6
Jun 05

La Tomatina Festival, Bunol, Spain

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Rowland Rivron walks past in an Ealingly clean white suit. I point at him, “you’re going down Rivron.” “Not me” he pleads, “get Clarkson instead.”

But Jeremy is in a bad mood. He’s munching away on a piece of chicken (“donkey food”) and isn’t keen on the Spaniards (“lazy twats who sleep in the afternoon”). We make mental notes to hurt them.

La Tomatina is a tomato riot in a small Spanish town near the city of Valencia. It lasts for one hour for one day, every year in August. Its origins are blurry and its clean-up operation an endeavour of Forth Bridge proportions.

The day starts as all good days do, with a giant ham stuck atop a greasy pole. Local lads shin up, arse-over-tit down and eventually reach the ham. “Jamon Jamon” shouts the crowd, unwittingly marketing a tapas bar in Camden. This is the signal for part one of the pain to begin. Water hoses roar into the streets and drench everyone with powerful spray. T-shirts are removed, bunched up and thrown into a neighbour’s face. At noon, a klaxon sounds and a temporary truce is called. The lull before the storm.

You hear them first, heavy wheels trundling through the medieval streets. A cheer goes up and the tomato trucks roll into the central plazas to dump their loads. A free for all begins as the streets run with red juice and nowhere is a hiding place. It’s a fight for survival. Darwin with weapons of fruit. A mobile phone floats past in a knee-high stream of red floaty-bits. An Australian girl cries and a drunken couple snog and form a popular target.

A horn sounds after an hour. Hands are shaken, bruises compared and the town heads downhill to a row of communal showers. Clarkson walks past, still not reconciled to the Spanish way of life. “Fuckers” he mutters. The smell of tomatoes stains our nostrils forever more.

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