An A to Z of Gibraltar 


Gibraltar seems to be dominating the news a lot these days, so for those of you who don’t know much about this Rock which we call our home, here’s a little ABC…

A is for Apes

Our furry friends who live (most of the time) at the top of the Rock are perhaps Gibraltar’s most famous inhabitants. They’re the only wild apes in mainland Europe and rumoured to be the reason why Gibraltar remains British – legend has it that if the apes were to leave, the UK would lose Gibraltar. (Winston Churchill reputedly imported some extra ones during World War II to make sure the Rock remained under the British flag). Legend also has it that they first arrived on the Rock via tunnels which link Gibraltar to northern Africa… not too sure about that one! 

B is for border


Gibraltar has only one land border to the north of the territory and shares it with Spain. It is across this border (or Frontier as it’s also known) that thousands of Spanish residents travel to work in Gibraltar each day and also which Gibraltar residents cross to access Spain and rest of the European mainland. 

Under the Franco regime the border was closed between 1969 and 1985. Gibraltarians found themselves with lots of vacant jobs to be filled as the cross-border workers were no longer able to work here and resources like food and fuel had to be sourced via alternative means. During this period, the Rock’s relationship with Morocco flourished and resulted in the diverse community we now enjoy today.

C is for cable car

Gibraltar’s main tourist attraction is the Rock itself and there are a number of different ways of getting to the top, on foot and by car or taxi, but perhaps the most dramatic way (and certainly the fastest) is by cable car. It has been a feature on the Rock for decades and takes just six minutes from the base station to the summit.

D is for defence


Due to it’s strategic position geographically at the gateway to the Mediterranean, it’s no surprise that Gibraltar has been a key British military base. Though fewer service personnel are based here now than in it’s heyday, there is still a considerable Army, Navy and RAF presence on the Rock.

E is for Europa Point

At Gibraltar’s southern most tip, you can find Europa Point lighthouse, the only lighthouse to be operated by Trinity House which is outside of the British Isles. It’s been keeping watch over the Strait of Gibraltar for over 175 years. On a clear day, you can see across the Strait to north Africa and the Rif mountains of Morocco.

Europa Point is also home to Gibraltar’s largest mosque (the Ibrahim-al-Ibrahim Mosque) as well as the Roman Catholic Shrine of Our Lady of Europe.

F is for Festivals


In recent years Gibraltar’s cultural life has flourished with the creation of a number of festivals, the biggest of which is the Gibraltar Music Festival or GMF as it’s become known locally. 2017 will see the festival run for the first time by MTV. Other musical festivals include the Festival of Colours and the World Music Festival. In addition to music another large annual event is the Gibraltar Literary Festival.

G is for Governor & Government 

Gibraltar Parliament building

Although key defence and strategic decisions about Gibraltar are made in Westminster, day to day affairs on the Rock are looked after by Government of Gibraltar. 

The Convent, official residence of the Governor of Gibraltar
We also have a Governor, who is the Queen’s representative here. Our current Governor, Lieutenant General Ed Davies, like all his predecessors lives in the official residence known as The Convent.

H is for history 

Tower of Homage aka Moorish Castle

Gibraltar is steeped in history, from cave men to the Phoenecians, Moorish invasions and the Great Siege. Gibraltar is filled with historic buildings and sites. There’s even a weekly historical reenactment.

I is for isthmus not an island


Despite popular misconception, Gibraltar is not an island. It is an isthmus of 5.8 square kilometres. If you are looking for a diverse and challenging 10k route to run, Gibraltar is the place for you, it’s exactly 10km all the way round on the main roads.

J is for Jebel Tariq

Gibraltar is regarded as one of the Pillars of Hercules, Jebel Musa across the Strait in Morocco being the other one. The name Gibraltar is believed to have come from it’s Moorish name of Jebel Tariq, meaning Tariq’s Mountain or Tariq’s Path. Tariq lead the Moorish Invasion of Andalusia.

K is for Kaiane

Front cover of Gibraltar Panorama 5.4.17

Irrespective of your views on beauty pageants, Kaiane Lopez (née Aldorino) achieved something remarkable for Gibraltar. In 2009, was crowned Miss World. She was a great ambassador for Gibraltar during her year-long reign and has continued to fly the flag for the Rock ever since. Yesterday she became the youngest ever Mayor of Gibraltar as well as being the first ever Miss World to take mayoral office.

L is for lifestyle 

Gibraltar boasts a great climate, healthcare modeled on the NHS, schools which follow the UK system and a thriving community. Plus everything is within a short distance so activities/entertainment especially for children are more achievable than our experience in the UK. As an ‘incomer’ I’ve had a really positive experience living here and was welcomed by locals and expats alike.

M is for Mediterranean 


The Eastern side of the Rock is lapped by the tides of the Mediterranean Sea and the three Mediterranean beaches we have on the Rock are hugely popular in summer (Gibraltar has other beaches on the Western side too).

N is for Neanderthal 


The first Neaderthal skull ever to be found was discovered at Gorham’s Cave in Gibraltar in 1848. The find, which is celebrated on Gibraltarian pound coins, has led to Gibraltar recently being granted UNESCO World Heritage status.

O is for ornithology


A hot spot for twitchers, Gibraltar is a haven for wildlife and, in particular, migratory birds. Volunteers from the British Trust for Ornithology travel to Gibraltar to study the migration of birds from the southern hemisphere where they have over wintered, up to northern Europe and Russia. Vultures, and eagles can often be spotted along with other smaller birds.

P is for port


Gibraltar has long been a stop off for seagoing travellers, from the Phoenicians who dropped anchor here before setting off into the Atlantic and up as far north as Cornwall. These days Gibraltar’s marine trade includes dry docks for maintenance, as well as bunkering services for ships which are mid voyage.

Q is for queues 


We do spend quite a while in queues here in Gibraltar at times, especially if you choose the wrong moment to cross the runway – you can get stuck waiting for planes to land or take off. 

We also have to queue to enter and leave Gibraltar at the border with Spain, which can at times be problematic. Thorough checks by the authorities across the border can mean long waits in rather uncomfortable conditions (like the height of summer) at it’s worst it can take several hours to cross. 

R is for runway

Gibraltar Airport is famous for it’s stunning backdrop and for the fact that the main road to and from the Rock runs straight across it. It makes for an interesting commute to work for those who live over in Spain!

S is for St Michael’s Cave

St Michael’s Cave
The Rock of Gibraltar itself is full of holes, with natural caves and manmade tunnels carved through it. The largest and perhaps most dramatic of which is St Michael’s Cave which as well as being a popular tourist destination is also a venue for shows and concerts.

T is for tunnels 

In order to get around the Rock we need to travel through a few tunnels. The World War II Tunnels (which include a war time hospital ward) and the Great Siege Tunnels are popular tourist attractions. 

There are miles and miles of military tunnels excavated through the Rock most of which are out of bounds to the public. They are used for military exercises and there was even a plan during World War II for some military personnel to be bricked into a tunnel so they could spy on the enemy in case of an invasion.

U is for Upper Rock

Windsor Suspension Bridge

The Upper Rock is a Nature Reserve, home to the Barbary Macaques and other native species like the Barbary partridge and national flowers like the Gibraltar Candytuft and Gibraltar Campion.

Gibraltar Candytuft

The Med Steps or Mediterranean Steps to give them their proper name, is a footpath and several sets of steps which lead from the southern tip of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, at the Pillar of Hercules monument and round the Eastern side of the Upper Rock before emerging at the summit. 

Med Steps

It’s a place of outstanding natural beauty and affords walkers stunning views across the Strait to Morocco, along the Mediterranean coast to Spain and onto the Costa del Sol on a clear day, and across the Bay of Gibraltar to Algeciras. 

V is for visitors


Gibraltar is a very popular destination for cruise liners and coach tours. At peak times in the summer, the population of the Rock can almost be doubled for a day, when several large cruise ships arrive all at once. Those are the times when it’s wise to give Main Street a wide berth, especially if you have small children and pushhairs to steer through the crowds.

W is for weather

We are blessed with pretty mild winters (although there was some snow a few miles up the coast this winter) and long hot sunny summers. Thankfully because of our location surrounded on three sides by sea we don’t get such high temperatures as they do further up the coast or inland in Spain.


We can get a rather large cloud developing on the top of the Rock called the Levanter. It’s formed by the easterly wind and just sits above us creating humid conditions below. Some people refuse to have their hair done on Levanter days and it’s been blamed for meringues failing to rise and paint from drying properly.

X is for BreXit (sorry couldn’t think of anything beginning with X)

Well this is the main reason why everyone’s talking about Gibraltar at the moment isn’t it? 96% of the Gibraltar electorate voted to remain in Europe and no one knows what Brexit will mean for us all here on the Rock (or the UK for that matter).

Y is for Yanito or Llanito 

Yanito or Llanito is the dialect which is spoken by Gibraltarians. Anyone wandering along Main Street will hear locals speaking a mixture of English and Spanish with a few Genoese or Maltese words thrown in too. 

Z is for zebra crossings (post boxes and red telephone boxes)

We may live at the very south of Iberian Peninsular and we can see Africa from our windows but there are a lot of familiar British sights around Gibraltar. There are often tourists posing for photos by the phone boxes and and post boxes trying to catch a little of Britain in the Med.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this Gibraltar A to Z, if you only take one thing from it, can it please be that Gibraltar’s NOT an island? (I have read two articles today which described it as one) Thank you!

A stroll through the clouds… 

I wasn’t planning on going for a walk up the Med Steps this morning, but I’m so glad I did. It was beautiful and I also got the chance to climb up through the clouds again. You may remember I took a similar walk like this just under a year ago… A mini stroll in the mist.

The sun was shining as we set off from the western side of the rock but as we walked around to the eastern side it was a bit cloudy. You could still feel the  sunshine beating down through the clouds though.

Looking up the sky immediately above us was so clear and bright!


  

As we climbed and looked out to sea it became obvious the clouds were actually forming a low blanket which the top of Gibraltar was just poking up out of.

From the summit you could just spy the northern tip poking out above the clouds.

Looking north

Looking south towards Morocco, the clouds were creeping around from the Mediterranean and into the Strait of Gibraltar.

Looking south
To the north, on the western side, the airport runway and part of town had been hidden from view as the misty cloud swept around and into the Bay.

Looking north west
We headed back down the Rock after our exertions in the cool shade feeling proud of ourselves for having achieved our goal. Within an hour the two cloudy arms had joined across the Bay and were encircling us in a giant cloudy hug. 

I drove into town to find myself severely underdressed (the T shirt was a bad idea!) and shrouded in cloud…. Can you believe these two photos (above and below) were taken just 10 minutes apart?!

Looking up the Rock from town
I’m pleased to report that the cloud has now burned off and we are basking in bright sunshine and blue skies!

Ahhh that’s better!

Main Street
How many seasons in one morning?! The weather and the micro climates around the Rock are part of the fun of living here.  It’s not just the apes, British Bobbies and red phone boxes that make Gibraltar unique.

A bit more Gib Talks: Gib Talks 2017

From being encouraged to draw a stick man version of myself by an artist who’s exhibited at the Royal Academy to laughing at anecdotes from the former Chief Minister of Gibraltar and being moved and inspired by the courage of an amazing young woman, my morning spent at this year’s Gib Talks event didn’t disappoint. The day-long event features speakers from all walks of life talking on subjects as diverse as the origin of Gibraltar’s name to becoming the first Gibraltarian to compete at the Olympic games.

Last year I had my first experience of  Gib Talks, I called in for a short time to hear a friend of mine speak and found myself not wanting to leave. Ahead of this year’s event, I was able to catch up with the organiser Julian Felice when he took part in the Postcard from Gibraltar Podcast Episode 002 : Gib Talks, in it he described some of talks we would be able to hear, but that preview was nothing like actually being there yourself.

One of the joys of Gib Talks is that you don’t need to commit to the whole day, you can dip in and out just coming for the talks which interest you or as was my situation, just coming for the time you are able to fit in around the family. As a consquence I managed to see most of the morning’s session and was so glad that I did. Here’s my take on what I heard (it’s a bit long so feel free to dip in and out of it too!):

Samantha Barrass – My secret life as an amateur thespian and theatre impresario 

The first talk of the day I saw was given by Samantha Barrass, the mother of three is CEO of the Gibraltar Financial Services Commission but it was her passion for acting and, as she put it, “non-professional theatre” which formed the subject for her talk. Samantha recalled her first experience of acting in a production of Snow White at the age of 10. She’d moved to New Zealand as a child and it was there that she’d been given the role of the wicked queen in her school production; a role which she joked had been a “forerunner for her role in financial services”.

While on the stage there had been a technical fault which meant that her magic mirror failed to reply when she asked it “who is the fairest of them all”. Her ability to stay in character and act out a “queenly strop” until the fault was rectified earned her a complement from her favourite teacher that “only a real actress could do that”. The comment sealed her fate and her love affair with the stage.

Samantha described how her love for acting and theatre had continued beyond school and despite considering going to stage school, she had pursued a career in finance while continuing as an amateur actress in her spare time. After a move to London, and the birth of her three children, she became involved in a non-professional theatre in Bromley and ultimately became chair, a role which was to see her merge her skills from her professional life and her hobby together.

Describing the theatre as “my third place” in addition to home life and work life, Samantha says she has made many friends through her hobby and that it is something which people can do at any age and with not much money. She ended by saying she is “pleased to be in Gibraltar where I have a very responsible job and I can also fit in some acting around it”.

Samantha Barrass won Best Actress at the 2016 Gibraltar Drama Festival.

Tito Vallejo – Naming the Rock

Next up was well-known local historian and all round personality Tito Vallejo. In his introduction to Tito’s talk, organiser Julian Felice joked that “If you have a pulse and you live in Gibraltar, you probably know this speaker!”

Tito began by saying “We all know how the Rock got it’s name” inferring that if you Google it, you will see that ‘Gibraltar’ is derived from ‘Jebel Tarik’ or Tarik’s Mountain after the Moor who first conquered it. That, however, is not the case according to Tito; first known as ‘Kalph’ the Phoenecian word for rock, then ‘Calpari’ or ‘hollow’ by the Romans and later ‘Calpe’ a name we recognise from insignias and local names today.

The Phoenecians were traders and set up camp nearby in the Bay of Gibraltar 4000 years ago, they were responsible for creating the Pillars of Hercules, or the Pillars of Melcartes as they called them. They also told everyone of the ‘abyss’ which lay beyond the pillars in an attempt to dissuade anyone else from venturing out of the Mediterranean and relying on their imports including tin from the south coast of England.

Later, the Moors staged an invasion of the land of the Vandals, which is now known as Andalusia. Their first port of call was Gibraltar. The leader of the invasion, Tariq landed in Gibraltar in 711 and burned all of his ships, telling his men “we win this land or we will drown in the sea as cowards”. Tito explained that here is “where the myth starts”; the Tarik in Djebel (or Jebel) Tarik does not stand for the man Tariq, but is the Moorish word for ‘path’ meaning the beginning of the path through Andalusia which the Moorish invaders took.

Tito was vehement in his defence of this claim saying that every place the Moors conquered was named for a reason and not after a person, as that would go against the Islamic religious teaching against idolatry. Hence the Alhambra is named after the red colour of the stone, Tarifa is named after the end of the world as it was at the edge of the ‘abyss’ and if you passed there you had to pay a toll or ‘tariff’ and Gibraltar was the start of the ‘path’ through Andalusia.

According to Tito it was the Spanish who coined the name Gibraltar.

Manar Ben Tahayekt – Living with a disability

I get looked down to and this annoys me because it’s like “Hello, I am a smart person you know”.

Described in her introduction as “truly inspiring” and a young woman who “faced every challenge head on” Manar Ben Tahayekt took to the stage and soon had the auditorium captivatedManar, who was born with cerebral palsy, moved to Gibraltar at the age of 4, after her parents decided she would be better off living here than in her native Morocco. As she wasn’t a Gibraltar citizen, she was home schooled until the age of 11.

She said of her childhood, that it wasn’t easy and that she “started school late but came a long way” gaining 2 GCSEs, one in English, and the other in Spanish. She went on to say that “something I have learned is to never give up”. Despite the difficulties she has faced, Manar now works for the Department of Education and is studying for further qualifications.

Then Manar stunned the audience by asking the awkward question “How many of you said to yourself la pobre” when they saw she was going to speak. She went on to say “I can say poor thing in Arabic too and it irritates me. I wonder when these people will get the hint?…I get looked down on and it’s like ‘Hello I am a smart person you know'”.

Manar explained that although she is disabled, it doesn’t stop her being independent and “just doing what any normal 23 year old does, like falling in love, partying and travelling”. Last year saw her complete her Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award and after much training she conquered the Med Steps.

Finishing her talk, Manar asked the audience to “look beyond the disability” the next time they see a disabled person “and look for their ability”. She was given a standing ovation for her inspirational, and at times deeply moving speech. What a remarkable young woman.

Henry & Priscilla Sacramento – Making it work

For the first time ever, a couple was invited to take to the Gib Talks stage at the same time this year. Compere Julian Felice introduced them saying “the UK has Posh and Becks, the USA Barack and Michelle, Gibraltar and Morocco has ‘HenPris'”.

Retired Police Officer, and charity worker Henry stood with his arm around his wife throughout their talk about their relationship and their dream of buying a property in their beloved Morocco. Priscilla, a retired special needs teacher and dressmaker who made dresses for Miss Gibraltar contestants, took turns with her husband as they told the audience about their marriage, saying that rather than being described as a “golden couple”, they should be “a platinum one” on account of the colour of their hair.

The Sacramentos have been married for almost 30 years, or rather “29 years and 46 days” according to Henry. The recipe for such a long and happy partnership was “positive attitude and respect”. They told the interesting story of how they had fallen in love with a house in Morocco which they wanted to buy but had missed out on the purchase only to be able to buy it years later as Henry came up for retirement. They believe that their positive attitude had lead to them being able to fulfil their dreams.

Karl Ullger – To what extent can you learn to be creative?

Karl Ullger, described by fellow teacher Julian Felice as an “Artist, teacher, colleague and friend” is the second Gibraltarian artist to be invited to exhibit at the Royal Academy of Art (the first being Gustavo Bacarisas). He also featured in last year’s Sky Arts Landscape Artist competition getting through from a field of 600 applicants.

Beforehand, we were all given a piece of paper and a pencil, which we were told we would be required to use during Karl’s talk – but more on that later…

“Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality” however “being imaginative does not mean you are creative” said Karl. He gave the examples of things which evolve over time with creativity like the gramophone, which eventually led to record players, the Walkman and the iPhone and “chalk drawings on a cave wall” which then evolved to the ink well, pencil, pen and ultimately an ink free stylus for drawing on a tablet.

Karl said that by using experimentation and breaking from the norm, things don’t always turn out right but don’t give up and keep trying. He told us of the time he went for a jog down by the dockyard and spotted a piece of metal lying in a bus stop. He said he “liked the look of the rust” so he took it back with him to his workshop.

Weeks later, while cleaning his brushes, some of the acid he was using splattered on the sheet of metal and he liked the effect it made. That piece of discarded waste metal later became a piece of art work with a painting of Sacred Heart Church and the Upper Town of Gibraltar on it and it stood beside him on the easel on the stage.

As a teacher, Karl was well qualified to explain that all children can be artists but as we grow older we develop inhibitions and other qualities which restrict our creativity. He went on to say that the left side of the brain which favours logical thought is what powers professions like accountants, and lawyers and the that right side is creative and is stronger in professions like artists, musicians and chefs.

That doesn’t mean that you have to be just one thing or the other though, as Karl gave examples of great men through history who had great creative and logical minds; Einstein, Da Vinci and Michelangelo. He gave us all a method to “keep yourself intact – brain gyms”.  An example of a brain gym is when you doodle while speaking to someone on the phone.

Here’s where the paper and pencil comes in…

Karl then asked us to take our pencils and paper and get creative. He asked us to draw a house, with windows and a door and a path. To add some weather to the picture and then draw a sketch of ourselves. He then grilled the audience as to what we had added to our picture, did it have a roof or chimney? Were there curtains in the windows? Were we pictured inside or outside the house? Did we have a big head? Were there flowers in the garden? All of which would reveal a meaning behind the picture we had just drawn.

My scribblings…

We were invited to either speak to him after the talk as he was willing to give feedback on the meaning of our drawing or we could send him our picture online. So I did and here’s what he had to say…

Apart from the bit which says I take care over my appearance (I normally look like I have been dragged through a hedge backwards) it is actually very accurate. The point of all this? Karl said that these basic and very quick sketches were to prove that all the audience members can be creative even if many think they can’t.

Sean Vincent Acris – Pride, not Prejudice

Introduced as the reigning Mr Gibraltar after being crowned in September 2016, Sean Vincent Acris has used the time since to work with charities and causes through his new role. He began his talk with a series of shocking quotes on Islamophobia, violence towards women and sexual inequality made by current world leaders. He described himself as a “firm believer in equality for all and a proud Gibraltarian”. He said that the democracy we enjoy here in Gibraltar, the diversity we represent and issues like the rights of women to vote and for cultures to be accepted shouldn’t be taken for granted.

Sean also spoke of the recent change in the law in Gibraltar for gay couples to be married and explained it had been an issue he had campaigned for in the past and he was thrilled to be able to attend the first gay wedding on the Rock in December last year. Sean said he knew some people in the audience may not agree with the new law and asked that they wouldn’t “just tolerate it but understand”.

He then took us back in time to his childhood here in Gibraltar, explaining that he had attended a first school and became good friends with another boy he referred to as ‘Michael’. They had been best friends and enjoyed lots of fun times together. When the time came for them to move up to middle school, although nervous about what lay ahead, Sean had felt lucky that ‘Michael’ would be going to the same school and that they would be together.

However their friendship changed and Michael became distant and was almost a stranger by the end of their first year at middle school. Sean said he was labelled as “different” called “queer and spat at”. He believed “there must be something wrong with me”. He continued; “Today I am happy and proud as well as being Gibraltarian I am also gay”.

Sean impressed the importance of education to eliminate phobias of people who are regarded as different saying “In the world we live in today, there’s a change of mood in where we’re going with Brexit and the new President Trump… the freedoms we enjoy today are not guaranteed forever”.

Georgina Cassar – From Rock to rings: My Olympic journey

Setting the scene for Georgina Cassar’s talk, Julian Felice described London in 2012. “The world gathered for the greatest sporting event” among them were two Gibraltarians, one was a hockey umpire, the other a rhythmic gymnast. She was Georgina and she would become the first Gibraltarian Olympian.

Georgina walked on stage in her Team GB uniform and began her talk telling us how she had followed her older sister into ballet and had done that for several years before deciding to try gymnastics. It was at the age of 13 that her coach had suggested she opt for rhythmic gymnastics rather than the more traditional type she’d been learning to that point. It was unheard of for a gymnast “to start so late and still make the Olympic team” said Georgina, however she was to prove the critics wrong.

First of all making the team going to the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in 2010, Georgina said that she began to focus on the Olympics two years later. However the road to London was not a smooth one for her and she doubted she would “make the trials let alone make the Olympics”.

The journey to the trials in Swindon meant flying to the UK but bad weather led to flights being cancelled and she just managed to catch the last train to the venue only to be told that the trials were cancelled because poeople hadn’t been able to travel due to the poor weather. Georgina was indignant “We had come all the way from Gibraltar!” The judges agreed to test her the following day and she did well enough to qualify.

The qualification meant that she had to move to England mid way through her AS Levels. As a 17 year old that was a big deal, but she chose to take a year out of education in order to train. She still had to qualify and there were 13 girls on the rhythmic gymnastic team at that point, which had to be whittled down to 7.

“It was eat, train, sleep, repeat for 9 months” says Georgina, she suffered homesickness and managed to wangle a flying trip back to Gibraltar during training to celebrate her 18th birthday in return for agreeing to wear her contact lenses when she competed (she had competed without her glasses or lenses at the Commonwealth Games).

Georgina explained that the team was self funded and although she had some sponsorship from the Kusuma Trust in Gibraltar, they still needed to find more funding and put on multiple displays and even packed bags in Morrisons.

When it came to the crunch Olympic qualification took place over three days. On the first day the team’s ball routine exceeded the score required to qualify. On day two a knot in one of display ribbons meant that they missed out on the score needed by 0.02 marks. They believed that they had a third day to make up the deficit but they were told that it was the end of their dream and they had failed to qualify.

That evening their coach took them out for a commiseration vodka and lemonade and even gave them a square of chocolate each before going out to perform the next day. They were determined to prove their governing body wrong and did their best performance ever and scored 2 points more than was required to qualify. A court case followed and the rhythmic gymnastic team triumphed against British Gymnastics.

In celebration, the seven-strong team took a week off and ate and drank as much as they wanted. On their return to the gym their coach made them stand on the scales. Between them, they had gained enough weight for a whole other team member; 60kg. Their coach wasn’t happy! Georgina described a harsh “ten hours plus” training programme to lose the excess weight and get ready for the Games with a “minimal diet” with limited fluids.

The hard work and deprivation paid off though, on the day of the contest Georgina said she “woke up excited… we were the first [rhythmic gymnastic] team from GB to make the games … I was the first Olympian from Gibraltar”. She described life in the Olympic Village, sitting down for meals with the likes of Mo Farrah and Sir Chris Hoy and being escorted by officials to speak to GBC.

It was on the parade around London after the Olympics though which made her most proud. Falling on September 10th, Gibraltar National Day, she was able to wave the Gibraltar Flag from the top of the open topped bus as it passed Gibraltar House.

A hip operation in 2014 meant that she can no longer compete, but she is grateful for the experience and all the opportunities in media and sport which have come her way since. Her parting message was that “everything happens for a reason and every choice you make along the way… creates our own fate”.

Sir Peter Caruana QC

Gibraltar’s second longest serving Chief Minister, and the first Knight of the Realm to grace the Gib Talks stage brought the morning session to an end. Sir Peter Caruana chose today to make his second public appearance since his retirement from public life in 2011.

He began by humourously stating that the British system of politics meant that the change over of power was a “sharp execution”. The first clue that things had changed on that fateful night in November 2011 was that the man who had chauffeur driven him to the John Macintosh Hall for the election count on the previous evening “was no longer holding the door open for you and is doing it for someone else and you’re walking home”. He described his immediate situation after losing the election as “having nothing to do and nowhere to go but interfere with the domestic arrangements at home”.

The former Chief Minister’s talk was peppered with anecdotes of his political life from having dinner with Margaret Thatcher  who told him “two professions end in tears, boxing and political leaders” and holding a political surgery with a lady from Glacis estate complaining about her boiler while taking a call from the Foreign Secretary at the same time, “this is what being Chief Minister of Gibraltar is all about” he added.

He mentioned being asked at a dinner at Lancaster House following the Royal Wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton, if it wasn’t “all looking a bit North Korea in Gibraltar” suggesting that perhaps the time had come for a change at the top. Sir Peter said that political office was “a temporary job” and “losing to the will of the people was as important as winning”, although in 2011 he “lost by not very much…which meant you didn’t think I was the worst Chief Minister”.

“There are few professions where you can retire early and try something new… you made the decision for us” was his way of alluding to his change of professions back into legal life after his long political sojourn. One lesson he had for the audience was not to bear grudges, “if you do, they don’t know – it just burns you up”. “So many political leaders find it hard to make it to the wings… I slipped back into obscurity and open my mouth only when invited to do so” he said.

So what did I take from my morning spent at Gib Talks 2017? To be positive, keep trying and never give up, look beyond first impressions to see people’s ability and don’t hold a grudge! Valuable life lessons for anyone I think.

Creative Gibraltar : Watercolour painting with Deborah M Lawson

Throughout the month of February here at Postcard from Gibraltar, I am taking a look at some of the very talented creative folk who live here on the Rock. Today, it’s the turn of Deborah M Lawson..

Gibraltar Regattas
Deborah M Lawson is a Yorkshire born artist who specialises in watercolour painting. She came to Gibraltar around ten years ago, when her husband’s job moved here, leaving her job as a social worker in England to become a full-time artist on the Rock. Deborah now accepts commissions and offers watercolour classes to students.

Deborah M Lawson
Deborah says she has always been interested drawing and painting and enjoyed art as a child. Her father was a good artist, so she believes she may have been influenced by him. After studying art at A-level, she considered going on to Art School, but was encouraged to follow a more traditional and better paying career path, and so went on to study and take up a career in social work.

Cherries
When Deborah’s children were in full time school, that’s when the opportunity arose for her to get back in touch with her artistic endeavours. Enrolling in a foundation course in Art & Design led to her achieving a degree in the subject. From that moment on, Deborah juggled four jobs, that of mother, part-time social worker, artist (painting for exhibitions) and art teacher. The move to Gibraltar allowed her to leave social work altogether and focus solely on her painting.

Ijaz Khan
Portraits, landscapes and plants are her inspiration and Deborah particularly likes some of the architecture here in Gibraltar especially “old buildings which look like they are growing out of the Rock like Parson’s Lodge”. She says she’s interested in experimenting with abstract too but that’s harder in watercolour than in oils, a medium she has now given up.

Parsons Lodge
On the subject of teaching, “I love watercolour so I enjoy passing on techniques,” she said “and the excitement it can generate when a student produces something they’re pleased with”. Many of Deborah’s students come to her as complete beginners and when they find they can actually paint under her instruction, she finds that very satisfying. “A lot of people find it therapeutic, so that’s rewarding,” she added.

Tree at Limeuil
As for her teaching style, Deborah says that she didn’t do much watercolour at Art College, so she has had to develop her own techniques and style by trial and error using books and looking at other artists. She says she made “a lot of muddy messes” before getting the hang of the medium. For that reason, she remarked that she’s “quite directive – you learn a lot faster if you’re shown how to do it”.

Parsons Lodge
Her goal as an artist is to continue developing and hopefully sell more paintings. She says she would like to develop some more abstract work too.

California Poppies
Does Deborah have any advice for aspiring artists? “Work at it, it takes a lot of practice. Do courses, read and look at other artists’ work. Find some artists who’s work you like and borrow their techniques to develop your own style”.

Castle Steps

Deborah’s work can be seen on her website : www.deborahmlawson.com. She also sells small items at the Arts & Crafts Centre in Casemates Square and the Cruise Liner Terminal.

Peony Buds watercolour
Creative Gibraltar is a series by Postcard from Gibraltar

Review of the year : 2016

As the clock ticks inexorably towards midnight on 31st December and we close the door on 2016, I thought it was time to take a look back at the year we have just had. Most of the newspaper reviews I’ve read so far have focussed on the negative aspects, celebrity deaths, the seismic political changes afoot both in Europe, America and the rest of the world, and general doom and gloom.

I am very fortunate in that for us, in our little corner of the world, apart from the uncertainties of Brexit and what that could mean for us in the years to come, we’ve had a pretty good year. Looking back at all the interesting things we’ve done makes me think about how fortunate we are. If your 2016 has been a difficult one, I sincerely hope that 2017 will be better for you and your loved ones.

January 2016

The New Year saw us spending a few days up the coast from Gibraltar on the Costa del Sol, but we were back on the Rock in plenty of time to see the Three Kings Cavalcade. It was also back in January when I went for the first of my strolls around Gibraltar the first one was an homage to the many beautiful balconies, the second one paid tribute to the many steps we ‘enjoy’ here!

February 2016

February brought us some misty and stormy weather, but there was plenty of indoors activities to keep us busy here in Gibraltar. The second annual Gib Talks event saw speakers from all walks of life take to the stage for short talks on a huge range of subjects. Later in the month, the extraordinary Gibraltar Womens Association celebrated their 50th Anniversary, I found  their story fascinating.

March 2016

In March, we were blessed with some beautiful sunny days with bright blue skies. Along with completing a tin man outfit for World Book Day, I finally managed to finish my Attic 24 Cosy Stripe Blanket after a year of hooking! We made the most of the lovely spring weather and took a dolphin trip out into the Bay of Gibraltar. There was also a beautiful exhibition in Gib celebrating  women’s creativity.

April 2016

During April we made another short trip up the coast and headed inland to Ronda a beautiful Andalucian town. I was very productive at my dressmaking and home furnishing courses inserting my first invisible zip and producing curtain tie-backs for the public transport fan in my life. A tall ship called into port at Gibraltar and members of the public had the chance to go on board and have a snoop around.

May 2016

May meant Med Steps for me big time as I completed my final training sessions for, and then finished, the Med Steps 5 Challenge with my two stepping buddies. It was a rather intense day but we were so proud of ourselves for climbing to the top of the Rock five times in quick succession. We also managed to raise a fair amount of sponsorship money for the brilliant Cancer Relief Gibraltar. Some of my sponsors are readers of this blog and I am so touched that you took the time and effort to support our fundraising efforts – thank you.

As I spent so long prattling on about the Med Steps during my training, I figured I should tell you all about it:  The Med Steps: a few facts & figures . May also meant saying goodbye to a good friend to me and my blogging adventures. One of the sad things about living an expat life is that many of the friends you make are in the same boat as you and therefore may not be around for long Saying goodbye…

June 2016

June was a very eventful month not only for me but for Gibraltar and the rest of the UK as a whole as BREXIT loomed large (this post was my most read of all time and by a very long way). Six months on, we are still no further forward knowing what it all means.

Another unexpected thing to happen to me in June, was when I chose to go back up the Med Steps one foggy morning. I thought that the mist would make the climb cool as the summer heat had begun to build. I was wrong. As I climbed up the Rock, I climbed out of the mist and fog. I was nearly roasted alive, but I did manage to take a rather good photo of the Rock emerging out of the mist below (see second left image on the bottom row above). I got loads of likes and shares and retweets with that picture taken on  A mini stroll in the mist!

11th June 2016 marked International Yarnbombing Day 2016 and I had a little go myself with my first guerrilla crochet project as I attempted to Yarnbomb the Alameda Gardens to celebrate the park’s 200th anniversary.

July 2016

July equals the beginning of the very long school summer holiday in Gibraltar. As I stared down the barrel of 8 weeks of no school and the prospect of entertaining the three Little Postcards I felt a little overwhelmed. In an effort to find some way of surviving (with my marbles intact) I decided on day one that I would set myself the challenge of doing something crafty every single day of the holidays…. and the Summer Craft Challenge was born. One of our summer holiday outings took us up into the Upper Rock Nature Reserve to visit one of Gibraltar’s newest attractions, the  Windsor Suspension Bridge .

August 2016

August, for us, was mainly spent in England. I travelled back with the Little Postcards to spend two weeks based in the North West with my parents (with a lovely trip down to Berkshire to visit friends) and then two weeks with Mr Postcard visiting his family in East Anglia. We were blessed with the best of English summer weather. When the sun shines – there really is no better place to be. Our East Anglia holiday base was Southwold in Suffolk, it gave us the perfect opportunity for multiple visits to a special place for us Southwold Pier .

The end of the month brought the school summer holidays to an end. After eight weeks of full-time kiddiwinks and eight weeks of the summer craft challenge, I was very proud to still be in full possession of my marbles (I think) and I also managed to do something crafty on every day except for one (the day we travelled back to Gibraltar). The final instalment of my challenge is here.

September 2016

September is always a very busy month in Gibtraltar. Just after the children return to school, we all have a day off for Gibraltar National Day on 10th September. Around this time we now have the Gibraltar Music Festival to enjoy too. This year saw the Stereophonics headline and Europe played the air guitarist’s dream of The Final Countdown live on the Rock.

Towards the end of the month, I was able to fulfil an ambition of mine to visit the Yarn Festival of Yarndale. It was everything I had expected and more, with bells on. My absolute highlight was meeting my crochet hero Lucy from Attic 24 and being able to give her one of my Llanitas (Llanita, the Gibraltar Yarndale sheep that is). The sheep were made to raise funds to support a children’s hospice in North Yorkshire, I made two and they have both gone to live in Yorkshire!  My Yarndale 2016 (featuring Llanita’s Yorkshire adventures)

October 2016

In October I was still determined to keep up some of the crochet momentum I had achieved during the summertime and finished off my contribution to the Sixty Million Trebles project. I made a rainbow granny square blanket which will go towards the World Record breaking attempt to create a huge crochet blanket made up of sixty million treble stitches. Each treble stitch represents a displaced person or refugee. After the world record attempt the giant blanket will be made into smaller blankets and handed out to charities in the UK and those helping Syrian refugees. The organisers also hope to raise a considerable amount of funds too to help Syrian refugees.

A big event locally was the fourth annual Gibraltar Literary Festival 2016 I was lucky enough to be able to attend several events this year and really loved it.

November 2016

At the beginning of November we had just one Bunny in the Postcard household, then one Sunday afternoon during a walk through the Alameda Gardens, we found some abandoned rabbits. One of them, Blizzard, came home with us (Blizzard turned out to be a girl and she is now known as Snowflake). It was back in November when I had my first attempt at Podcasting I had such fun making it, and hope to be able to share another one with you soon.

December

In December we sadly said goodbye to Bunny Postcard. She had only been with us for 11 months but she’d quickly become a much loved member of the family.

This month I also headed out for my most recent stroll, to see some of the Christmas lights  we have on the Rock – amazingly it was the 16th stroll post I’ve written this year. I also took the plunge (literally) and joined with the annual Boxing Day Polar Bear Swim at Catalan Bay – I’m still feeling proud of myself for doing it!

 

Thank you so much for joining me this year, I have loved having your company and enjoy reading all the lovely comments. Here’s to next year, who knows what it will have in store for us all, here’s hoping it will be a good one.

Catalan Bay Polar Bear Swim 2016

At lunchtime today crowds of folk packed onto Catalan Bay beach in time for the annual Boxing Day Polar Bear Swim. 

This is the first time we’ve ever been to experience the swim. We’ve watched Facebook photos pour in of friends and families we know taking part. Watching them brave the nippy December sea from the comfort of an armchair, mince pie in hand. This year though, we decided (or should that be I decided) we should be armchair spectators no more. 

The beach car park was packed by the time we arrived and we ran the gauntlet with some rather maverick parking practices. With a bit of help from my Dad (thanks Dad) I was able to park up and we were ready to head to the sand.

There were already hundreds of folk in high spirits gathered at the southern end of the beach by the time we rocked up. 

At first glance at the photos you may be forgiven for thinking it was an ordinary day at the beach, but notice the lack of normal beach paraphernalia like parasols and deck chairs and the large number of Santa suits and antlers…

There was even a herd (is that the correct term?) of polar bears… or maybe they were pandas…

As the time hit noon, the brave souls (me & Littlest included) headed into the sea. It’s amazing how brave you feel when you are part of a large crowd – I would never have considered attempting it alone! I’m even a bit of a wimp in the summertime – those shells and pebbles hurt your feet as you get in and I don’t like the idea of fish nibbling my feet – ugh!

In we went… 

Deeper and deeper until Littlest decided it was too cold and wanted to get out. What a brave little soul he is though – much braver than his big brothers who enjoyed watching us from a safe (dry) distance.

Once safely deposited on the shore with his Grandma I went back in so I’d be able to say I actually went for a ‘swim’ rather than a paddle. It was brief, but it was a swim. Once on the beach and about to reach for my towel, Littlest decided it hadn’t been that cold after all so we had to go back in again for a final dip. 

So there you have it, my previous hardy swimming claim to fame was that I went for a dip in an outdoor pool in Cheshire (in North West England) on Halloween. I’m not sure whether the Mediterranean Sea on an overcast Boxing Day was warmer or colder but I’m pretty sure that on childhood holidays on the West Coast of Scotland or North Wales I’ve experienced icier waves! 

I’m really glad a did it, perhaps it will become a Postcard family Boxing Day tradition… I’ve got twelve months to work on the rest of them 😉.

Photo credits: Grandad Postcard & Eldest – thank you 😊

A stroll around Gibraltar No. 16 : Christmas lights 2016


Gibraltar does do Christmas lights well, so I thought I’d take you on a little nocturnal stroll with me to show you some of them. 

Back in November there was the now annual event of the Festival of Lights, when school choirs and dance groups put on a large extravaganza before the big Christmas light switch on. You can read all about 2015’s Festival of Light here.

As is the tradition, the area of John MacIntosh Square (also know locally as the Piazza) is the scene of the Festival of Light, and after the event, the square is given over to a small Christmas Fair complete with fairground rides for smaller children. This year, the area has been illuminated with these arches of fairy lights which are really quite stunning as you round the corner and see it.

The square is flanked on three sides by brightly lit buildings too: Gibtelecom

The City Hall:

And opposite the City Hall, is the Gibraltar Parliament Building.

Main Street, the main shopping area is of course lit up too. The lights extend from beyond Southport Gates and past the Governor’s residence, the Convent (which you can see with the Christmas tree above the porch).

The lights continue along past the shops.


Even the smaller streets off Main Street have Christmas lights too.

Away from the pedestrianised shopping areas, the traffic islands haven’t been immune to the Christmas light treatment too.

This one, even features a luminous Santa Claus, who just hours before this photo was taken was face down in the plants. It looked like he’d had a heavy night at a Christmas party! He’d been restored to his former position by the time I returned with my camera, so his blushes were spared.

Aside from the municipal illuminations, the residential estates have put on a fair show this year too. Here’s the offering at Beach View Terrace near Eastern Beach…

…the residents of South District have put on a show too…

…as have the Alameda Estate.

I think the collective prize for best effort has got to go to the residents of Catalan Bay. Several houses have made a big effort, both those facing the road …

…and facing the sea.

Even the gardeners at the Alameda Gardens have jazzed up their main entrance gates.

To my mind though, there is one stand out winner this year and that is the City Fire Station. They get an A* for effort and win this year’s Postcard from Gibraltar prize for Best Christmas Lights by a mile.