Saturday, April 14, 2012

Eve of departure

'You never know,' I said 'we might all still be alive by this time next week and feeling quite happy.'

'Mmm, I shouldn't push it.' said Tom.

This trip to the Basque Country end of the Pyrenees has been somewhat hedged about with anxiety for many of the people concerned; our particular element of which has been Molly going down with a severe infection, quite unexpected and unrelated either to ears or lymphoma, which has entailed both horrible smelling and tasting antibiotics and an almost total and uncharacteristic loss of appetite and unwillingness to swallow anything on her part.  Further details I will spare you. I finally got the medicine into her by making up a sugar syrup, stirring the ground-up pill into it, then squirting it into her mouth with a plastic syringe while Tom did a strong arm restraint on her.  She would very suspiciously condescend to eat a few shreds of duck meat and a slice or two of broccolli stem a day, occasionally consenting to having these dipped in yoghurt ( though only the best creamy Greek style yoghurt, mind).

We had more than once resigned ourselves to the loss of the holiday, and indeed at times faced the thought of losing Molly herself, but, with every conceivable part of our anatomies crossed while touching wood, we look set to start travelling south tomorrow.  Mol is quiet and tired, but much better and more cheerful than she was last weekend, and has now extended her repertoire of acceptable foodstuffs to fish and chips, and even Healthy Doggy Treats but only if the vet gives them to her. She's on a different set of antibiotics now which don't smell so bad and seem to be concealable and swallowable in duck meat so, hopefully, those battles will be over ( I hope she's not reading this...).  Emy, the vet, says that the produce of the Basque Country is varied and interesting so we should be able to find something to tempt her.  She is eyeing the luggage accumulating in hall with excitement - the enthusiasm for a road trip will surely be the last thing to desert her, though there have been a few times when we, and others involved, have voiced the sentiment that perhaps it might be better to stay at home and spare oneself worry...  


We have a lot of road ahead, are scheduled to spend tomorrow night in a B&B in the Charente, then to rendezvous at Biarritz airport with my two brothers (one French domiciled with car and and one Australian, without), one sister and three nieces the following afternoon, whence we will go in a two car convoy to the town of St Jean Pied-de-Port, where we have rented a large and suspiciously cheap gîte.  This establishment has basic facilities and central heating, but no linen, so we are also carrying a suitcase full of sheets and towels, which, along with Mol's extensive equipage of home comforts, will make for a squeeze in the car, fortunately many of my family members are quite thin.

We are currently experiencing a brass-monkey cold April, colder than December, and snow is forecast in the mountains, during which time my brothers and one niece are planning to take off on the ascent and descent from St Jean to Roncevalles which makes up one of the most notoriously arduous legs of the Santiago de Compostella pilgrimage route. French brother has done most of this journey at one time or other, but mostly by bike and camping - introvert style - and says he is less fit than he was.  Aussie brother has been in training and is very serious about it, but has been training in heat and humidity, not devilish cold.  They are doing it extrovert style on foot and staying in hostels. They are both hovering around their seventieth year, and may have to rely on 30-something niece to carry them.

But they will be all right, because I have ensured they have a lucky pilgrim's scallop shell to take with them!  I commissioned this one specially from lovely, talented Chloe at Slightly Triangle ( that's her blog link, but there's also her website and Etsy shop, go there and spend money, but not necessarily much money, for there are untold and exquisite treasures to be had there for a song...).  I can't believe how much I love the things she makes, by painting and stitching, and she just turned to and made this one in next to no time and sent it to me to take with me.   She's another maquetteer, and a friend of Clive, which is how I found her.  I love blogging, even though I don't do it as much as I have done, for the people I still find and the things they do.



And although I am not intending to walk the Camino myself, or no more than a few kilometers of it, as an act of faith I have waxed my walking boots, a gesture of care and comfort they have not seen in a while.  I have had these boots for nigh on twenty years, and though my walking career has waxed and waned and had its ups and downs, and had its ups and downs, I don't regret buying them and they have proved their worth, though they seemed terribly expensive at the time, when life was often precarious and hand-to-mouth, much more so than it is now.  Though Mol will still be convalescent, and has really not been up for long hikes for a long time now, and though the weather may be inclement, and they may get an outing. 

We hope to visit the last vineyard left in the area at Irouléguy , and see funny long haired sheep with bells on, and wildly painted chapels, and visit an espadrille museum, and eat Espelette peppers and Bayonne ham and ewes' milk cheese, and not to have to go and dig people out of the snow, or look for a Basque vet...  

Fingers crossed, and anything else; we'll be back in about ten days.


14 comments:

zephyr said...

Wishing you, Tom and Mol happy trails! And will be very eager to read all about it...and see your photos, too.

the polish chick said...

hope you have a wonderful journey. take care and please take many many splendid photos.

HLiza said...

Have a safe trip all of you! Come back with more tales and pics, promise!

Anne said...

Best of luck. Hopes for Molly, cheers for the 70ish brothers on their tramp. Have lots of fun and eat lots of nice things.

christopher said...

Safe journey. Hell Boy, the cat who chose me a while back, says hello to Mol.

Lorenzo da Ponte said...

An espadrille museum! Correspondence in The Guardian a decade ago centred on the most impossibly specialised museum in Britain (later extended to the world in general) and may have reached its apogee with the revelation of a pencil museum on the fringe of the Lake District. But I reckon you'd have been in with a shout.

My boots, of a capacity that could gobble up yours, were acquired in 1953 in preparation for a month at the Outward Bound Mountain School and came with tricounis and hob-nails for rock-climbing. A decade later the nails were replaced by moulded-rubber Vibram soles (like yours) and they marched me all over the place right up to the day when my marching days came to an end. Somehow they managed to survive the six years we spent in the USA and they are now up in the attic. I blogged about them years ago. You may well find there'll come a day when - given the awful choice - you'd sooner discard your collected Rilke than those boots, when the very idea of discarding them is as horrific as discarding the feet they protected.

Your description of the preparations for this fantastically logistical exercise you call a holiday is not only detailed but touching. An unbeatable combination. Best of all the preparations appear to resonated with an unquenchable spark in Mol. That must have pleased you.

I assume you'll be touring a bit when you get down there, though the passes in the Pyrenees are often closed in bad weather. Should you happen to pass through a village called Iholdy I'd appreciate a half dozen words description. It gets a brief, though significant, mention in a novel I wrote despite the fact (Now it can be told!) that I've never been there.

I wish you a holiday of true integration. Two cars! Once that would have added to your problems but now, via mobiles, you will continue to sit in each others' laps.

Jean said...

Lovely town and area. My enthusiasm and happy memories are undiminished by own failure to get to top of the pass on foot (see Santiago page above). It will all work out - this is the spirit of the Camino. Hope Mol continues to recover and you all have a great time.

Chloe said...

I wish you a safe journey and hope you have a wonderful time, I look forward to reading about it on your blog when you return :) And thank you so much for your very kind words!

Rouchswalwe said...

I can just imagine Mol wagging her tail in anticipation. Surely this trip will be just the tonic for her and for everybody. Basque country sounds so wonderful to my ears. And you'll travel not by aeroplane (as I would have to), but by caravan! Wow! You had me thinking of my boots, which I had to leave behind in Japan. So glad you're taking yours along. Bon Voyage and happy travels in the mountains! Sending fur ruffles to Mol!

Zhoen said...

May you have a gentle adventure, and much joy in it.

Rosie said...

have a good time

Sheila said...

Bon voyage! Joining Zhoen with a prayer for gentleness and joy.

And I do hope to see some pictures of the sheep with bells on....

YourFireAnt said...

What a lovely trip this sounds, even with all the work. And how good to be able to have Molly along.

Have fun.

ox

Dick said...

Bon voyage et bon retour.