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As many of you know Cathie was diagnosed with cancer in January of this year, our first reactions were horror and disbelief but over the next couple of weeks the facts began to sink in and we started to look at the problem logically.
We owe a great debt of thanks to many people for their support during this time and we don't know how we would have got through without them. We will not embarrass those good people by naming them here but they all know who they are and our thanks will have gone out to them outside these pages.
As time wore on we started to receive messages of help and support telling us not to give in, not to believe everything the doctors told us and to take charge of the situation outside of what they had to offer. Other people who have survived cancer have been most helpful, some to whom we were able to talk directly and some whose material is published for the benefit of all. Through these people we have learned that the key to success is to generate a positive attitude, get fit, very fit, change to a healthy diet and have a goal to look forward to in the future which will give a focus to all this effort. To this end we have decided to take the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela after the St.Chartier meeting this year(2006).
We are amassing equipment such as a lightweight tent, those canvas re-enactment jobs are not for backpacking! We have also aquired some high tech lightweight air beds, our old bones won't sleep on the bare ground any more.
Cathie's training goes on well, 5 Miles with a back pack is becoming the daily norm.
Earlier this month Cathie received the results of a C.T. Scan which showed the expected tumours around her body to be much smaller than expected - very reassuring. She has however begun to suffer the adverse effects of the chemotherapy and is not achieving the levels we have become used to. The consultant oncologist has agreed that this is the result of the poisonous effects of the chemo. And also that the chemo. is no longer having any beneficial effect, so we have jointly decided to stop treatment and we will continue alone, although the hospital will maintain a monitoring role. A blood transfusion booked for next week will probably put her back on track.
We recently visited a Chinese acupuncturist who is trying to restore Cathie's immune system, Cathie says the herbal tea he mixed for her is the worst thing she has ever tasted and threatens to make me drink some to prove her point!
A visit to a healer has surprised the sceptic in me, I noticed a hot spot in the middle of Cathie's back a good ten hours after the healer placed her hands there. This is helping Cathie's morale and maybe more besides.
Tomorrow we go to see a chiropractor who will sort out a diet to balance up Cathie's mineral and vitamin deficiencies.
Meanwhile the collecting of gear for the pilgrimage continues apace. We now have hand made walking boots from Terry Brown of Roosters, Terry has walked the Camino himself so has a good idea of what we will need. He has also been helpful in recommending types of equipment. We have all the necessary guide books both for the French and Spanish sections and also a relief of the route in Spain which looks terrifying.
A visit to see the consultant at the beginning of may came up with the offer of a course of radiotherapy but before the course could be started the tumour on Cathie's face began to grow alarmingly so the decision was made to go ahead with some urgent treatment which although a little less satisfactory, was crucial. Two weeks and two doses of radiotherapy later the problem seems to be held in the balance and our training continues.
We have the definitive pilgrimage packs together now 7 Kilos for Cathie and 15 for me. We walked 5 miles wearing them yesterday (10 May). We visited the Tredegar house folk festival this weekend to try out our new gear, some of which has been paid for by the original re-enactors market benevolent fund, many thanks to those involved. Results are mixed! The air beds leak and we find that we bought the last two in the country, so, stern letters to the Swiss manufacturers and some old fashioned repair work needed. The tent is good but the jungle sleeping bags purchased for Spain in Summer seem to be a little thin for Wales in Spring- ho hum.
Marcus of Marcus Music fame took us down a coal pit at a mining museum near his home on Monday and Cathie coped with the cramped conditions quite well. The guide was not too impressed with the fact that we live in Nottinghamshire but bygones seem to be staying that way and he did not desert us in the depths.
A couple of lovely people called Kate and Corwen who walked the Camino to Compostela last year, (they left from home in Dorset!), gave us the scallop shells they wore and said that they hoped they would bring us as much luck as they had brought them. This brought us close to tears, but happy ones. Jane Ramsey has offered to make us medieval shirts to walk in and Phil Fraser supplied authentic period floppy felt hats on which to sew the scallop shells, a fine sight we will make !
Tomorrow is the 17th. Of May and we go to see if there is any more radiotherapy on offer and on Thursday we get some physio. for Cathie' s arms which have become very weak after some minor weight training damage which refuses to repair itself. This is one of Cathie's major worries as weak arms make crawling about in little tents quite hard
We are now well into June and we leave for France in 10 Days. All the available hospital treatment has come to a stop now and while Cathie is doing very well and seems to have the cancer on the run ( no sign of trouble from any of the tumours and the one on her face is smaller and well behaved at the moment) the deterioration of the muscles in her upper arms is now well advanced, to the point of giving her great pain and reducing her mobility drastically. We will have to rethink our targets somewhat and to this end we will return to our house in Marcilly after the St. Chartier festival and do some practise there to work out what Cathie is up to doing, I suspect that we will be driving to a start point further south in Spain.
Cathie's weakened arms mean that she will not be able to carry a pack and I will not be able to carry enough for both of us so I have built a hybrid wheelchair/BMX bike to produce a three wheel all terrain vehicle in which I will be able to haul our luggage and Cathie too if the going gets too tough for her.
Cathie's attitude remains positive throughout the latest hardships and we look forward to our pilgrimage however shortened it may become. More news before we leave, watch this space!
On Saturday we received bad news, Cathie's father has fallen in the garden and broken his shoulder. Both of her parents are quite elderly and so we rushed down to Essex on Sunday to see what help we could provide. It turns out that the fracture is quite severe but Cathie's dad is in good spirits and his wife is well cared for by local friends. After visiting hour in the hospital we were walking to the exit when Cathie started to complain of pains in her hips and quickly lost the use of her legs to the extent that I had to borrow a wheelchair to get her back to the car park. I can advise after this experience that a Land Rover is not the best vehicle for transporting disabled people!
Two days later there is no sign of improvement and so her longed for pilgrimage seems to have become beyond her ability, while keeping a brave face she is very angry about this turn of events which just seems so unfair after working so hard to get fit over the last months.
Cathie is still determined to make it to St. Chartier but it seems that after the festival we will be coming back home, where I will be able to care for her and we will be closer to her parents during their Difficulties.
On Wednesday morning X-rays showed up a pathological fracture of Cathie's right hip.
It is now Friday 30th June and this morning she had a new hip joint fitted and is now feeling quite happy about her future. I expect her home by Friday next at the latest.
Actually she came home on Saturday and is still in great pain from her shoulders and hips but shows determination to acheive the new goal of learning to walk again!
The oncologists have discovered some small growths on Cathie's spine which they think are the cause of much of her pain. She had an appointment to have them blasted with radio waves on Thursday 13 July and it was our intention to travel to the hospital in our own car as outpatients. Wednesday night however was one of enormous pain and we had to get her an ambulance to take her to hospital, where she was admitted, so that a better pain control regime could be set up. She is much more comfortable now and we expect the radio-therapy to start on Monday.
Tuesday 12 July and Cathie has had the radiotherapy applied to her spine, we expect the next few days to be difficult but thereafter the pain should reduce slowly. The Hospital have found me a bed so that I can be with her day and night which is wonderful but still not like being in ones own home.
On Friday 14th July Cathie was out of pain and being her usual self so the doctors said that she could go home Saturday. We had a pleasant day with a visit from friend Kay in the afternoon and I left at 5pm to go home and get things ready for her. Before I returned on Saturday to bring her home I received the message that she died at 7am.
I am glad that her struggle is over at last and that she is no longer in pain. My gratitude to the staff of Gervis Pearson ward in City Hospital Nottingham is enormous, the care and compassion which they showed to Cathie and me made those last 8 days bearable. Without their care and that of our friends locally I am sure the end of the story would have been much worse.
Our son Doug and his partner Amber stayed with us for a week before Cathie went into hospital for the last time, so that she had the chance to spend time with our 10 month old granddaughter Tessa, which was lovely.
A few select friends were invited to a quiet family funeral which was arranged for Friday 4th August at 9,15 am. We were able to collect her ashes later that day and scatter them at the top of the hill which made Cathie so proud when she could walk up it non stop. We also sowed some seeds to remind me of her when I walk our dog Meisje. Friends were requested not to send flowers but rather, if they would, a small donation to help with the purchase of a book case full of books for Gervis Pearson ward, it was the only thing we found lacking there.
Later in the month on Saturday the 19th August we held a wake to celebrate all that was good in Cathie's life. All were welcome to join us, from 12 midday till closing time in the evening, at the Chequers inn Doddington, near Sittingbourne Kent. Cathie and I first visited the Chequers in 1979 and, after 27 years of drinking, singing, dancing and playing, have become lasting friends of the landlady, Liz and her partner Craig. The Chequers has held a place in Doug's heart for his entire life. So many came along and drank a toast with us and played, sang, danced and remembered the good times. That's how Cathie wanted to be remembered. The wake was a good show with people from all over coming to say goodbye to Cathie in their own ways. We had visitors from France and Holland some of whom were not even expected, and I was pleased that so many of our old Morris side, the Seven Champions, turned out.
22 August 2006
So now it is all over, the funeral where Chris McNeilly played Flowers of the Forest on a set of John Swayne pipes, she would have loved that combination, the scattering of her ashes in her favourite spot and the wake , with so many of her friends from all over. Some close and dear friends from Holland and France as well as many from the folk and re-enactment scenes. It will all be in my memories for ever.
It remains now for me to get on with life without her, it has been four weeks and slowly I am geting used to being alone. My plan, as promised to Cathie, is to walk to Santiago ( although time is short now and I may have to finish it next year ) which will help burn off some of the grief. I have come to describe the pilgrimage as being akin to joining the foreign legion but with the opportunity to come home when you like.
On my return I will sort out the bookcase for Gervis Pearson ward, the response to the appeal was super, as is the great number of cards hanging round the living room walls.
Watch this space for news of my progress, Doug will keep things up to date.
I expect to be working again by the middle of October so those orders which are so long overdue will be filled at last. Thank you all for your patience.
I began my pilgrimage on Monday the 4th. Of September, after spending a day with the Ramsey’s near Limoge, they are very kindly looking after the land Rover for me while I walk. Having been dropped at the station in Brieve le Galliard, I travelled on air conditioned trains which were slightly too cold for comfort, as far as Bayonne ( a little close to the foreign legion for my liking) where I changed for St. Jean Pied de Port. It became apparent that I was in the right place as the smart suitcases which had graced the luggage racks up till now were exchanged for festoons of nylon webbing hanging from the rucksacks of my fellow walkers. The other noticeable change at Bayonne was the atmosphere which was now hot and humid beyond what the English are used to, needless to say, now that we needed it, this train was not air conditioned and we sweated buckets for the 50 or so minutes to St. Jean. On arrival I got provisions at the first shop and headed for the Accueil de Pelerins run by Les amis du chemin de St. Jaques. Here I was issued with some very useful information sheets which all but made my guide books obsolete, among the photocopied sheets was a contour map in profile which was terrifying, day one looked impossible. I looked around the town for a while and was surprised, although I should have known better, to find the place full of tourists and not many like minded walkers. As a result I decided to walk till dusk and put up my bivouac ( I have left the tent at home as it will be too heavy for me on my own) on the mountains, the weather was good with no sign of change imminent.
The first hundred yards took me, wearing floppy hat with scallop shells attached ( I am carrying one for Cathie too) and tears streaming down my cheeks, through the midst of all the bemused tourists and onto the Route napoleon. It is here that the reality of the walk dawns, it is all up hill and quite steep, I find it very hard going and have to stop frequently to catch my breath, take drinks and wet the handkerchief which is under my hat keeping my head cool. Here I meet one of my fellow pilgrims, a German who is very polite and walks with me for a bit but soon I have to release him from the meeting as he is much faster than me.
8 Km. From St. Jean and with dusk approaching the path veers from the asphalt road and I am climbing steeply up a well trodden sheep trail where I start to look for a bit of flat ground to bivouac. Each time I find a suitable spot, I sit to asses the place and am surprised by flocks of sheep being driven up behind me, at the third attempt it is dark and the sheep are all in the appropriate fields and the shepherds home having their evening meals. I pitch my bivvy and settle down for the night, it is now that I see the next problem, the nights down here are very long, my back is too old to lay on the ground for nearly ten hours so I realise that I will have to do some walking in the dark or change my plans for overnighting. I have made a quick sketch of the view back down the mountain to send home to Doug and Amber and now I look back to see the lights of the town twinkling below me and the stars shining above more brightly than I have ever seen them, there is no light pollution up here and the air is unbelievably clean. The night passes slowly but is made bearable by the beauty of everything around me. At 6 am. I have to rise and sit to ease my aching bits and it is then that I start to think seriously about the rest of the walk. I decide that my pack is too heavy at 14 kilos, it seemed OK While practising but on these climbs and at these temperatures it is too much. The answer is inevitable, I must shed some weight and if I loose the bivouac and stay in refuges then the long night / backache problem will also be fixed. After a short experimental walk, the side panniers with bivouac kit are left with a note for any following pilgrims to help themselves and I continue with what turns out to be 10 kilos, this is better. After another 2 Km. I pass the refuge at Orrisson where a young Spanish girl, who also walks much faster than me, informs me that it is uphill for the next 12 Km. and leaves me behind to struggle on alone. At about 8:30 I stop for breakfast, bread cheese and a nectarine, it could be worse. I am sitting at the edge of the road with a very steep slope down at my feet and as I eat I watch buzzards circling - below me! The view in all directions is stupendous, the valleys filled with mist are like some magical sea with the hill tops protruding like islands everywhere, surely I am at the top of the world and there can be no more climbing ahead? If you think you know the meaning of the phrase "false summit" then try this walk and you will find the reality is endless, or so it seems, one walks towards the horizon beyond which there can be no more up but there always is. I am wearing Cathie’s wedding ring on a chain round my neck and as there seems to be no more climb left in me I grip it in my hand and she gives me strength to continue. The guide books warn of winds which are always in your face and true enough, after a while, I am walking into a good force six and I roll up the sleeves of my pilgrim shirt, supplied by Jane ramsey, to reduce the windage, as every little helps and despite the wind it is very hot. An unforeseen danger is the occasional farmer in a pickup truck or sometimes a tourist’s car, they are used to walkers moving to the side as they hear them approach but now, in this wind, the walker can not hear them and is staggering about a bit so they zoom past unexpected and sometimes dangerously close.
Seemingly hours later the path once again leaves the tarmac and I stop on the grass for a drink and to eat a carrot, snacking on vegetables is definitely the way to eat on a strenuous walk like this. Ahead the path becomes even steeper and when I resume walking there are spots where putting a hand to the ground to steady oneself is occasionally needed. At the top of this section there is a merciful flat bit and a tiny shelter which must be a life saver if you are caught up here in bad weather, a little further on the Spanish border is reached and the Fontaine de Roland gives the walker a chance to fill up his water bottles / hat / boots and anything else, to bring a little comfort in the blistering heat. After walking along a shaded and not too steep path through the forest the last Km. of up brings me to the point where the roofs of the monastery at Roncevalles can be seen and the descent begins. Now my troubles really start, it seems as though all the downhill bits are covered in loose stones and rocks so walking becomes more like scree running but vertically down. There are continual sharp stops and starts which jar the knees terribly and my right knee becomes quite painful, the more I try to slow down to ease the pain the worse the jarring becomes. When I reach the bottom and the monastery I can hardly walk, so sitting in the shade to have lunch at the side of the church is very welcome. I have walked 25 Km. And climbed over 1300 m. of mountains which makes me feel very good. The dormitory at Roncevalles is a magnificent building with a wooden roof supported on stone arches, so lying on the allocated (top) bunk for an hour to recover is a mixture of awe and exhaustion but memorable none the less. I am confused when , by five o’clock the hundred bunks are all taken, it did not seem to me that I had 100 companions on the walk over the Pyrenees. The answer is simple, most of them took the bus!
The bunks are pushed together in pairs so that the aisle space is optimised, which means that all are effectively doubles. I find that the bunk next to mine has been allocated to a young Spanish girl who is obviously terrified at the prospect of sleeping beside a hairy old Englishman, mostly because her two companions are side by side across the hall and are ribbing her terribly. I rack my brains for a solution to her problem but shaking hands and assuring her that I won’t interfere with her in the night seems to be somehow unacceptable and I settle for pretending to be asleep, ten or more minutes after lights out she climbs quietly into bed and is gone again before lights up at six a.m. She manages to get enough courage to laugh and say hola when we meet in Pamplona two days later.
The helpful Dutchman at St. Jean gave me a tip about the restaurants at Roncevalles, the one on the left always serves meat while the one on the right serves trout. I have met some people from Quebec and offer to book the table for the evening meal, one of them says he cannot eat fish and so I book the restaurant on the left. Needless to say either the guy in St. Jean or I was wrong and we got the trout, our friend asks for an alternative and gets fried eggs, he doesn't like them either, sometimes you can never get anything right. The conversation over the meal is dull and soon they leave me, the atheist, to go to the pilgrim mass. I collect my washing from the line and retire to my bunk. I was hoping for some interesting encounters and conversations to take my mind of the grief of recent weeks and maybe to make some worthwhile, if temporary, friendships but maybe that will all come later. Lights go up at six a.m. and off we go again.
Day two starts well, my knee is giving me no trouble and I am making good progress when I hear shouting from behind "hey English", I have been concentrating too hard on my inner thoughts and missed a turning but no harm done, I soon rejoin the pack. Much of the day is spent walking through boxwood groves and some of the trees are big enough to make flutes but backpacking green boxwood logs is not an option so I leave them where they are. The scenery is not as spectacular as that in the Pyrenees proper but the foothills are still very pretty and go on for most of the day’s walk. Some hours into the walk and my knee starts to hurt again and while I am taking a drink break Carmine, from Quebec, catches up and gives me an elastic support bandage which helps a bit and I carry on, still limping but making reasonable time. I cut a walking stick to help take some of the weight on the downhill stretches and get a blistered hand as a result. I arrive in Zubiri in the early afternoon. The first pilgrim refuge has places available so I book in and spend an hour flat out on my bunk while the legs recover. On trying to descend from the bunk I start to think that my knee will not support me when my feet hit the floor and the ensuing struggle catches the attention of an American girl in the bunk opposite and she takes pity and feeds me Ibuprofen to help reduce the inflammation. After more time in the bunk I try again and am surprised to find the knee quite painless so I go out for a walk ( there is nothing else to do ) and book a table for the evening meal. Lunch is a picnic beside the river which flows under a bridge reputed to cure animals of rabies if they cross it three times, I cross it three times and feel no different, but it is the most exciting thing to do in Zubiri so I gave it a go. Some of the other walkers are paddling and swimming in the river and I decide to give my knee the cold water treatment, which passes another half hour. On trying to phone Cathie’s parents I find out about Spanish call boxes which eat your money first and then refuse to connect you Humm. Everyone else has retired for the night rather than keep the late Spanish dining hours so Guy from Quebec is my only companion for dinner. On prompting some conversation I learn that Guy has been retired for some years and spends his time sailing in the Caribbean, and there the conversation stops. For want of anything better to do I return to the bunk again, this is getting monotonous.
Leaving Zubiri in the morning is somewhat dull as the first Km. is walked through the edge of an industrial site which produces magnetite, whatever that is, I am pleased that the multiple flights of steps cut for the descent into the site give my knee no trouble and it seems to be fixed because it troubles me no more at all. More boxwood trees line today's route and the verges are decorated with purple Meadow Saffron, the autumn crocus, to make an almost fairy like passage. Early in the day I overtake an old gentleman who is walking very slowly with careful steps and who politely thanks me in English when I wish him "bon camino". Later, I have stopped for a drink and a banana, when he comes by again and without stopping stoops to shake my hand. Somehow this is a very cheering thing and makes me get out my whistle to play some tunes, I resume my walk a while later feeling happier than I have for some months. My mysterious friend is waiting for me further on at the foot of a very steep and rocky climb, while I take a drink and adjust my pack I try to engage him in conversation but it turns out that his English is quite limited and I do not recognise the language he uses. He opens a small umbrella against the sun and wishes me luck and starts the ascent. No more than two minutes later I start up the hill and try as I might I can not catch him, even though up is my best direction. The hill winds on up for about 500 m. And then comes back down on the other side, when I reach the summit I have a good view of the path ahead but my friend is nowhere to be seen and I do not meet him again. Strangely this brief encounter makes me feel much better about the whole thing and I walk on singing quietly to myself.
After passing through some seedy suburbs which make one feel quite uncomfortable I arrive suddenly at the entrance to Pamplona. By now my left knee is starting to play up a bit so when I spot a sign for the refuge "paderborn" I head straight for it, only to find it does not open for another hour. The owners have thoughtfully provided a bench seat outside and I take off my pack and sit down. Almost immediately a lady sticks her head out of the window and starts talking to me, she is German and only speaks German but slowly and carefully enough that we have a long conversation about the quality of care she and her husband provide for passing pilgrims, how clean her house is and exactly what time the door is locked at night and what time we must be up for breakfast, all very German. Eventually her Husband has filled in all the forms and dotted every I and crossed every T and I am shown to the bunk which is in a tiny room on the top floor with a smoke alarm but absolutely no chance of getting out if the place was on fire, but the owners would have no trouble identifying the bodies what with all the information they have on those forms! As I lie and contemplate a poster showing a Goya portrait I start to wonder about the trouble I am having coping with the time off in the afternoons. It soon dawns on me that what I am missing is my usual companion, Cathie. She was the first to tell people that I am useless on my own and could not be left to look after our son Doug when he was a baby because I would always wake him up for company as I hated being alone. I have never lived alone for more than a few days at a time, something that had not occurred to me before but which, of course, is now having an enormous impact. I realise that the time off would be so much better if I had someone with me to whom I could relate. Continuing alone is no longer an option. I go out for a walk around Pamplona and buy some post cards all the while thinking how much better it would be with my old companion. When I return to "paderborn" I sit and write my postcards, after which it is back to the bunk, Goya and further contemplation. It occurs to me that the rest of my life is going to be like this if I do nothing about it, so I start to work out a plan of action. One of the things I have been dreading is the return to our house in France where Cathie and I have worked together for several months of each of the last ten years, will I be able to stand it there alone? Will I be able to continue working on the place? I decide to face this demon immediately and if I can conquer this one then maybe I can work out the rest, I will travel with all haste to the French house. At six a.m. and not one minute later we are woken by our German host who gives us breakfast and sets me on the road for the station, where I buy a ticket to France. I feel as though I have taken control again, it feels good.
I have half an Hour to wait so I try to phone Jane and Steve to let them know I am coming. Due to some confusion their phone No. was changed by France Telecom two weeks after they were given it and I find that the list Cathie made up only has the old one. After a polite conversation with the new owner of the No. I ring Jim and Emma in England and get the right one. I tell Jane to expect me later and that I will ring to confirm my arrival time from Bordeaux at about 4pm. I have thought to write the new No. In the margin of my contact list and then rush off to catch my train, leaving it in the phone box, I will not realise this until much later in the day when I am too tired and short of time to do anything about it, even though I have a spare list which of course only carries the old No. My ticket takes me further into Spain to Arraia, where I am to change for a train which passes the other side of the foothills and so to France. I am seated at the back of the short train and so I can not see the station name plates which on these little rural stations, are only on the front of the little buildings mid platform. This is not a problem as the public address system announces the name of each station quite clearly before each stop. Arraia is called and I get up, retrieve my rucksack and stand by the doors ready to detrain. Several other passengers are jostling for position by the doors nearer the middle of the train but I am alone and as I only have a couple of minutes to get my connection I am ready when the train stops. Bleazey is ahead of the pack and pushes the button to open the doors and jumps out onto the platform, as I look for the way out the doors close behind me and the train pulls out. I am alone, no one else has got off, I am standing on a small concrete block beside the rails in the middle of a stubble field with no houses or any other sign of habitation in sight. I swear a lot and notice a small track worn in the stubble which leads to a country lane which eventually brings me to a village where I learn that Arraia is about ten Km. Further up the line and the trains do not normally stop here. Fortunately, the village has a bus stop and from here I can get a bus to Arraia, hoorah. While I am paying the one Euro for the journey the bus driver tells me that he does not go into the town but will drop me by the motorway and I have to walk the 2 km. Into Arraia, no problem for one who has recently crossed the Pyrenees. When I get to the town I ask the first person I see for directions to the station and as I should have guessed, in a mountainous region such as this, the railway runs parallel and close to the motorway, I walk back the 2 Km. And find the station on the other side of the motorway. I still have hopes of catching up as there is a 4 hour wait for the connection at the border and it is still only 10:30 in the morning. The faded photocopy of the timetable in the shed which passes for a waiting room at Arraia tells me the next train for Irun on the border is at 15:37, so much for catching up. Fortunately I have a bit of mouldy cheese and the end of a chorizo sausage which I jam into the last of my stale bread and wash down with warm water - yumm. I was hoping to dine in station cafes but Arraia is not equipped with - well - anything. When I eventually get back on track and have paid the 15 Euro forfeit for missing my connection I find that there is so little time between my connections that I have not even time to call Jane and Steve to tell them when to expect me ( remember the list I left in Pamplona?), let alone buy food, so I travel on sustained by the last handful in a packet of raisins. I eventually get in to Brieve la Galliard at 3 minutes to midnight and find, to my great relief, an hotel still open and serving beer, I sign in and stay the night, I will phone Jane again in the morning.
So my pilgrimage started in tears and has ended with me being able to laugh at the chaotic days travelling. I conclude that the first stage of the road to Santiago de Compostela has done me some good, although not in the way I expected, and I feel as though the healing process has begun.
After another day with the Ramsey’s I drive home to our French house where I have been now for just over a week. I am finding lots of reminders of Cathie but seem able to cope with them as they come up and I am getting used to working on my own. This all pleases me greatly as I was dreading this homecoming but, it would seem, needlessly. I have support here from our French friends in the village and also from friends Pete and Sue who now live here full time. I will stay on here till mid October when I go home to England to start flute making again, I am confident that the return to work will be much easier than I had previously imagined.
It is now the 25th October and I have made the first instruments to come out of my workshop since last November. It feels good to be back at work. Of course I miss Cathie terribly but I am coping well, she would be proud of me. I will probably not add any more to this page now but will leave it up in the hope that it may bring some comfort to those in a similar plight to ours and maybe some interest and amusement to those who read it in more fortunate circumstances.
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