Thursday, 7 July 2011

155. San Fermin - Hemingway's legacy..

7th July 2011. In Pamplona, down in the Spanish Basque country, it's San Fermin time again!! ("What..?") Yes, it's that time of the year when thousands of normally sane chartered accountants and other unlikely heroes from all over the world head towards Pamplona, just across the border in the Spanish Basque country to prove that their manliness extends beyond a remarkable ability to crush a paper cup or to flick a rubber band at the lovely Miss Rochester in Overdue Accounts (Unpaid). They try and achieve all this by running through the streets of Pamplona with their butt cheeks pressed hard together - a laudable feat in itself! - closely followed by several tons of prime beef - in the form of half a dozen Spanish fighting bulls - that just happen to be moving at the gallop a few steps behind and that are just itching to slip a stray and extremely sharp horn into the nearest pair of trousers they can find.. or to stomp on anything that moves within range.

This guy never expected to sing soprano again.. (let alone being able to hold high C for over 10 seconds!)

This one below doesn't look good.. he's a definite candidate for the "You can run but you can't hide" competition. He's got about ½ second to decide what his options are.. and he's dropped his rolled-up newspaper.. Meanwhile the bulls look like they've been practising this move all winter!

I don't know about you but I'd say that this is about as up close and personal as you'd ever want to be to a fighting bull. I think our man here would agree as well that tapping the bull on the nose with that rolled-up newspaper was not the best idea he ever had! (and hey! I thought LL Bean said their T shirts were rugged!)

Hemingway (in the white trousers)
Hemingway put the Fête de San Fermin on the world map of the imagination with his stunning first novel The Sun Also Rises (published as Fiesta in the UK). Based on a trip he'd recently made to the fiesta at Pamplona in 1926 with a group of Anglo-American friends, it can't be bettered as an introduction to Hemingway's oeuvre. Even though the young bull (right) has its horns padded, it would take considerable courage (and perhaps a drink or three) to persuade anyone with an ounce of self-preservation to step in front of one as Hemingway did here. Yes, he can be criticised but before you do - first try and persuade your legs to jump over the barrier into that ring.. Not so easy now is it?
Another novel down the tubes! I'll definitely start writing tomorrow..
This is what I like to see - a porky guy who suddenly discovers that - hell yes! - a sub-10 second 100 metre dash is well within his capabilities! Who are you calling fatso!
I reckon releasing a fighting bull behind the sprinters should be allowed as an experiment at the London Olympics next year.. Think we'd see the first 8 second 100 metres!

This clip will give you a taster of the madness that descends upon the town for about 5 days.
9th July 2011. A very rewarding row this morning.. in a wooden shell coxless IV. The boat was going so well we carried on as far as Villefranque without anyone asking when we were going to stop and turn around (always a good sign). Did 18km (Running total: 856km).

12th July 2011. Thinking about Hemingway while having a shave this morning, it struck me that, perhaps in order to avoid his writing impulse being desensitised by the prosaic nature of everyday life, he'd sought to experience strong sensations as often as he could. There has often been a suggestion made that he had a death wish - one that he consistently denied - but I think that the process of getting close to many of these sensations was inherently risky. He attended a number of wars, went big game hunting, drank copiously all his life, was serious about catching big sporting fish, was an aficionado of bull fighting, he enjoyed multiple marriages (but did they enjoy him?) and travelled widely. I imagine that an adventure loving lad like our man would have felt confined in the leafy suburbs of Oak Park, Illinois. Now I don't know if this is an original observation about his need for sensation - but it's the first time I've thought of it! I think today he'd be described as an adrenalin junkie..

13th July 2011. Sometime in the wee small hours we had another "the house is going through a car-wash" moment.. There was a white flash and a rumble of thunder - closely followed by the pooch jumping up on the bed (any excuse!) - and then the hiss of rain that in a few seconds turned into a steady roar for a good few minutes.

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