When I got up Sunday morning I found a text message on my phone from Patrick: “What was the name of that dead guy?”
They had obviously reached Portbou by Sunday, and by the time I contacted Paddy they had also remembered that the “dead guy” was Walter Benjamin, and they had found his grave and put stones on it as a token of respect – one for me as well.
Several hours later Peter received a text message from Paddy announcing: “I just shook hands with Bobby McFerrin”. It seems that Bobby McFerrin was, in fact, the first person they met when they arrived in Barcelona, and Paddy was so impressed that he actually ran after him to talk to him and shake hands.
It was a promising beginning, but unfortunately things didn’t work out too well for them in Barcelona. Christopher called me yesterday morning, and just hearing his voice I immediately went straight through the ceiling in a blind panic. It seems his rucksack was stolen in Barcelona, when two guys involved the boys in a complicated discussion in Spanish, so that they didn’t notice the rucksack being taken until it was too late. Once I realized that no one was sick or injured and Christopher still had his passport, ticket and bank card, I calmed down a bit. Traveling without clothes, a sleeping bag, camping gear, or the guide book listing camp sites and youth hostels is inconvenient and replacement will be an additional cost that we didn’t need, but the only thing in Christopher’s rucksack that is truly irreplaceable was his notebook with all his texts for his music.
After some consultation it seems that the group decided to split up then, with Christopher and Paddy heading for England and the other three going on to Finland. When last heard from, they were all somewhere in the south of France, but Paddy and Christopher are trying to get to London. They called yesterday afternoon and asked me to book a ferry for them from Calais, where they were to arrive at 9:30 the next morning. It seemed like a reasonable plan to me, but it turned out to be not so simple …
In fact, it is not possible for a 15-year-old and a 17-year-old traveling together by themselves to cross the English Channel by ferry. Anyone under 16 must be accompanied by someone over 18. I considered lying about their ages on the reservation form, since Christopher can easily pass for 20 at least, and Patrick neither looks nor behaves like a silly little kid, but I didn’t want to risk a problem when they had to show their passports. In the end, we were able to book a cheap flight for them, where their respective ages are not a problem, but the flight was from Brussels to London, so we had to communicate to them that they would have to go to Brussels, not to Calais, otherwise they wouldn’t make it to the airport in time. Since the charger for Christopher’s phone was also in his rucksack, he hasn’t been able to charge his phone, and Paddy’s is starting to run low now too, so they both had their phones off. That was nerve-wracking, since it was too risky to book the flight without telling them, but finally Peter heard from Paddy again, so it seems they are all set now.
If all goes well, they should be in London late this afternoon with Francis, so they can finally get some sleep and a decent bath without having to worry about everything else being stolen. Then I’m sure they will soon be on their way again, as despite this setback they seem to be enjoying their trip very much.