10. O Sole Mio

Che bella cosa ‘na jurnata ‘e sole
N’aria serene doppo ‘na tempesta
Pe’ll’aria fresca pare già ‘na festa
Che bella cosa ‘na jurnata e’sole

Ma n’atu sole
Cchiu’ bello oi ne’
‘O sole mio
Sta ‘nfronte a te
y sun

In English this translates as…

What a beautiful thing, it’s a sunny day
The gentle breeze after the storm
The air’s so fresh, it feels like a celebration
What a beautiful thing, it’s a sunny day

But another sun,
That’s even brighter
It’s my own sun
That’s upon your face

The translated words were not at all what was on my mind as I hummed this to myself leaving Zafra this morning… but more on that later.

We had our night in the Parador and we wandered through the streets of the old town and ate tapas and drank wine. It was convivial… but we saw no other pilgrims.

I’ve ummed and ahhed about talking about some topics over recent days… but I decided today that this is a blog of my travels… warts and all.  So today is a little more from the heart.

We’re a trio of pilgrims and were bound together by a lovely Aussie who I met whilst walking the Camino Frances.  Our other friend and myself  had never met. Now those of you that know me will know that I can be a bit like a great big puppy… I greet everyone and I’m curious and I look here and there and I ask lots of questions… I’m busy but I’m a glass half full kind of girl… the world is full of wonder so let’s explore it.

I’m not everyone’s cup of tea… I appreciate this.  But I’m honest and loyal and I try really hard in life to be kind… after all we never know when we might need a friend do we?

Why am I saying this… well  because I’ve kind of known since Sevilla that me and our lovely Memphis belle aren’t an ideal fit.  I think I irritate her and it’s been making me feel quite sad.  Last night I decided that perhaps I should walk alone for a while.  My lovely Maggie is the jam in this sandwich and it’s not fair for her… or indeed any of us.  So I thought about it and decided that this was a good plan.

As it happens poor Branden was ill this morning and couldn’t walk…. so while my two fellow pilgrims rested in the Parador I set off alone into the early morning… with plans to meet later.

I thought I would find a bar open for breakfast but no such luck… and no other pilgrims either.  I spent 10 minutes looking for arrows before deciding on a path… and of course then there were arrows. I felt a little nervous leaving town but behind me I saw the familiar outline of our Italian friend… he always carries a carrier bag.  We walked together for a while… I think he sensed my apprehension.  Where are your friends he asked… I made the international sign language for sleeping and he nodded.

He speaks Italian and German. .. I speak French and English so chatting was limited.  I learned his wife was German and he lived near Hamburg.  His family moved from Poland 200 years ago to Italy.   His grandfather is called Ruben. His wife no longer walks… I couldn’t decide if this was because she can’t or wont… but that was it and we fell silent.

I shared my head torch light… it felt rude just to light my side of the path.  We looked for arrows as the sky lightened.

There was a big hill out of Zafra and as he only reaches my shoulder I was soon walking faster and we parted.

On the path ahead was the first of my demons… a man walking three dogs.  I followed behind and the dog at the rear kept stopping and watching me.  He’d run behind me and then back ahead again.  As I watched it dawned on my that the poor old dog was simply herding me… wanting me to join his gang.  He was doing what the Italian had done… looking out for me.

I eventually passed them all and bid the owner a Buenos Dias… he shouted  Buen Camino and that was that.

I arrived at another village… the promised breakfast stop was closed.  My Italian friend caught me up and we searched around the church and the square together.  A man delivering bread arrived.  Is there a bar? I asked in my school girl Spanish… si si aqui… he replied… but aqui was definitely closed.  I looked down the street and asked if aqui meant down there… no no aqui aqui he said again and I just looked puzzled.  Just as I was about to head off the owner of the cafe arrived… took his fresh bread and opened the door.  He directed us through to his terrace at the back… cafe con leche y tostados por favor?  And I can vouch that the bread was very fresh.

Me and Francesco (Italian guy) drank our coffee in silence.  I took out my pilgrim passport and showed him where I lived… he showed me where he lived and then he showed me all the paths he has walked… and he has walked a lot.  I think he is 72 and he really is quite short but I bet he has the strength of an ox.

I finished my coffee and set off alone but singing to myself O Sole Mio… thinking that this kind of meant All By Myself… and happy with my lot.  I passed a donkey and said hello… then sheep and horses and pigs.

When I passed the pigs they were all eating but one came to the fence to chat… so I told him about the pigs I’d met  in the forest… and I think that made him happy.

I passed a small vineyard where they had already picked two large trailers full of grapes .. and I passed a man driving a tractor with three dogs running along behind.  He stopped to say hello… he looked about 90 and his skin was like leather… his dogs were beautiful and they wagged their tails but never left his side… he talked and talked and I apologised and explained I am English and sadly don’t speak Spanish.  He smiled and asked if I was going to Santiago… I said yes and I think he said I was crazy.

On I walked and the landscape was changing from the flatlands back to olive groves and vineyards.  The sun was up so molly joined the party.  I decided that this wasn’t so bad. Francesco was in front and the Dutch were behind… I looked at my shadow and sang Stuck in the Middle with Me… and I decided that I should stop worrying.  Not everyone has to like me or get me… but it doesn’t make me bad.  And maybe being stuck in the middle with me isn’t so terrible… and the translated words of O Solo Mio are maybe more reflective of my mood… it really was a great day to be on the road.

I came across a derelict farmhouse… I wondered what those walls had seen… what babies had been born or even what lives had ended.  As I looked I met a new pilgrim.  Hilda from Rotterdam… I told her I knew a song about it… she did too.   She is a GP but not telling anyone because we would all want foot care!

We walked for an hour and we talked of all things including my reaction at Bordeaux airport.  She said something so interesting… she said she believes we were are all born racists… in so much as that we are all tribal.  Animals too… we stick to our own.  But she said civilisation teaches us to be better than this… and that because I could recognise my reaction then I am good.  I’ve never really looked at things that way before and it’s a very interesting viewpoint.

She stopped for a break under a tree and I walked on… into town and my albergue El Carmen.   Everyone is here… the Bordeaux guys, the Dutch -French party, Francesco,  our Belgium friends… and it felt like coming home.  And I thought to myself again… it’s OK being me.

I had a great walk… Maggie and Branden arrived… we walked into town and had a nice lunch.  Everyone is meeting later for dinner and all is good on the camino.

I had a good day.

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