Wednesday, July 22, 2009
When pilgrims leave in the morning they smell differently to when they arrive. If it is raining when they arrive they emit humid clouds of damp, sweaty and mouldy aromas. They have to leave their boots on a rack behind the front door so when all those wet boots come off in our little entrance hall the smells are sometimes overpowering. The boots are stuffed with newspapers and this adds to the smell of damp.
In the morning when they all come down to put on their boots, the smells are also overpowering - Vick rub, eucalyptus, Deep Heat, Arnica mingling with after shave, deodorant and shampoos. The entrance hall always needs and extra good sweep and mopping and we spray it with air freshener.
The French pilgrim walked in with a Basque beret. Isa immediately started talking to him in Spanish. "Non, non" he says, "He is French not Basque." "I am Basque" says Isa. "I like the Basques very much he says quickly." He has walked from the north-east of France and has been on the road for 4 months. He has to telephone his mother every second day to let her know that he is alright. From his bald head we guess that he is in his mid-forties.
A young woman from Poland played guitar and sang folk songs after dinner. We served Marie biscuits with hot chocolate. A Swedish pilgrim tells me that Marie biscuits originated in Sweden. I remember something about them being made in England to celebrate the marriage of the Duke of Edinburgh to a duchess named Marie?? (I'll have to check that when I get home). You learn a lot from interacting with people from so many different countries and cultures. One of the German pilgrims tells me that he comes from the town with the famous piper - Aahh, it is Hamelin. He tells me the true story of the pied-piper of Hamelin. The Polish pilgrim tells me that everyone in Poland has to learn other languages becuase their language is so difficult nobody can learn it.
This morning I read some of the coments written in the Albergue book by pilgrims. One was by the guy from Belguim who, it turns out, is the President of the Belguim Society of St Jacques. You never know who your guests will be!
We had many professionals last night, doctors, teachers, nurse, linguist, paramedicas but no electricians - we need an electrician. One of the plugs (not sure which one or which circuit) is tripping the electricity. So, we have an extension cord draped behind the benches at the two dining tables, where we can plug in the fridge and the CD player.
It was my turn to do the bathrooms today. Albergue San Roque has, in my opinion, the best showers on the camino. They are roomy - enough I reckon for 3 people to shower at the same time - with a double hook for towel or face cloth, a plastic coated corner shelf for shampoos etc as well as a soap dish. Unheard of luxury in most showers on the camino. The water is always hot, the taps are easy to work - turn to the left and it is hot, to the right for cold, in the middle for just right.
The worst showers are those where you push a knob on the wall and the water spurts out for about 10 seconds leaving you with shampoo running down your face while you blindly try to find the knob and press it again. Some say that you should keep it pressed in with your elbow whilst washing with the other hand. Many shower heads don´t stay up on the hook fittings and often those that you can hook up slowly collaps downward like dying swans forcing you to hold it up with one hand whilst trying to wash with the other. (Elbow on the knob, shower head in the other hand means no hand to do the washing!) Our shower heads give a good hard spray of water but not enough to wet the goodies in your corner shelf, so unless you are going to do a pirouette in the shower, there is no chance of it getting wet. And, the water stays in the shower cubicle where in many others the water ends up flooding the floor of the bathrooms. I check the wall and floor tiles for the scourge of camino showers - algae. It might be the most ancient and enduring of life-forms but its not taking up residence in my showers - not on my shift, its not. Any little black spot is examined and vigorously scrubbed away.