Saturday, 26 March 2011

Nice meeting

Well, Toad promised he would report on the meeting of the aged near Saldaña yesterday.

Not much to report, though. Reb, myself and a lady who had lived in Barcelona virtually all her life, having left Palençia at seven, I think, and recently returned, did most of the talking, which she clearly enjoyed, sat in a row facing about seventy locals with about ninety-five walking sticks between them. Remarkable number of men, considering. Roughly half, I'd say.

The lady from Cataluña reckoned that Palençia was nice, the people here were nice, the quality of life here was nice, the tranquillity here was nice. In fact, everything here was nice. We both agreed. The audience agreed, and rattled their sticks to show it.
We all also agreed that Barcelona and London and Pittsburgh are not as nice. Unless you are under about seventy.

We both managed to handle the language reasonably well, or so the audience assured us. Probably just being nice.

This orgy of niceness took about two hours. Then Reb and I took off to Sahagun for gin and tonics, as soon as was decent.
The drinks were nice.

Thursday, 24 March 2011


Yesterday, to a great barking and hysteria from the dogs, Miraglos, Leandra and a lady from the local Junta arrived.

As a result, tomorrow Reb and I are going to a village near Saldaña to give a sort of presentation, if I understand rightly, about being foreigners living in Castilla y Leon.

If I understand wrongly, it might be about almost anything - beekeeping, quantum theory or the Albigensian Heresy - things of which I at least, know nothing.
So, we will go, armed with a stout dictionary and do our best.

The trouble is, that despite living in Moratinos for four or so years now, we spend virtually all day speaking English to one another, and our Spanish does not get much of an airing. I will probably explain this to the audience, if I am capable, and maybe try to explain some of the oddities of the English language to them.
If any of them are considering learning English, which I doubt, because they will probably all be over 70, and like me, somewhat set in their ways - this will swiftly put them off the notion forever.

Anyway, there will be a further blog re this as soon as possible, as it promises to be nightmarish fun.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Interesting Times

Toad is gamely trying to meet his target of a blog a day during Lent. Is already far behind of course, but plodding on.
Yesterday, Sunday, was a milestone in Moratinos life. Bruno, the Italian Hospitalero, threw a big lunch for the village. His wife, an imposing lady, was there to help. Reb and I had were aware that he was going to do this, but we thought it would be at four p.m. I had already made a tortilla for the post Mass vermouth session in the town hall, and olives and pork scratchings and all sorts were being eaten beforehand. Then we all toddled off to the new Albergue to eat a seven-course Italian feast, including two kinds of pasta and God knows what all else. It was excellent. Afterwards, stuffed like Strasbourg Geese, Reb and I went home and slept far too long.
If Bruno plans to treat the pilgs like this, he will be bankrupt in a week. Of course he will not.

But places for pilgs within a couple of miles of our house have mushroomed in the last few years. When we first came here there was an Albergue in Terradillos and one in San Nicolas. Now there are two in Terradillos, one in Moratinos, with a hotel on the way, and another one due to open soon in San Nicolas, built and to be run by our chums at the Bar Barrunta.
Toad wonders if they can all survive, let alone thrive.

We both suspect that this will be a bumper year for the number of pilgs. We also suspect that a great many of them, due to not having a job, but with plenty of time on their hands, will have little, if any, money.
From time to time we get people deliberately doing the Camino with no money. We had one recently. A nice young French Canadian, dressed in top of the line walking gear. He seemed to be doing it on charity as a sort of experiment.

It is officially Spring here now. Sun blazing, buds budding, dogs dozing, Bob warbling, more pilgs passing.

We got the big table out in the yard and oiled it. Looks good.

Saturday, 19 March 2011


This is Rosie, a wonderful little girl, who is probably as smart as the other three dogs put together, and certainly the only interesting item on today's blog.

Toad is reading a book first published in 1964, called 'Essays of a Humanist.' It is by Julian Huxley, brother of Aldous, grandson of Thomas Henry. An outstanding egghead in a family of outstanding eggheads.
What strikes Toad most though, is the blatant optimism. Surely, by 1964, nobody thought things were ever going to be all right from then on?
Julian Huxley was an optimist. He thought that, as we got older, as we got to know more scientific stuff, we would evolve into being nicer, and wiser and kinder.
How wrong could he be? Oh well.
One of the chapters is called 'Education and Humanism.' In it, Huxley, quotes another egghead, Prof. Elvin, who thought that, “A tribal boy's education may be a better preparation for life in a tribal society than is our education for life in our vaunted technological society.”

Well, Doh! Stating the bleeding obvious, was, no doubt, any reader's first impulse. All education is, in some form, tribal. Nobody can dispute that. It works by carrying on traditions. Can be facts, can also be total prejudices.

And there can be problems. Toad has just emerged from a slight balls-up on the Catholic site he keeps his beady eye on. One of the contributors, (Toad 'misremembered' which one) some weeks ago, bemoaned the fact that she had - at massive expense, no doubt - decided that her son would not get his head stuffed with the usual secular, run-of-the mill, nonsense. Instead she opted for top-of-the-line Catholic nonsense, at Downside Abbey, no less - the Catholic version of Eton, if such a scary concept could exist.
To her understandable horror and chagrin, the school duly stuffed the lad's head with nonsense as ordered, but entirely the wrong kind!
They stuffed him full of atheist, nihilist, nonsense!
Infinitely more pernicious than any other kind of nonsense!
When Toad heard this originally, he was amused, but now he is sympathetic, and thinks that the lady in question has grounds for suing the venerable institution. We are entitled to the nonsense we pay for and expect!
Once a head is stuffed with any kind of nonsense, substitution is by no means an easy task. One can only wait and hope that nature will take its course and in due time the bad nonsense will work its inevitable way through the system and be evacuated, freeing up a space for more acceptable nonsense.
In the meantime, the lawyers can roll up their sleeves and start charging...

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

God's Little Jest

"Did you feel the ground shift a bit just then, Eve? I shouldn't eat that Cox's Pippin if I were you. A snake just told me it's been genetically modified."
(The apple, that is, not the snake.)

Toad is still ruminating on the events in Japan. Who isnt?

It strikes him that God showed a keen sense of humour by adding tectonic plates to His creation and then calling it "The Firmament."

Were there earthquakes and tectonic shifts in the Garden of Eden, he wonders? If not, it all seems a bit like overkill for eating a measly little apple.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Pilgrim's progress

Back in a soggy Moratinos after a brief stagger along the Camino between Astorga and Ponferrada. No more than about 34-odd miles in an afternoon, a full day and a morning. But Toad did manage to get lost up a mountain outside Molinaseca, which was exciting.
By the time he had scrambled down a virtual precipice, his little green toad legs had turned to jelly.

But most of it was a good experience. Toad decided to do this because a great friend of his was gravely ill. On the second day, more or less as Toad was musing on the eternal verities at the Cruz de Ferro, his friend died, it seems.

This got Toad brooding on souls. And it struck him that that was what Lewis Carroll was about when he has the Cheshire Cat fade away - leaving only a disembodied grin, a soul, in fact.
That's what happens to us all. We fade away. Maybe we leave a grin, maybe not.

There must be an awful lot of disembodied grins in Japan right now.

Toad did look in at Manjarin, but Tomas was not there. Not even his grin, as far as Toad could see. Probably off somewhere seeking the Grail, or beheading someone with his mystical sword.

Watching the footage from Japan in various bars, it struck Toad that it will be futile to make any more 'disaster' movies. The whole planet is a disaster movie these days. Probably always was, but now we can be sure that every act of God (and there are plenty) will be captured on video and served up piping hot within minutes.

Ain't life grand?

And Toad got to wondering if there were earthquakes in the Garden of Eden. If not, it seems a bit of an extreme reaction to eating a pokey little apple.

But, we must suppose God knows what He's doing.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Belay that!

Harry the new dog. He is a caballero. That's not his breed, it's his character.

Although Toad has promised to try to write a blog every day through Lent, he might well have problems doing so for the next few days.
One of his closest friends is not at all well and Toad is going to walk a bit of the Camino with him in mind.
It can't do his friend any harm, and the worst it can do to Toad is kill him. Or make him stronger.

He will get the train to Astorga and walk to Ponferrada if he can. It should take three days. Three days without dogs is a lot for Toad. For light relief and bedtime reading, he will take The Unquiet Grave, by Cyril Connolly.
Toad enjoys Cyril's moaning, self-flagellating and posturing, but dosn't expect anyone else to.

Giving It Up and Getting it On For Lent

Still life with dogs.

Toad, for that is my pen name, has decided to give up not blogging for Lent. As he has said before, the main obstacle to his blogging, is a little-known medical condition which doctors refer to as, 'idleness.'
However, he will at least try to knuckle down, subdue his disability, and produce a few words a day between now and Easter, with the ash still fresh on his forehead.

It will be largely boring, but will be relieved by nice dog pictures from time to time.

Why 'Toad'? It is because he is a regular on a website frequented by Catholics of the old-fashioned stripe that Toad remembers from his childhood.
His comments there are often a form of revenge.

But anyway, at one time some crazed Christian declared that what I, (under my other nom de plume(!) of Moratinos), had written was 'toadspittle.' So entranced was I that I adopted it as my new 'atavar', or whatever it's called. It has now become my persona.

Toad writes in the third person, 1: To distance himself fom his own preposterous comments, and 2: To avoid using 'I' every other word.

Toad, then, hopes this has cleared the matter up. But doubts it.

Among the topics that interest him will be God, dogs, blasphemy and the Cheltenham festival. We might also touch on the Alice books, South Wind by Norman Douglas, and 'The Unquiet Grave' by Cyril Connolly (two forgotten litery gems) and the chances of Spurs winning the Champions' League... But then, we might not.

Anyroadup, as they say in Leeds apparently, your contributions, by way of comment are welcome. As is violent verbal abuse.