On day two of our visit we were scheduled to sail at 5pm and so Chief gave me the day off; he knew how much I’d been looking forward to visiting the Rock. “You did a great job on store ship yesterday Dixy, be back by 4pm lad” he said. I loved Chief! As I left the ship at 9am for 6 hours shore leave in Gibraltar I felt as free as a bird; died and gone to heaven would be no exaggeration.
#Walkabout has always been a passion of mine, particularly when I have no particular place to go or route in mind; I love people watching and just going where the flow takes me. As I’ve grown older and developed more confidence I quite love chatting with people I’ve never met before but even as an 18 year old I was quite gregarious. I think I probably have the Royal Navy to thank for that side of my development because when I joined up I was very shy, reserved and sorely lacking in confidence and self esteem.
Coming out of the dockyard I had no idea where I was in relation to anywhere else but that didn’t matter to me because my plan was to go anywhere (and everywhere) I liked and then at about 3:30pm phone that number the taxi driver had given me. Knowing what I know now Gibraltar has changed quite a lot over the years and so where I came out of the dockyard may have been either somewhere around Queensway or Rosia but no matter because within minutes I found myself on Main Street.
Main Street, Gibraltar is one of those world famous streets a bit like Boogie Street, Singapore or even Times Square, New York; it stretches from Casemates Square at the bottom to Trafalgar Cemetery at the top or the other way around depending on which end you start at and is literally peppered with shops, cafes, pubs and bars. Enhancing this wonderful street is John Mackintosh Square, affectionately known as the Piazza, which (along with Casemates Square) is a social hub of outdoor tables and chairs where people often wile away an hour or two. Further up the street is the beautiful Cathedral of the Holy Trinity; further up still is the Convent Square where the ritual guard ceremonies take place.
I took a seat on one of the many public benches to just soak up the atmosphere and touch base with how I felt at being somewhere I was already beginning to feel spiritually connected to. Looking over at the Piazza could I ever have known that in a few years time I would be sitting there with my three daughters having cool drinks as local women screamed ‘bambinos’ in delight and took them all for a walk. Glancing over at the Emporium could I ever have known then that I would take my children in to buy them sweets and that when I looked again at that building in 2016 it would be a branch of Mothercare. As the bells of the Cathedral peeled could I ever have known that my children would have a triple christening there in 1977; could I?