The very first photo I took of our new daughter Benita was with her sisters Tracey and Samantha and their Mum in – (you got it) – Alameda Gardens. Where else? I guess over the years Alameda has become quite a spiritual place for me in that I’ve always found it a comforting place to be whenever I’ve needed to think things through and so to celebrate happy times there seemed to be a natural progression.
(1977 July. Benita’s first photo with my wife Carol and her sisters Tracey and Samantha. I love this xxxx)
As I took this photo – looking at my family through the eye of a camera lens – I felt the luckiest man in the world and that nothing could compare or even come close. Sometimes I could barely believe how much my life had changed in such a relatively short space of time; within just a few years I felt as though I’d stepped out of the dark, frightening and lonely wilderness of childhood and landed literally in paradise. It would always be against that backdrop that I would become fiercely protective of my herd; and as a result I would always see Gibraltar through my eyes as paradise.
When I first began writing my memoirs I think I said I wasn’t a particularly skilled writer just someone able to put down a few anecdotes and somehow string them together. As my memoirs have progressed I stand by that but would probably add that in addition to the anecdotes I appear to have a tendency of throwing in my emotions plus plus. When I’ve rationalised that I’ve thought well what is the point of writing memoirs if I didn’t throw my emotions into it? No point.
I say that because there have been times when (almost overcome with powerful feelings while writing about an emotive subject) I’ve manically scribbled massively long paragraphs only to have to go back later and edit them down. The fact many of those feelings have remained so strong after forty years is probably one reason I felt the need to write these tales in the first place although today (as a marginally more mature man) I do now at least edit before I publish. As a younger man I was far less tactful – although no writer I often fired off verbally without properly thinking things through.
Just thinking about being less tactful and more firey takes me back to many a meeting I had with my line manager, Petty Officer Brian, who over a period of months tried all ways possible to persuade me to reverse my notice and stay in the Royal Navy. Our meetings were always private between us, pulled no punches and became more frequent (and stroppy) as time began running out. The divide between Naval life and Family life was becoming wider by the day.
Brian: “Alan you have your family to consider”.
Me: “That’s exactly why I’m leaving”.
Brian: “Don’t do anything rash. Think of your career”.
Me: “Every time shit hits my family fan the Navy shove my career in my face to stop me sorting it”.
Brian: “You look tired. Have a few days leave”.
Me: “My mind is made up and that’s the end of it”.
Brian: “Let’s have a couple of pints tonight at the Fleet Pav. My shout”.
Me: “I can’t I’m organising the children’s Christening with Carol”
Brian: “Ok. Well have a nice evening, we’ll chat tomorrow”.
As I cruise towards the end of this chapter (and with our time in Gibraltar fast coming to a close) I can still feel the pain of having to choose between the two things in life I’d only ever loved. Of course there was never any contest or competition, my family would always come first in any given scenario, and still does. But that would never take away the personal sense of loss I would carry for the next forty years.