Why would you decide to pack in a job you enjoy in order to walk 900kms?
Because I can … or, at least, I thought I could until I went for a sports massage with my husband’s back guru.
I’m never at my best when half-naked, lying on a table with my face stuffed through a towelling-clad hole, so when he started prodding my pair of ample love-handles while growling: “Esto es sólo grasa … totalmente … no hay fuerza aqui” I didn’t have a ready response. My silence gave him a window in which to continue. Apparently it was only my ego that was urging me to contemplate walking from France, across the Pyrenees and on to Santiago and Finisterre. He assured me he didn’t have ego issues himself because he meditated daily, but this made him adept at recognising the problem in others.
“When you want to stop, after a couple of days, or, at most, a week, you should come straight home or else you’ll do yourself a serious injury,” he said with lashings of paternalistic kindness before giving me all his top tips on what I must not leave behind. By the time he got to the third pair of shoes and the second head torch (plus spare batteries), I realised even Hannibal’s elephants would be struggling.
I now regret calling my blog site “Because I can” instead of “Perhaps I might be able to, on a good day, with the wind behind me”.
Walking the Camino de Santiago had been on my bucket list since my friend Marta strode off with a backpack a couple of years ago, in November. Although she’s probably 10 years younger than me, I reckoned if she could be totally hardcore and do it in the depths of winter, I was in with a chance when the sun was shining. It wasn’t urgent however, I felt smugly healthy, I had time, I could wait until there wasn’t so much daily living to be tackled.
In August 2016 my smugness was dealt a bit of a bashing and the unabridged version of my bucket list made its way onto today’s To Do List.
With an “All Clear” in February we relaxed slightly, there seemed to be more time to plan journeys to places like Nepal or India and less need to instantly rush off into the hinterland. However, I wasn’t comfortable to ease back into old routines and not do anything at all, so I picked one of the adventures I knew my husband would never want to do and broached the subject.
“Go for it.”
My lovely employers, Juan and Anna at CalviaVet in Santa Ponsa, were similarly super supportive. Marta was ecstatic that she could hand on her annotated guidebook – which was much better than the English version I had. In fact, nobody mentioned the possible problem of back-fat until last week. It’s a bit late to join a gym when I have a boat ticket booked for next Monday, and anyway my guru told me that even gyms can’t work miracles! But seeing as the Camino de Santiago is a pilgrimage I’m hoping that miracles aren’t completely out of the question.
The words: “Because I can” for the blog didn’t arise from arrogance though, quite the opposite. Last year has made me so incredibly grateful for every healthy, active moment I have on our beautiful planet that in a very embarrassing, un-British way, I feel like skipping over the mountains whooping and doing Julie Andrews impressions. There is a place on the Camino where there is a huge pile of stones. Each one has been put there by a pilgrim. Each represents their troubles at home. Those troubles are meant to be put into perspective by the long walk and so left on the Camino.
I’m not going to take even a pebble with me, not just because I don’t want a single gram of extra weight, but because there is nothing about my life in Mallorca I want to change or leave behind. My walk is because I feel the need for a bit of a wander, for some thinking time, to acknowledge that my perspective has already changed – and maybe to do a bit of closet whooping.
Approximately six years ago my friend Sue Burrows asked me to go with her to get some results from Son Espaces hospital because she did not speak Spanish. When her lungs showed up on the doctor’s computer looking like they had a snowstorm inside them, I hardly knew how to translate what he was saying. Her liver was even worse. At every chemo session she would sit there: elegant, laughing, incredibly brave and all I could spew out were platitudes that couldn’t change a thing or help at all.
Sue was special. The type of person you only meet a couple of times in a lifetime. She knew she needed help and she realised that her friends and family did not know how to provide it, so she posted a message on AngloInfo. Krista Hyer responded and Cancer Support Group Mallorca was born. There are no Macmillan Nurses or Marie Curie centres on Mallorca, but this small band of volunteers make a huge difference, every day, to the lives of many people when they are at their lowest ebb. As Sue and Krista worked tirelessly to get the charity off the ground I never imagined that I would be picking up the phone five years later pleading for their help myself.
Whilst Krista was setting things up, Sue was an inspiration to other patients who were going through therapy. Her philosophy was that she would have three bad days after treatment, followed by four good days. She wouldn’t waste a moment of those days, not a second!
So, if anyone enjoys reading this blog and feels they would like to give to an organisation that does a fantastic job 24/7, please either donate through the CSG Mallorca website or make a transfer marked “Because I can” to their bank account at La Caixa, ISBN: ES82 2100 1042 6602 0025 6818, or go to the Paypal button on the Cancer Support Group Mallorca website:
but please don’t wait too long in case I don’t get beyond the first peak and have to change the blog name to “Oops … got that wrong”!