17 July 2018

The English and BREXIT

This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England

I feel compelled to voice my views on the English and Brexit and in doing so know full well that there will be many who disagree with me, but I respect their right to free speech as I hope they will mine!

Some weeks ago I was asked by a German friend who is a student of foreign languages to say what the characteristics of an Englishman were. (In this context man also refers to woman)
At the time I would have done well to refer her to Shakespeare’s King Richard II (The quote above is from this play) or even Henry V and his Agincourt speech. Possibly even I should have referred her to the Magazine, “This England”!

I did none of these, but remarked that an Englishman does not like change, is stubborn and nostalgic for the past. He believes strongly in the myth that England stood alone in the Second World War and every English person over five years old, relates and identifies themselves with what their fathers and grandfathers did in that war. Furthermore he has come to believe in the lies and propaganda spread about the European Union by the likes of people like Nigel Farage, Boris Johnson and David Davis to name just a few.

That the European Union needs reform is not in dispute, but what has annoyed me about the leave campaign, is that from the moment the UK joined, the English Members of Parliament have blamed their inactivity and many other ills, that they should have had the gumption to correct, on the EU. Consequently over time this drip, drip, of vitriolic has had its affect, in bringing about the disastrous situation now facing the UK.

Nearly everyone I spoke to at the time, thought that the Referendum would come down in favour of remaining in the EU. That it did not was a shock to all and has divided the Nation. It shocked me to discover that my oldest and best friend even voted for BREXIT! The Nation will now remain divided regardless of what happens, whether or not the UK gets a hard BREXIT, a soft BREXIT or remains, for at least a generation. This is the great disservice which has been done to the UK by Cameron, the Tories and even the Labour Party.

The Right Wing Press, such as “This England”, The Daily Mail and others in the UK  have also done sterling work in fermenting fear of foreigners and immigration. So it was that I read about Polish workers being told to go home!! They quietly forget that there were 19 Polish Squadrons in the Royal Air Force during the Second World War, because if they did remember their contribution, it would destroy the myth that England stood alone! I won’t even mention the tremendous contribution by the then Colonies, or even such small countries like Belgium which celebrates its Remembrance Day with a military parade, attended by their King, in the middle of London!!

As much as magazines, like “this England” would like to do so, we can’t turn the clock back. Most successful modern countries look and plan for the future, not wishing for the Past to return! Why or why can’t the English do the same?

Pandora’s Box has been opened and so the UK, as it has always done, will muddle through somehow, that is what I believe, because “hope” is all that remains in the Box of BREXIT. But that is all it will be, a muddle.

Jesus said it first, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” Mathew 12 v 25

“A house divided against itself, cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half Brexit and half Remain. I do not expect the UK to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. Either the opponents of Brexit will arrest the further spread of it, and place it where the public mind shall rest in the belief that it is in the course of ultimate extinction; or its advocates will push it forward……” With apologies to Abraham Lincoln. 

I think we all want freedom, this is after all what our fathers fought and died for in the War. Freedom to live as we choose, to travel as we wish and so to this end I have taken out German citizenship. This means that I will have the right to remain in Germany and can travel anywhere within the EU. This does not mean that I have ceased to be an Englishman just that I have the freedom and the right to live where I choose. I am not alone in making this move, for there are many other English men and women who live in Germany, that have done the same and who feel as I do, that they are not only English, but European as well.

19 May 2018

Ultreia et suseia!

Friday 18 May was to be a shopping day, so our BBF called ENDEX to being a pilgrim! Joy of joys we were allowed to sleep late and got up at 08:00 hrs! The sun was shining as we slowly walked into town for breakfast! 

Just by the Cathedral we saw three Irish female pilgrims looking confused at their map. Alan spoke to them and they wanted the Way to Finisterra. He showed them the way and wished them, Ultreia et suseia! 

This is the old Latin greeting that pilgrims gave each other. The Latin is an encouragement to go further and ever upward. Onward and upward is a term our BBF used with us when we came to a hill, to encourage us a bit. We believe the Latin is an encouragement not only to go further, but to attain a spiritual closeness to God. Whatever you believe in our view it is a more proper greeting between pilgrims than Buen Camino which is really a non pilgrim greeting and can be used by anyone on a journey in Spain.

We breakfasted in a Café by the market which was full of life and interesting things to eat!

Shopping is one of our favourite pastimes and we enjoyed looking for those special items that make a good gift! Books are not allowed, but he bought three! His argument for doing so was two were gifts, he would read the other one and then give it away as a gift later! The heart can always find an excuse to buy something it wants even if it is forbidden!

As we walked around the town our BBF was content, but not as happy as that first time when we entered with Pat and Dan and Lisa and Leon! It struck us that humans can only truly be happy when they share something with another human! In this vibrant city full of joyous pilgrims having arrived at their destination and hordes of tourists too, a lone pilgrim can be very alone. 

We returned to our hotel to have a siesta and pack.

The Mochilla was packed and then wrapped like a silk cocoon ready for the flight! 

We went to our favourite bar for some Vino and Tapas. We sat at the bar next to a young German woman who had walked from Porto and had now come back from Finisterra and Muxia! 

It all looks so delicious and we couldn’t eat it all so decisions had to be made! 

We did not take pictures of all we ate. A scallop or „Jakobsmuschel“ is a must we felt and we rounded it off with Torte de Santiago! 

Alan had asked his Spanish friend what one drinks as a liquor after a meal. A Licor de Hierbas was the answer and so he ordered one with the coffee. But the Torte de Santiago came with a coffee liquor too, so Alan had to drink both! It wasn’t that hard to do he said and we’ll sleep well! 

We are now on our way home and looking forward to seeing our family and friends again! 

Our BBF has said this was the last Camino. We will have other smaller adventures with his Ebike, but we say, never say never for our BBF is known for saying, „there’s no such thing as I can’t!“

In this context we wish all our friends and fellow pilgrims Ultreia et suseia! 🐻

17 May 2018

It’s why we came!

This morning our BBF made us get up early! The Cathedral opens at 07:00 hrs and he said if you want to pray in the crypt by the remains of the Saint, this is the time to do it. At other times of the day there are just too many people, mostly tourists, to be able to pray in peace.

So shortly after 07:00 hrs we passed the pilgrims office where the first pilgrims were queuing already. It doesn’t open till 08:00 hrs, so even this way they have to wait an hour! 

As expected we had it to ourselves, but not for long! Alan knelt and  sang the pilgrims Hymn quietly, but so one standing by him could hear and as he got to the last verse a number of people cane into the crypt and stood quietly behind us. They left we stayed to pray. We had come a long way for this moment and we would use it, for it maybe our last!

Along the wall in the crypt behind the kneeler are electric candles! We don’t like them, but there was no other option for us than to light up four candles, one each for his poorly friends and one each for his little family’s! 

The statue of the Saint behind the Altar and above the crypt was our next stop!

The last thing a pilgrim should do before leaving Santiago is to hug the statue, which is what our BBF did from here, giving thanks for the adventure and privilege of doing the pilgrimage! 

Suitably at one with ourselves we toured the town a little before breakfast!

This is the Holy Portal to the Cathedral which in 2016 when we last came was open and by which we always entered it. You may remember that the new Pope had declared it a Holy Year!

Above the Portal of this church was we presume a depiction of the Holy Family’s flight to Eygpt! We have visited the shrine in Cairo where the Holy Family once took shelter under a fig tree we thought! How we got there and what happened while there is a story for another time, but we were reminded of it as we saw this! 

After breakfast we did a little shopping and found a suitable T-Shirt for No 2 grandson! Then we took our seat in the Cathedral to await the Pilgrim‘s Mass. If you want a seat near the front you have to be at least an hour or more early! There were many Japanese tourists already there saving seats for their party! Not much humility exhibited we thought! 

We sat on the south side as we have always done. Our BBF likes it because if they swing the Botafumerio then it swings almost over head. If you sit in the main aisle you only see it swing side to side out of your vision.

We did video it but have no idea how to get it into the blog. While they swung it the Nun sang and she has the most beautiful voice.

Lunch was in order when we came out.

We tried the other Tapas bar today, this has equally good Tapas, but is not so friendly as our favourite one. Alan said Scallops were in order today! 

Feeling full and satisfied with ourselves we returned to our hostel for a siesta! When in Spain............
Buen Camino 🐻❤️😇

16 May 2018

We have arrived!

You may remember that Plan B brought us closer to Santiago so that we only had a short distance to walk this morning! The pilgrims office opens at 08:00 hrs and we expected quite a queue to be there even early in the morning.

We set off just after 07:00 hrs and once back at the top of the hill from our hotel we found the first marker which stated accurately as it turned out how far we had to walk!

It led us a short way through a wood. 

The going was easy all day even though at times we still had to go up and down hill. It’s the Camino!

And now we got our first glance at the Cathedral our final destination after so many days on the trail. Here we met two young Germans and our BBF helped take their picture with the city in the background.

Though we are slow the Germans were even slower so we left them easily behind.

It was lovely walking in the early morning with the sun slowly emerging from behind the hills.

We had high hopes this would be our last Pooh Sticks bridge, but sadly not as the water came in at an oblique angel and with too many obstructions. You need a straight flow under the bridge with no obstructions if you ever play our game. 

Then it was through the last wood where we found a sad cross for someone would had died on the Camino!

He was so young too, compared to our ancient BBF. We said a prayer for him, knowing that any pilgrim that dies on the Camino goes straight to heaven.

This completely flummoxed us! After a bit of though we chose left! 

Shortly thereafter we emerged into the city on a main road which took us all the way in. Alan was sad now as we had passed a marker which had said we had a little over 2 kilometres to go and he had not photographed it. There was not to be another! Nor was there a suitable place about one kilometre to stop and have our little ceremony! 

We decided as we walked that after getting our Compostela we would go to the place where we held it the first time, with Pat and Dan, Lisa and Leon!

The Praza do Obradorio, that is the square in front of the Cathedral was virtually empty as it was just past 09:00 hrs.

Once we recorded that we had arrived at the centre of the square where all Caminos come together we went to the pilgrims office!

This is also the street you leave by when walking on to Finisterra! 

There were many pilgrims in the queue already who had arrived yesterday. It now took us about an hour and 15 minutes to get to the front of the queue!

Having got our Compostela we retuned to the square to find someone to record our arrival!

And would you believe it, there we met Martha the charming South African lady who had also just arrived! As she only had one day she dashed off to the pilgrims office. We left to find our hostel!

We have a nice room with shared bathroom! Dumping our stuff we set off again!

Before we had gone very far we met a German lady in a little distress. She had just come in by bus, was hobbling badly and asked our BBF if he knew of a hostel where she could stay to recover while her friends were still out the walking. As she spoke very little English it was her lucky day meeting us. Alan walked her back to our hostel and helped her with her enquiries, and yes they could accommodate her for two days! 

We had a mission to perform so we left the damsel in distress now that she had a place to stay. On the way we came to a noisy group of people protesting about something or other!

Having reached our destination we took pictures first.

The beer was bought yesterday but the sardines were from Germany and have been carried all the way!

A passing gentleman kindly did the honours! Then our clumsy BBF had difficulties opening the beer bottle!

Not having an opener he cut himself! This did not stop him though and once the beer was opened we toasted our absent friends, ate sardines on toast and drank the beer.

While doing so sitting in the shade we observed the many pilgrims streaming into the city from the Camino Frances.

Duty done and feeling refreshed we had a bimble round the city.

The square was now full of pilgrims and other tourists.

A T-Shirt was bought for No 1 grandson and then we went to our favourite Tapas bar!

Now suitabley sated we left to return to our hostel for a siesta!

Our BBF has rewarded us for being brave companions on three Caminos with our own map showing all three routes we have been on. He says it will hang under the painting of us that Pat did. He also has given us each a St James cross. He wore one the whole time on the Camino! Happier Teddies you will not find in Christendom! Buen Camino 🐻❤️😇