With facebook reminding me daily that this time last year I was slowly making my way westward across Spain I decided to cheer myself up by writing a bit more about our hero St James. I’ve tinkered with the original offering and added the next chapter that gets us over the Pyranees and down to Roncevalles. I imagine some of you are new to my blog and so to save an awful lot of scrolling I have deftly cut and pasted the first few chapters and present them below in one (rambling) chunk. For those of you who are yet to walk their first Camino I’m not sure if you will relate but hopefully you can come back with compostela in hand and it will make slightly more sense.
As always, I apologise for any glaring spelling/punctuation/grammar errors. When I write it tends to come out in one long stream of waffle and my fingers have trouble keeping up. Anyway here goes.. and please feel free to offer criticism/feedback.
The Tales of St James
(By Steven El Rey)
It had been a long Afternoon. The afternoon had seamlessly blended into a long evening and the evening had been the foundation for what could only be described as a long night.
“For sooth Little Ron!” slurred the well-oiled St James… “Today hast been longer than the queue for the ladies toilets at a music festival!.. We two have been in this quaint tavern from noon until now and drank enough wine to float an ark… who knew that watching the Eurovision song contest’s qualifying rounds would prove such a task? Verily, watching 20 Lithuanian warblers in a day doth test a man’s mettle as well as his bladder!”
“Aye!” Cried Little Ron. “Twelve hours have we sat here and much wine have we quaffed.. But the tavern keeper’s fayre has been sparse and unfilling… A man such as I cannot survive on two sausage rolls and a bag of beef potato chips!! Let us remove ourselves from this barren tavern and pay a visit to yonder kebab shop for some spicy meat”
“Alas” Bemoaned St James, “Is there no other choice?.. I tire of spicy kebab. The meat is of dubious origin and the grease runneth down my arms and makes my smock sticky!”
“There be no other fayre hereabouts sweet St James” cried the starving Little Ron. “I have heard tales of a place where it is foretold a man can buy food fit for a king… Beef, chicken or fish in a fresh seeded bun served on a platter with golden potatoes and a beverage, for less than it would cost to hire one-toothed Mary for an hour’s pleasure!… The name of this place be Burger King and it shall be found in a town name of Santiago..”
“Pray tell, my chubby companion, How long would it take to walk to Santiago? If truth be told I fear that my time here in St Jean Pied-de-Port hath ran out, I bet my last 3 gold pieces on Jurij Veklenko to qualify and he was pipped at the post by Jeronimas Milius..NowI find myself nearly broke.. I hath four copper coins and could raise four coins more by selling my signed copy of the first testament. It only says ‘To Jimmy.. Stay Meek!! Best Wishes J.C.‘ I could advertise it as being signed by Joan Collins.”
“A cunning plot oh fair St James” Laughed Little Ron.. “I have coin enough for tonight’s kebab and your Eight coppers will be sufficient to get us a few days past the Pyrenees as long as we don’t dallytoo long at the Horizzon Albergue.. I have looked in the guide written by the famous John Friar-Lee and our destination lies forty days and forty nights to the west.”
“This place sounds like heaven on earth!” replied a dribbling St James.. “Surely two men who love the lord so dearly should travel to such a heaven and feast on such plentiful bounty.. I wonder if they serve Mozzarella sticks?? Tonight we shall have our last kebab.. for tomorrow we shall begin our journey across mountain and stream to find the Holy Grill… Come Little Ron… Our quest lies before us!”
And with that St James and his trusty friend Little Ron staggered to the kebab shop and shared their last meal in St Jean Pied-de-Port. Sunrise was only a few hours away and their journey was about to begin.
Just before sunrise St James and Little Ron were packing their bags for the journey.. St James had a nifty little 35 litre pack while Little Ron was stuffing four normal smocks, a rainproof smock and an ultralight quick dry smock into an already full 60litre pack..
“For Sooth Little Ron, thou are heavily encumbered for our quest! Dost thou not know that day one is a right bugger of a hill over to the monks clubhouse at Roncesvalles?”
“Ahhh!” Spake Ron, “I have recently spoken with the wonderful chap who owns a shelter up yonder hill name of Horrizon… normally he charges 36 coins for one night but he will let us stay for nought if we promise to bring back a donkey load of cheap Spanish wine which he will sell for an astronomical profit.. he will even throw in a token that provides us with two whole minutes in the shower!”
St James looked slightly concerned, for surely the famous Jonathan Friar-Lee (who hath walked this path many times) recommends a straight up and over day regardless of how old and unsprightly one is. However he had heard rumour of the fabled two minute shower and was soon tempted from such ideas.. he donned his pack and strode toward the door.
“Then come Little Ron, grab thy staff and let’s bugger off sharpish before the sun gets too warm”.
And with that, they headed out on to the road and started to climb toward Horrizon.
Fifteen minutes later we find St James bounding merrily up the hill while Ron leans heavily against a telegraph pole. (The poles carried no wires as telephones would not be invented for centuries yet. They put the poles up on the off-chance that they would be needed sometime in the future.. now that’s forward thinking for you).
“Quicken thy step chubby friend! We need to arrive by dinnertime. I hear they offer a menu that involves a dessert of flan.. I haven’t had flan for years and maybe no other hostel will offer such a prize of a pudding along our way”
“Flan you say?” Gasped Little Ron. “With God in my heart and flan on my mind I shall fly up this dreadful hill.. and look yonder. I spy another fellow on the trail ahead.. he too needs the goodness of flan, see how he stands gasping with his hands on his knees?.. perchance he is from Canadia?”
And with that the two friends continued upward toward the tired looking fellow.
“Hallo my knee-holding friend!” hailed St James. “I am St James and this is my trusty friend Ron, by what name shall I call thee?”
“My name is Randuscious but my friends call me Randy.. I am from Canadia and I travel to Santiago” spoke the Tilley hat wearing man.
“Well met, my gasping friend.. you are welcome to travel with us as Santiago is our quest also! Come let us walk together while I tell you of the flan that waits for us not 5km from this very spot!”
“Flan you say??” Said Randy, “I have heard of such delight but never have I seen one, coming from Canadia, where all we have is the syrup of Maple”.
The three men readjusted their smocks and set off with renewed vigour toward Horizzon.
The journey to Horizzon took 6 hours.. but apart from much gasping (and knee-holding) there was nothing of importance to tell you so I will skip ahead to where we find our three friends sat at a table for the communal meal…
“Well that was a right task” offered a glum-looking Little Ron. “What made it worse was the gangs of healthy young Germanians that bounded past us…It makes me feel old just looking at them”
“I hardly saw them through the tears in my eyes” replied Randy “But let us forget the trials of the day and enjoy our meal and strange bowl of coffee”
“Aye my friends” quoth St James.. “It is true that today was tough but surely tomorrow shall be an easier day”.
The three of them seemed happy with that thought and tucked into their bowls of mystery meat in silence.
“I call first in the shower” said St James as they finished their meal and with that he bounded off before the others could react. “But James!” Little Ron began to shout..
“Shh Ron, In his haste to shower he hath forgotten about the flan and so we shall share his pudding less it goes to waste” said Randy with a sly glint in his eyes.
“You know what?” Said Ron.. I likest how thou brain works…. Pass me a spoon please”.
As the sun peeked from behind distant mountains our three friends had crawled from their beds and were packing their belongings ready to depart.
“I fear my equipment has doubled in size in the night” Moaned Little Ron as he struggled to close the straps of his bursting backpack.”I’ve managed to get my kit in but I carry my lucky shell ashtray given to me by my dear old grandmother. She smoked 40 a day and all I have to remember her by is the shell and her rather brown set of false teeth. The teeth I left at home but the shell I carry for luck. I dont want it squashed and broken in my pack”.
“No fear” replied a quick thinking St James. “Simply hang it from the outside of thoust pack. We were all fond of Coughing Rosie and the sight of the shell will be a pleasant reminder and will lift our spirits along the way”
Ron was pleased with the idea and went about tying the shell on his overlarge backpack. This done, he swung the pack on his back and after several backward staggering steps managed to regain equilibrium and headed out the door to face the day.
“Dost this hill never end?” Gasped Randy as he adopted his usual knee-grabbing pose. The Friar-Lee guide said it would be a gentle climb to the top and we have been traversing a near-verticle path for the last two hours.
“Ahh yes” replied Ron, “Thats the thing with Friar-Lee.. Whilst he includes lovely maps and even a nice little spiritual commentary of the route he is prone to downplaying some of the gradients but Lo.. cast thine eyes yonder… I see a man with a wagon selling bananas. I hear he plies his trade at the top and so we must have conquored the hill!”.
With the thought of the days climb over the three companions staggered up to the wagon and promptly bought a banana each. Sure enough they had made it to the summit and the rest of the day was to be downhill toward Roncevalles.
“I hope thats the last hill betwixt here and Santiago” said Randy. “I may be from a mountainous country but back home I own a top of the range donkey for travelling and rarely use my legs to walk further than the local maple syrup shop”
“There may be more ups and downs my friend” said St James “But think on this.. whilst it is hard work climbing, surely going downhill will be a breeze and not at all painful or jarring on the legs”.
Bouyed by this positive thought the three men depoisted their banana skins in the bin, thanked the hilltop vendor and set off on the path that would lead them not only to Roncevalles but also to a realisation that walking down a hill is just as bloody difficult as walking up one.
We join the trail two hours down the hill… Backpacks strewn on the floor and again, Randy is in his usual pose. St James is nursing a swollen ankle and Ron is recovering from what started out as a small trip over a tree root that caused him to accelerate into a breakneck dash and ended with him skidding like an olympic skiier into a bush.
“Curse this buggering hill” exclaimed a sore St James.. “I should have worn my Salomon boots instead of my crocs.. Swollen feet or not, tomorrow the crocs stay in the pack”. The others nodded in agreement.
“Tell you what though my old chubby friend, The sight of you bounding down the trail, legs just a blur and arms waving like the clappers was the funniest thing I’ve seen in a while.. Thank the lord for providing that bush to stop you or you would have been at Roncevalles a good two hours before we two.”.. Ron looked quite unhappy at the thought but Randy started to chuckle which set St James off laughing.. before long he was holding his chest in fits of laughter “Like a huge fat rabbit….. Shell flapping…. Whooosh!….” was all he could say between fits of hysterical laughter.. Eventually Ron saw the funny side and joined the other two in their mirth.
With slightly lifted spirits the three friends donned their packs and continued (with more care) down toward Roncevalles. Two hours later they spied the rooftop of the monestary.. All three of them hobbled on sore legs into the courtyard and were met by a chubby bald monk wearing flipflops and what looked like a piece of sack cloth fashioned into smock… “Greetings weary travellers!” he cried as he waved them to come over.. “You’re just in time for the daily 3 hour priest’s blessing in the chapel!”..
“Oh great” said Randy as he gave up thoughts of a shower followed by a warm meal and painfully staggered toward the chapel doorway.
Well, there you have it… please let me know what you think..