No I don’t want you to pray with me.

Oh joy. We’ve been puddleducking through the Bas Pyrenees and up into Limousin. First thing in the morning we went to the grotto of the holy virgin at Lourdes. I wanted to get baptised in holy water. I waited in a queue. When I got to the front the guy was English. He made it very clear to me that God wanted me to wear a mask, and that was more important than anything else for God . I pulled my scarf up. No dice. He radiated that general disapprobation that can only really come from Catholics who consider themselves high up. I adore Catholics. Mum was one. I walked a long long way to help speed her through purgatory. Their guess in the great big “What’s Out There?” lottery involves a slightly neurotic deity who very much needs to be correctly worshipped, and who really really wants us to love his mum. According to the humans who have bubbled up around it, obedience is paramount and life is not supposed to be easy. Some humans are very happy about how generally obedient they have lifetime-been, to the extent that they start to dislike people who haven’t been as obedient as they have. “Put a mask on,” he said with all the consonants spiking. I went to the bucket of masks he pointed at. There was a bucket of euros next to them. I was planning on donating afterwards and suddenly I’m thinking about money and COVID and left brain stuff. I suddenly felt judged and watched when I needed to be open to the word of God, to the messages of the cosmos. Catholics have access to such incredible places of power, augmented by generation after generation of faith. Why is it so often the gatekeepers who muddy the simplicity of things? I worried that my own ritual and communion would be better than anything I could get from any of the jumped up humans I had met. Still though I figured I would go with it just for the shot at total Immersion in Lourdes water. “This is the right place for the immersion?” I asked mister disapproval. “We don’t do total immersion anymore. We pray with you for a while and then pour water on your hands.”

I missed my chance on the day I started Camino. Today I rejected my chance because I didn’t like the human gatekeeper. I often let my instinct drive. Tristan and I improvised rituals. Better than that obedient guy praying at me. I was rather hoping for two taciturn French monks to sternly shove me into a fountain. Instead there was that very familiar schoolteacher type and his disapproval. Catholics.


The advantage of travelling with Tristan is that he knows things about wines and food that have come from many years of study and understanding. The disadvantage of travelling with Tristan is that he knows things about wines and food that have come from many years of study and understanding.

“Oh look at that,” he says. “That’s an immaculately put together bottle.” *pop* We stopped at Dartigalongue. They make Bas Armagnac in very small batches. We arrived in a tiny village as the rain was hammering down. We met a very lovely man and we tasted Armagnac. This evening I brought up a bottle of wine that had been given to Lou and I by our hotel in Majorca. We both took one sip and rejected it as vile. So the 25 year old bottle went pop, and I’m going to sleep like a log and snore like a lumberjack.

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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