Monthly Archives: July 2012

That’ll put a smile on your face.

I think the fact that I seem to have started taking an interest in the sex lives of dragonflies might suggest that I’ve been away from home too long already, or at the very least that I shouldn’t be spending quite so long in the midday sun…but you’ve got to admit, that does look remarkably like a very large grin on his face. Not quite sure about the way she’s looking at me though (and who can blame her?).

Which leads me in a very Smashy and Nicey way to my own reason to smile today; I’m officially a third of my way into this journey, having covered 11 stages of the 33 that make up The Northern Way across Spain.

Unfortunately that doesn’t equate exactly in mileage as some of the stages for the next two thirds of the trip are a bit longer than the ones I’ve been doing up til now. But I’ve still covered around 250km or 155 miles, and I’ve got to say, I feel pretty chuffed with that.

Today’s leg from Castro Urdiales came in at a very respectable 36km and was one of my favourite days so far. There was a pretty long stretch of B-road out of Castro which my knees didn’t thank me for, but after about 3km there’s a turning down a dirt track and the view changes from this:

To this:

After which it’s pretty hard for any part of your body to stay grumpy.

What I liked most about this leg was that it somehow seemed to tie in all the different aspects that I have experienced so far; so yes, I had the long stretches of road that I’ve been moaning about in the last couple of posts…

But I also got a slightly more interesting visual version of them:

And I got to return to the mountains, although the paths that took me there didn’t lead relentlessly upwards, but actually gave me the easier option occasionally (I couldn’t quite believe that the path on the right was the way that the omniscient yellow arrows were pointing towards):

Yet despite that, I still got to enjoy the stunning vistas of a few days back…

…on the way to the coast at Laredo, which looked remarkably like this:

Now, it may look a bit built up, but after 36km it could have been Torremolinos for all I cared; there is nothing quite like walking onto a beach in a pair of hiking boots and a rucksack, dumping it all on the sand and jumping straight into the sea.

And the beach is actually gorgeous – I’ll try and remember to take a picture of it at sunrise tomorrow morning on my way out of town when it’s not packed with sizzling bodies to share on tomorrow’s post.

But for now, I’m going to try and find somewhere that serves a high protein menu to get me back on track for tomorrow

Although not quite this high protein:

And just one more thing. On arriving in Laredo I found that all the Albergues were fully booked, so I’m devastated to say that I won’t be sharing my bed with 30 other people tonight; a fitting end to the day, I’d say. Although I’m not sure that the name of the Pension that I found to put me up for the night is entirely in keeping with the austerity measures of yore. Esmeralda indeed – and spread over TWO portions of my Credencial, the trollop…

Filed under: On The Road Tagged: Charity, Dragonflies copulating, Photograph, Rethink Mental Illness, The Camino de Santiago de Compestela, The Northern Way

Cherishing Humor

One thing that always helps me slink by is being able to laugh at things. Besides the British knack for self-depreciation, it helps put depression and its allies in its place if you can laugh at them. By the same token, one of my best friends and I often reflect on our ‘whining’ about minor things. We concur that, while silly, being able to complain about the trivial is a relief. It means there aren’t bigger things to complain about, or perhaps, are self-directed code to not let oneself get hung up on the big things. I know, sounds convoluted and weird, but such are the tricks one must use to get past the Killer Brain Thing™®.

I’m thinking a lot about this today because I’m trying to remember the tricks to keep myself in a passable fettle. I’ve exited the safety of my nest, and obviously, it takes its toll. It’s fair to say my brain and my body and its component chemicals make it abundantly clear that it would have been a lot nicer and less stressful to stay home. But yanno, I’ve been nesting for something like weeks now and I can’t give into it any longer. Even if I desperately want to, and still feel all sorts of depressed and wrecked. I just hope that I continue to not overdo it,  ’cause yanno… want to get back to some sort of semblance of actually functional and whatnot.


Heed my Advice! Mid-Afternoon Mental Moment

I don’t necessarily mean MY advice, even though the title may suggest it. I may not be the best person to take advice from about a lot of things. I do know a thing or two about some things but I usually try not to just give our advice unless  I am asked.  Even to … Continue reading

Double Vision

No WiFi at my final destination last night, hence no post. Although that’s probably just as well, as I was beginning to have a serious sense of humour failure by the time I had arrived. Ruth commented on my last post that the route from Lezama to Bilbao looked a little grim, but compared to yesterday’s stretch from Bilboa to Pobena it was positively idyllic.

There’s a dearth of decent information about The Northern Way written in English, and the only guide book I brought with me was a selection of Spanish guides cobbled together with the help of Google Translate. So I did know in advance that this wasn’t going to be one of the prettiest stages (in fact most of the guides seem to recommend skipping it altogether and taking the subway to the next stage):

“We face a relatively short period. It is a strange but very interesting stage. At all times aware of the proximity to the industrial heart of the Basque Country, however, there are places of peace and calm” (

This is actually one of the more easily understandable translations that Google came up with (there are some completely impenetrable ones I’ll no doubt share elsewhere), although it’s also completely inaccurate.

The only bit vaguely resembling a place of ‘peace and calm’ was the initial descent through some fairly scrubby woodland out of Bilbao, providing a stark contrast to the previous few days in terms of signage, wildlife and general ambiance:

After that, there was just mile upon mile of pavement to pound, making it hard to believe I was even in the same part of the country where I started this trip:

(And no Tiff, I didn’t have a Whopper)

But it’s also fair to say that I didn’t make life any easier for myself. The title of today’s post also refers to the fact that I managed to walk two sections of the route rather than the one that is recommended, as well as walking the first one in the least time efficient manner possible as well.

Apparently there’s a 12km route out of Bilbao to that takes you to the next recommended stop, Portugalete, by the side of a river. I took a 19km route that took me through the “industrial heart of the Basque country” referred to above:

Not only that, I completely missed any signage to Portugalete and ended up walking another 13.2km to Pobena, which is where I should have ended up the day after. Plus, there was a diversion due to a broken bridge on entering the town that added another 2km to the journey. Making a grand total of nearly 35km. On pavement. Suffice to say my feet were not too happy by the end of it all.

However, with hindsight, I’m glad to have gone the extra miles yesterday, as I think three consecutive days literally on the road might have dampened my enthusiasm somewhat. As it was, after several days walking inland, the final view of the day yesterday actually managed to put a bit of a spring back in my step:

It also meant that today started like this:

Continued largely like this:

And this:

And ended like this….

…25km later in Castro Urdiales.

So since you’ve last seen me I’ve come out of the mountains, spent two days in the city, walked 60km and am back by the sea.

This trip was never going to be a walk in the park.

And here’s the last double of the day:

Filed under: On The Road Tagged: Bilbao, Castro Urdiales, Charity, Pobena, Portugalete, Rethink Mental Illness, Walking

Aim Low:Goals & Functionality

Part of my survival method is to set minimalistic goals for myself. That way, I get the sense of accomplishment without risking hurting myself too badly. And I do hurt myself if I set too many; I will ignore my health and sanity just to complete all the things.

It makes me sad to a point — I’d like to do more things. And who doesn’t? People in general like to be able to say, ‘I did that. I left this mark on the world.’ Even the lazy do, but in their case, they hope it will be by sheer luck. The ‘mean’ and ‘bad’ go for notoriety, the nice go for good deeds, and so forth. I’d love to be able to say that I’ve done things, but I’m so nonfunctional that I can’t even get to the point of identifying things I’d like to do. It’s too tiring to thing past the vaguest concepts — ‘I’d like to write stories.’ ‘I want people to acknowledge my sagely kickassness.’ ‘I want a chocolate bar.’ Okay, the last isn’t really a deed, but it is tasty.

And that’s the other thing — functionality. I think we all accept our basic level of functioning as functioning, even if it isn’t. The thinking about goals and doing things makes me acknowledge that no, I really am barely scraping by. I consider washing my hair a sing-to-the-hills accomplishment; I can only imagine people think that I’m wholly slothful rather than ‘unwell’. I was attempting to explain this to my youngest sister, when I stumbled upon this:

The Daily Energy It Takes to be Normal

I don’t rapid cycle, but it otherwise speaks true. It takes a lot of energy I don’t have to be ‘normal’ at the best of times. At the crap times like this? Hah. It goes hand-in-hand with the Spoon Theory to best explain what it’s like living with a mental condition. I have no spoons, and I have no focus, and deity it’s a victory that I’m out of bed and not sobbing. With that as a baseline, is it any surprise that thinking big and having lots of goals seems more like a prison than an aspiration?

With that in mind, I’m going to go eat crap food, and play video games. Because at least in that, I can feel like I’m doing something, even if it’s absolutely insignificant.


Losing It

I’m losing it. Not mentally – I’m already certifiable. But I’m fed up with being fat, so I’m doing something …

Continue reading »


Effing A, man! I’m hypo right now. I have been buzzing around all day. I have gotten so much stuff done today I have even impressed myself! And now I am ready to shop! I am trying to talk myself out of it. Because I would have to transfer money from savings to do it. And I’m not buying anything frivolous, I am buying (or plan to buy… I may chicken out last minute) stuff for the kids for school… clothes and shoes. Only one more payday until they start school! So, it’s not like I am being idiotic about it, ya know?

I make myself sick. Using my children as an excuse to spend money and get my thrills.

Making a cup of Bedtime tea right now to hopefully calm to fuck down.

It’s Sunday…

Which means I have nothing, ha ha. And that’s fine — maybe it means I’ve survived my depression dip and am on the way up and out. I’m not counting on anything, but it’s nice to think that maybe this could be the case. Tuesday will be the real test of that, in that I’ll have to thump my brain into resuming normal working operations.


A Single Mom’s (ok, Dad’s too) Summer Survival Guide

    Ah the promise that title holds. especially if you are a struggling single mom and if you are a newbie to singledom with offspring, you may have clicked on it hoping to have the magic answer to your questions and not have to reinvent the wheel of surviving while the kids are out … Continue reading

And on the Seventh Day…

…I carried on walking.

To Bilbao.

At 15.4km, this stage is by far the shortest of The Northern Way, which I had been looking forward to in order to give my body a bit of break. But it has to be said that its brevity is in direct proportion to its aesthetic appeal.

The first three of four kilometres take you out of Lezama along a B-road directly under a flight path, flanked by row after row of characterless suburban housing. Which then turns into a huge industrial estate.

The contrast from yesterday’s leg could not have been stronger: bright sunshine, lush greenery and eclectic musical backdrop were replaced by a persistent grey drizzle accompanied by the echoes of guard dogs’ barks ricocheting around the estate.

The drizzle was soon replaced by a fairly heavy downpour as industrial gave way to rural, with a steady climb out of Lezama to a height of around 250 metres through a nondescript section of woodland pathways, which in turn gave way to asphalt again as the urban sprawl of Bilbao hove into view.

As you might imagine, after a week of being treated to consistently stunning natural vistas, Bilbao came as something of a visual shock, but I’m getting the feeling that each stage of The Way is likely to hold its own idiosyncratic appeal.

Like the challenge of navigating an alien city assisted only by yellow arrows painted on the pavement. I don’t think it’s that they are necessarily less regularly placed than on other sections of the route; it’s just that you’ve got to keep your eyes peeled a little more closely – at times, this journey feels like nothing so much as one giant treasure hunt:

I’d like to be able to say that I made full use of the metropolis after seven days of bucolic retreat. But walking round the city streets strangely sapped my energy much more than climbing 1 in 10 slopes had.

First of all I went to the laundrette to sort out an increasingly pungent section of my rucksack (the challenge of ensuring a daily supply of fresh clothing given the necessity of travelling as lightly as possible soon starts to become something of an obsession).

I then did the predictable tourist stuff.

Maybe I’m a cultural philistine, but I’ve got to say I got just as much visual stimulation wandering aimlessly round the streets…

Which I think is also indicative of where the real pleasure of this journey is going to continue to be for me.

Given the choice of these two horizons…

…I know which one I’d choose.

Goodnight Bilbao.

Filed under: On The Road Tagged: Bilbao, Lezama, Photograph, Rethink Mental Illness, Walking