Better Down the Road without that Load

Michael and Maxime in Villar de MazarifeMusic has been a constant fellow-traveller in my life. Last week, I wrote about the music in my head on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela, which my wife and I walked ten years ago. I did manage to make some music on the outside, too, where other people could hear it. I didn’t bring a guitar with me – I had to carry everything I had for 800 kilometres, so toting a musical instrument would have been foolhardy (but more on that later) – but some of the places we stayed in had a guitar propped against the wall. To pull it down and play was a welcome act.

The most memorable of those nights – indeed, one of our most memorable on the whole journey – was in Villar de Mazarife. We had heard about this albergue by reputation: the Albergue de Jesus sometimes offers the queimada, which is an apparently impressive flaming alcoholic communal drink experience (not this). The account we read made the place out to be a hippy party spot, and I could see how it might become such a place in the right conditions. This guy, describing the queimada at another spot on the route, is of the opinion that those conditions involve several attractive peregrinas. Perhaps he’s on to something: when we hit Villar de Mazarife, it was off-season and getting chilly, and there was nobody in sight as our hospitalero showed us to our bunk room. The room slept eight on military-style metal bunk beds with bare, unadorned mattresses, but we had it to ourselves. The albergue had dorms on four sides facing into a quad, but all was lifeless.

Not all: we went to the kitchen to prepare our dinner, and a scruffy, curly-headed, bearded Canadian guy (hey, wait a minute!) was just taking his off the hob. His name was Maxime – a francophone from St. Isidore. He ate his meal whilst we cooked, and we made small, brief conversation. He seemed very internally focused and perhaps uncertain about speaking in English. The kitchen was the only warm room in the place, though, so he hung out, plucking the guitar from the corner and strumming softly as we finished our meal. Katie did our washing up, and I gestured for Max to pass the guitar. Continue reading

Complicity

I was unfortunately and personally reminded of a trend today: the demise of the independent record shop. I’m not ignorant of what’s been happening: as an independent musician, these were the only places that would stock my albums; as a music lover with growing purchase power as I left my teens, I knew these were the places that carried the music I wanted to hear and where my dollars would go farther in support of that music; and as a moderate Nick Hornby fan, I felt a twinge of hipster duty to eschew the big retailers.

As music sales have increasingly moved online (tardily following “file sharing” or “piracy” – take yer pick), I participated cautiously. I still preferred CDs, for my own enjoyment and increasingly for the ease of my young children finding something and putting it on, and when we lived in Canada, where CDs are generally cheaper and where there was a great indy shop just around the corner, it was easy. Moving here was more of a challenge, but it coincided with studenthood and its accompanying penury and parenthood and its accompanying fuddyduddyism. Continue reading