much arm wrestling and the purchase of a parasol, the easy 8km walk from Los Arcos was undertaken, but Torres del Rio was the end of their road.


DAY 7 


"Can I join you Josephine" said TC

"Yes Tommy I've just order a cafe creme."

Tommy Carruther's let the pack slide off his back and slumped into the comfortable chair opposite Jose. After crossing the river in Najera town centre he'd looked around for some well kent faces and found none. He clambered down the stairs and walked along the west bank of the River Najera through the many cafes and restaurants, pausing to peruse the menus while peering in to see if there were pilgrims within. Then he spied Jose sitting alone at Las Parrasel. She looked a picture of health as she stared over his shoulder at the boats on the river. She was thinking about Venice,  and an earlier life, long ago.

" It was a good walk today but I found it quite hot in the last hour. I saw the brolly, stopped and slumped under it. I've only been here five minutes but I'm absolutely fine now. "

"Your not kidding, its been baking ma brains. I nearly fell coming down those stairs by the bridge. One of the flagstones was loose and I'd already stood on it before realising. I certainly got to the bottom a bit quicker than I expected. What you been up to then?"

"I was just watching the boats go by and my mind had turned them into gondolas, but that's another story. I set out early and have picked my rest points well today, I think I'm finally becoming a pellegrino. Its certainly better than yesterday. I had to use those Turkish toilets in Navarette and it wasnt to my liking, especially when the pellegrino paper jinx struck. I had some but not as much as I'd have liked. I've got plenty now! I treated myself to a hotel in Logrono. The room was absolutely outstanding. I took a few of the extras, nothing too heavy, but plenty that are useful. They should sell posh little 50mls of shampoo in every town, I'd certainly pay extra to buy less. I found it really hard to throw shampoo and shower gel away during the first few days, but now I've got a pretty wee bottle, I'm very happy."

"Quite the little woman. Are you going to Azofra or carrying on to Calzada?"

"Yes, Azofra will do for me. I'd read it has a new albergue, 21st century I believe! Not like that place just before Pamplona. I almost felt like sleeping outside on that second night in Trinidad. In fact when I woke up, I thought I had slept outside. The Albergue in Azofra is all twin rooms and the town has two restaurants and a stork in the chimney of the church. It sounds the perfect resting place. I may still get a snorer, but at least its only one and not 36. I met someone today, Helena, I think her name was. She had a bad experience in Zubiri. 8 beds per room and no aircon. Lots of noise, lots of smell and not a breath of air. She was up very early, she assured me. I laughed as I thought this is the complete camino experience, and after a pregnant pause she raised a smile too. It sharpens the focus once you've had a bad night's sleep. Did I just say that? It sounds like something one of my characters would say, how oxymoronic"

"You and your words. Never use one when a hundred helps but  I know what you mean. Your head's usually minced by the time you stop and all you want is a shower and a kip. Most of the others are usually out or asleep when you arrive in the afternoon and you're pissed when you do return, well sorry, I am! Yeah, Azofra, sounds the ticket for me. Its only another 6km according to my lovely travel guide"

"Is that your only guide Tommy? You should be ashamed of yourself. one piece of stained A4 with somewhat less coffee stains than red wine I might hazard as well. Tommy, you really are the ticket."

"No, I've got this sheet as well that tells me if its uphill!" he said as he waved his other sheet, a gift from the office in St Jean Pied du Porte, that the pilgrims receive upon sacrifice of a couple of euros.

"I did do a bit of reading up on the places to stay but nothing I'd read prepared me for the weather dictating where you stay. If it was raining today I'd probably be staying here in Najera, but I'm delighted its not as the albergue here is bed bug bedlam and as for the snoring, I heard its just a not so giant 50 bed room. Oh, and guess what, yep, no aircon. That's a lot of assault on the senses from the snoring, sweaty, smelly pilgrims, especially after a week on the camino"

"So Tommy, what's this about you being a car turner? I'm fascinated. I cant think what a car turner does? Please humour me, what does a car turner do?"

"Ach, Josephine, its exactly that. I turn cars. Rich people sometimes live on busy main drags and drive into their houses and need their cars facing the right way in the morning. So I turn them, TC turns cars, I do what it says it on my van!"

Jose laughed, lightly at first, in case he was taking the rise out of her. She hadn't developed a character like Tommy Carruthers, the car turner, TC turns cars, she chuckled loudly then burst into a bout of hysteria brought on by the combined efforts of the imagery, too much Spanish sunshine and the release of endorphins as she choked on the biscuit she got with her cafe con leche.

"I'm sorry Tommy, I remember having midnight feasts when I had the girls over for sleepovers. It was during the war so we had to keep all the lights off and the curtains closed"

"You're taking the piss, you're not that old" cried Tommy

You're right, I am, it was in the 60's and we kept the curtains closed because there s a boy across the road who was a proper peeping Tom and whenever I had the girls over he was at his window almost all night. We would occasionally wind him up with a kink in the curtains so he could see in. When we were were clear we knew he was watching, we would put a show on for him, but not the type he was expecting, which takes me back to why I was laughing. As I said we lived on a big main road and Charlie, the boy, lived on the other side We were lucky, we had a huge drive so Mum and Dad could both drive in and around but Charlie 's Mum and Dad didnt'. Their drive-in was a drive in and reverse out at 6.30am onto a rush hour road. One Friday sleepover, the girls and I stayed up all night and we knew Charlie had gone to bed as he had a job every Saturday morning at the sports centre. I knew he left the house at 7am and although it was a saturday it could still be quite busy. He always took his Mum's car and she'd just got a new Aston Martin. It was a sporty two door thing"

"I know what an Aston Martin is Jose" laughed Tommy 

"Yes of course, James Bond had one. Anyway, we were still up, the result of a couple of diet pills my auntie had given us and we waited until we heard the car door close then we opened the curtains just a smidgeon, but enough to promenade naked from waist height. We walked back and forward, glancing down to the car, laughing to ourselves as it just continued to carefully reverse. We were laughing thinking if only he knew what we were doing. The car slowly went over the drive in and out onto the road and then I swear I think he must've noticed us as he kept reversing slowly but he never turned the wheel. The next thing a big lorry coming out of town screeched its horn, and Charlie, instead of hitting the break must have floored the accelerator as the Aston Martin came straight across the road in front of the lorry and smashed into our front wall. We were all poorless, in shock, speeding, I mean, we shut our curtains, hands over our mouths trying to keep silent while my Mum and Dad shouted up "Quick girls downstairs, get under the table, they've dropped the bomb, we're under nuclear attack. Quick girls, everyone down to the basement"

Jose broke off again in uncontrollable laughter, the locals in Najera were looking quizzically at her when she finally composed herself she said " So Tommy, what a great job, and I'll get you Charlie Wheeler's number...."

"Now who's shitting who, Jose? I have heard that one before. I started doing this job in 1987, just after the big bang in the city. The cars were getting bigger and I had come up to Edinburgh to deliver one of those 'chelsea tractors' as they were being called. It had been banged up just outside Biggar and had been driven to us to fix in Carluke. I drove it up and the old bastard asked me to turn it. I looked at him and thought, aye, whatever. He was in a bad mood about his laddie having pranged it. I didn't even think about it. I turned it and then got the bus back into town and then just caught the last bus back to Carluke. Next day I told my boss and the boys all ripped the shit out of me, the car turner, TC the car turner, pissed me right off and so I asked the boss if that was normal. He didnt know but l later on he called me into his office. He had phoned the guy  in the Queensferry Road, to check the delivery was fine and the car was ok etc. It seems He'd been grumpy because his laddie aye pranged his motors.

"The Queensferry Road, in Edinburgh, are you winding me up Tommy?", said Jose, slowly and deliberately, sizing him up in the afternoon sun, "Here we are in Najera countless years on and your going to tell me it was number 87"

Aye, ah am. It was number 87 and I remember it so well because it was the start of a whole new life for me, all thanks to the boss. The boys ripped the shit for an eternity but within 6 months i was on double bubble. During the day I worked in the garage and later at night I would go up to Edinburgh. Sometimes I would be returning a car, but mostly just driving up and reversing peoples cars. I got to know this boy Charlie Wheeler really well and he told me the story about a bunch of cockteasers who had nearly cost him his life. He told this story about going to work one saturday morning when he was a kid. As he reversed his Mum's aston martin out of the driveway the girls across the road had put on an impromptu floorshow. Anyway, to cut a long story short, I offered to turn his Dad's car, met Charlie and he said I could make a mint out of it as most people on his side of the road were too pissed to drive never mind turn their cars later when  the traffic was quiet. This was the 80's remember. We were still contemplating making seat belts obligatory and drink driving was only checked at New Year or after you had pranged a deer or other innocent in an accident. 

"Wow, this is a St Jacques, St James, Santiago at his best." Said Jose, "Total, camino Karma, you're bullshitting me, but I am loving this"

"Seriously Jose, I gave up being a mechanic and I now turn over 2497 cars every day in Scotland. I'm even in the yellow pages. It was over 2500 before I left for the camino but one of my girls in Aberdeen text'd me, that the tight fisted clan at Hazelhead had knocked through their wee granite dividing walls and created one long circuitous entry and exit. Let's hope nobody else catches on, only in Aberdeen eh? I'm safe in Edinburgh. The neighbours never talk, except to find out which school you went to."

I think you should give me a big hug, you wonderful saint of a man," said Jose as she clambered out of her chair, "It is simply the most beautiful thing this camino of coincidence, but this is ridiculous. I studied maths at university, and had chaos theory existed in my day, I still would never believe this, or you TC, or you Tommy. In fact I think you are lying, except, nobody new Charlie's house number except me and my pals, and Charlie, well, Charlie, so if you're shittin me"

"No, Ah'm no," said Tommy "and its a pleasure to me too, to meet one of the cockteasers! I can see why Charlie nearly killed himself"  as he reach over and gave an Jose enormous gregaraious hug.

"oh stop it, I'm over 60, far too old to be flattered by you, but yes, I am. You are a bastard TC. I thought you were a pilgrim and now I feel I'm blushing"

"And looking all the sexier for it" said TC, with all the charm of the hob nail boots he wore, "Although, I think we agreed the sun was very hot!"


DAY 7 

 The sun rose a little later and the boys smiled round the albergue as the rest of the pilgrims had gone. The rustle of polythene bags and the lighthouse headlamps that scarred the 5.30am  albergues across the camino had stopped at 7am and the boys had slept until the cockatoo had woken them.

"I told you we should've brought a torch" said Harry, waiting at the door with his pack in hand, itching to throw it on his back and get started.

"I'll just brush my teeth, ooh, and my tongue, that rioja last night looks to have left more than usual" replied Jim as he sought to calm his enthusiastic friend

"Well that's me sorted. Bottle ready, donut in hand. There are good water stops today. The first one is at the top of the hill just as we leave town. Its quite hilly between here and Viana. A lot of Olive groves and vineyards funnily enough." Bill finished, then quickly continued as he saw Harry's temperature rising, "Once we leave Viana, there's a water stop on the edge of town"

"Are you going to finish brushing those teeth?" Shouted Harry as he lost it watching Jim pick up his toothbrush then put it down to find his toothpaste, then put the toothpaste down to find his toothbrush. His co-ordination wasn't as quick as Harry's tongue and Bill jumped in to rescue the situation.

"We'll get off now Jim and we'll see you in Viana"

"Aye, no worries boys, I'll be there soon as a flash" replied Jim thinking if he was flash with his cash he might just jump a cab, which he did, after another hour's kip.


I'm not sure I expected this hill to be quite as steep" said Jose as she made her slow graceful progress up the 500m climb outside of Najera.

"Try it with twenty two stone and I'm sure you'll not care what you expected! If I fall over I could make a big dent in those cars at the bottom of the hill.

"A human bowling ball Tommy. You could take a few of those ghastly pilgrims out, especially the one with the bed bugs"

"Very funny Jose, very funny, I'm not talking to you, I need to breathe"


"Viana por favor". Jim smiled, as he lumped his rucsac into the cab and slid along the back seat into the BMW, "Luxury"!

After much confusion he convinced the taxi driver to drop him off at the edge of town. The driver was clearly upset that he couldnt take him up the customary hill that all towns in Navarra have. Jim had a plan, and as he filled his bottle up at the water fountain he pulled out his breakfast that he'd brought from the Albergue in Torres Del Rio. Some bread fruit and cheese. He also had a beer which he'd finish before the others arrived.

"This is more what I had in mind" said Jose as they rose out of the Najera valley and set  about a gentle stroll across the quiet Spanish countryside.

"Vineyards and more vineyards, We never tire of eating a grape or two do we?" Tommy said taking his fill from the groaning vines.

"It is quite spectacular. That's the Picos on the right, the snow clad ones are over 2000m, twice as high as Ben Nevis"

"Magnifico! Almost as good as the grapes!"
How did you get here so quick?" demanded Harry

"I looked at the map and I figured it was as quick on the road. You guys went the shorter distance but I had a better surface, although it was a bit scary, the drivers here come around bends at 70 and you are blasted off the road at times."

"Brilliant! Well let's get up into the town grab some food then bash on to Logrono" said Bill happy to see some detante, but all to aware of its short


"You alright Harry?" asked Bob as they sat in the Plaza on Calle Portales in Logrono.

"Yeah you aint spraying your food" said Jim

"Right boys, I'm off to Azofra" announced Harry

"Sit doon and hud yer wheesht"  laughed Jim

"7 Euros each, do you wish to share a room?"

"Yes please" said Tommy

"Erm, thank you for answering that Tommy, I am watching you"

"Its only a room, its twin beds, and lathough you're a wee thing, I doubt my 22 stone will be able to squeeze into my own bunk never mind yours, so dont worry I'll not be jumping your bones tonight, TC replied before chuckling to himself, "but now I've said it, I will enjoy the thought"

"23 & 24, on the second floor, showers and toilets at the end of the hall"

"C'mon missus, let me take your bag"

"Enough of that you cheeky monkey.Did I just say that, you are worth the watching Mr Carruthers"

As they climbed the stairs they were impressed by the cleanliness and on arrival at their berth, were impressed by the spotless room.

"left or right Josephine?"

"I sleep on my left so I'd prefer the right please"

"So you'll be facing me I like your style"

"No, its so I can keep an eye on you Mr Carruthers"


"No, I'm going now." Shouted Harry. "There's a bus leaves Logrono 1pm for Santo Domingo de La Calzada. I cant miss this chance to speak to Josephine. There are so many questions I'd love to be able to ask her. You guys just dont get it. She was my life for two years at Uni. This is my chance. She's at least a day ahead and with you boys stopping to get pissed at noon every day we'll never catch her. I'll wait for you in Santiago or further up the trail"

"On you go Harry," said Bill, "follow the stars and Santiago will make it happen for you"

"Aye, Spain's very own Jim'll fix it" cackled Jim as pondered whether his namesake Saint James was also patron saint of paedophiles. The priests must have had someone to absolve them in Spain as in the rest of Europe, although to be fair, Santiago seemed to put on the best parties he'd enjoyed so clearly he was more patron to the party. As he stopped cackling he thought it best to keep this camino moment to himself. Which started him off again.

"What are you finding so funny?" asked Harry clearly getting irascible "I've told you how important her books have been to me, cant you see?"

"I see fine, and I was having a wee camino moment to myself, nothing to do with your precious Jose. Buen Camino and send her our best."

DAY 8 


Did we really do that last night?

Which time?

"Oh no I've just remembered"

"Aye, I'll never look at Factor 50 the same way again"

"What time is it?"


"45 minutes then before we need to be moving"

"Yeah, and life begins again"

"I enjoyed that Tommy, more than I can ever remember"

"C'mon Jose, gie me my new name, last night it was Big Tam"

"Well, big Tam, we have 45 minutes"

"And I've got Factor 50"


"Hi Guys, I thought I'd catch up with you today" Harry announced as he strolled into a camino side cafe by the church in Santa Domingo de la Calzada.

"Hi Harry, how's its been going for you? How's that big ginger beer monster Jim getting on. Was it Bill your other pal?"

"Yeah, they're drinking their way across the best pub crawl in Europe. They've been bar hopping with Scandinavians and a few Germans. what they lack in language skills they make up for in sign language. Its been a crazy time. Last night Jim decided to add new words to JFK's Ich bin ein Berlinner. He found out the German word for snorer, we thought he'd stop there but no, he had other plans to light up Torres del Rio. The last I saw them today they were heading down Calle Peso towards the tapas bars on Calle Portales, while I jumped the bus."

The bus, said Jose, "Sacrilege, you missed a fantastic golf course at Rioja Alta, although the town did look like it had been deserted for months. Housing crisis I guess. The walk from there down to here was just electric although not a fountain in sight. It is a long straight path. Like the A68 at home, important you take your fill at the fountain in Ciruena. An old Roman road going up and down and it lasts for hours. It was truly mesmerising. I was walking with a guy called John from Wexford. His wife had just joined him and his son. It seems they had fallen out already. I didnt get the full gist but it seemed the dynamic changed. It can be so easy to join in on the camino but equally if you feel you've been missing out, it can be tough."

"Harry, did you know the Olive harvest was in December?" Said Tommy motioning towards the dish, "These are last year's crop"

"No, I had no idea. They looked ready to eat when we were going over the hills to Viana from Torres del Rio" replied Harry

"Aye, I found out the hard way. I tried a few. Then I bought some oil and tried to soak them but all I got was indigestion."

"Dick head" said Jose uncharacteristically, "Sorry, I mean Daftie, sorry Tommy, camino moment of  the day"

"Dont you worry Jose I've had a lot worse said of me, not least when they called me big Tam at the Rugby club"

Jose smiled knowingly and Harry seized the opportunity to move to his favoured subject.

"I hope you dont mind all my biggest fan stuff but you were really such an important influence on me"

"I'm flattered" said Jose, "but it was what you probably call chick-lit these days"

"I'm still fascinated by where your inspiration came from, I read in the archives many of the interviews that you did but I never felt they were wholly conclusive."

"The archives, yes you'll find most of it on black and white tv as well!" laughed Jose aware that she'd turned a few clocks back recently and was warming to the task of her latest prey.

"Sorry" said Harry, clearly shaken he may have upset his idol

"Aye, you'll be needing that Factor 50" laughed Tommy, "protect your wrinkles"

Seeing Harry shrivel up was very amusing but Jose kindly retreated and let him bask at her altar.

"I was 22. It was all very helter skelter. I wrote when I wrote, in the time I was in and the circumstances of my domestic situation which were very well documented in the early 70's by that man I used to be married to. How much of an influence on my writing they had is unknown but it was probably larger than the influence of being the last war baby in my village but smaller he'd like to think."

"I'm going to leave you egg catchers and check out the catherdral here. There's a show they do showing how you can navigate to santiago via the stars. I'll be leading everyone out at 3am tomorrow to join the rest of the vampires in their early morning camino darkness"

"Egg Hatchers Tommy, Hatchers" Harry shouted as Tommy disappeared into the cathedral


Day 7 - Logrono - Calle Poltares

"This is real tapas" said Bill

"Aye, and Harry's missing oot" replied Jim. "I know he had all these questions like why did Rose go with Avery, but I also know if he wanted chances at answers, he would have to be patient. The puir wee woman would be scarpering doon the path after Villamayor du Montjardin.

"Yeah fleeing the garden of inquisition was what I thought." concurred Bill as he feared for both his friend and the idol

"I told him to rest easy we would catch Jose tomorrow. Strawberry blondes dont do sunshine but I'd seen the forecast and I reckoned we'd be at Najera by 11am if we left at 7. Its only an hour to Azofra and then we'd scuttle down to Santo Domingo after a good lunch. Like I say the forecast was cloudy so no panic there. I could do a 12 hour day no problema.

"Come on Bill," said Jim, "We wont be out of bed when they've left Santo Domingo, we'll get a bus and catch them that way. Talking of which what time is our curfew tonight"

"10pm but we'll be fine, unless we meet up with Michael, Jonas and the crew again!"

"Right, next bar, oh look there's one next door"

"I'm having a short day and treating myself tonight. I'm staying in the Parador up at Plaza San Francisco, Fray Bernardo de Fresneda, one of the good guys from the past I believe" said Jose.

"Talking of good guys, was Rose one of the good guys?" chirped Harry with his keenness kicking in

"I'm not sure about that. I'd had my domestic problems and an old professor suggested writing might be cathartic. At first Rose was a character I was familiar with, but it was going nowhere, so I made her the antithesis of me in many regards. I needed an 'in' to discuss the work they were doing at the Bethesda Instiute which at the time was pioneering research into IVF or 'test tube babies as it was back then. Getting Rose pregnant by the Global head of oil & gas exploration for Scallop seemed far fetched but it worked."

"Well if you guys are going to talk shop I'm taking myself off to see the show on how to navigate by the stars. Its on in the cathedral and I could do with getting indoors." Tommy interrupted.

"Yes, you said" Harry impatiently reminded Tommy before realising he'd been hovering out of politeness or camino coma. Harry had heard Camino coma is a common condition that afflicts many pellegrinos as they start to do something and then freeze for 20 seconds while another part of their brain stops to consider what they may have forgotten. It becomes more pronounced the longer you're on the camino and is probably a mild anxiety stroke. Whatever its origins, its essential etiquette that you allow your fellow pilgrims time to reconnect before hurrying them out of their slumber.

You're fading away to a shadow TC" said Harry "She must be working you too hard. That's not something Bill & Jim could be accused of."

"Aye she is that. Watch my rucsac, please." Tommy replied as he heaved himself off his chair towards the cathedral.

"But why test tube babies in the first place"

"As normal, many first novels are semi autobiographical and at the age of 22 I'd just been told I was infertile. I guess I was trying to exercise a ghost. I think if I'd been 22 today I'd have been fine. Back then it was different. We had a very boring university career, graduated together, did teacher training in Edinburgh, and then we got married. We hadn't given it much thought but we weren't taking any precautions and it seemed strange that so many friends were having babies and we weren't. I wasn't aware of it at the time but I think I'd become very lonely. Old Prof Salisbury said to me, write it down. When I changed the character of Rose it all seemed to work. The main character's evolution was the real journey I wanted to take the reader on in the novel. I also wanted to take myself off and meet new friends. Writing some of the characters was a magnificent self indulgence. It was better than sex and even better than my chocolate substitute."

Yes, but many readers sympathies with Rose were cast aside as she blooms into a very thorny character indeed." replied Harry, clearly loving this chance to find out about the real Rose. "Feminists debated the validity of her cause as it seemed Rose was merely demonstrating that she had a testoserone imbalance and it wasnt just her journey that had developed her into the ruthless abusive human being she became." Harry fired back at Rose, a remark he'd rehearsed all day and he'd remembered from his thesis.

"Touche, mi amigo. I think you have summed her up. In fact I could argue quite vociferously that my book should never have been published based on the critics response and the numerous conclusions of the summarisers. As I always said, it was a story about a girl called Rose. Having being introduced to high class prostitution while doing first year economics at Aberdeen, Rose was part of the lifestyle of the booming albeit nascent economy. Rose discovered she was exceptionally fertile and she didn't need an economics to work out that abortions paid more that just the rent. I liked the idea that Rose, arose, from the oldest profession, but mostly that I was allowed to take this character on a journey.

"Capitalism is dead" shouted Jonas with a big broad sweep of his arm

"And so nearly were you ya big scandanavia rogue if you hit me any harder down there" said Jim as he doubled up under the blow but kept his 2 glasses balanced perfectly, scarcely a drop spilt.

"How are you Jim? Have you met my Dutch friend Ulla? We are sorting the world, the new economics for the Global economy. The one where nobody pays tax except the poor!!"

"Aye, well your right there, revolution is around the corner. The gap seemed to narrow between rich and poor after the war and then it all stopped and its been going the other way now. Every second American you bump into out here has been declared bankrupt or knows someone who has. Please to meet you Ulla"

"And I am please to meet you too Jim" smiled Ulla from behind a large beer. Her face, like many a pilgrim, beamed happiness. The smile was the portal to a rich and contented face. The eyes sparkled against the sunbleached background and her glass was emptied effortlessly.

"Can a Dutch girl buy you boys some more beer?" Ulla asked as she stumbled towards the bar with her outstretched arm launching her glass towards the barman.

"Watch yer step there Ulla, we've a big day ahead." said Jim stumbling himself as he tried to help her.

Tommy sat in the cathedral and looked straight ahead - he marvelled at the altar, the numerous frescos, golden statues and magnificent stain glass windows

This was indeed a house fit for any god

He thought about what he worshipped. He worshipped his ex wife. They might have moved on but this was purely functional. There was much to celebrate in the 10 years of marriage. The three girls he worshipped, from creation to the present. They were everything to him. They all had various parts of the TC empire and had the family work ethic. This made him proud but also they had inherited a sense of respect for all humanity, their partners, employees, customers. They all looked outward and the world revolved around others not themselves, it filled him with such pride, the buzz was electrifying as he contemplated his own conundrum. He stared ahead and uttered "give me the strength Santiago to make it to Finisterre , give me the strength, please," As He finished he pushed up off his knees and surprised himself as he vaulted up and stood tall. "thanks big man" he said as he smiled and walked to the light show. Navigating by the stars, that would be fun he thought. He liked astronomy, although spelt with a g it was even tastier. Galileo missed a lunch he mumbled to himself as he chuckled out of the cathedral passing the Roosters on his way.


"Tres Cervezas, por favor, grandais por favor Senor" said Ulla shining her beacons at the young barman who blushed as he poured the beers. He knew his pilgrims and had been shown a thing or two in his time. The middle aged women were notorious on the camino for plucking teenagers from behind the bar at the end of their shifts to use in the absence of their power tools. Ulla wasnt one of them but she knew how to play on it and it had been her sport since she left Rotterdam three months earlier.

"Ulla, leave the boy alone" said Jonas spotting his rioja cheeks, "He's young enough to be your grandson"

"And fit enough to keep up with me" Ulla parried playfully back as the young man hurriedly handed over the glasses. 

In the background the sounds and smells were growing. Calle Peso never closes, but it doesnt fully awake until 11pm. The lunchtime is about 2.30 and the bars were all starting to get busier. The buskers were also out as the air filled with guitar strumming and singing. A familiar tune was growing over the background noise and the three of them turned around.

"In the first hour.....I saw a soldier, I saw a soul where, no soldier could exist"

"Hej! Amsey Cott, 'More AC than DC" how are you?" Ulla said as Amsey joined them.

Amsey had dreadlocks with multicoloured beads holding the threads of hair together. When the songs demanded, she could shake her head to get an extra bit of rhythm. 

"I see the maracas are looking as good as ever" said Jonas as he pushed his chair aside to make room for her guitar.

"Hi guys, is that beer for me or are you just as slow as ever Jonas" Amsey said placing her guitar carefully against the bar in the void left by the chair.

"Yes Amsey, you take my beer, you always take my beer" Jonas replied with a joy in his voice.

"You mean you havent had beer since Pamplona?" Amsey laughed "You drink so slowly for a Scandanivian"

"Is it Pamplona, wow, that was 4 days ago. I have missed your song. I sing it every day. The first hour. Every first hour. I had a shower, in the first hour. I sometimes sing it in the third hour and fourth hour too!" Jonas drooled.

"Its a good song Amsey, have you got a chorus yet" Bill asked

"No its just a long string of verse. Its like the Iliad, well in fact its probably more like the Odyssey. It goes nowhere really fast. The more blind alleys, the more nonsense contemplations" Amsey replied.

"Yes, its like the camino. another 20 second verse means we have walked another 20 metres and then we think for the next 100 metres, then another verse... I really love the song, it is the camino song." Jonas was excited to see Amsey again.

"I think you just love Amsey" said Ulla with beautiful understatement.

"I do, she is so creative" said Jonas, unabashed.

"Thanks Jonas, and I love you too" said Amsey as she took a gulp of beer "and I love your generosity too." she continued as she put the glass down and kissed him on the cheek. "This richness of this moment, its all part of our little journey together. I love you too. I love all of you." She raised her glass, "Los pellegrinos!" and they all toasted each other.

"Happiness really is cheap" Laughed Bill. "We miss it back home. Its all around you here, its warm, its noisy, its quiet, its cold, its dry, its wet..."

"Its the camino" said Ulla, "and that's why we come back, again and again"

"You guys still talking books?" Tommy asked as he strolled back into the plaza. "C'mon Josephine, I have a surprise for you, I've booked a table, you owe me a meal, and we're having it in your hotel"

"Oh, I see, well we can catch up later Harry, we'll see you on the walk to Belorada tomorrow"

"Brilliant, I look forward to that, its been fascinating finding out more about the Bible bashing Avery. I still think it was a genius idea that he could be so against abortion but that removing fertilised eggs and storing them in at the Bethesda institute was okay.


Day 8

"Its 12.42 Jim" said Bill

"Hmmn, shurely shome mishtake, this albergue door is closed" Jim replied with his drunken Sean Connery "Itsh back to the Tapash then!"


The parador breakfast room was magnificent and the hungry [pilgrims took their fill of all the fruit and cakes at their disposal. Jose and TC sat quietly in the opposite corner from the buffet, but the room was now emptying fast as packs were placed squarely on shoulders. Walking poles and sticks clattered against the tiled floor as the daylight crept over the horizon

"I'm falling for you Tommy,"

"I fell for you a long time ago. When I slipped coming down slope from mont del Perdon outside Pamplona" laughed TC

"Yes you sure bowled me over"

"These slopes can be suicidal. I did fine going down on day one from col de leopold and also day two down to Zubiri. Then you on day three. I'm nearly at bottom and I was stupidly watching your cute ass, next thing my right foot went and the rest is history, a skinned knee, cuatro puntos and a bit of bruising"

"Yes, Lycra works wonders for us pensioners"

"Guden tag, can I join you for desayunos"

"Yes Simone sit down, you're a late riser today" Jose said as she ushered him to sit beside her.

"Here, you could do us a favour" said Tommy

"Was ist daz?" replied Simone

"We are going to Villambista today on the bus but it you see a Scottish guy called Harry tell him you saw us and we were stopping in Belorado and the next night probably St Juan to look inside the church. That gives us time to buy clothes in Burgos before he pesters poor Jose again

"He's harmless but I do like the plan, I wanted to have a good look around here and the bus will give my feet a rest"

"Ya, this is no preblem" replied Simone agreeing

"Harry arrived in Belorado after a hard days walk from Santo Domingo - the sun was out after Redecilla and most of the walk thereafter slides along the side of the N120. 10km, or 2 - 3 hours, with no shade. Hot, dusty and noisy, not what the pilgrims enjoy. He recognised a few faces from the days walking as he entered the plaza and walked over.

"Hola! Has anyone seen Jose ?

"Buen Camino, Nine" replied an old and tired looking pilgrim

"Who is Jose ?" asked a young Australian girl

"She's a writer. Small women in her 60's and wears a pink baseball cap with a blond ponytail and a green rucksack"

"Ya, I saw her walking with a big man. They were talking about the church at St Juan. They were saying that twice every year the sun shines through the church and out the...."

"Yes, but where are they now" interrupted Harry

"Oh, I think they are an hour or so back. I walked with them for a few minutes and they stopped at the cafe in Villamayor del Rio while I walk on"

"So they are coming to Belorado?" asked Harry

"Yes, I would think so, there is nowhere else to walk to?"

"Do you know where they will stay tonight?" Harry continued as Simone shuffled shoulders as she tried to understand what he was asking.

"Nine, maybe the place on the edge of town if they are tired or maybe here where there is plenty of hotels. I am staying at the Hotel Jacobeo, it has a wonderful room in....."

"Yes, thank you" Harry said as he marched off to his Albergue


"My head is absolutely aching still" said Bill as he and Jim stumbled around another corner in Logrono.

"Good thing that Beat club was open till 5am eh?"

"Yes, it was funny walking into the abergue when the night lights were walking out but I dont think 2 hours kip is enough"

"Those guys are great craic. I think the wee german lass was quite keen on you Bill"

"There it is, Estacion de autobus. Burgos here we come"

"Aye we'll be a day ahead of Harry, let's get a twin room in Meson El Cid. It overlooks the cathedral and is only a baw hair from the tapas bars." said Jim excited by his plan and ready to start again.

"Fine, but I'm having a siesta first" the fragile Bill replied.

"This was a great idea Tommy" said Jose as they glided down the N120 on the 2pm bus out of Santo Domingo.

"Aye, and that wifey done a grand job on your hair"

"I know, I'm really happy with it. I feel truly pampered after the parador and the pellequilla experience"

"Villambista has a lovely wee albergue according to my fat boy diaries. I had a look at it on the web while your were getting the wash and blow dry. Very clean it said, no bed bugs!"

"Oh just look at all those pellegrinos frying in the afternoon heat"

"yeah, those tired and flustered few look like they'll not get in until four"

"You're a poet Tommy"

"Not just a great lover eh?" replied Tommy as his large left hand gripped the little Josephine's right thigh

"Just you calm down, big Tam"

"Bonjour Harry" said the diminutive Bernadette. She looked very tired and had every right to be, it was nearly 7pm. "Avez vous regardez Jean?" 

"Yes said Harry, I saw him in the albergue cuatre cantones, its the same one I'm in. Have you seen Jose today?"

"Merci, non, no Jose toute le jour, peut-etre autobus?"

"The bus, of course, she might've taken the bus." Harry turned away and went for his map. "Thanks Bernadette your albergue is just down there and then turn left." He waved his arm in the general direction of the albergue dismissive to a fault. He was tired but demonstrating his gratitude as if she were a pesky school kid was not lost on Bernadette as she turned to walk down the suggested street.

The bus rolled into Burgos within two hours of leaving logrono and bill and jim stumbled down the steps, collected their back packs and surveyed the scene. 

"ole bill. That looks like a gate and behind it looks a cathedral. I reckon we go through under the archway 

" well I'm climbing the city walls. I had enough of that last night trying to get in the albergue"

"well it was you who saw the open window. I was happier chucking my boots up at it."

"aye until one landed on your head"

"aye, I'd forgotten about that, that explains this lump" said jim rubbing his throbbing head

"let's get to the hotel and get a little kip. I slept on the bus but I need to stretch out"

"meson el CID there's the hotel" said Jim spotting a sign directing them into the inside of the magnificently restored old city walls 


"Not here Tommy, I draw the line at communal albergues"

"Not tonight Josephine eh?"

"No Tommy, not tonight"

"I've looked ahead to Burgos it seems we might have a hotel called the meson el CID. It was a decent price and it is very central overlooks the big Burgos cathedral. The fat boys guide also recommends the Amarillo for a €11 pilgrims meal or just do like the Spanish and have a tapas tour. Burgos prides itself on it's gastronomy. It's not cheap but you'll get great tasting food and change out of 50!"

"Good night Tommy"


Day 10

The town cockerill of Villambista woke the refreshed pilgrims and as they looked about the deserted Albergue, they realised they were the only ones in town. All the facilities of an en suite with a 7euro price tag. As TC woke up he looked down at his blistered feet.

"Hola Jose, guess what, I've just seen my feet for the first time in 27 years, I must be under 18 stone"

"If that's your way of asking if you can go on top in Burgos, forget it." replied a chirpy Jose. The day off had revived her spirits and if the sleep in the Parador had been luxury, she woke up in the albergue feeling as fresh as she did on day one. Not an ache in site, the right ankle not swollen, everything feeling exceedingly good and her hair still feeling freshly coiffured.

"Would you like a shower before brekky?"

"Yes darling shall we," the smile rolling out of her elderly face revealing some rioja stained ivories, and a gloriously contended woman, "I've got my shower cap from the parador"

Out on the road the night lights were shining like a row of cats eyes as the pre-dawn patrol headed out ino the dark to navigate by the stars and their torches. Harry was with them. They slid out across the bridge at Belorado and then over gravel paths down to Tosantos before swinging round to Villambista. As the sun came up the torches went out and you could see the magnificent rolling fields of sunflowers stretching as far as the eye could see. Many had now turned and stood proud but heads bowed to the pilgrims as they passed. Some had been given makeovers with faces drawn on their big heads or just arrows, to point the way to Santiago. It was a silent sweep as most mornings were. Full of contemplation, sleepy eyes, stiff joints and hangovers. Tosantos was a good stopping point for breakfast, but for those who could hold out Villambista offered a little more luxury. The albergue was set off the trail so the toilet roll was not as abused by the snatching pilgrims. Harry went into Tosantos, saw no Jose, filled his water bottle and walked on.


"Yo, Bill, what a night. This is my kinda town" Jim said scratching as he yawned

"Jim its not even 8am, get to sleep" Bill replied rolling back over bewildered by his nut job pal.


Harry rolled round and down into Villambista. Its only 2k from one town to the next but he flew down the path as he searched for Jose.

His mind was obsessed by the Egg Hatcher and he revisited it all in his head as he marched thinking back to what Jose had said, but also what she hadn't. Everyone always thought that Rose was trying to blackmail Avery, or somehow strike a blow for women against this horrible creep, but that simply wasn't the case. She had quite happily undertaken a transaction in a very detached way and was now looking to leverage the consequences of the transaction. It was cold economics. The pregnancy resulted in a frozen embryo. If this embryo was ever to reach full term then another transaction could be achieved.

Sure Rose had elbows and knew how to use them but this was the nature of the person she was transacting with, Avery. Professor Klingensmith was a charming man engaging in ground breaking technology and he was in debt to Avery because of the millions of dollars he had given the institute, not to mention the many women whose fertilised eggs he stored on his and their behalf. Klingensmith was a good friend to Rose because she showed so much interest in his work and agreed to her requests when Avery showed interest in public office.

As Harry stomped into Villambistia he passed the locked church, the fountain and completely missed the sign for the Albergue San Roque. He was almost out of the pueblo when he saw a young Korean girl coming up a side street. He quickly accosted her and asked "What was down there?".

She smiled and said "buen camino". 

Harry was restless he had walked 5k in the cold morning air. He had seen or spoken to nobody who could help him. He was feeling jilted. Josephine had promised to speak more but she clearly had avoided him.

As he stomped downhill towards the albergue he could hear laughing and words in English. 

"Hi Harry" said Jose as she greeted his greetin' face with a huge smile and a hug. "Were you in Tosantos last night."

"No" said Harry "Belorado but nobody had seen you so I thought I'd get out early to see if I could find you."

"Oh worried for me, were you, I'm thoroughly touched. Tommy and I had a wee injury scare so jumped the bus to Belorado but the driver told us to stay on until Villambista as the fare was the same and his mother ran the albergue here. What could we do? It was a rare treat. We're just heading out but we'll wait with you if you like. are you stopping for desayunos - we can recommend them."

"No, I'm fine just to continue walking. I'll just use their toilet."

"Ok, I'll just wander up the trail, see you soon."

Harry raced into the toilet checking over his shoulder that Josephine didn't sneak off piste again. When he came out they'd  both gone.  Harry ran with his pack in hand until he could clearly see them ahead. He slowed, got his breath and composure back, then put on his pack. 

"Hi again" he said as he finally caught up.

"Good morning Harry" said Tommy, "I guess you'll be story telling so I'm going to lump on ahead. I'll see you at Montes de Oca. It looks a great day to be hiding under the canopy of those Beech trees in the forest, I think it could hit 30 degrees today."

"See you later Tommy" said Jose. "Don't you just love the way we just drift in and out of people's lives on the camino. It's so sweet and relaxed. Look at those sunflowers there. Someone's been putting smiley faces on their dying heads. All this rushing in the camino and people take time out to do that. It's priceless."

"Yes, like the service Prof Klingensmith provided to Rose"

"Oh yes Harry, priceless." responded Jose, knowing she could avoid the subject no longer. She was in great spirits and decided to lay it all out for the young apprentice. "You see in the first 10 years Rose was involved in a perfect situation with the Prof. He needed embryos which weren't strictly legal. He needed a muse as much as she did. Rose had this wonderful concept of satisfying people like me with compatible embryos. Until her mid thirties she was doing designer babies but not with a sinister intent.


Tommy was grateful for the time to gather his increasingly complex thoughts. He knew they'd be in Santiago de Compostela all too soon. Most pilgrims felt it was a long way away. Tommy was seeing the time and distance vanish as fast as his weight. Today they would be one day away from Burgos. They could even walk it today. They wouldn't they would stop at St juan de Ortega have some lunch and then decide if it was there, Ages or Atapuerca. Ahes, he smiled as he corrected himself still thinking how difficult the language was proving. So many things were swimming in his head he was forgetting to place his feet again as he rolled out of, the last pueblo before montes de Oca. He wondered if Jose and him was a camino romance or was it possibly bigger. They both felt so comfortable so quickly. It felt special but not ridiculously like the lust of his youth. He thought of the early days, his three daughters and his disasters at fatherhood. His singular focus on turning his cars. Growing the high energy honey business and his other pursuits. They made many people wealthy. They made his family secure. They made him a stranger at first communions. You can't do everything was a mantra but he'd known this wasn't just an excuse. He knew. Choices were made. The wrong one more often than not. "Ouch!"


"No?" said Harry thinking Rose had always been devious and sinister was her middle name.

"No, she really just wanted to make sure the child that was produced would fit the home. If there were two athletic parents then surely they would be active parents in sport with their child. If the kid had no sporting genes and had the eye to ball coordination of me, then as the kid grew older it would naturally frustrate the parents. They may still be delighted to have an Einstein most parents are, but Rose had a very economic simplicity. If you specialise in books you will want a kid who likes reading. If you have lots of sporting equipment in the garage you'll want it used. Hand me downs if you like.

"Yes, but that's not how the world works." replied Harry still not convinced of Rose's naiviety.

"Yes Harry but it is fiction. This character Rose was not very bright in my view. She was an opportunist. I did say that it was cathartic writing the opposite of me. She saw the world with one view, hers. She was simple, not dynamic. She was to end up hugely successful in the way many people measure success but I think she just became a creature locked out of life through her own singular pursuit of business success. Its so one dimension. Cash as a measure, babies as a measure. No single thing should be a measure. She became Avery in many ways without the moral baggage.

"Is that why you made her go rogue?" queried Harry

"She was already there. She had embryos from soccer stars in the states by the time she moves to Galicia.  She had already forecast the world cup and the Olympics would provide great target markets and she did her research well."

"That was genius by you Jose, to predict the Barcelona Olympics games 12 years before it happened."

"Not really. The bidding process is well known and when I was researching the reason I chose Spain was because I saw them getting either a world cup or an Olympics, it was luck they got both. I had thought Italy or Brazil but it was because I'd had a holiday in Santander during that troublesome year that I plumped for Spain."

"You ok?" asked an Irish pilgrim

 "Oops, yeah, I've strayed off the path a bit" said TC from the long grass

 "Yeah, deep in thought eh, it happens. I'm James from Sligo, by the way" 

"Hi yes, I'm Tommy, very deep in thought, deep in sunflowers too, its only skin deep"

"And a fine looking sunflower with that mane of yours. Yeah, you can take a big tumble out here listening to the ghosts"

"Ghosts, that's it James .You're spot on. I like listening but they are ghosts and I need to smell a few more of the roses in bloom, say thanks a bit more - thanks!" 

"No bother big stuff" replied James happy to have another camino moment. Only on the camino, he thought.

"This camino has taught me I love thinking, 3 times in the last two weeks I've walked through my destination.

The first time it happened was day 4. I had arrived in town and thought what a great wee street, I sat down had a beer and three tapas. I couldn't make my mind up between the Morcilla lomo and fish so had all three!

When I finished I realised I wasn't ready to socialise so carried on walking. I got to the top of the hill outside Puente la Reina and was exhausted but smiling. The fountain five minutes later was a relief so I continued down into Maneru. Soon I was in Cirauqui and I climbed up through the town and then kept on walking and thinking.

I realised I am a great prevaricator and my mind enjoys the exploration of deep space. The name I have for my empty head. Next thing I am in Lorca - a great town and it was some distance and three hours further than I intended!

The other times were similar - nonsense was flowing in deep space" James finished and looked across the hills to Montes de Oca. "I dont think I'll be so sleepy walking up through them!"

Tommy had drifted off again and smiled at the hills, "Yeah, that's a fair old step eh, and I'm just meaning this downhill stretch!"


Come on Bill, its 12, the tapa awaits us" shouted an impatient Jim.

"Just give me an hour, I think I had too much seafood last night" Bill rolled over and closed his eyes.

"Ok, I'll just head down and hae a few for ma brekky, I'll come back for you at 2" replied the pig in shit that was Jim. All the walking had been replaced by beer, wine and food.

Chapter Five 


Jim returned to the scene of last night's crime and spotted the crowd. The voices were speaking in English but the lilt was clearly Irish and he smiled as they fired out the words. James & Saoirse had met up with the crowd from London.

"It was the unwritten rule - Jobs for life became jobs for two years. We had to be a more flexible workforce responding to the whims of fashion."

"Retraining and reinventing ourselves"

"The 50's automobile industry did this with the car and the 80's version did it with people"

"Sustainability became a catchword for complacency. A lack of ambition"

"Ambition to create something that would last was replaced in the dictionary by something that could be quaffed.

"Everyone laughing at the quaffing eh?" suggested Bill

"The real enemy of women in the board room was that they didn't have balls."

"No cock meant no lap dancing. Yer business was concluded in strip clubs. The 80s was about cutting deals."

"Get the max out before moving on. Max out - move on. Momo's" 

"Remember the SAD'oes! Stay and develop, my erse, wither on the vine" Jim joined in with fond memory.

"By 2000 Rome was burning. Consumer driven momos were populating every board room with the same mantra. What will sell. Not what is a profitable and sustainable model." 

Jim sipped his beer and considered his next sentence more closely. He was enjoying his camino, the fruits of a successful sojourn to London had ensured his retirement by the 90's, every penny thereafter had been icing on his extremely large cake. His good fortune had not come at a conscious cost to anyone but he didn't make his money without a certain chameleon ability and drawing on the nonsense Harry had talked to them about he volunteered his own thesis.

"The business schools taught their business but the world had moved on it was about making money and I think that's where Jose hit a chord with an audience so much her junior.

The way she treated the characters of Avery and Rose wasn't sympathetic but equally she didn't damn them. She stated them coldly as they were. Driven from
different places and by different dreams but the destination was the same.

"Is this the lady yer man Harry was talking about?" asked Saoirse. 

"Aye, she wrote it in the late 60's," said Bill holding court now and guzzling his beer, "Nature v nurture suggests Jose thought her main characters were the distilled concoctions of their environments but slice beneath the circus and dice their history and personality traits. Their's was a cold nature. It was pure testosterone. Examine the way they predicted the consequence of their actions. How they measured and perceived them. Jose's great skill as an author allowed her to make a gentle joke of their family trees. Were they just A throw back to a common ancestry in the ruthless Carnegie mode or the caring benevolent Capitalist Carnegie wrote himself out to be. 

Clearly in two sentences she presents the argument for nature. 'it was fated in their nature to meet and to cross paths many times,' a throw back, Jose repeats the line three times in the novel. 

"Hoi!, I was sleeping" laughs James as he elbows Saoirse gently in the ribs 

"And, that's why I nudged you." replied the curious Saoirse, "He's nearly finished and it's your round. So, if I get you right here Bill, Jose spends most of the time talking up the two as being a product of their environment and that's why they are both bastards.

"Aye, then just as she has you, she reminds you that it was fated in their natures which she tells you all you need to know" concluded a smug Bill, relieved to still have the magical marketing man's gift of the gab.


Harry is heading down the hill towards Montes de Oca, a small village with a couple of cafes. The trucks in the car park offer a clear sign that eating here will be worthwhile. Jose looks around to see whether Tommy is visible but he isnt in view outside either of the two cafes. She ventures into the nearest one while Harry removes his boots, and sees him slumped over a half eaten chorizo bocadillo.

"Good lunch Tommy? What's happened to your face?"

"Hiya, aye, ah'm still eating but the sleeping got me. I crashed into the sunflowers, Jamesie here, rescued me."

"Dis'll be Josephine then Tommy?"

"Aye, Josephine meet Jamesie, he's from the Emerald isle, the west coast, Sligo but he works in Donegal"

"A pleasure  to meet you Josephine. Tommy was out on his feet when I met him, literally!!"

"And this is Harry" replied Josephine, as Harry entered in his stocking soles.

"Hi, I'm just going to use the facilities" offered Harry as he ignored the pellegrino pleasantries.

DAY 12

After lunch the four of them climbed into the mountains of Oca. The steep exit from the town was a precursor for the steep climb.

"Definitely one for the afternoon, I wouldn't want to do this in the morning" said Jose

"Aye, but could we no stop here for another beer" said Tommy as they passed a beautiful hotel courtyard on the edge of town. "In fact San Anton has albergue and hotel rooms, why dont we park our asses here tonight?"

"Is he always like this Josephine?" asked Sligo's son, the rechristened Jamesie, "No wonder he sleeps with the sunflowers"

Harry was saying nothing as he ploughed his feet simply but effectively in front of each other. The steep climb didn't allow for conversation and he was keeping his powder dry, resting his voice, to the quietly happy joy of the others.

After 20 minutes Jose stopped, dropped her back pack and looked back as Tommy trudged in his tottie wee steps up the hill. She waited while the others carried on. She smiled as he got closer, the sound of his sticks striking the stones grew louder, she winked, picked up her pack and walked on assured that he was comfortable in his groove.

The Camino swagger can vary from day to day. It can grow faster on certain terrains and slower on others. On one day the walk can fill you full of energy and then within an afternoon bag drop, you lose it all in seconds. Far from being energised by dropping your 8kg pack, it just feels an additional burden when you lump it back on again. Some paths were smooth and within seconds become craggy igneous rocks. Jose now knew the best you could ever hope for is that the feet don't hurt and you get to the next drinks stop smiling. She had slipped effortlessly into the Camino way of life and her warm relationship with Tommy. In the Spanish sunshine it was getting very sultry. There were no clouds in sight and she had relaxed into the blue skies she was baking under. As she came out of the woods she saw the others drinking their water at a vantage point.

"How beautiful is dis" said Jamesie as he dropped his bag to the floor.

"Stunning," said Jose, "the canopy of the trees is quite spellbinding. Its like a mini rainforest. Just as well for poor Tommy as he looked quite parched whenever the sun gets through the tree cover." She got her camera out and took a picture. There was a guide showing the names of all the peaks in the distance.

"This was civil war country" said Harry gesticulating towards the landscape.

"Yes, there's a monument on the route to the war dead. You can imagine them fighting over the 100 metres from one side of the valley to the other. It's so well protected with the forest that you could sneak up on the other side quite easily."

"That or just shell them to death from the top" replied Harry.

"I dont think Orwell was in this part, he was more Catalonia. There's a few battle lines we cross on the way to San Juan de Ortega." said Jose as she glanced around the majestic peaceful countryside.

"I'm sure he couldnae hae been as thirsty as me though" said TC as he dropped his rucsac grabbing his bottle as it fell off his shoulder. He crumbled against the crash barrier and watched in distress as his bottle slid from his grasp. "That wis'nae in the plan. hmmn. Sorry guys but could I get a wee drink from someone please"

Jamesie smiled and offered Tommy a bottle. "I filled two of these, and now I've carried it to the top, you can have it my friend. I just wish I'd given you it as we left town."

"You're a true gent Jamesie, a true gent, and Ah'm a fanny. Thanks." replied the humbled TC. He drank the bottle in one long gulp. "Thanks for that. Ah'm glad ye didnae gie me it, ah'd have dropped it. Aye, water's for drinking no carrying."

"Or dropping" laughed Jamesie

The walk across to San Juan de Ortega was more rugged than Tommy had hoped as a huge path had been bulldozed out of the forest and the sun shone through but after 2 hours they left the unshaded stretch and headed down the sunflowers again beckoned the way to San Juan and the next pit stop.


The tired Tommy was listening to Harry as he badgered Jose about Rose. He could also see that Jose was now enjoying the jousting. She was mistress to Harry's servitude. Harry might be asking the questions but Jose was holding the leash tight and gently jerking him this way and that had Harry looking more like a Labrador puppy than the attack dog his words suggested. Tommy sat silently thinking about the ghosts. What the day had brought and what they still had to bring as they went over to San Juan de Ortega.

The road from Montes de Oca rises and falls as you first climb into the mountains then descend into its valleys before climbing again onto a plateau that runs for 8km. You can imagine the bandits of the middle ages finding safe haven and you can still hear the shelling of the war of 1936-1939.

Harry was descending into a torturous place as this latest academic avalanche had triggered even more off in his head. This was never a hypothetical story. He knew Jose was indeed the soothsayer of the Athens of the North. She had descended from the oracle of Dunkeld. She had pointed people to the promised land and yet she'd been ignored. Like many visionaries she had seen the future and moved swiftly to secure her seat in it.

"Googolplex, that's what you called Rose's complex outside Salamanca, tell me that's not visionary"

"No Harry. I stole it. Total plagiarism. Have you read any Ballard?" She retorted quite scathingly, swatting the poor wee student with an imaginary book. "He had visited the university during my last year. I had followed his work but it was total plagiarism. I liked the word and it was perfect. I knew Rose could supply any child the world wanted. The emphasis was on creating a child the world wanted but half way through the book I realised that her understanding of consumerism meant if the world wanted something it implied it wanted the power to discard it. That was the most perplexing thing about Rose - she discovered it too. We used Ballard's spelling, it felt right to doff our metaphorical caps. I guess google didn't want to risk the plagiarism I felt so comfortable with. I might not have been so comfortable had I sold 1000 copies. Luckily my quantities never threatened those levels."

"But what was Rose's take on families?"

Harry was shuffling his little feet past James and the Irishman wasted no time in answering his question.

"You know the answer Harry. It was absolute. She loved the family unit. She put children into families, and she put children where she decided families were required."

"Thanks Jamesie. I often think I'm the only one who thinks that as a parent you want your kids to be friendly forever and as a sibling you can see your sisters and brothers far enough.

"Its the big difference nowadays. You start with a genetic code that is fairly similar, but its not identical. There are huge differences which manifest themselves as you grow. Teachers spot the differences. They see who has co-ordination who has mental agility and mental fragility. Parents always talk to younger children about being more like their big sister or brother."

Tommy trudged gently and roused himself from his slumber. One foot, right foot, left foot ....before joining the conversation.

"I guess I found out when I went to work in Edinburgh and the rest of my family took their own routes. When we were wee we had a lot in common. Carluke is a small village. Everyone knows everyone and the families all live in each others houses. We all were exposed to the same things. Old Rab in the pub knew how old we were, that's why we sat in the park drinking. This adolescence is all I have in common with my siblings now. We chose different paths. Those paths brought friends and experiences that are unique. My siblings try and sell me their experiences and I'm sure I sell mine back but the truth is we lead different lives and are completely different people."

"Paths like the camino then big man" said Jamsie warming to his camino comrade's sense of belonging

"If you have a good gentle nature, you'll always have a good gentle nature. It cant be burnt out of you, but you will be burnt. Eventually you'll walk caminos to find more gentle folk. If you have a combative nature you'll enjoy fighting and you'll migrate to where there is most sport. Conflict resolution always ignores the fact that people enjoy conflict. They thrive on conflict. They create the conflict to ensure they can win, not to ensure resolution. Look at your Thatcher and Scargill. They only wanted to fight. They wanted to force their own sides into entrenched views so they could make scapegoats of the other. Sadly our society loses on both sides. Our Police are hated because they were Thatcher's militia and the miners lost their identities and communities. They were once proud people and now two generations on it looks like you've created countryside ghettoes. I dont know, I dont live there but when I am over visiting friends there are places we used to visit back in student days that we dont go near."

"Cheers Jamesie,  I love my kids and I'm lucky they've all done well getting started on their own. Even Broken wing as we call the youngest has finally got herself set up.


DAY 12

St Juan de Ortega is a thin town. It has a church. It has an albergue. It has a pub. It hasn't got much more but it has got animosity. If you buy a beer in the albergue you cant drink it in the chairs that are for the pub. Depending on the time of day it can be a fantastic meeting point, or a deserted outpost on the way to Burgos.


DAY 14

The luxury of the Hotel was not wasted on Tommy and he gorged himself at breakfast. Jose smiled at his hearty appetite, he'd looked fairly satiated an hour earlier and was delighted to see he was building his strength up again.

"I've got a surprise for you when we get to rabe." said TC

What kind of surprise

Oh you wait and see. I doubt harry will be to chirpy about it

As they strolled over the small green bridge the road took a small detour around a hillock. "That's the Hibs green" said TC, "Yes Tommy, and so is that tree" replied Jose.

Another kilometre and they had arrived.

"Here we are. The monastery at Rabe de las calzadas. They have just started this service and I'm the first to book one.

One what? 

A motorised tandem!

A what?

Aye, all mod cons too. It costs €100 per day and you just phone them from where you are and they pick you up

You expect me to climb on that. I'm 68 years old. 

You've been clambering on me no problem the bike's a skoosh. So jump on. We both pedal but if we want to take a breather you push this lever and the motor keeps going at the pace you were at, so I don't even know you've stopped. Or equally you can ride up front and I can watch that cute wee ass of yours. 

There are times you amaze me tommy. I love it. So where do we go? 

Up that path there and onto the meseta. We will average 20-30km per hour so we will need to have lots of coffee time but the idea is it rests the feet, it uses different leg muscles and rests our backs!

What does this bell thing do ?" said Jose as she pushed the bell button

"buen camino. Buenos. Hola, buen camino."

Nice bell tommy. Like a child's doll, very droll.  So much better than the silent assassins that sneak up on their bikes

So we take this from rabe to hontanas, Castrojeriz, fromista carrion de Los condes and that's us done 4 hours.

Yes but my plan if I had one was that we stop in each town for an hour or so otherwise we'll no lose The community we've been walking with

Is that so bad. To be fair I really like Harry's two friends but we have hardly seen them since montjardin and that night in Burgos. We'll pick up a new community soon enough when we start walking again.

You're right as ever. I thought two days would see us cover the meseta. It's. Special very charmingly desolate with lots of towns grateful to see visitors. Many of the locals haven't left castille never mind travelled to Burgos or Leon so it's always fascinating chat. They have deep-seated Spanish values that don't exist elsewhere. The purest definition of peasant you'll ever meet. Many bus past the meseta but I think it sounds brilliant. Well, it does in the web sites.

Ok so carrion by tonight and then ledigos, templairios, Sahagun 

You mean sahoon

Yes, my pronunciation is shocking. Silent h in helado and silent g in Sahagun - it is so easy and yet

After Sahagun you get to bercianos and then  el burgo ranero. It's a proper rodeo type town. As pilgrims the fat boys diaries say they walked through it and thought it was deserted but it's because the fleschas Amarillo take you down a parallel street to the main calle. It's one of the few towns not to force pilgrims through a busy thoroughfare. The fat boys only found out later it was a bustling metropolis with great food and loads of accommodation 

I have another thing and I need Fr Gerard you remember him from that walk through Pamplona he was the guy carrying the enormous flag on a bike.

Vaguely I can't remember quite a few days now

Well remember this" said Tommy as he creaked down to one knee. "will you marry me Josephine Archer. Will you do me the honour of becoming my Life partner?"

"Wow! This is all a bit sudden, I've known you for less than a week Tommy. I can't say I haven't thought seriously about it but I wasn't sure how strongly you felt and how adolescent we're both being"

Just say yes Jose - we both know it. This is a camino romance but it's real. Fr Gerard has agreed to marry us if you say yes. He also comes to pick the bike up when we are finished so we don't need to get married before the meseta.....assuming you want a couple of days to think about it

Yes I do, I mean yes.  I will say I do but can we have a two day engagement so we're not rushing into anything 

Of course darling here's an engagement ring. It's a scallop fashioned on silver, exceptionally tacky so I can get you another in Leon but I liked it

"It's perfect, thank you Tommy" she said and give him a huge hug that released into a long deep kiss. Her head had emptied. There were endorphins escaping at a thunderous pace, her mind was being assaulted by rose petals. She tried to hold a thought, to contemplate what had happened but the happiness held the moment.

"Ok you don't need me just yet then" said fr Gerard  - "I ll make myself scarce" 

Before leaving Rabe, Jose and Tommy went around to the cafe and had a coffee under the trees in the shade.

When I left St Jean 14 days ago I knew I was on a very uncertain but exciting journey. When you cross the iconic footbridge and start heading up out of town you think of all the things you've forgotten. Once you get up to Hunto an hour later you are just so parched you've no other thoughts.

Aye, I had two German girls for company. They were great kids.  They got me up that first stiff section. I let them walk ahead and they dragged me up.

I'll bet they did. I was with a nice Finnish man who spoke excellent English it was his third camino and he had walked it every September since he retired. He had some great stories to tell. He kept with me until Orisson and then I told him to carry on. I was a novice and needed fed. I waited there for an hour until I saw this fat Scotsman with his nose up two German girls bottoms arrive and I left. 

You having me on Again

No seriously I think I did see you on day one. I remember the hibs top. My relations were all hibs daft and when I heard your voice I figured you Scottish 

Well I am sorry to say I missed you that day. It could have been 14 days together and we'd be married now! I couldn't see a thing those first three days. I was so wiped out. All the way to the top and then all the way back down it was tough - the Germans gave me the slip in the woods as they skipped down and I lumbered like the fat fella I am. I saw them at dinner in Roncesvalles but they had a pair of young Danish boys sniffing round them. I sat with the old guys.

Yes I know you sat at my table

I was speaking in French to the two women and you just sat down said I'm Tommy I'm really hungry and we all just smiled. You hardly said a word

Yeah, I was absolutely wiped out, and probably very ignorant with it. I thought everyone was foreign and I'd sat at the wrong table. There were Aussies behind me sitting with Canadians and a couple from Illinois. I figure last in gets no choice and I only got in to roncesvalles at 6.45. I wanted to get the first meal sitting and I hit my bed by 8.

Yes I know I heard you

No stop it, don't tell me I was the bunk above you. 

Funny you should say that. I don't know how as I was in by 3pm but maybe the lower bunks sell out first. I didn't know it was you above until I saw your jersey in the morning. I came in from dinner after 9. I had a few drinks with Ghislaine and Tomas a lovely couple from Toulouse. They had walked from le puy. I heard the snoring but it was everywhere in the dorm so I put my ear plugs in and slept fine. I left with the dawn patrol at 6.30. I hit a tangled tree root on the way to burgette and decided Dawn is when the sun comes up not when it is still dark

So you've been stalking me then

"No, not really. I did see you at your worst though and if that's as bad as you get you'll make a good husband for some lucky woman." Jose was now laughing like a drone, with a blockage. A new laugh that Tommy hadnt heard before. Jose seemed to have a number of different laughs depending on how much she was chuckling inside.

Day 22 ********************************

Day 22

Early morning on the meseta is cold. Its never warming when you are 700 metres above the waterline. 

The walk out of Hornillos del Camino is quietly over the 'top of the world' which is why the pilgrims get upset when they meet puddles in the mud. The truth is the mud is simple. If it rains, the muds cant drain away quickly as the meseta is flat. The path is flat and only the footprints cause the world to wonder if flat is the only reality available.

Towns in these parts are solely found in the valleys and the pilgrim used to seeing a town in the distance stumbles across their towns in the valley floor. One such town is found at Hontanas. You hear the church bells but you look and see no town. It is eerie for the pigrim. It must be eeire for the prairie dogs too.

A short stretch takes you down to the Moorish town of Castrojeriz. Its magnificent and then a short lunch ensures you'll make it to the town of  El Albergue Hagar.

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