That Lake­field stu­dent is now the king of Spain

The Peterborough Examiner - - OPINION - ROSE­MARY GANLEY Reach writer, teacher and ac­tivist Rose­mary Ganley at rgan­

In 1985, I was teach­ing lit­er­a­ture at Lake­field Col­lege School. A tall young man, age 16, ar­rived as a new stu­dent. He was from Spain: Prince Felipe, heir to the throne oc­cu­pied by his fa­ther, King Juan Car­los. and his mother, Queen Sophia.

A mild, shy lad, he fit in un­ob­tru­sively for his year of study, and en­joyed cross coun­try run­ning all along the con­ces­sion roads of Douro Dum­mer.

One fea­ture that amazed us was that he came with three se­cu­rity guards from Spain. It was a time in Span­ish pol­i­tics of a vi­o­lent in­de­pen­dence move­ment in the north­ern Basque coun­try. There had been at­tacks and deaths. (Spain and its Basque pop­u­la­tion came to a peace agree­ment in 2011).

Head Terry Guest of Lake­field had ex­pe­ri­ence with roy­alty com­ing to the school, hav­ing had Prince An­drew of the U.K in 1977. Seek­ing to keep the school nor­mal, he asked that the Span­ish se­cu­rity peo­ple live in the vil­lage, not on cam­pus. This worked well for the year. I think they were pretty bored.

I re­call the gra­cious­ness of the Queen at the grad dance, gamely dancing with all the teenage boys, never mind the threat to her feet.

Span­ish re­cent his­tory is as­tound­ing. For 30 years af­ter the Span­ish Civil war (1936-39), a dic­ta­tor, Gen­er­alis­simo Fran­cisco Franco ruled Spain, sup­ported by Hitler and Mus­solini. Be­fore he died in 1975, he de­creed that he be suc­ceeded by King Juan Car­los. Sur­prise! The king ush­ered in a tran­si­tion to democ­racy and a con­sti­tu­tional monar­chy. His son, this young man. Felipe, has be­come King Felipe V! of Spain, now mar­ried to a for­mer TV host, Queen Le­tizia, with a fam­ily of two daugh­ters. He sailed for his coun­try at the Olympics! He re­turned 20 per cent of his salary when Spain was un­der­go­ing eco­nomic hard­ship. I just saw him on TV vis­it­ing sur­vivors of the Barcelona at­tack.

Now 32 years later, I am go­ing to Spain to the main city of Basque coun­try, Bil­bao, and start­ing my pil­grim­age to the cathedral city of San­ti­ago. The whole dis­tance is 700 kilo­me­tres, but my am­bi­tion is just 156 kilo­me­tres. Did I say “just?”

St. Au­gus­tine in 400, said, “All things are solved by walk­ing.” I re­al­ize I am much too car-de­pen­dent. So my train­ing has in­cluded walks, with a stick and my good hik­ing shoes, all over town.

I vis­ited my phys­io­ther­a­pist, Con­nor. He ad­justed my back­pack. I was wear­ing it too low. He did the same with my col­lapsi­ble walk­ing pole, gave me four morn­ing stretch ex­er­cises and ad­vised me to get a hy­dra­tion back­pack. Now that’s some­thing pokey: the suck­ing and the ac­cess­ing wa­ter.

I read 11 books on the camino, from the truly pi­ous (Sr Joyce Rupp’s “Walk in a Re­laxed Man­ner”) to the hi­lar­i­ous (Tim Moore’s “Span­ish Steps” about drag­ging a don­key across the route; don­keys don’t take to bridges), to the ridicu­lous Shirley MacLaine. And a novel by David Lodge called “Ther­apy.”

Per­haps best of all, I found a room­mate, Arapera, who is a 73-yearold Maori widow from New Zealand. Her tribe is the Ngati Kahun­gunu (61,000 mem­bers). I ex­pect to learn a lot from her.

What is in some doubt is the “ho­li­ness” of my pil­grim­age. Our bags are trans­ported to the next place of rest, leav­ing us with just a day pack. Our night book­ings are made by the or­ga­nizer. I am past the point of “wing­ing” it, not know­ing where I sleep, or ar­riv­ing at a hos­tel and find­ing it full.

A friend sent me some notes about un­der­tak­ing a pil­grim­age. ”Trav­el­ling”, said writer Bruce Chatwin, “is not merely a spir­i­tual act , it is the self ’s purest ex­pres­sion. It is a ‘slough­ing-off of the world”. Not con­ven­tion­ally re­li­gious, Chatwin none­the­less wrote: “My God is the God of Walk­ers.”

I’m giv­ing it a try this month.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.