It would never have happened if I hadn’t picked up the fluttering leaflet.

It would never have happened if not for a walloping misapprehension.

It would never have happened if we weren’t up to our eye teeth with museums, aqueducts and cathedrals. 

I would never have driven the hundred mile round trip.

I would never have bought the expensive tickets.

I took my kids to a bull fight.

There, I’ve said it.

Would I do it again?


It was years ago. We were in France.

The French, I’d read, held bullfights but they were completely unlike Spanish bullfights.

The bull didn’t die. The object of a French bullfight is to pluck ribbon rosettes – cocarde –  from between the bull’s horns. This type of bullfight is called a Course Camarguaise. It hails from the Camargue, the river delta region where Southern France meets the Mediterranean. Men called raseteurs sneak up on the bull and snatch a cocarde. Nobody gets injured and the bull leaves the arena intact. 

As a cultural practice, bullfighting is ancient. The Epic of Gilgamesh is thought to be the first recorded mention of bullfighting. The 4,000 year-old poem speaks of a battle between Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven which he slays by luring and taunting, then driving a sword into the bull’s neck. Bullfighting is thought to have been introduced to what is now Spain by the Roman Emperor Claudius when he implemented a ban on gladiatorial combat. Like a drunk spoiling for a bar fight, man has always been provoked by the bull’s heft and imperious mien.  

The leaflet said the event was to take place in a neighboring town that very evening.  

It would be interesting. It would be … French!

We set off for what I thought was going to be a rosette-plucking, Disney-fied version of a bullfight. 

The arena was purpose-built: round and filled with wooden bleachers. The spectators appeared to be mostly local males. With music blaring, the cuadrilla paraded around the arena. 

This consisted of two picadors mounted on horses clad in protective padding, three banderilleros – assistants to the matador, a page called a mozo de espadas who’s responsible for the matador’s sword, and, of course, the matador de toros in his glittering traje de luces – suit of lights. This entourage should have been my first clue.

Suddenly, a bull enters the arena.

The bull is agitated; the bull is bewildered. The picadors move toward the bull with their lances.

I’m searching the bull for ribbon rosettes.

I see none.

The picadors have begun to thrust their lances at the bull.

My daughter rises to her feet. 

“I am not staying for this”, each word spat out into the dusty air. 

“But no”, I protest, “they … they don’t hurt the bull ….”

My son remains seated but not for long.

The bull is lunging wildly at the picador’s horse. The banderilleros are now attempting to plunge what appear to be gaily coloured sharpened sticks into the bull’s shoulders.

My son stands up. I can still hear his words,

“How could you?”

He storms out of the arena.

Photo by Mason C

I’m alone to witness what happens next. The matador is in the ring, solo. The bull is lunging at the swirling cape. There is a series of passes. The bull is clearly growing weak. The bullfighter is ever closer. There is a flash of metal. The bull is down.

Mules called mulilleros drag the dead bull around the perimeter of the arena and then out the gate it came in. This is slated to happen at least five more times this evening.  

Shaken, I get up and leave.  

My kids are waiting outside the doors of the arena. My daughter has been crying. My son is livid with me. Nothing I can say will placate them. We drive home in silence.

YouTube video by The Telegraph

Of late, orcas are attacking boats off the coasts of Spain and Portugal.  Video footage shows them systematically bashing boats and deliberately biting off rudders. Some animal behaviorists theorize that this is hunting instruction or, perhaps,  play for the young in the pod. Others suggest something far darker – revenge. 

If animals – bulls, dolphins, elephants; the list is long – ever organize, get themselves a cuadrilla of malevolent allies, we’re in for some harsh lessons.  

This week’s question for readers:


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Submissions to last week’s question:

How important are grandparents?

I was fortunate to grow up in Vancouver living next door to my maternal grandparents.  Because of that, they are deeply etched in my memory. With both parents working, they assisted in my brothers’ and my care. A skip across the yard and we were in their home! Tuesdays at 4 pm was teatime (British heritage!) so they could hear about our school day, friends, and activities: so special. Now a grandparent myself, I choose to be an integral part of my grandchildrens’ growing stages, and with great fondness try to emulate the joy of grand parenting shown to me!

Jill Fabian

Our great-granddaughters paid us a visit in early spring.  Pushing them in our walkers, we took them to see the fishies, the pond and garden at our home in Elim Village.  They loved the mode of transportation! We are 91 and 92. We hope we are important!

Marjorie & Charles Grierson

We went to our great granddaughter’s 6th birthday party today with our seven year-old granddaughter. Nana had her children in her 30’s and I mid-twenties. Our choices with our first spouses set the timing of our grandchildren with an eleven year break between our first and second set. This gave us a chance to establish relationships with each and now we have our great grandchildren to love. We’re both well into our 70’s and they all provide the love and energy that is so vital to our lives. Louis Armstrong sang it best “What a Wonderful World”

Sheena & Grant Laporte

When my mother learned her much-beloved granddaughter was expecting her first baby she was ecstatic. She knew her health was declining quickly but she was determined to hold on and be there for the birth.  Luckily, she was, and got to hold her great-granddaughter shortly after the birth.  It was a poignant moment and one we treasure.  She took her role as a great-grandparent very seriously and offered to help in any way she could.  She would tell the baby stories of her growing up in Croatia and what her world was like then. She passed away shortly after but her love and legacy continue to this day.  What a privilege it was to have had four generations together.

Anna Hall

As a newlywed, I received a letter from my paternal Granny in Britain.  In it, she said she hoped I’d be giving her a great-grandchild soon as she was now 90 and there were 70 year-olds in her village who had great-grands, while she had none.  Several of us obliged her before she died at 96.  She wrote me many letters with great child-rearing advice.  My mother’s great value, as it came out at her memorial, was as the secret-keeper for her three granddaughters – what teen or young adult doesn’t need one?

Julie Halfnights

Our family was fortunate to have my Mom live to 97 and a half. She had two children, six grandchildren,  seven great grandchildren and one great, great grandchild. She was able to enjoy her great, great grandchild till he was three. The life experiences she shared were amazing. I hope to be able to do the same. 

Linda Kingsbury

If it takes a village to raise a child so there is definitely a place for grandparents and great-grandparents. It’s healthy for children to develop close relationships with older family members who will love them unconditionally. Grandparents can step in when the parents are overwhelmed with the daily struggles of family life. Grandchildren bring a lot of joy and laughter to the older generations who have more leisure time to share with them. One day, I hope to hold my great-grandbaby in my arms and welcome the newest family member by celebrating their birth. Now that would be a wonderful family memory for me!

Paula Alvaro

You mentioned WW II; in my observation, that was the great birth delayer of the boomer generation. Too many dads overseas for too many years. I was born in 1951 when my mother and father were 33. I never knew my great grandparents. You’re correct that, generally, we’re living longer so this may help improve the great-grandparent situation. That said, I was a bit taken aback when I learned upon turning 70, that, of all the North American men who live to 70, only half of them will still be alive at age 80. Of course I will remain on the living side of that equation!

Peter Gordon

Grandparents are an essential component in raising kids. They give unconditional love, free babysitting, laughter and joy to the youngsters. I am very fortunate to be a great-grandmother to a three year-old and a grandmother to six fine and special grandkids. Because of the age spread in my grandkids, I have had babies in my life ever since I had my three sons. They have kept me young and active even at the ripe old age of 78. I still swim, chase and play as much as possible with them. It is truly a blessing to have them in my life. I have not become invisible yet! 

Janice Burroughs

I was remembering my Granny’s birthday, 125 years ago in England; coming to Canada at five, the eldest daughter marrying, a dozen years later, the eldest son, a farmer, who inherited everything simply by being firstborn. Five of her ten babies died leaving five girls, my Mom being the youngest. Her Mom, my great-grandmother, the local midwife and a nurse in the Boer War, had warned her, “Girls are stronger at birth”. I’ve been thinking so much about her lately because she died at 70, and I’m approaching my 70th birthday.

Grandparents are important: they are our living links with the past.

Barbara Jones

Grandparents can play an important role in their grandchildren’s lives. I had two very different grandmothers; one was tall, thin and reserved, the other was short, stout and caring. I never saw either one very often but tall gramma once visited for two or three months. Most days she rocked in her chair with a worried look on her face. She would smile when I brushed her hair. Stout gramma’s face would glow before enveloping me in her large bosoms for a tight hug. I remember going into the root cellar for stout gramma; she would stand at the opening to encourage me. The grandparent/ grandchild relationship can flourish leaving lasting memories.

Bonnie Hamilton

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