El Camino: Day 31
Day #31 El Camino
Friday 13th October
Santiago de Compostela > Santiago de Compostela
Distance walked: a few of kilometres. Bloody tourist!
It’s Friday the 13th. Unlucky for some. But for me today, I was about to receive my free pass to heaven! First, I had to line up with a bunch of pilgrims for an expected couple of hours which wasn’t to my liking, but as luck would have it, I wouldn’t have to! But before I get to that, I should mention yesterday’s Mass. I went to Mass. I’d neglected going to one this whole walk, not that I was expected to or wanted to, but I figured being a religious pilgrimage, I’d see what it’s all about. I don’t think I stepped foot inside a church or cathedral for the entire 30 days walk… apart from maybe sleeping inside one monastery/churchy/albergue type thingy. I certainly walked by a lot of them and I did take photos of a lot of them too. Oh, if I had a dollar for every cross I saw! From the outside they’re beautiful buildings, on the inside they can be too, but for most part they creep me out. Statues of a dead guy on a cross, burning candles, babies that should be in horror films and old men in robes wandering about smiling with their secrets stepping out of confession boxes. They have many secrets. But last night I decided to attend a Mass. It’s the pilgrims Mass and well, a few others I knew were going so I figured I might as well check it out. Support the arts and all. I know so little about Mass that I don’t know if it is correct to use a capital M or little m when writing mass. We were told to arrive early because although it’s on twice a day, it gets packed every day and seats are pew and far between. See what I did there? Comedy gold. Just like the gold in the Vatican. And trust me, after walking 20+km you need a seat when there’s a 45min to an hour long sermon about to take place! Spoiler Alert: I nodded off.
While waiting for the show to begin (it’s a show, don’t try to call it anything else) we noticed the confession boxes were lining the walls and unusually for me to see, the confessor kneels down in front of it, like they’re approaching a food truck and the priest is in full view face to face. In fact, a better yet maybe more awkward analogy (given the history of priests) is that it’s like going to a kissing booth at a country fair. I didn’t see them make out but I did wonder if this happens in other churches or cathedrals? (not the making out, but the face to face bit). My impression was that the idea of a confession box is to go anonymously and you don’t see the priest and certainly hundreds of other people don’t see who you are. But this was like a drive-thru confession. The other bizarre thing I noticed (I’m an observational comedian – it’s my job) was that there was a red light above the box, similar to a taxi, as if to say ‘occupied’. Amazing! I think seeing a person knelt in front of it is enough of a giveaway, but maybe there was an incident once where someone bumped into another person and they had to install lights. I thought about going to confess and work on my Spanish, but figured miming my sins wouldn’t be wise. It’d turn into a bilingual game of charades I wouldn’t win. Also, I have a lot of sins and I wanted to be in bed at a reasonable hour. The Mass was all in Spanish as expected and so I spent the time trying to guess most of it, I heard the word ‘Peregrinos’ & ‘Jesus’ a lot. There were some songs accompanied by the organ and some special guest appearances by other priesty dudes who made some short speeches, I think these were the ones trying to move up the ranks, but the main man was about 100 years old and he had it sorted. I was sat with a couple of Dutch and each time we had to get up to sing a song or whatever it was, it became tiring for us all. Sit down. Stand up. Repeat. I’m not sure why they can’t make up their mind. One things for sure – and this is coming from experience of doing ‘bucket shows’ where I ask for donations for my stand-up comedy – they made sure we were all standing up when the adorable old ladies came around with sacks for us to fill with whatever coins and notes we were carrying. Did I drop a donation? Fuck no. Have you seen how much gold is inside these churches? Apart from tea and biscuits, what could they possibly need more money for? They’ve already got the red lights on the boxes. They don’t pay tax. The costumes are the same. They use candles so there’s no huge electricity bill. The buildings are all centuries old, yet have scaffold on them. Maybe they keep the scaffold up to give the impression they need money to fix them? These things aren’t falling down anytime soon.
There was talk of the botafumeiro being swung but we heard that it only happens on special occasions, maybe a few times a year, or when some rich tourist pays 400 euros and requests it to happen. It didn’t happen tonight but I’m glad I sat through an entire Mass and can tick that off the list of things I’ll never do again.
As I wandered over to the Compostela office, I ran into Johnny the German who I’ve had a love/hate relationship with, he lost my sunglasses and he’s been getting buses and cheating on the walk by hitchhiking, so I asked him how he got here today, by taxi? He’s actually a lovely guy and the sunglasses were given to me, so I’m more annoyed that he’s come on a cross country walk and baulked at the “walking” part of it. He jumped up and said he had new glasses for me. I like him again. I ran into 4 other pilgrims in the queue for the Compostela whom I’d started the same day as in France. September 13th. One month ago. For some reason out of the hundred or so lining up, a security guy, clad in yellow hi-vis vest came over to us and asked if we were a group. Well, kind of, literally right there we were a group of 5. Enough to make a pop band. When he confirmed we’d all started the same day he ushered us aside to fill out a form, allowing us to bypass the lineup and come back in 2 hours time to receive our certificates and not have to endure the wait. Fantastic! As we were about to part ways, one friend asked him if the swingy thing was happening today. He said “RUN!” Turns out there was one happening at the midday mass. We had half an hour to get there. As we found our way to the queue it dawned on me I’d be seeing my 2nd mass in as many days. I just hoped the swinging thing was at the start! Fat chance. I sat through an entire 2nd mass and it was almost identical. YAWN! And the swinging thing (botafumeiro) was way better on YouTube! Perhaps I found out the origins of the term ‘mass shooting’ … as I drifted off into dreamland.
We collected our compostela shortly after the excitement died down (not long) and giggled reading our names written in Latin then frowned when we saw the distance we’d walked was written down as 799km, not 800km. I mean for GOD”S SAKE! With all the side trips, extra km’s and general too’ing and fro’ing in each town, surely they could have just rounded it up to 800!!? I’ve never graduated from university, nor enrolled, so I don’t have a degree or diploma and unless something drastic changes in my life, I don’t think I ever will, but I do have a kick-ass looking certificate from Spain congratulating me on walking (almost) 800km. This, I thought, is going to look good in a frame hanging on my wall. I’m proud of it! All I need now?