Although I’d been to Gibraltar twice I’d never flown in before and so hadn’t been aware (until a few minutes before arriving by plane) that it was a notoriously bumpy landing; if I’d known that beforehand I wouldn’t have been disappointed – good job I didn’t have false teeth!
But once my vibrating body had calmed down I was thrilled to be back. As the plane doors opened I felt the warmth of the climate and when I stepped out and saw the Rock I just stopped dead at the top of the steps to take it all in. Within an instant I felt a familiar calm.
(Above a stock photo from 1976)
Transport from HMS Rooke had been sent to pick me up and as we drove from the airport to Rooke Barracks my eyes were all over the place spotting familiar places, landmarks and streets. Recently (in 2016) when I made a similar journey from the airport to the town centre I just about managed to still spot a few familiar places (e.g Edinburgh House) although because of modern developments it wasn’t easy; by contrast today (1976) I recognised loads and I loved that.
Arriving at Rooke some of the first people I met (after security) were my new work colleagues since part of our role (in stores) was to issue bedding etc to new arrivals; within a few minutes I had met my new Petty Officer Brian, a Leading Rate Sandy (who would become a good friend) and Phil, one of the Jack Dusty’s who would become quite a regular baby sitter. Forgive me for ‘again’ drifting back to my recent visit (I will try to curb doing that) but when I visited Rooke Barracks in 2016 it was very bizarre seeing my old office building now being used by the Gibraltar Police. I almost got to see my old desk by peering through the gate but decided I had better move on because I was starting to look a bit suspicious.
After collecting my bedding Phil took me down to the mess deck where I claimed an empty bunk and sat down. At this time I had no idea how long I would be in barracks or how long it would take me to find a flat and get it passed by the Navy so that I could get my FamPass. Looking at my single bunk was a massive reality check; the journey was over, the anticipation was over, the excitement was subsiding and my family were hundreds of miles away. All of a sudden I felt as though I’d been hit with a sledge hammer. I think Phil (bless him) picked up on how I must have been feeling and bade a quiet ‘Catch you later then’ before closing the door behind him.
I’ve realised with age when I feel very emotional I have a profound need to either write or draw or even sometimes pick up my guitar and sing. Today I absolutely needed to write to Carol because I knew in doing that I would be with her, talking to her. It took many hours and many tears to write that first letter.