Gibraltar Literary Festival 2018

This time last week, the sixth Gibunco Gibraltar Literary Festival was underway and there was a palpable buzz about town. This has got to be my favourite event in the Gibraltar social calendar, when local and international speakers come to the Rock to speak about their books, their lives and so much more. To have an event like this, just a short bus ride or walk from my home is a luxury I treasure and I do my best to attend every year – this one is my fifth. Here’s my experiences from this year’s festival….

First thing last Thursday morning I made my way to the John Mackintosh Hall for a talk by local biologist, Dr Alex Menez. He’s written a book called Almost Homo Calpicus about Gibraltar 1, the Neanderthal skull which was found in Forbes Quarry in Gibraltar the nineteenth century. In his talk he detailed what happened to the skull after it’s first presentation to the Gibraltar Scientific Society back in 1848. This very famous and important fossil, which was actually discovered before the ‘Neanderthal skull’ in Germany, was not recognised as being different from a human skull in the early days.

It was thanks to the work of amateur scientists and archaeologists in the British military that early excavation work was carried out in Gibraltar. It was a chance meeting of one of these achaeologists and a visiting physician (who was aware of the Neanderthal discovery) which lead to the skull being identified as being from a different species. When it was taken to London for further investigations it was seen by a whole host of prominent figures including Charles Darwin, who described it as “the wonderful Gibraltar skull”.

Dr Menez said that he believes this skull was of much more importance than the one found in the Neander Valley, because this one has a face. He went on to say that it’s still a valuable fossil and catalyst as it still captivates people all these years later. The Gibraltar skull can be seen at the Natural History Museum in London, a replica is on display at the Gibraltar National Museum.

Dr Geraldine Finlayson from the Gibraltar National Museum (centre left) & Dr Alex Menez (centre right)

My second talk on Thursday was by local poet Giordano Durante at the Gibraltar Garrison Library…

Giordano Durante being introduced at the start of his talk

In a talk entitled “The poem I’ll never write” Giordano took us back to his childhood living in Upper Town and extolled the benefits of living alongside and going to school with families from all walks of life. He said he was educated with children who’s parents were accountants and doctors, and others who’s parents were tobacco smugglers. He said that unlike in the UK, where there’s an early segregation of children from different backgrounds, his upbringing in Upper Town granted him “entry into two worlds in a frictionless way”.

After leaving Gibraltar to study Philosphy in London, he returned to the Rock and found work as a prison officer for 3 years. Again, he said that he was able to mix with people from all echelons of society, something which has now been reflected in his poetry which focuses on “the harsh beauty” of characters living on the fringes of society. Now working as a journalist, Giordano pinpointed the moment he first felt compelled to write a poem; after catching the waft of bleach as he walked past Bishop Canilla House one day back in September 2016. The smell triggered something which led him to write the poem; Bishop Canilla House, which is the first in his collection of poems ‘West‘.

His collection is split into four sections focusing on Gibraltar, Spain, the UK and a miscellaneous section to end with – it draws from his own personal experiences and observations. Describing himself as a philosophical poet, he says he fights against clichés both in his journalism and writing saying “clichés are the enemy of original thinking and limit one’s view of the world”.

As for the poem he’ll never write? Well, it would be about Gibraltarian identity, “an epic Llanito poem” charting the rise from notoriety of a young Gibraltarian hoodlum or ‘vrada’ from his life of petty crime to a new found respectability as a lawyer who marries Miss Gibraltar. Giordano claims the process of writing the poem, committing the Llanito dialect to paper, would fall short of what he wants to convey. I for one, would love to read it if he ever finds the right words….

On Friday, I was transported to the Medieval world of Game of Thrones during a fascinating talk by Oxford University Fellow and Tutor of Medieval English Literature, Carolyne Larrington. Her book came about after a meeting with her publisher about another project. They found the conversation kept returning to her fascination with Game of Thrones, and her publisher suggested she should write a book about that as well. In fact, she described her binge reading of the George R.R. Martin stories as the “lost summer of 2012”.

Drawing parallels between the world of the Seven Kingdoms and actual historical fact, Carolyne explained where she believes Martin got the inspiration for the settings and events in his epic tale. The Hereford Cathedral Mappamundi (map of the world) is a possible inspiration for his map of the Seven Kingdoms, with the Mediterranean Sea a basis on which to model the Narrow Sea. Westeros, she believes has a very British feel with “European bits” (I always imagined Hadrian’s Wall when reading about the Wall) and that the Dothraki are very similar to the real life Mongols.

The social settings for the story are also, she says rooted in reality, with the northern way of doing things at Winterfell very similar to an Anglo Saxon English earldom and Kings Landing being more like a medieval court and city. It was fascinating to hear how many parallels there are between historical fact and this huge work of fiction. This was a hugely entertaining talk for anyone who has read Martin’s books or seen the HBO TV series.

Carolyne Larrington

And finally, my last Gibraltar Literary Festival experience this year was with TV actor, playwright and ‘cosy crime’ writer, Robert Daws. To date he has written four stories featuring police officers Detective Sergeant Tamara Sullivan and Chief Inspector Gus Broderick of the Royal Gibraltar Police. His first novella, The Rock was published back in 2012, and was followed by a full-length sequel; The Poisoned Rock in 2017. His third novel Killing Rock is due out early next year.

At his talk on Friday afternoon, he first of all treated his audience to a reading of a short story featuring DS Sullivan; Tunnel Vision, a ghostly tale set in the Dudley Ward tunnel – it was captivating. Robert went on to explain how he got into writing novels, after a screenplay he had written didn’t get made and he thought his plot would easily transfer location to Gibraltar. That screenplay evolved into his first novella, The Rock.

It was a family connection which first brought him to Gibraltar around 30 years ago, and he has been visiting every year since. It was his knowledge of the place, it’s streets and people which gave him the background to set his books here. Robert has been to the Gibraltar Literary Festival on several occasions before and this wasn’t his only talk, he gave another one on Saturday and also appeared in Just a Minute on Sunday.

Robert also spoke a little about his work as a screen and stage actor (on Poldark, The Royal and Outside Edge), recounting anecdotes about productions and colleagues with affable charm and wit. As the talk drew to a close, we were again treated to a reading, this time of an excerpt of his third, and soon to be published Sullivan and Broderick mystery; Killing Rock. I shall be looking out for that one when it hits the shops.

I was lucky enough to meet Robert before his talk (he has followed Postcard from Gibraltar for a while now – fancy that!) and he is a truly lovely man. (If you’re reading this Robert, thank you again for being so generous with your time).

So that is my experience of the Gibraltar Literary Festival 2018. It’s a brilliant event, with so many diverse speakers and topics to see – I just wish I’d had more time to see even more. I’m counting down the days until next year….

If you enjoyed reading this, you may like to read my previous blog posts about the Gibraltar Literary Festival:

Gibraltar Literary Festival 2017

Gibraltar Literary Festival 2016

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

Sunday Sevens #143 1.7.18

Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of Sunday Sevens. The first of July… how on earth did we get to this point already? I feel full of excitement about what the summer might have in store for us.

Without further ado, here’s this week’s round up of what I’ve been up to…

Enforced tidy up!

It’s been needed for a long time, but at last, thanks to the arrival of tradesmen to sort out our rather old fashioned floor tiles, I was forced to sort out my sewing/ crafty broom cupboard. I can just fit a chair in when the door’s open to sew at my machine. Let’s see how long this new tidy arrangement lasts…

Sports day season

So as time marches on towards the end of term, sports day season is well underway. This week I had one to go to. It’s a rather warm affair as you sit on the stand at the Victoria Stadium in direct sunlight toasting nicely like a rotisserie chicken. At least the view is stunning, even if you can’t make out which one of those many children actually belong to you!! There can’t be too many places in the world with a more impressive setting for their school sports days…

Morning sun, again

I realise that this photo is rather a lot like the last one, in that it features the Rock and the morning sunshine. I was parking my car one morning and glanced up to see the sunshine casting long shadows formed by the chimneys across Casemates Square from where I was and thought it worthy of a photograph. I was en-route to my sewing class, unfortunately as I am working on something which is a surprise for someone who may see this, I can’t share it just yet. I will though, later on in the summer.

Bright bougainvillea

The bougainvillea is looking fab throughout Gibraltar at the moment and it looks at its best set off against a cloudless blue sky. This great swathe of red / pink blossom caught my eye as I was walking in South District this week, it looked lovely against Parsons Lodge.

Last watercolour lesson

It’s approaching the end of the academic year for children in Gibraltar and this week, I went to my last watercolour class until September. I spent the lesson working on an exercise by William Newton. It didn’t quite turn out like the picture in the book, but it was good fun. I’ll miss my lessons over the summer break, but am determined that I will find time to pick up my brushes at some point before September.

A new perspective

One evening this week, I visited a building I hadn’t been to before – one of the towers at Brympton. I find it amazing that despite Gibraltar being so small, it can be quite easy to find yourself face to face with a view of Gib that’s completely new to you. My trip coincided with a meteorological phenomenon which is rather unusual for this part of the world. The cotton wool ball effect strip of clouds are called Altocumulus Floccus, and looked rather fantastic.

Happy birthday Postcard from Gibraltar!

I didn’t actually realise it on the day, but this Tuesday Postcard from Gibraltar turned three! In some ways it feels like Postcard from Gib has been with me for a lot longer than that. It has opened doors for me, like giving me the opportunity to write for a couple of publications and websites but most important of all, it’s introduced me to a whole host of lovely people around the world, for which I am most grateful for.

Thanks so much for stopping by this weekend, I hope that wherever you are in the world, you are having a lovely weekend. I’m linking with Natalie from Threads & Bobbins for this weekly blog series.

Calentita! 2018

Calentita, Gibraltar’s annual food festival came to town on Saturday. Started back in 2007 (before we arrived on the Rock), the festival just gets better and better, and this year, attracted chefs from much further afield.

In our early years on the Rock, we attempted to ‘do’ Calentita on a few occasions, but found it tricky with small children. Now, with older children and a bigger, more spacious format for the festival, it’s much more do-able for us as family. (You can read about our experience of last year’s festival here.)

This year’s Calentita was a special one for me, as an article I wrote featured in the specially published Calentita Press magazine.

Anyway, down to business… Calentita. Being English and having kids with us, we turned up early. Over the years turning up early for events hasn’t always gone our way (like when it seemed like the rest of Gibraltar got the memo to come half an hour to an hour later for something), on this occasion though, we were in luck. We found a prime location for a base (one of the Casemates pubs which allowed us to buy drinks from them, but bring our own food from the stalls to the table) and we managed to get served at a few of the stalls before the, at times, humongous queues formed. Win, win!

Another perk of being early meant we could have a good nosey around at everything before it got too crowded.

There was so much variety to choose from. From the biggest barbecue I had ever seen…

To gorgeous cakes…

…And lots more besides, like craft gins and food from all four corners of the globe.

And so to the food… first stop for us was the cake stall (above), unfortunately I forgot to photograph the Oreo and Black Forest cupcakes I bought. I went there early before they sold out and saved them until we got home. You’ll have to take my word for it that they were beautiful both to look at and eat!!

For our first foray into the stalls we went for meat, (the huge barbecue hadn’t yet begun serving so we headed to another barbecue stall) the Iberian Secreto of pork (above) was just melt in the mouth and these mini burgers were lovely too. They came from the Gourmet Grill stall in Casemates.

Next came the taste of Asia with Chicken biryani and kebabs cooked by the Gibraltar Hindu Community.

The Little Postcards sampled hot dogs (which were available from a number of different stalls) and these rather tasty hot waffles smothered in Nutella….

As you can see, the food came on paper plates (you could bring your own plates and cutlery if you were organised – I wasn’t) and the cutlery was wooden. This year, Calentita was free from disposable single use plastic items in a bid to help the environment.

A few drinks may have been drunk too… ;-).

The atmosphere was brilliant, busy but not overly so, and it was very friendly and there were lots of families about. Among the non-edible attractions was the Casemates stage which had performances from local dance and musical groups, although this hadn’t properly got going while we were there… I did spot a couple of rather snazzily dressed witches behind the scenes…

And in Market Place, there was a stage for chefs (some local and others from further afield like Malta and London) to carry out demonstrations for the audience of diners sitting at the nearby tables and the people queueing at the stalls.

Calentita, yet again was a really well organised event and drew large crowds to come along and sample some of the many different foods on offer.

We only stayed for about 2 hours, as by that time tummies were full and we had played Top Trumps several times so the younger members of the party were ready to head home. If we had been there without children, we would most definitely have stayed longer. I can imagine the atmosphere being lovely after sunset, as the stalls began to light up. Maybe next year…

And finally, confession time. I have lived in Gibraltar for almost 9 years and until Saturday, I had never before tasted the Gibraltarian national dish of calentita (after which the food festival is named). It’s a kind of flan made with chickpeas, and was probably brought over to Gibraltar by the Genoese fishermen who migrated here (it’s known as farinata there, although a similar dish, known as karantita is served in nearby Northern Africa).

I decided the time had come to finally sample this local delicacy. Now, I’m not sure whether I will have to return my ID card and pack up and head back to England, but I’m afraid it wasn’t for me. I’m a fan of flans and custards and quiches and this was kind of a savoury combination of all of the above, but no, I’m not sure I’d go in for another slice. I don’t know what I was expecting, but perhaps after the lovely spices of the Hindu community’s gorgeous biryani it was a bit bland. Sorry!

And so that was our experience of Calentita 2018. A great evening, a lovely atmosphere and lots of tasty treats to eat. I think it may be time to hit the Med Steps again though to burn off those extra calories, it’s beach season again after all!!!

A stroll around Gibraltar No. 23 : Skywalk (Upper Rock Nature Reserve)

Last week, we took advantage of the Bank Holiday for the Queen’s birthday and did the touristy thing. We took the cable car up to the top of the Rock with the intention of walking back down via Gibraltar’s newest tourist attraction; the Skywalk.

Opened in Spring, by none other than Luke Skywalker himself, I had been meaning to pay the Skywalk a visit. I figured it was something I really should do with the Little Postcards, as Star Wars is quite a thing in our house and they may not have appreciated me doing it before them.

Being local residents means that we are able to use the cable car at a discounted price and access the facilities on the Upper Rock for free. It’s something I forget about from time to time and really should make more use of.

We were lucky enough to be enjoying a sunny but reasonably cool day, just perfect for pootling about on the Upper Rock without it being too hot or too chilly.

We really should come up here more often!

Looking down upon Main Street and the rest of town reminds me how small Gibraltar is and how much of our lives are caught up in such a small area; school, work, home and leisure.

Gibraltar’s furriest residents were putting on a great show for the tourists.

We didn’t linger long amongst the apes, I caught one of them gazing admiringly at my backpack and didn’t fancy a fight. This trio of apes (siblings I think) were winding each other up and play fighting – it was very reminiscent of our house on most days!!

We headed off downhill towards the Skywalk taking in the views across the Bay of Gibraltar and the Strait to Morocco.

And there it was…

Now let me lay the cards on the table here, I’m not a fan of heights. I kind of put off this visit because of that, as much as because I wanted the Little Postcards with me. I was a little bit trepidatious as I climbed the stairs up to the platform.

The first platform is solid stone, and it’s from this vantage point that I could see the glass floored Skywalk below me as well as a new view North across the ridge (below).

The time had come to be brave and go onto the glass platform…

I did it! Look those are my toes!! And there’s Sandy Bay way, way down below…

I amazed myself! Here’s Sandy Bay again through the glass wall surrounding the Skywalk.

It wasn’t as scary as I imagined it would be!

It felt like a big achievement ticked off for me. Now time to head back down the Rock to have a celebratory cuppa at home! For some Gibraltar residents, these views are so boring though…

My Skywalk experience wasn’t my only ‘first’ on this trip, I also experienced dragonflies in numbers I have never witnessed before in Gibraltar. It reminded me of driving down country lanes in summer in Norfolk or Yorkshire back when we lived in the UK.

There were loads of them…

I loved seeing them!

Then, just as we were getting back down into South District, just below the Jews Gate entrance to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, I spotted some small brown creatures rushing up an embankment out of the corner of my eye. My first thought was mice or rats…. but it was a mother Barbary Partridge and her brood of chicks!

Can you see the chicks in amongst the undergrowth?

They were so well camouflaged, there were about 5 or 6 of them in total. It was so lovely to see them up close. We are really lucky to have this nature on our doorstep.

Later on Monday, I was on Sir Herbert Miles Road, below the Skywalk. Look, I went on that!! It looks a lot worse from down there!

For more information about the Skywalk, you can check out its website.

Friday photo challenge (week 24) Tiny

It was a bank holiday on Monday this week here in Gibraltar, and we took a trip up in the cable car to the top of the Rock. While we were up there we spied on the bank holiday beach goers down below us in Sandy Bay. They looked so tiny!

Next week’s photo challenge is: Midsummer (eek, that must mean we are halfway through the year already!)

International Yarnbombing Day 2018

Those of you who have been following my blog for a while may remember that 2 years ago, I undertook some guerrilla crochet and yarnbombed the Alameda Gardens for it’s 200th anniversary. You can read all about in this post from International Yarnbombing Day 2016.

Alameda Botanical Gardens Yarnbombs June 2016

Well it turns out, today is International Yarnbombing Day 2018 and I fancied getting my yarnbombs out of storage to see the light of day again. This time though, it was a bit less guerrilla (I actually had permission this time – must be getting old and more responsible!).

I dusted off my original yarnbombs and added a few new ones including this handful of butterflies…

Want to see them in situ? Here goes…

Molly Bloom’s got her necklace back on…

Giuseppe Codali’s got his scarf back on too…

He’s looking rather dapper as he stands guard overlooking his bridge:

My mini blanket is now hanging up alongside the fundraising plaques for the Alameda BioDome.

This time it has some little crocheted butterflies holding it in place.

More of those little butterflies are fluttering about nearby…

And last of all, vines of little crocheted flowers have wound themselves around the railings too.

If you would like to go and see them for yourself, they should hopefully be there until Wednesday.

Happy International Yarnbombing Day!

For more information about the Alameda BioDome Project, why not check out their blog?