When was the last time you walked away from a Tenerife bar, having just bought your round, with a grin on your face as wide as the crater?
For me, it was Sunday at the fiestas of San Antonio Abad in La Matanza where we took our friend Bob along for the ride.
We found a pavement to park on (not just acceptable at these affairs but positively de rigeur) and set off up a street that, were it ever to snow here, would prove a good practice ground for the down hill ski slalom; picking our way over evidence that much of the livestock had also used this route.
We wondered through row upon row of horses from Shetlands to pure bred Arabs and Andalusians tethered alongside donkeys and mules that looked like they’d arrived at the party and no-one had told them it was formal wear.
Then it was over the road, past the pens of goats where tiny, fluffy kids were busy redefining the cute scale, to the stalls where mighty oxen were tethered, drooled over by butchers.
We lined the small street of San Antonio opposite the church and watched as the livestock paraded its way to the trophy table and locals wondered past with their various pets which they’d brought along for the San Antonio blessing. You have to hand it to these people, when it comes to choice of pets they’re not tied by convention. As we stood there we spotted pet iguanas, snakes, chinchilla rabbits (on leads) and a couple of eagles.
An hour or so into the proceedings it was time for some liquid refreshment and I fought my way through the farmers and musicians to the bar of a chiringuito and ordered three red wines. The barman asked if I wanted a quarter or half litre and as it was the first of the day I plumped for the quarter.
He reached into the large fridge and pulled out a chilled ¼ litre carafe into which he siphoned some home produced vino del país and, grabbing 3 small plastic glasses on the way back, he placed them on the bar and said “ €1.50 please”.
The grin remained on our faces as we sat on the wall in the sunshine and made very short work of the immensely quaffable ¼ litre. In fact, we made very short work of the next 2 carafes too – well, everyone has to get their round in, it’s only polite.
Feeling very mellow by this time we decided it was probably sensible to get something to eat and set off in search of some pinchos. Unfortunately, every bar we went to had run out of pinchos and was only offering carne fiesta (spicy pork chunks – come to think of it, not unlike pinchos). Eventually we were forced to declare at the final and largest of the chiringuitos that carne fiesta would suffice nicely, especially as this particular establishment was peppering the dishes liberally with home made chips.
Squashed onto a narrow pavement bordering the main thoroughfare for the livestock, Jack ordered the food and the wine, which arrived in a Pepsi bottle – not as classy as the last place.
As we devoured the savoury pork chunks and drank our wine a steady procession of caballeros pranced and stamped their way to the spot right in front of us. One of the barmen was dispensing large glasses of wine to each rider, many of whom we recognised as fellow imbibers from the other chiringuito. Where they’d been positively unsteady on their feet, they now looked perfectly at home in the saddle and drained every glass in one.
There were one or two very nervous moments as horse buttocks backed close to Bob’s toes while he was trying to photograph a particularly attractive female rider – the words “serve” and “right” come to mind – bringing an exciting and dangerous finale to the afternoon’s proceedings.
If Guardia Civil had thought to get the breath tests out along the La Matanza to Puerto road on Sunday they’d have financed their next three fiestas – assuming they have jurisdiction over four legged vehicles.