THE LAST ARENA: A Runner’s Breakfast

From the blog ‘The Last Arena’:
the-last-arena-logoAs I pack my bags for the encierros – ‘bull-runs’ – of San Sebastián de los Reyes and Cuéllar, I was about to happily announce a new tradition, that of an international Runners’ Breakfast in the latter, the oldest encierros in Spain. Here is how I put it in an article to be published in El Norte de Castilla on Sunday.

As part of this spirit of cooperation between local and foreigner, I have asked the principal pastor, Enrique Bayon Brandi, to join with me in arranging a “breakfast of runners” following a tradition begun in Pamplona by the great runners, and our good friends, Julen Madina and Joe Distler thirty years ago. We hope to bring a new international tradition to the oldest encierro in Spain. As a mark of respect to the bulls and those who work with them, this first will be held in honour of the memory of Victor Barrio and attended by the matador David Mora the morning before he faces the same risks himself with the bulls with which we have just run.

Julen Madina in the traditional red and white (with blue elbow support) leads the bulls into the ring in Pamplona

Julen Madina in the traditional red and white (with blue elbow support) leads the bulls into the ring in Pamplona

To read on click here.

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The build up to Pamplona begins…. with the 2016 Edition of the Official Guide

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In five days the feria of San Fermín officially begins and so the third and latest edition of the Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona with a foreword from the Mayor is released from Mephisto Press.

It’s various authors are slowly drifting back to the city where they will once again enter the streets of the most famous and largest bull-run in the world.

In France, Alexander Fiske-Harrison, the editor of Fiesta (and also author of the award-winning Into The Arena), was a finalist in Le Prix Hemingway 2016 with his short story ‘Les Invincibles’, which will be published along fourteen other finalists by French publisher Au Diable Vauvert in September under the titled Uriel: Et autres nouvelles du prix Hemingway 2016.

Le Prix Hemingway

Bill Hillmann, famously gored a few days after the release of the first edition of Fiesta in 2014 while trying to guide a loose bull away from other runners, has released a Spanish translation of his book on a decade running with bulls, entitled Corriendo Con Hemingway (‘Running With Hemingway) with Spanish publishers Grupo Planeta.

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Joining them will be their co-authors, John Hemingway, grandson of Ernest, legendary American bull-runner Joe Distler and legendary war photographer Jim Hollander from EPA, along with the contributing Basque and Spanish greats of the encierro Julen Madina, Miguel Ángel Eguíluz, Jokin Zuasti and Josechu Lopez.

Josechu Lopez running as close as you can get

Josechu Lopez running as close as you can get

The preface of the 2016 Edition is enclosed below.

Lucy Gould, Dep. Ed.

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Preface to the 2016 Edition by the Editor

The Dangerous Summer was the title of the book version of Hemingway’s last piece of writing from 1959 on the rivalry between the two great matadors of the period, Antonio Ordóñez and his brother-in-law Luis Miguel Dominguín. It is also my title for what happened last year.

Papa and Don Antonio in 1959, me and his grandson 50 years later (Photos: Associated Press & Nicolás Haro)

Papa and Don Antonio in 1959, me and his grandson 50 years later (Photos: Associated Press & Nicolás Haro)

Pamplona is not the only bull-run in Spain, the official figures for last year show there were 16,383 such events. And fifteen people died in them. I personally ran in five towns – Pamplona, then Tafalla, which is like Pamplona was in the old days before the tourists came, then Falces, which is along a goat-path down the side of a mountain with a sheer drop on one side, then San Sebastían de los Reyes which is in a suburb of Madrid (I took the Metro to it) and then Cuéllar, the most ancient Spanish bull-run next to the ruins of a castle in old Castille.

There had already been twelve deaths that year in small town events, so we were all cagey – Bill Hillmann was there, along with our rodeo champion friend Larry Belcher – but when the bull came up the street with half its head slick with blood we knew something was awry. I kept a safe difference from it, but still managed to break my ribs there. That was my final run of 2015. (I wrote about it for the Daily Telegraph here.)

The bull's left horn is covered with the blood of a man it has just killed. I am circled, backing away down the street.

The bull’s left horn is covered with the blood of a man it has just killed. I am circled, backing away down the street.

This is a dangerous game indeed. Some readers may remember that a week after the first edition of this book came out in 2014, one of its authors, Bill Hillmann, was seriously gored in Pamplona, something the world’s press had a great deal of fun with. (Personally, I don’t see that as ironic, I mean, he survived didn’t he?)

New York Times, Jul. 14

New York Times, Jul. 14

However, as dangerous as bull-running is, those who do it are a brotherhood. And remember, no one is getting out of life alive. Which is why I dedicate this edition of the book to our dear fallen comrade Noel Chandler. Many of us – myself included – were at his funeral in Madrid with his many, many friends, and even more of us will be at his memorial mass in the Chapel of San Fermín the day before the feria begins. I wrote an obituary piece on this Prince of Pamplona here.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison

London, June 30th, 2016

Out now on Amazon (US) – click here – for Amazon UK, click here, for Amazon Australia, click here, for Amazon Canada, click here and similarly for Spain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, Japan, India

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Art Buchwald Runs The Bulls with Matt Carney and David Pierce

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Photo from the 1958 World's Fair in Brussels, the Spanish Pavillion: 'PAMPLONA - Encierro de toros'

Photo from the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels, the Spanish Pavillion: ‘PAMPLONA – Encierro de toros’

Larry Belcher, Joe Distler & The Editor in Le Select, Paris, 2016

Larry Belcher, Joe Distler & The Editor in Le Select, Paris, 2016

The Pamplona Post has moved its presses to Paris, to the old apartment of the legendary bull-runner Matt Carney in Montparnasse (with thanks to his daughter Deirdre.)

While there The Editor – me – became involved in setting up a course of classes applying the (so-called) ‘Method’ acting techniques I learned at the Stella Adler Conservatory in New York to writing – see here.

I’ll write more about Paris and what I was doing there over at ‘The Last Arena’ shortly, but what I wanted to put here was something that came up in my research about the late 1950s, when a crowd of Americans coalesced on the Left Bank of the River Seine.

1977 file photo of Art Buchwald for obit. No info on back of photo as to source, but ran in LATimes in 1977.

Art Buchwald (Courtesy of his L.A. Times obituary in 1977)

Mainly veterans of World War II who had come out to ‘study’ on the G. I. Bill, they visited Pamplona after the Franco-Spanish border reopened in ’48, and in doing this mirrored a previous generation of veterans of World War I that included Ernest Hemingway and the characters of his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises. The group included former U.S. Marines Art Buchwald and Matt Carney and the Canadian known as ‘Big’ Dave Pierce who sadly passed away in Paris within days of my reading about him in the article below.

Both Pierce and Carney feature in the piece, by Buchwald, coming from his days writing the ‘Paris Nights’ column for The New York Herald Tribune which went on to become the most syndicated column in history. I particularly like the fact that my own father, Clive, would have been selling this edition of The Trib in Le Select when it was first published in July ’58.

They were the Great Pamplonians, “the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown” as the good book has it.

The Editor
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Art Throws Bull, Flees Same

The most important event during the Fiesta of San Fermin is El Encierro, the running of the bulls through the streets of Pamplona at seven o’clock in the morning. This traditional fertility rite is considered to be one of the most dangerous methods of proving one’s manhood. Those who have rode the cresta at St. Mortiz, driven in the 24-hour race at Le Mans, and hunted lion in Africa shudder when Encierro is mentioned.

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The official program on El Encierro states and we quote, “This masculine and emotional act, full of showiness and braveness, consists in driving the bulls to the ring, the same bulls which are to be fighted [sic.] in the afternoon. They pass at great speed at a mad race, full of risk and danger, through the old streets of the city, filled with valiant boys [mozos] who try to avoid the horns and hooves of the murderous animals.

“The ideal suit for this rite whose braveness, dramatisme and horror paralizes the hearts of the onlookers in white shirt and trousers, hemp sandals, a read handkerchief around the neck, and the more lightness that is possible in the feet and calm in the head of the runners.”

We had no intention of running in the Encierro until a group of students came up to us and said,

“We have a message from Jim Hagerty. He says if you don’t run with the bulls you’re chicken.”

$_35[This was an in-joke for readers of The Trib.: Buchwald had made his name by impersonating Hagerty – the chief of press for President Eisenhower – in a column which was so accurate in its satire that Hagerty went public to deny its truth, making the then unknown Buchwald famous. In consequence Buchwald made things up about him whenever he could.]

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We couldn’t believe Mr. Hagerty would say this, but there was no way of checking it, and it was a challenge which couldn’t be ignored. We promised we would run the following morning.

The best way to prepare for the Encierro is to sit at a sidewalk cafe starting at midnight and drink cognac and wine until morning. If you miss one round of drinks you’re liable to lose your nerve. The students sat up with us to keep us company and to give us what few hints they could.

We were fortunate to be introduced to Dave Pierce, a six foot three Canadian, who ran package tours for new encierro runners. For 50 pesetas Mr. Pierce would coach you, light a candle for you, and if anything happened he would let us use his Blue Cross card.

A group of about eight of us sat up all night. Every half hour Pierce would massage our legs and arms. Matt Carney, another runner shared his bota (wine skin) with us. Bottles of cognac kept being emptied as the group spun tales of other bull runnings, gorings, and tramplings. As dawn approached it became obvious, from the conversation, that no one had ever survived an encierro.

The church clock struck six, and bands stated coming out on the streets playing weird music that calls the men of Pamplona out into the streets to run. The streets were jammed with people going to the bull ring to see the carnage. other people lined up by the barricades along the route the runners and bulls would take.

Pierce gave us the last minute instructions. “There are three types of runner in this race. The suicideros, who actually try to provoke the bulls, the drunkards, who don’t really care what happens, and the cowards, who care very much. We’ll run with the drunkards.”
We sobered up immediately. “The hell we will. We’ll run with the cowards. Spain is a free country and I can run with any group I want to.”

*           *          *

The Streets of Pamplona in 1958

The Streets of Pamplona in 1958

It was our fifty pesetas so he couldn’t very well argue.

Pierce continued: “There are two rockets. The first goes off at seven a.m. and is for us. The second, thirty seconds later, is for THEM. I’m going to light a candle for you now. For ten pesetas more I’ll stay for mass.”

We gave him the ten pesetas.

At 6:45 a.m. they carried us to the starting point in front of the town hall.

We immediately recognized the cowards as they the ones nearest the start and most of them were retching. There was nothing else to do so we stood and retched with them.

Ten minutes before seven all the cowards pushed through police lines that were supposed to keep the runners from taking added starts. We decided we entitled to a handicap – fifty yards for being married, fifty yards for each child (three), 300 yards for being an American, and 75 yards for being a journalist.

At exactly seven the first rocket went off and we started to sprint. Pierce was supposed to pace, but he couldn’t keep up with us. The second rocket went off and somewhere behind us we knew the bulls had started to run. The crowds in the apartment houses cheered and the ones behind the barricades screamed. “Faster,” shouted Pierce, “faster.” And off in the distance the steady sounds of hoofs could be heard.

“Could Hagerty have really said we were chicken?” we asked ourselves. But it was no time for daydreaming. The last hundred yards is the hardest.  You must run through the tunnel into the bull fight ring and there is always a jam-up at the tunnel where you to fight your way through. Pierce lifted us over the jam and with 20 seconds to spare we were in the ring where 15,000 people were waiting to cheer. The bulls rushed by and the Encierro was over. We joined the cowards by a barrera and we all began retching again.

*           *          *

We can’t deny there is a sense of achievement, a feeling of accomplishment for having run with the bulls and we would probably be hard to live with now except for the fact there was a long editorial in the “El Encierro”, a bullfight newspaper the next morning. It said “The Encierro is degenerating into something without taste of appreciation.

“It is lacking in purity and it is a disgrace to the mothers and daughter and fiancees who have come to believe in this deep Navarre spectacle. If it is to be kept pure a board must be set up and only cultivated spirits should be allowed to run.

The whole editorial sounded to us like a lot of bull.

(For more on Alexander Fiske-Harrison’s ‘Method’ writing classes click here.)

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THE LAST ARENA: Noel Chandler, Prince of Pamplona: A Tribute

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From the bullfighting blog ‘The Last Arena’.

Ed.

Noel Chandler and Alexander Fiske-Harrison, Pamplona, July 2013 (Photo: David Penton)

Noel Chandler and Alexander Fiske-Harrison, Pamplona, July 2013 (Photo: David Penton)

It seems it is my season for tributes to dead friends: I lost a near-sister on September 14th, and a true friend one month later on October 14th. Noel Chandler, though, was a few weeks shy of his 80th birthday, where Antonia Francis died just before her 40th. There is quite a difference.

The Spanish newspapers have been suitably effusive – for example his Pamplona local Diario de Navarra headlined with Welshman Noel Chandler dies, illustrious visitor to the feria of San Fermín’. However, they all seem to have propagated certain errors, starting with his age. Noel died at 79 not 76.

For that reason among others I am pleased not only to include my own memories of Noel, interspersed with a little journalistic research (about, for example, his service in the army), but also an interview he did with the secretary of the Club Taurino of London, David Penton, for their magazine La Divisa in 2013 which I suggested someone should do before it was all forgotten. However, nothing will ever capture the man in full. As even David noted when he forwarded the piece:

I promised to send you… the Lunch with Noel article which you prompted me to do. I hope you think it does him justice. Sadly he asked me to take a number of things out – mostly related to his generosity.

I’ll raise a glass to that.

AFH

Noel John Chandler

On his way to the great encierro (Photo: Jim Hollander, 1981)

On his way to the great encierro (Photo: Jim Hollander, 1981)

15 November 1935, Newport, Wales – 14 October 2015, Madrid Spain

B.A. (Hons.) Law, University of Bristol, 1958.

Lieutenant, Middlesex Regiment (Duke of Cambridge’s Own), 1961.

Managing Director, ICL Singapore Pte Ltd. 1994.

 

After the corrida on the final day of my first feria de San Fermín – July 14th, 2009 – a few hours before pobre de mí– when I was… (ahem)… tired and emotional having run with bulls that morning and drunk whatever was handed to me during the day until I had seen them killed very badly that evening, I bumped into a pretty young woman called Ivy Mix – a good name for such a famous bartender – who led me to a bar called Al Capone where in the doorway was standing Noel Chandler.

I had heard of Noel, of course, but in my research for my book Into The Arena: The World Of The Spanish Bullfight I had courteously avoided British and American aficionados as I did not want to inherit non-native prejudices or to see Spain second-hand. (The only reason I had gone to Pamplona was because my first teacher of toreo, Juan José Padilla said he would run with me and his bulls.)

Miss Mix introduced me to Noel saying I was writing a book on the world of the bulls. Noel looked into my eyes – which were a little blurry on the third day of my first Pamplona fiesta – through his own – which were… well, he was ten days into his forty-eighth fiesta – and said:

“What the fuck do you know about bulls?”

To read on, click the logo below…

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The Dangerous Summer: Editor’s article In The Telegraph

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Alexander Fiske-Harrison running the bulls in Cuéllar on morning described (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison running the bulls in Cuéllar on the morning described in the article (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

My article on the extraordinary fatality rate in the encierros, ‘bull-runs’, and other ‘popular’ taurine events this year, and why we continue to participate in them, is in The Telegraph today (online here.)

A more detailed breakdown of the figures about these “minor festivals” with bulls are in the post by the Deputy Editor on this blog here. A detailed breakdown of the figures about “major festivals”, i.e. what we call ‘bullfights’, including those with novice matadors or from horseback, are on The Last Arena, my bullfighting blog, here. All figures are from Spain’s Ministry of Culture and show that the mundo taurino, the ‘taurine world’ of Spain, is growing once again.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison, circled, with the bull which killed a 66-year-old man on the morning in question in Cuéllar. Note the colour of the horn (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison, circled, with the bull which killed a 66-year-old man later on the morning described in the article. Note the colour of the horn. On the right is the chief pastor in the green polo shirt, Enrique Bayón Brandi (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

Over the next few days I will be writing my annual thank you letter to the town of Cuéllar to be published in El Norte de Castilla after consulting various aficionados, toreros, runners and breeders of fighting bulls. Some of what I will write about, especially what was discussed at and after my dinner with the matador Manuel Escribano, is online here.

My dangerous summer is over due to my broken ribs, but to those who are still in the streets: suerte.

The Editor

Alexander Fiske-Harrison, striped jacket, discussing the run with local runners and Larry Belcher, with whom the article behins (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

Alexander Fiske-Harrison, striped jacket, discussing the run with local runners and Larry Belcher, with whom the article behins (Photo © Antonio Tanarro / El Norte de Castilla)

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An embarrassment of an injury

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Fighting bulls from the ranch of Luis Terron are herded by hundred of horse riders down a slope leading to the town of Cuellar, in the second 'encierro' or running-with-the-bulls in this town's fiesta. Horsemen and women herd the bulls through forests and open fields into the town where runners then test their bravery in a stampede to the bullring on the town's paved streets. The 'encierro' in Cuellar is the oldest in Spain. (Photo: Jim Hollander / EPA)

Fighting bulls from the ranch of Luis Terron are herded by hundreds of horse riders down a slope leading to the town of Cuellar, in the second ‘encierro’ or running-with-the-bulls in this town’s fiesta. Horsemen and women herd the bulls through forests and open fields into the town where runners then test their bravery in a stampede to the bullring on the town’s paved streets. The ‘encierro’ in Cuellar is the oldest in Spain. (Photo: Jim Hollander / EPA)

So the encierros of Cuéllar in Castille and Leon have continued with their usual ancient spirit of wildness although I have had to stop running with the bulls. On Monday afternoon there was an encierro chico, a bull-run for children involving vaquillas, horned two-year old females of the Spanish fighting bull breed. This is the way the next generation of runners and recortadores (see previous post) are trained. However, one of these wily young beasts managed to find a breach in the fences which lines the route that, although too small for a bull to pass through, was just the right size for the vaquilla. So, with a wriggle and a push, she got through the fence and into the bar terrace I was sitting on with some fellow ‘Anglo-Saxon’ runners (technically better described as Celts, being Scottish and Welsh, but that’s not how the Spanish see us.)

After the initial moment of reaction – everyone leaping over walls, chairs and tables upturned – we all seem to have simultaneously realised that this was the very thing all our years of running with bulls had trained us for. So, as the vaca sped down the hill, we pursued it at a flat sprint as women and children darted to either side of the fleeing beast. However, myself and another runner had a collision, I went down with an agonising crunch on the tarmac, and came up with a couple of cracked ribs. I hear the animal made it to the next town where it gored someone twice before it was captured once again.

However, the most frustrating thing of all is that I had planned to ride a horse in the 5km ‘encierro del campo’ spectacular which precedes the bull-run in the streets of the town. (Photographed top.) I had cheekily used my annual thank you letter to the town in the regional newspaper, El Norte de Castilla (online here, in English here) to request a horse to ride in it, and my friend, the great cuellarano sculptor, Dyango Velasco managed to arrange it. However, that is now impossible. Oh well, maybe next year. The irony and the sheer bathos of being gored by a female calf at a bull-run is not lost on me.

The matador Manuel Escribano and Alexander Fiske-Harrison (on heavy meds for his broken ribs) at dinner last night (Photo: Lore Monnig)

The matador Manuel Escribano and Alexander Fiske-Harrison (on heavy meds for his broken ribs) at dinner last night (Photo: Lore Monnig)

Now I must head to the bullfight of Manuel Escribano, who is replacing the badly gored matador Saúl Jiménez Fortes in the plaza de toros this evening (alongside Javier Herrero, a local matador whom I saw last year and mentioned in the above article.) I met Manuel at dinner last night and so have promised to right this corrida up for my bullfighting blog, The Last Arena.  I wish him suerte, ‘luck’. He will need it.

Alexander Fiske-Harrison
@fiskeharrison

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2015 Edition of Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona

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The updated 2015 Edition of Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona is out now.

For Amazon (US), click here.
For Amazon UK, click here.
For Amazon Australia, click here.
For Amazon Canada, click here.
And similarly for Spain, France, Germany, Netherlands, Mexico, Brazil, Italy, China, Japan, India

This is the only official guide in the English language – the foreword from the Mayor of Pamplona is reprinted below – Continue reading

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