A last minute booking to try to escape the stain/strain of GMC tribunal horror. Rich had to stay at home to work. I got a return flight to Asturias for £107. Returning to the land of the Camino. A hotel in Oviedo booked for night one. The rest open to whim [or howl]. The forecast rain and cloud.
At the airport, waiting for the Oviedo bus, I chatted to D. She was on her way to a Tai Chi course with a Spanish master. After 12 years of practice she was beginning to understand the inner workings involving her core. She also mended clocks.
She asked what I did for a job.
“My mum told me I was diagnosed with High Functioning Aspergers when I was at school”, she said, when I told her. “I never looked it up or anything, I was just relieved to learn I was normal. I didn’t feel it at the time.”
M joined us. A recently retired economics teacher. She was going to spend a week volunteering on an immense course.
“Immense?” I said. “That sounds pretty important.”
“Immersion. Students of English immerse themselves in the language for a week with no Spanish spoken. It helps to cement learning.”
“I realised I talked all the time and didn’t listen,” said D. “On one of our retreats, someone said I wasn’t to talk for 24 hours. It made me realise that the quiet people, who I’d never even noticed before, spoke the most sense. The noisy ones I’d always engaged with said nothing.”
It was dark and raining in Oviedo. After some help from non English speaking locals, I found my hotel and checked into my room with a view. I felt like shite.
The guy on reception enthusiastically scribbled on my map before I left to explore the city (of sculptures). With a final flourish of the biro he marked the Santa Maria de Naranco up on a hillside overlooking the city. I was to catch the A2 bus opposite the Campo de San Fransisco, two minutes from the hotel. The bus turned up straight away. I got on and said my destination. The driver didn’t understand me so I showed him the map. He shook his head and pointed to the bus stand behind me, making his fingers into a shape I think meant a letter rather than a rude gesture.
I got off and pointlessly studied the bus timetable written in Spanish for a few minutes.
Someone shouted. I turned round. Another bus driver asking where I wanted to go in Spanish (I think).
I got the map out and pointed to the scribble. He nodded. The fare was €1.20. The church spectacular. I stayed a second night in the room with the view.
Early afternoon I was wandering around Cudillero, a dense and beautiful fishing town that tapered down the hillside into a harbour, with Alicia Wood and Henry Iles. Reminiscent of Portofino there were bustling restaurants serving seafood delights around the harbour front. Unlike Portofino, there were no designer shops, masses of tourists or fakery. Just a fishmonger, a vending machine or two, people’s smalls hanging on airers from windows in the narrowest alley ways and an enormous, damp smelling, dusty pink and blue flavoured church.
We sat up into the early hours of the morning, eating traditional stew, drinking and putting the learning disability world to rights.
A day trip to the Somiedo Nature Park with Alicia. A small beer in bear country before driving further into the mountains for a two part adventure.
Part One. Clear and detailed info from Alicia about what lay ahead. Eight kms of fairly hairy (pin bends) but doable driving. Passenger advice: don’t look right if you don’t like heights [I don’t]. We reached Valle de Lago, walked further into the mountains and had a picnic from the olden days, chatting about childhood books. Looking for bears.
Part Two. No advice, just a creeping sense of horror as the road grew steeper and narrower. Small sections of wooden barriers with car sized holes appeared every so often.
“There’s metal inside the wood. You can see where it’s snapped…” I said, leaning away from the window. As we ‘laughed’ hysterically.
Bend after bend, more broken fencing and the occasional oncoming car. We inched our way up the mountain road to a car park on top of the world. A mountain dog, torrential rain and extraordinary views.
After a soaking wet walk to a lake along a pink path worthy of a sci-fi film set we drove back down. With cattle for company.
I left Alicia and Henry and took the single track FEVE rail journey from Las Cabos to Gijon. Alone at first, I was joined along the 30 or so stops by a few Asturian locals. The odd set, perm and elaborately coiffed comb over. No chat. Just travel. Taking in idyllic hamlets, small towns, touching on bits of coast and the back end of industrial Aviles; apocalyptic, smoke belching ironworks and a hinterland of dust covered, unrecognisable landscape.
I was weepy for most of the day. An outcome of the extreme fear therapy we’d endured the day before? Or maybe it was because I was, unusually, able to think about Connor rather than GMC/NMC and other shite. I walked to La Madre del Emigrante (mother of the immigrant) sculpture we’d passed on the CaminoLB.
Followed by dog and people watching.
I had a room with two views in Gijon; the second window right above (and facing) this guy’s head. A second set of doors opened out onto the neighbouring square.
The sun shone and I felt brighter. The Gijonese were out in force and I did what they do. A march along the sea edge with my bag, a parade along the front, ice cream and book reading on the beach.
Ending the day with a cheerful and delicious final meal with Alicia and Henry.
This post is, in part, an unashamed plug for this strip of Northern Spain. An 80 minute flight to a land of delicious food, beautiful and varied scenery, warmth, rich hospitality and a wonderful way of life.
It’s also an account of easing into feeling human again.