We’ve been saving this up. It’s a treat…. The music you are hearing (if you have the sound on) is the alternative and prettier tune for Burns’s Auld Lang Syne. The extraordinarily beautiful voice is Maeve Mackinnon. This project is in part a celebration of friendship. Maeve – as a person and and an artist – enriches so many of our lives. Thank you Maeve.
Also not only can I now say that I have co-written a song with Robert Burns, even better I’ve duetted with Maeve Mackinnon. (If you don’t already know her, check her out, she’s a genius)
The new words are a reflection on a lifelong fascination with Spain. Hopefully Maeve’s contribution, and the backing vocals (Liam, Eddie and my terrific singer missus Moira thanks Mo!) calm the soul when I reflect on our first day’s… adventures:
The past is never past (William Faulkner)
Being stopped by the police within the first hour of our journey maybe isn’t such a bad thing. Travel is all about new experiences. That said, it’s encouraging that at 61 I’m still bothering the polis the way I did (or wanted to) at 16…
Liam had done the research: cycling on an autopista is illegal in Spain; cycling on an autovia isn’t. The officers of the Guardia Civil disagreed.
There was no other way out of Vigo that we could see, but it was hair-raising (well not in Liam’s case, obviously) pedaling along the narrow hard shoulder of a busy two-lane carriageway. And it was no great surprise when we were flagged down.
I think we made those Guardias day. It would have been just another boring Thursday till they were alerted to three old men cycling through the traffic laden to the oxters, carrying fiddles and ukes. We’ll be a thigh-slapping story down the officers’ mess for years to come. ‘Mind that day, Manolo, we stopped those crazy Scots guys?’
They were great. Instead of ordering us off the road and saying they couldn’t care less how we got to Valencia, which they were perfectly within their rights to do, they did almost the opposite. They gave us police protection. Lights flashing, rushing us, priority, along the road for about another 5 miles, keeping the traffic at bay, then setting us on the road we were aiming for anyway.
They did, though wallop pell-mell down that road. We had to pedal like crazy to keep up… Bringing about the unusual sight of three Glaswegians chasing a polis car.
“I spent the rest of the day climbing a steep terraced valley,” says Laurie Lee on leaving Vigo. Well, that’s something we can agree with. Our first day hasn’t taken us far – less than 40k, but seemingly directly upwards.
Still, with the traffic behind us, we began to feel the Gallego charm. Green and wooded, silver granite rock glittering in the houses and horreos – the ancient-looking little granary stores on stilts so typical of this country – and in the hills high over the trees . Everybody friendly and helpful. A bowl of caldo gallego – a stew-soup with tatties, beans, veg. A cyclist’s dream.
Back in ’35, the first non-Spaniards Laurie Le met were German musicians. Today, we met Sabine and Egbert, a delightful and fascinating German couple, touring the Visigoth churches of northern Spain. They were clearly scholarly and discerning people – they liked our music! These pilgrimages are all about meeting, discussing, learning, changing…
So here we are, 5% of our trek done. Liam, at arriving at our destination – rooms in a casa rural – declared that the day ‘bodes well’. Seemingly forgetting about nearly dying on a friggin motorway, killer hills, and getting pulled over by Spain’s infamous Guardia Civil. He’s a glass half full man, el Super O.
A couple of hard days cycling through the mountains coming up. We’ll give you all a holiday from this blog – be in touch again soon. More music, from Gilbert Macmillan and others, reports from the road….
Thank you all for your support.
PS: For cyclists and others who might be interested, you can download this document to see the day-by-day details of our planned journey.