April 1st - It’s all bulls, really
I don’t know what I was thinking of, really, taking a bunch of impressionable pre-teens to an abrivado. I blame it on the editor, myself. After all, it was him who told me to interview a bull at the abrivado.
“Interview un toro,” I mumbled, writing it down carefully. “Right oh. How many words?”
“Oh, you know... just see how much bull you can get...” At my feet, Dolly pricked up her ears and started wagging enthusiastically. “Did you say chicken?”
“No. I said deadline, Dolly. No chickens. No sausages. Stop barking. This is work. Lie down!”
She sighed and put her head on her paws.
“And it’s no use sulking,” I snapped.
“Sorry, what was that?” said the editor.
Ooops. Caught out talking to the dog when I was trying to be professional and efficient. Not good. Zut.
“Er, I mean it’s... no use... er, skulking around, I’ll get out there and get on with it,” I said, making faces at Dolly. “And the deadline?”
“Oh, no hurry. Say, ten minutes from now?” he said with sparkling wit.
So off I went to interview a bull. Via the ophthalmologist. Eye doctor chappie. Because we’re all blind as bats. Myopia, astigmatisms, shrinking arms (can’t hold books far enough away to see them) and cataracts. (That’s Dolly, poor thing.) We’re all walking into walls. And that’s with the lights on.
Anyway, we collected up the various pairs of glasses, tried them on, swapped them round and having decided that everyone could at least something, set off to the clinic for a jolly morning of eyedrops and attempting to read impossible words in tiny print.
“B.U.L.L?” I offer, “Does it say bull?”
“Uh huh. Now can you read it?”
“Er... is the first letter B, at least?”
“Is that any better?”
“So it’s not B, then?”
“Er, non, Madame...”
And so on and so until I started to get the giggles. But eventually by some miracle or other we all managed to read enough silly letters to be allowed to leave - albeit clutching sheaves of prescriptions. Or were they bills? No, not bulls. Bills. Papers, anyway. Bulls was where we went next.
Yes, it was an outing. Having been obliged to leave the Cevennes to get our sight sorted, we continued down out of the mountains and across the flatlands surrounding Nimes until we reached a village where the inhabitants care for nothing but bulls. They even have a statue of a bull in the main square. I couldn’t read his name, but he was a famous bull. A star bull. Dead, now of course but still a star.
The cafe was full of people talking bulls, too. And eating them. In fact, they were having a bull. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) Anyway, the highlight of the afternoon was an abrivado, a game involving a posse of horsemen charging through a village full of families in their holiday best with a pack of savage bulls in the middle of the horses. The idea apparently is for the public to see if they can trip the horses up. Of course. As you would.
Anyway, I spent the whole afternoon squawking, “No! Come here! Go away you horrid bull! Girls! Heel! Be quiet, Dolly!”
Tormented by nightmare visions of having to confess to various girlfriends that their daughters had been gored or trampled to death by herds of filthy equines, I did my best to keep them safe. “Come and stand here with me. Now. Dolly, stop barking. Girls! Come back. Oh, sorry, Monsieur, I thought you were my daughter. No, this is not my daughter. This is my dog. Are you blind? Girls!”
Utterly useless. The girls spent all afternoon wriggling through to the front of the crowd, cooing over the bulls (“he’s so-oo cute!”) attempting to pat the stampeding horses and asking lecherous half-drunk cowboys to take them for a ride. “I want to be a gardienne when I grow up,” declared Marie-Petite, tossing her hair and snorting.
“If you ever grow up,” I muttered, desperately wishing there was a bar nearby.
Meanwhile, unimpressed by the bulls, Dolly was making strenuous efforts to scramble out of my arms. The holiday bins were bulging with discarded pizzas, crusts of bread, bits of biscuits and all sorts of nice smellings and she was determined to get her share of them. So I put her down and clipped her lead on.
The crowds scattered in all directions and a roar went up. I gazed around but must have been wearing the wrong glasses because I couldn’t see a thing. The noise was deafening, and everyone was running away, leaving us completely isolated by the bins when suddenly a bull loomed up in front of me. Blooming Aida. The thing was absolutely enormous. I was about to be trampled to death. Paralysed with fear, I closed my eyes and gave Dolly a final pat.
But for some reason we didn’t die. The bull didn’t gore us, trample us, chase us or even swear at us. He just took himself off again.
Which was peculiar when you think of it. I mean, you’d have thought that a vicious, savage, killer bull who was just looking for someone to murder would have gone for a dear little doggie, wouldn’t you?
And don’t think that Dolly distinguished herself. She didn’t have the faintest idea she was about to be bashed by a bovine. She didn’t hear him, she’s too deaf, and of course she didn’t see him either because of the cataracts. She just went on doing the bins.
So the only explanation is that bulls have a soft spot for lapdogs.
Or is this all bulls?
Next column will be uploaded 15 April - just before the next school hols. And if you’re wondering which bit of the foregoing rigmarole was the April Fool, it was the editor asking me to interview a bull at the abrivado. Everyone knows you can’t interview a bull at an abrivado. They only give interviews in the press tent afterwards.
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