Just outside Rooke Barracks on Queensway is Edinburgh House, the colony of married quarters where all married servicemen serving in Gibraltar aspired to live. It’s a place that I thought (when I revisited Gibraltar 40 years later) may have been demolished but was delighted to find it hadn’t been and even more delighted to have a long chat with the present day incumbent – though that story is really for Chapter 3 (2016). Before I could have a married quarter I would first need to get to the top of the waiting list which from what I could gather was about three months long but there was no way I was going to wait three months to see my family again and so the search for a private letting began.
(Stock photo Main Street Gibraltar early 1970s)
Although I knew Gibraltar well enough to find my way around I had no idea where to find an estate agent offering rentals and so at the first opportunity I hit the town on a mission to suss them out. In those days the hub, or epicentre of Gibraltar was John Mackintosh Square known locally as the Piazza and was a place (in months to come) I would often take my children at the weekends because it was very social and there was always something going on there; these days I think the place to be is Casemates Square.
(Stock photo John Mackintosh Square or the ‘Piazza’ Gibraltar early 1970s)
As Gibraltar is such a small place it isn’t long before everyone knows everything about everybody and there’s a part of me loves that and finds it very endearing. I suppose you could argue that such a Grapevine lifestyle borders on a lack of privacy but on the other hand when put in the balance it is also an incredible support system within the community. (It often makes me smile how on Twitter now the Gibraltar community still know each other and almost everything about each other – Please feel free to join me on Twitter if you want to – @spailpinfanac).
On the first occasion I went up town I decided to start with a drink in the Piazza and looking back I must have stood out like a sore thumb because clearly the locals recognised me as a ‘new arrival probably wanting a rental’. I don’t think I’d had a sip of my drink before being offered to check out an apartment and from that moment on I didn’t need to look for an estate agent. I certainly didn’t mind that and though I knew it was in their interests they also knew it was in mine; but I also sincerely believed they wanted to help me and so I found their approach very supportive.
After talking to local people I felt a real sense of hope that I might be able to get a place fairly quickly; it was Carol’s 21st birthday coming up on the 21st April and the idea of sending her a FamPass as a present really inspired me to push on; the photos on my bunk wall were also a constant inspiration. I loved my job and I loved Gibraltar but now I wanted my family with me.