Writing my Camino
by Alison Chandler
I walked on the Camino to Santiago de Compostela in October 2015 because 38 years ago I was a 19 year old student there and wanted to return the proper way, walking back as a pilgrim.
As I dragged along , I was made to think about many near-misses in Spain in my liberated teenage 1970s when I grew up while Spain transitioned from fascism. I was reminded of my love for the poetry, history, language, geography and music of Spain.
I was reminded of falling in love in the lamplight of the medieval town in 1977 with a young local banker. Meeting him again this autumn for one evening half way down the track changed my pilgrimage and my onward journey. I don't know of other books from the Camino whose writers were there in the arms of Spain when its regions sang free for the first time in the mid-late 70s.
The interactions on the Camino forced me to think too about the journeys women travel leading each other, walking beside each other or leaving each other behind. I have woven all of these into 43,000 words of memoir with the voices of poets and others that I thought about as I walked and recovered. There are tales of my escape from the Guardia Civil and many historic steps forward for Spain’s musicians, book-sellers, transvestites and voters who I walked beside in the 1970s. There are Facebook postings along the way and thoughts of home on the North East coast of Scotland.
There is useful detail for travellers and poetry from Andalucia, Catalunya, Galicia and Chile. There are excerpts on medieval women’s and modern pilgrimage, on psychology, art and the facts of women’s situation in Spain in the 1970s. I have framed it all in the 6 days of walking through the most poetic of landscapes , climaxing with a change of plan in the middle that sent me reeling, and in the first four days home when my body was surprisingly fine but my mind swirling and I captured the truth of my multi-facetted experience.
It is my onward journey and I hope someone will read it before their own Camino, find it useful and stimulating and take it with them slim in their backpack and perhaps leave it under a pillow along the Way. Before that I need to get it published.