It has been a very remarkable year. The CRB disaster in England, which was the cause of my eventual breakout from HMP Britain, now seems a nightmare in the dim and distant past. Time flies. The pathetic £500 compensation I received from the CRB for entirely destroying the first half of this year stands as a judgment against them.
In the end, what stands out for me much more than the incompetent action of those people, and their complete disdain and disregard for my own career and integrity, has been the dozens of acts of kindness received along the way. People recognised the terrible position I had been left in, as a consequence, and they responded generously with kindness.
In the summer, here on Barbara’s farm, I finally made some recovery from the outrageous assault on my person by computer error, and the donkeys were a sign to me. They were kind animals. Their kindness is remarkable. They are gentle. They have no malice in them. I owe my current sense of optimism and a return to full enthusiasm for life to my encounter with donkeys. They are lovely people.
Last week I gave the end of term full school assembly on the day we broke up for Christmas, and it was suggested by Barbara Reed that I should make the theme “Random acts of kindness”. The day I was asked to do the final school assembly had been also the day on which I bought my second donkey. It all seemed to fit together.
On the Camino de Santiago we experience a frequency of random acts of kindness which is beyond the average occurrence of these phenomena. Regularly, as you walk to Santiago, people go out of their way to help you. I gave two examples of this as I talked to the children in my assembly, but all pilgrims have experienced this. Just now, sitting here in a freezing cold French rural landscape, I am preparing to head for the Camino Frances in Spain and begin walking across the meseta in winter. It will be quite tough. However, there will be occasional moments when people go out of their way to make my walk successful; drying my soaking wet coat, or finding me a bed for the night in a place where the pilgrim hostel is shut for the winter, or simply supplying an encouraging word or two: “Animo, peregrino! Buen Camino!”
In the film Amelie (Jeunet, 2001), the eponymous Amelie Poulain makes it her mission to perform random acts of kindness. In the end, she creates a beautiful world to live in. We can all do that.