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This email was sent to the editor by Tim Hatfield, aka Leroy, by way of Joe Distler on what would have been Ernest Hemingway’s 117th birthday. While he writes about his recent experiences on the smaller bull-runs of Old Castille on his personal blog – http://www.fiskeharrison.com – I have been told to get this up ASAP. Sorry for any errors in the edit.
—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Tim Hatfield
To: Joseph Distler
Sent: Thursday, July 21, 2016 11:45 PM
Joe……..please pass this along to Alexander (I don’t have his email address) and anyone else you think would be interested in seeing it………..and thank you for the photo of my last encierro and for sharing the run with me.
During this years feria Stephen O’Connor gave me the wonderful photo I have attached which includes ten people most all of us know and with his permission I am passing it on. Continue reading
From the blog ‘The Last Arena’:
As 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.
To read on click here.
From the bullfighting blog ‘The Last Arena’.
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.
Noel John Chandler
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…
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.
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.
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.
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.
So I am out in Cuéllar again at the end of my season of bull-running and what a dark year it has been. Someone was killed just a few days before I went to Pamplona to run – I wrote about it in the preface to the 2015 edition of Fiesta: How To Survive The Bulls Of Pamplona. Despite 16,000 runners, 42 hospitalisations, and 10 gorings, no one died there at least (no one has since the year I first ran in 2009.) However, while I was running bulls in Tafalla and then down the mountain in Falces four people died on other runs in that single weekend.
Now, after running the bulls in San Sebastián de los Reyes, a suburb of Madrid, I have returned here to Cuéllar, in Old Castille, which has the most ancient bull-runs on Earth (they have a letter from a Pope banning priests from participating dated 1215 A.D.) I first came here in 2012 (which I wrote up for the Financial Times) and have been here every year since and even write a thank you letter to the town in the regional newspaper, El Norte de Castilla.
However, for the first time that I know of, indeed the first time anyone can remember, a 66-year-old man was killed at the beginning of the first of the five annual bull-runs (ending Thursday.) I saw that same bull come up the street to me, its horn worryingly red, and I assisted along with tall the other runners and the heroic pastores, ‘herdsman’, in leading it to the plaza de toros where recortadores will dodge it and saltadores will leap over it. However, no matadores will be involved. This bull will not die today. (Like all cattle, fighting bulls or not, it will end up in the food chain one day.)
I will write more in my forthcoming article on this summer for the Telegraph, but meanwhile I must prepare myself for tomorrow’s run (not least as I am recording it for the BBC.) Obviously, my prayers are with his family, but, as for those who seek to use this as an argument against festivals involving bulls, all of us here know the risks. It is, in no small part, why we are here.
P.S. You can see the inheritors of the Minoan bull-leaping tradition in Crete 4,000 years ago at bloodless work in the plaza de toros in my photo from that night below.
Our editor, who is on holiday, has asked me to step into the breech to do a little roundup on the years events in Pamplona to accompany Joseph S. Furey’s “excellent” article in the Daily Telegraph magazine today. (We suspect he called it excellent because the article says of him, “Alexander Fiske-Harrison… a stone-cold pragmatist with a poet’s heart.”)
So here, courtesy of our friends at the Diario de Navarra, is the San Fermín news roundup, forgive the pun. (An encierro – the word we translate as ‘bull-run’ – actually translates as ‘enclosure’, ‘corraling’ or… roundup.)
1.4 million people attended the Fiesta that is the feria de San Fermín, an increase of almost 90,000 people on last year (although last year was cold and wet which may explain a lot.) Despite this, the number of recorded complaints to the police were down from 532 to 429.
Despite this increase, which meant that, for example, the number of spectators at the fireworks increased by 14%, the number of runners was down 2.9% to 16,629 overall, 497 less than last year.
The fullest day, Saturday, July 11th saw 2,576 people running, as compared with the fullest day last year, Sunday, July 13th, which had 2,924. According to City Hall, 54% of runners were from outside Spain, of the remainder, 14% were from Navarre, two thirds of them being from Pamplona itself.
This year saw the fastest encierro, which was by the bulls of Don Eduardo and Don Antonio Miura, who covered the 848.6 metres in 2 minutes and 2 seconds, giving them an average speed of 15.56 miles per hour. (It is worth noting that David Rudisha, the holder of the 800m world record – 1 minute 40.9 seconds – averaged 17.73mph. However, he is neither as fast at the beginning nor as slow at the end.)
This year also set another first: on the day there were the most runners in the streets, there were the least bulls in history. A cárdeno oscuro meano – basically ‘dark brown’ – 535kg, 4 year, 10 month old bull called Curioso I (Nº 34.), from the ranch of José Escolar Gil, decided that it didn’t want to run and returned to the corrals alone and had to be later transported by truck.
Despite the fact that there were only ten horns in the street, there were still the most horn wounds of any day – again showing that the people are the issue, not the bulls – with four that day out of the total ten this year, along with 42 other hospitalisations. (Newspapers like the Chicago Tribune should fire which ever staffer writes articles saying there were none.
This still makes it a remarkably clean year which owes a great deal to the courage and skill of the pastores, ‘herdsmen’, who run in their green polo shirt with their long ash canes, and also the efficacy of the police.
Editor’s [pedantic] Note [from his email]: Please remember to say the pastores’ canes are ash. People keep writing that they are willow or bamboo, which is completely wrong. The canes are made from the common ash tree, Fraxinus excelsior, for the historic reason that that is what the lances used before the canes were made from. ‘Ash’ is Old English for spear, just as ‘Fraxinus’ is in Latin, from which they Spanish word for the wood, fresno, derives.
Speaking of police, under the new system of fines, 9 were issued this year: 3 for attempting to film or photograph the encierro from within, 1 for running towards the animals, 2 for citing the bull to charge, 2 for touching the cattle and 1 for blocking the exit of other runners through the barriers.
This brings us on to our concluding point. It should be obvious that the current asinine habit of photographing and filming oneself doing everything from having breakfast to actually dying had to be countered by an increased vigilance by the police within the encierro: people focusing on their phone have added a third entity to their field of focus when their should be only two – Where are the bulls? Where are the other people? – and as a result, things like the below happen. I believe this young American man lost his spleen.
However, it is easy for policing to go too far. On the second day of Pamplona’s encierros this year, a policeman came over to Joe Distler before the bulls were released to give him a fine incurred the day before for standing on the same spot on calle Estafeta, next its corner with calle Mercaderes, as he has for the past few years. He is in sleeveless red in the photo below. As you can also see, he forms no obstruction to other runners nor distraction to the bulls, something which none other than Miguel Reta, the pastor for that section of the encierro, and a breeder of bulls himself, pointed out.
If you don’t know who Joe Distler is, his attachment to and commitment to the encierros of Pamplona are explained by one simple fact. He first came to Pamplona in 1967 after reading Robert Daley’s Swords Of Spain, missed 1968, and then returned to run in 1969, met Matt Carney and began running with him, and didn’t miss another encierro until 2013. There is a big thing in Pamplona about the democratic nature of the run – runners are not toreros, they do not wear gold and lead their team and have their faces on posters, there is no escalafón – leader’s board – of runners nor any remuneration. In one of our editor’s commentaries for NBC’s Esquire Network, on which the running of the bulls is televised in the United States, he spoke half-jokingly off this. (Madrid-born runner David Ubeda had earlier that day been seen adjusting – ‘doffing’ – his trademark cap while running on the horns of a bull.)
However, it is worth pointing out that Joe Distler ran on the horns of the bulls, leading the herd, for practically all of his three and a half hundred or so mornings, usually alongside his friend and mentor Matt Carney, and often with Pamplonicas like Atanasio and Miguel Ángel Eguiluz. A few photos over the years are shown below.
To try to fine a runner of that experience for being a danger in the encierro is… well… one is reminded of the famous case of the then Formula One World Champion, Alain Prost, who was stopped and charged with speeding on a French motorway. Prost had been caught in his Porsche 911 Turbo driving at 230 km/h on roads with a speed limit of 130km/h. The sentencing judge, clearly both a reasonable man and a fan, summed up the trial with the following memorable words:
“I realise M’sieur Prost that at 230 kilometres per hour you are safer than every driver in France at 30, but the law insists I fine you – so I will fine you 10 francs.”
(Which was worth £1 or $1.50 at the time.)
So, despite the chaos they create crossing the border on Bastille Day weekend, perhaps Pamplona has something to learn from the French after all…
P.S. If you want to read a similar ‘Bullfighting Roundup’, go to The Last Arena here.
This morning was the bloodiest so far I this year’s Feria de San Fermín. With five people gored including one American according to Navarran authorities. Our friend Dennis Clancey came close to making it six (and two) as you can see in the photo…
Careful how you run your bulls, running “on the horns” is meant as metaphor.