Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Camino bore: the last Sunday

Sunday 13th June 2010: Maria van Jessekerk, Delft.
Another Sunday on the continent, the third language, after Spanish and French. We'd been in Leon, Santiago and Chartres on previous Sundays, and so when in Delft we wondered where to go. We didn't fancy the big rather dour Protestant barns, and thought we'd continue with the Catholic that we'd got so used to, and so went to Maria van Jessekerk in Delft centre. On entering, we heard the notes of what was clearly a very fine organ indeed, which was what we needed to hear. After the botafumeriro, one gets a bit of a taste for the grand version of everything, which one might as well enjoy while it is there. There was an air of expectancy, people kept looking round towards the back of the church. The Caminella reads:

"...and then they came, streaming in through the square-topped doors just like in the poster from Santiago, and actually much more like the poster than anything in Santiago ever was. They were of all ages, some with rucksacks, all had lit candles, and there was a bishop leading. Seems like there was some big pilgrimage from several places around, and I think I felt a little stab of envy at not being in the pilgrim procession, as I do remember seeing the poster of Santiago and romantically expecting that we would process into Santiago cathedral rather than scrambling in by a side door, and bagging a place leaning against a pillar. But all pilgrims have to be most of the time the host church welcoming pilgrims in."

There must have been hundreds of them, and it was a very moving sight; we sang a Marian hymn over and over to a tune we started off not knowing, and in the end were joining in in Dutch. The language thing was interesting, a kind of reverse-Pentecost experience. We were onto the 3rd language of our time away, but as the eucharist is of such familiar shape, there was never a sense of not knowing what was going on even if one's attention drifted away from persevering with one's schoolgirl French or phrasebook Spanish (D of course had 'A' level Spanish). It made me think that we could do with more Latin in our services rather than less, since it acts as a kind of Esperanto punctuating it, and we might as well make the most of a common language.

Maria van Jessekerk, Delft.
We returned to this church later for an evening service of benediction, having been wowed by the morning eucharist, its music and pageantry. It was one of those 'God's little joke on us' services, since the parish priest turned up 15 minutes late, having got the time wrong; and the music... well, it was led by this group of young people with a guitar played by someone with very little aptitude for it, apparently having had about 2 lessons, and I had a tone-deaf man to my immediate left droning loudly. They ended by singing a chorus-ditty in Americanised English of the kind that we had not encountered in the whole of the camino. This was the last bit of religious music we heard on our trip to the continent. Ha!

It's not England!

Back in Delft, a normal Sunday with footie fever in full swing. (We were pleased that both Holland and Spain got to the final, then we didn't mind who won. But for Spain to win in its St James Holy Year was pleasing.)

Writing the Caminella within tent.
Then, as now, I devoted an hour or two to recording where we'd been and what I'd thought. And now, I pause, because I think 'What DID I think?' and I don't know. Since I'm fairly introspective, I didn't find any new thoughts bubbling up during the camino; only ones I'd had before: ideas that might help me do some housework, or how one can achieve a lot in small bites, or how attending to basic needs is what life is about - the usual kind of thing, the stuff of new year resolutions. There really was no revelation that you might not be able to get more cheaply and without blisters from one of those tear-off calendars with little nuggets of wisdom printed at the bottom of each day's page. I didn't come home transformed into a Wise Woman.

Crikey, can't you SEE my desperation? Tomorrow in 2010 terms we come home on the ferry - just one more day to go - and I'm still lacking 'enlightenment' a year on in 2011! The other day I thought what a good idea it would be for pilgrims to sew a small loop onto every garment one takes so that it can be hung from one's travelling ruck-sack washing line with no danger of loss of a sock. Where is the longed-for Big Idea, or the attitude change that would mean I'd sail through life from now on with a seraphic smile exuding calm and tranquillity wherever I go? Be honest, it isn't going to happen in the next 24 hours is it?

The paper camino.
I've been reading the book of Ruth for a study group I'm leading. It's a story about a community where nothing very extraordinary happens. Sometimes putting one thought against another does something, which is why I made the paper camino, to arrange the days in a spiral leading to a partly random final page when it is spread out, and to see themes and new juxtapositions. It's just a page of depictions of food and drink, a sore foot, a washing line, a group of children, a well-designed staircase, a light under the door, huddling by a fire; it's very ordinary stuff. What happens if I think about the book of Ruth next to the paper camino? I shall take that thought to bed with me......

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