MTV Gibraltar Calling 2017

Last weekend Gibraltar welcomed MTV and a host of stars for the MTV Presents Gibraltar Calling music festival. Now in it’s 6th year, this is the first time the music festival has been organised by an external company. Back in 2012, Jesse J headlined a much smaller day-long event. Last year it was spread over 2 days and had four musical stages. This time beginning later in the day and over just two stages, we were interested to see what MTV would bring to what already seemed to be a rather eclectic but winning formula.

Day 1 : Saturday 2nd September 

Our first band of the day (the festival was opened by local band Afterhours) was The Amazons from Reading. They were amazing, very reminiscent of the grungy Indy bands of the early/mid 90s a bit Madder Rose/ Buffalo Tom/ Afghan Whigs and right up my street. 

Next up on the Main Stage was Spanish all-girl rock band Hinds, who did a fab job warming up a slightly reluctant crowd I thought. I hope the small numbers who went to see them were just because they were unfamiliar to the Gibraltar crowd and not because of where they come from. They were full of energy and put on a very enthusiastic show.

Hoards of folk streamed into the stadium in time for current pop artist Charli XCX. 

Charli XCX

At this point, it was my cue to head to the Classic Stage (I guess it comes to us all sooner or later) to see a couple of artists who formed part of the soundtrack to my late teens : Rozalla and Black Box. I had a great sing-along to Everybody’s Free and Ride on Time! (Just as well the rest of the family were enjoying Jonas Blue and couldn’t be embarrassed by my Mum dancing).

I caught the end of Jonas Blue and a bit of Years & Years before heading back to the Classic Stage for my headliners of the day.

Years & Years
The Village People
Saturday’s Classic Stage headliners were The Village People. Never in my wildest dreams did I think one day I would see them perform live! After all those years growing up in the 70s and 80s with them as the soundtrack to my childhood on the radio and in my Dad’s car… They didn’t disappoint playing so many hits.

The Village People know how to please the home crowd – while performing ‘In the Navy’ they whipped out some Gibraltar flags to do their semaphore with. As you can imagine, that got a great reaction from the crowd.

Rounding off their set with, you guessed it, YMCA, they led the crowd in a dance lesson. Apparently we’ve all been doing it wrong all these years! 

For me, Village People and The Amazons were the highlight of day one of the festival. We did stay to hear the start of Saturday’s headline act; Ricky Martin, but he’s not really our cup of tea. We heard ‘Shake your Bon Bon’, and ‘Livin’ la Vida Loca’ and headed home to miss the crowds.

Ricky Martin


Day 2 : Sunday 3rd September 


At last year’s GMF I heard Layla Bugeja play for the first time, tucked away on a tiny stage behind the boathouse. The acoustic set she played with her Dad then blew me away. Since then, she has performed at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. This year, she played with her band on the Main Stage opening Sunday’s lineup. 

With a decent crowd of family, friends and well-wishers she kicked Sunday’s day of music off in great fashion.

The Vaccines
Next up was The Vaccines, who in true rock ‘n’ roll fashion joked that Gibraltar was in Spain. The crowd took it in far better humour than when Paloma Faith made similar comments a couple of years ago.

The Kaiser Chiefs were the next to grace the main stage, and for their second appearance here in Gibraltar. Back in 2015 they supported the headliners, Kings of Leon. Despite playing a long set the night before at the Bingley Festival in Yorkshire, they were brilliant. Front man, Ricky Wilson wowed the crowd with his energy, running back and forth across the stage, hitching a ride one the tv cameras and generally singing his heart out. I’m so glad they came back to see us again!

The soundtrack artists to countless M&S Food adverts, Clean Bandit took to the stage next, after pulling out of the 2014 GMF at the 11th hour. They put on a very good show and had the crowd singing along to their hits. 

Clean Bandit

As the sun went down, Bastille took to the main stage and thoroughly entertained the crowd.

Bastille

Their backing videos really added to their set, no prizes for guessing where their political tendencies lie…

Then it was time for some more Mum dancing with Bananarama. What fun it was. The duo, of Keren Woodward and Sara Dallin (who are about to be reunited with former member Siobhan Fahey) belted out hit after hit; Robert De Niro’s waiting, Love in the First Degree, Venus etc. They didn’t take themselves too seriously and appeared to be having as much fun as the fans even getting a bunch of them on stage to dance and sing along with them.

Bananarama


What can I say about Craig David? Well, he was brilliant. I didn’t know what to expect in the run up to the festival, so guided by Mr Postcard, I watched some YouTube videos of his most recent performances and was very impressed. Singing his oldest hits and then rapping and DJing during the TS5 section of his set he had the Gibraltar crowd hanging off his very word- what a performer!

Last of all, Fat Boy Slim….

We ducked out of staying super late on Saturday night as Steve Aoki came on after Ricky Martin, but we decided to try and catch the beginning of Fat Boy Slim. His music and stage show were mesmeric although incredibly loud (or perhaps I’m just getting old).

We wimped out after about half an hour and headed off to get the night bus home (yes we are definitely getting old!).

Our verdict on the new MTV takeover of the old Gibraltar Music Festival? There were definitely some improvements this year, the improved access to the classic stage and food court area and the large shaded areas provided much needed respite, and the standard of the artists was very high. Starting later in the day was positive for dodging the sun at its hottest but the knock on effect was that acts went on until well beyond midnight (not so good if you have any kids or young people in your party).

A couple of things we did miss though was the extra stages we had last year, that meant there was always something to see or listen to and this year we had periods when there was no one playing. Also, the sets seemed a bit short for some artists (30 mins) when you know they could go on a lot longer.

All in all it was a good weekend’s entertainment and good value for money. Thank you MTV!

2017 Weekly photo challenge (week 26) wave

Living in a tiny place which is surrounded on sides by sea makes this week’s photo challenge a cinch. That said though, my first photos feature a rather choppy North Sea taken at one of our favourite places; Southwold in Suffolk. 

Although most of my childhood holidays were spent on the west coast of the British Isles, the temperature and colour of the sea in Southwold are the same as what I was used to as a child. Rarely was it a pleasureable experience to go paddling in the sea, but you still do it when you’re a child!

Now for some waves a little closer to our current home…

Just look at that turquoise water!

Quick! Out of the way!!


Aah that’s better!

Catalan Bay Beach, Gibraltar

I’m linking with Nana Cathy and Wild Daffodil for this weekly photo challenge throughout 2017.

Calentita 2017


Calentita This is a baked pancake-like dish, the Italian farinata, also known in Genoa as fainá. It is made with chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt and pepper. The word calentita is the informal diminutive of the Spanish word caliente which means “nice and warm (or hot)”. 
Wikipedia

Visitors to Casemates Square early on last weekend couldn’t fail to spot the signs that something interesting was about to happen. The Calentita food festival is now in it’s 11th year and after a hiatus of six years, we decided to pay it a visit this time. On our return to Casemates on Saturday evening it was clear that many others had decided to come too.

Back when we had our first Calentita experience, seven years ago, it was a much smaller event to the one we visited this weekend. It featured a number of food stalls selling a wide variety of foreign food choices and was centered around a stage in Casemates Square. 

On the night, we joined some friends on a large table at one of the nearby restaurants and made an odd foray towards the food tents. With two small children (one in a buggy) the whole thing was an assault on the senses, loud, crowded and really not the best or easiest environment to steer little people through, and the long queues at the food tents put us off waiting to try the various delicacies on offer.

That said, many of our fellow festival goers had a thoroughly good night. Those with older children (who revelled in being trusted to head off to the stalls without parental supervision and buy their own dinner) and those who came without children had a great time. 

We tried one more time, the following year, and gave it up as a bad job. Fast forward to 2017 and we had three children to bring with us and they were all a good deal older. The venue itself had changed as much as our family in the intervening years – it had grown bigger. 


Now the event not only covers Casemates Square (albeit in a less crowded way and with a  less densely populated tent arrangement) and spills over into the area beyond the Grand Casemates Gates and into the Market Place, Bus Station and beyond. My word, what a difference that means for overcrowding – a huge improvement for us to start with.

This next photo isn’t very clear but you should be able to make out the large stage at the far end (complete with performers) and a very long table in the foreground. It was busy with people but there was room to move – what a huge improvement.


Now down to the nitty gritty – food! (Well it is a food festival after all.) There were over 40 different food tents to choose from catering for all tastes from hot dogs to hog roasts, Pad Thai to popcorn and Calentita to craft beers.

We decided that the best way to deal with the queues and three hungry boys was to split up, I queued for Margarita pizza slices (we have one Little Postcard who isn’t overly adventurous in the food stakes) while Mr Postcard headed to an Asian stall and returned with a lovely samosa for me (below) and quite possibly the best onion bhaji ever to have tickled my tastebuds.

We headed out of the Square and into the Bus Station area beyond, which now had craft stalls standing where the buses usually wait. All along the road were many more stalls on both sides. 

I was on a mission; one Little Postcard was adamant he wanted noodles. I joined the queue at the Phillipino food stall and waited for my turn only to discover they had run out! I got a couple of pork kebabs though and they were delicious. One kept the wolf from the door for our noodle lover as we continued on our quest.

Bingo! Noodles!


They were even cooked in front of us…


They got a big thumbs up, as did this rather tasty spring roll!


For the grown ups there was plenty of choice in the beverage department, with any amount of drinks to wet your whistle.

There was even a cocktail bar sited atop the old sea walls which encircle this part of town (below). Needless to say we didn’t visit and made do with a rather nice lager in a plastic cup.

Heading back into Casemates Square, and the crowds were growing. A number of local bands took to the stage to entertain the Calentita-ites and the atmosphere was buzzing. We did sample other culinary delights but I can’t for the life of me remember what they were – suffice to say, we didn’t go home hungry.

As the sun began to set, we took our leave of Calentita for 2017. Little legs were wilting and it was time for our exit.

Calentita 2017 was by far our best Calentita to date as a family. As an event it was barely recognisable from our previous encounters and overwhelmingly for the better. Hats off to the organisers who clearly have honed the festival over time.

As a family with young-ish children, this year’s event doesn’t compare to our previous failed attempts at gastronomic family unity. I would recommend anyone who hasn’t tried it before to give it a go next year.

PS I have one shameful admission… almost eight years living in Gibraltar and I have yet to sample actual Calentita (hangs her head in shame). I promise I will put that right.

A stroll around Gibraltar No.21: roundabouts 

It’s been a long time since I last took you on a stroll around Gibraltar, so here’s a new jaunt around this place we have made our home; it’s less of a walk and more is a drive though! It’s been inspired by a tongue in cheek gift Mr Postcard received for Christmas a few years ago… traffic islands or roundabouts are the subject matter today.

Apparently there is such a thing as a ‘Roundabout spotter’ so if there are any of you out there in cyberspace this one’s for you!

Gibraltar has a good few roundabouts considering it is a pretty small place. This is not a comprehensive catalogue of them all, but here are a few …

… beginning with the Sundial Roundabout.

This is the first Roundabout you will encounter if you arrive in Gibraltar by road. There is a mini (painted on the road) roundabout next to the airport, but this is the most northerly proper roundabout. 

The sculpture in the centre forms a sundial and the points of the compass are marked out on the grass verge running around it (you can see N for North in the photo above). Also around the base are images of the symbols of the zodiac. 

When Gibraltar enjoyed it’s most recent royal visit from the Earl & Countess of Wessex, back in 2012, planters were put on top of the compass letters and it looked beautifully colourful.

Our most southerly roundabout of note is this one next to to mosque at Europa Point. 

From afar it looks like a natural planting arrangement with rocks and pebbles and a few plants. Up close though, you can see a flock of metal birds.

I have tried to find out what they are, but failed. They do look to me rather like Gibraltar’s native Barbary Partridges though.

It’s not just Gibraltar’s wildlife which is celebrated in traffic island form – it’s nautical history is too. An anchor takes centre stage at this roundabout on the junction with Queensway and Ragged Staff Road.

Some of our roundabouts are planted with tropical plants, there are a couple close to Morrisons supermarket- this is one of them.

The story of what happened to the civilian population of Gibraltar is marked by this beautiful statue of Evacuees returning home to the Rock after many years separated from their friends, families and their homes.

Gibraltar’s newest roundabout is this one on Queensway. Decorated with a sculpture in the shape of the Rock of Gibraltar with the shapes of figures cut out of it, it’s a monument to the women of Gibraltar.

As the sun moves around the Rock during the day, the figures cast by the sunlight move around and appear to be supporting the structure. It was unveiled officially on 6th December last year by the Chief Minister’s wife, Justine Picardo. The two women behind the work are architect; Ruth Massias Greenberg and artist & sculptor; Ermelinda Duarte.

How about a roundabout where you have a good chance of getting wet on a stormy day?


Built on top of the breakwater surrounding the new small boat marina, this road and its little roundabout offer a great vantage point for spotting cruise ships, and rather impressive yachts, like this one!

My absolute favourite traffic island has to be the one at the Trafalgar Interchange. When we first arrived in Gibraltar to live, it wasn’t particularly remarkable, but during our first few years here, a lot of work was done to smarten this area up and it’s just beautiful now. 


The flower beds nearby are lush and well maintained and the shrubs on the island are neatly clipped. It makes me smile when I see it planted up with new bedding several times a year.


The whole area is a real green oasis, I love this lush corner of Gibraltar.

Look it’s even home for a special visitor at Christmas time!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this lighthearted look at what many people may consider to be mundane traffic islands, I fear I may have turned into a bit of a roundabout spotter myself!

Rising to the Med Steps 5 Challenge (in pictures)

Last Saturday morning, my alarm went off  at 7 so that I could get up the hill to the start of the Med Steps 5 Challenge. After a couple of days with rain showers I was relieved to see that the forecast of cloudy but dry skies was correct. 

It wasn’t long before the crowds of walkers and their supporters began to arrive. Just after 9am, the safety briefing began in readiness for the start of the event. 

And at approximately 9:30, we were off and underway on lap one! It wasn’t too bad as we were carried along with the momentum of the crowd, although by the summit, the crowd had thinned out a bit.

There were a lot of tourists on the Upper Rock and the apes had come out to greet them, and us!


48 minutes for the first lap, not too bad.

The wildflowers are at their peak in the nature reserve at the moment, these poppies were my favourite.

2 laps done…

And here’s the proof!

Onwards and upwards…

Three laps in two and a half hours…

Time for a breather and a great view south towards the lighthouse.

Starting to slow up a bit… Almost a whole hour for lap number 4.

On the final lap and I was starting to flag, I couldn’t even focus the picture! Thank you Soreen for giving me the energy to finish (you can take the girl out of Manchester…).

The floor in parts of the walk was carpeted in a confetti of olive blossom. I was looking down a lot at this point, just trying to get one foot in front of the other…

I did it! I even managed 15 minutes faster than last year (I have no idea how I managed that with less training, unless the extra weight brought me down quicker 😉).

Look, five stamps, one for each lap of the challenge. Phew, I’m glad that’s over, anyone fancy joining me next year?

Time to collapse…

If you would like to hear some of the atmosphere of the day, why not give my latest podcast a listen here?

Med Steps 5 Challenge 2017

So, the time has almost come, it’s nearly time to lace up those trainers, slap on the suncream and hope for the best… it’s Med Steps 5 Challenge time!


The beautiful rugged pathway which leads walkers (and very fit runners) from Jews Gate to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar will become purgatory for those of us who, for some strange reason, thought it would be a good idea to do it 5 times!

Last year I completed the climb 5 times with a couple of friends (after agreeing it would be fun) over a slightly boozy Christmas meal. Well, I’m not sure ‘fun’ is the word I’d use. It was flipping hard work, it was hot too, but the atmosphere of the event was amazing and the sense of achievement was something else. 

It was by far toughest physical challenge I’ve ever faced (aside from childbirth). I am not a sporty or athletic person by any shade of the imagination, but after 4 and a half months of training I was thrilled to be able to cross the finish line in 4 hours and 40 minutes along side my training buddies.

We managed to raise a considerable amount of money too for the wonderful Cancer Relief Centre here in Gibraltar. The Centre supports people undergoing cancer treatment with all sorts of complimentary care and services, it has a children’s playground and a new after school club for children affected by cancer, as well as advice for patients and listening ear. 


I think I remember saying after it was all over that I was pleased I’d done it, but never again… so why am I preparing to turn up at the starting line again this time? I’m not sure to be honest! We did begin our training in January as a trio again but other commitments and life got in the way for my training partners from last year, so they will be cheering me on from the sidelines.


In fact, life has kind of got in the way for me too this year, I have only achieved 3 times round in my training schedule this year a couple of times and we managed 4 times in preparation for the last one. So I’m now going into this year’s event feeling a little bit of trepidation knowing exactly what’s in store for me.

I know I can do 5 times round with the right training behind me, but I’m a little underprepared this time. I also know that if it takes me over 5 hours it doesn’t matter, the most important thing is to try my best and show support to this incredibly worthy cause. Wish me luck!

If you would like to hear about the Med Steps 5 Challenge from one of the organisers, why not give my latest podcast a listen? 

Painting the town red, white, blue & purple : Gibraltar Street Art

In the last month, one of Gibraltar’s historical buildings has had a colourful makeover. The British artist Ben Eine was brought over to repaint the northern facade of the Inces Hall as part of a new Government programme of urban renewal.

The previously shabby white exterior is now painted with the words ‘THATS ENTERTAINMENT’ in vibrant colours on a purple and blue striped background. Both the choice of venue for the art work the missing apostrophe from the statement have caused much heated debate on local social media. 


Critics of the work disapproved of using a historically important building as a canvas for the art, while supporters welcomed a bright and cheerful talking point at the southern end of Main Street.

Whatever your views are on the Inces Hall painting, street art is nothing new in Gibraltar. One of the Rock’s most iconic streets is famed for it’s paint job. 


Devil’s Gap Road was painted by the local community when Gibraltarians went to the polls in 1967 to vote on remaining British. 


The 50th anniversary of the referendum result, which was overwhelmingly in favour of Gibraltar remaining British, will be celebrated this September. Among the events lined up will be a repainting of the steps. 


Not far from the red, white and blue steps, one home owner leaves no doubt as to their national pride…

At the northern edge of Upper Town, there’s plenty more street art to be found.

The residents of Moorish Castle Estate got out their paint brushes to celebrate Gibraltar National Day back in 2012:

The area is currently undergoing renovations but there’s plenty community artwork still there for all to see.

What are your thoughts on street art?