26 February 2009

Twelve Steps In Galicia: My Hot Chip Revelation



1) The muck-sweat of travel begins and ends quietly, a vacuum-packed arc of silence except the gentle buzz of the air-conditioning chute siphoning out the air and time jerking, shunting you on, carriage nudging carriage on the north road. The dark back of the bus churning through the cities absorbing reels of film, captured passengers, curled-up and babyish over speeding ground, us glassy and blind with self-promotion as we grimly go from A to B with our pilgrim sticks.

2) A seven hour bus journey to test endurance levels.

3) “Between Heaven And Hell” the blinking blockbuster and hot chips marking an unsteady trail from chin to navel; slob, alight with elastic, stringy holiday plans stretched and gummed across the wide, bright plains that dim and blink slipping to watercolour and my list just gets longer.

4) Visit: castle, museum, beach, pagan relics – Pagans! A voice echoes in the hills, the city glares from a distance.

5) Check weather reports: rain/sun/rain – it’s impossible to decipher these symbols and days glinting like treasure on this new map and to prove it, snow buckles and shudders magickly in the hills, tip-toeing across the sky and taking the life I deserted all those years ago, translating it to shifting shadow that disappears into hard tarmac.

6) Pack: books, always books and clothes suitable for freedom – non-fussy, waterproof, taken out over the years, taken in, taken out and over the years used again and again.

7) Granite towns for tea and piles of empty sea, and teeming fish restaurants stuck up like teeth on the corner of the universe. Locals spit and cackle, I pass through air like a tourist, dreamy on cold white wine. I try to take up the cackle with a fishwife. “There’s nothing left in the seas, son” she reasons. “Different from when I grew up. I was born in that little house” She points to a tiny shack by the sea, and whispers naked childhood with buckets and fish and callused hands and toil. “Really?” I’m genuine, amazed. “No!” she roars, old sea dame with her fish, reeling it in.

8) A life of fish, and shells and the smell of sea with its shift and pull, rough magic.

9) “Nobody ought to write before they’re thirty. I hate precocity.” That was a Mitford, I think, or another someone. Here I am, writing since the day I was born, trying to write my way out of this web of deceit, this dull prism and now this hot chip revelation. If this is failing, my fingers stained with ink, it’s better than being the first twelve-year-old grandfather, or the first atomic baby, or the last to the shops when the door is closing. Breathing. I’m breathing, and the wild beaches stretch out before me and the dunes humpback behind me, there is something here, it is me, I’m here. This is the beginning and the end, the best time; when ghosts flit by on the wind and you’ve done enough to join them – but not yet.

10) I tap my pocket and order a beer; have money, will drink. Pass me a plate of octopus, waiter. Red face to red face in the bar-light, I blend in to the corner, we eat, we drink. The cold light of Pontevedra grips me, laughing.

11) A five-hour drink and food orgy to test endurance levels.

12) I will not leave, I will not leave, I will not leave.


My partner-in crime on this trip a few years back was Rebecca Lander, incredibly gifted singer-songwriter. Our guide was the erudite Colin Davies, whose blog can be seen here.

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