Turning down into Irish Town from the Piazza felt a bit strange but it also felt quite exciting because I wasn’t sure of what to expect. An Irish Town in Gibraltar? Is that like our China Town in Newcastle? I’m very fond of Irish Rebel Songs; I’ve performed many a one at Paddy gigs on St.Patrick’s Night over the years so had an ear cocked to see what I could hear – an ear cocked to ‘see’ what I could hear? (Even that sentence sounds Irish).
With no sounds of the Pogues or the Dubliners coming out of the little doorways I decided my rendition of the Black Velvet Band wouldn’t be required today and so I drifted onwards and downwards on the forage for food. Turns out after the minimum of research that Irish Town was, in its past, more Welsh than Irish and probably only got its name from an Irish Regiment based there. But there was something very endearing about the place as though it had a few stories to tell and secrets to keep and I love places like that.
Not far down the street I came across a small shop window big enough only for the one child’s frock on display and a few smaller items with embroidery. I stopped to admire the simplicity of the display and the quality of the work which must have taken someone hours to finish. My birth mother was very good at similar crafts and later my wife so I had a fair idea of the commitment and skill needed to make such beautiful things. Later when we lived in Gibraltar my wife almost became a V.I.P. in a shop called Princess Silks on Main Street on account of her always being in there buying fabric to make our girls frocks.
It’s difficult to know though whether little observations like seeing a frock-in-a-shop plant themselves into your psyche because years later – and three days before my third daughter was born – I had a little frock especially made ‘by a lady who had a small shop in Irish Town’. The frock cost me £4 which was quite a lot then and I remember my wife asking me “But how do you know it will be a girl?”. I didn’t know how I knew I just knew, and she was; and though that tale belongs in Chapter 2 – along with a funny one about Princess Silks – I’m hoping I still have photos of my daughter wearing the frock.
Irish Town, was indeed full of places to eat and so there was plenty of choice although at 18 I wasn’t particularly a discerning foodie; like most young people I had a penchant for fried food – I still do but try to balance it now with the odd healthy number…(sometimes). Eventually though I sat down at a table outside a cafe which I didn’t choose from reading their menu, I chose it because it was on the corner of a side street going up towards Main Street and it was an interesting place to people-watch. I ordered something to eat and came to the conclusion that I was quite nosy; even years later when I was recently in Gibraltar I spent more time sitting on that bench outside Marks and Spencer people-watching than doing anything else. What’s not to like? 🙂
Tucking in to my meal I noticed a sign across the street advertising child minding but could never have known (in a million years) that in years to come my wife and I would use their services often. A certain Mrs Doomaleen (sorry if she is reading and I have mis-spelt her name) would look after our eldest daughter prior to her going to play school and occasionally have all of our children for the day when we had a rare break to Morocco.
As I finished my meal the Cathedral bells peeled three o’clock and wanting to make the most of my last hour of leave I slipped up the side street, crossed Main Street and vanished up into the back streets of the old town.