This is the beginning of the rest of my something

Today is the day it all begins. Undertrained, overweight, terrified and convinced everything will go horribly wrong. I’m off on Camino. 
I had a crazy 24 hours before setting off. I was working on Galway till 6:00 pm yesterday. I was determined to get 4 of my online jobs fully tied up before I left. It’s bad enough that I’ll still be doing two of my jobs on the road. I was also marking 12 assignments which were due in at midnight for one of my courses. It was a manic night, but I got everything I needed to get done done. I was asleep by 1:00 and up again at 5:00, cleaning the house and packing. The packing was rushed – I’m almost sure I forgot something essential. I guess I’ll find out soon. I drove to Dublin, left my car at a friend’s and made my way to the airport. 
When I checked in, I was given two boarding cards. It had been so long since I booked this that I had forgotten that I had a stopover in Madrid on my way to Pamplona. I’m writing this post on my phone on the first flight. 
Although I will get paid quite a lot this month, I’m setting off with very little money. When I’m running out of money, I generally pursue the same tactic. I buy scratchcards. An All-Cash Gold costs €2 and the maximum prize you can win is €10,000, which is an excellent return on investment. I usually have three unscratched cards in my wallet. That way, I feel like I have €30,000 to fall back on. €30,000 is my safe number. It is enough to clear my bank loan and my car loan and still have enough left over to pay back all the money I owe my friends and still buy some cool stuff just for me. I don’t scratch them because as long as they’re unscratched, I’ve won them. It’s only by scratching that I lose. They’re Schrodinger’s scratchcards. 
This morning’s scratchcards all came up blank. No €30,000. Not even a fiver. 
As I wrote two weeks ago, I had started training in earnest, going on 10-12 km walks. I’m not a good walker. It only takes a kilometre or two for my hands to begin to swell up to the point that gripping things gets difficult. 
My training came to a sudden stop in Supermacs in Longford one night. I was carrying my order out to my car when I slipped on a freshly mopped floor and came crashing down, saving the pizza box I was carrying, but not my knee, which took an almighty bang. I enjoyed my pizza with spicy beef and Italian sausage and the side of a large garlic cheese chips, but it wasn’t worth the consequences. 
The next morning, my knee was throbbing. I could barely walk. I couldn’t train that day or the next. In fact, I haven’t done any training since. 
Supermacs is dangerous. 
I got a second message from Heaven this week that I shouldn’t be eating fast food in my car. I was stopped in a row of cars at a traffic light in Athlone the other day. There were muffin crumbs all over the passenger seat. I leaned over and started brushing the crumbs off the seat with my hand. I really got into it, beating the crumbs off vigorously. I didn’t notice that I’d taken my foot off the brake. The car rolled and banged into the car in front of me. I got a bad fright, as did the woman in front of me, but both cars were fine. 
There aren’t many muffins in Spain. And there are no Supermacs at all. Fingers crossed I eat something like a normal human being for the next 39 days. 
I’ve had lots of well-wishers for my Camino. Facebook has been crowded with comments from people who are jealous, people who want to do it, people who tell me to enjoy it. 
LOL. As if. 
I’m not going to enjoy it. There isn’t a single aspect of the next 39 days I’m looking forward to. Endless walking in the heat and over a month in youth hostels is basically my idea of Hell. I’m entering into this in the spirit of someone hoping a prison sentence will rehabilitate them. I’m doing this because it’s hard. Because it’s unpleasant. 
And don’t expect glory, dear readers, don’t. I’m so unfit that I see two possible alternatives. In the first year of the blog, I “ran” the Dublin City Marathon. In fact, I didn’t. I walked. And I only made it halfway. That’s one possibility – I have to abandon this Camino because I’m just not ready. The other possibility is that it will be like the 8K race I ran in the third year of this blog. I had been running for three months at that stage, but I didn’t breeze through it. I did my slow hoppity run, turned strawberry red less than a minute into the race and was overtaken by walkers and the disabled participants. I finished last, while a friend of mine desperately tried to convince the race officials not to dismantle the finishing line until I’d crossed it. So that’s the second alternative – that this Camino will be a success, but a bloody, painful, snail’s pace, unglamorous success. I’m hoping for the latter. I’m not hoping for enjoyment. I’ll leave that to the outdoorsy types. 
I’m dreading the outdoorsy types. I’m dreading the compulsory fun of someone in a hostel getting out their guitar and everyone having to listen. I’m dreading the religious types. I’m dreading sleeping in hostel rooms with lots of other people for a whole month. I don’t know how I’ll manage showering and going to the toilet in shared spaces, considering how difficult both of these have become for me in the last few months as I’ve gained more weight. And how on earth will I put sun cream on my legs and feet when I can’t even dry my legs properly after a shower and I just let them drip off? 
I’m dreading the physical toll that walking will take out of me. Hot weather exhausts me anyway, so walking in hot weather will probably kill me. I’m not looking forward to the locals I’ll meet either. In my experience, political correctness never made it to Spain. I’ve been an oral examiner for English exams for 8 years and in my experience, when you show a Spanish student a picture and ask them to tell you about it, they will say “Here is a black man and a white woman” or “Here are Chinese people”. If you show the same picture to a Korean or Swiss student, they will say “Here are some people eating” or “These people are swimming”. They might eventually mention race, but not straight off the bat, like a Spaniard. And when I was teaching in Dublin, a colleague of mine gave me a letter from a student. She had been doing a writing class with a group of adults and they had all written letters to a “friend” for practice. One Spanish student wrote to me. The letter started “Dear Fatty”. The teacher was silly to translate “Gordito” for the student and sillier still to give the letter to me. She explained to me in front of everyone that it was OK he called me “Fatty” in his letter because that’s funny in Spain. I still remember the whole staff room swimming in front of my eyes. I felt so humiliated. I had taught that student for weeks. He didn’t think of me as Connor. He thought of me as Fatty. And obviously, my colleague didn’t think that was a big deal. 
Anyway, the point is that I know Spanish people are not as politically correct as Irish people and I keep having these memories of Vietnam and walking through the streets and having people imitate me and mime having a big belly and poking me and laughing at me. I know the Spanish aren’t as bad as that, but I’m still kind of scared of them. 
So this is madness. There is no logic to me doing this. On any sensible assessment, I will probably fail horribly, but I have hope. And this madness is my kind of madness. And even though I don’t think I’ll enjoy myself, I kind of hope I’ll relish the displeasure. I hope this venture will, as TV reviewers say, breathe new life into the Project Connor franchise. It’s got a bit dusty since I moved to my little Longford village. My renaissance is coming. Prepare yourselves. 

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