28 Jun, 2022 @ 10:36
2 mins read

EXTRACT: A Chancer’s Guide to Rural Spain by Andy Bailey

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BRIT Andy Baily, an ex-farm manager, rugby player and inseminator, moves his family from Somerset to a remote mountainous region in Andalucía. In his book, ‘Orgiva: A Chancer’s Guide to Rural Spain’, he shares his insight to life as experienced in La Alpujarra. Here is an extract:

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Orgiva doesn’t actually celebrate Saint Michael (September 29), but it does have its annual fair during this time.

Originally based on livestock selling (ganados) and horse trading, it was the time of year when farmers from all over the Alpujarras would bring their beasts down from the hills and mountains to be sold or traded.

During the fiesta, very proud horsemen and women dress in traditional country apparel and parade their prized steeds up and down the streets, preparing for the ribbon race (cintas) on the Saturday. Kids will do this race as well on pedal bikes.

The aim is for the jockey or cyclist to spear the ribbon while travelling at speed on a tarmac road. The ribbon has a value written on it as a prize. Now, I have done quite a lot of horse riding and you get to know that metal horseshoes and tarmac create very slippery conditions so, if you go to spectate, keep your distance. Six hundred kilos of horse and rider with no brakes sliding towards you is not funny.

It’s a four-day party. Thursday through to Sunday. The bars spill out on to streets, cooking all sorts of delights, and the aroma of freshly cooked sardines fills your senses. The ladies of the town dress in fantastic flamenco creations, showing off the summer tan that they have been working on.

The funfair is in town, street traders selling all sorts of rubbish, from realistic looking guns to mini explosive devices, and pop-up bars appear in car parks and vacant shops. Vending machines selling beer, and pinchito stalls cooking marinated cubes of pork over charcoal burners, all appear out of nowhere.

Free sombreros are handed out, advertising a particular builder or a bar. A temporary bull ring is erected, although bull fighting has now stopped taking place in Órgiva.

However, a kind of ‘it’s a knockout’ competition takes place with teams of youngsters navigating an obstacle course with the close attention of some frisky yearlings (young bulls) with horns. Horse shows with dancing Lipizzaners, art exhibitions, crazy car races, some very good rock bands, giant paella, traditional fried eggs with garlic with a competition on who can eat the most eggs (24 is the record), followed by a good dose of laxative al can be enjoyed during the fair. 

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Front cover of Andy Bailey’s ‘A Chancer’s Guide to Rural Spain’.

Buy the book from Andybaileyauthor.com, Amazon and bookshops local to Órgiva.  


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