“Like a sponge cake, with lots and lots of cream, and maybe even some strawberries.”
This, ladies and gentlemen, is apparently what my accent sounds like to a young Italian lady who passed The Abbey a week ago. Now, my accent has been described in many ways, with very few of these descriptions counting as even marginally flattering, so this statement was such a welcome compliment that I had to write it down. Did make me think of cake the entire rest of the day, mind.
There have been quite a few sunny moments like these since I last wrote. Daily encounters with the pilgrims who pass The Abbey are a highlight. Although the number of walkers is gradually declining due to it now becoming much colder, there are still a fair amount of people walking past. I take a lot from some meaningful chats to pilgrims, like a lovely Venezuelan woman who told me in no uncertain terms that she felt a very strong sense that I had a clear purpose here. Another woman handed me a little card that she had made in memory of her late brother. The quote on the back said:
Overlook a Great Deal
Improve a little
I loved that, and it seemed so fitting to my journey currently. I think it applies to most of us really, we often get so hung up on not being able to change everything, but really all we need to do is make sure we improve a little bit for someone every day.
At risk of sounding like someone who has been whacked too hard over the head with an incense stick, I am having quite a few mystical experiences and connections, and these are an encouragement to me as I carry on with my day to day figuring out.
Speaking of figuring out… if not my life mission, then there is at least one thing I have promised myself to figure out before I leave here. On a daily basis there is a man who walks past The Abbey twice. He starts off in Pamplona every morning, walks past The Abbey on his way out, and then walks all the way back in the afternoon. This equates to roughly 40km each day which gets him back home late in the afternoon. He strolls past with his long ponytail, light pack over his shoulder, and umbrella fixed across his back. He walks every single day despite the weather, and Neill told me that he has been doing this since they first got there 15 odd months ago. Now curiosity got the better of me and I have made it my mission to find out what the deal is. He is not overly chatty, but I have started greeting him from the grounds each day. At first I barely got a nod in response, but nowadays he even lifts his hand in acknowledgement. I do realise that these are baby steps and I might need to up the ante a bit if I want to know the score before Christmas!
On a completely separate note, and really I am not sure why I am even surprised, but in Spain, the rugby she is not big… I must be the only person I know who left London town just when the Rugby World Cup arrived, but so be it and here I am in Pamplona where really, most people have not even heard of the sport. In a moment of brilliance however, I had a cunning plan to get to watch a few matches. I figured that if there is one place that will show the matches, it will be an Irish Pub, and every city in the world I have been to like ever, has an Irish Pub. To be sure, to be sure.
I googled Irish Pubs in Pamplona and what do you know, there is one called “The Harp”. I got really excited, got the bus into town, got my phone out to follow the directions, got to the place where my phone proudly announces that “my destination is on the right”, and alas there is nothing. Really nothing. Just a shut roller door with lots of graffiti on it (and not even graffiti of a clover or something remotely Irish).
I considered asking some Spanish locals, but given their non-interest in rugby, I wasn’t sure it would be worth me attempting the conversation in what little Spanish I know. So I strolled around a bit, found a shop entirely dedicated to selling Rooibos tea in every flavour under the sun (and yet they don’t know rugby…), and then stumbled upon a little German Frankfurter café where inside there were four men, and a TV showing the rugby. This wasn’t quite what I had in mind, but in I went and watched myself a bit of rugby. I heard the two guys behind me talk about the game. I started chatting to them and before long it turned out that the one guy was the guy who sold me my new walking shoes when I had to get a new pair in June when walking the Camino. Small world or what!
Last week I joined Cath and Neill when they met up with some of their Spanish friends. It was nice to get to know some of their friends and we went for beer and hamburgers at a very chilled place called “The House Beer”… can you spell Google Translate fail?! I am guessing they wanted to call the place The Beer House, since they have a lot of international beers on the menu, and not just the house beer as the name suggests. Tee hee.
Other than that work continues at The Abbey. I am enjoying the daily dose of fresh air, physical activity, and without a doubt the most scenic surroundings I have ever had the privilege of working in. Nowhere wears autumn better than Northern Spain it seems. The colours are changing daily and it is just breathtakingly beautiful to see all the gold, yellow and red leaves on display in the valley. I also took a long walk all through Pamplona on Friday with my camera – so much to see in this place.
I will report back on my progress regarding The Mystery of the Walking Man soon, and hope all you lovely people are well and happy, and looking after yourselves in the meantime.