Castanets At Dawn

Film, The Arts



In Which Admin Handles Three Hours’ Sleep & An Awful Lot Of Sherry.

Two years ago I posted from the feria at Jerez, the Tio-Pepe-tippling town near Cadiz at the Southwestern tip of Spain close to the African coast. This year I’ve returned to hammer my liver again and attempt bad flamenco moves at the party which is one of Europe’s best-kept secrets.

Seville’s feria is bigger but private – there’s no admittance to the dinner bars that surround the site unless you’re invited. It’s known as ‘The biggest private party in Europe’. But Jerez is public.

Why are there no tourists here? Do they simply not know that the horse/ bull festival which boasts some two hundred casetas (little bars of tapas and wine) is a non-stop music/dance party of 24-hour week-long good-natured fun? Up to twenty of us stay in the former Mayor’s house, a beautiful but faded moorish townhouse in the centre of town (yesterday a piece of plaster fell from the baronial hall and nearly brained me). This year our group is from Amsterdam and Stockholm, London and beyond, including a magician, some sherry importers, and Simon, the designer of this blog (we can always find the magician because he leaves a trail of torn-up playing cards and balloons behind him).

What fascinates me is the deep sense of tradition that inspires everyone from babies to great-grandfathers to dress in their finery and stay up until dawn. The secret of surviving the feria is pacing – pinchos and tapas to eat little and often, sherry to sip, not glug, alcohol tempered with lemonade and iced water – but of course we are the excessive English who insist on too much too quickly, so this obvious and simple rule is ignored.

Heading home at 5am (and the temperature still around 28 degrees Celsius) I still managed to feel like a lightweight as grannies filled the dance floors, and I love the fact that among these many thousands of partying people nobody seems drunk, no-one is abusive or behaving dishonourably, no-one is trying to be sick in the gutter while her friend holds her hair out of her face, no teens are fighting each other – in short, there’s none of the trash-behaviour that seems the inevitable by-product of a British night out. Long may the coach parties stay away!

One comment on “Castanets At Dawn”

  1. Gretta says:

    In that last pic, admin, which one is you? If it’s the red/black/grey number, tis very fetching. :) Also, why is that Rubenesque lady giving you the eye in the second-to-last photo?

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