PAMPLONA

A Happy City

By Tim Pinks 

A friend of Heart of Pamplona and Northern Spain Travel, Tim Pinks gives us the pleasure of number 2 article in a series called SF 2018 Escalera which was written for the Diario de Noticias and came out on February 2nd, 2018.

I have never known either a place or an event where the laughs are so much louder, the smiles so much wider, and life is more enjoyable and love is more intense than Pamplona in July. The American author James Michener in his 1971 fictional novel ‘The Drifters’ (‘Hijos de Torremolinos’ in Spanish, and it’s the book that took me to Pamplona for my first ever Fiesta back in ’84) wrote, in the prelude to the 100 pages that make up the Pamplona chapter: ‘To be young, and in love, and in Pamplona in July is heaven itself.’

Well, let me tell you…to be middle aged, and single, but in Pamplona in July after well over half a lifetime of San Fermins’ is also heaven itself. Whatever your circumstances, just to be in Pamplona…

I know, I know…it’s a city on Planet Earth and bad things can happen, even during fiesta, but I promise you, after 34 Fiestas Without Equal and countless other visits to this City Beyond Compare, that there is something remarkably special about not just Pamplona, but Navarra. As if there is an aura surrounding it. And during Fiesta, well, I swear that aura turns into a giant but invisible gold and red cloak – yes, like the one San Fermin wears – that covers the city in a cocoon, as if trying to protect it and everyone within it from harm.

And underneath that protective caped cocoon, as I wrote in that first line, things are more fun, more emotional, more…just…more!

I remember once, around about ’89, standing outside Bar Txoko after the encierro, traditional post run breakfast in hand – a vanilla legumba – watching Superman perform for us. Okay, it wasn’t the real Pamplona Superman, Fernando Lizaur Gomez, who graced Pamplona’s bullring and streets with his extraordinary 1979 fiesta version of a corrida ‘espontaneo’ but just a street performer, wearing our super hero’s famous suit of tights.

Halfway through this fellas’ act he took a breather and lit a cigarette. I was standing next to the American runner Joe Distler at the time, who I didn’t yet know, and just said to him, ‘’Look, Superman smokes!’’ And he just looked at me and laughed his head off and said, ‘’Yeah, man, Superman smokes!’’ and wandered off, saying to himself, ‘Superman smokes!’’ and still laughing. Only in Pamplona…

One time my car, with its English number plate and right hand drive, was stolen at the beginning of fiesta while parked under the trees in front of the bullring, back in the day when it was not just allowed to park there, but to park for free. Under the trees and in the shade it was a beautiful spot. And beautifully easy to steal, too…

On July 14th while wandering around town, my brother Mike found the car parked, and parked well, in the wide street by the side of where the fun fair used to be, and where the new bust station is now. The ‘thieves’ had put about 15miles on the speedo and changed the clock from British time to Spanish…and left half a bottle of wine. Oh, my fantastic fiesta… Thanks lads!

Once upon a time in my first year my friends and I, sitting in the Plaza del Castillo on the grass, which became during fiesta our hotel, living room, kitchen, garden, were visited by two of The Little People. Yes…them! The next year there were four of them and then in ’86 there were twelve of the mythical creatures. Yes, twelve. You don’t believe me? I don’t blame you, but this tale, like the one mentioned last month when I met San Fermin and his friends, will have to wait for another day. There once was a time…honestly, you couldn’t script it and only in Pamplona…

A friend of Heart of Pamplona and Northern Spain Travel, author Tim Pinks' brilliant personality and charm makes him an essential figure of our International San Fermin.

There is a word that I learnt thanks to reading one of the books written by that great Pamplonican doctor, writer and historian, Jose Joaquin Arazuri, that apparently is typically Navarran. The word is ‘ciriquiar.’ To make mischief. Well, Pamplona is full of mischief makers, jokers and comedians. I don’t know if the Catholic Church has a saint for that little trio of fun-folksters, but I think they should have.

Actually, in retrospect, I suppose they already have beatified someone to look after such a trio of mischief-makers…the Pamplonican and Navarran, San Fermin.

Sometimes you are just not able to dream, but other times you can live your dreams, and this happens when the dates fall between the 6th and 14th of July and the miracle is called The Fiesta of San Fermin.

Today is the 2nd of February and another special date for the city and for us foreigners from all over the world who are waiting for July and for the dream to become reality in this mythical town. Pamlona is a wonderful city. A Happy City. So you could say a Feli-City. Or maybe even a Happinecity…

Ya falta mucho but already ya falta menos, Pamplonicans. Viva San Fermin! Gora!

By Tim Pinks

The author of  the novels Bulls Eye and Once Upon a Time in Pamplona

Photo taken by Juan Antonio Garaikoetxea

Read more articles from Tim Pinks:

Tom Pinks’ own Fiesta Recipe

San Fermin Escalera 1

Once Upon A Time In Pamplona