The Paper Chase

In this chapter, I hand the pen to Frank. It has to be written by someone who knows the excitement of collecting things. I simply couldn’t do it justice.

We wake the next morning to the sound of nightingales. Ruth gets stuck into her bandoneon practice, while I set off for the imposing castle that overlooks the town of Banyeres de Mariola. I text Ruth from the castle walls and she confirms that she can see me through the binoculars. On my way down, I discover that there is a paper museum, a section of which is devoted to Cigarette papers. For more than thirty years, since my touring days with Moving Being, I’ve been on the look-out for unusual cigarette papers as I have a good friend in Cardiff who’s been collecting them since his days of driving buses to India in the 60ies. The museum doesn’t disappoint, and I take a lot of photographs, which I am eager to show him.


I strike up a conversation with the curator, who informs me that the next town, Alcoy, was formerly a major centre for cigarette paper production. I’m very excited by the thought of adding to the collection and suggest to Ruth that Alcoy should be our next port of call. When we park up, we go in search of internet connection to catch up with the election and I notice a tiny antique shop on the way back. The following morning, while Ruth is again practicing her bandoneon, I set off for the said antique shop. Sadly, although there was a light on in the lower part of the shop, I’m informed that the owner is away and only the jewellery part is open. After a bit of pressure the shopkeeper agrees to phone her boss to ask if he has any historical cigarette papers in stock. The next thing I know she’s laid four boxes on the counter, priced from €1.20 to €20 per packet. I go for the cheaper ones and make a selection, hoping they’re ones that aren’t yet in Derek’s collection. What I am able to do is take pictures of the more expensive ones, which might encourage him to visit Alcoy himself one day. That evening, on our way to a fiesta with people we’ve met, I spot another antique shop and come away with a further five packets. Result!

For more pictures of Frank’s ‘Paper Chase’ and the castle in Banyeres, go to Flikr

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