Thursday New Years day January 1st 2014 Port Sainte Foy 28 km

kleinste gemeente van Frankrijk

Smallest community of France


Christmas scene

Overal kerstkribben in Frankrijks kleinste gemeente

Everywhere X-mas cribs in Frances smallest community

On New Year’s day the various text messages that I wrote were not sent. No network coverage. I wrote the text messages anyway, assuming that they would be sent sometime today while walking. Now it proves out that I have had no network coverage throughout the day, neither here in the “city”. So all text messages are not sent, I think. Walking went fine today. Because here in France the indication of the pilgrim route is lousy, I have to stop often to look at the GPS. That takes quite some time, because first I have to take off my tight gloves with my mouth, meanwhile Leon always dashes to the grassy verge, Tosca jumps aside to avoid Leon’s leggs, I have to get my glasses, the road booklet with directions, trying to keep together the loose leaves lying in the road book, all this with one hand. A paper under one arm, a glove under the other arm, a car approaching from the front and one from behind. Moments later turns out: a lost paper, or glove, or something dropped out of my pocket. I bend down to pick it up, then the same song: Leon dives to the roadside, jerking my shoulder etc. Usually walking is nice, but my “difficulty factors” bother me constantly. I took themk with me, because just walking is too easy. Besides, that had already been done by somebody else who walked the entire 7.500 km stretch from Spain to North Norway. I’m not particularly nice to them and often it is worse. This morning it was freezing 5 degrees C. At open stretches the cold wind is not particularly pleasant. I was reminded of my late father-in-law, André, who has been a prisoner of war for no less than 3 years in a Japanese camp in Sumatra during World War II. He had to work to death on the Pakan Baru  railway, something like the Burma Railway, known from the movie The Bridge Over The River Kwai. How could he stand it? How could he, being one of the few, survive (half dead)? He never talked about it. Nobody would have understood anyway. Now I respect him. He was a little man, but what a dibs!
After passing many other pretty churches, mills, farms, vineyards and hamlets, mostly quiet, paved small roads, already in the afternoon I reached Port-Sainte-Foy. The pilgrims’ hostel was closed and for shelter I had to turn to the reception desk of the hospital. From there I was referred to a shelter for the homeless. I accepted immediately. It was a terraced house in the center, near the hospital, in a neighborhood where mainly immigrants live. In the communal kitchen, no more than a dark room, one guy was sleeping at the table, his head on his arms, another was watching a movie on his I-pad. It was very hot inside. I went outside, looking for a place for Leon. I found a marginal place in the nearby park. But my dwelling is in a somewhat bleak neighborhood. I hope that Leon will  not be stolen. Tosca may enter inside my house. It is rather filthy. My room is not clean, but it is warm, there is a bed and what else do I want? What I want is that my phone works. Tomorrow will be a very long day, 34? km. I must leave before dawn and I’ll arrive only at dark, or even later. I want to be sure that I can go tomorrow. And if my phone finds no network I can not verify, that tomorrow I can go to an agreed address. In that case I neither can arrange anything for the next few days. How to do that? Meanwhile I walked another tour through the neighborhood looking for wifi : nowhere! Almost everything is closed. Many have never heard of wifi. Where can I ask someone to call for me to possible lodgings for tomorrow? In one bar that is open and does not have wifi, the bartender is awfully busy. Could I ask in the hospital? Hey, I still have a reserve phone. Maybe that one is functioning properly. But that battery is completely empty and I do not know if I have a suitable charging cable. But first I need some food. Fortunately, the charging cable of my mobile phone also fits the spare phone. Meanwhile time passes. It gradually is getting dark and the backup phone still does not work. Does it take so long to load? Just wait and see. If everything does not work with these phones, then I’ll have to change my schedule and wait till tomorrow morning the tourist office, Office de Tourism, will open at 9.30 am and then ask them at the Office de T to arrange a new shelter. In that case I’ll have to walk a short route tomorrow. The guest address tomorrow I can convert to the day after tomorrow, I hope. But the lady with whom I had arranged a shelter for tomorrow, works tomorrow and thus might not be available during the day. I do not know if one still can understand all my pondering, but it is clear that walking itself is not a problem, but difficult is the whole infrastructure around it. An aquaintance smset me and noted (rightly) that the street children in Peru have greater problems. The homeless in this building too. Compared to them my problems are peanuts. Nevertheless strolling in the cold winter not knowing if you can find a shelter for all three of us, that really puts me down. And makes me feel like giving up the whole enterprise. Anyway, I hope soon everything will be functioning properly again.
A few hours later:
Luckily I got my backup phone working. Immediately I called home to convey the best wishes. Suddenly I get 35 text messages in of the last couple days. Excuse me for not yet answering them. But for everyone A VERY GOOD 2015. I got tomorrow’s stay fixed. If only the horse is not stolen, my burdon is mucht lighter and I actually can go to bed satisfied.
Again a few hours later: I want to bring to Leon in the park some supplementary food that I got from the last host familiy: some old bread and corn. It can’t be true! Leon gone again, but this time with the ropes. So that is included. Do you still like it, Harry? No, this is sh..! I called the police. I hear a barely comprehensible answering machine. There in that bar I still see light. They were just closing. Can you help me? Yes, the gendarmes have put the horse back elsewhere by order of the mayor. The mayor had seen the horse when passing the park in his car going home. This is dangerous for the children and he had Leon removed. Come to the police station to arrange everything. Finally I find the police station late in the evening: A sign at the wall of the office: speak your message here and wait for the answer. So I did, no response. How long must I wait in this dark porch? After some minutes, a policeman opened the door. Entrez. Your name, your address. I am lodged with the homeless. Oh yeah. While being surrogated my sister Francien called me from the Netherlands. I said: I’ll call you right back. I’m at the police station. End of the song is that tomorrow morning at 8.30 I must report at the town hall to the mayor. I assume that I get back Leon. The advantage is perhaps that Leon will get a good barn with food tonight; downside is that tomorrow I can only start much later, implying that I will have to walk to my destiny in the dark. I even briefly socialized with the homeless (most of them nice guys) and made a movy shot of them. It’s all pretty exciting and tiring. Maybe I should start thinking about a rest day. But in that case I must have a good shelter for the animals. So it is not easy to plan.                                                                                                            An hour later sister Francien called me again from the Netherlands, if I were in trouble and if Ineeded help. No I’m fine.

More tomorrow. First I’ll look for contact with my children before I turn off the light.



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