'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.