As most readers know, Reb and I live on the Camino Frances.
Have done for seven years now.
No need to explain what it is on here, I'm sure.
Lately, there have been some rumblings about happenings on The Camino and discussions on linked forums. The tone is often querelous, and generally involves - or relates to - money.
For several centuries, until maybe only five or six years ago, money was a secondary consideration to pilgrims and the people who provided them with beds and food - the albergues, in short.
In fact, the albergues were generally in monasteries, and underwritten by the charity of the wealthy ruling class.
As recently as 2006, when we arrived on the scene, to see a bowl with money in it at the albergue door with a message saying, "Take whatever you need, leave whatever you can," was not uncommon.
The bulk of albergues (also known as refugios) worked on a "donativo" basis - that is pilgrims would leave whatever contribution they could, or wanted to.
Which might be nothing.
But The Camino is becoming a victim of its own success. The number of participants (those who earn a "Compostela" at least ) has risen from 100,377 in 2006, to 183,877 in 2011.
The number of albergues and hostels catering to them has also zoomed up. Competition is sometimes fierce and occasionally vicious.
And the donativo ideal, overwhelmed by freeloaders and rising overhead costs, is a dead duck.
Spain is in crisis. The Camino is in crisis.
And possibly the reasons are not dissimilar. When we arrived in Spain, the European Union-driven economy was going gangbusters. Vast blocks of apartments and endless rows of terraced houses appeared apparently overnight, like the mushrooms in the few still-adjoining meadows.
This, even in places where the local population was already dwindling fast. Everyone thought the progress would never end, the money would always flow free. But wages were low, no one could afford the high-priced houses. Banks reined in the free funding, the developers went bust, then the banks went bust, too. Those new buildings stand empty now, their prices still well out of reach of the Spanish populace. One-fourth of the workers are unemployed. They´re saddled now with the debts of the banks that started the whole mess.
A different scenario, certainly, from the rapidly rising numbers on The Camino. But the reality in both cases was the unreality.
Yes, The Camino is not - or is supposed not to be - about money.
Very few people open albergues with the intention of becoming rich.
But an extraordinarily large percentage of them seem to believe The Camino operates on much kinder and more forgiving standards than those of the rest of Planet Earth -- or Spain, for that matter.
And this is patently not so. A mortgage is a mortgage is a mortgage. Still, starry-eyed former pilgrims optimistically open albergues and guest houses and hostels, believing that God, or divine providence, or St. James will continue providing ever-growing numbers of well-off pilgrims to offset the cost of the regulation fire alarms, expensive emergency staircases, and stainless-steel kitchens.
Do any of them do any math before embarking on quixotic ventures involving "pilgrims"? Any more than they would buying a shiny new suburban villa?
The Camino, is for us, at least, a fine place to live: peaceful, endlessly interesting and often downright inspiring. And we have never regretted our own move here.
We were lucky, or smart. We paid cash for a beat-up mud farm in a dying town, instead of an overpriced suburban crackerbox with an expensive mortgage.
We don't rely on The Camino for a living.
And we never will. Please God. Or providence. Or St. James.
As you can see, this was written and posted yesterday, after a Thanksgiving lunch for seven people: an Italian, a German lady, a Frenchwoman, a Spaniard, a Brit (me) and two Americans, Reb being one.
Spanish the lingua franca.
… All this on top of revelations that accounts of his (Jesus's) minute Mother-to-be
wowing the assembled slippered pantaloons in the Temple with her reasoned argument for
advocating skepticism regarding the metaphysical content of Logical Positivism,
or whatever – were probably all made up by journalists. What is the world
coming to? is fast becoming Toad’s mantra.
And a lot of it is Pope
The bit about the animals in the manger was particularly
upsetting, as that seemed the most believable part of the story. If it was a
manger, it was bound to have animals in it. Surely?
To be sure, none of thes above notions is essential belief for a Catholic. But they tend to come mixed in with other ideas that are considered essential. To me, the idea that there were animals present at the birth of Christ is no more fanciful than, say, that God consists of three persons in one. One what? Simple Prudence suggests a certain amount of reserve concerning it all. (But then, she would.)
One of these days I'll get back to A Day In The Life Of Me. As soon as I can. Bit busy living, just now.
I was unsure what to write about today, but my good cyber friend Kathleen, on CP&S, (see right) has bailed me out again.
She mildly complains - it is, I think, fair to describe it - about the excessive extent that I, and at least one other contributor on there, (Pastorious by name) "contribute."
She is a busy woman, she points out and finds it hard to keep up with the blizzard of often contentious, sometimes downright pernickety, posts we "post," practically hourly, it seems at times.
And she's right. And has my sympathies.
Have we nothing better to do? Probably not.
I can only speak for myself, but certainly I don't have a very demanding schedule since recusing myself from the humbug mills.
I rise early, around six, generally.
In the chilly months I clean out the wood stove, and get it going. I feed Bob the Canary. I switch on The Mighty Wurlitzer, as the computer is known.
I reply instantly to any personal emails. Thankfully these are very few.
I make the coffee.
I wash up last night's dishes.
I go out and feed and water the hens.
I may then eat an egg or two of theirs.
I feed and water the cats and dogs and administer pills to the ailing ones, which are Mo, Murph and Tim these days.No easy task, involving rolling them up in slices of the finest ham, before trying to stuff them down their gobs.
I look to see if anyone has commented on this blog. Hardly ever. Hmmm.
I then look at the other blogs mentioned here, mainly CP&S, and reply or not, as I think fit.
All this, and dawn has still not broken.
All very boring, as you see, and yet essential.
I then read The Guardian and Telegraph on line, and am appalled by the trivial imbecility of many Telegraph stories, often involving deeply stupid "reality" television programmes featuring female M.P.s, and and resolve, if they ever start charging for it, that will be the same instant I'm out of there.
This post is already so long and dull that I will stop here and continue tomorrow with the main and essential business of the day: The Dog Walk; El Paseo de los Perros.
When in doubt about as to what to call the latest blog episode - consider the above.
I'm writing this at home, when normally, I'd be at Mass.
But Don Santiago (who is a saint!) is off burying yet another old neighbour in Ledigos, or, Legartos, or Terradillos de los Templarios, or wherever.
As a result, no Mass in Moratinos.
No back-up priest..
Yes, we could drive to Sahagun, or somewhere.
But we didn't.
And we won't, if this kind of thing goes on.
At least, I won't. I'll just quit.
Reb might not.
Up to her. She's accused of being "Protestant" anyway, so what the heck?
So, instead of, as normal - singing a hymn with the same melody as, "Blowin' In TheWind," I'm at home in The Peaceable contemplating what a friend of mine on Fleet Street - (of all places) - was wont to call, "The Eternal Verities." That is to say, stuff.
And I'm doing it sitting out on the newly-built terrace... (sounds poncey, for sure, but that's just what it is)... naked to the waist ! - that's how sunny it is!
Which nudity is no sin, as nobody, except the dogs and cats and canary and wife, can be appalled by the hideous sight.
(Otherwise, it would be a very grave one, indeed.)
So, what deep thoughts do I have to share with my reader? One.
For some time now, I have been debating with myself why on earth I even bother beating my head endlessly against the wall of CP&S.
But then, "Out of the blue" (like 9/11/2001) a post, or polemic, or whatever we might care to call it - arrives, stating in no uncertain terms - that the Catholic martyrs of the "Reformation" were without exception - fantastically noble, brave, and superb.
And, as well as I know, they might have been.
But then, the story goes on to emphasise, in no uncertain terms - that the Protestant martyrs were a bunch of craven, snivelling, cursing, cringing cowards.
And, as well as I know, they also might have been.
Who really knows?
And, critically, what's the point in making the distinction?
Whatever, as a result, for me, the crucial point here was - that as long as such utterly scurrilous bits of nonsensensical gibberish like this - are being run on CP&S, I feel I have a moral obligation to comment on them.
And that not to do so would be a sin on my part.
So, for all those who find me, (asI do myself ) a tedious old windbagging bore - my apologies.
But, nevertheless, I will hang in there until the "Management"
says "Enough, Toad. You have gone too far this time."
Because "Too far," is where I have decided to hang my hat.
El Pais, which I regard as the world's best newspaper, has just laid off 106 of its staff.
This is a devastating blow for the journalists involved, and gloomy news for me.
I had somehow thoughtlessly imagined that Pais was doing OK.
What I like about Pais is not only its appearance and content, but the fact that, if - for example - Neitzsche is mentioned in an article, it is assumed that the reader knows who he is, and doesn't need an explanation.
It seems the days of newspapers, that is news on paper, really are numbered.
Information comes quicker, easier, and - above all - cheaper off the web.
Of course newspapers have no more right to survive indefinitely than did steam trains or typewriters.
Well, some things are looking up. And the weather is nice. Swept the front yard today, 12th November, stripped to the waist, in the sunshine.
An obscene sight, but witnessed by nobody, thanks to the comforting and protecting eight-foot wall round The Peacable.
Anyway, Murph got out of Tim's bed yesterday, walked upstairs and climbed onto a chair in Reb's office.
Single-handed. (well, single-pawed, well, four-pawed.)
So that's promising.
Mo, apart from his hacking cough, seems fine. He's a good and interesting cat, and will come when he's called, just like a dog.
I once had a cat that used to come on walks with me and our dog. Maybe Mo might join El Equipo A. We shall see.
Mo comes on command like some dogs, anyway.
But not all.
Two of mine are apt to behave differently; Lulu and Harry.
When all six of us set out for our morning walkies, for about the first half-hour everything is hunky-dory. L. and H., when released from their leads, straightaway do their morning business, then proceed to trot obediently just behind me, side -by-side as though they were on an obedience test - as if butter woudn't melt in their arses.
They then have a terrific, full speed race in circles around me, shouting and laughing and showing off like crazy.
But after that, I have to watch their body language minutely.
This is the tricky bit. Because they stare off at the horizon, then, as if at an unheard command, trot briskly away out of sight together.
And can stay out of sight for several hours. The current record is five.
No point calling them back when they do this. They just blow.
The solution, so far, is to judge when they are still thinking about it, then put one of them on the lead.
The other will zoom off, even vanish, from time to time, but won't go far, and will often return when called.
So, it's not so bad. Much pleasanter than being held upside down by one's heels, and having lighted matches dropped down one's nose. Much.
The headline's nothing much to do with this blog, but it's the title of a book of which I'm fond.
Although it's vaguely appropriate here as things, while not actually chaotic, are currently a bit difficult.
Both cats are not well, Murph still hardly moving after his accident, and Mo, since having his balls cut off, has developed a king of choking cough, as if he had something stuck in his throat.
A vet friend says this is not uncommon, and he'll be all right if we can get his pills down his throat.
Then Tim seems tired and short of energy, and as if his back legs are bothering him, which they probably are as he's ben diagnosed with arthritis. He can't jump up into the car any more. Needs a lift.
Just the normal tribulations of a family, I suppose.
And Reb off in Leon talking to nuns about holiness and pilgrims and such.
Meanwhile, the gloom is encricling, and the rain falls sporadically.
And the floor is covered with paw and foot prints.
And the barn floor is covered with dog poo, though I suppose it's unlikely to be covering the ceiling.
Things could be worse. Mitt might have won.
Plus Bob and the chucks, and Lulu, Harry and Bella are in rude good health.
Bit too rude, at times.
Obama's somewhat shakey win was, if nothing else, the least worst result to be contemplated.
In fact, "nothing else," is probably exactly what sums it up. Still.
Goodness, didn't it get nasty on FaceBook these last few weeks!
It was so vicious that Toad, (that's me) at times, imagined he was back in Fleet Street, listening to people accusing one another of modifing their (generally Northern) accents in hope of advancement. Although the language on FB was consoderably more moderate.
It has to be admitted though, that Toad himself was one of the culprits.
He shamefully and mercilessly persecuted a relatively innocent young lady on the slender grounds that she was (he suspected) racially antagonistic to Mr. President.
Still, the die is cast, the jig is up, the bitter harvest has been reeped.(Reeped Wrept? Wreaped? Can any of those be right?) the cup has been drained to the dregs, Democracy has been run up the flagpole and duly saluted. Not least the cliches have all been exhausted. We hope. Anyway...
Yesterday, Monday, was spent almost exclusively on medical premises.
At 9 a.m. the missus and I presented ourselves at Villada Health Centre for blood tests, EKG's, Flu shots, and dispute about our current medical status in Spain. All went reasonably reasonably.
Back home then, with just time for a quick dogwalk, then at 11 a.m. me off to see Dr. Tomas in town about my hacking cough.
Apparently, it's my own fault for being a hack for 40 years. (Not!) And my new health card might be wrong, being it seems, for one of the remaoining handful of Spain's gainfully employed, rather than for a crumbly jubilado.
Back home then, for lunch of left-overs, and a siesta.
Then, at 3.30 p.m. in the car with Reb and 28% of our cats and dogs - Mo to have his balls cut off, and Bella to have her stitches taken out - at the University of Leon Medical Faculty.
Cheque book at the ready as always.
"Don't look at the money as expense," I told her, (Reb, that is, not Bella) "Look at it this way: We give the department generous donations every month or so, and then they treat all the Furry Fools for free."
While all this "ambulancing" is going on, Murphy is very slowly recovering from his latest attempt at Trying Conclusions With The Maelstrom, which is a poncey way of saying being run over by a car for a second time.
Progresss is not as quick as we would like. He's sitting up but not moving around hardly at all. We are worried about his legs. So, off with him to the Vet in Sahagun again tomorrow.
Cheque book at the ready.
And, possibly later, back the 50-odd miles to Leon, where they do X-Rays.
As of 6 a.m. Moratinos time, Murphy is still alive, conscious and showing small but encouraging, signs of recovery.
He has started eating small ammounts again, and has "been to the bathroom" in a modest way during the night.
Thought you should know that.
Better still, he has started to complain loudly - as is his custon - from time to time.
A plausible cause for guarded optimism.
And he is moving around a bit, not much, but some.