Those awful bombs in Madrid rather overshadowed a less sensational little story unfolding during the Spanish general election just passed. My brother-in-law stood for the office of senator on an anti-bullfighting ticket, and though he stood no chance of winning and never expected to, he did exceptionally well. Here I must pause. I do not want to upset a good friend. My affection for my brother-in-law is equalled only by the affection and regard in which I hold Tristan Garel-Jones and his wonderful family. And Lord Garel-Jones, as the world knows, is the bullfighting correspondent of this magazine. Before you (and he) cry, ‘That is not the title under which he writes’, let me acknowledge as much. Tristan, who correctly insists that the Spanish do not call the practice bullfighting and see the contest as a kind of dance, a branch more of the arts than of human aggression, is described as The Spectator’s ‘taurine correspondent’.
Avidly as I read Tristan’s occasional but always elegant contributions, that appellation strikes me as odd. Why taurine? Lord Garel-Jones is not speaking for the bull. He is not on the bull’s side. The odds are not in the bull’s favour. Let’s face it, the bull gets a pretty raw deal. This is about wiping out bulls, however beautifully. Were Tristan writing in the era when sport for Romans was to send lions into the arena to maul and kill Christians, we should have read his columns with admiration, but I do not think we would have described him as our religious affairs correspondent. Likewise Bruce Anderson, another old friend who has tormented me all through our long association by insistently inviting me to join him killing stags in Scotland, which he very well knows I should detest. I would read anything Bruce wrote about stag-hunting but I would not allow him to style himself The Spectator’s wildlife correspondent. If Tristan refuses to be associated with the word ‘bullfighting’, then I think we should call him our matadorean correspondent.
But still I do not wish to upset him. Lord Tebbit, I know, has tried to do so in the letter pages of this magazine, where he dared Tristan to go into the arena and face a bull himself. Tristan refused to be drawn, contrary to my advice, which was to accept Norman’s challenge with relish and promise to arrange a contest in which Tristan would be the matador, but only on condition that he would be accompanied by all his fellow Tory pro-Europeans as picadors, that the red rag would carry an EU-style circle of gold stars, and that Norman would be the bull. That, however, is not a challenge I would advise Tristan to extend to my anti-bullfighting sister, Deborah, or her Catalan husband, Manel. Debs can be quite fierce and would most likely accept the challenge, have a ring put through her nose, and charge bucking into the bullring with her two offspring, Adam and Maria del Mar, pawing and snorting behind her. I would not fancy any matador’s chances against this trio.
Her husband, Manel Macià, a farmer, is a gentle person, but intense in his and his wife’s cause. Together they belong to Pacma: the Partit Antitaur