Greetings from a rather warm and sunny Gibraltar. All the schoole broke up for the summer break here on Friday, so we’re now officially ‘on holiday’ (well the young people are at least!). Here’s this week’s Sunday Sevens:
It was the festival of San Juan along the Spanish coast from Gibraltar on Sunday evening last week. Mr Postcard popped over to have a walk and see some of the traditional fires which are lit on the beach. He took this photo (I was at home with the Little Postcards).
Tranquil evening light
I found myself in town at ‘golden hour’ as the sun was going down on Monday evening, it looked so tranquil looking out at the Upper Town from the multi-storey car park, and at odds with the crazy busy day I had had beforehand.
End of term at Dressmaking class
This week was the end of term for my dressmaking class, and I’m really pleased to say that I finished my top!! It’s been four years now that I’ve been attending Dorcas Hammond’s fashion academy and it’s such a highlight in my week. I shall miss it over the summertime. Here’s the finished article…
I’m watching you!
We have some rather large waspy type creatures in Gib in summertime. The Little Postcards get crazy when they arrive in our home with their long dangly legs. I haven’t been able to catch one in flight yet to take a photo. We did find one of them in their own home this week though.
One was spotted in our back patio and it headed to our bug house which is made of short lengths of bamboo in a box. I caught him watching me!
Beautiful sunny weather
We have enjoyed some beautiful sunny warm weather this week. It’s been a pleasure during calm shady moments, but rather hot and sweaty while trying to get things done. I do appreciate that our highest temperature so far has been around 30 degrees Celsius rather than the mid 40s like some of our European neighbours have experienced – that would be a whole lot hotter!
School’s out for summer!
So, here were are, mojito time – school has finished for another academic year – which is ever so slightly frightening as that means my boys are getting older. As of September I will have no children in first school and two in secondary, which is a bit mind-blowing.
Armed Forces Day
It was Armed Forces Day yesterday and that had significance for me this year as a few weeks back I made a ‘Flag of Thanks’ which will be currently being displayed in a church in Salisbury for Armed Forces Day, and which will eventually be added to other flags to make bedding for homeless veterans. (Look for #flagsofthanks on Instagram)
In Gibraltar, the Royal Gibraltar Regiment had a ceremony yesterday to mark a ceremonial changing of the Governor’s guard. It was quite a spectacle, and something for the unsuspecting tourists to enjoy.
That’s it for another week, I hope it’s a good one for you!
I completely forgot about Sunday Sevens this week, here’s a rather short and rushed one!
I spotted this lovely sunset on Sunday evening last week.
This week I was going rather cross eyed while I tacked the lace I’m using to make a top to the lining using an identical coloured cotton. Most of the tacking is now done, hopefully I can get sewing soon!
I’ve lost my painting mojo a bit of late. This was the best of a bad lot this week at my watercolour class…
We’ve had some family over to visit this week, which has been lovely. This was as we crossed the runway to pick them up from the airport.
What do you do when you have visitors to the Rock? Drag them up the Med Steps of course!! Shame we picked the hottest day of the year so far to do it… 26.9 degrees Celsius. It was rather warm up there!
Upper Rock wildlife
Whilst taking a breather on our trip up the Rock I heard some rustling in the leaves. First of all I thought it was a snake but then I spied legs! It was the biggest lizard I’ve seen during my time here in Gibraltar.
Convent Garden Party
One of my first ever blog posts was written after visiting this beautiful garden, the Convent garden. The Convent, which is where the Gibraltar Governor lives is a beautiful place, a real oasis in a rather built up place.
And that is a rather rushed Sunday Sevens for this week, I hope it’s been a good one for you.
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:
A couple of weeks ago I was very pleasantly surprised to be nominated for a Blue Sky Tag by Jane of the Candelo Blooms blog. Thank you Jane very much for thinking of me! The tag is a fun event which runs throughout June, and requires me to answer 11 questions about myself and Postcard from Gibraltar and then nominate 11 other bloggers for the same award.
It feels slightly self indulgent for me to spend all this time writing about me rather than talking about experiences or events I have visited which is my usual style of blog post, for that reason it’s taken me a while to complete this post. Here goes nothing…
1. What do you enjoy most about blogging?
I love that it gives me an excuse to take loads of photos and ask questions. I’m a naturally nosy person and before having children I worked as a journalist so this gives me the excuse to be more than just someone’s mum!
I also love that it has brought me opportunities which otherwise wouldn’t have happened. I now contribute to an online publication and have become part of a craft group all brought about by my blogging.
2. What other hobbies and pastimes do you enjoy?
Oh my word I have so many hobbies! Regular readers to my blog will know that I love to crochet. I also attend weekly watercolour classes and dressmaking classes. I love taking phtotos, which is probably obvious if you read my blog regularly, and I have recently tried wet felting for the first time (a blog post will be appearing on that soon!) I know, I know, I really don’t need another hobby! 🤣
3. Given your time over, without any restrictions, what would be your ideal job? Why?
Well I did have a pretty perfect job for me, I was a journalist which meant I got to visit special places where the public wasn’t allowed and I got to meet so many interesting people and was able to tell their stories. Aside from the (at times) long working hours and unpredictable shifts it was a dream job.
If I could do anything at all though, I would love to be a craftsperson with a talent great enough to make a living from it. I’d love my own workshop (ideally in the countryside or at the end of a large garden) and be surrounded by my crafty things whatever they might be. As it is, I live in an apartment in the fifth most densely populated place in the world (or so I’m told) so it’s not likely – I’m very happy as I am though.
4. Which new country would you like to visit?
I have had a bit of a fascination with Australia since the magical day I was off sick from school and Neighbours came on the TV in the U.K. for the first time! Back then (when I was around 11 yrs old I think) I started saving 50p of my pocket money each week towards my dream holiday to Ramsay Street and the rest of Australia. I had a page cut out from a holiday brochure I’d snaffled from a travel agents with a 3 week tour of Oz including a trip to Melbourne and was saving up for that (it cost over £2000 back in the late 80s) needless to say I never saved enough!
5. What is your favourite quotation?
I have to confess that I didn’t have a favourite quotation in my back pocket ready for this occasion, it took a bit of googling. This is the one which I think best sums up my view on life: “I choose to make the rest of my life the best of my life” by Louise Hay. I have been lucky enough to have had a great life so far, a happy childhood, a great career until I had a much wanted family, however onwards and upwards…. who knows what lies ahead?
6. If you were an animal, what would you like to be and why?
This is a tricky question to answer, to be honest I am not a great animal lover. I abhor cruelty to animals but I’m just not a huge animal fan. Just the other evening as Mr Postcard and I were sitting on the balcony at dusk, enjoying the golden moment between the cool dusk breeze arriving and the mosquitos arriving we were watching the seagulls swirling around over our heads calling out to each other. Now I’m not saying I fancy being a seagull eating rubbish out of people’s bins and pooping on the people down below, but it would be fab to be able glide on the thermals and take in the views.
7. What is your favourite time of year and why?
Ooh, another tricky one. It rather depends on where I am. In Gibraltar it has to be spring, the days are often warm and sunny, very much like an English summer’s day but it’s not too hot and you can get stuff done without needing several showers to cool down.
In Britain, I love all the seasons and I miss them dreadfully living here in Gibraltar. I love winter for its cosiness, crunchy frost underfoot and Christmas. Spring is so full of promise with bulbs breaking through the soil and the bright acid green of the newly opened leaves on the trees.
Summer is just wonderful when it’s sunny and dry. I love woodland walks and picnics. And Autumn is magical for it’s colourful leaves, conkers and misty cobwebs. Sorry, that doesn’t really answer the question does it?
8. What is your favourite film?
I don’t really have a favourite film as such, I have had a few favourites over the years, The Sound of Music and Dirty Dancing featured heavily in my formative years. As an adult I have to admit to a James Bond addiction….
9. What are the 3 most important character attributes to you?
Honesty, I can’t be doing with having to second guess what people are really thinking. Kindness, there is no need to be mean and a little kindness helps the world go round, don’t you agree? Creativity, nothing fires my own creativity than having creative people to inspire me.
10. What is your favourite book and why?
My favourite book tends to be the one I am reading at the moment. I am a member of a book club and I love that it introduces me to different genres I wouldn’t normally choose for myself. I am slowly working my way through George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones series at the moment, in-between my book club books. I am currently on Book 4, A Feast for Crows. I have watched the TV series up to the point where I am reading, but want to read the books before seeing the series.
11. What is your favourite garden and why?
I love pretty much all gardens. My favourite one here in Gibraltar has got to be the Governor’s gardens at his official residence, the Convent. It’s open to the public once a year for the annual Convent garden party and it’s lovely to take a stroll along the shady agapanthus lined paths and enjoy the beautiful trees. It’s a real oasis in a rather built up environment.
Now to my Blue Sky nominees….
I would like to nominate the following people for this Blue Sky Tag:
Wowzers that’s been quite a week. A trip back home to England for my brother’s wedding and lots of other stuff too since we returned. In some ways it feels like longer than seven days…. (oh and there’s more than seven photos again this week!)
Flying back to Manchester
So on Sunday last week, we all boarded a plane to England. As we sat on the runway waiting to take off I had a clear view out of the plane window towards the Rock of Gibraltar. While we prepared to depart, I thought ‘I wonder if I could record the takeoff ok my phone?’ So I did.
A couple of days later, I thought, ‘I wonder if I should upload this to Facebook?’ So I did.
It kind of went a bit crazy after that and so far the video has been watched over 8 and a half thousand times…. wow!
Here’s a screen shot of our bird’s eye view of Gibraltar taken from the film. If you would like to see it yourself, you can find it on my Facebook page (just search Postcard from Gibraltar) and it’s also on Instagram (search Postcard from Gibraltar).
Manchester was still deeply affected by the terrible events of the week before when we arrived. On Sunday as we drove from the airport to my parents’ house I spotted a long queue snaking out of a shop. It was a tattoo parlour. The penny dropped after a moment or two. These were people queuing up to get tattoos of bees in memory of the people who died in the bombing and in return for a donation to the fund to support the survivors.
I took this photo at the same shop 24 hours later, on bank holiday Monday- they were still coming.
(Tragically as I publish this, we are seeing news pictures coming from London, where another terrorist incident has taken place. So sad. My thoughts are with all those affected and the wonderful emergency services who put their lives on the line for our benefit.)
We also went shopping to the Trafford Centre, which was unusually quiet and with several high profile armed police patrolling the place.
On Tuesday there was a very special wedding. My lovely brother wed his long term girlfriend and all round superwoman in front of family and close friends. It was such a lovely day and a happy time which we will reminisce about for decades I’m sure.
(For those of you who have been reading Sunday Sevens for a while – I’m afraid I didn’t finish my skirt to wear for the wedding, my head was turned by a fabulous dress in a shop window so I wore that instead).
All too quickly our time in England was over, it was mid term in England but not for us in Gibraltar and the Little Postcards had to miss a day or two of school to attend the wedding, so we headed home on Wednesday. The Cheshire countryside was like a luscious green patchwork quilt below us as we rose into the sky from Manchester.
As we flew along the southern Spanish coast, Gibraltar with its cloudy Levanter hat appeared into view…
We landed in the same direction as we had taken off and got a great view on our way in.
Lunch with a friend On Thursday, once the Little Postcards were ensconced back in school I met up with a crafty friend. She’s a very talented lady who can turn her hand to crochet, watercolour and felting amongst other things. She showed me this, her lovely crochet blanket made up of oddments of leftover yarn. Isn’t it gorgeous?
This lovely lady has promised to teach me how to felt myself … I’ll keep you posted on that!
Out of the blue
On Friday, out of the blue, I got a phone call as I was dashing out of the front door. Normally I would just leave it so I wasn’t late, but I felt compelled to pick it up. I’m glad I did. It was one of my neighbours from about 15 years ago when we lived in West Yorkshire, and she was in Gibraltar!
She and her husband had gone to the Costa del Sol on holiday on a bus (from Yorkshire), stopping 3 times on the way, and then took a day trip to Gibraltar. When she arrived on the Rock, she looked for a phone book to find my number and had just caught me in!
I dashed down to meet them as I had just an hour spare before needed to collect the children from school, and took them for a whistle stop tour of Gibraltar in our car. They did the full loop of the Rock, seeing our home, the boys’ schools and ending up at Europa Point.
They had wanted to see Africa, but sadly, the sea mist didn’t play ball and they couldn’t see it at all. They did see the lighthouse resplendent in scaffolding, having a bit of a spruce up though!
We then travelled along the eastern side of the Rock and saw the beaches before dropping them back in town. It was such an unexpected treat to see them, and made me so glad I still send real cards and letters at Christmas time or they wouldn’t have known my address.
Pomp and ceremony
Yesterday I popped into town for a quick spot of shopping and found myself in the midst of a Ceremonial Guard Mount at the Convent. The Governor was there (on the left in white presenting the bunch of keys to the Royal Gibraltar Regiment) along with the mayor, representatives of the Gibraltar Government, along with other dignitaries.
It was quite a sight to see and the tourists were lapping it up. It just goes to show that there’s never a dull moment here in Gibraltar!
Thank you so much if you have made it all the way to the bitter end, it’s been a very lengthy edition of Sunday Sevens this week! However you have spent this week I hope it has been a good one for you, and if you are one of my new followers on Facebook, thank you for joining me!
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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!
Pond is the prompt for this week’s photo challenge and luckily I have a few to choose from here in Gibraltar. There’s the beautifully restored Lion’s Pond in the Alameda Gardens, complete with its green men statues.
Does this water feature count as a pond? Or is it more of a fountain? This can be found in the Governor’s back garden.
The Convent is the official residence for the Governor of Gibraltar and there are annual fundraising garden parties there so the public can go and enjoy the beautiful, lush, green oasis and have afternoon tea on the Governor’s lawn.
And then there’s our newest pond (or perhaps that should be lake?) at the Commonwealth Park. It’s hard to believe that just a few years ago, this whole expanse was a rather grotty public car park…
This one’s a bit of fun and isn’t in Gibraltar; I took this photo while visiting a small zoo in Norfolk last summer. Not sure I fancy being a fish in this pond, do you?
It may have been a pretty damp and grey day yesterday, but that didn’t put the crowds off coming along to the annual Convent Christmas Fair this year. For those not familiar with Gibraltar or the Convent, it’s the official residence of the Governor of Gibraltar (the Queen’s representative here), so naturally there are a few royal pictures about the place…
A quick stop at security, and we were in.
The Convent Christmas Fair Committee put an awful lot of work into putting the fair on each year. It costs £2 to get in and you are accosted pretty quickly to buy raffle tickets and tombola tickets for some wonderful prizes. All of the money which is raised at the event goes to support local charities.
Up the grand stairs and into the fair….
The first table I came to was Kate Davies’ beautiful stall showcasing some of her lovely fused glass work. I have been a fan of Kate’s work for a few years now and I have several of her pieces hanging around the house from windows. I’m looking forward to going up to Kate’s shed to see her at work soon, I’d love to know how she does it!
Next I headed into the very grand dining room which had been given over to a vast array of stalls featuring all sorts of different crafts and goodies.
Craft fair regular, Debbie Yeo was there with some of her beautiful things. Debbie can turn her hand to so many different crafts. She had paper crafts, hand sewn gifts and beautifully painted items for sale.
This painted glassware and candles on Debbie’s stall are just exquisite.
My next port of call was the ‘Beyoutifully Homemade’ stall made by Sally. The talented stitcher makes cushions (some featuring Star Wars characters & Pokemon balls), bags, lap quilts, memory items using your own children’s baby outfits and recycled denim projects. She had so many lovely things she had on offer.
Not only did I make a purchase, I also got some inspiration for something else to add to my never ending ‘To make’ list! My next stop was the ballroom…
In this venue there were some very tasty treats on offer along with many stalls representing local charities. My attention was caught by small local business Just Because Macarons…. you can see why!
There were loads of very appealing flavours on offer… ooh which to choose?
Then it was time to choose the name of the knitted reindeer on the Cancer Relief stall (many apologies to Grainne [Santa’s little helper] I only took one photo and she looks a bit browned off in it! I promise she was smiling a split second before this was taken!!).
All of the things on this Christmas fundraising stall were made by patients who use the centre, their families and the centre’s many wonderful supporters. They have a craft club once a fortnight and the items made during the sessions were used to fill the stall. Among the lovely items on sale were doggie treats, human treats (including the most wonderful rocky road bites – I accidentally ate a few before the family came home – whoops) and handcrafted decorations and toys.
Alas, it was time to head home in time to pick the Little Postcards up from school. It was a brilliant fair again as always. I went early-ish so didn’t see it at it’s most busy. From previous experience I know it gets really packed when the schools finish for the day and the queue to visit Santa in his grotto can get quite long. I took Littlest Postcard last year and he was a little bit unsure, so I didn’t repeat the trip this year.
So what did I buy? Well sadly, quite a lot of it will be going into Christmas presents to people who may read this, so I can’t share too much…. But these mmm… I can’t wait to try one of these. I doubt very much they will stay in their packets much longer. Just need an excuse for giving the boys a treat…. Mint Chocolate, Milk Chocolate and Minion flavour macarons. (What do Minions taste like I wonder?)
And this lovely crayon roll made by Beyoutifully Homemade will be going in the post to a special little man we know.
So that’s it for another year. I hope you enjoyed this trip to the Convent Christmas Fair, I’m very pleased to say I have officially begun my Christmas shopping – well I had got a few bits and pieces already but it’s the big push now from here on in.
Jingle bells…jingle bells… I wonder whether the guard made it in to see Santa? 😉
If you would like to see last year’s post about the Convent Christmas Fair 2015, you can find it here.
Wow where do I begin? The Gibraltar Literary Festival went by in a blur for me, I managed to get to a few more talks this year but really would have liked to get to even more. It’s a time when the atmosphere of the place changes, you can wander down Main Street and see Maureen Lipman walk past or be waiting to cross the road and Nicholas Parsons pulls up in a car nearby. You can see someone and say hello to them because you think you know them, then realise they are off the telly!
This year was the fourth annual Gibunco Gibraltar International Literary Festival (to give it it’s full title) and for the first time it ran over four days instead of three. The Festival takes the form of a series of talks, conversations and lectures given by published authors with a few posh ‘dos’ and meals in-between. Here are my highlights…
On Thursday morning I attended my first talk given by Dr Sally Bayley on the subject of diaries. With the title of The Private Life of the Diary, it was billed as “an interactive lecture on the nature and art of diary writing”. It was based on her book: The Private Life of the Diary : From Pepys to Tweets and was utterly fascinating. The diarists covered ranged from Samuel Pepys to Virginia Woolf, Anne Frank to Gibraltar’s own Miss World; Kaiane Aldorino.
I have written an article all about this event for the Gibraltar based online parenting magazine Mum on the Rock . If you would like to read the article, please click on this link.
Making the most of my time while the Little Postcards were in school, I treated myself to a second talk on Thursday. This time it was about works of literature in which the Rock of Gibraltar had featured, from Spanish and North African chroniclers in the Middle Ages to more recently, John Le Carre and Stieg Larsson.
This talk was introduced by Gibraltar’s Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo who had taken time out between reshuffling his cabinet that morning and heading to Parliament later in the afternoon. In his introduction he talked about the Convent (the Governor of Gibraltar’s residence) which was the venue for the event, and said it was a “place of stories, nuns and soldiers in equal measure, masters and servants, colonialism and emancipation”. Mr Picardo expanded, saying Gibraltar “is a place where legends have been created – where stories have been spun and stories are still being written”.
After such a big build up, the stage was set for Boyd Tonkin, a writer, broadcaster and Chairman of the Man Booker Prize judging panel. He took us way back into the Middle Ages reading excerpts of ancient literature from North Africa and Spain, then on to writers who have found inspiration here on the Rock including Samuel Taylor Coleridge who visited en route to Malta in 1894 and wrote that it’s “a most interesting place” where you can “sit astride the summit” of the Rock. James Joyce’s Ulysses featured heavily throughout his talk along with the character Molly Bloom whose statue can be found in the Alameda Gardens (you may remember I yarnbombed her earlier this year 😉 )
He went on to reference Gibraltar’s role in Stieg Larsson’s Millennium trilogy, a series which I enjoyed immensely. I remember reading the final book The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest when we lived for a while in Queensway Quay and read to my amazement that one of the central characters, Lisbeth Salander, had visited the marina to see her solicitor. I couldn’t believe that the heroine of the book I was so immersed in should come to visit the place where I was living at that moment.
Tonkin read this excerpt from The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest:
At 7:00 she left the hotel and set out to buy mangos and apples. She took a taxi to the Peak and walked over to the apes. She was so early that few tourists had yet appeared, and she was practically alone with the animals.
She liked Gibraltar. It was her third visit to the strange rock that housed an absurdly densely populated English town on the Mediterranean. Gibraltar was a place that was not like anywhere else. The town had been isolated for decades, a colony that obstinately refused to be incorporated into Spain. The Spaniards protested the occupation, of course. (But Salander thought that the Spaniards should keep their mouths shut on that score so long as they occupied the enclave of Ceuta on Moroccan territory across the strait.) It was a place that was comically shielded from the rest of the world, consisting of a bizarre rock, about three quarters of a square mile of town and an airport that began and ended in the sea. The colony was so small that every square inch of it was used, and any expansion had to be over the sea. Even to get into the town visitors had to walk across the landing strip at the airport.
Gibraltar gave the concept of “compact living” a whole new meaning.
I’d say that’s a pretty accurate literary portrayal of Gibraltar!
Friday lunchtime meant a trip to the Sunborn to see the great Just a Minute panel show. I went last year and it was so good, I was keen to get to see it again. I was particularly excited to see Pam Ayres, someone I had grown up seeing on the telly and who I find very funny. She was scheduled to speak later in the day at a time I couldn’t make so was looking forward to seeing her in this.
Unfortunately she had been delayed on her way to Gibraltar and wasn’t able to attend. The BBC Radio 4 presenter Sue McGregor from Woman’s Hour and the Today programme filled in for her instead. She was very good replacement, but I was a little bit disappointed to miss Pam Ayres. A friend of mine got to see her solo talk later on and said she was brilliant and very funny.
Nicolas Parsons, who had celebrated his 93rd birthday recently was on sparkling form and the rest of the panel too. Alongside him and Sue McGregor was the author and comedian Tony Hawks, actress and writer Maureen Lipman and author Felix Francis. After a very funny hour long session which saw the panel discussing subjects like champagne, Casablanca and cruise ships, Nicholas Parsons pledged his intention to return to the festival again next year.
The talk named ‘The Gibraltar Book Club’ piqued my interest as I am a member of a book club and wondered how this would translate to an hour long chat with an audience rather than a cosy evening out with friends and maybe a bottle or two of wine ;-). This book club had three members, Sue MacGregor, Maureen Lipman and Tony Hawks, all of whom had chosen a book for the two other panellists to review.
Maureen Lipman went first with her choice; a selection of essays by the playwright JB Priestley called ‘Grumbling at Large’. She said she’d been drawn to this book in particular as a friend of hers had put the collection together and written the foreword. Saying that when we have such busy lives it’s nice to have something to read which you can pick up and put down easily, and a collection of essays can do just that as you can read some of them in a few minutes. Essay writing is a really good way of “finding your literary voice” she added. The rest of the panel agreed that it was a good book, Sue MacGregor even gave an anecdote of the time when she had met the author.
Next up was Tony Hawkes, his choice was Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. He decided to pick it because he’d been a regular visitor to the Daphne du Maurier Literary Festival and realised to his shame that he had never actually read any of her books. Despite the initial impression that this was a “woman’s book” he said he’d enjoyed it. He liked how the author “led you in” and changed the pace of the story from romance to a whodunit style of thriller.
Maureen Lipman said she’d read it as a young woman and loved it but when she reread it recently, she was disappointed by the “wet woman” in the role of narrator. Sue MacGregor in comparison loved it and enjoyed how the “characters leapt off the page”.
Finally, Sue MacGregor introduced her choice which was Naples ’44, by the travel writer and former intelligence officer Norman Lewis. A great fan of Naples herself, she told the audience that the book was written after Lewis had spent time in the city in 1944 as an intelligence officer. He recounted his experiences in a city where people were starving to death and desparately trying to survive.
Maureen Lipman described it as “fabulous” and “the best type of journalism”. Tony Hawks said Lewis was a “keen observer of everything” and “clearly a compassionate man” but he didn’t reveal much about himself. In summary, the panel said they’d enjoyed the chance to read something they otherwise wouldn’t have picked up, which is definitely one of the joys of book club for me.
During the festival there were a number of events especially for families, all of which were free. Last year I took the Little Postcards along to see Christopher Lloyd and his ‘Complete Plays of Shakespeare in 60 minutes‘ and they enjoyed it immensely. This time we went along to see his latest offering ‘The History of Britain in 60 Minutes‘.
Christopher is a very engaging speaker and manages to hold the young audience’s attention with a series of props he produces from his cloak (not in this picture). Again this time, his talk was great as he picked up on common themes throughout British history like architecture and maritime history. He has a way of making the historical figures come alive and was very well received by both the younger and older members of the audience.
Sunday afternoon was a real highlight for me, I had arranged to go with a few of my book club friends to see the author of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin, Louis de Bernières.
This hour long conversation between Louis and regular festival host, Paul Blezard was just wonderful. He read several of his poems, including one written in Spanish, and was questioned on whether he would consider rewriting the ending of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin as he was a bit dissatisfied with how it finished. “No!” was the reply to that, as it would make the book an awful lot longer! Louis also revealed that he’s being doing some research while in Gibraltar as the Rock will feature in his next book. I cannot wait to read that!
If you are still with me, thank you for reading this post – it’s been an lot longer than my usual ones! There was so much to see and experience at this year’s festival.
I couldn’t help noticing that a very large percentage of the audience at all the events I attended (apart from the children’s one) were around retirement age. Quite a few had travelled over to Gibraltar, specifically for the festival, from Spain and the UK. How lovely to be able to spend that much time listening to wonderful speakers and expanding your mind!
I loved my time at the festival, I was lucky enough to see more this year than on my previous two visits. The whole event is growing each year and while it attracts very welcome return visitors, it also brings fresh new speakers each time. Both Nicolas Parsons and Christopher Lloyd said at their talks they’d like to return to Gibraltar next year for the fifth edition, I wonder just who else will be coming to the Rock to entertain us next time?
Last Sunday afternoon Catalan Bay played host to the ThunderCat Racing UK team and their rather fast speed boats. We took the Little Postcards down to the beach for a while to watch the proceedings.
There were plenty of people out to see what was going on and the beach side restaurant’s were full of spectators viewing while they are their Sunday lunches.
The boats roared off from the edge of the beach at the start of each race and bounced about over the waves on the course out at sea.
We’ve watched the boats on previous occasions when they’ve visited Gibraltar, although this is the first time we’ve seen them in this venue. It was a great way to spend the afternoon.
2 A day at home
Monday meant a day at home – I had a poorly Little Postcard to look after. We made the best of it with a picnic in front of the tv and watched a couple of movies. On a very quick trip to the patio to hang out some washing I spied the bougainvillea in bloom. It looked so great against the cloudless sky.
3 Dressmaking class
My poorly Postcard was well enough for school on Tuesday so work began in earnest on the second top in this academic year’s dressmaking class. The first was a sample sleeveless fitted top, now it’s a princess line, lined sleeveless top. I have made my pattern (as you can see above) and the fabric has been purchased (cream broderie anglaise) next week, I’ll be back in the hot seat behind my sewing machine!
4 Autumn florals
It may be the latter part of October, but the flowers in Gibraltar are still looking glorious. I don’t know whether the cooler damp and misty weather has revived some of them but there are so many blooms out at the moment and they are looking fabulous.
5 Gibraltar Literary Festival
The fourth annual Gibraltar Literary Festival began on Thursday with a bang. This year it’s running over four days for the first time and the organisers have done a great job filling the days with loads of great events. I took this photo outside the Convent (the Governor of Gibraltar’s residence) there can’t be too many literary festivals in the world with a ceremonial guard can there?
I turned up nice and early to my first talk on Thursday morning and asked the speaker to pose for photographs. I took some great ones (or so I thought) little did I know the Littlest Postcard had mucked about with very kindly reset the shutter speed….. blurry pictures galore! Note to self always take a few trial pictures before an event gah!
I will share more about my Gibraltar Literary Festival 2016 experiences soon, I promise!
6 Down in the dell
It’s been so murky and gloomy weather-wise for most of the week here but a sneaky short cut through the beautiful Alameda Gardens gave me the shot of colour to break the greyness. You just can’t beat it!
7 Peek-a-boo boats
The misty weather continued yesterday and things were decidedly murky in the Bay. You could just see the tops of the boats above the sea mist. I love seeing the Bay like this, it’s so atmospheric, it reminds me how lucky we are to live here.
Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series featuring seven photos from the last seven days. It was created by Natalie of Threads & Bobbins blog, to find out more pop over to her site for all the info.