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Hemingway Adventure

Pamplona, Spain (second day)

Pamplona, Spain 
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The Pamplona squeeze. Huge, soggy crowd cheers the start of an eight-day party.
Michael Palin - Hemingway AdventureWith half an hour still to go before midday, the crowd is glued together in one single, sticky mass, a pulsating human pancake, dancing, shouting and chanting on a carpet of slime and broken glass. A boy with short, spiky, peroxide blond hair leaps onto one of the columns on the town hall façade and, thrusting out his chest like a modern-day St Sebastian, screams at the crowd to throw things at him. Bottles of cava are shaken furiously and released in a thousand mini-orgasms as the crowd hysteria builds towards the one great unifying climax of the midday rocket.

It sounds like hell, but it is a hell of exuberance - a manic, but largely good-natured, yell of liberation. I'm just noting down this bon mot when there is a crack on the glass, followed by a roar of approval as a second egg whistles in, scoring a direct hit on our sound man.

At a minute or two before twelve, those cameras not disabled by edible missiles can send their viewers throughout Spain and the rest of the world pictures of the town officials, in braided frock coats and old-fashioned tricorn hats, stepping out on to the ornate Town Hall balcony to an immense reception.

'San Fermín! San Fermín!'

Trumpeters step forward and blow a fanfare which no one can hear, after which, accompanied by one last cataclysmic bellow, the midday rocket goes up and eight and a half days of non-stop partying begins.
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  • Series: Hemingway Adventure
  • Chapter: Pamplona, Spain (second day)
  • Country/sea: Spain
  • Place: Pamplona
  • Book page no: 98

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