Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Summer - the silly season!

Summer brings the silly season and stampedes of bulls through the streets of Pamplona, where the San Fermines are in full swing right now. The local paper reports five people hospitalised there yesterday, one a Scot and one an American: international madness this, obviously! The same article reassures (?) us that none of them was actually gored by a bull!

A cartoon shows a female socialist minister running the bulls. As someone declares, “Here come the bulls (os touros)!”, she makes a stand for women’s rights and adds, “And the female ones (as touras)!”

And there I was, thinking that women had more sense than to join in the nonsense of proving how brave they are by running in front of an animal that weighs as much as a car and can do you as much damage if it runs over you. Foolish me!

I was also led to believe that they don’t
use cows (vacas) in bullfights because the female of the species learns quickly that it’s a good idea to charge the man, not the cape!

Summer also brings the sales (again!), much advertised on television and talked about in all the media as they interview bargain hunters. It made last Sunday morning here in Vigo a little strange. The usually Sunday-morning-quiet Principe was full of shoppers as almost all the shops, well the fashion shops, opened for the start of the sales. All most confusing for an Englishwoman who has readjusted to Sunday as a day of rest from consumerism.

And then we have the Spanish controversy about the Tour de France, which also began last weekend. The Astana Team is doing well; they won the team time trial yesterday. The official team leader is Spain’s own Alberto Contador, the young man who was Best Young Rider, wore the coveted yellow and then, to everyone’s delight, won the Tour in 2007. However, also in the team is the American Lance Armstrong, veteran cyclist, recovered cancer sufferer and seven times winner of the Tour. This is where the controversy arises.

Lance Armstrong retired from the Tour and from cycle racing with some publicity at the end of the Tour in 2005, had something of a fling with singer/songwriter Sheryl Crow and now seems to be back with a vengeance. He was only seconds away from wearing the yellow jersey yesterday, and again today, pipped to the post by the Swiss Fabian Cancellara.

The American’s success has led to much speculation about his true position in the team. Is he trying to stage a take-over? The team apparently abandoned Contador in order to support Armstrong to a better finish during the second stage. Just who, the media ask us, is the real leader of Team Astana?

It all adds spice to the spectacle and at least it’s not a series of reports on who has been caught with the latest performance-enhancing drugs.

But, oh, I really don’t know who to root for! At one time I could just support Pedro Delgado but Perico is now a sports journalist with a blog on this year’s tour. I spent many a happy hour wincing at the all-elbows-and-knees cycling style of Djamolidine Abdoujaparov. I have admired Lance Armstrong and his personal struggles. And a few years ago I thrilled to the reported success of Alberrrrrto Contadorrrrr, as the excited Spanish sports reporter named him. But now I have to decide between two possible heroes.

Summer is indeed a difficult season!

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