Younger readers might find it impossible to imagine life without instant and constant communication with their family, friends and loved ones but here we are talking 1976; there was no such thing as Internet or social networks, there was no such thing as emails or mobile phones. Phoning home meant standing in a queue outside a phone box with a load of coins in your hand hoping that the line was clear and the person you were calling was ready outside their phone box.
Phoning home from abroad could be an absolute nightmare and so the real deal was airmail. Writing letters and receiving replies is very much a dying art now and (in my humble opinion) a very big loss to the social fabric of life but back then it was a lifeline. To spend time and effort writing a letter to someone showed a real element of care for that person and the excitement of receiving a reply could never be understated, it was a clear message that someone cared equally about you. I guess still having all of my letters after 40 years and virtually none of my emails from yesterday says it all – and yes, I often read them 🙂
Although my highest personal priority was to find a flat and have it pass the inspection I also had a responsibility to my job in the Royal Navy. After posting my first letter home I immediately applied myself to my new role which was to die for; I was really proud to have my HMS Rooke cap tally (the photo is my actual cap). Readers will recall how (in Chapter 1) I envied the Stores Team working in Gibraltar as I watched them storing my ship (HMS Scylla) knowing I was leaving the Rock and now I was on that very team storing other people’s ships (I had to keep pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming). My job in a nut shell was receiving orders (known in the RN as ‘demands’) from warships due to dock at Gibraltar and make sure they were on the quayside when the ship arrived. Since some things had to be ordered from UK and other countries it was quite a challenging job but one with a great sense of satisfaction when it all went well. To not meet a ships ‘demands’ was not an option as it is always assumed that the ship could go to war at anytime and so whatever they wanted, they got.
Back in those days the Royal Navy was a lot bigger than it is now and many ships came through Gibraltar on their way out to the Far East or on their way back so our small team had to be very much on the ball – especially when the big boys (Ark Royal, Hermes) came through. To go back to that ‘nut shell’ I had the best job in the world, in the best place in the world and so was on top of the world – well nearly, but I would be when my family arrived 🙂
(Above a stock photo)
The Stores Office was the first building on the right as you passed through Rooke’s Main Gate and (as already mentioned) it was in there that I had my desk – the very same desk, in the very same office, now being sat at by a Gibraltar Police department policeman. Couldn’t make that up. Even just writing that put me right back there with Brian, Phil and Sandy; I pictured exactly where we all sat and even the photos we had on our desks. If the stupidest things make people emotional that sentence just did me.