Saturday, April 3, 2010

Two days in Alicante

Today is the 30th anniversary of the day I met Manu in an Ibiza cafe, a lovely man with whom I am still in touch today. But that encounter only happened because, after a fated bus ride from Madrid, I’d missed a boat by minutes and been stranded in Alicante for two days. Here is how I wrote the story in my diary all those 30 years ago.

3 April 1980
‘At first I didn’t even know if I wanted to go to Ibiza, I thought I might go to Barcelona and thence to Menorca. So, right at the beginning, I was full of indecision. As the weekend turned itself over slowly, though, I began to make plans to go to Ibiza.

Pepe rings a friend who works for the shipping company. Although the boat is already booked up, she says she will get me a ticket. On Monday I go to collect it - leaving at midnight Wednesday 2 April.

In the afternoon, I go to the Corte Ingles travel agency where I’m told there is no place on the Wednesday afternoon train to Alicante, I swear under my breath, and let her book me on the morning train. I am not happy because this means I lose the Wednesday but I still have work to do. Back at the flat, I talk with Pepe and Pia, who suggest I go by bus. It takes some effort, but eventually I get the number for Estacion Sur and am told there is a bus leaving at 2pm on Wednesday. I run to Estacion Sur, but, on arriving, my heart sinks at the sight of the long queues. I suffer two hours of waiting. Fights and arguments break out everywhere, tempers are high. I finish a novel before arriving at the ticket office. Once at the buying window I discover there is an even later bus at 3:30pm (arriving at 9pm) as well as at 2:00, so I buy a ticket for that bus and head back for the apartment. I am pleased with myself that I’ve managed to sort out an itinerary.

The following morning between work appointments I squeeze a visit to the Corte Ingles to cash in my train ticket. I lose £2.50 on the refund, but at least everything is organised. I begin to look forward to Ibiza. I spend Wednesday on the telephone working, but none of the work proves useful, and I could so easily have taken the 2:00 bus.

On the 3:30 bus - all the way there are long queues of holiday traffic, and long, long waits, and the bus is three hours late. A taxi speeds me through the streets, clocking up pesetas, faster, faster, down to the port, along the quay, but by the time I get to the quay, the boat has left - 10 minutes earlier! Now there isn’t another boat for two days.

I am by the stone columns of a church that is now three-quarters cinema and one quarter cafe. . . I walk around the old city of Alicante, looking for a smile, a meeting, a hand to touch. One area seems very alive with hip youth. They move about from group to group, bar to bar, stand around drinking wine and rolling cigarettes fuelled with grass. Not far away another mass of people - the old, the mourning, the middle-aged, the regimented young, the crippled and the scarred - are pouring out of mass.’

5 April 1980
‘I made it. Ibiza. I managed to use the wrongly-dated ticket, but only just. My adrenalin was on its racing track. There was some confusion as I was checked against the cabin list but the official failed to notice the wrong date.

In the queue to get on the boat I befriended Ronny, a guitarist, who says he can live from playing, but is not good enough to get rich. He has blond hair curling all over his brown-tanned face. He has just spent two weeks on a boat skippered by his brother. It’s a half-a-million job and its owner hasn’t been near it in 18 months. He tells stories of contracts with ATV and MAM and the guitar centre in Palma where he hopes to work. When he has money he spends it, first class all the way. He doesn’t believe in guarding it at all, and explains why: he had a girlfriend who had used all her savings to start a hairdressing business, then, after a year or so when it was going very well, she was riding her bicycle and was killed by a lorry. He tells me that he also knew the daughter of the pilot that was flying a Trident in which a hundred people were killed near Heathrow ten years ago. Apparently, the pilot had a heart condition and put the wrong signals into the computer!

Although it started to rain on arriving, I was not unlucky. Within half an hour, I met a man called Manu. He happens to be at the Lecoq school in Paris and knows my friend Harold, and has a house on the other side of the island. Manu’s father, a German painter, lives half in Berlin and half in Ibiza. Manu himself speaks at least five languages, and is an accomplished musician. Right now, though, he’s into theatre. We drink yierba at Ibecenco and wine at Pepi’s with home cured sausage and baked bread.

Alicante, as it happens, only got better and better. I discovered El Castillo de Santa Barbara and some beautiful terraced houses. I watched Easter processions with all those shiny satin clothes and dunce hats. I wrote my business report. I ate a meal, I talked to some English people. I took lots of photos. The two days weren’t so bad after all.’

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