“Taking magazines, Madrileños and bulls by the horn” by Peter Burton.

The Daily Express – 7 July 2006

“Taking magazines, Madrileños and bulls by the horn” by Peter Burton.<

 Aged 18, Tim Parfitt strolled into the London offices of magazine publishers Condé Nast (Vogue, Tatler, House & Garden) and asked for a job. His cheek won over the personnel director and he was employed. Evidently he proved a success. Almost a decade later he was dispatched to Madrid to help launch Vogue España. He had been invited for six weeks, he stayed for nine years and in his hugely entertaining memoir, A Load of Bull, he relates the story of those outrageous years.

 There are three main themes running through Parfitt’s account of his life in Spain. Firstly, this is the story of an Englishman’s love affair with the country in general and Madrid in particular. Secondly, it is an account of the author’s mostly hapless attempts to find romance or, at they very least, a woman to share his bed. Finally, the book details the launch and success of a high-profile glossy magazine.

 Like many an Englishman abroad before him, Tim Parfitt appears to be both bumbling and ineffectual. However, the very fact that he stayed with SpanishVogue for so long, steadily rising up the corporate ladder, suggests that his buffoonishness was but a pose.  He clearly knew what he was doing. The English have always been drawn to southern cultures and that attraction has produced some classic travel books (Gerald Brenan’s South toGranada and Norman Douglas’s Old Calabria are two memorable examples). Parfitt’s book has a lighter touch than these but it has in common that passions which overtakes men (and women) from more austere climes and makes them forever exiles in their own lands.

 Most appealingly, Parfitt has a laddish sense of humour which makes A Load of Bull frequently laugh-out-loud funny. A night out in a swelteringly hot Latino nightclub on yet another quest for a compliant señorita ends in hysterical disaster when he accidently demolishes the men’s toilets. And a siesta, more-or-less innocently shared with two young women, takes a comic turn when one of them answers his telephone to discover that the caller is Parfitt’s jealous and possessive ex.

 Tim Parfitt writes particularly well about his move into an alien – albeit welcoming – culture. He has to get to used to working hours and working practices unlike anything he has known before. Lunch hours stretch until five in the afternoon. Meals consist of waist-expanding quantities of food and mind-numbing quantities of alcohol. He even takes up support of the bullfight with enthusiasm.

A Load of Bull is a highly diverting tale about a curiously English kind of insouciance in which good humour invariably wins the day. This book proves Parfitt to be the most agreeable of companions.

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    February 5, 2013 at 5:34pm

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