Tuesday, 20 October 2009


Once in a while, this blog is about the Camino. This one is, so be warned.
While Reb was away, two German pilgrims showed up. One was called Christian, and was healthy, one was called Christopher and was unwell. Very unwell, in fact. Both aged twenty, long-haired, bearded, like the European visual versions of Jesus.
Christopher was diagnosed with probable multiple sclerosis seven years ago, which may - or may not - have something to do with what happened.
These two kids, along with four others originally, who had quit one by one, set out from Cologne to walk the Camino with no money apart from a small sum set aside for emergencies. They started out August 1st and had clearly used some wheeled transport to get themselves as far as Moratinos by October 17th.
Their original plan was to be self-sufficient - that is to live off wild fruits, weeds, vegetables, nuts and berries and any wild animals they might happen to get, I suppose. The latter was not likely, as they were not armed or carrying traps and road kill is frugal round here. So, fruits, berries and nuts it was. As they had so little money they slept out most of the time so as not to pay for albergues - usually about 5 euros a night.
'Self sufficiency' became to mean - as far as one could follow - scrounging, begging stale bread from bakeries, dumpster diving behind supermarkets and a bit of light stealing from orchards and vegetable gardens.
The nights grew colder. Christopher developed such a swelling in his throat and tongue that he could not eat anything solid at all and had trouble even swallowing water.
And he was running a feverish temperature 38c, 104f.
Finally, at our house, Christopher went to bed and stayed there for 24 hours or so until Reb got home. We tried to feed him in the meantime, but it was no use.
So, Rebekah's first task on getting home was to drive him to the medical center in Sahagun, some six miles away. He was given a shot of something and we were told he should go immediately to the big hospital in Leon, 45 miles away. This we duly did, on Sunday afternoon. Reb had already driven some 100 miles from the other side of Burgos in the morning. My driving days are done. Minces muy malo.
The hospital services are so good around here (this is not irony) that the emergency staff there admitted him, examined him, took several blood samples for analysis, and came up with instructions for further treatment all in the space of two hours.
Christopher was told to report the following morning (today, Sunday 20th) to have an abscess in his mouth drained. (As of now, Sunday evening, we have heard nothing, and I will be mildly surtprized if we ever do. We took him to the albergue in Leon, explained the circumstances, said Hasta luego, Buen Camino, breathed a sigh of relief and went for a bite at our favorite pizza joint, La Competen├žia. Thin crust. Tip top.
At first, when it was all over, I felt that I ought to be all bent out of shape by the amazing presumption of these kids. Their 'self sufficiency' probably cost us about 50 euros in hard cash.
But, then, I think that - if I had heard of the Camino at age 20 - maybe 17 in my case - I might have done exactly the same dopey thing. Too old to be dopey in that fashion now, at 68. Dopey in different ways.
A pilgrim from Cuba has just shown up, so I will continue mana├▒a.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009


Leather from unique cows.

'This world is so insane that to be sane is simply another kind of madness,' said Pascal two or three hundred years ago. He was right then and here is clear evidence that he is still right.

Flipping through The New Yorker of October 5th, 2009. On page 21 a full-page ad for Range Rovers. The headline reads: ONE OF THE MOST CIVILIZED PLACES ON EARTH. The picture showed the driving seat of the car. In 1998 - the only year for which I could find the statistics I needed - 1,170,694 people on Earth were killed in traffic-related accidents. 38,848,625 were injured. Things are almost certainly a heck of a lot worse by now.
I did find some figures full of optimistic cheer from the U.S. for 2008. It seems that only 31,600 Americans got whacked. (About 10 times more than 9-11, you will note.) This, proclaimed the article, is a great improvement on 1972, when 54,000 bit the asphalt. Our roads are getting safer, exulted some suited buffoon. No, they are just getting less awful.
What the ad ought to say is, ONE OF THE MOST DANGEROUS PLACES ON EARTH.
And that's not all. The smaller text of the ad reads thus:
The Range Rover Autobiography (the name of the beast, it seems) is all that is luxurious. Redesigned for you, by you. From the interior employing unique leather hides, trim and premium woods, these uniquely personalized Range Rovers take you wherever, whenever with a heightened ride quality and unprecedented performance. Finding the time to get far away just got a little easier.

To dissect such imbecile fatuity is, I agree, a waste of whatever brains we still possess. But.. unique leather hides? You mean each one only comes off one cow?

'Uniquely personalized' speaks for itself.

God knows what 'heightened ride quality' is. Sounds nice, though. Maybe we get killed in luxurious comfort.

To be sure, car advertising is often highly dubious. Pontiac used to promise 'DRIVING EXCITEMENT' when "driving excitement" is surely the last thing any sane person would want.
Which brings us back to Pascal. Time to unbuckle the safety belt and clamber out of the 'Autobiography' faintly relieved to still be in one piece.

NOTE: The Range Rover 'Autobiography' costs from $145,000 amd does 15 miles to the gallon.

Thursday, 8 October 2009


A quick update on Big Fun before Rebekah can file the real thing.

1: The rains have come. Good thing for farmers, bad thing for putting chimneys on bodegas.

2: Blodwyn is well again. Pecker back up. Olive oil, administered by eye dropper did the trick again, I think.

3: Reb exaggerates about me. And the racing is over until The Breeders Cup in November, now Sea The Stars has won the Arc. But the masajista in Sahagun could do nothing for me, but suggest some cream which cost 20 euros. So, we will maybe try a curandero - a magic man, or woman. Magic. So low am I sunk.
If that fails there is nothing left but Lourdes. Superstition.

On a more melancholy note, Irving Penn is dead. Age 92, though. One of his pix above. Nice.