Last year, Jennifer and I went to a Sydney Camino dinner.
We don’t normally go to these dinners – in part because we’ve found them to be very clique-y; and by that I mean that groups quickly form, and then you’re not made to feel welcome into that group.
Some people can become very proprietorial about the Camino. Very possessive. They don’t like to share it. It becomes their very reason for being, and so they hold it close.
Too close, sometimes, I believe.
Jennifer and I go to those dinners principally to hang out with Britta and Jenny and Janet, who are like those fairies you see in the old Disney movies, that fly into a dark room and light it up with their magic energy.
Anyway, at this one particular dinner Jennifer and I sat opposite a couple who had driven down from the Blue Mountains. Two hours. They were hoping to walk the Camino soon, and wanted some information from the dinner meeting.
But they found that no-one would talk to them.
They were ignored.
There was no way for them to find out anything about the Camino.
They later told me they felt like getting up, walking out, and driving back to the mountains.
Jennifer and I had come late and we sat down opposite them, and we asked them questions, and they asked us questions, and we ended up having a good old chin wag.
We discovered they both had major medical disorders which would make the Camino difficult for them – the man had a sleeping disorder which would require him carrying a three kg machine to help him breathe at night.
His wife had major issues with both knees, which would require surgery.
At the time I admired their resolve and determination, and wondered if they would ever go through with it. I suspected they would, because they had the bug bad. (The Camino bug that gets into your bloodstream and can’t be cured until you walk the Camino.)
We kept in touch, and via email, we became friends.
His name is Tony Jacques, and his wife is Ce.
They walked the Camino, and averaged about 20kms a day. It was a remarkable feat.
Next I heard that Tony was setting up a Camino group dinner at Blackheath, in the Blue Mountains, and he asked if Jen and I would like to come.
It was to be held at Glenella, a very famous guesthouse / restaurant, which Jennifer and I knew from the 80s, when it was owned by Michael Manners, and was regarded as one of the state’s finest restaurants.
The dinner was last week. $25 a head for a pilgrim meal, which included warm tortilla, grilled chicken on skewers, salad, and home made ice-cream, fruit, and home made meringues. Wine was included.
It was a delicious meal.
Glenella is now owned by a couple that recently cycled the Camino – Rowan and Margaret Boutell. They said it was the Camino that brought them to Glenella. Along with Tony and Ce, they are now keen to make these dinners a regular event.
Certainly the evening was a wild success. There must have been about 50 people – and unlike the Sydney dinner, you walked in and were immediately met with conviviality, and made welcome.
During the dinner there were three speakers who gave information about the Camino to those who were thinking of walking – quite a few at that dinner it seemed were either thinking of, or planning to, walk the Camino.
Tony also very generously plugged my books –
Towards the end of the dinner, he got up and did a Powerpoint presentation which gave a lot of information about the Camino, and what to expect. He spoke with humility, grace, and engagement.
And then over dessert everyone got up and mixed, and chatted, swapped stories, and got to know one another. I have to say it was the antithesis of the Sydney dinners we’d been to, which have been cold and aloof and uninformative.
Since that dinner, in follow up emails, Tony tells me they have plans to not only continue the dinners monthly, but to expand to other towns in the Blue Mountains / Central West area. And possibly hold film evenings, showing a Camino movie.
(Anyone from Mudgee or surrounding district that would want to have a dinner in Mudgee, let me know and I’ll help organise it – firstname.lastname@example.org )
What I find amazing about this is: the level of interest in the Camino, for so many people in the Blue Mountains area to come out on a winter’s night as they did –
And, the commitment of Tony and Ce – and Rowan and Margaret – to organise such an event.
They must love the Camino…
I think you made a slight error above. You said “The Camino bug that gets into your bloodstream and can’t be cured until you walk the Camino” I don’t think there is a cure for the Camino bug. Everyone I know (yourself included) that has walked the Camino wans more and more Caminos. It’s a virus that just takes over. Seems it has done that to your new friends as well.
Hugs to you and Jen
haha – you’re right Lynda. It’s like malaria – you never get rid of it!
LikeLiked by 1 person
But so much more enjoyable than malaria Bill and thank goodness of that or we would never go back!!
LikeLiked by 1 person
Hey Bill and Jennifer, Glad you posted this blog. I was concerned that you had decided to give this the flick as well as the other social media that decided to delete. Your blog is always interesting reading/viewing and funny (sometimes). I have just returned from my second stint at Arlparra. We shared a house with a charming couple (Anne and Michel) from Melbourne. We solved many problems of the world, had a laugh and confided in each other. It was a great time. We shared a meal with Cowboy and Jack Club (an elder) recently moved opposite to were we were staying and all was going well until Gerry (my husband) decided to go and meet the neighbours (Jack and Maude) and one not so friendly dog decided to have a bite of Gerry’s leg. He was fine only a flesh wound as John Cleese would say[?]. Hope all the planning is going well for your next adventure to India. Moyna
On Sun, Jun 7, 2015 at 12:35 PM, PGS – The Way wrote:
> Bill Bennett posted: “Last year, Jennifer and I went to a Sydney > Camino dinner. We don’t normally go to these dinners – in part > because we’ve found them to be very clique-y; and by that I mean that > groups quickly form, and then you’re not made to feel welcome into that > grou”
Hey Moyna, great to hear from you! That’s a scary story about that dog. When we filmed with Cowboy I walked amongst those dogs with bravado, although some did look like Cujo! I’d love to come back up there again. I believe Michael has sold out of Mudgee and gone elsewhere. I hope his plans for that Cultural,Centre come to fruition soon. It’s a very special place, Utopia.
Hi Bill –
I was so sorry and sad to read of Tony and Ce’s experience, and of your and Jen’s experience, at our pilgrim group lunch and dinner meetings. I’ve been going to the meetings since August 2012 and from the first moment I have only ever experienced warmth, friendliness and a real sense of community from everyone who is there.
Julie and Sandra work so hard to make sure that new pilgrims are seated with returning pilgrims after Julie does her presentation and Q&A session for the new pilgrims. When we sit down for the meal we’re split up so there’s a mix of new and returning pilgrims at the tables so we can all ask for and receive information, share stories etc. The arrangement works well and people do move around after the meal part is finished.
It was great to see Tony and Ce at the meeting on Saturday and I hope that they had a good time talking with other members of the group. BTW – Tony was wearing his Fisterra t-shirt on Saturday, as he was in your photo. When we all left the bar to go into lunch I commented on how cool it was! It’s a terrific t-shirt!
I hope if you and Jen come to a meeting again that you have a different experience – the meetings and the friendships I’ve made with people from the group – is something I treasure. I thank everyone in the group for this – particularly Julie and Sandra – who have made it all happen.
LikeLiked by 2 people
Hi Jenny – I’m pleased to hear that’s been your experience.
Perhaps Jen and I just came on those few occasions when things were a bit different.
LikeLiked by 1 person