A walk across the north of Spain


This is a short extract from my novel SANTIAGO TALES, the story of a middle-aged woman who, in an attempt to make sense of her life, walks 800 km along the Camino de Santiago to the city of Santiago de Compostela. The people she meets along the way help her to put her own life in perspective.


“Today is her birthday.  She has not told anybody.  There is nobody here to tell.  She is fifty.  Fifty years and what has she done with her life?  My God, what has happened to all those youthful plans and ideas that she had?  She had trained as a journalist and planned to be a foreign correspondent; that was her aim.   That was what they talked about when she was at university.  That was all she ever wanted to be.  Most of her friends were in the English faculty but only a handful of them wanted to be journalists; the rest used their English degrees as passports to jobs in teaching, at the BBC or, in one guy’s case, with the Royal Shakespeare Company.  She wonders what has become of them now?   Have they made a success of their lives or are they, like her, bemoaning the fact they have reached their half-century without really achieving anything?  And what of her?  Instead of  becoming the anchor-woman on Channel 4 News, she became pregnant and married Joe.
    She is tired already and decides to rest.  Thinking about her birthday has made her feel sorry for herself, something she tries to avoid.  She knows there is no point in dragging over the past but it is hard not to.
    She sits on a boulder by the side of the path and looks about her.  Ahead she can see the gleam of the river Erro, as it snakes its way through the valley towards the sea.  The path twists and turns down the mountainside but, apart from a splash of red in the distance, probably the last of the pilgrims disappearing from sight, there is no-one about. Despite the sun, which by now is climbing steadily higher, she feels herself shiver.  Even on the moors she has never felt as isolated as this.

    She gets up.  If she follows the path, it will take her to the river’s edge where she can fill her water bottle.  Gingerly she makes her way down the scree-covered slopes until she reaches the bank.  The river is fast-flowing and the water tumbles over the rocks, creating mini-waterfalls that sparkle in the sunshine; she crosses it carefully, hopping from one stepping-stone to another until she reaches the far side. The grassy river bank is dry and spotted with wild flowers.  She sits down again, letting her rucksack slip from her shoulders onto the ground beside her.  There is no-one about.  A silence hangs in the air like a spell waiting to be broken.”

SANTIAGO TALES is available as an ebook or in paperback from Amazon and other on-line bookstores

Joan Fallon is a writer and novelist living in Spain.