The Fair Is Coming To Town

Tomorrow evening will see the start of feria, the annual fair to mark the feast of San Antonio de Padua, patron saint of the village. Already the bunting is festooning the streets, the engineers have strung untold metres of electricity cable around the Plaza for the use of rides and stalls, and the the various fairground rides are being assembled. One of these rides, the dodgems, always fills me with alarm; a vast array of timber props are placed across the area, each independent of the others, varying in height to take account of the slight slope of the ground, and then the bed of the track is placed on top, its weight being considered sufficient to hold everything in place, and then finally the superstructure is added. I see the cars whizzing about and cannot help thinking of the Heath Robinson structure that supports everything. Every ride, of course, has its music which must be played sufficiently loudly to drown out the music from the other rides, and each includes a monotonous, unvarying bass beat which penetrates everything, including our own double glazed windows - we live within about 200 metres of the fairground site, and the uninterrupted view that we enjoy across the village works in reverse this week to provide an unimpeded flow of incessant, insistent music. At midnight - or thereabouts - the fairground closes for the night and the music falls silent, to be replaced shortly by the equally loud, insistent and monotonous tones of the disco, where the youth of the village dances the night away until around six in the morning. On Thursday, the feast day, there will be a romería when horses will appear from everywhere around, groomed to within an inch of their lives by their proud owners who themselves are dressed in their finery; for the men, traditional striped riding trousers, frilly white shirts, bandanas and the traditional black, stiff felt hat; the women in their fiesta frocks, which non-Spaniards tend to associate with flamenco dancers. They go in procession around the village behind the effigy of the saint, borne on an ox cart, and then head for the picnic area down by the river to spend the rest of the day partying. This year, however, to much consternation, one thing will be missing - no bull run. It has been the tradition, though for how many years I cannot say, that on the Sunday of feria bulls are released at eight o’clock in the morning to run the length of Calle Real, the main street of the old village, preceded by the young (and not-so-young) men, who display their courage by challenging the bulls. This is a common feature of local ferias and I’m sure the owner of the bulls makes a good living from hiring them out, but not this year in this village; the budget will not stretch to bulls in these harsh economic times. This I view with mixed feelings. On the one hand, it is always sad to see a tradition lost, and if there is no bull run this year, will there be one next year? Or the following year? On the other hand, ‘bull run’ is something of a misnomer. One is tempted to think of Pamplona and San Fermín, where each morning of the fiesta the bulls for that day’s corrida are released from the stockyard and channelled through the streets to the bull ring. Made famous by Hemingway, this daily routine had turned into a major event with thousands of people placing themselves in the streets on the wrong side of the barricades to test their courage as half a dozen 500kg bulls, and their accompanying herd of bullocks thunder towards the bullring. The half dozen ‘bulls’ of Frigiliana couldn’t muster 500kg between them, and are infinitely more scared of the young men of the village than the latter are of them. Added to which, whereas in Pamplona the streets along the route are generously sanded, Frigiliana’s beasts must run on polished cobbles; the greatest danger anyone faces when confronting these animals, is that the beast will lose its footing and slide into them. Most of me thinks this tradition is one we could well let go of.

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