Naomi McCarthy

artist, writer, animateur

Life in a drawing. Dare courtesy of Lloyd Niccol

Lloyd Niccol's dare - put away technology and complete a drawing every two hours.

I loved this dare, it made me step outside my 'everyday' attitude and pay attention to my surroundings . It also made me realise I am a little rusty in the drawing department. Drawing is just like any other discipline, continually using your skills keeps them well oiled and ready to be deployed, letting them sit on a shelf risks atrophy setting in. The great thing is with practice, latent skills can be revived. And just like walking an eight hundred kilometre pilgrimage - the secret is - get up everyday and focus on the thing that you want to progress, the thing that is of value to you. This may indeed be my absolute 'take home' lesson from the camino.

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Two dares in one. Courtesy of Kate Mitchell and Nick Earle

Kate Mitchell dare - Tell some one you care about then and really say what you mean
Nick Earle's dare - sing a whole verse of a favourite song in a market or on a train

I did these two dares by singing 'You're just too good to be true,' to my husband whilst travelling on the overground train from Kings Cross Station to Hitchin.

Eat a food you have never tried before. Dare courtesy of Kendal Murray

Well, I did this dare almost accidentally when I asked for an empanada, (Spanish Pie) at a lovely little deli in Santiago. The delicatessen, spoke to me in Spanish and when I answered "no able Espanol," he said, "oh English," in a very strong London accent, which surprised me and I laughed and replied with, "Oh great, I can speak to you," and he replied again in that surprising Londoner's accent, "Of course you can." Well a conversation blossomed from those few words and I discovered I was about to eat cod and raisin pie, a dish I had never tried which he told me was his mother's favourite. it was indeed delicious and I went back to tell him how much I enjoyed it and he taught me in how to say....I like the cod and raisin pie very much in Spanish,

"Me gusta la empanada de bacalao con pasas"

and indeed I do. When I left Santiago to get a plane to Heathrow in London I went back to say good bye and the delicatessen's mum pressed on me several pieces of fruit for the journey. How quickly new friendships are formed and sharing someone's favourite food is a great kick start to a relationship, a little like laughter being the shortest pathway between two people, enjoying shared food is a short cut to community and friendship. A lovely reminder of these two truisms. 


Sign like a wiggle. Double dare courtesy of Shaun Tan

Feeling a bit dull and flat this morning I set out into Santiago to do some 'housekeeping' before flying to London tomorrow. I was starting to feel a little weepy, so pulled out Shaun Tan's dare and gave the wiggles sign to a passing stranger. He baulked, raised his eyebrows, broke step for a split second and gaze me a quizzical look. His obvious surprise tickled my fancy as I could see him trying to work out what I was intending with my wiggle hand action. Wiggles are mega-popular children's entertainers in Australia, I'm not sure if they are popular in Spain, but by my stranger's reaction he sure didn't recognised the hand signal. Just after the Wiggles incident, I bumped into Rory, a fellow pilgrim heading out to walk to Finesterre and his easy laugh when I recounted the story was like a tonic for my melancholy soul. Thanks Shaun Tan for one more whimsical dare that brought lightness to a cloudy day. 

Order a coffee using sounds... Dare courtesy of Shaun Tan

Shaun Tan Dare - order a coffee,a double shot latte without using words, use sound effects instead.

My whole camino has been a series of commercial exchanges that rely on body language, pointing, miming, making animal noises to get beef rather than pig. The first half of the camino I only ate what I could point to, after two weeks eating the same 'visible foods' I learnt to ask for fried eggs and chips and if you've ever seen the movie Shirley Valentine, you'll know why I felt like an English tourist. However, ordering the latte using only sound effects proved beyond me. Double dare coming up. 

Write a short story about being a witness to a crime. Dare from Kendal Murray

An overheard conversation, in a gallery in Santiago de Compostela

The first time I killed someone I was fifteen. I wanted her money so I slashed her with a knife. I slashed her belly and her back fifty times. I'm good at killing people. If someone wants to become a professional killer, I can teach them but I test them first. It's important to test them, if they don't kill, then I kill them. I've been in jail six times, I never say who hired me to kill people, it's part of my loyalty to take the blame. It's not easy, but it's not hard to kill someone once you have a gun in your hand. Sometimes I work for the government, they want someone to disappear and we make that happen. We tell the police to clear a space, maybe ten minutes, maybe a couple of hours, then we do it, in that space. I'm a professional. There's a lot of research we have to do, it's not emotional, you research the person, make a plan and then you kill them, that's it, it's your job. I've become hard, I can only love my woman, my child and my mother. I can't care about anyone else, it's kill until you get killed. I got into this because my father never gave me any attention, he was always spending time with my cousins. But now I am head of my gang, I'm respected. Maybe I will retire one day, but for now this is how I make money. It's hard where I live to make money, the economic situation is hard. I'm skilled at killing, it's my profession. Once I got fifteen thousand quetzals to kill someone, they were important, that was good money. I don't always get that much, it depends on who the person is and how hard it will be. I have no limits, I will do anything that you pay me to do. That's it. 

Share something from your childhood. Truth courtesy of Rita Golden Gelman

Rita Golden Gelman truth - share something from your childhood you've never told anyone.

There is nothing in my childhood that I have been able to keep to myself. I am a talker, and I can't help it, I love talking about myself. I am endlessly fascinated by almost every facet of my emotional life and have had to develop some discipline so as to control my natural urge to indiscriminately over-share. I understand the impetus that makes stand-up comedians ruthlessly mine their own life for comic material. Making people laugh is very seductive, and if I can make people laugh while talking about my own life then I am happy. I am also very happy laughing at myself, which I enjoy doing so much, it makes me look a little unhinged at times - I like that about me. 

Wear a third eye for the day. Dare courtesy of Shaun Tan

Shaun tan's dare
Wear a third eye drawn on your forehead for a day.

After several attempts to find a eyeliner in order to draw myself a third eye, I gave up the hunt for a make-up pencil on the camino and accepted Ruth's offer to draw a third eye for me in biro. We had found a reprieve from the heat in a bar with a divine courtyard with dappled shade which made me think of Gerard Manly Hopkins poem, Pied Beauty, and in particular the line, 'Glory be to God for dappled things'. Ruth drew an eye including a detailed iris, working in difficult circumstances, with a tool not suited to the job and a forehead that was hot and slippery with a film of sunblock. I wore my third eye for a day and don't think it brought me any closer to enlightenment but it brought me closer to Ruth and that was a lovely moment on my camino. See photos on Dlions Instagram. 


Contact:  Shirley.dandelionprojects@gmailcom