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Monday, 16 September 2013

With a nod to Mark Twain, 'The trouble begins at eleven.'


All in a day's... cycling 

At the top of a 1000-metre climb
It was Friday evening. After a week spent pounding up and down the mountains (above) on our bikes – 60, 70, 90 kilometres a day with climbs of 1000-1500 metres – we felt that we deserved a rest. Our flight home wasn’t until mid-evening on Saturday, so there was ample time to look around Cocentaina, which had been our base for the past seven days. All we needed was a map and a list of attractions.

The tourist information centre in Cocentaina was tucked away off a side street, around a corner, through a stone archway, and around another corner, where it cowered behind a low doorway. We entered what appeared to be a deserted office. The reception desk was bare, the shelves along the wall devoid of any brochures, maps or postcards. The man in charge was likewise invisible – although he soon emerged from under his computer table to ask us if he could help. We explained that we had a full day free,  and would like to hear any suggestions for our entertainment. He shrugged his shoulders, explained that there was now a gulf in the calendar between the festival of the Moors and the Christians (August) and All Souls (late October). But, he added, producing from the void a map of the town, there is a jazz concert tomorrow, a free one. Eleven o'clock. And he circled the Cultural Centre with his pen.

We spread the word among the remnant cyclists in our hotel, and on Saturday morning set off with a party of four, and our map. We soon found the Cultural Center. It was closed. Not exactly boarded up, you understand, but utterly deserted. Not a soul stirred within fifty yards of it – apart from a young woman walking a noisy little dog.

No matter, we said, it’s not far to the tourist office. We’ll check with the guy in there. Ah, he said, emerging once more from under his computer table. Didn’t I tell you? It’s not in the Cultural Centre. It’s in the square there, in the open – and he drew another circle on the map.

It was now a little after eleven, and as we headed for the square we strained our ears for the sound of an impromptu clarinet, a roll on the drums, a toot on a horn. I was sure I’d heard a scattering of polite applause, and quickened my step.

Around the square most of the benches were occupied by old men smoking cigarettes. In the centre a fellow in jeans and a white shirt was fixing pieces of aluminium staging together with a spanner. Ah, I said, Spain. They say ‘eleven’ and they mean ‘around eleven’. I walked up to the rigger, who was on his knees, tightening a bolt.

A que hora empieza el concerto?’ I asked. What time’s kick-off?

He looked up at me and frowned. ‘A las once,’ he replied. At eleven.  

I pointed at my watch and told him it was now eleven fifteen.

Si, he said. ‘A las once por la tarde.’ Eleven tonight.

We enjoyed the climb to the 16th century Castillo that overlooks the town:

We enjoyed the view of the town:

 And we were grateful to the man at tourist info for directing us to where the gig would later take place; it gave us a chance to see the old Moorish heart of the place:

But I hope they fire him during the winter and get someone with a bit more nous.


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