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

Review of 2017

Crumbs, it’s looking awfully like we are on the cusp of another New Year, it surely can’t be a whole year since the last one, it’s gone far too fast. I guess now’s as good a time as any to have a look back at some of my Postcard from Gibraltar highlights from the past 12 months….

January 2017

A new year meant a new challenge for me this year, a photo challenge. Last year I read Nana Cathy’s blog and was intrigued by her weekly photo challenge. When January came around I thought I’d join in myself. It’s been such fun and quite inspiring throughout the year to have weekly prompts to find pictures for. If you fancy joining in check out Wild Daffodil’s blog for more information.

Also in January I joined forces with my friend Kate of H and FlossieDoodle to start the Gibraltar Crochet Collective. We did meet weekly to crochet and chat over coffee although our meetings have got less and less frequent due to other commitments lately. Our mascots Gib and Rocksy went for a bit of an adventure.

Another new project for me this month was my podcast, you can find my blogposts and the related podcasts here.

February 2017

In February I ran my Creative Gibraltar series looking at some of the very talented craftspeople who live in Gibraltar. I began with my lovely watercolour teacher Deborah M Lawson and ended with local craftswoman and up-cycling guru Sue Orfila. February also brought us the 2017 installment of Gib Talks. I was also fortunate to be able to speak to Gib Talks organiser Julian Felice before the event for one of my podcasts.

March 2017

March was a month for Lenten crochet (far easier than giving up chocolate) which helped support the Sixty Million Trebles effort, a beautiful Suffolk family wedding and a sad goodbye to our rescue bunny Snowflake.

April 2017

April began for us in Southwold in Suffolk, one of our favourite places and involved a lot of Med Steps training, which was very handy for burning off those seaside fish and chips! I was also able to finish another Sixty Million Trebles blanket – this one from the Gibraltar Crochet Collective.

May 2017

May meant Med Steps 5 Challenge again this year and I even managed to beat my time from last year! You can hear my podcast about it here. We also flew back to the UK for our second family wedding of the year.

June 2017

June started for us in Wigan in Lancashire, the location of our latest wedding and the perfect setting for a lovely walk. It was also the Calentita! food festival in Gibraltar. (For some reason the same aerial photo of Gibraltar appeared in May and June’s collages – not sure why that was. It is a good photo though don’t you think?).

July 2017

In July our big summer of travel began with a trip up to the North West of England and a flying visit to North Wales. We also drove to Portugal.

August 2017

This has got to be my most cosmopolitan of all months, featuring travel in Portugal, Rome, France and of course good old Gibraltar. Which reminds me, I have loads of holiday photos on my phone and camera SD card which are crying out to become blog posts – watch this space in the New Year.

September 2017

September is a big month on the Rock, this year more than most as Gibraltarians celebrated the 50th anniversary of the 1967 Referendum when they voted overwhelmingly to remain British. Gibraltar National Day on 10th September coincidentally happened to be the day of my 100th Sunday Sevens. We also had a fabulous music festival.

October 2017

October brought with it some interesting weather, beautiful sunshine, murky mists and exciting lightning storms.

November 2017

November was a good crochet month for me as I finally got around to making last year’s Little Box of Crochet autumn wreath. I also greatly enjoyed this year’s Gibraltar Literary Festival with talks by Nicholas Parsons, Patrick Gale and local photographers and naturalists Clive, Geraldine and Stewart Finlayson.

December 2017

December seems to have rushed by in a flurry of end of term carol concerts and panicked making of Christmas presents (some of which failed to get finished in time). There have been some opportunities for peace and quiet though, namely the last Saturday before Christmas when we avoided the shops and headed for the beach for peace and tranquility.

Summer craft challenge

For the second year running, during the long summer holiday we get in Gibraltar, I decided to set aside a little time each day to do something crafty and I documented this with my Summer Craft Challenge. Each day I featured a photo on Instagram and each week I wrote a blog post on my progress.

At the beginning of the challenge I made a little amigurumi unicorn which I got the kit for in an edition of Simply Crochet magazine. I christened her Europa and she became my Summer Craft Challenge mascot and came on our travels with us. There were several occasions when the Little Postcards thought Mummy had lost her marbles posing a crocheted unicorn in various European locations for photographs…

This year, I returned to work part-time after 13 years as a full-time, stay at home Mum. I have to admit that during the last few months I have found it hard to make time for Postcard from Gibraltar alongside my new commitments and at times I’ve wondered whether I can actually keep it up. I have had some really lovely comments and support from my online friends and that’s kept me going. Thank goodness I have Sunday Sevens and the weekly photo challenge to keep me ticking over during ‘dry’ spells.

I think I would really miss the community I have ‘met’ through Postcard from Gibraltar, and if I’m honest, it’s you and the support you’ve given me which gave me the confidence to apply for the job in the first place. Thank you very much to everyone who’s taken the time to read my posts over the past 2 and a half years, and for the virtual friendship you have given me too – it’s not taken for granted. Every comment and like is very much appreciated.

Here’s to 2018 and all the wonderful challenges it may bring!

Best wishes to you and yours for the New Year x

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

2017 Weekly photo challenge (week 25) fiction


All three of the Little Postcards have loved a bedtime story, just as I remember enjoying my Mum and Dad reading to me as a child. My Dad’s impressions of Len the Lighthouse keeper’s wife,  shouting for him to “Lower the rope!” to get his food deliveries in this Play School story book are as vivid to me 40 years on! 


I can remember giggling so much as the howling wind and crashing waves prevented his order of supplies from getting through so he got lemonade instead of marmalade and so on. In the days of online supermarket deliveries this must seem alien to children nowadays… (For reference, the story was Marmalade for Breakfast by Judy Whitfield).

How appropriate that I should remember this the day after Father’s Day…

Illustration by David Eaton of ‘Marmalade for Breakfast’ by Judy Whitfield

The bookshelf in the top photo is in Littlest Postcard’s bedroom and still features a few baby books which have been passed down from both of his brothers. They are no longer read but when I tidied the shelf recently and had a sort out I couldn’t bring myself to part with them. 

Twinkly Night by Helen Stephens was a favourite of all three when they were very small because of the glittery foil on the pages and was acquired for free from a Government book scheme Books for Babies when we still lived in England. 

I also secretly love the Thomas the Tank Engine stories I read endlessly to my eldest. I liked the idea of this little island of Sodor… (perhaps I should get out more). His two younger brothers had less interest in the adventures of the little blue train and his friends but similarly I was loathe to part with the books. Perhaps one of their children will like them one day?

This photo (above) featured in Sunday Sevens over Christmas time and was a rather clever way to display books in the foyer to the building which houses the public library here in Gibraltar. People were invited to guess how many books were used to build the alternative Christmas tree and win a prize.

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

More Stories from Play School was published by Piccolo & BBC in 1976 it was edited by Sheila Elkin & illustrated by David Eaton

Reading; the gift that keeps on giving! An appreciation of teachers.

  


I have been very fortunate and spent a wonderful morning immersed in books. It began with listening to children read at school, then continued with some time tidying the school library. It culminated with me finishing my current book, just in time for my book club meeting tonight. As the minutes ticked by I came to realise just how lucky I am…

When teachers begin the long road to reading, with letter sounds and phonics, then blending the sounds to make words, they give such power to those whom they teach. Without the ability to read, not only would life be so much more dull (as it offers a means to escape your current situation), but it’s also instrumental in laying the foundations of our modern society. Where would we be if our doctors, politicians, engineers, scientists and lawyers (to name just a few crucial professions), had never been taught to read? 

Perhaps I’m stating the blindingly obvious here but how much do we take the ability to read for granted? How powerful a tool it is to our social and mental wellbeing. So, thank you Mrs Foreman, Mr Dixon and all my other teachers who not only taught me to read and write, but also ignited my passion for reading. Without their help I wouldn’t have gone to university, had the career I did or been able to share books with my own children. In appreciation for teachers everywhere, thank you for your persistence, patience and for helping to set our imaginations free!