Friday photo challenge (week 20) Challenge

This, my friends is the Med Steps. Tomorrow it’s the Med Steps 5 Challenge, when around 200 brave/crazy people will attempt to walk it 5 times all in the name of charity.

The walk/climb takes you from the south west side of the Rock of Gibraltar, along paths, through a tunnel and up many, many steps round the south edge and up the west side to the summit of the Rock. It’s quite a climb.

I will be one of those walkers tomorrow morning, all of us raising much needed funds for the wonderful Cancer Relief Centre here in Gibraltar. Wish us luck!

(For more info on the Med Steps, this post may help you, and my experience of last year’s Med Steps 5 Challenge can be found here).

Challenge is the theme for this week’s Friday photo challenge, next week, it’s floral.

Creative Gibraltar : Rock Fashion Rocks!

For the past few weeks the Gustavo Bacarisas gallery in Casemates Square has played host to haute couture. The Rock Fashion Rocks exhibition has now sadly come to an end but last week I took a few minutes out of my day to pay it a visit. From the moment I set foot in the building it was clear that this wasn’t your average exhibition!

Described as a retrospective exhibition celebrating fashion design in Gibraltar over the past forty years, I was looking forward to finding out a lot more about the Rock’s fashion heritage.

The first section of the exhibition was dedicated to the work of two of Gibraltar’s fashion designers who are now no longer with us; Eduardo Viotto (1961 – 1994) and Johnny Pearce (1946 – 1987).

Eduardo (or Eddie as he was known) first came in fashion through designing costumes for theatre productions in Gibraltar and in 1984 won a competition to design the Miss Gibraltar National Costume to be worn by the winner at the Miss World, Miss Universe and Miss Europe pageants. He studied in London but returned to Gibraltar and worked here on a number of collections and for clients.

Johnny Pearce, a Gibraltarian designer, who travelled to London to work, secured a job in the 1960s with the British fashion designer, Norman Hartnell (who designed clothes for the royal family). He later returned to Gibraltar and went into partnership with another designer, Nalanie Chellaram to form their own collection known as JOANAL which sold to clientele which included Baronesses, Countesses and Princesses.

The next section, was the one I am most familiar with, it featured work created by my dressmaking teacher, Dorcas Hammond:

To find out a bit more about Dorcas’s story, please take a look at this post, which I wrote about her last year. In her section of the exhibition were a number of beautiful gowns which she designed and created, including the one below which was worn by the 2015 Miss Gibraltar winner Hannah Bado when she went to the Miss World pageant.

Dorcas has won several designer competitions including the Agulha de Ouro (Golden Needle) in Portugal, back in 2004. Her trophy of a golden needle was on display in the exhibition too. To see more of Dorcas’s current designs, and maybe even buy one for yourself, check out her online shop.

Sharing this section with Dorcas, was another designer who has made many outfits for Miss Gibraltar pageants; Priscilla Sacramento. Priscilla did her dressmaking and design work alongside her day job as a teacher and ultimately the headteacher of St Martin’s Special School in Gibraltar. Her vast portfolio includes many hats and fascinators, as well as the beautiful gowns below:

Next up was Jane Langdon. Jane trained as an artist in Florence and Madrid before returning to Gibraltar. She now turns her beautiful art work into fabric for garments and accessories:

Jane Langdon
Jane Langdon

Tiana Langdon (daughter of Jane Langdon) is also an artist and designer. Having studied at Central St Martins, she worked with John Galliano at the House of Dior. She later worked freelance for a number of fashion houses including Loewe, Emanuel Ungaro, Mala Mujer, Revillon, Roberto Cavalli and Missoni.

Tiana Langdon

Giorann Henshaw is well known in Gibraltar in the Arts & Crafts scene, she’s a founder of the Gibraltar Arts & Crafts association, as well as being an artist and art teacher. She was accepted for a one year foundation course at Royal Worcester Porcelain when she was seventeen and there learned how to paint china and porcelain. She later graduated to work in the factory painting dinnerware, and other ceramic items. Giorann loves to paint flowers and landscapes and began painting shoes for her cousin Dorcas Hammond, who needed a pair to match a dress she had painted. She continued to paint satin shoes after that along with clothing and soft furnishings.

Willa Vasquez was born in Gibraltar to a family of artists, and over the past 40 years has taught many adults and children to paint. She has also designed dresses and wedding gowns, along with jewellery. She recently launched her own brand of 100% silk scarves featuring designs from her own art work.

Paul Perez (designs featured below) first began sewing under the tuition of his grandmother, he later went to Epsom to study Fashion Design. He designs luxury clothing as well as teaching young people in schools in design based subjects.

Gabriella Sardeña knew from early on that she wanted a career in fashion. She learned to sew as a child and studied for a Textiles GCSE for which she created a hand painted kimono. Gabriella later worked at Dorcas Hammond’s studio where she learned pattern cutting and precision sewing before heading to Manchester School of Art to study for her degree. Winning an internship at ‘Old Navy’ in San Francisco during her final year, and then a six month paid  internship at French brand Celine on completion of her Masters, who knows where the years ahead will take her.

Gabriella Sardeña

Christel Mifsud Victory set up her own label ‘Shorji” in 2013 and went on to open Gibraltar’s first sportswear boutique in September 2015. Originally, Christel started designing due to the lack of clothing she found available for petite women like herself. Her best selling items are leggings and she has a fascination for print and bold colours.

Gail Howard (below)  has had no formal training in Art and Design, but still managed to win the Runway New Designer Competition 2016 in Gibraltar, she then exhibited in London Fashion week in February last year and her collection was very well received. Gail is another designer to look out for in the future.

The final section of the exhibition featured two outfits created by Dorcas Hammond, firstly the Gibraltar National Dress which is worn by Miss Gibraltar contestants when they represent the Rock in international competitions such as Miss World:

And the dress worn by Kaiane Aldorino when she won the Miss World crown for Gibraltar in 2009.

Until I set foot into the exhibition I really didn’t have a clue about the amazing heritage of fashion design that’s here on the Rock. What an amazing place to live, amongst so much talent and creativity. Thank you so much to both the designers and the organisers of the exhibition – it was truly eye opening.

Gibraltar Literary Festival 2017

This time last week, ticket in hand, I lined up to have my bag searched before taking my seat in the Convent Ballroom. It was that magical time of the year again when (to me at least) the town centre is buzzing with excitement. Posh cars draw up to venues to deliver public figures to their talks and there’s the chance of bumping into Maureen Lipman or Kate Adie outside M&S. I am of course talking about the annual Gibraltar Literary Festival.

Now in it’s fifth edition, the organisers have said they sold over 3,000 tickets for the events. The whole festival ran over four days with daytime and evening functions. The fact that, as a mum with young children, I can get to some talks during school hours is just wonderful for me.

This year I was only able to attend a handful of talks due to other commitments, but it was still a great highlight to my month.

My first event was a fascinating talk by three members of the same family in the grand surroundings of the Convent. Clive, Geraldine and Stewart Finlayson have produced a coffee table book filled with stunning wildlife photos. Their book ‘Lost World : Secrets of a World Heritage Site’ was born out of the research work they have done in the Gotham’s Cave complex.

The network of caves and area of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve was the site of the first ever discovery of a Neanderthal Skull. In order to better understand the environment that the Gibraltar Neanderthals inhabited, the Finlaysons traveled around the globe to photograph and study creatures as diverse as from leopards to snowy owls, gannets to wolves. Many of the fossilised animal remains found in Gotham’s Cave are now no longer resident in the area due to climatic changes but they can be found elsewhere.

The lengths that the authors went to, to actually capture these beautiful creatures in their natural habitats is quite something. The stories they told of being on the lookout for lions in the Savannah while their guide changed not one, but four wheels on their safari truck or lying in snow in sub-zero temperatures for hours to capture a picture of a snowy owl were inspiring.

The Garrison Library was the venue for my next talk, a conversation with Patrick Gale (above right). The novelist spoke about his childhood, growing up in Wandsworth Prison, where his father was Governor and early career as a piano playing singing waiter in Convent Garden (he had taken the cabaret job in an attempt to gain an Equity card so he could become an actor). It was during down times during his overnight waiting shifts that he began to write and subsequently published his first two novels on the same day.

Since his early night shift writing, he has written prolifically with novels, short stories and TV screenplays to his name. Perhaps the most famous of these is ‘Man in the Orange Shirt’, which featured in the Gay Britannia season on BBC 2.

Patrick’s conversation with Chief Fiction Reviewer at the Sunday Times, Peter Kemp, was funny and at times very touching as he discussed his own sexuality and that of his great grandfather, whom his latest novel ‘A place called Winter’ is based on. Patrick came across as a very generous writer, and was keen to encourage anyone thinking of having a go at writing a novel to be brave and do it.

The John Mackintosh Hall was the location of my last Gibraltar Literary Festival event, Just Laugh a Minute, with veteran broadcaster Nicholas Parsons.

Despite being in his nineties, the entertainer showed no sign of slowing down and was keen to prove that despite his legs not working as well as they used to, his brain is still in good working order. He spoke for an hour (without any notes) reminiscing about his childhood and his first forays into entertainment by impersonating his prep school master which earned him a caning.

His account of his apprenticeship in the Clyde dockyards brought many laughs as he described the communal toilet arrangements. He then went on to recount his first job on wartime BBC radio, broadcasting from a disused cinema in north Wales and his brief career in the Merchant Navy which was cut short (just 5 days in) due to ill health.

Now a Gibraltar Literary Festival regular, Nicolas Parsons was great fun to listen to, and sounded like he could keep going for hours, had he been allowed. He put his good memory down to the fact he is dyslexic, saying he instinctively uses his memory to get by.

I would’ve loved to have gone to see Kate Adie speak, as one of my heroines growing up, I think her talk would have been fascinating. Sadly I left it too late to book my tickets and the event had already sold out. I have a couple of her books though to read, so I shall content myself with that.

One of the big successes of this year’s festival was the launch of a new book all about Gibraltar:

The What on Earth Wall Book ‘The Story of Gibraltar’ which charts the history of the Rock from prehistory to present day sold in excess of 900 copies. That makes it’s author, Christopher Lloyd, the most successful author in the Festival’s history.

Yet again, I had a great Gibraltar Literary Festival this year. I feel so lucky that just a few minutes from my home I can go and see authors, journalists and other public figures speak about their work. Many of whom have succeeded against the odds and their stories inspire us all to never give up.

If you fancy reading my posts from previous Gibraltar Literary Festivals, you can find them here:

Gibraltar Literary Festival 2016

So many books, so little time… Gibraltar Literary Festival 2015

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!