I am sitting on a Ryanair flight, returning to Malaga after a week spent in my home city of Bristol.
My first day in Bristol was spent babysitting my beautiful grandson, Mikey, whilst his parents worked. It is lovely how he accepts me coming to stay every couple of months, always happy to see me and not at all shy. Of course this is helped by seeing each other regularly on Skype, although he is always very keen to take control of Rosie’s ipad and press the button to cut me off.
The next day I made an early start to arrive in the city centre as the shops open. I have a very long list of essential equipment to be purchased for my hike. First and foremost are backpack and boots, but I need to buy virtually everything I will take with me. It is vital to take as little as possible, and everything at the very lightest weight. I have done loads of research about what I will need. There are some extremely helpful forums on the internet where people planning their walks can ask questions of veteran pilgrims, many of whom have walked various routes over the years and are very generous with the advice they are happy to give to the uninitiated, who are hungry for every bit of information available. Since deciding to walk the camino I have not been able to settle to read a book, but have been trawling these forums for information during every spare moment.
So, thanks to the kindness of others I now have a shopping list of necessities. Any items purchased must be carefully considered because I will be carrying everything on my back for five weeks and 800km. Weight is of the utmost importance and pilgrims go to great lengths to seek out the lightest weight equipment and clothing. It is recommended to have two sets of walking clothes, one to wear and one to wash, one outfit that can be worn at the end of the day’s walk and in the evening, sleeping bag, toiletries, towel and technology.
Although Bristol seems to be well endowed with shops selling trekking equipment, I find it impossible on my first day to buy anything. It is so incredibly important to get a perfect fit for rucksack and boots, but other than from my research, I know absolutely nothing about these things and find the decision making process quite stressful. I had great help from assistants in most of the shops I visited, but the guys in the following shops were extremely helpful: Cotswold Outdoor, Go Outdoors, Snow and Rock. It must be soul destroying for the shop assistants to invest so much time helping someone when there is every chance that they will buy the goods elsewhere.
Once I have sussed out what shops are where, I revisit them over the next few days and gradually begin to add a few ticks beside some items on my ‘to buy’ list. I got no enjoyment from these shopping expeditions, the whole experience was stressful and very expensive. However I return to Spain with all major equipment purchased and a fairly short list of items I will need to buy over the internet.
Between shopping I manage to socialise a little, most importantly spending Mother’s Day with both of my daughters and my gorgeous grandson. Rosie, Mikey and I drive over to the Forest of Dean where Ella is working as a volunteer on a farm. Across the very muddy farmyard is a pen with some newborn orphaned lambs. The farmer kindly brings a bottle of warm milk so that Mikey can feed one of the lambs and its tail starts wiggling immediately. The farmer takes in orphaned lambs from surrounding farms that do not have the time or inclination to hand rear them. There are very many chickens and some of the biggest pigs I have ever seen.
After enjoying the fresh country air, and removing as much mud as possible from our boots, we set off to find a rather late pub lunch, but all the local pubs have finished serving and we end up driving to Ross on Wye where we find a nice place to enjoy a Mother’s Day lunch. I show Ella the fabulous photo book that Rosie has made for me including all my favourite family photos. It is a wonderful surprise that I will treasure and can
dip into whenever I feel a bit far away. After lunch We return Ella to the mud and head back to civilisation.
I don’t think I have spent a Mother’s Day with both my girls since Ella left home twelve years ago. It was lovely.
All too quickly my week is up, and it seems I have seen very little of my daughter Rosie, with whom I stay when I am in Bristol. But I am happy that Rosie, her partner Mike and their son will be coming to visit us in Competa after I return from my trek.