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The Iberian Horseshoe — A Journey

Part III. South East

City of Lost Soles

Steve Porter
Smaller text sizeDefault text sizeBigger text size Add to my bookshelf epub mobi Permalink Ebook MapOporto, Ponte Dom Luis

I crossed one of the many bridges over the Vinalopó River. They were in a prominent position linking the Old Quarter to the expanding new town. Action had been taken at no little cost, to prevent Elche being hit by flood damage. Large concrete banks were raised on both sides of the river. I wondered where the funding for the bridge had come from. The Vinalopó was a stream. I could have jumped across it. I had read in a guide book about El Misteri d’Elx. Was this Elche’s mystery?

In the distance, the mountains of Alicante Province were spaghetti western dry. I took a slug of water from a bottle that was rapidly emptying. The opposite bank of the river looked as if it was covered in large black insects. On closer inspection, I found abandoned soles from a nearby warehouse. No one accepted anything less than the best in the shoe capital of Spain.

Part of my job was to teach English in a shoe-making factory on the road to Alicante. The class took place in the sample room. We were surrounded by women’s boots for the approaching winter season. Various samples were taken down from the shelves and a whole new area of English vocabulary opened up to me. Pedro, one of the students, explained about the welted and piped seams, the quarter linings, fringe tabs, toe rands, flat binding and Louis heels. He showed me around the factory’s production process and talked of the importance of the last.

I waited in vain for him to finish his sentence. “The last what?” I asked.

The last, you know. The last.”

‘The last,’ to the uninitiated, is the mould that gives the shoe its basic shape. On my way out I saw for the first time that what I had on my foot was not just a shoe. The lining, leather, uppers, insoles and stitching, were all demanding attention after a lifetime of neglect.

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Copyright ©Steve Porter, 2004
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Date of publicationDecember 2006
Collection RSSGlobal Fiction
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