‘For central London take the rail replacement bus service from Acton Town station’ is the announcement that comes over the public address system.
My first thought is that my Underground journey home to north London from Heathrow is now going to take longer than my return flight from Spain.
In an instant, I decide to turn around and follow David, a returning Discover The Camino client, as he heads towards the Paddington Express. Despite all my passings through Heathrow, I have never before taken this ‘BIG’, and significantly faster train, into town.
A journey time of 15 minutes versus the customary 50 minutes. Could I so soon have lost my pilgrim virtues of patience, going with the flow and letting things just be?’
It seems so. I rush to catch David up. We had parted only 5 minutes previously; shaking hands and acknowledging the end of a great few days of walking along the Camino. And it hadn’t been without adventure either; railway engineering works exactly one week previously had conspired to ensure David missed his flight out from Stansted airport.
‘Your Camino has begun already, David’ I say to him when he explained to me the situation over the phone as I waited for his arrival in the check-in line at Stansted airport.
We agree to next meet in a village on the Camino.
It is not a village, but a small town; Puente La Reina. I am inside a dark tunnel like bar, standing up at the far end looking out towards the natural light streaming in from the street. Suddenly, I see David stride pass the bar’s entrance with his red rucksack on his back, and as he passes, he decides to look into the bar. The reconnection is made.
As I reach the Paddington Express platform, I seek out David’s red rucksack. A tall man stands at the other end of the platform carrying such an item. I walk towards him. He may be tall and he certainly has a red rucksack, but he isn’t David who has caught the earlier train.
Always one to people watch, I gaze around the platform. To my left is a young French-speaking couple with a London Underground tube map in hand. They are staring at the map fixedly while they give instructions to an American lady who is sitting next to them on one of those ever so uncomfortable platform benches.
‘You change, we think, here’ one of the kind helpers says.
‘Wherever the American lady was going, I am pretty sure she’s not going to get there’ is the thought passing through my mind.
The Paddington Express train pulls into the station. The American lady is by my side as we board the train at the same set of doors.
‘I overheard those directions; are you OK with the way to go?’ I ask her.
‘Not really. I need to get to Southwark which is where I am staying. I have a ticket for the Globe Theatre for tonight. I have always wanted to go and the performance starts in 2 hours’ time’, she tells me.
We board the train, sit down and I explain the necessary route changes to get to Southwark Underground station.
‘What do you do?’ she asks me.
‘I work with individuals who are actively seeking a greater meaning and purpose to their life. What I do is that I coach my clients whilst walking along Spain’s ancient pilgrimage road called the Camino de Santiago. It is the perfect environment to receive quality time and space to reflect upon what’s wanted for the future. I am returning from a trip right now’, I reply.
‘No way’, she exclaims. ‘On my flight from Italy just now, I read in the airline magazine all about the ‘Camino de Santiago’. I’ve decided that I would walk the whole route next year, in May 2014. And now I have met you. This is a real coincidence, isn’t it’ she adds.
‘Yes, it is’, I say, knowing full well that it’s the famous ‘Call to the Camino’ in action.
‘If you wish, I am happy to show you the way to your hotel; I have the time and I always think I’m still on the Camino until the moment I finally get home.’
‘Thank you, that is very kind of you’ says the lady gratefully. ‘What’s your name?’
‘I’m Tina and I am going walk the Camino with you next year.’
And so it comes to pass.