Thursday, July 9, 2009
I CAN'T begin to describe how San Fermin got under my skin – it just did. The first time I remember getting hooked was nine years ago, while we were in the middle of a building frenzy on the house, although I’m sure I watched it before then, on and off. But for the last nine years, I’ve only ever missed watching the running of the bulls through Pamplona’s historic streets at the beginning of the July, if I’ve been ill.
From July 7 at 8am for half an hour each morning, until July 14, I’m just not there for anyone. The Hockey Star used to watch it with me, but since he’s become a fully fledged teenager, it gets in the way of his sleeping through ‘til lunchtime. In any case, he was always very censorious of me, because I ooh and aah (as you do) if someone gets tossed by a bull or if a mound of men pile up in front of the oncoming horns. And he can’t stand the fact that I sing the chant to the Virgen along with the runners before the race starts. Just a party pooper – no fun. Minimama has never professed any interest but it could have something to do with the date coinciding with the beginning of the school summer holidays.
So today was the third encierro so far this year – and luckily no one has been gored yet, though a few have been carted off to hospital with concussion, contusions and a couple of lads have had a close encounter with a horn, which has punctured their flesh, but no proper goring. It’s a risky business. At least 14 people have been killed over the decades.
I’m dead against bullfighting, and I know that the horned beasts that run the streets will turn up in Pamplona’s bullring in the afternoon, but I am fascinated by the encierro. If I was young and in Pamplona I’d have to have a go – but I’m middle-aged and my running’s not up to scratch so if I ever get to be there for the fiestas – I’ll be content to get a spot to watch them rush by.
If you’d like to learn more there are countless sites on internet – just google San Fermin or take a look at this pretty basic web - http://www.navarra.com/english/sanfermin/index.htm
Or better still - check out the Spanish TV site - http://www.rtve.es/noticias/sanfermines/2009/even though it's not in English you can see photos - click on the fotografías tab at the top or videos. There is also a section on how not to be a guiri (foreigner). They're notorious for behaving badly.