Thursday, August 22nd

Itero de la Vega
Leaving. Walking in the dark, the sun rising behind me. My shadow 34 paces long. Then, as it rose, shortening to 7 paces. You're always walking through your own shadow.

Slightly confused here, the yellow arrows leading off in two different directions. The one pointing left led to the iglise, which was closed (typically), the other to the continuation of the Camino. Passing out of town, I got menaced by three cujo's. Menaced them back, I won.

Then on, walking alongside the Canal du Castilla, mostly pleasant. Eventually crossing the canal at a lock, then following the road leading into Fromista.

Was pleased that the Fromista Ladies Walking Club, all five of them, was out to greet me.

Only 14kms today, and I've already done it.
Waiting in the Square, the albergue opens soon. The iglise de Saint Martin is in front of me. This iglise was Christian's obsession. Speaking about it, asking other pilgrims along the way if they knew it's 'open hours', and being overjoyed when, yesterday, MacPilgrim told him 10-2 then 6-8.
I'm minding his backpack while he looks around.

a little later
Christian's back. He's kind of disappointed, as it's "very tourist". He's moving on, to the next town, where I'll be tomorrow.
There's a water fountain behind the Tourist Office that's been decorated with pilgrim paraphernalia. Scallop shells, a waywarker, although the piece de resistance is the abandoned pair of walking boots tied to the top.

In the Iglise de Saint Martin, after paying the admission, and no, I don't want to look around the Museum, as that's extra. It must really piss these people off that the best parts of this iglise are on the outside. Still, it's nice enough on the inside.

There's another Saint Jacques, and he's looking quite jolly, he has the gourd and scallop shell tied to his walking stick. I think he'd have been better off if he'd carried a sleeping bag. He's barefoot. I've only seen one barefoot pilgrim, and he looked fit for the hospital.

In a bar, the Cafe Paris, the one the Tourist Office told me had an internet connection. But all I can see here is a wall covered with framed Egyptian papyruses; a TV that's showing cartoons, a display stand of soccer trophies, a computer game machine, the bar itself, the coffee machine, what looks like different cuts of meat under a glass counter, bottles of whatever, the five other patrons, one of which is a woman on a mobile phone, two guys looking chronically bored, two teenage girls, one of whom is sensationally beautiful and obviously knows it, right down to the curled, gelled to perfection hair. But no 'net.

There's this young American couple, Californian, who've arrived at the albergue. She's lost her pilgrim passport, apparently thinks she may have left it behind at Saint Nicholas. She's in a cold sweat, as there's no bus, no taxi, no cars, nothing, it's a days walk. I suggest she just gets a new one. But she still wants the old, stamped, one. Someone's telephoning for her. Her partner, during all of this, is lying outside, on the grass in the park opposite, curiously unconcerned about the entire drama.

No, the Gavigolo bar doesn't have the internet either. It does have music though, some Spanish guy pouring his heart out to some pop ballad with strings in the mix. Maybe he's singin' about feelin' so bad since his baby left to walk the Camino. Definitely heard "camino" in the lyrics somewhere.
There's pistachio shells all over the floor, which crunch when you walk in. Bar attendants here have this trick of pretending not to see you until it can't be avoided any longer. The bar chicks are better at it than the bar guys, they ignore you for longer. And, to order a beer, you have to pronounce the 'c' of 'cervesso' as a 'th', otherwise I suspect you're asking for a toilet.

Bejaysus, the pilgrim dog has just turned up at the albergue, waiting patiently for whoever it followed this time from Castrojeriz or wherever. Maybe this dog is one of the legendary 'souls' who never made it to Santiago in their previous life, and trying again.

The other iglise. The one that's having it's retablo restored, so the lower half of it is hidden by plastic over scaffolding. There's a painting over on the right that attempts to make Jesus and Mary look as Spanish as possible. On the left of the altar there's a statue of someone monkish carrying a boat with cannons in his left hand, and three candles in his right. Behind me are two of the processional things that get carried through the streets, one of them is a pieta, complete with cross, while the other one has JC in a glass coffin.
Upstairs, at the back, there's more statues. Lots of them, a crowd of them. Looks like they're having a chat.
"Wanna beer, JC ?"
"Your shout, Pedro."

And over the road, in front of the Camino de Santiago Restaurant, there's a rectangular pool. In the middle of the pool there's a bronze statue of 'Saint Telmo 1185-1246'. He's standing in a boat. Is 'Patrono de Navegantes' the Patron Saint of Navigators? I guess Saint Telmo was a Fromistian.

Think I've got this town sussed. wandered the streets, then the backstreets. Watched one old guy retiling his roof, admired another house with it's front of vertical ceramic tiles, each 'stripe' a different colour or pattern. I know where the two supermercados are. The one where I bought stuff this morning is 'closed tarde'; while the one where I just bought a Coke and a fat nectarine is obviously not closed tarde. Bought bread at the panaderie. Found the third iglise, the Something Immaculate, although it's far from Immaculate, not only closed but looking like it's been that way for a long time.


Back in the Square behind Saint Martins, on the concrete seats shaded by elms.

Another seat is occupied by an old man with a wooden leg, which kind of looks disturbingly like a tomato stake. Another by a pilgrim who's walked from Castrojeriz, he looks as though he works out a lot, and he's vigorously rubbing creams into his legs. Over there, a third man, just reading. There's tourists wandering around Saint Martin's, photographing it, then having themselves photographed in front of it.

Muscle pilgrim is still working the cream into his legs, smells like Deep Heat. A chat with the Dutch guy who pilgrim dog followed. Apparently he also stopped at the bar in Castrojeriz, then the dog followed, or led, him. The barman just told him to leave him at some shop, apparently 'the dog would know', and the shop's owner would drive him home.

Meanwhile, Musclepilgrim has been joined by Mrsmusclepilgrim, and she's joining in the Deep Heat extravaganza.

Dutchguy has just gone off to find the Post Office, after just having learnt the Spanish for 'Post Office', and asking directions from Pegleg. Pegleg has just been joined by a friend, one of the toothpick suckers.

The musclecouple have just been joined by Sunburntman.

For some reason, Dutchguy just appeared, gave me a can of 'Estrella Galicia' beer, then left again. I think he's gone back to the pub with Spanishgirl.

Spent a long time talking with Pablo, who's using the Camino to think about deciding between a career in journalism or one in film. Journalism is difficult as apparently, in Spain, you have to know people in the trade. Film is difficult, as establishing the connections in getting the first film made, and the money involved, is fraught with other difficulties. He tells me a Spanish joke:
"How do you know that JC was Spanish ?"
"Because he's 33, still lives with his parents, and doesn't have a job."

When I'm walking, I prefer to be alone. When I reach the destination I tend to be grateful for any company that offers itself. The chance to talk. Usually about the Way, and Why we're doing it. Bejaysus, I still don't know. In a few days, the pilgrims who began at Saint Jean will be halfway, I'll have done about three-quarters of mine. And I still don't know.

The Cafe Garigolo, and finally found the internet connection. Unfortunately it's one of those that I can't make work, as it rejects '' as something not allowed. For a euro, you get ten frustrating minutes. Stuff it.