I never liked bets and agonism. As a kid I had isterical stomach-aches before swimming competitions and, once teenager, the coach kept me in the bench because, while skillful with the ball, I didn’t have the necessary sport wickedness.
When I write my posts, warm and safe after a hot shower and a snack, usually with a mug of tea in front of the screen, I’m in a good mood; or, at least, in a better mood than a few hours before: possibly in a snow blizzard, on the border of a highway with numb shoulders, wet toes and a lot of doubts in my mind. And it’s comprehensible, it’s easy to indulge to (auto)irony and to joke when the worst part is over and you reached the goal. Today, for once, regardless of the shower snack and nap, I decided to recall the tone of my thoughts during the frustrating walk.
This part of France, the Haute-Saône departement most of all, and the one immediately following, are infinte expanses of fields, alternated by long and straight national roads, driven mostly by trucks, and sprayed by a handfull of ghost-towns: desert dormitory-villages, closed churches and closed townhall, empty streets, never a bar, rarely a room pretending to be a bakery. The civil death. When I ask for explanations to the few humans I meet, always nice and kind what I get are vague disappointed sentences accompained by pityfull gazes for the naif foreigner. To ask for a bar in here is like to ask for telegraph station: things of the past, “well, you know, once it was full of them”. So far, even the most remote and small italian village had the eternal sport bar. Today, on the notice board of the (closed) townhall in a small village, I saw a flyer advertising Shiatsu courses; they got Shiatsu but they have no bar. Shiatsu. Bar. I wonder how is the social life among these people, luckily enough french television is good and the Wii is cheap. The day before yesterday a woman offered me an hot chocolate at her palce, but it doesn’t always go like this.
Saddened by the portrait? There you are, add some wind and snow, an entire region white and wet, not even a single bench where to sit and rest and the winter holidays in french schools. Plus, weather forecast telling similar weeks to come.
So far the first solution was a partial shortening of the walks and some detours to more crowdy towns: this imply anyway some long walks along national roads borders, tiring stetches without pauses not to get cold (that’s way I need a bar, to spend half an hour in a warm place, not to play lotto), hood well closed with consequent reduction of the visibility. Yes, exactly, a shitty situation. I told it to those I met: look, so far it’s been easy, everyone can do the francigena my way. What now?
Pride is another gift I lack, I prefer stubbornness. Walking these days feels more like an athletic competition, even worst, like a solitary training: lots of effort, few human or aesthetical gratification and insignificant small goals. Italy varied more often, Switzerland was short.
I, nonetheless, believe I have to keep going, at least for little Paolo who cried in the changing room and for the slightly older one that missed unbelievable goals in the muddy soccer field (and because I left to many thing incomplete). Because it will be unspokenly beautiful to accomplish it and for hundres of other reasons. But I’m not disposed to keep going like this; because it there is a thing that this travel must not became, this is sacrifice; this certitude contains all the laicity of my adventure. Effort should always be accompained by beauty, pleasure, exchange. This is not tourism, nor holiday, but not even masochism. To move the backpack 20 km every day, a bus in enough.
Well, I knew that France would have been tough, but it’s not the same to think it while flying over it on Google Maps and finding myself among its most desolate regions. In the last two weeks I saw just one sunny day; this may also help, ’cause, strange to say, all the fantasy in the world doesn’t help to imagine a blue sky over the clouds. And we mediterraneans usually don’t need it.
Oh, I also burned a pair of sock on the stove and lost my toothbrush.