Travels with an ‘aficionado’

THEY have come from all over the world to see him.

He is none other than Spain’s greatest bullfighter, Jose Tomas, making a recovery appearance following a life threatening goring and long 15 month recuperation, therapy and a lot of counselling. Wounded so badly the announcer had to plead for blood donors right there in the ring to save the young matador.

My guest this week is none other than famed Hollywood stuntman Jeff Ramsey who had “jumped the pond” in the vernacular leaving Los Angles, California far behind him and down to the sunny  climes of Mojacar.

When I tell you about Jeff’s earlier life in the cinema it is really a second life following his years fighting bulls, trudging from ranch to ranch to get practice and waving to the hysterical crowds when he demonstrated his first life’s occupation – bullfighter.

So, to have the opportunity to sit four hours in the car and quiz the ‘maestro’ about some of the finer technicalities was a dream trip for me.

You’ve probably heard the Spanish word ‘aficionado’ and know the meaning. But once you’re into following the bulls there is a word much deeper and poignant word, and that is oddly called the ‘gusano’ (worm). A person possessed of the worm will go to almost any ends to view a corrida de toros and a famous happening like what took place in Valencia yielded a plaza full of ‘gusaneros’ (to coin a word).

The draw of matador Jose Tomas filled every hotel and top restaurant in Valencia, and the rank and file of the bull world, everybody, that was anybody, was there or dead.

Opening night I spent with Radio-TV Mexico that came in chartered aircraft and private jets. Seven governors’ of different states were spotted along with Mexican bull breeders, matadors both past and present.

The buzz during the corrida was encyclopaedic knowledge everyone vying to out pronounce his neighbour on a clever insight or historical comment. Movies stars, singers, dancers and the very rich occupied the front rows. No one really knows how they get their tickets. From row 10 up were the true aficionados.

Prices to get in were anywhere from €3,000 for a low down seat to a minimum of €100 for a seat in the clouds (that normally costs €22).

The day was electrifying. Lots of incidents, accidents and happenings. Dangerous bulls and three matadors wishing to demonstrate to the world just how good they were. But, the luck of the draw belonged to a young Mexican matador by the name of Arturo Salivar who demonstrated blind valour and marvellous technical qualities with the cape against the treacherous bulls from El Pilar.

The young man out duelled the maestro himself, at least, for that day. But, he is not a household name amongst the aficionados, like Jose Tomas.

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