Sunday, 22 July 2007

Culture, Spanish Style

probably not stuck for a date on a Saturday night.....
(right click to save-LMM)


At some point in my life I have boycotted/try to save everything. I have marched to save Wales, sorry I mean The Whales. I have signed umpteen petitions to state my unhappiness at water charges, various wars, the destruction of landmarks and so on. I have sported badges to show support for down trodden tribes from Larne to Lesotho. I have championed the cause of arse holes and animals alike. Whether it was puppies with lipstick or hens in cages I was either for or against it depending were the "man" stood. If "he" was for it I was against it. Good grief I was even a vegetarian for a couple of years. That was a difficult period for my carnivorous father, prompting him to ask my sister if I was gay. I was all gothed up at the time as well so you can understand I suppose.


happy days...

So when it was first mooted that we might attend The Plaza de Toros to watch a bullfight my first reaction was "Not a fucking chance...". But within seconds I had changed my mind and was eager to revel in some hardcore blood sport action. But man was I conflicted. I thought that it was wrong to support a ban on fox hunting with doggies and at the same time go to a bullfight. I thought that it was utter hypocrisy to worry about the conditions of farm raised animals and at the same time pay good money to watch one being speared and tortured for a bit of craic. Then I realised it was culture! Thank fuck for culture, you can get away with any old nonsense as long as you can claim you have been at it for a long time and that it is vital for your peoples survival. So with my guilt some what assuaged, if not my impending illness (did I tell you I got sick?), I escorted my Little Miss Manuel to the romantic sounding Plaza de Toros. (If you find blood and gore romantic...)

The building itself is magnificent. Located on the banks of the Guadalquivir river it is regarded as Spain's finest centre for bull fighting. It was started in 1762 but not finished until 1881. It holds 14,000 punters and was immortalised in the opera Carmen. But all this was lost on me as all I could think about was Monty Python's "The Life of Brian".

"Larks' tongues. Otters' noses. Ocelot spleens...." and so on. Well it's that sort of theatre...

We had the "turista del idiota con demasiado dinero" seats. Culture has a price, $60 apparently. Which meant front row. So close you smell the bull pee. Actually our seats were fucking mint. The matadors waiting area was right in front of where we were seated, so you could smell their pee too.

The arena swirled with the sounds of tourists and locals chatting excitedly about the upcoming event. There were families of local Sevillians gathering all round us but not in the same row as us. What did they know that we didn't? The evening sun was setting and the arena was getting darker and moodier, the tension was rising. Flashes of bright white light from hundreds of cameras sparkled all over the auditorium. LMM gabbled away about "the dress on yer woman" and "did you see a toilet anywhere?" and "I think I know him" and other such babbling.

Then, with a fan fare from the band, the Matadors were lead into the ring. They bowed at the dignitaries and waved to the crowd who cheered and blew kisses. God the life of a Matador must be a rough one what with all the available sex and interesting stories. The Mickey Mouse ears hats made me laugh all the same. It was at this point we discovered that we had the world's largest bullfighting fan behind us. She had all the required gear including soft sponge to keep her huge ass comfortable. She even had pictures of the Matador to get autographs. If she wasn't yelling out "OLE" at the top of her voice she was stuffing sandwiches into her huge mouth. More that a few times she tried to do both at the same time. I had to use my hat to cover me from the rain of sandwiches jamón and spit!

The Matadors just below us were going through their pre rumble routines which seemed to include a lot of blessing themselves and patting each other on the back. There were flashes of swords which prompted LMM to ask what they were for. It was at this point that I realised LMM hadn't quite grasped what we were about to see. I think she was expecting some sort of Riverdance for cows and that the star turns would be relaxing with a nice bale of hay in an hour or two. Crikey was she in for a shock....

Then after more trumpeting from the band we were up and away. The bull came flying into the ring like he had been promised some hot bull on cow action. Which is probably why he was so pissed off only to find 3 lads in, and some one has to say it, very effeminate outfits. If you have never been to a bull fight here's what happens (with thanks to wikipedia):

Tercio de varas ("the third of lancing"), the matador first confronts the bull and observes his behavior in an initial section called suerte de capote. Next, two/three picadores enter the arena each armed with a lance or varas. The picador stabs a mound of muscle on the bull's neck, which lowers its blood pressure, so that the enraged bull does not have a heart attack. The bull's charging and trying to lift the picadors with its neck muscles also weakens its massive neck and muscles.

In the next stage, the tercio de banderillas ("the third of banderillas"), the three banderilleros each attempt to plant two barbed sticks (called banderillas) on the bull's flanks. These further weaken the enormous ridges of neck and shoulder muscle through loss of blood, while also frequently spurring the bull into making more ferocious charges.

In the final stage, the tercio de muerte ("the third of death"), the matador re-enters the ring alone with a small red cape (muleta) and a sword. He uses his cape to attract the bull in a series of passes, both demonstrating his control over it and risking his life by getting especially close to it. This is when you can expect large Spanish ladies to shout "OLE" and cover you in spit and ham sandwiches. The faena ("work") is the entire performance with the muleta, which is usually broken down into a series of "tandas" or "series". The faena ends with a final series of passes in which the matador with a muleta attempts to manoeuvre the bull into a position to stab it between the shoulder blades and through the aorta or heart. The act of thrusting the sword is called an estocada.

Now the first bull to be killed happened right in front of us. LMM nearly ripped the skin of my arm as she clung on to me. The bull, and you wont see this in any holiday brochures, stopped dead in it's tracks, coughed up a bit of blood, pee'd itself, then coughed up a whole lot more blood then keeled over. Nice. Fuck me with a ham sandwich that was rough.

there used too be a bull there, used to be....

And on it goes. The Matador was cheered as he took his victory lap. Flowers were thrown to him along with fans, and match day programmes. He must have been okay for fans as he kissed them and threw them back. And that ladies and gentlemen is bullfighting. I did cheer into myself when a couple of the bulls decided not to follow the script and have a bloody good go at their persecutors. One chap end up in an ambulance after a particularly nasty goring and another ended up covered in blood and shame as he made an absolute mess of the whole thing. The bull knocked him flying a couple of times but God bless him he kept coming back for more. The other Matadors were none to impressed though. He took a bloody, very bloody, age to kill the beast and it was bordering on cruelty and torture by the end. There was no lap of honour for this guy. He was sent from the "dug out' after his fight.

Matadors are indeed very brave, as witnessed by the guy who wouldn't give up and the one that ended up in hospital. But the funniest part of the night, true there weren't very many laughs, came at the start when a large dragonfly landed on one of the Matadors in front of us. There was near panic in the paddock as they tried to "save" their friend from this most deadly of beasties.

"Get it off, get it off, get it off...OH MY GOD!....Did you see the size of that?...Anyone got a Fresca, I need a hit after that?"

Matadors? HA! Wouldn't go again though. Culture eh?

That's enough about my holiday for the time being. Back to work today. Jesus I want to cry......

17 People trying to get Manuel's attention:

Medbh said...

I couldn't stomach that, Manuel, but fair play to you and LMM for being brave enough to go.
I'm a wimp and can't stand to see an animal harmed.
Kate O'Brien has a wonderful novel "Mary Lavelle," about a young Irish woman who goes to Spain to work as a nanny. She meets a group of similar Irish women there and one of them takes her to a bullfight. It's a brilliant scene where her friend talks about it as an elemental drama.

ellie said...

I had trouble reading that without wincing so there would be no chance of me watching it for real. But thenI am the person who cried at a dolpin show because of the cruelty of keeping them in captivity!
Gammon fo dinner today ..Ole!!!!

Ms Robinson said...

I was not brave enough to go in Valencia, but I loved that description.And I think we have to just accept cultural traditions: you know like people accept that the English like to drink and vomit.

savannah said...

we went to the bullfights in madrid...mad impressive sight...first the architecture and then the actual event...we didnt sit as close as ya'll, but right above that tier. our 1 touristy thing - my son had one of those bullfighting posters made up with his dad's name on it!

condolences on the holiday ending and the dreaded "w" word beginning, sugar~

Manuel said...

11,000+ hits wohooooo. Can that be translated into cash or man inches? Proper replies to follow....

Fat Sparrow said...

You have missed your true calling, Manuel; you need to be a writer. I was laughing so hard that the sprog came over and asked "What's funny, Mama?" not that I was going to explain it to a 3-and-a-half year old, mind you.

And if that drangonfly was anything like the size of the one over at Conan Drumm's, I can see why they freaked. I'd rather face a bull than a bug, any day of the week.

Although facing that bull seems like a lot of work to go to for a steak.

Conortje said...

Well that saves me from ever having to go to one :-)
Ever consider quiting waiting and becoming a travel writer?

big gay al said...

"Riverdance for cows" priceless.
Oh how i chortled!

Old Knudsen said...

Someone has to teach those bloody bulls.

Manuel said...

Medbh: I was conflicted all day about if I should go or not. But I'm glad I did go, but never again...

ellie: poor flipper. MMMMMMMMMMMM gammon.

Ms Robinson: So very true

Savannah: the building itself was very impressive what with it's white washed walls, ochre finishing, and blood red barrier. As for work I only had to do 5 hours and I have wine tasting today, so it ain't all that bad...

Fat Sparrow: Stop it, I'll start believing you

Conortje: You offering? Cos yeah, yeah I would....

BGA: You like that eh? Stay tuned more to follow...

Old Knudsen: Tis true, or at least arm them.

I'm off, there's a rabbit and a dog squaring up to each other at then end of the street, got a fiver on the dog...

Lord Milky said...

Manuel, I'm just catching up whilst I am away. If you have some more travel stories, put 'em up. You've kept me entertained on my lunch break!

Manuel said...

Lord Milky: Just scroll down, either that or you will have to wait 'til next years summer jolly's

fatmammycat said...

Terrific. That save me from going this week. Gawd lurve ya Soir!

Manuel said...

FMC:I'm like a public service....You have fun...

finn said...

11K hits can be translated into Apple credits, or so i hear. with that bucket of credits, and roughly 500 USD you can buy yourself one of those new-fangled phones, whatever they're called.

I wonder if your ham-spitting woman was related to the shrieker who sat next to FMC at the il divo show...

Manuel said...

Finn: I'm quoting you on that when the phone gets here....

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