Stamp This Out!

Spain postcard

Even in our highly digitalized age, many holiday-makers enjoy sending postcards back home.

Whether it´s to brag, to inform of one´s whereabouts or to genuinely share picturesque places with family and friends, thousands queue up in tourist souvenir shops to buy clutches of pretty pictures – often bearing little resemblance to real surroundings.

Once written in a plethora of platitudes, the postcards require stamps. In Spain, that means a trip for sellos to one of two options:

Correos

Correos

 Correos (the Post Office)

Tabacos

Tabacos

 Estanco (tobacconist´s)

Neither option is particularly thrilling as there are usually long queues in both.

Enter an enterprising bunch called Easy Post. Since 2011, they have been claiming to take the strain out of the postcard process by selling you stamps right there in the souvenir shop.

Pop them on, plop the postcards in the red postbox and head back to the beach, secure in the knowledge that Easy Post will deliver them to their destinations.

 

Don´t waste your money on these.

These stamps display no monetary value and vary in price.

 

Except they won´t.  Or at the very least, might not.

The tourist establishment owner is supposed to pass your postcards on to the Easy Post Representative but some do so infrequently and your cards take months to get to their intended recipients.

Other proprieters fail to pass on the postcards at all and consequently they never arrive. This problem is apparently particularly acute in the Canary Islands where the attitude appears to be who cares about your stupid postcards?  Tourists come for a short period then leave, so there´s little risk of a comeback.

Incredibly, Easy Post is a legally established company, although it has been fined thousands of euros by the Spanish courts for activities bordering on scams.  They don´t even belong to the Universal Postal Union which regulates the conditions in which mail is sent worldwide.

So the next time you want to send a postcard of Granada´s Moorish Palace of the Alhambra, a flamenco dancer in full bata de cola or the panoramic Playa de la Concha in San Sebastián, use the Spanish Post Office and the estancos and help stamp this swindle out.

 zapatos-flamenco

Gone To Pot

Medical cannabisI´m a bit of a sporadic blogger. All that pressure of a post a week has always been too much for me.

Lately, though, this blog really has gone to pot. There´s a plethora of reasons for this …

… I lie.  There´s only one: the disconnect between my brother, who has a glioblastoma brain tumour, and a substance called THC.

Tetrahydrocannabinol.

For some background info on this, see a previous post here.

Anyway, tetrahydrocannabinol´s name should be changed to tetrahydro-cannot-at-all, since this substance, found in marihuana, or as it´s commonly called in Spain, maría, is as elusive to the brain cancer patient as, well, life. Over fifteen months, my brother has had the standard, costly treatment of surgery, radiotherapy and chemotherapy – cut, burn and poison as  its detractors call it – but the tumour is now growing unchecked and chemotherapy has destroyed his body. He´s been “given” six months to live by his doctors.

Friends and family have been a great help.  Most have lent support in the form of lifts to and from hospital, coffees and drinks (when he got ill, my brother´s income from guitar classes fell to nothing) talking and cheering up. Some have been praying.  My friends and neighbours here in Spain have enquired after him as though he lived up the next close.

I´ve nagged him to juice vegetables and take a disgusting concoction of linseedGraviola oil and cottage cheese every morning because these figure on a private, Spanish cancer clinic´s protocol.

A friend of my brother suggested he take extract of graviola, or South American pawpaw. He´s taking nine capsules a day.

Surfing online, I learned about the healing properties of cannabis, particularly in “oil”  (resin) form.  I also found out that at the Complutense University of Madrid, there´s a biochemist who tested cannabis on rats until his funding was cut. His work suggests that cannabis can provoke apoptosis, or cell death, in cancerous glioma brain cells without damaging healthy ones.

 

DRMANUELGUZMAN

 

I wrote to Professor Manuel Guzmán (above) who promptly suggested that my brother be prescibed Sativex, a form of medical cannabis that is legal in Scotland. Failing that, he should make illegal cannabis oil – yes, this oncologist told us to get the illegal buds and make the oil – and sent me a link to a slightly off-putting stoner video on how to do it.

My brother took copies of Prof. Guzmán´s emails (in very good English) to his GP.  He had never heard of Sativex but on looking it up he told my brother that it wasn´t on his “protocol” – it was only approved for patients with MS. (They can´t get it either, but that´s another story).  His consultant echoed this.

So began a trek, both in Scotland and the UK, for cannabis. It´s illegal in the UK, but small amounts for personal consumption are permitted here.

I spent untold hours online and asked everybody I met about cannabis. I nearly fell for a Nigerian cannabis oil scam, tried to access  sites on cannabis which turned out to be censored by our service provider, ONO, and unsuccessfully sought out Canadian Rick Simpson who revived consumer interest in medical cannabis and who is now a fugitive from Canadian justice.

My husband, having stood around on street corners and found little,  tried to join a cannabis users club in Paracuellos del Jarama to get at the very affordable  oil in its dispensary. Despite an interview out by some woods (and a Civil Guard Training School) and many pleading phone calls, he hasn´t been admitted to date.

We´ve both made multiple trips to grow shops in Alcalá but although the staff are sympathetic, they have made no effort to sell us anything – in fact, they stressed that the plants take six months to grow and the terrible heat of the Spanish summer might finish them off!

Marijuana Buds-Photo courtesy Saanich News

Fortunately, at the end of last year, a friend managed to get me fifty euros worth of buds, cogollos de marihuana, from Salamanca. It was a tiny amount, not quite 9 grams. (It stank to the high heavens)!

The THC can be extracted from the buds using isopropyl alcohol as a solvent but this leaves a very reduced resin. Since I had so few buds, I decided to follow Prof. Guzmán´s method and use olive oil and water in a pressure cooker. This gives an amount that´s manageable – you can store it in a small container – though less potent than the resin, which is usually stored in small syringes.

Rick Simpson´s oil

I packaged it up in a padded envelope with a highly perfumed, rabbit-shaped dooda for placing on sore muscles.  This microwaveable, floral item wasn´t for my brother but to help the package seem legit if it was opened.  For this reason, I also put my address on the back.

I hoped the pong of perfume might throw off any sniffer dogs, but I was wrong. The oil never arrived and two months later my brother got a letter from the UK Border Agency saying it was being confiscated.

I hope somebody´s lumbago benefitted from the gel-filled rabbit, not to mention the lovely green stuff in a cleaned out face-cream container.

Now we´re waiting for “a pal that used to play in a band with a guy that knows this other guy” to come up with the oil. At two hundred quid a gram, a three month treatment plan of 60g would cost an absurd 12,000 pounds. We can´t afford it, even if we do get a “discount” due to the fact the oil is not for getting high on.

Oh, and remember Sativex? It´s now in trials at the very hospital my brother attends and he was interviewed for elegibility.  However, it´s only the pain-relieving power of Sativex that´s being tested and since he´s not on  morphine, he´s out.

Mother Herb

And all that running about we did trying to get the buds? We thought that if we got a reliable supply my brother could come to our house and have as much oil as he needed. Well, we came up blank.

Till last week.  Apparently, we´re sitting on a veritable mountain of the stuff, now that my brother´s not well enough to travel.

 

Following Uruguay´s recent lead, cannabis will eventually be legalised in the UK.  But eventually´s no good to us.  So could somebody, somewhere, somehow get a three-month supply of cannabis oil to my brother?

My final word to expat readers in Spain is this: if you as much as suspect the “C” word in your life, particularly in someone in the UK, google up Easyjet and get your spare room ready.  First of all though, hurry to your nearest grow shop, or online grow shop, and buy a basic starter pack for growing cannabis from seeds for about a hundred and fifty quid.

You could save a life.

 

Not Just Baaad But Offal

Couldn´t find a picture without the liver.

Lamb heart, brains and liver.

 

You know the Spanish educational system is being butchered when you hear the following.

Malassie came home for lunch today fired up about an upcoming Biology class.  This Friday, she and her Third Year secondary school classmates are going to learn how to dissect sheep hearts and lungs. They´ve been put into pairs and given a list of things to pick up or bring from home.

  1. An apron.Lamb line
  2. Kitchen scissors.
  3. Old newspapers.
  4. Latex gloves.
  5. Tweezers.
  6. Aluminium foil.

All fine and good.  Mum won´t have any trouble getting these.

Oh, and I nearly forgot, one half of each student pair, in Malassie´s case a pal we´ll call Ana, has to phone up Casquerías Gonzalo, a butcher shop across town that specialises in offal (casquería), to order a:

“fresh asadura de cordero pascual without the liver, unsliced.”

There´s a helpful explanation of what an asadura de cordero pascual  is on the butchers´ complex website.  It´s the heart, lungs and liver, all in one piece, of a lamb that has not yet fed on grass and whose horns haven´t emerged. It costs about €3, to be defrayed by the other half of each student pair when he or she goes to pick it up.

O sea, it´s going into my fridge.

Understandably, the Biology teacher, too overworked to order the dead lamb and have it delivered to the school herself, has also been unable to issue any information on the fate of the asadura (without liver) once it has been dissected.

But I´m giving Casquerías Gonzalo´s webpage of recipe ingredients a butcher´s, just in case.  It´s in English and you shouldn´t miss it!

Muffled knacks of lamb, mmm!

best rosemary

 

 

 

 

 

My Weakest Post Yet

The Problem

1. A year ago, doctors found a Stage 4 glioblastoma brain tumour in my brother´s right temporal lobe.

2.  He had surgery in January 2013, followed by chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

3. The next scan was “clear”.

4. It never really went away, so was soon “back.”

5. More chemo. More drugs. Even more chemo.

6. This New Year he stated it would obviously be his last. He´s 52.

The Added Problem

1. THC and other active principles of marihuana, particularly the buds, slow or cure many cancers.

2. Marihuana is illegal in the UK, where my brother lives, and barely legal in Spain for personal use.

3. A legal form, for inhalation, called Sativex is available in the British Health service.

4. My brother´s doctor had never heard of it. When informed, he stated it was only approved for MS.

The Consequence

1. I got a miniscule 8 grams of the marihuana buds.

2. I made some oil in my pressure cooker and sent it to Scotland.

3. It never arrived.

4. Everything but the glioblastoma moves too slow.

5. I can´t be bothered writing more or adding links or uploading illustrations or giving facts and figures or working on my style or trying to boost my SEO.

6. I´m not giving up but routinely feel like this:

Toledo – Not Only For Tourists

Toledo by El Greco

Toledo, the old capital city of Spain, is a must day-trip for visitors to Madrid. The hilly city, best-portrayed in the characteristic chiaroscuro of the 16th century painter, El Greco, boasts many imposing, well-known monuments.

There is the gothic Cathedral of Santa María, the sinister fortress of the Alcázar where Franco´s troops held off against sieging Republicans and the ornate Jewish Sinagoga del Tránsito, now housing the Museo Sefardí dedicated to the history of the Jews driven out of Spain in successive waves.

Toledo is also the site of a relatively new construction which not only lacks architectural value but is unknown to tourists. Yet it  serves the Spanish people well and perhaps reflects the qualities of the much-touted Marca España better than the aforementioned historical attractions.

Hospital Nacional de Parapléjicos

The unprepossessing, functional complex of the Hospital Nacional de Parapléjicos is no remnant of past glories but a technologically-advanced medical facility. Founded in 1974 and currently funded by the Health Service of Castilla La Mancha to serve the whole of Spain,* it is a public hospital dedicated exclusively to the rehabilitation of people with spinal injuries, the only one of its kind in the country.

Spinal column

Central Nervous System injuries, in effect spinal injuries – the Spanish for spinal cord is médula espinal - do not regenerate spontaneously.  Massive medical and social support is required so that patients, some of whom arrive in a life-threatening condition with severe respiratory problems, persistent infections and complete paralysis, can progress away from total dependence on others  towards reintegration into society and employment despite remaining disabilities.

 

The majority of patients are young males who sustained their injuries in car accidents. The remainder are patients of all ages with damage to the spinal cord from falls and swimming pool accidents and those born with spinal deformities.

The hospital, which is, of course,  fully-equipped for wheelchair users, boasts a broad range of facilities and treatments in a flexible, personal and open regime. At one end of the gym there is a car; not for patients to learn to drive in but for practising getting in and out of vehicles.

 

A book of memoirs published by former patients, permission to keep plants, and sporting activities such as ping pong and basketball are not only thereapeutical but help create a sense of community. Apart from an indoor cafeteria and outdoor café in a spacious lawn, there is also a hairdresser´s, a chapel and a recreation area with vending machines to serve patients who come from many different linguistic and cultural backgrounds.  It is thought that some 15 languages are spoken around the corridors.

Medical teams at the Hospital Nacional de Parapléjicos have dedicated 36 years to researching spinal injuries and disseminate their findings through a communication platform called Infomédula, unfortunately only in Spanish. They also collaborate with the Dirección General de Tráfico on the prevention of road accidents.

In 2003, a not-for-profit, private Foundation was created to work in tandem with the hospital. The Fundación del Hospital Nacional de Parapléjicos para la Investigación y la Integración, is working on raising money for projects such as as a specially-adapted sports centre.

Aerial view HNP

Residence facilities are also planned, particularly so that those released from the hospital and their families can get used to their new circumstances in adapted housing.

The question of accommodation is a pressing one since, due to funding problems, the hospital closes certain wards during holiday periods. Family members who move to Toledo to assist in the care of patients are at the mercy of unscrupulous landlords who advertise rented flats as adapted for wheelchair use even though they fail to meet a minimum standard of conversion.

You can donate to this important cause through the Fundacionhnp account at the  Caja Castilla La Mancha de Toledo: N° 2105-0062-35-0142005008. Please share the awareness image below too.

* This centre, like all other facilities in Spain, is suffering from the effects of the present economic crisis. The principle of access for all Spaniards is being undermined.

Guest Post 3: Five Out-Of-This-World Spanish Dishes

Med diet

Everybody knows that the Mediterranean diet is one of the best in the world so today SpainStruck is delighted to present a foodie article by guest writer, Marta López, on five wonderful Spanish dishes.

5 Out-Of-This-World Spanish Dishes

From the rainy North to the arid and mysterious South, Spain is without doubt one of the best destinations for food lovers. We Spanish know that wherever we go in the country, our food will always be warm and welcoming. I guess it’s because food is a passion for Spanish people and also because it’s clearly evident that every region has a well defined personality. Behind each regional cuisine there are hundreds of stories and recipes; here are my favourite Spanish dishes from the North West of Spain to the South. ¡Qué aproveche!

 1. Barcelona: Pan tumaca

Pan tumaca is a traditional Catalonian snack that you will find at any tasca or on any restaurant menu when you visit the region. If you have the chance, don’t hesitate to order some serrano ham to make it even more tasty. How is it possible that four ingredients can make such a delicious dish? Bread, tomato, garlic and olive oil are everything you need! Remember that in some places you can also ask for a bocadillo de lomo y queso (pork and cheese sandwich) with pa amb tomàquet, as it’s known in Catalan.

How to eat it: Get some manchego cheese and ham to accompany this dish.

Travelling to Barcelona? Visit Cinc Sentits for new Catalan cuisine (Carrer d’Aribau 58).

2. Ourense: Pulpo a la gallega

Galician octopus

This is without any doubt the most popular dish in Galicia, a fertile, green part of North WestSpain. Pulpo a la gallega has always been part of Galician cuisine, which is mostly about seafood, fish and meat. But if there is one placewhere octopus has been served over the years, it´s Ourense, which is the only province in Galicia that is not by the sea.

Here you will see how the locals eat this dish following the traditional style which is called pulpo á feira.

How to eat it: This is a meal to enjoy either with your family or a group of friends. And please, don´t forget the paprika or the olive oil!

Travelling to Ourense? Visit Las Termas de Outariz (Rúa do Fondo do Lugar, Ourense).

3. Madrid: Cocido madrileño

Cocido madrileño is the kind of dish that you need on a very cold winter´s day. It´s made of vegetables, sausage, chickpeas, meat, garlic and potatoes. This dish takes time to cook properly, so don´t get desperate if you are in Madrid and you order it in a tasca! Although the cocido madrileño is the most famous cocido in the country, it´s important to rememberthat there are also variations on this chickpea stew in different places like Andalusia or Galicia.

How to eat it: Don´t forget to add some Extra Virgin olive oil before serving it.

Travelling to Madrid? Stay at Vincci Vía 66 (Gran Vía 66, Madrid).

4. Valencia: Fideuà

This is very similar to paella but instead of rice it comes with the fideu, a sort of noodle that, like paella rice, becomes slightly yellow because of the saffron used. Although there are variations throughout the county, Fideuà is usually made with fish and seafood.

History tells us that this recipe was invented one day when some sailors wanted to cook a paella but because they knew the Captain would eat most of it, they tried the recipe with noodles instead. Apparently, to their chagrin, the greedy Captain loved the dish anyway. Today the question is: is there anyone in this country who doesn’t like this dish?

How to eat it: Add some alioli to your plate and don’t forget the bread!

Travelling to Valencia? Visit Casa de l’ Orxata (Jorge Juan, Mercado de Colón, Valencia).

5. Córdoba: Salmorejo

Salmorejo

For me this is one of the best summer dishes from the South of Spain and it´s said that the origins of this recipe can be traced back to prehistory. We could describe it as a sort of “cold and creamy tomato soup” made with tomatoes, vinegar, a little garlic and of course, olive oil.

Although it’s similar to gazpacho, this kind of purée has a more orange appearance. Like most traditional dishes, salmorejo can also have many variations depending on where it is made.

How to eat it: Garnish the salmorejo with diced serrano ham and hard-boiled eggs.

Travelling to Córdoba? Visit Bodegas Campos (Calle Lineros, 32, Córdoba).

 

About the Author

Marta López is a travel and lifestyle writer based in London. With a degree in Communication Sciences from Santiago de Compostela, Spain, she loves cooking new recipes as well as travelling, photography, cinema (especially French  films) and literature.  When she isn’t writing her first novel on her laptop she can be found around London searching for the best Spanish restaurants. You can follow Marta on twitter @Martazepol.

My Submission for Today

Yet more R.C. nonsense

A new book from the Catholic Church hit the Spanish press this week. I haven´t read it, nor do I intend to, but here´s a quote from it translated by some imbecile from the original Italian:

In that very moment, perform an act of trust towards your husband. Get out of the logic of the world, “I want to get the better of him”, and enter the logic of God, who put at your side your husband, that saint who bears you after everything, and who, incidentally, is also a handsome guy. And if something he does is not fine with you, it is God Himself you have to confront, to begin with: get down on your knees, and most time you’ll solve anything. Luigi is the way God chose to love you, and he is your way to heaven. When he says something, then you must listen to him as if God was talking to you. With full discernment, clearly, in wisdom and cleverness, of course, because he is a creature, but with respect, because he often sees more clearly than you do. 

Rather than launch into criticism of this “book,” I´m providing a wee quiz for you on the said tome.

The first person to send me the correct answers will receive a small incendiary device marked “To the Vatican” and a picture of the front cover of Milicianas: Women in Combat in the Spanish Civil War by Lisa Lines. (You can buy the book yourself, at a whopping thirty odd euros for the Kindle edition)!

Book That Has Annoyed Me Quiz

1. What is the title of the book?

  1. Básate en ser tu misma
  2. Cásate y sé sumisa
  3. Mátale y que te dé la risa

2. What is the author´s name?

  1. Esperanza Patriarcano
  2. Costanza Miriano
  3. Matanza “Hot Poker” Porelano.

3. What is the subject matter?

  1. Antifeminismo
  2. Medalomismismo
  3. Hiperorgasmismo

4. What is the name of the Spanish publisher?

  1. Nuevo Inicio
  2. Les Sacaremos de Quicio
  3. Más Feo Que Picio

5. How has the  book been described in the press?

  1. Aberrante
  2. Militante
  3. Farsante

6. Which of these is a quote from the English translation of the book ?

  1. Once locked and loaded, fire away.
  2. I´m the inspiration for Fifty Shades of Gray.
  3. When in doubt, anyway, please obey.

7. Which of these useful links is the most useless?

  1. Il Blog di Costanza Miriano
  2. Vagenda
  3. SpainStruck

 

So good luck to all of you.

But especially to us.

And let luck have nothing to do with it. Submissiveness

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Alcalá de Henares 1. Crappy Costrada

Crusty, crunchy, crumbly costrada

Crusty, crunchy, crumbly costrada

 

Well, I picked the wrong topic for embarking on my series of posts on Alcalá. Deciding to start out light – leaving the question of the Quijote for much, much later – I thought I´d consider costrada, a pastry associated with the city.

I don´t know why I bothered since it´s already been blogged about (see below) and to be honest, light it is not. Despite the crema pastelera, a thick custard, and a soft, meringue  filling, it has a hard, almond topping or costra, meaning crust (as well as the scabby kind you get when you fall flat on your face).

Appetising. You can´t even cut it without it demolishing into a flat, flaky mess. I first tried it fresh from Britain´s yummy, spongy, overly-sweet cakes and found it insipid, dry, annoyingly crumbly and not sweet enough.

Food blogger Lauren Aloise doesn´t share my impressions. In a post on the pastries of Alcalá she wonders if costrada might be the “perfect pastry” and loves its:

“layers of flaky puff pastry and sweet cream filling covered in soft meringue and finally topped with crushed sugared almonds.”

You can read Lauren´s review of costrada and other, equally dry Alcalá pastries here and for more information, check out this article in Spanish and (foreigner) English. It boasts a video of how to make costrada, curiously shot by a one-armed baker (WTF)?

Soft, spongy Tarta de Santiago

Soft, spongy Tarta de Santiago

 

So, apart from taking the photo above and having a large piece of costrada with a cup of tea for research reasons, I haven´t had to over-exert myself for this post.

This time around I had the good sense to forget dainty knives and forks and eat it with my hands.  I liked it a little better.

 

But not much.

My advice is that if you´re ever in Alcalá, or anywhere else in Spain for that matter, give the crusty, dried-up old costrada the body swerve and have yourself a big slice of the moist, sweet, Tarta de Santiago from Galicia.

This has a compact consistency that doesn´t leave you all sticky and covered in crumbs because its almonds aren´t on the top but where they should be: ground into a delicious filling on the inside.

Cross of Saint James

¿Alcalá de qué?

Plaza Cervantes

The Plaza Cervantes, for a relaxing cup of café con leche.

 

“¿Alcalá de qué?

¡De Henares!”

When my daughter, (sometimes known as Malassie and born and raised in Alcalá de Henares) was at primary school, she was taught a song dedicated to the glories of her city. The chorus included the lines above, roughly translatable as:

Which Alcalá?

Alcalá de Henares!

This was to make sure no-one mistook this World Heritage Site of ours for any other Alcalá, such as Alcalá de Guadaira, de Xivert or de los Gazules . The name Alcalá means fortification, from the Arabic al-qal’a (or for those of you who read Arabic, القلعة) and there were many of those during the Moorish conquest of the peninsula.

The late and great Rod Younger often suggested I write about Alcalá “since nobody´s exactly clear on why it´s a World Heritage Site.” And then recently, much to my chagrin, this illustrious SpainStruck site was described, by a severely undercultured person, obviously, as “drivel.”

So in order to do a little justice to our sadly missed Rod as well as counter such an unfounded, slanderous accusation, I am finally caving in grasping the glorious torch of cultural enlightenment and committing myself to a series of posts on this Ciudad Patrimonio de la Humanidad. 

We might still ask ourselves, however, which Alcalá?  There are other songs about the city and one from 1960 goes like this:

“Sobre la huella de antiguos estudiantes

que en otro tiempo rondaron la ciudad

hoy se pasean las chicas elegantes

igual de guapas que antes, que alegran Alcalá”.

This means “over the footsteps of students who, in older times wandered around the city, now elegant girls walk, just as pretty as before, brightening up Alcalá”.

You can just imagine what I think of that tuna tune. However, rapper Rayden comes to the rescue with the other side of the cultural coin:

“En esta zona cada vez más cara
Todo está en obras y las personas en bragas
Buscando sobras en largas colas que duran horas, semanas,
Para ver si cobran porque el paro se agota y se acaba.
Así es la cuna de Cervantes y Azaña;
Lo mismo que en todas partes del resto de España
Donde hay basura en la calzada, jeringuillas en los parques
Y aquí el inmigrante es “blanco” del nazi de caza”.

“In this ever more expensive area, everything´s under construction and the people haven´t a shoe to their foot. Looking for leftovers in long queues for hours, weeks, to see if they can get something since unemployment benefit is winding up. That´s your birthplace of Cervantes and Azaña for you, just like in the rest of Spain where there´s rubbish on the street, syringes in the parks and where immigrants are targets for hunting nazis.”

You can watch a video about Rayden here:

So, my posts will be something between this:

History

and this:

Hysteria

I´ve lived here for nearly 16 years and can say what I like about it.

Such as something that might approach the truth …..

Flying stork

Of encierros and entierros

Pañuelo

Our World Heritage Site of Alcalá is gearing up to hold a “running of the bulls,” or encierro, through our walkways.

This used to be the manner in which around a dozen bulls, roughly half of them tame (mansos) and half de lidia (fighting) were taken from the corral along the town streets to the bullring.

This way, the wild bulls, as herd animals, stayed within the confines of the group and remained oblivious to rags, flags and bags of any colour, avoiding accidental death in the morning.

 

I think this system, epitomised by Pamplona´s fiestas, the sanfermines, was a wise one, or would have been, if young, testosterone-fuelled men didn´t tie on coloured kerchiefs and run, trip, jump, fall and crawl in front of the bulls, behind them, around them, between them and, often, under them.

Surely today, too, there are more sophisticated methods of moving bulls around which would let these young and not so young Hemingways have a lie in of a weekend rather than stagger blearly-eyed at eight in the morning to a chaotic event that could take their lives. To see what I mean, check out this year´s horrific tapón in the entrance tunnel to the Pamplona bullring.

I suppose that Alcalá Town Hall´s re-introduction of the running of the bulls in recent years is only logical, given that a new bullring was built in the ensanche in 1998 to replace the old one in the heart of the city.  There is, of course, a Fiesta Taurina every year with corridos de toros, but the venue, under the guise of Leisure Circuit (Círculo de Ocio), offers other cultural events and entertainment.

Plaza de Toros de Alcalá

 So am I being a Britishly-biased killjoy if I argue that while bullfights are one thing, the running of bulls along Alcalá´s Avenida de Miguel de Unamuno is something else entirely – particularly since the Ayuntamiento regards the event as a win-win situation in which the fiestas will be “revolutionised” at no added cost?

Apparently novillos, young or sub-standard bulls, perhaps with their horns blunted, are to be used, meaning that the animals will be much less dangerous to the runners.  So maybe I´m getting all hot and bothered under the kerchief about a simple, traditional bit of fun……

Daniel Jimeno

…. in 2009,  an alcalaíno,  Daniel Jimeno Romero, was gored to death while running with the bulls in Pamplona.

There was a great outpouring of sympathy in Alcalá for this 27 year old but a press interview with his bereaved girlfriend left me totally perplexed.

Daniel, she stated, always acted responsibly when he took part in encierros up and down the country.

He never went out partying the night before running and particularly enjoyed Pamplona because of its reputation as one of the safest encierros. Apparentlymedical attention gets to runners faster there than in other places.

Aside from my inability to grasp how you can run in front of a dozen, 500 kilo bulls responsibly, I´m interested in knowing what safety assurances the alcalaínos will have from the Town Hall authorities so keen on this apparent freebie. How free, in our cash-strapped health service, is it to have a fully-equipped Samur mobile hospital parked next to the bullring?

The word encierro has a more modern meaning outwith tauromachy, one certainly more relevant  in this crisis-ridden Spain.  An encierro is a protest sit-in over issues such as labour rights, education or health care.

I can´t help thinking that Alcalá´s Ayuntamiento has found a way of channelling the aggression of young, unemployed male citizens away from political action and into mindless pursuits (nunca  mejor dicho, pardon the pun).  A subidón of life-threatening testosterone will definitely alleviate the stress of day-to-day financial worry.

Maybe forever.

Who will be the next, mortal victim of this primitive, machista, bread and circuses mentality to go straight from the encierro to his own entierro? At Dani Jimeno´s funeral, his parents declared their love for the fiesta that killed their son and his friends spoke of collecting signatures to have the name of the street on which he lived changed to Calle de Daniel Jimeno.

Yo flipo. Really,  I just don´t get it.

Do you?

Black ribbon

 

 

 

 

 

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