Saturday, 22 May 2010


In case you thought I’d dropped through a deep, dark hole in the planet, I have in fact been travelling around Spain on a promotional tour for my first novel ‘LA INGLESA Y EL TORERO’.

To say I’ve enjoyed every minute of it would be an understatement. I've lapped it up and swallowed it whole and embraced it with every fibre of my being!

That may sound incredibly self-obsessed but when an author of two volumes of nefarious memoirs find herself being hailed as a serious writer, one has to take the praise and run with it.

The premise of the novel is based on my experiences in the Spain of the 1960s with the world’s most famous bullfighter, Manuel Benitez 'El Cordobes'. I met him when I was working as the interpreter for two journalists writing his life story. I allowed him my virginity but to go on live TV and radio in Spain and speak about it in a foreign language to a goggle-eared public was daunting to say the least!

The ear of the title of this blog was thrown to me 45 years ago after an historic fight one brazen afternoon in 1965. For those who don’t know the finer points (and many of you will be too squeamish to care) when a matador has honoured his adversary with a noble death, they give him a trophy of the ears, tail or hooves of his bull. These he dispenses to the crowd.

As I stood there clapping till my palms burned, my Manolo winked at me broadly and swung the ear in my direction.

Here is an excerpt from my book - the character is Cassi Samuels, the matador is Rafael Romero 'El Macho' - both loosely based on himself and I.

“As if in slow motion, the severed appendage came flying through the air. People nearby jostled to reach it, but Cassi reacted quickly and caught it smartly in both hands like a clap. An explosion of fresh blood splattered across the front of her organdie top causing her to gasp as if she’d been stabbed.

Cassi looked down at first with horror, then with a creeping sense of pride. The irony was not lost on her: he’d spilt her maiden blood, but he’d replaced it with that of his nemesis. There was poetic justice in this, and in some indefinable way, it touched her as deeply as a blood brothers pact.

Her pretty blouse, like its occupant, had been branded as one of his possessions now, and she knew in that instant she would never wash it but would wear it with honour and if anyone wanted to know what the stains were, she’d bloody well tell them.

Cassi turned the amputated trophy over in her hand and stroked it affectionately. The black hair on the outside was long and coarse but on the inside the ear it was soft, fleshy and disturbingly, still warm. She said a silent thank-you to the brave beast who’d died so valiantly in her name and who’d sacrificed his life with such dignity and grace. . .”
I know that bullfighting is seriously frowned upon in the UK, despite their love of fox-hunting... I happen to be a serious aficionada and I make no excuse for that. You either understand and approve of this element of the Iberian culture or you don’t.

And so the dried-out ear accompanied me on my book tour and has now appeared on a variety of TV chat shows all over Spain. Some people turned their noses up but others were fascinated.

I’m sure the ear enjoyed the attention. It has, after all, but stuck away in a box for some four decades waiting for its (second) moment in the sun.

And by the way, how many other women do you know who - as they say in Spain - 'opened their flower' to a bullfighter??