Sunday, August 05, 2007

Basque in it

Today we went to the Fetes de Bayonne which is an annual Basque festival very close to Biarritz. Apparently it used to involve lots of rufty tufty Basque men drinking, baiting bulls and having the odd punch-up however is now much more visitor friendly, although there is still a satisfactorarily high quotient of rufty tufty Basque men. Unfortunately they are all attached to a tiny, skinny, beautiful woman who is obviously from a clone shop.

Everyone dresses in Basque uniforms - white trousers and shirt, red scarf around the waist and a red kerchief around the neck. Even the spud (insert annoying cute pic here).

Everyone, that is, except the basque youth who by day four of sleeping in their camper vans and being thrown out of one bar after another are wearing the filthiest grey trousers and tops, covered in stains and marker pen slogans and with their kerchiefs on backwards. Roaming in packs the festival was clearly theirs to enjoy and part of me was envious of their freedom (the other part wanted to shove them under a shower).

The rest of us roamed around from bar to bar, eating street food and going to the fun-fair which occupied a large part of the town. The frog got very excited about something called Churros which sounded yummy - a fried creme paste of some sort which turned out to be donut dough extruded directly into the deep fat fryer and which tasted only of the sugar it was coated in. On my high horse about how foul it was and how bad for the spud it would be if we were to give him any more feed him any, I turned around and decided that since we were at a fair I should have candyfloss (confusingly called 'Barbe a Papa' which made me think of the children's show) which proceeded to melt in the heat leaving pink sugar syrup all over my white clothes. And then it took the skin off my tongue. I'd forgotten about that part.

The fair was exactly as all fairs complete with fun house and ghost house and a VIP ride which apparently features Bruce Willis. I wonder if he knows?

There was even the opportunity to get Charlie higher than he was on the sugar from the Churros. The ride below actually reads 'baby speed'. We didn't sample that one.

The old town was heaving with bars and people lining both sides of the river, crammed to bursting and then you turn a corner and there's a Basque choir singing. We sat for a quick drink and people-watching exercise and a pack of youth roamed through us, one of the boys with his trousers pulled below his bottom just to show us all what was what. What, I can tell you, is that apparently Basque boys suntan in the nude.

In many ways, the Basques remind me of the Welsh. I say 'in many ways' and not 'in all ways' here as I am not opening a discussion of Guernica, terrorists, separatists, devolution or borders. I am thinking of only a few things. The Basques, as the Welsh, are keeping an old language very active in a country which otherwise would not care. They have a great history of song and seem on evidence happy to break into it (although the lively bar we passed full of people dancing to 'The Ketchup Song' prove the exception here) and they both have a vibrant animal totem - the Welsh Dragon vs the Basque Bull.

Some of my favourite people are Welsh or of Welsh extraction but I can't say the same for the Basques as yet as I don't know any. While the Frog was born here in the Basque region, his family are from another area close by. This means that the most Basque thing in our household is currently lurking in my lingerie drawer as a memory of a bygone age when perhaps I may have been tempted to spend 4 days roaming around a fete with a boy and his tanned bottom.


The Good Woman said...

I wouldn't have pinned you as the 'dress my child in Basque kit' kind of mum. Although it is very cute - and he looks very comfortable - a sign of things to come perhaps?

Sparx said...

Good Woman - The truth is that we tried the beret on him as a joke in the shop and he looked so cute that we just had to. Also, the Frog has been going to the fete forever and dressing up is fairly mandatory. Those who didn't really looked out of place and of the thousands of people there I only spotted a dozen or less not dressed up... when in rome etc...

Lindystar the HOR blogger said...

I'm such a lame-o. I truly enjoyed this post but I have no idea what half of it was about. My culture experiences are limited to hillbilly and mexican.

What. The heck. Is Basque? Never mind I'll save you the trouble and google it.

REALLY nice post though. :)

Sparx said...

Lindy - I'll try to imagine you're not being sarcastic and say that I'm glad you enjoyed it. Do Google the Basques as I'm not sure I know enough to do them justice. They're an old community which is neither French nor Spanish which live in an area which is both in France and Spain. If that makes sense. In other news, a Basque is also a sort of sexy corset so you should know what that is!!

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHAHA! The spud as a Basque!