Gentle dreams and sacred things … tribute to Michael White 2008

May, 2008

Yesterday I took a very fast train between Basel and Den Haag.  I would like to share with you what came to me on that journey …

I am taking a very fast train from Basel to Den Haag to pursue my cello dreams.  I closed my eyes listening to Kate Bush singing Big Stripey Lie from her Red Shoes album.  Some words jumped out at me,

”your name is being called by sacred things that are not addressed or listened to, sometimes they blow trumpets”

and my thoughts wandered to the voices in our lives – the useful ones and the disturbing ones. Then to people who have difficulty with the voices that disturb their thoughts and that have a grip they can’t seem to break.  I think of the voice in my life that affirms me.  I thought about Michael’s work. (I had the privilege, even pleasure, of sharing a 5 day intensive with Michael White in November, 2007).

I contemplated my life and the other voices that have affirmed me and was taken back to the discussion we had on Imaginary Friends.  The topic in the course facscinated me. I remember Michael asking who had Imaginary Friends and many of us put up our hands.  I can’t remember exactly what he said, but it was along the lines of Imaginary Friends have been marginalised in our society. Their usefulness is suspect, their role possibly destabilising and existance certainly questionable.

I thought of my Imaginary Friends, Peter, Paul and yes, Porgets who I used to greet at the front door and invite inside to play with me when I was a child.  I wondered what role they were playing?  I like to think they were urging me to keep my light alive, to trust myself, to be confident in myself, to believe that I am worth it.

I have read the contributions of all of you who have generously shared your sadness, musings, wistful yearnings and at times anger about the sad news of Michael’s death.  I haven’t had anything to say until now.  But I must share this, because his voice rekindled my flagging spirit and encouraged me to never accept when the still, small voice of hope, joy and love is not addressed or listened to.

As I write this, the tears are streaming with the words and these are finally tears for Michael – the first after a month.  This seems like slow-acting grief.  But the ache that the loss of such a committed human being, carer and activist, is deep.  As I depart Bonn, I know that I will be bonny again and I know that he would be touched that it was a song with poignant words that brought his memory and meaning to me in my life, back to life.  I re-listened to Kate’s song so I could write down the words, and more jumped out at me

 “all young, gentle dreams drowning in life’s grief, can you hang on to me?”

I honour my young gentle dreams and I hang on to them tightly.  As the grip gets stronger, the confidence to follow them gets stronger too. These words, by Kate Bush, great wordsmith, remind me of the wistfulness and curiosity that were rekindled in me during the course, and that Michael had this amazing way of looking at things, with a gentle curiosity, almost amusement.

Quotations provide such a great inspiration to me, and two of my favourite come to mind:

“Sometimes our light goes out, but is blown again into instant flame by an encounter with another human being.  Each of us owes the deepest thanks to those who have rekindled this inner light”.  Albert Schweitzer

and

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born”. Anaïs Nin

I believe that Michael was saying, and is still saying, let us all nuture gentle dreams and sacred things in our own lives and in the lives of others.

With deepest thanks Michael, for your example, your encouragement, and your patience.

Greetings to you all from Den Haag, let us keep Michael’s voice alive in our activities and relationships – work and personal.

Love.

Via Tolosana Day 28: Historic Routes

Leguevin to L’Isle-Jourdain – 19 kms along the Chemin Historique and 6kms of walking historic roads.

“The trick, it seems, is to be able to hold both things very close – the gratitude and the misery – and then with a semblance of faith, to let them fly” Elizabeth Aquino

Note:  If you don’t like reading about creepy, inappropriate (and illegal) sexual behaviour enacted by the males of our species, perhaps this post is not for you.

I have heard it said a few times, and perhaps I agree, that time is not linear, but circular.  Almost like we travel in this big spiral, always progressing ‘forward’, however continually doubling over old territory.  It is perhaps this phenomena that is behind people saying history is repeating.  Writing about it now, I’m reminded of that fantastic Shirley Bassey song. I am also fond of subscribing to the view that everything that happens ‘to’ us is a learning opportunity, and if we put the two ideas together, when we get to that same point on the spiral and history repeats, it gives an opportunity to realise how far we have come, and to deal with things differently.

My alarm would have gone off at 6:00am if I’d let it. Instead I stopped it and got up, conscious of the other 5 pilgrims still sleeping.  I wrote my pages in the kitchen grappling with the fragments of a dream.  You know when the dream feeling lingers, but all you can sense is scraps of picture, a feeling, a familiar place. It is on the tip of your consciousness, like a word on the tip of your tongue.  You feel it, but you can’t remember. Although you were there only minutes before you can’t quite grasp it. You’re so close. I got it! I was playing with a cello colleague from Adelaide in an orchestra concert, but my cello had it’s bridge and tail piece cut off and the strings were really badly wound on the pegs. It was a total mess.

The words were coming today.  “Let your body speak for itself. If it wants to go faster, go faster. If it is saying go slower, go slower”. I’ve suspected this for a while, but an inertia keeps me going slowly. Perdue (lost) was the new word for the day yesterday. P is also for pizza, not really such a great idea – I’m always disappointed by the after effects of eating pizza. J-P is really touchy and stands really close.

The other pilgrims got up around 7am and joined me in the kitchen and we ate breakfast together.  It is a nice place, the kitchen is small though, so with six of us in it, it was a little cramped.  I didn’t hurry this morning and ended up leaving at about 8:15am, just after Jacqueline.

Ou est la GR balisages? I found some huge figs on the way out of town, took off my backpack and stuffed them in for later. I ate more blackberries for second breakfast. Sunflowers appeared again and a farmer was already busy ploughing his field.  I joined Jacqueline before the edge of town and walked with her talking about her life.  She is newly retired and has a son and daughter and five grandchildren.  She used to be an accountant and also works as a judge in a court, although I didn’t quite understand exactly what the equivalent might be in Australia, if there is one.  She gardens, dances and of course looks after her grandchildren.

We left the road for a chemin de terre (dirt road) that led in the same direction, and we followed this track for a short while as it made its way into the woods – Foret domaine de Bouconne.  After about 400 metres, the track came to a ‘T’ junction and to the right there was an arrow for the Chemin St Jacques. To the left it continued roughly in the same line we had been walking. Jacqueline wanted to follow the marker, but I was feeling that the right way was to continue in the same direction as we’d been going, according to my map. I decided I needed to pee before making the decision, so I hid in the undergrowth briefly, then emerged again.  Following rule one of the road “Go your own way, any other way is straying”, I agreed with her that we should go our own separate ways. I never met up with her again.  Maybe this was a road I would need to take alone.

After parting, it was a pretty short walk to the large road, and I met a couple of joggers, people walking their dogs, a few women out walking and I asked one man whether I was in the place I thought I was, and he helped me orientate myself.  I continued walking and came to a fork where I could either follow the yellow Chemin Historique de St Jacques signs, or the newer GR path further through the forest.  The way was easy to find. I would forego the GR balisage for just a little longer, my pretty!!

Again, there were lots of flies in the forest again, a flotilla of small ones.  I saw squirrels climbing trees, their fluffy tails softly waving behind them, and then I heard the sound of a woodpecker.  The only other one I have heard before was in a forest in Lithuania and that time I remember the woodiness of the sound surprised me so much. Sure, a piece of dry wood makes a woody sound when you knock it, but a tree is damp. I still don’t understand it.  Today the markers were clear, and even a man doing whipper-snippering was in the yellow and blue uniform.   I walked past houses and one dog would bark and it would set the whole neighbourhood off. I wasn’t going quietly on this historic route. We’re at an impasse.  The art of picking blackberries. I am always a little shy of them in the wild because in Australia they are so often sprayed. Here I doubt it is the case. In my observation and taste-testing, the perfect blackberry is found to have uneven little bulbous bits. They look like they are about to burst open.

Not all roads lead to sore feet and achy legs. Sealed roads are the hardest followed by white metal.  Then there is a difference also between a farm track and a forest one – maybe there’s also an olfactory impact as well as a kinaesthetic one.

My way would be through several little hamlets and it was quite cloudy as I walked towards Pujaudran. I was reminded that I was still not that far from the Toulouse airport, as I watched while a fairly large plane, engines slowing, passed overhead. I saw La Poste for the first time, and ended up seeing it five times today,  I walked along roadways near many houses, past blackberries and then up a hill, and down a small chemin de terre between paddocks to Pujaudran. Zebras can be spotted here in this town. I paused for a brief moment in their elevated town park after managing to find a toilet avec toilet paper.  I called the Office de Tourisme at 9:01 to make a reservation for the night at the gite at L’Isle-Jourdain. It seemed that with potentially six of us arriving later tonight at a place which had nine places, there may not be any options left if I didn’t phone ahead.

I wanted to get a stamp from Pujaudran, but the Tabac was closed.  I didn’t think of going to the Mairie like J-P told me he did later.  I couldn’t work out quite what was historic about the route except one little memorial to a building that was there in the 1300s. Patrick and Patrick on motorcycles made a funny site followed by a driving school car. P is for Patrick. After going the wrong way at first and taking a different road out of the town, I walked back to go the right way, down a smaller sealed road that was quite steep to walk down. I asked myself why am I holding myself back when I could go with the speed and let my body support it.  It brought a new rhythm and surprisingly didn’t hurt my knees (so I thought).  Reaching the bottom and crossing a small creek, I started climbing again and a gendarmerie car drove past.

There were high hedges of blackberries and beyond them fields. I waved to another farmer cutting grass and ploughing fields. “I’m looking at the big sky” with Kate Bush on the iPhone on loud, no earplugs.  Figs and walnuts. Fig jam figs – the best kind. Cloud Busting, the next song proved to be a great tempo for walking.  I was walking strongly, confidently, straight towards a man standing next to his white van on the other side of the road. “Bon jour” I said. He was talking to me in French, but I didn’t want to look too closely, as it kind of looked like he was taking a piss and I had a funny feeling about the situation.  Of course my funny feeling was right and he wasn’t taking a piss, was he.  I knew he was up to something else.  I walked past, but he continued to talk to me in French.  I turned back to see his penis out of his pants. He was holding it. He continued to talk to me. I couldn’t understand a word, and I looked away and walked faster. I wasn’t scared, just wanted to get out of there. Then I thought what an arsehole, and was getting angry. How dare he interrupt my beautiful walk with his pathetic depravity. I turned again and gave him the finger.

I don’t know what made me do it, because there was probably a risk involved but a hundred metres down the road, I got out my phone, stopped, turned around and took a photo.  I felt good.  I wasn’t really scared, and felt quite happy to tell him to piss off.  I felt confident and alive – yes the adrenalin was working to get me away quickly.  Nothing was going to spoil my mood, not even a dirty old man.  I saw a woman at a property nearby and stopped and tried to explain to her what had happened. With my limited French, she didn’t really understand and wasn’t particularly helpful.  I took a couple more photos of the area and the signposts and continued walking into town. There must have been less than four kilometres to go until I got to the town.

Funnily, I passed the National Gendarmerie station, but it looked all shut up and I thought they must have been closed for lunch, so I didn’t stop.  I thought I’d try to find the Office de Tourisme and where I’d be staying for the night, then go to the Mairie to work out where I could go and report what had happened.   So I walked into town. I was again tired after the walk, but nowhere near as tired as I’d felt on other days. Maybe the adrenalin was keeping me going.

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Eventually, circuitously, I found the Office de Tourisme over a little river and amazingly built bridge out the other side of town. It was closed for lunch.  J-P had already arrived and he let me into the gite next door and I left my bag there, even though I think the woman had booked me elsewhere.  I had a drink of water and told J-P what had happened. I explained I wanted to go to make a report to the police, but there was plenty of time, so I went with him to the eglise first. He explained he always went to the churches in each town. Clearly he took being a pilgrim seriously.  It was dark and cool, and there were paintings on all the walls/ceilings up high that illustrated Charitas, Modesta, Prudentia, Temperentia, Labor, Veritas, Justitia, Sapienta. What great values.  St Roch was there with his dog as always. It had a beautiful ceiling. And there was quiet choral music playing. I appreciated the distraction, and having things to occupy my mind with someone else who was familiar to me was helpful.

We then made our way to the central plaza and sat at a bar. I ate the quiche I had bought yesterday and had a Diablo Menthe.  Always a refreshing drink. Across the way was a bell museum, but I decided I didn’t want to part with the money to go inside. It was something like ten euros.  It was a little strange, after lunch and the drink I set off to make a report. I thought that J-P might accompany me to make my report, but he didn’t offer and I didn’t ask him to.

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The police system is slightly different in France, so I didn’t know what level of police I needed to talk to.  I went to the Mairie. They have Municipal police, but the woman who came to help me (there was no-one in at the time) said that I’d need to go back to the Gendarmerie National. She rang ahead for me, and explained what had happened, so thankfully I didn’t have to do that.  It was probably at least two kilometres back out the road I’d come in on, a half-hour walk and I was exasperated at having to go all that way, but I knew I must do it.

With all the back and forth (the gite was probably 500 metres out of town on a lake too), I probably reached 25kms today. The office was still shut up, but I pressed the buzzer on the gate outside and was let in.  I sat and waited for another half hour to be seen. Meanwhile a gendarme brought in a older woman who was harmless, but mostly crazy.  There had been some vandalism at her house or something. She was Spanish, and spoke very good English and so of course she wanted to talk to me in her crazy sort of ranting way.  She amused me, and I entertained her intrusion into my resigned mood.

The male police officers walked back and forth and chatted with the woman, took her report, and wandered in and out.  I waited patiently, trying to understand what was being said, but not really grasping the meaning.  I was glad of the advanced phone call. I dreaded having to speak to a male officer about what had just happened.  Most of all I didn’t want to be fobbed off. It was important to me that I made this report.  My own historic route would have taken me straight to silence, and I was determined that this time, I was going to speak about what had happened.  What had happened was not OK, and I needed to tell someone about it.  After quite a long time waiting, a strikingly magnificent, tall, dark-haired woman in uniform walks out behind the counter and after a moment asks me to come with her.  She looked strong, trust-worthy and efficient. Exactly the kind of person I wanted to tell.  Thank you universe.  She apologised that she couldn’t speak much English, however she spoke perfectly and she patiently listened and took my report and description of the man and his car.  I showed her the vehicle and arranged to send her the photo when I got wifi next.  She said there had been similar reports, and I was so glad I turned around and took the photo as it was probably the only ‘proof’ of the reports.  I said to her things like this had happened when I was younger and I never told a soul.  I said it was important to me that she listened, and I thanked her for it.

As I walked back into town, I realised that history does repeat itself.  There are creepy men all over the world.  They impose themselves on mostly girls and women, because they can and because usually other men don’t see them doing it. Consequently there are a majority of men, who could be forgiven (perhaps), for thinking that these things actually don’t happen to women, because they’ve never experienced or seen them.  There has been much in the media lately about the kinds of unwanted sexual attention that women have to put up with on a daily basis.  I have my own history, but today I truly realised, that I am not the only one.  This is not just something that happens to me.  It happens to far too many women.  Through silence, society kids itself that these are isolated incidents,  out of the ordinary. Well today I conquered my history of fear and walked a different route. I walked past thinking that the man really was an idiot who had such a low amount of respect for me, that he was enjoying trying to make me feel uncomfortable.  I told him where to go in no uncertain terms and then I spoke up for myself – for all the historic me’s that never did: the scared child, the shy teenager, and the shy adult.  I felt empowered having told someone what had happened, and validated to know that I wasn’t the only one who had experienced this, that the reports were of a similar type, and it seemed like a common perpetrator.  I also realised, these things might, because I’m a woman, keep happening to me, however I could either cower, or I could resist and speak up and yes, reflect back the disrespect shown to me. There is no respect required for a person who does not respect you.

I continued with adrenalin back to the centre of town, triumphantly but with a certain measure of humility.  It humbles you to be believed.  I was able to find some supplies for dinner and also for lunch tomorrow.  I went back to the Office de Tourisme and I told the women there what had happened. I asked whether they could book me ahead for my next two nights. They were very helpful.  The second night would be a demi-pension with meal and petit dejeuner. Luxury!  I returned to the gite next door where I’d left my pack.  The woman had kindly put me with the other pilgrims I’d been in Leguevin with.  They arrived one by one in the afternoon, and I told them all what had happened, once again trying a new way.  Previously, I wouldn’t have bothered anyone with this, knowing that previously when I have told people I have been met with everything from over-reaction to indifference.  For some it is a disturbing topic.  Now I realise I am worth the fuss, and while it is not always important to speak, there are some things that need to be told. I am thankful that history repeats and gives us a chance to re-write our script and to take new routes.

I showered, washed my clothes and put them out to dry.

We had a lovely shared meal with the addition of two new pilgrims – Virginie and Sophie. Once again it was a squeeze around the round table in the kitchen, but far from being full, there were still two spare spaces in the gite.  It is miraculous the way a round table fits an almost limitless number around it when needs be.

All’s well that ends well.

 

 

 

Via Tolosana Day 24: An elegant mind

Baziege to Toulouse: 25kms

I arose after a fantastic sleep – the bed was really comfy and the room really dark. I always know when I’ve slept well because I have vivid dreams.  This night’s offerings took me back to 17 years old at my year 12 cello exam – why am I still dreaming that! I wrote morning pages and felt a sense of accomplishment.  It is funny noticing others around me when I’m writing – they can’t resist talking and commenting on things and kind of forget that I’m busy writing. When there is no separate room to go to, it is a little tricky, but I’m getting better at kindly not engaging, and being focussed on the job at hand. I realise I am growing in confidence about going my own way, doing my own thing.  Strong, independent woman. Those bells ring out again – très magnifique.

We all had breakfast together, but then I was a little slow with my packing. Bernadette and Philippe were already downstairs waiting with packs and boots on. I said goodbye to our hosts and I caught B & P up as they were buying things from yet another boulangerie on the way out of town.  I bought another quiche for lunch – its turning into a habit.

We all walked together for a short time until we found our way back to the Canal du Midi, but then I walked more quickly with Philippe and Bernadette took her own pace.  He is a reflective and considerate person, saying at one stage that “an elegant mind was more important to him than elegant trousers”.  He certainly was an elegant-thinking man.  We walked all day again between the canal and the A61. He said it was like having one foot in a dream and one foot in reality. I liked the way he looked at things – it reminded me of a student who told me about the Maori belief of walking through life always one foot in physical and one foot in spiritual reality.  We were walking at a cracking pace, but it was extremely nice to be sharing conversation with such an interesting person. It was worth the pain, and it would only be for one day.

11:11.

He also explained what a tourterelle was – I like to call it the Kate Bush pigeon, but in fact it is a turtledove, hence its gorgeous call. I referred to it in a previous post. Kate Bush is a long-time favourite of mine, and her little double album Arial, released in 2005, is a beauty.  In it, Prelude features her son Bertie and birds …

Mummy…
Daddy…
The day is full of birds
Sounds like they’re saying words

The dove’s calls are then imitated in the tune of the song.  I’d listened to this album over and over so that when I ventured to France in 2008 and was attending Orpheon Baroque School, I stayed in a friend’s beautiful house and each morning, the beautiful call, which I thought at that stage was only English, gently woke me.  Little did I know that I would brush up against the same calls in France and indeed would learn more about bird language as I walked further.

There were not many photos today, as I was too busy walking and talking with Philippe for near to 20kms.  It was a fast walk, and we arrived by 1.00pm.  It was actually excellent to get there so quickly along the canal route.  But the few photos I did manage to get with the combination of the overcast day, the watery canal and boats and the juxtaposition of the amazing graffiti art made for a spectacular entree into the bustling city of Toulouse; home of the A380. Another idea for this blog – Canal Boats of the Via Tolosana could include the evil eye, a day spa, a camouflaged boat and Samsara, no less. Happy trails full of bateaux de canal.

We tended to walk ahead of Bernadette, she was perfectly happy for that. Her pattern is to walk a set number of hours before stopping – I think it was 4 – so that makes about 16kms before a break. So we went quickly, and were then met by her when we had a break for morning tea, and again when we had just finished our lunch she met us again around 12.45pm.  Getting up from our seat which proudly said “Revolution will come with education”, we saw her coming in the distance, so waited for her for our last few kilometres into the centre. At one point, the canal completely surprised me by passing over a road, or maybe given the age of the canal and the roads, the road passed under the canal.  On the last little stretch to the centre we took a wrong path and ended up walking very close to the crash barrier of the road. Our way was littered with rubbish and it was really disappointing. But on the other hand the beautiful multi-story variety of buildings made a really great introduction and made me think I’d like to do a tour of the city if I had time.

Philippe had worked out where he was staying, and Bernadette was finishing here so was going to catch a train that afternoon back home to Lyon, so when we got to the road that veered off to the left, we availed ourselves of the public toilet, took some photos for memories, and said farewell to Philippe. I decided I would walk with Bernadette to the station partly because I hadn’t exactly decided what I wanted to do, and partly because I felt it was the right thing as it seemed she was a little uncertain of the way.  The SNCF station is also on the canal so it was a simple quarter of an hour-ish walk there.  She would most probably get a train within the hour, they run so frequently. Before we got there, we tipped our hats in homage to the statue of Pierre-Paul Riquet, the man who created the Canal du Midi (or the Canal Royal de Languedoc as it started out), standing overlooking the road towards the centre, which crosses the canal outside the SNCF.

I said goodbye to Bernadette, and walked outside of the station, meeting an Algerian man who kind of talked with me and wandered with me all the way to the Place du Capitole, after I asked him directions. It was an interesting discussion. He didn’t seem to like being in Toulouse and I asked him a little cheekily, why he stayed if it was so bad.  I couldn’t really understand this.  The Office de Tourisme turned out to be the first one that was less than helpful. It was no help with finding accommodation and they couldn’t help me with information about accommodation in Carcassonne either – pity. This is a fairly common issue.  The offices only deal with tourism for their particular region, so even though you may be very close, it can be difficult to get information about the nearby towns without actually being in them.  So I sat there and paused.  What shall I do?  The answer came: stay here tonight. OK.

I decided to walk the 15 minutes to the same place that Philippe was staying in – Foyer des Jeunes Travailleurs. I’ll go tomorrow to Carcassonne. It was a pretty direct walk, and I found the place easily, passing by many buildings like Baziege, the brickwork is unique to this area. I would assume this is more Spanish style as there were now street signs on buildings in both French and Spanish.  It made me realise the way is creeping closer to Spain.

5:55.

I came to the auberge and a group of people sharing some laughs welcomed me in the foyer.  I paid my money and they accommodated me in a room two floors up.  There would be dinner tonight too – bonus!  After getting up to my room (one I had to myself), then showering, and suspending my washing from the chair to the open window handle, and on a couple of coat-hangers I found in the wardrobe, I made my way downstairs for wifi access – only available in a computer room.  The place is like YMCA hostel – but for young workers and over the afternoon, more and more gathered and hung out, chatted and watched soccer on the computers.  The linoleum corridor on my floor was coincidentally being re-surfaced so I couldn’t go back up until 7pm, and unfortunately I forgot to bring a warm pullover down so I sat and shivered most of the afternoon, and kept closing the door as people walked in and out of the cavernous room all afternoon to keep the cool out.  More and more young men and women came to access emails, and chat between themselves. It was a nice environment.

On the internet I looked at accommodation, and was getting very disheartened because there is a big festival tomorrow – probably the biggest of the French public holidays – Assumption – the commemoration of the departure of Mary from this life into heaven.  National Holiday.  I don’t know whether this augers so well for a visit to the most popular National Monument – La Cite, Carcassonne. Hmmmm.

I was continuing to feel frustrated about the lack of accommodation options in Carcassone when I happened across a site for the Notre Dame de l’Abbaye.  I asked the woman at the desk whether she would mind ringing ahead for me.  She was very helpful and said that yes, pelerins are accommodated and I just need to be there before 7pm.  Perfect, and only 20 Euro.  Great luck.  Maybe a good place to research Cathars. Could I have been there before in another life?

I decided I would go to Carcassonne early tomorrow, to get the maximum time to look around and plan my activities. I had the most amazing ‘canteen’ meal that night for only several euros and it was nice because I caught Philippe and we had what would turn out to be our final chat. I overdosed on chocolate mousse – he gave me his.  I said I would get up to say goodbye in the morning and we said goodnight.

Jacques writes late: “Carcassone is nice. Walk with Jacques, Marlies and Manfred. Left Toulouse yesterday with train to Isle Jourdain.”  He’s still skipping the ‘boring’ bits!

 

 

The final pack

I have enjoyed taking the opportunity to explore an area of Paris I previously haven’t spent much time in, the 12th arrondissement.  It was quick and easy to catch up with my early music buddy, Jerome and his wife, Laurence, who live close to Colonel Fabien metro in the 19th – one change at Nation.  When we’re together we exchange early music tidbits and Youtube clips and indulge or mutual love of Kate Bush. They kindly agreed to caretake my luggage until I finish my pelegrinage.

The day finally arrives. I get to let go of my little carry-on suitcase and pack up my backpack. This is the real thing now.  I’ve attached the little shell (actually quite big shell) to my pack so it will be obvious I’m a pilgrim (I think that is good thing?). A lovely Couchsurfing hostess in Dijon gave me her St Jacques Coquille shell when I rode part of the Vezelay route in 2011.

All the necessary

All the necessary

The view from my apartment took in the gorgeous five and six storey apartment buildings so characteristic of much of Paris, radiating out along six spokes. I had the useful pleasure of mounting the 121 steps each time I came home and could then look down on the Place to watch the fountain or the old men who gathered on the park benches to pass the time.  It was only after surveying the landscape a number of times that I noticed that the roundabout wasn’t round. It is coquille-shaped.

St Jacques roundabout

St Jacques roundabout