Monday, 17 April, 2017
I have just got back from a long walk. When I set out, the sun was shining, albeit with a strong cold north wind and some dark clouds on the horizon. It was not long before the storm started, and by the time I returned, I looked like a snowman.
There was no mention of snow in the weather forecast. Of course, I should not have been surprised; meteorologists change their forecasts more often than Donald Trump changes his policies or his underwear; both meteorologists and Donald Trump can usually make fortune tellers look professional.
So here I am, sitting in my study in Uppsala, north of Stockholm, thawing out and watching the snowflakes flash by, and finding it hard to believe that a few days ago, I was walking in Portugal and Galicia, in shorts and shirt with glorious sunshine and blue skies. With weather like that of Sweden and the long winter nights, one can understand why Swedes with money go south to the sun, for as long as they can afford. Swedes with lesser resources tell one of how they love the winter. My Swedish barber’s father once told me that he actually liked the dark. Now how sad can that be?
With my recently completed walk still fresh in my mind, I find myself itching to plan another. Should I try Geneva to Spain, or the more challenging Oviedo to Santiago across the Cantabrian mountains? What about Canterbury to Rome? Or perhaps just repeat one of the wonderful walks that I have already completed? There are so many options.
As passionate as I now am about walking from village to village, I was not always aware of the possibilities. It was in 1998, when I read Paolo Coelho’s novel – Le Pelerin de Compostelle, that the seed was firmly planted. At that time, I was based in Neuchâtel, in Switzerland (hence the book was in French), but my work was demanding of my continuous involvement, and the possibility of my taking extended holidays was just not feasible at that time; the realisation would have to wait until I ceased to be a wage slave.
Of course, I never envisaged that I would one day have a serious stroke – a brain haemorrhage, and after it happened in late 2005, all my focus was on surviving and recovering to the best of my ability. The idea of long distance walking was forgotten.
Then in 2010, I read Laurie Lee’s book about walking in Spain, as a young man in the late 1930s – As I walked out one summer morning. Reading it, I felt rejuvenated and longed to experience it myself, whatever the health risks might have been. I tried a couple of short 4-5 day walks in Switzerland, and of course the rest is history. To date I have survived to plan another camino.
So here I sit, about to start planning my next long walk, and very much reminded of a Paolo Coelho quotation: