Review of the year : 2016

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

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

January 2016

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

February 2016

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

March 2016

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

April 2016

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

May 2016

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

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

June 2016

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

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

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

July 2016

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

August 2016

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

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

September 2016

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

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

October 2016

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

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

November 2016

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

December

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

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

 

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

A little bit of Gib Talks 2016

“In Gibraltar, we pride ourselves that we all know each  other. Yet, this is far from the truth. We know a public persona, or we know someone by reputation. We do not actually know much about the experiences, the thoughts and idiosyncrasies that make every person unique.” Julian Felice – organiser of Gib Talks

Today, the second ever Gib Talks took place in Gibraltar. It is a series of talks of 10 and 15 minutes in duration, in which, people can speak on subjects which are important to them and perhaps shed a different light on their personalities and interests. The event, which is run by the Gibraltar Cultural Services department, ran from 10am until 5pm and featured 18 different speakers.

 A wide range of people took to the stage from the world of politics (including the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo), broadcasters, artists and writers. There were talks on subjects as diverse as depression and dragon trees. Unfortunately for me, I was only able to attend the final hour or so of the event, but in that time I heard 3 brilliant talks so it was well worth me attending.


Each speaker was introduced by the event’s organiser, Julian Felice, a teacher and playwright (above). Their time was strictly monitored by an adjudicator in control of a large traffic light at the side of the stage which signalled when their time was up when it turned red.

The first speaker I heard was Tomasz Zakrzewicz on the topic “Life on bikes”. A passionate advocate for the use of bicycles for pleasure, exercise and commuting to work, Tomasz told the audience that there was much more to bikes than “just a piece of metal and two wheels”. Telling of the health benefits that cycling can bring like lowering blood pressure and stress relief, he said “I want to change the world a little bit” by getting more people out of cars and onto bikes. During the talk, Tomasz, who’s originally from Poland, apologised for his English saying he was still learning the language. I have to take my hat off to him for not only having the courage to stand on stage and speak publicly about a subject he’s clearly passionate about, but also to do it in a language he didn’t grow up speaking.


Next on the stage was Polly Lavarello (above) from Polly Mixtures a lifestyle and parenting blog and the founding editor of Mum on the Rock a parenting e-magazine. She told of her experience of arriving in Gibraltar with her then boyfriend, getting married and becoming an expectant mother. She felt that on her arrival here, there had been a dearth of information for people newly arrived on the Rock and that a central website with information about facilities and events locally would be a great addition to Gibraltar’s online community. However, it was her own experience of motherhood, which almost began 11 weeks early when her waters broke prematurely, which led her to seek help from the online community and eventually took her down the path of starting her own website; Mum on the Rock.

Polly says she wanted the site to be accessible to parents whenever they need it and for it to be dynamic and interactive, appealing to to new mums (and dads), parents of teens and grandparents. It was launched with the intention of having articles on a wide range of subjects including parenting, food, lifestyle, travel and health. Initially Polly approached people asking them to write for Mum on the Rock, once it went live though, she says she was overwhelmed with offers of help from people who wanted to get involved and contribute articles too. Polly says that since it’s launch in September last year, “47 different people have written for the website”and that while it’s for the community she “couldn’t do it without the support of the community”. In the coming months, Polly is looking forward to the arrival of her second child, and some exciting new developments for Mum on the Rock.

The final talk of the day was made by Fabian Vinet, a lawyer and former Government minister, and had the title ‘Eleven weeks too soon’. In his speech, Fabian told of his first life-changing experiences of fatherhood, when his baby son, James, was born eleven weeks early. From describing his frightening journey from Gibraltar to a special hospital in Malaga chasing two ambulances, one carrying his wife, the other containing an incubator in case their baby came en-route, to the birth of his son and visits to the large neonatal ward, the visibly emotional father moved the audience and there were sniffs all around.

He also shared his experience of the day when his son was due to have a second brain scan to check if the “something there” had got any worse or could be diagnosed. Being a Government minister at the time, he had to attend a meeting back in Gibraltar, so he left his wife and son in Malaga to drive back to the Rock, only to break down on the road out of the Spanish city. Whilst in the tow-truck heading to Gibraltar, he received a phone call from his wife to say that whatever had shown on the previous brain scan had now disappeared. The news resulted in him crying all the way back to Gibraltar making “the most eventful journey of the tow-truck driver’s career”.

Ending his speech, Mr Vinet showed a photograph of his, now 8 year old son, James along with his younger daughter Sophie (see above photo) and said he hoped that his story had been one of “hope” and that this being Valentine’s weekend, he impressed the importance of any future parents to be vigilant for the signs of a premature birth. He went on to say that perhaps his son hadn’t been born eleven weeks too soon after all, because the experience he and his wife had been through as new parents had changed them forever and perhaps he was born at just the right time.

Drawing the day’s event to a close, Julian Felice told the audience “Gib has talked and has had a lot to say”. Nominations are now open for anyone who would like to speak at next year’s event. I shall look forward to buying my ticket for that!