Pilgrimpace's Blog

camino retreat – a prelude
February 15, 2014, 11:03 am
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This had been in the planning in one way or another for a couple of years.

Finally, on a February night, four pilgrims – Kathy from San Francisco, Rebekah from Pittsburgh but living on the Meseta in Castille, Mike and I from Birmingham in the English Midlands, met in the ancient port of A Coruna for a week of walking and retreat, a spiritual space in the midst of winter.

We had a day before we began walking.  We set the bar high.  The morning’s reflection contained this wonderful poem by Matt Merritt:


Sundays in May


Something should be starting.  While you breakfast

slowly on the leavings of the week, watching

fledglings scream their demands across the lawn,


the seeds of an idea should be reaching

for the surface.  Watching trees making free

with their confetti, your heart should be surrendering


to the unlearned salmon-leaps of love.  You should

be seeing clouds not as rain but as the opening

of a wide, white country before astonished eyes.


Your song should be earning the blackbird’s praise.

Walking that avenue into town, passing students

dragging bags to the laundry, revision notes tucked


inside the NME, you should be moving

towards something that has waited for you

all your life.  If it is to happen,


here among the ice cream vans,

the two-for-ones and the pavement tables,

it’s as well that it would happen soon.

(From The Elephant Tests by Matt Merritt – a very fine collection published by Nine Arches which I recommend you buy)


We determined on a pre-pilgrimage, a visit to the Shrine of San Andres, St Andrew, on the coast at Teixedo.  This is an important site.  As the saying goes, A San Andrés de Teixido vai de morto o que non foi de vivo.  And like all good pilgrim places it is hard to get to, especially in winter when the days are short and the buses few.  We got to Ferrol.  We could not find a connection.  We hired a car and, with the sketchiest of maps, drove off, enjoying the view, drinking in Galicia through the windows.


We left the car at the top of the cliffs.  Two ways were signed – we took the narrow one.  Climbing down the Camino to the village, closed up but for one shop selling devotional and other tourist items


going into the Church to pray, especially for the beginning of our pilgrimage and for those people and things that were especially on our hearts.  Outside, on a sheltered bench, we ate bocadillo, introducing Mike, who had not walked in Spain before, to the delights of tortilla.

We climbed down further, past the clootie cloths tied to the fences (I spent ages trying to work out where I had heard of ‘clootie cloths’ before, and then remembered they are in Ian Rankin’s splendid The Naming of the Dead), to the cliff edge where we sat quietly, contemplating the power of the sea and the promise of tomorrow’s storm.

London Coruña Henna 028

Turning we climbed back by the Wide Way.  This may have been a mistake.  The stones were submerged by winter rain and slippery.  One of us fell and injured a shoulder (I was with tough pilgrims – there was very little complaining about some nasty injuries; we just got on with the walking and offered it up in prayer).

We drove back to Coruna, getting there in time for Mass in the Church of Santiago, the traditional start of the Camino Ingles, the English Way, the route that the English pilgrims took when their boats landed, and a good dinner with plenty of wine, trying to ignore the weather forecast playing on the television in the corner of the bar …

4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

So happy to be joining with you. Have you and your mates just found each other, or did you know each other previously?

Comment by dogtorbill

Thanks Bill. We had two lots of really good friends. I knew everyone slightly. It worked out really well in terms of people getting on, giving one another space and so on

Comment by pilgrimpace

Thank you hope to read more about this journey of faith Anthony Yorkshire

Comment by anthony

Thanks Anthony – two or three more posts to go now until we get to the end of this particular journey!


Comment by pilgrimpace

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