3:68 (2016) #Gibraltar lighthouse holds iconic status for me.


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Coming out of the tunnel the very first thing I saw was the lighthouse which for me (as well as being yet another fabulous place to visit) holds an almost iconic status. As with all mariners, seafarers and sailors lighthouses are key to keeping safe particularly when traversing dark and stormy seas and I know only too well from experience how terrifying some voyages can be. While on patrol during the Icelandic Cod War (1973) the weather was so bad I was absolutely convinced I was a gonner so much so I was praying it would be quick. 

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Recently on Remembrance Sunday I was standing with other ex-forces colleagues at Cardigan Cenotaph when a local man sang the Naval Prayer and even all these years after leaving the RN it still brought the hairs up on the back of my neck.
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Looking around Europa Point reinforced my belief that Gibraltar was made up of dozens and dozens of mini communities and after walking out of the tunnel I had the feeling that I’d just arrived at yet another. My memories of Europa are very sketchy (as I don’t think we visited often); as well as thinking it was quite bleak I also had a vague recollection that the road continued right around the Rock (past Catalan Bay). How wrong was I? The road didn’t continue on around the Rock and bleak it was not a word I would use to describe it.
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Although the lighthouse was very much the focal point and star prize for me (for reasons already explained) the whole area had been much developed since my last visit forty years ago. Clearly some things were still there from years gone by (for example the gun) but there were also some other really nice recent developments including a cafe, children’s playground and – Gibraltar University (and wow I didn’t expect that). It’s testimony to the fact I didn’t go there that often (when I lived in Gibraltar) that I had no idea there was such a fabulous mosque there – unless that too had been built since 1978?
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I don’t know how long I spent at Europa Point but what I do know is I probably walked every square yard including right down to the University door and several lengths of the lighthouse promenade. I was lost in a moment that I didn’t want to end but knew it had to because I still needed to visit the Alameda Gardens one last time too; to miss that was unthinkable. And just at the point I was ready to go a bus turned up and I thought ‘Why not?’.

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3:67 (2016) Searing memories of a life-changing catalyst were overpowering.


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Somewhere in the area of Camp Bay or Nuffield Pool was a tunnel that we used to walk through all the way to Catalan Bay and though I know it’s no longer open to pedestrians it’s often bugged me that I never remembered where it was. Perhaps that quest can go on my bucket list for when I return to the Rock. Having said that it didn’t stop me loving soaking up the familiarity of things that I did recognise and as I neared Nuffield Pool I instantly spotted a very familiar waterfall on the opposite side of the road. When I look at the photo above of that waterfall (taken by me in May 2016) and then see the same waterfall in the photo below (taken by Carol in 1976) I get an immense sense of gratitude that there are still things about Gibraltar that have never changed. 

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(With my daughter Tracey, Nuffield Pool 1976).

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Previously in my memoirs I wrote about Nuffield Pool and Europa Point and it was in that post (see 2:22) that the photo above first appeared alongside the story behind it. Rather than me repeat myself by writing about Nuffield Pool again please do look back (at 2:22) if you missed those anecdotes and would like to read them although it would be remiss of me to not acknowledge that one of the stories in that post was a life-changing catalyst.
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(Walking past Nuffield Pool)

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With time now very much against me I was keen to press on towards Europa Point but even as I walked passed Nuffield Pool I couldn’t take my eyes off it; searing memories of a fateful swimming gala filled my mind reminding me of how vulnerable I felt at that time, in that very pool, just fifty yards away from me. 
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As I entered the tunnel which would finally take me to Europa it was with trepidation which didn’t improve as I ended up in the dark and the damp. Walking through the tunnel I wrestled with frightening thoughts of how my life could well have ended up very differently had it not been for the massive support of Carol and my girls; finally, as the tough recollections began fading away I gave thanks for the life I had been truly blessed with and very soon after literally saw the light at the end of the tunnel.

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3:66 (2016) The past, present and future of Camp Bay, #Gibraltar


(The Dolphins of Camp Bay)

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Looking down at Camp Bay I had only very vague recollections of the resort (certainly those Dolphins) but couldn’t for the life of me remember there being so much concrete. For a minute I was sure there used to be more beach before than there is now but then when I looked back at an old photo of my daughter (she’s in red below) at the venue I have to concede perhaps my memory was playing tricks on me. 

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(My daughter Tracey at Camp Bay 1976).

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What I think I did recall (if I remember rightly) was that the days were longer in Camp Bay than over at Catalan Bay (correct me if I’m wrong) because of the shade from the Rock and so naturally it was a popular beach to take the children to after work especially given that at HMS Rooke we worked tropical hours and finished at 1pm (I think) unless we were on duty.

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Recently I saw a very old photo (above) of Camp Bay before any it’s developments and it looked so fabulously natural; it was just a small cove with sand, pebbles and a couple of little cottages, a bit like a smaller version of Catalan Bay’s fishing village and very much the kind of beach I love to chill out on with a flask of tea. 
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In contrast to that old photo I also recently saw published plans (above) of a possible future development at Camp Bay and (given my old fashioned persona) I was horrified. Perhaps a development of that sort may bring more employment to the people of Gibraltar and contribute to the economy – particularly in these uncertain times I don’t know, I’m no politician and not being a Gibraltarian I don’t feel it my place to even comment. But if I’ve learned anything in my life it’s that development isn’t always progress.

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Not far on I knew I would encounter (what I knew to be) Nuffield Pool and I was really looking forward to seeing it again although I wasn’t looking forward to reliving one particular memory (though I knew I would). With thoughts in my head on the past, present and future of Camp Bay I continued on my walkabout with Gibraltars never-changing, lovely sunshine warming my body.

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3:65 (2016) Gibraltarianism connects the diverse communities of #Gibraltar


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(Trafalgar Cemetery)

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All around the area of Trafalgar House is very familiar to me and acutely emotive as our first apartment was in that building. During my week on the Rock I’d passed by (and through) the area many times visiting Trafalgar Cemetery, Alameda Gardens and en route to the 100-ton gun – I’d even (nostalgically) sneaked inside Trafalgar House and up to the floor of my old apartment – and the more I did that sort of thing the more normalised it became; there were times when I could have forgiven myself for thinking I still lived here and had never left.

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As I walked passed Piccadilly Gardens I thought of Joe and was happy to think I now had a new and recent memory of the place because it was only a day or two ago that he and I sat in there having a cup of tea and I could never remember the place being there back in the seventies although a reader (MG) kindly updated me (thank you) and said it was. MG suggested that perhaps I’d never realised Piccadilly Gardens were there because (like her and her children) I always opted to take my children to the Alameda for outings. Probably right. Having said that it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that I used that red phone box in their gardens to ring Carol when I was in Gibraltar on my own looking for somewhere to live.

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Although it had been only a day or two since I’d walked along Rosia (with Joe to see the 100-ton gun) today’s walk was very different. With no disrespect to Joe, for me to walk this walk on my own was a very different experience and one (in hindsight) I really needed to do. 

Because of my history there were things I needed to take my time over like for instance looking over the wall at the dockyard; naturally doing that wasn’t something Joe would want to do for long but for me I could have spent all day doing it as I (privately) made sense of so many convoluted memories, many of which involved real people like colleagues Brian Smith, Phil Bramwell and Funky Gibbons. Gaping over that wall, down onto the quayside, was almost a quest to acknowledge my memories were real and as I left to carry on my walkabout I felt very much at ease knowing they were.

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Gibraltar, though small, seems to be made up of lots of little villages and communities which (no doubt) have their own unique identity but which are all connected by their Gibraltarianism (if that’s a word). 

As a visitor to this beautiful place (albeit nominated an Honorary Gibbo by one of my readers – thank you for that lovely compliment ND) I’ve loved (when on my many walkabouts) enjoying the massive diversity I’ve come across in the dozens of communities I’ve wandered through. Catalan Bay, Edinburgh House, the Old Town, Queensway Quay and the newly built apartments around Morrisons are all just a few of the many colonies that make up this wonderfully cosmopolitan nation which also embraces people from all races and religions and so it’s very difficult not to feel welcome anywhere on the Rock.

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As I left the area (which I thought to be Rosia) I walked on down the hill (past the Gun) towards Camp Bay and found myself on the peripheries of another of Gibraltar’s smaller communities although I didn’t feel I had any personal recollections of the area – other than I had a feeling I was somewhere near (although lower down to) the Royal Naval Hospital (which I think was higher up) where my daughter was born? But I did love the Naval context to the area with things like an anchor ornamenting the streets. As I walked another couple of hundred yards I found myself at Camp Bay, a place I did have recollections of.

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(Camp Bay)

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Probably one of the hardest challenges I’ve found in writing these memoirs is trying not to duplicate memories, writings or photographs but since that challenge has become virtually impossible please do forgive me if I replicate things as I near the end of my story. Although some photos may have been used twice its probably because there has been two different stories to tell.
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3:64 (2016) Wherever I go in #Gibraltar I’m a young parent again.

It must have been somewhere around 1pm when we arrived at the Bristol and it wasn’t long afterwards that we all went our separate ways – by which I mean everyone went to the poolside except me who (once again) hit the road on what I knew was to be one of my last walkabouts. As I took off up Main Street on my way to Europa Point I knew within minutes I was in for quite an emotional afternoon, just as I know that these final few posts of my memoirs will probably be the hardest of all for me to write.

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Passing through Convent Place I glanced over at the side door of the Angry Friar which very nearly became my own front door back in 1976; although it’s just a door, a piece of wood, it’s a door with a place in my personal history (see 2:8) and so to glance over at it as I pass by seems such a natural thing for me to do. 

Recently I listened to a Radio 4 programme in which a researcher was presenting his findings to prove that trees have emotions, make friends and communicate with other trees. As I glanced at the door there was no doubt I was communicating with it though I wasn’t sure if I was saying hi or goodbye but surreally I did wonder if it knew – and whether it was communicating back.

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(Left: 1976 with the children. Right: 2016 in the same place outside John Mac Hall, Gibraltar)

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Continuing on further up Main Street I paused by the road crossing to reflect awhile and take a photo to compliment one taken of me in the exact same spot forty years previously almost to the day. 

In the first photo I’m holding my new born daughter SAM and my eldest daughter Tracey is standing in the foreground. Although I don’t remember where we were going that day I like to think we were off to Alameda Gardens play park where we spent many hours when I wasn’t working; or perhaps we were on our way to the Piazza (which in those days was the hub of everyone’s social life) where we often spent Saturday mornings having drinks and snacks.

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When I compared the first photo with the second (taken in May 2016) I suddenly (sadly) felt a massive loss; although I’m extremely close to all of my children today I feel grief at my days of being a young parent having gone knowing I can never get them back. And because those (halcyon) days were spent in Gibraltar is (just another reason) why the Rock is so important to me personally and why my connection with it is so strong. Wherever I go in Gibraltar I’m a young parent again. 

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Perhaps there are people who may never understand that concept and that’s ok; but I’m so very blessed that my children do.

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3:63 (2016) It’s impossible to not be chilled out in #Gibraltar

Coming out of the Glassblowers exhibition into Casemates saw Sheila and Joe head straight for a bench seat to rest where Carol took a few photos of them sitting in the sunshine; although I remember making some sort of joke about Mutt-and-Jeff on Crimewatch I knew they were loving their holiday and though I didn’t know it at the time that was something that become very important later. After resting for a few minutes we then all wandered off (a full fifty yards) and installed ourselves outside one of those lovely jubbly eateries where we hit the coffee and churros. 

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(Mutt-and-Jeff aka Joe and Sheila)

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It’s almost impossible not to be chilled out when on holiday in Gibraltar (to the point of being horizontal) and this is especially the case when you’re having breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner in somewhere like Casemates Square with the sun on your forehead and the stimulation of lots of people to watch. I’m sometimes so chilled out I’ve no idea what time it is or what meal I’m eating though I think this one was somewhere between brunch and lunch; it was also something of a planning meeting about how everyone wanted to spend the afternoon and where they wanted to eat (again) this evening. Great holidays (I guess) are always those where the biggest decision you make is what to eat and where.

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(Carol and Joe)


(People watching people in Casemates Square)

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Although I’m someone who ‘eats to live’ I’m also someone who (occasionally) ‘lives to eat’ and though I don’t mind where I eat I do like good food; I think that’s partly because I don’t smoke, don’t drink (a bore, I know) and walk a lot so a nice plate of food is important to me – notwithstanding my appetite is banging. 
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As I sat nibbling away at my churro I also acknowledged (to myself) that I do like to try the local delicacies although that hasn’t always been a positive experience. In Crete their local dish was goat and I quite liked that but in The Gambia it turned out to be Cows Nose Soup and so the less said about that the better. These churros (were Phab and) reminded me of doughnuts in a different shape.

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(Looking up at the North summit)

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Over the course of the week we’d eaten out at some lovely places and (listening to the conversation of my companions) I guessed that this evenings outing would either see us back at Jury’s or the Gibraltar Arms, both of which were on the short list (and both of which got my vote so I didn’t mind). In the meantime it sounded as though they all wanted to slob out (again) around the pool for the afternoon and (though that wasn’t for me) who could fault them? 
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As I looked up at the north summit of the Rock I thought ‘Yes, that has to be done. But not today. Tomorrow’. Today I would go walkabout to Europa Point after which I would double back to address another burning need and spend some time in Alameda Gardens for the last time. As we all walked back up Main Street towards the Bristol the ladies paused to check the menu at the Gibraltar Arms and made an executive decision that we would all eat there this evening. “I could order Alan’s now because I know exactly what he’ll choose” laughed Carol. “It’s always the same after his walkabouts. Fish and chips”.

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3:62 (2016) The amazing Glassblowers of Gibraltar Crystal

When the sun shines down in Casemates it’s quite a sun trap and if you happen to be chilling out with coffee and (what I think they call) churros then you’re about as close to heaven as you can get; if I lived (again) in Gibraltar it’s very much where you would find me every (warm) morning having breakfast and people-watching. It’s also very probably where you might find me every warm evening having tea too.
The choice of cafes and restaurants in the square is bountiful although having said that I do have odd traits about myself that would probably (not just) see me at the same cafe every morning but (also) sitting in the same seat – and I would most certainly be sitting where I got the best view of the Rock.

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Apart from the vast array of eateries Casemates also has lots of other things to attract the visitor including an amazing glass blowing exhibition with a shop selling their beautiful wares; it was somewhere Carol particularly (and me to be honest) wanted to visit as we both love seeing traditional craftspeople at work and so after first popping into the museum to see the Neanderthal exhibition we had a steady walk down Main Street and found ourselves (quite excitedly) going in.

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For me it’s always been an amazing fascination how sand somehow turns into glass but then I’ve always loved not knowing things (as bizarre as that sounds); as a child when offered an explanation for something I’d often choose not accept it preferring to hold on to the mystery and let my mind imagine. I’d never make a scientist. Perhaps one difference between Carol and me is that she does like to know what’s what and so the minute we walked into the exhibition she set about reading everything on display as I stared in wonder at the hot furnaces (holding on to that mystery I didn’t want to let go of).
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Moving through the exhibition took us to the actual workshop where the Glassblowers were displaying their amazing skills and as I watched them doing their thing I’m in even more awe; the idea they were blowing through a pipe and shaping what looked like liquid glass (all wobbly) into some gorgeous ornament just seemed beyond belief. But of course when you look around their shop at what they’ve made you realise it isn’t beyond belief; it’s a truly amazing skill, honed and perfected over many years and fabulously executed in public view which left me feeling very privileged to have witnessed it. 

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3:61 (2016) I think that Museum lady thought I was a little eccentric.

One of the easiest things to do when you’re absorbed in something you find fascinating is to lose track of time which is exactly what happened to me during my visit to see the Neanderthal exhibition at the Gibraltar Museum. One minute I’m standing agog, mouth open amidst a group of children looking at an amazing exhibition and the next minute I’m still standing agog looking at the same exhibition on my own as a curator lady politely coughs to let me know it’s six o clock and the museum is closing. 

As I slowly came to my senses I thanked the lady for her patience and on leaving the building said to her that one day I would make a painting of the mother and child as part of a collection I was planning; she smiled, nodded and closed the door behind me – (I think she thought I was a little eccentric).

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When I left the Museum I suddenly remembered I was under a strict promise to be back at the Bristol for 6pm (latest) to make sure everyone was up (after their siesta) so they had plenty of time to get ready to go out to the Moroccan Restaurant Marrakech – and I was already late. Good job the Bristol was only next door although as it turned out everyone was up and about anyway (‘No thanks to me’ it appeared).

“Anyway where’ve you been this time?” I was greeted “Oh never mind now you can tell us all about it at dinner and hopefully you found somewhere nice for us to visit too. Come on, Sheila and Joe are ready”. 

This (non) conversation reminded me of that old TV programme with Hyacinth Bouquet in it where she asks her hen-pecked husband questions then answers them herself and because of my (warped) sense of humour (even though I’m not hen-pecked) I loved it – and thought it was hilarious that because of my silence Carol did indeed come across like Hyacinth Bouquet (although I’m not sure she saw the funny side of that). Heh heh.

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(Gibraltar Art Gallery)

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After strolling down Main Street we turned right up towards the Art Gallery because I knew everyone wanted to visit it – particularly Carol who is a very arty, creative person. As mentioned previously in these memoirs she spent a lot of time making lovely clothes for both herself and the children when they were little; indeed she has made me quite a few designer clothes too from patterns by the likes of Izzy Myaki (very probably a wrong spelling that). As time has gone on she’s also dabbled in photography, life drawing, tile craft and more recently painting and so she was keen to see what was on display in the Gibraltar gallery.

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Of all of the paintings on display I particularly loved the ones of the Rock and those of other scenes around Gibraltar, in fact it was looking at them during my previous solo visit that inspired me to decide to take up painting again (in 2017) to illustrate some of my RockHeart memoir. Carol too really loved the paintings depicting local life and landscape and although I told her I was going to do some ‘Gib paintings’ in the New Year I didn’t tell her they were to compliment RockHeart (because she doesn’t know I’ve been writing RockHeart 🙂 ).

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Dinner at the Marrakech was everything one would expect from a Moroccan dinner, flavours, spices, colours and all; fortunately for me the food wasn’t too spicy (I hate spicy hot food) and in the main everyone enjoyed it. Our conversations during dinner tended to be around how much everyone was loving their holiday (Yessss!!!) and how they would like to come back again next year (Yessss!!!); they all agreed there was so much more to see that they hadn’t had the time for although after I’d told them about the Neanderthal exhibition they immediately decided that they would be visiting that tomorrow. Speaking of which Carol added ” So don’t plan any walkabouts in the morning because after the Museum we’re all going to see the Glass-blowing in Casemates; I’ve seen a leaflet in the Bristol and it looks great”. Brilliant, I thought, that works for me – I’ll do that in the morning (then Europa Point in the afternoon).

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3:60 (2016) Seeing Gibraltar’s Neanderthals was profoundly moving.

I think one of the reasons I like Twitter is because I can find things out quickly on stuff that interests me and during my time in Gibraltar I was seeing more and more posts from Gibraltar Museum on their new Neanderthal exhibition. Local people also (who knew I was doing walkabouts) were also giving me ideas (via Twitter) of where to go and what to see (which was great) and the Museum was always right up there among their recommendations and so it was just a matter of time before it had to happen.

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(Photo taken by me in Gibraltar Museum, May 2016).

Quite a lot of publicity was current (in May 2016) around the recreation of Neanderthal people in the form of models which were on display in the museum and although I’d seen the photos (which were awesome) I needed to go see the actual models which were said to be totally representative in actual size and as near the real image as could possibly be replicated. Excited didn’t even come close. 

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As I walked into the museum I (unceremoniously) bypassed all of the other exhibits (for now) because I so wanted to see the Neanderthal models first (and decided I could see everything else later). As I negotiated my way through a group of school children on a field trip I turned a corner and within seconds found myself standing (amidst a second class of school children) with my mouth hanging open looking breathtakingly at the most life-like realistic models of Neanderthals I could ever have imagined.

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Two characters stood lit up against a black back drop; a mother and child, created absolutely perfectly in every way – from the hair, adorned in feathers (possibly to fool prey while on the hunt or perhaps for decoration), right down to the toes. I was mesmerised, I couldn’t move. I’m not even sure if I could breathe; it was as though I’d just walked into their cave. Gorhams Cave? Even the children visiting the exhibition looked on in silence such was the impact of seeing these characters for the first time.

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Although I do love to study some aspects of history I’m very much hopelessly non-academic and could never profess to retain dates or other information in my head after a time and so could never pass an exam. Perhaps one of the few things I have retained about the Neanderthal people though is that the last of them probably lived in caves in Gibraltar something like 24000 years ago and yet when I look at the models of this mother and child (who lived an existence I can’t even imagine) I see that wonderful thing called love; it really is hard for me when I look into their eyes to believe they are not real. The mother looks to be very kind, happy and relaxed and her child appears very secure and attached to the parent so that the overall image is not only a joy to behold – for me the whole experience was profoundly moving.

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3:59 (2016) Gibraltar’s Buccaneer

Considering Joe was 83 he’d had quite an active day; after spending the morning tromping off with me to see the 100-ton gun he’d then (after a brief lunch in Latinos) tromped off and around Alameda Gardens and so I was aware he probably needed a rest back at the Bristol. Carol and Sheila had also become accustomed to their afternoon siesta and so (as it was mid afternoon) we all headed off gently back to the hotel.
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Knowing there was no way I was having a nap Carol (being the organiser she is) said: “When you get back from wherever you’re walkabout-ing to make sure we are all up and about for 6pm because we’re going to the new Moroccan restaurant you found up behind the Art Gallery – plus it would be nice for us to call in the Art Gallery to have a look too because we haven’t been in there yet”. As I nodded my approval they all went off to their rooms for a snooze and I turned on my heels and shot out the door.

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All week long (during various walkabouts) I’d been searching for the Holy Grail – also known as the Buccaneer Night Club which readers may recall was a regular haunt during our time on the Rock in the 70s and where Carol floored a Royal Marine (see 2:31). Several times during the week I’d thought I’d found this elusive night club but each time it turned out to be a false alarm. What made the task more difficult (I think) was that there was quite a bit of redevelopment work going on in the area and because of scaffolding some parts had restricted access. Today, however, I was determined to put the issue to bed. Some people might wonder why it was so important for me to find a place I used to go to forty years previously but there’s a simple answer really. I don’t know.

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The entrance to the Buccaneer was in a wall and the only thing I remembered about it was that it was somewhere between Edinburgh House and town; you could walk through the Fleet Pavilion, go up some steps and bingo there was the wall and there was the door. But that was forty years ago and the Fleet Pavilion has now gone – replaced by what I think is a multi storey car park under construction. When I tried to get to where I thought the Buccaneer was I found my access denied because of the construction works – hence the reason I walked (too far) round and ended up photographing other doors in walls down on past Commonwealth Park (opposite the Quayside restaurant area) thinking I’d found it.
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(Door to the Buccaneer)

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Today, for some reason, there was to be no confusion. As if by a twist of fate it seemed someone was looking down on me and I was put out of my misery. After leaving the Bristol and strolling for less than ten minutes I found myself standing outside a door that I was 99% sure was what I’d been looking for and (because of the wonder of technology) it didn’t take me long to confirm that. A Twitter friend (thank you JB) saw a photo I took and immediately responded; he even updated me saying that the place was soon to reopen (I think) as a cafe?! What a brilliant idea. When I read that I tried to picture Carols face as she sat having a cup of tea somewhere she had once floored a Royal Marine. Priceless, and most certainly a Pitt stop on our next trip to Gibraltar. 🙂
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Happy that yet another question had been answered (or more like another massive objective had been ticked off the bucket list) I strolled back up the steps, over the road and found myself outside the Gibraltar Museum. Oh yes, and why not?

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