Porstmouth Harbour to Andalucia

Saturday evening at Portsmouth dock; we are taking the night crossing to St Malo and the car is loaded to the gunnels as usual, mainly with pottery materials. Everyone thinks I am mad because I am taking clay back with me but I am not mad at all. I have had a complete nightmare with the Spanish clay, it is beautiful to work with and very very orange, but there in lays the problem, it is too orange. The iron content is so high that the clay is vitrifying at 1080 and I need to fire to 1110 Celsius so I now risk the entire ships stability by stuffing the boot with 150 kilos of Staffordshire’s finest earthenware clay.
The cars headlamps are pointing skyward on account of the load which makes the mountain hairpin bends that we encounter later rather interesting, and the stopping, well don’t even go there! I do wonder what it says about us at customs as the car rolls onto the weighbridge on entering French border control. SUSPICIOUS I should imagine.Photographs of the Helicopter Pad on board (a restricted area I managed to get myself escorted off) and a naval frigate parked (wrong word there must be a nautical one) alongside. Ha, that’s it; alongside. On to Santo Domingo de la Calzada and the pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela.

Sunday, Santo Domingo

Driving along all the lines and lines and lines to the Spanish border, my maps were all very creased by the end. The time between docking in St Malo and leaving the ship was disproportionately long but it gave me time to have a good look round all the other cars. There must have been a classic outing going to France either that or most May time holiday makers have extraordinary flare and panache and all own E type Jaguars and classic motorcycles. That said, the man next door to me did have an Audi estate filled with trays of budding Lobelia and Petunias which I thought was an awful lot of effort for run-of-the-mill bedding plants, maybe he didn’t see the Chelsea Flower Show when he was back in England, but really we do live in other countries and we should be spending our money even on Lobelia locally in the country we are living in. You’re not telling me he was taking the bedding plants on holiday with him!

Anyway an hour later we roll off the ramp, slot in the sound track to Easy Rider and leave the ones with flare behind. It’s all a blur really through France, we make Bordeaux by 1.30pm and cross the border at 3.00pm and immediately stop for lunch because stopping in France can be ghastly and the lavatories are a long way down with foot rests (!) and not what I am used to.

We are staying at the Parador de Santo Domingo Bernardo de Fresneda. It is a beautiful ex monastery with an internal courtyard and vaulted passageways. Our room is lovely with the original tiny window in one corner. The town is awash with pilgrims for we have bedded down on the Camino de Santiago or the way of St James.

Below is my favourate picture which I caught through an open doorway to the vestry. I am drawn to the Camino, the devotion and the journey. One day I would like to do the walk until then I shall gaze in admiration as the prayers are whispered in circles around the tomb of Saint Domingo. In the morning we head to Andalucia and our little village via the hairpin bends and an altered centre of gravity, in every way.

Monday, further south
I would like to have stayed in Santo Domingo it was a very nice town but on we must go, another 500 miles and another 7 hours at least of driving. The car is feeling very heavy and the temperature has risen to 30 degrees C as we approach Madrid. Leaving the town we could see the pilgrims on their path, high up on the hills with bulging packs. I suppose we saw about 200 in all between Santo Domingo and Burgos, and there we left them as they continued west and we turned south.
Music for the journey was varied, a bit of Marc Almond, High Fidelity All Stars, Johnny Cash and Leonard Cohen. What a mix! The first glimpse of the lake as we leave Granada city and round the hill is always good, the anxiety of how the water levels are disappear as we see it is fine and full. The snow has melted from those small mountains in the distance since we left three weeks ago

The mountains were a slog with the clay and the bends were OK we just had to be slightly less reckless. We got back safe and sound at about 8.30 pm to our little house to find the entire population sitting on their doorsteps or in the streets with a bit of a party atmosphere, a combination of the 32 degrees and the lack of electric power which had been switched off since lunch time. Ah what joy to be back….I thought to myself, good job I’m not firing the kiln.

Time traveling successful, a full 55 years in reverse mode has been achieved and I will stay in this time warp (1954) for another eight weeks getting the work ready for the Joze Show. I have brought with me a new apron from the future, I can’t wait to wear in tomorrow morning, my neighbours will be agog it’s quite something!