Tag Archives: stories

Forgiveness and self-forgiveness in Santiago cathedral

Tom completes his pilgrimage in Santiago and attends the traditional and, for many, emotionally compelling pilgrim mass in the cathedral.
Personally I was unmoved by the experience, albeit I was interested in the rituals and the profound effect on members of the congregation.
Now I admit that I am teasing because I do not wish to give the plot away too much and want you to read the entire novel in a one night sitting, unable to tear yourself away even for a moment, when it appears.
Suffice it to say here that Tom has met the man whom he holds responsible for the tragedy of his life and who is waiting for Tom in the cathedral and seeking absolution.
What is the personal responsibility for an unconscious action, a moment of carelessness which changes lives forever?
How do we forgive someone who has changed our life irrevocably?
How do we learn to forgive ourselves?
Why do we blame ourselves for matters when the rational part of our brain knows that we are innocent of any culpability?
Is it not fascinating how we constantly rewrite and reframe our pasts until we have a narrative which suits us and fits the person we have become: perhaps more accurately, the person we would have liked to become?
How will Tom respond to this plea for help?
What does Lucy think of Tom’s response to this figure from his past?
What has Tom learned from his pilgrimage walk?

Camino secrets

I did not meet the woman of mystery or if I did, I was not paying attention at the time. For three evenings the thunderstorms threatened, but did no more than that. Nor have I yet met a mad monk, though I did encounter a woman when I stopped under rare shade to rest, talking to herself and, unaware that I have a knowledge of French, muttering to herself in French as she looked sideways ‘What does he know? What does he want from me? Why is he here?’. I departed, anxious not to distress her further.
For a day I walked with a person and as is common on the Camino, we told a little of our stories and I divulged that I was writing a novel set on the Camino.
Lo and behold, for the next week I have been met with the comment ‘Oh you’re the guy writing a novel!’ followed by regaling me with humorous yarns of what had befallen them on the Camino and exhortations to include them and their anecdotes in my novel. My reply that I was writing of love and death, not of what happened at dinner last night, invariably was met with the reply ‘put it in anyway, people will love it.’
Sorry guys, your stories will not be appearing. You will have to write your own.
Oh and I am now in Mansilla de las Mulas and things are heating up between my hero and heroine as they begin to learn of each other’s tragic histories.
Keep watching this space!

When art becomes life and two worlds merge

The editor told me that my novel draft is Gothic in many of its elements, so I guess I should have foreseen this eerie development.
My hero Tom dreams in Burgos of the woman who will be his lover.
In Burgos I dreamt also; but it was of a faceless pilgrim monk standing by the side of my bed and it was one of those curious waking dreams.
Tom walks the Meseta two days later from Castrojeriz to Fromista pursued by the threat of thunderstorms which did not eventuate.
Today I walked the Meseta from Castrojeriz to Fromista under the threat of thunderstorms which did not eventuate.
Certainly. Yet in Gothic novels nothing is coincidental.
My question is: if life continues to follow art and one becomes the other, when do I meet my woman of mystery on the Camino?
Or must I meet instead the truly Gothic crazed pilgrim?
Let us see what tomorrow brings…

Grieving in their own ways

Tom is on the Camino, walking and talking with his beloved Lucy and, spoiler alert, we soon learn that she died five years ago and that Tom, immersed still in his well of grief and longing, keeps her alive as his spiritual companion.
Tom is not crazy. He knows that Lucy is dead. He has chosen to manage his grief by keeping the memory of Lucy alive in his own way. She is his companion.
Anika, whom Tom has not yet met, has chosen to deal with a similar situation by grieving for a time and then burying it unresolved. Naturally such intense emotion will burst out in extraordinary ways and so it does with Anika. But that is far In the future.
We all live with memories of joy and sorrow, of regret and remorse. Some of us may turn these into ghosts, knowing that they are projections of us.
And yet may they have a life independent of us?
And this takes place on the Camino: what better place for such powerful forces to play out, a place steeped in memories and hopes and experiences of redemption, of miracles and of simple second chances.
Or pure good luck, which can happen anywhere.

The Camino is not a race

ImageI was reminded of this truism when a passing acquaintance sneeringly dismissed the Camino, saying ‘Oh yes I’ve done [sic] the Camino, it is just a bunch of people racing from one refuge to another to get a bunk for the night.’ It can be this and we have all seen those who appear determined to ‘do it’ as fast as possible; I met one woman who had walked from Geneva to Santiago and immediately turned around and was walking back, averaging 40 km per day with no pauses. It would be easy to say that this pace was blinding her to what was around her and that she was ‘missing the point’, but what was the point for her? A few hours in her company and it was apparent that she was experiencing a personal crisis and this was the best path for her to follow. The first time I walked part of the Camino, I knew my competitive nature well enough to be fearful that I would be one of those who did it at top speed and then wondered what all the fuss was about; so I forced myself to stop for a day every four or five days in a small town or village where there were no sights I would feel obliged to see, nothing I would feel compelled to experience for dread of the comment later ‘Oh, didn’t you go and -‘. Of course then I started to feel superior to those who did not do this and it took last year’s walk from Le Puy en Velay to Pamplona to help me see that this is pure ego and judgement. What does it matter how we walk the Camino? To state the obvious, we reach the same point via different paths and each path is equally valid, so let it go and just walk it as you want. If a driven and competitive creature like me can let it go, well then…

My fictional characters are walking because each has suffered great loss and sorrow and each is seeking forgiveness and most difficult, self-forgiveness. If others wish to do it as an adventure or as a bucket list tick, so be it.



Afternoon tea with dragons

We all love dragons, right? One day per week I mind my granddaughter after school until mummy and daddy and little brother get home. The first hour or more is spent filling the bottomless pit of this slender 5 year old with a variety of food, remembering that last week’s favourite food now is ‘yuk’, that ‘mummy and daddy say it is okay to have biscuits’ though both of us know this is untrue and Emma cannot keep a straight face as she says it. ‘Good try’ I say and she laughs and we negotiate our way through until she says ‘will you play with me farfar?’ This being Swedish for grandfather and a story for another day. We play ‘make believe’, both of us filling in the story line and adding costumes as we go; a blanket becomes a magic cloak, a piece of string a golden binding and so on: games and stories played countless times by countless children. And I have been promoted over the last three years. First I was typecast as a ‘scary monster’, with instructions not to be ‘too scary’, then a bad dragon who invariably and magically became good and married the princess [no prizes for guessing who this is]. Lately I have become the ‘good dragon with magical powers’ and this is a very fine role indeed. The only drawback to being a dragon is that when three year old William comes home, I must be killed for he is the fearless knight and dragon slayer. Such is life. Or not, as the case may be. Now the tram has stopped and so must I.

Writing the Camino

The last two years I have walked from Leon to Santiago and from Le Puy en Velay to Pamplona, sections of the Camino, Compostella, Chemin de Saint Jacques, whichever name you prefer, keeping a daily journal and then turning the observations into a story. This is the spine of my current novel in progress to which I have referred in previous posts. It is a story of love and death, of mysteries and secrets, set on the Camino in contemporary times. Why the Camino? Not for religious reasons, ‘spiritual’ would be a better term, but because it is a path for people undertaking arduous physical journeys and seeking something [an epiphany?] beyond ourselves. A meaning, a purpose, an explanation or simply a clearer understanding of ourselves and of what is important for us. A metaphor for life’s journey I guess. What a perfect setting, on a path 1000 years old where every stone and step holds a story and where millions of pilgrims have trod before you. Did I have an epiphany? Yes, two in fact: understanding that my children and my grandchildren are the most important things in my life [okay, I ‘knew’ this already, now I ‘live’ it] and seeing that I had to clear the rest of my life to make space for writing fiction.