City on Fire (Part 2)

LAST UPDATED: 15 Apr, 2012 @ 18:02
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City on Fire (Part 2)

Missing mojos, porno poker and claustraphobic cheeses can mean only one thing – Craig Scott is back with another ´Mad Dog´ encounter.

IT GRIDLOCKS TRAFFIC, attracts armies of thieves, and gives firefighters a fortnight of sleepless nights. Valencia’s Las Fallas fiesta is not the sort of place you’d expect to find a reserved Englishman… especially one on the wrong side of 30.

This mammoth, street-fest is dubbed ´The Festival of Fire´ – and always draws enormous crowds. This is a tricky assignment, especially for someone who gets claustraphobic on Carrefour’s cheese aisle!

Of course, I wasn’t always this enfeebled. In my youth, I was something of a maverick – and once scaled an 80 ft supermarket sign. Reeking of Strongbow and Clearasil, I used an abandoned skip to peg myself up, before dragging my lanky frame up the cloud-bursting pole. Forget Scott of the Antarctic – I was Scott of the Aldi skip!

Recently, however, I haven’t felt like doing anything wild or spontaneous. I wouldn’t say that I’ve lost my “mojo” – just that I’ve misplaced it somewhere. Boy George once famously said, that he’d rather have a cup of tea that engage in sex, but I can’t even be bothered to boil the kettle! Therefore, a trip to Las Fallas seemed like the perfect tonic – an escape valve to hopefully inject some madness back into the “Mad dog.”

I arrived in Valencia at Saturday teatime, and was instantly impressed by the place. I’d always imagined it as a kind of jealous, ugly sibling of Barcelona and Madrid, a bit like that brothel-creeping brother out of Sparks – with the tin-ribs and Hitler tache. And yet, if first impressions were anything to go by, Valencia seemed just as grand as the “Big Two” – and much more compact.

Just after 7pm, I strolled towards the “Centro Urbano” – down the sort of backstreets where dark-featured, dodgepots straddle Lambrettas and stab each other over porno poker. Okay, so they’re probably not all pimps and perverts, but they don’t half stare. For a time, I felt like a protagonist in The Twilight Zone, as all the men seemed to sport the same unusual hairdos: a sort of spiky on top, razored up the sides, with a rat tail trailing down the back. I mean, where exactly do you go for a cut like that, and what would you ask for? A Castellón Kajagoogoo?

Still, it’s not like I’m new to hair-scares. As a student, I once visited an Italian barbers in Manchester, just off Deansgate. Despite being renowned for their style and eleganza – a man from Bologna  butchered my fringe, and I left like Jim Carey in Dumb & Dumber. My tear-ducts still tremble when I recall crying on the Magic Bus and wondering how my request of “Roma-chic”, had somehow been mistaken for Romanian orphanage.

Anyway, I stumbled onto the Plaza de la Reina and was met with a dizzying sight, dozens of gigantic sculptures. Made from wood and papier-mache, the purpose of these monuments is to satirise life in the city and poke fun at politicians and celebrities. One of my favourites was a monolithic ambulence – tumbling off a cliff – with doctors, nurses and patients, all staring into the abyss. As well as being a beautiful piece of art, the statue carried a poignant message – namely that Spain’s health system is buggered – and we’re all going to hell in a hand-basket!

Some of the statues (or niñots, to give them their proper title) were like saucy postcards, bursting with nudity and risqué humour. Gawping at these 50ft bums and boobies was weird – like sitting in a sauna with a magnifying glass. There were plenty of racially dubious niñots too, like a slimy Jewish sex-pest, a mob of angry Arabs, and big-lipped, African sunglass-sellers. Who says Spain is living in the past?

It´s one thing people criticising the Spanish for their attitudes towards race (like when people aim vile monkey-chants at Ashley Cole and Lewis Hamilton), but tonight thousands of kids will watch effigies of black people and Arabs being burned at the stake. It´s little wonder, really.

Anyway, talking of stakes (or…..steaks), the aroma of fresh sirloins sizzling from nearby BBQs – was making me drool like George Michael at a cottaging convention. Following my nose, I crossed the street and noticed hundreds of Spaniards – huddled together outside of a church. Curious as to what they were staring at, I popped my head around a wall, and came face-to-face with what can only be described as a fragmenting hand-grenade!

TICK… TICK… BOOM !!!

Now, I know you’ll think I’m exaggerating here, but after this thing exploded, I literally did one of those Hollywood leaps away from an inferno. In fear of my life, I did a forward roll into the doorway of a nearby tobacconists. At this point, I realised that my arm was injured… BAD. I’d either taken a direct hit from exploding shrapnal – or grazed it doing a forward roll on hard marble.

As I lay there, getting my eyebrows singed from low-flying rockets, I prayed that Claims Direct had a Valencia branch. Then, like Bruce Willis – but with a Bolton accent – and marginally more hair – I careered down the high street, following signs for the “old town”.

To be continued…

Watch this space for the third and final installment of Craig Scott’s Las Fallas Trilogy! Coming soon.

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