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"Paul’s work on the international curriculum over 10 years ensured that Sefton was in the vanguard nationally in developing staff and student exchanges and study visits. His language skills were paramount in this as the department and Sefton schools expanded their links to include many countries in Europe and the world."
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Siete de julio PDF
Thursday, 07 July 2011 00:00

“Uno de enero, dos de febrero,
Tres de marzo, cuatro de abril,
Cinco de mayo, seis de junio,
Siete de julio, San Fermin.
A Pamplona hemos de ir,
con una media, con una media.
A Pamplona hemos de ir,
Con una media y un calcetín.”


Siete de Julio heralds the start of the Fiesta de San Fermín in Pamplona, Navarra, N. Spain.   At 8.00am a rocket fired into the sky signals the start of the encierro, or bull-running, which takes place every morning for a nine days through the streets of this Basque town.

Hundreds of brave, or drunk, men and women from all over the world line up dressed in the traditional red and white to run alongside the bulls.  Armed with rolled up newspapers to try to fend off any bull that gets too close, the kilometre from the stables to the bullring along a fenced-off channel through the old town takes a mere seven minutes.  

In the evening corrida, three toreros take on two bulls each over a period of two hours. The atmosphere is electric. I first went to the San Fermín festival in Pamplona in 1971 when I was a 21 year old student. I was fascinated by the whole thing. It was my first experience of una corrida and it turned me on to los toros. I went again the following year and was equally enthralled.

I remember being really impressed by one of the top toreros at that time - Francisco Rivera "Paquirri" - who sadly later was gored to death in what was his farewell appearance in the ring. He was from Ronda, by the way, which is where I now live (not because of him, in case you're thinking I'm that much of a fanatic!).

His two sons are also toreros - Francisco Rivera Ordóñez and Cayetano. Sadly neither are as good as their Dad was. Fran had the cheek to rename himself as "Paquirri" last year. We haven't stopped laughing yet.

By the way, I've deliberately avoided using the words bullfight and bullfighter - because they are incorrect. The English terms for la corrida de toros and el torero/el matador are mistranslations, which unfortunately encourage the view amongst some English speakers that the corrida is a fight, a sport, that it's supposed to be fair, etc. It's nothing of the kind - it's a cultural spectacle - that's why it's reported in the Culture section of newspapers and not in the Sport section.

The San Fermín bullfight festival was made famous by Ernest Hemingway in books like Fiesta, The Sun Also Rises and Death in the Afternoon.

Oh, and if you were wondering if I ran with the bulls back then ... No, I did not - I'm not that daft!

© Paul Whitelock

 For further articles on this topic, click Bullfighting - To Ban or Not to Ban? and Bull or No Bull?


Tags: 7 de Julio, San Fermín, Pamplona, bullfight festival, Ernest Hemingway, Fiesta, The Sun Also Rises, Death in the Afternoon, encierro, bull-running, Basque, Sanfermines, corrida, torero, Francisco Rivera, Paquirri, Cayetano, Francisco Rivera Ordóñez, paul whitelock



Paul Whitelock

Paul is a Joint Honours graduate in Spanish and German, a qualified teacher (PGCE) and has a Member of the Institute of Linguists (MIL) qualification.

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