Day 29 Camino – Léon to Villar de Mazarife

Despite intentions, I ate shitloads of meat in Léon. Meat and coleslaw.


When I ordered an extra side of slaw he said “You already get slaw with your meat.” I said “Yes but I want to wash the cream off and pretend it’s fresh cabbage,” and burst out crying. The waiter immediately injected me with bull’s blood to cure my seditious tendencies towards vegetarianism. (Please refer to the legal catch-all that says this blog is fiction). 

I went to bed early and heavy. I’m tired now. Bad food, bad sleep. Germs. Last night in the ancient city of Léon everyone in the town gathered beneath my window to serenade me with drunken howling. What little sleep I managed came with anxious dreams. I have become convinced that my old nemesis the root canal is making overtures before going into full red hot hellfire and damnation mode again. Before I finally got it fixed by a specialist it would’ve killed me twice by blood poisoning if there were no antibiotics in the world, and I’ve been wondering when it was going to return. It’s on the list of the worst familiar things that might happen on this walk, right up there with norivirus which happened, so now I’m expecting it. I almost didn’t leave Léon this morning. “If it flares up like it feels it might then I’ll need to be in a city to get the antibiotics.” I thought. But then I figured that maybe it’s just me getting in the way of myself again.

So that’s my thought for today: “Yes but what if…”

Thank God I left Léon instead of waiting to see if the tooth started exploding. I had to. I’d have been an idiot not to walk because of a possibility. It’s Spain anyway so literally everything is closed until Tuesday. I’d just be dying on the steps of a shut clinic in Léon if it did flare up while people looked at me like I was mad for being sick on a Monday. “What you doing? It’s siesta?” But this is a pattern I observe in myself and others all the time. “Yes but what if…” It’s another insidious poison, like that dental abscess that probably burrowed pretty close to my brain all those years ago and will certainly make my skull into interesting viewing down the line. “It’ll only cost about £1000 if you go private”, said one well paid dentist in a dismissive tone. He couldn’t understand why I’d wait two years and have two courses of antibiotics waiting for an NHS dentist to do it. I tried to teach him the distance between the word “only” and my earning capacity at the time vs £1000. He couldn’t quite get it. As if 1k was something he accidentally tripped on every Friday. What if it were?

“I want to write a one man show about the things I’ve learnt and take it to Edinburgh.” “Yes but what if you run out of money?” “Best not write the show then.”

“I like that person. I’m going to ask them on a date.” “Yes but what if you can’t pick up the tab?” “Best not ask her on a date then.”

“I want to put a shower into my bathroom now I’ve actually got a bit of cash in the coffers.” “Yes but what if you need an emergency root canal and you’ve spent it all on a shower?” “Best not have the shower put in then.”

I’ve been paralysing action through something I frame as caution because I’ve been so used to below the scale low earning. It’s not caution though. It’s blockage.

I dislike people who display fear in their work in my profession. I like people who are willing to jump in with both feet and take an open risk. Therefore I need to live like I act. Even to live like I blog, now. I write this stuff every day. Sometimes it’s bland. But the constant inevitable process means that there are damonds. People jump me from time to time unexpectedly with messages about things that have landed for them. (Thanks – seriously.) Because different things land with different people. And creatives know how hard it is just to generate basic content. I make something every day no matter what. I was second guessing this for ages. But I’m calm now.

“Yes, but what if someone is upset or trolls me or fundamentally disagrees or tells me they almost sued me?”  “Fuck it. I’ll work that out if/when it happens.”

Today was like walking in France again. Nobody but me. I surprised some deer. I flanked a big herd of sheep for ages, close enough to touch. I baaed along with them until I saw the farmer with 2 dogs and a shotgun and didn’t want to be mistaken.


The country was big, beautiful and empty, and nature was active and alert in this people free zone. Birds of prey stooped to my right. Light shot through clouds above me. Snow is coming. I am alone again, reluctant to pull back into my solitude, but knowing it’s the right choice. All I really want is a salad. But in the meantime, I’m learning things about myself.

I’m off to dinner soon with the creepy Danish guy. He is one of the most uncomfortable human beings I’ve met on this trip. So I’m going to break bread with him to see what he’s about because we’ve been flanking each other for days. His silent Russian friend snatched a stealthy photo of me when I was sitting alone  He hadn’t switched off the shutter noise thankfully so not a professional creep but the guys are seriously odd. I caught him snapping me and immediately sat with him. “Hi, we should get a photo together to send to our friends.” I said. He pretended not to understand. Because eeeeeek.

They might chop me up into a pie, these two  unusual men But I’m going to break bread with them.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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