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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

Kirk rang while Gary and I were sharing a big fish. I said: “Is this our man in Vanuatu?” which I thought was very funny, but it turned out he had moved on to Sydney which is apparently in Australia and not quite so exotic. It is also the name of my cat, which has been stalking Meadow Lane while I was away and seems to have survived remarkably well without me, which is in some ways a disappointment.

I will tell you about the trains next week because they deserve a chapter all on their own. They are amazingly comfortable and run on time and appear to also do it effortlessly.

But first I have to tell you about the bullfight in Madrid because it has been constantly on my mind since I went on Sunday.

It seemed a logical thing to do. Real Madrid was not playing at home and I couldn’t imagine what else you should do if you were in Madrid and there was a bullfight taking place. Mind you, I did make a sort of pilgrimage and go past the stadium on an open-topped bus.

I said to Rick I thought it would only be a pretend bullfight. I honestly didn’t think they still did the real thing, did they?

Let me tell you that they do. Eight bulls were not just killed in front of us. They were crucified.

It was a magnificent spectacle. Matadors paraded. Horses bedecked in sombre colours seemed to attract the bulls that charged at them and one was actually knocked over. Once the bull charged into the ring and clouted a junior matador, tossing him over.

I even saw a matador hurled to the ground and he limped for a bit as though he had been in a tackle with Roy Keane.

But over and over again, men stuck knives in them until they bled all over the place, principally from their shoulders, weakened them until they could hardly stand and then the brave (?) matadors delivered the coup de grace, oh-so-gracefully.

I am so innocent about this that I don’t even know if I have spelled bled properly.

We went on a properly-organised coach trip from somewhere on the Gran Via with American and Japanese tourists and it cost about twenty Euros, though I discovered we could have gone on our own on the Madrid metro and bought tickets and the whole disgusting event would have cost about a tenner in real money. You can choose to either sit on the sunny side or in the shade for half as much.

All the way there, the tour guide waffled on about Spanish culture and all the lovely museums and municipal buildings and never mentioned the horror of what was to come apart from saying you should wave your white hanky if you thought the bull should be spared.

I have a really lovely poster that would look good in my bathroom so that you can look at it and then be sick without too much effort, as though you’ve downed a bottle of Spanish brandy straight off.

On my television back in Meadow Lane there is a debate about fox hunting going on at the Labour Party conference in Blackpool because we voted for this government on the basis that they were going to ban it. I just thought it was something to do with class prejudice and I’ve never given it a great deal of thought, but now I have seen man’s inhumanity to animals and suddenly I think I’ve learned something far deeper about cruelty and the secret urges that drive people to enjoy blood sports and I have to tell you I don’t like it.

Most of the 23,000 people at the bullfight were tourists. I talked to some Madrilènes afterwards and they just shrugged and said it was for the tourists. Well I was one of them and I feel ashamed. For all of us I hope it was a once in a lifetime experience.

Sinclair Newton