During the ‘absent years’ between 1977 and 2016 I would often broach the subject with Carol about revisiting Gibraltar but for a variety of reasons it just didn’t happen. Naturally in the early years we were so broke even a holiday in the UK took enormous planning and a lot of saving up for; if we were lucky we would get the kids away camping in Wales (Carols homeland) but only if I could supplement our money by working in the fields for a couple of days (on our arrival) or doing a gig in a local Welsh pub. No denying life wasn’t easy financially or emotionally, we didn’t have much in the material sense; but what we did have was each other and an incredibly close mutually-protective bond which so often helped dilute the hard times; money couldn’t buy that.
(An incredibly close bond)
The very first occasion we did have a little extra money was (about 1986) when Carols Grandmother left her a small amount in her will; as Carol hadn’t travelled widely she wanted us to all have a holiday somewhere we hadn’t been before so we had two weeks in Turkey. Later when the children were grown and had left home we naturally had a bit more money and were able to travel more; holidays then included a few trips to Crete, Gambia, a further visit to Turkey and then (of all places) India where (after about a dozen holidays there) we actually ended up living for a couple of years but only because I was offered a job as a singer.
Throughout those years my own yearning to go back to Gibraltar never subsided, quite the contrary, but Carol wasn’t keen. She worried that it had changed beyond recognition, that she would hate the changes and that it would damage all of the positive memories of the Rock she had cherished all of her life. It was very much a barrier for years to us even having the conversation.
Meanwhile on many of our foreign holidays our close friends Sheila and Joe (aka Sheelee and Joseffi) joined us; we got to know them because Sheila used to work with both Carol and me when we were all employed by Social Services. Although they are older than we are (Joe is in his 80s though Sheila is younger than him) we’ve always remained close.
The 19 December 2015 was our 40th wedding anniversary; it had been forty years since we tied the knot in Portsmouth Registry Office (for the princely sum of £12) after which we had our union blessed in the Royal Naval Dockyard Chapel. On this prestigious anniversary I’d made the decision (Heaven help me) to ‘take the bull by the horns’. A few days before the big day I texted Sheila to ask if she and Joe would like to come to Gibraltar with us as I was thinking about surprising Carol; I got an immediate ‘yes’ reply. (So I booked it!).
On the big day we decided to have a Chinese take-away at home with our feet up watching a movie and just as Carol was devouring her last prawn cracker I happened to say ‘Happy Ruby Anniversary Love. We’re going to Gibraltar’.