PAMPLONA is no place to bring your wife. The odds are all in favor of her getting ill, hurt or wounded or at least jostled and wine squirted over her, or of losing her; maybe all three. If anybody could do Pamplona successfully it would be Carmen and Antonio but Antonio would not bring her. It’s a man’s fiesta and women at it make trouble, never intentionally of course, but they nearly always make or have trouble. I wrote a book on this once. Of course, if she can talk Spanish so she knows she is being joked with and not insulted, if she can drink wine all day and all night and dance with any groups of strangers who invite her, if she does not mind things being spilled on her, if she adores continual noise and music and loves fireworks, especially those that fall close to her or burn her clothes, if she thinks it is sound and logical to see how close you can come to being killed by bulls for fun and for and for free, if she doesn’t catch cold when she is rained on and appreciates dust, likes disorder and irregular meals and never and never needs to sleep and still keeps clean and neat without running water; then bring her. You’ll probably lose her to a better man than you.
Pamplona was rough as always, overcrowded with tourists and characters, but with a hard core of all that is finest in Navarre. For a week we averaged something over three hours sleep a night to the pounding of the war drums of Navarre, the piping of the old tunes and the dancers swirling and leaping. I’ve written Pamplona once and for keeps. It is all there as it always was, except 40,000 tourists have been added. There were not 20 tourists when I first went there nearly four decades ago. Now on some days they say there are close to 100,000 in the town. (First published Life magazine, Sep. 12, ’60)
I read this beginning to chapter 9 of Hemingway’s The Dangerous Summer last night and thought, “Xander, why have you invited a girl to Pamplona for your fourth date?” However, it’s too late to do anything about now. Oh well, Bambi*, let’s see what you make of it on Friday.
I, however, arrive there in three hours. Viva San Fermin!
(*Clearly Bambi is a nickname. You just don’t publish people’s names after three dates, and I thought of doing the initials thing, but then I realised she shared them with a successful group of African freedom fighters and it would look odd.)