Manuel Espadachín Torero
strode proudly into the arena. He glanced at the
terraced seating from which, as a child, he had
gasped at the skill and bravery of his
grandfather. Abuelito would taunt his bull and
then deftly, at the final moment, avoid the path
of the charging, enraged animal - flamboyantly
swirling his cape, pass after pass, until the
great beast was exhausted. His sword would then
be thrust with surgical precision into the heart
of the brave creature.
Manuel recalled the roar of
the crowd, a turbulent sea of their waving white
handkerchiefs and gracious acceptance by his
grandfather of ears and tail cut from the noble
He also remembered
discontent, even then, from those who viewed this
spectacle as a cruel and unnecessary part of
Spanish culture. With time, those voices became
louder until, with his father as matador, the
final act of the historic art form was played out
at a slaughterhouse away from public view.
From this small compromise,
emboldened reformers drove even more rapid and
radical change. Soon bulls could no longer be
killed or even injured. The task of the
picadores, banderilleros and matadors became to
ensure the enjoyment of animals by offering
favourite foods or ensuring they were comfortably
Further concerns were
raised, however, by the tragic death of Manuels
father - fatally gored while giving a relaxing
shoulder massage to a particularly tense Toro
Bravo. It was feared that the creature might
realise it had caused death and suffer
irreparable psychological damage.
As an emergency measure,
Jersey Meadows, Cattle Psychologist to the Stars,
was flown from Hollywood to ensure expert
treatment should the poor creature exhibit signs
of Bovine Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Clearly, however, a new species of animal was
needed that was totally safe and whose happiness
could be precisely gauged.
The Ragdoll cat was the
unmistakable choice. Large and placid, these
beautiful felines possess an unusual vocal range.
Many incremental degrees of pleasure can be
discerned, ranging from a relaxed meow of
contentment to the dynamic purr of ecstasy
the goal of the modern contest.
So it was that Manuel sat
in the raised armchair at the centre of the Plaza
de Gatos. He summoned a banderilleo to bring
Muffin, the Ragdoll cat, and place her on his lap.
Reformers had taught that
traditional bullfighting skills translated
exactly to cat stroking quickness of mind;
awareness of a creatures mood and body
language; rapid and precise hand and body
movements. Such expertise, passed down three
generations, soon led to purrs of contentment
echoing from the public address system.
Finally, Manuel judged his
opportunity: Stroking behind Muffins ears
combined with gently scratching her back led to
the unmistakable Purr of Ecstasy. Manuel had
But where was the roar of
the crowd, recalled from childhood? The vast rows
of seating were empty but for a few sleeping
individuals who remained unrousable following yet
another recent comeback concert by an ageing rock
Perhaps the underlying
skills and expertise practised by Manuel were the
same as had been exhibited by his grandfather.
Nevertheless, he retained a feeling that, in the
politically correct modernisation of the
tradition, something, somehow, had been lost.