We have marched much further than the Brierley map suggested, making the most of a fair day to put some miles under our feet and finishing with the grand total of 37 km. Villaserio is a tiny dot in the map and much less of a place than Negreira, which was my intended destination, but there have been some lovely sunny moments today to balance the swamp that sometimes was all we had as a path, so we make the most of the weather and hope for the best tomorrow.
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There are just three more pilgrims here tonight as many stayed in Santiago for an extra day, or could only consider the trip by bus. I am a third of the way here, and with me is Toby, Brun and Toby’s German friend whose name I have no idea how to spell (it’s Thillo). The meal at the bar was no more than adequate, but the company was wide ranging and I am left again with envy at Brun and Toby’s multilingual talents.

We have all struggled in our different ways with why one would go on to Fisterra after the highlight of the mass. I thought about it deeply during the day as Toby wrestled with the dream of completing a 1000 km by forging ahead and walking to Muxia and back, something I am not keen to do at all. I think the popularity of these last steps in the Camino lies in the dual symbolism — apologies if this verges on a tautology. Burning clothing at the end of the world was the symbolic completion of the pilgrim journey and an echo of the placating of the sun as he went down in the sea, a supplication that the sun would once again rise. I thing for modern pilgrims, the journey is in some way the commencement of a commitment to take the Camino back into one’s real life, to dedicate oneself to the Way even when one’s steps are not pointed towards Santiago. Perhaps also we engage with the symbolism of death, that makes real all pilgrimages. To face the endless ocean and assert that one’s insignificant life has meaning and therefore is not merely transient but of great weight — this is a very Western approach to the mysteries; but from an Eastern perspective, we must also accept that we are ultimately submerged in a greater reality.

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On a lighter note, we have solved one of the great mysteries of Galicia, thanks to Brun! We have been looking at these structures and wondering what the hell they are.

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Our theories reveal much about the effect of prolonged walking on the brain: we have suggested that they are good places for bringing up children, somewhere to stash grandma when the dementia gets out of hand, home cemetery kits (well, there are no graves as such in Galicia, only mortuary walls) and even somewhere to keep your pet hermit (before Vatican II, of course). It turns out that they are structures for drying maize, which is about the only cereal that will grow in this damp. They are mouse proof because of the stone capping on the supports, the older ones are drystone and so rainproof but not airtight, and the steps finish two feet from the door, so not even a ninja rat could jump in? Problem solved.

Lunch today was a triumph: a beautiful little restaurant beside an old Roman Bridge at Ponte Maceira. For €10 Euro we had the menu de dias: an enamel mug full of creamy vegetable soup, char-grilled sardines with baby spinach and balsamic, cheesecake and cafe cortado, all with a really good vino blanco. What more could you ask of life (well, being home with my beloved, family and friends is probably the answer, but I am on my way home.

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The More Loving One
W.H. Auden

Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.

How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.

Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.

Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

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