I have fulfilled another of my lifelong ambitions: I have run through the streets of a Spanish town wearing nothing but a pair of back to front women's pants. I have always wanted to do that. And now I have done it. It feels good.
Although we weren't leaving until 9, someone had kindly set their alarm clock for 6.30am. Then even more kindly they allowed it to ring for a full minute, just to ensure everyone in the cabin was awake. Then they finally turned it off and went back to sleep. I am not sure, but I think it was one of the girls who were talking last night.
Ten minutes later it went off again. She'd put it on snooze. She still didn't get up. I hate animal activists.
I got up and got dressed for the run. I tried on the small pants I had been given, but they did not cover that which must be covered and I would face arrest if I went out like this. I tried them on backwards and that just about hid what mush be hid. I decided to chance it. I put on the rest of my clothes for now, but was amused to know that I was secretly wearing a pair of back to front women's pants. I began to think that maybe wearing back to front women's pants was more amusing than running naked.
I did feel a bit better for the sleep, but still pretty ropey and I knew I couldn't face the coach ride home, so I made plans to get home today or tomorrow (the coach is leaving tomorrow afternoon and arriving in London at some time on Wednesday morning). Sean fixed me up with a Spanish activist called Diana who was driving to Barcelona in a minibus after the run. She said she'd be able to drop me off at the airport. I might be back in my own bed tonight. This made me feel a bit better too. I had loosened up a bit too and started chatting a lot more freely to more of the other guys. Unsurprisingly they seemed very genuine and friendly and kind people. I told them about what I was doing and they thought it was good that the cause would get some publicity. I even told a coupld of them I wasn't a vegetarian and they didn't bite my head off. If I had been well I would loved to have hung out with these people and party with them afterwards to celebrate our achievement, but I was still in no fit state and would only have been a damp squib had I stayed.
In Pamplona the police were out in some force to meet us. As we walked backwards up the route, there were several lines of uniformed men and women with guns and even rifles to fire gas at us should we get unruly. It was quite scary. Some of the activists were antogonised by the shops selling bull based artefacts or bloody T-shirts (out of pride rather than protest). I was a bit worried something might kick off. The Mayor was clearly pissed off that we'd been allowed to march at all. Any deviation from the rules would doubtless give the police carte blanche to wade into us.
Sean gave another calming talk, reminding everyone to behave and then told us to meet back at this spot in an hour to begin the run. I went for a coffee with Tracey and Wendy. We were all a little bit nervous about what might happen. There seemed to be a feeling that certain elements might get carried away.
But when we got back there was much more a party atmosphere. The press took photos of us all getting changed and thus managed to get their quota of shots of pretty girls with their tops off, even though they would be covered during the march. No-one seemed to want to take a photo of me in my back to fron women's pants though. I don't know why. Perhaps in Spain the pert breasts of a twenty year old girl are considered more attractive than the fat arse of a 36 year old man which is stuggling to stay inside a thin strip of white cotton. There is no accounting for taste. All shapes and sizes were accounted for and their were some worse abominations than me. Really if PETA want to get anywhere they should get rid of all the attractive youngsters and have the march consisting entirely of the old and the ugly and the strange. Because the Spanish are going to keep the running of the bulls going if they know it's going to give them a parade of beauties to look at a couple of days before. But if the run is made up entirely of fat men in women's pants and old grannies with droopy breasts then they will soon give up their evil ways.
The run (more of a walk) passed off without serious incident. A few people were there to gawp at the flesh, a few were supportive, more than a few were booing. A great old Spaanish fella was giving us the finger. But the atmosphere was good and my nadgers stayed in my pants. I was given a sign to hold in a language I don't recognise which said, "Sluit je aan bij het menselijk ras". It is my belief that this would translate at
Sluit- Look at this,
je aan - I am wearing (literally I have on)
bij het - back to front
menselijk - women's (literally man (men) without (sel) ijk (ijk))
ras - pants.
It was fun to be a part of it all and shamefully this is the first march I have ever been on in my life. In the short term it will make little difference I am sure, but in the long run I think bull fighting and fox hunting will become unpleasant parts of the past.
Once it was all over I met up with Diana to see about getting that lift. I was told it was about six hours drive to Barcelona and was wondering already if we'd get there in time for a flight this evening, but it was only about 2pm so there was a possibility. However, we were left waiting around for an hour or so as some other people had walked off with the bus keys. I got talking to Spanish actvists who were on the bus with me. "Are you a vegan?" asked one of them. "No," I replied truthfully. "Vegetarian?" she asked, in such a way that the word "no" seemed like it would be unacceptable and might result in the offer of my lift being withdrawn. "Yes," I lied. What did it matter? I was going to be with these people for six hours and I think I could avoid eating any animals in that time. I was never going to see them again and to tell them anything else might just cause problems and upset them. I didn't feel too bad. I had been vegetarian for 15 years, probably longer than any of them had been.
Another one asked me the same question. I had to say I was a vegetarian again. I didn't like lying. She said, "You had better say you were even if you weren't, hey?" And I laughed and said "Yes, but I am one. A vegetarian. Yes. That's what I am."
After a lot of waiting around we finally got back to the van. They wanted to get something to eat before we left - I did too, I hadn't eaten any breakfast because of my sore mouth and was pretty hungry. But the cafe we were at had either stopped serving or didn't have anything vegetarian so we went on our way.
We stopped at a couple of service stations, but they had no vegetarian food so we had to move on. Unsurprisingly it's quite tough being vegetarian in Spain. Keen to make the slightly suspicious woman see that I wasn't lying about my vegetarian status I made a clever statement that wasn't even a lie. I said, "it used to be as bad as this in the UK when I became a vegetarian in 1985." There, that was the truth and yet I was still showing solidarity and wasn't going to get dumped on the motorway. "So you've been a vegetarian for 19 years?" she asked. Damn, I was going to have to lie again, "Yes. Yes I have. A vegetarian. That is what I have been. For 19 years."
The lie was already starting to get out of hand and I felt increasinsly uneasy about it. I don't like lying at the best of times, but these people were being so friendly and showing me a great kindness. I think part of this kindness came from the belief that I was like them and an animal activist and so I already felt like I partly didn't deserve their friendship.
One of the women was Canadian and I talked to her mostly as the others didn't have great English and I have no Spanish. We were getting on very well. I told her about the show and she was keen to see it some time. She kindly said if there was any problems getting a plane that I could stay in her spare room. Given I was a total stranger this was a lovely gesture. For all she knew I could have been the kind of person who pretended to be a vegetarian in the hope of not blowing a lift. We finally found a service station with a salad bowl thing and had some unpleasant food which I had difficulty eating in any case. We were well on our way to becoming friends now and laughing at each other's jokes. The Canadian girl was rather attractive too and she seemed to find me funny and I now started worrying in case we fell in love and I'd have to at some point explain to her that I'd lied about the vegetarian thing. I didn't want to tell her yet, in case I needed to stay at her flat. But it was turning into an ethical mine field. What if she found me attractive because I was vegetarian and wanted to be more than friends. If I didn't tell her the truth first then wouldn't I have essentially tricked her into fancying me. I decided I would get a hotel by the airport if there were no planes. It would be safer in the long run, even though I have to say my imagination was running far in advance of actual events here.
At around 9pm with some way to go it was clear that I wasn't going to get a plane tonight. It seemed rude to turn down the offer of the room, but also now even moer difficult to admit the truth. If I just shut up about vegetarianism they might forget all about it.
On the next leg of the journey I confessed to her that I didn't really ever do anything for animal causes and that this trip, although I believed in the cause, had been mainly for the show. "That's OK," she said, "You obviously still care and think of all the animals you have saved by not eating them."
"Mmmmm," I said. Well I had for fifteen years. Though I don't think it quite works like that anyway. It's not like the farmer gets to the end of the day and thinks "Oh, I've sold one less cow than usual this month. I'll let this one go and live in the wild." I think the cows get killed anyway, or if there is no demand never get to exist in the first place. If we were all vegetarian I wonder how many cows and pigs and sheep there would be in our farms.
"So, do you eat no meat at all?" she then asked me. This was it. This was my chance to maybe dampen the lie a little by saying, "Well I eat fish," or "to be honest I have slipped occasionally in all this time," or "oh meat? Oh yes I eat meat all the time. I thought you said beet. I don't like beet or beetroot." But instead I said, "No. Not at all. I don't eat meat. I'm a vegetarian."
It would have been hard to go back on the lie at this stage, but shamefully I think there was a part of me that was trying to impress her and that hoped she's like me a bit more than she already did. The majority of me was appalled by this and couldn't countenance what the little bit was doing. And I think in any circumstance the decent part of me would have won the day, but I felt really bad for lying to these fine people.
She then said she didn't really have a problem with non-vegetarians and that most of her friends ate meat. This just made the lie seem even more pointless and offensive.
Then a van went by transporting chickens in very small cages. All the others groaned and complained. It felt like I was being taunted by the vegetarian gods for having gone back on what I once believed. The activists made some good points about the horrible treatment of animals, but I am sad to say that I am not as sentimental as that anymore. And whilst I want animals to get the best treatment they can and not be subject to cruelty I still want to eat them.
We finally got back to the apartment and were both very tired. I told the Canadian girl about my website, perhaps by way of a cowardly apology. Possibly she will have a look some time and see my confession here. I hope she will understand. Sorry Madeleine.
For one time in my life I went to bed praying that at no point in the night would the door open and I'd be joined by someone else. I don't think I could have coped with the shame. Luckily there was no chance of this occurring, which means I can pretend that I would have come clean beforehand if it had.