Friday, 23 November 2007

The Reason Why

Old friends write every so often to ask me what I am doing in a village in Spain which does not even have a bar. It is because of The Camino. This is a route taken by pilgrims which traverses Spain from France and ends, either in Santiago de Compostela, or depending on one´s fancy, at Finisterra. Before Columbus, Finisterra was as its name describes, the very end of the earth. Our village, Moratinos, is right on the Camino Fran├žais - just about half way along the roughly 500-mile trek.

To save me writing a lot of even more boring stuff than usual, you can go to the site above for statistics.
Several thousand pilgrims - pilgs, as we affectionately call them amble, march, stroll or, very frequently limp past either our back or front door each year. When we have a finished house, we will put up some of them.
We are especially fond of those with animals. The odd pilg will show up with a horse, or a donkey or a dog. We have only ever seen one with a goat. Many of the places pilgs normally stay in - known as Albergues or Refugios (same thing) are not keen, or anyway not equipped, to deal with the furries, so we will fill a niche.
The pilgrimage was originally at least, religious in nature, ending at what is claimed to be the tomb of St. James - Santiago. Nowadays, for a lot of people, it is no more than a nice long cheap walking or cycling vacation. The French seem to appreciate the cheap aspect more than most.
Nevertheless, the Camino numbers among its participants an unusually high percentage of maniacs. Many, naturally, are religious maniacs, some are Templar maniacs, others merely common-or-garden maniacs. The Templar maniacs are obsessed with the medieval knights of that ilk. They go in for much foolishness involving holy grails and big swords and tunics with big red crosses on the front. The Knights Templars had a lot to do with the Camino, acting as a sort of medieval Guardia Civil.
A mile or so East of Moratinos is the village of Terradillos de los Templarios. It became one of their hangouts. It seems that there was another village between there and Moratinos, called Villaoreja, which was run by a gang of monks who went crooked, robbing and killing the pilgs. Even six or seven hundred years ago this was thought to be going a bit far so the Templars moved to Terradillos and turfed out the tonsured tearaways. They did such a thorough job that only a stone marking the spot remains.
Nothing that interesting seems to be known about our village, except that the name indicates that it was once inhabited by Moors. They are not expected back any time soon, but the way things are going these days you never know.
The next village, about a mile and a half away, San Nicolas, is practically Las Vegas in comparison. It has not only an albergue with a bar, but a restaurant with a bar as well. Even more impressive, during the Camino´s middle-age heyday, they had a hospital reserved exclusively for pilgs with leprosy. Very chic.
So that is why we now live in Moratinos. I hope that explains it to you. It doesn´t to me, I must say. But, if you have any questions, just write.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

Under Old Management

Thanks and apologies to the yet still faithful readers who ask me why I have not been blogging lately. Indolence is the short answer.
My wife has left me, only for a week she says, to go to Paris for Thanksgiving. Parisians, in their turn are making plans tout suite to spend Bastille Day in Pittsburgh. I am now a hermit, with only the chickens and the dogs. And the rain. And no excuse for not writing.
We now have two dogs. Tim, a year-old pedigree Brittany Spaniel walked in off the Camino about six weeks ago and is now officially ours. His ex-owner, when tracked down, was suspiciously willing to let us keep him, but he is a good and kindly creature (Tim, that is, not the owner) and company for Una. The chickens are down to three, we gave two away and Tim, on arrival at the house, immediately killed one to do us a favor and demonstrate his skills as a hunter. I remonstrated with him in my imperfect Castellano, and he is now on arse-sniffing terms with the survivors.
If given the chance, he would spend his waking hours sitting in front of me and staring me sympathetically in the face; wondering, no doubt, if I will ever get it.

The world grows more surreal every day, does it not?
I read in today´s El Pais, One Of The World´s Great Newspapers, although they unaccountably fail to say so on the masthead, that Scott McClellan, White House spokesman from 2003 to 2006, is now complaining that he was ordered to lie about all manner of stuff to shield his masters from the ensuing outrage.
Well, Duh!, as we European sophisticates are wont to ejaculate. No need to say more, except next time read the job description more carefully, Scott.
In Spanish, a spokesperson is a ´portavoz´a carry-voice , more or less. Nice way to put it, I think.
On another, more serious topic, the news that Croacia have knocked England out of some football cup was not an unforseen shock. I went to the Bar Deportivo to watch Spain, who were about ten times superior to Northern Ireland, make very heavy weather out of beating them.
It would take a Scott McClellan to explain that both England and Northern Ireland are really world-class but were just unlucky on the night. Someody should give him a call.