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As the plane took off from Birmingham I suppose I was full of ‘what ifs’ but totally adamant this was the time; this was my time. As the flight crew came around asking me if I’d like coffee or sweets the whole journey began taking on quite a surreal element. I began realising that although this flight was about as massive as it could get for me it was just another day at the office for everyone else; having said that I was thankful I wasn’t too transparent and was able to hide how I felt. Although I’ve spent months writing these memoirs trying to get to the bottom of my feelings in real life I’m really quite painfully shy. 
(Carol)

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I looked over at Carol who was gazing out of the window and wondered what she was thinking; after all it was she and the children (not me) who had made this very same journey forty years ago to the day. I wondered if she was reflecting on that day in 1976 or whether she was more into the present still wondering if she was going to love or hate the changes on the Rock. Just then the same thought passed through my mind – what if I hated the changes? What then? I couldn’t go there.

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“Your drinks Sir” a voice said. As I turned around one of the flight attendants stood smiling at me with a tray of two red wines and two coffees. Her smile was really beautiful (as all flight attendants smiles are) and I wondered if they are taught how to smile like that during their training. No prizes for guessing who the red wines were for as Joe and I settled down with our coffees (and me with my thoughts).

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Some time later as I was coming round from a doze I heard the Captain speaking over the tannoy telling us we were beginning our descent into Gibraltar even though it didn’t seem (to me) as though we’d been in the air five minutes. I think I must have still been conditioned to the long haul flights we used to have to take when commuting back and forth to India but I wasn’t complaining.


I’d never flown into Gibraltar before but was aware of the reputation it had; the short runway sticking out to the sea and the dodgy turn needed to stay out of Spanish airspace. But just as I was pondering all the ‘ifs-and-buts’ ….we landed – in one of the smoothest landings I’ve ever had! When the plane eventually parked and the doors opened I stepped out and looked up. It was almost like a dream come true. I’d finally got back. The lump in my throat felt as though I’d swallowed an apple.


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(Carol and Sheila)

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Passing through the airport terminal was quite a quick process compared to most other countries I’d been to and within about fifteen minutes we were in the transfer vehicle on the way through town to the Bristol Hotel. During the journey my eyes were literally everywhere as I continually asked our driver for clarity on just about everything I saw: “Isn’t that Queensway, isn’t that where the Fleet Pav was?”. I think he was quite relieved when we arrived at the hotel and he was able to kick me out. 


(Washed out and exhausted in the foyer of the Bristol Hotel)

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Standing in the foyer waiting to check in I looked out of the door at the Cathedral where our children were Christened. Although I felt totally washed out and exhausted from the journey as I looked at the Cathedral I was instantly back there (in 1976) and knew my connection to the Rock was as strong as it was on the day I left. It was so good to be back. 

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