The oleanders are still blooming. The sky is pure blue. Not as deep an azure as at high summer perhaps, but blue nonetheless, against the white-washed walls, as the shutters are opened in the morning. At latitude 36 degrees, N, the sun is still shining, sufficient to give this individual’s face a healthy glow and families stroll about town on a Sunday morning in T-shirts. In London, at latitude 51 degrees, N, it hails and rains and there are high winds. The temperature has dropped ( though it’s still unseasonably high ), along with the leaves which have given this Autumn such glorious colour. What a difference 15 degrees makes.
In Jerez at this time of year dusk falls at about five forty-five and lasts until six thirty. There is less twilight the closer to the Equator you get, given the angle of the sun’s position to the horizon, but even after dark people wander around in shirt sleeves. There are fewer foreign visitors in town, the air-lines’ summer schedules have ended and any travellers will have to drive to Jerez or come via Seville (by air, as I did) or Cadiz (by sea). This didn’t reduce the Saturday night buzz in the centre, where we were very fortunate to get a table at a favourite restaurant (and only through acquaintance).
Soon the zambombas will begin, though this year anyone holding a zambomba will need a licence. A wheeze by the Town Hall to raise money, yes, but also a way of monitoring the festivities. Zambombas are traditional in Jerez, until recently being linked with specific places around the old town. The neighbours in a community, in a barrio like San Miguel, say, would gather round an out-door bonfire during the days before Christmas, to eat and drink together and sing traditional songs. This still happens, with the places nearest to the fire being reserved for the older ladies in the neighbourhood, who know the words to all the old songs. These are as unlike English carols as you could find, often being scurrilous, rude and anti-Church, an antidote to the out-pouring of Catholic piety at this time of the year. They are accompanied by tambourines and the zambomba drums. Food is often free.
Today these have proliferated, with many hotels and bars holding their own zambombas. People come into town to watch and take part, so they have become something of a tourist attraction. Most Jerez dwellers I know will go to at least one zambomba, but they lament the increased frequency, even while acknowledging that the zambombas bring people and money to the town. They are glad, especially if they live in the old centre, when Christmas comes and they hear the zambomba drums no more for another year.
The Programme for the 2016 Festival de Jerez was published during my visit, with people collecting copies from the theatre box office ( though they can be found on-line too ). There is a stellar line-up, as one has come to expect, with old favourites, like Eva Yerbabuena and Antonio el Pipa and some rising stars, like Manuel Linan ( see Festival de Jerez II ). And that’s just the dancers. In Sala Paul there is Santiago Lara, one of my favourite flamenco guitarists and from Jerez. My favourite venue, the Palacio Villavicencio, will be missing next year, I couldn’t find out why, but there is a new venue, in Bodego Gonzales Byass, close by the Alcazar. I’m looking forward to seeing what that’s like. I’m planning my trip already.
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