Back in January 1974 I was in Gibraltar for the very first time and was quickly falling under her spell; I loved the way that the natural beauty of the Rock wasn’t compromised by the fortifications and how it all seemed to work to the eye. There seemed to be canons and statues all over the place and yet they seemed to belong there even if they were outside someone’s house; Trafalgar Cemetery even looked like somewhere a family could have a picnic. What I really loved too (even back then) was the climate, the lifestyles and the fact that I could wander anywhere and feel totally safe. On a recent visit to Gibraltar I revisited one of my old homes (Edinburgh House) and spent almost a wonderful hour chatting about all things Gibraltar including the IN/OUT EU vote.
In 1974 I would never have thought that more than forty years later I would be writing about those lovely first impressions and that as recently as yesterday (2 June 2016) my writings would have been read by literally hundreds of people – which is as a direct result of two Gibraltarian people in particular (Kev and Jess) who I thank sincerely for promoting my writings to the community. Although I always write a page a day I’ve been so moved by that volume of readers that I’ve made a promise to myself not to miss a day unless I’m too sick to write (No pressure then); but as I said in my Welcome post I don’t profess to be a writer, just someone stringing a set of anecdotes together into a memoir (that if I’m honest I never thought more than half a dozen people would read). Thank you for reading and becoming a part of it all. I so appreciate it x
And so here I was lapping up the few hours leave Chief had granted me with the sun on my face and with only the sound of birds and the odd airplane in my ears before the Cathedral bells struck eleven; when it did I was still sat on that concrete bench I had found in Alameda Gardens near the cacti. I’d been off the ship two hours and had spent most of that time sat on my backside either in the Piazza or sat on my backside in Alameda but you know what, I was loving it. I hadn’t even been in Gibraltar 24 hours and had fallen in love with the place. Every time I sat down somewhere I was either just soaking up the quiet and the ambience or pretending to be a local in the hustle and bustle of Main Street; I had only been given six hours leave, two hours of that had already gone by and I’d morphed into a different human being. A Gibraltarian Geordie?
Thinking I needed to make the most of the short time I had I got up to wander. Crossing the little arch-covered bridge I admired the ornamental fountain with steps either side before meandering down past a corner that would one day be a children’s garden complete with a Bee Hotel. Some of the flowers gave off scents I had never smelled before which were so amazing to me – as were the delicacy of the plants themselves – but then, as mentioned previously, the only plants this Geordie Boy had ever seen in his impoverished homeland was the ones that ended up on the dinner plate.
As I carried on down to the lower of the paths in the garden I came across a children’s playground with very traditional resources of swings and a slide. One day I would visit that playground almost every day with my children and would have a lovely collection of photographs of them playing there; and as much as I am tempted to upload those lovely photographs now alas they are for my second Chapter (1976-78).
For now it was still 1974, I was still an 18 year old sailor on a few hours leave and I was on #walkabout. And loving Gibraltar.