Week 4 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 6th April 2008

At 1.00pm I am still not dressed and my girlfriend is in bed watching cartoons on the TV. At this rate before we know it we will be drinking heavily and having orgies with people we hardly know. I discuss this with my girlfriend who agrees that it is a good idea. Outside the sun is shining.

I finally get up and discover that I can demist the mirror in the bathroom by using the hair dryer. I still cannot see anything as my glasses have meanwhile misted up and I point the hair dryer at my face but this is not a good idea so I have to take off my glasses and this works better. I once went to see a surgeon who did laser eye surgery and eventually he admitted that he wore contact lenses so I will be wearing glasses for a while yet.

Later we walk down to buy a paper. I am shocked to find that the Sunday Times costs 2.65 for only three sections, namely Main, Business and International Culture. It is printed in Madrid.

We sit by the Rock Hotel pool, me out of the sun and my girlfriend in the sun. The sun loungers have wheels but no German towels yet and every twenty minutes we wheel ourselves around to fulfil our separate objectives.

The pool is only available to guests and people prepared to pay 350 per season to go whale spotting. Most of the whales are pure white but as the day wears on they become blotchy pink. My girlfriend loves it as she is the slimmest person here by several stone. By 7.00pm it is getting slightly chilly and we leave. After a while I decide to go back for my coat which contains our passports, money, keys, phones, cameras, wallet, driving licences, memory sticks, pocket knife and torch. It has been collected by one of the staff who could have assumed a new identity had they been a bit quicker. I meanwhile would have had to become a pool attendant. How bad can that be? Fairly bad I decide and am glad that I went back.

In the evening we go down to the splendid public area of the hotel and have a couple of drinks and a rum babba with two spoons.

Monday 7th April 2008

I tear off another sheet from my Dilbert Calendar and today's theme is car rentals. In this episode Dilbert only gets a left hand glove instead of a car and that is claimed by one of his colleagues. Wherever you look there is human tragedy.

Outside it is misty and it is a relief. In the morning the sun hides behind the rock until late morning or early afternoon if you are high up on the rock as we are. You could largely avoid the sun if you had homes on both sides of the peninsula but this may be carrying things too far. Mind you, you could avoid it altogether by staying in Manchester.

There are at least thirty serious ships in the harbour including one with "G R E A T   E A S T E R N" written in enormous letters down the side. I cannot find it on Google because of all the references to the original Great Eastern built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

I decide that I need to activate Outlook Express on my laptop. This should be easy for me as I am a computer programmer but it is not. Eventually I find the folder I want which turns out to be:

C:\Documents and Settings\MyName\Local Settings\Application Data\Identities\{231640F9-2B5B-46A1-96FA-18DCD9D9D449}\Microsoft\Outlook Express\

All I have to do now is transfer the files on the memory stick which I always have with me apart from when I leave it at the pool. I try to do this with one file but it refuses to recognise it - maybe because it does not have the folder to put it in. So I transfer all of the files which takes ages. Outlook now sort of works but is painfully slow. So slow that I think it needs to sit out in the sun like a lizard for a while to warm up, not that there is any sun today. I once read of a man who boiled things that refused to work and I consider this but the kettle is too small.

Now I need to configure the email accounts but it does not work. I ring my help desk and they are helpful as always and suddenly it all works. The main problem was that I had forgotten my user name.

Now the question of speed. For the next hour I battle with my laptop. At times it seems to be winning but eventually by installing Norton 360 I triumph and now Outlook Express is so express that it leaves skid marks on the screen. I think the problem was that it thought Norton was installed but it was not so it probably spent a lot of time looking for it.

On the way out of the hotel it starts to rain and I am deeply shocked. I was prepared for statistical rain but not for rain that makes you wet. On Main Street the umbrella sellers are doing brisk business. I eye them with deep suspicion. Like Mohamed Al-Fayed and Princess Diana I know they are behind the rain but I have no proof and I cannot work out how they did it. Suddenly an enormously fat woman in jeans bends over right in front of me to pick up something off the floor. Not since the days of Nelson has so much taught canvas been exposed to the wind and I brace myself but for what I am not sure.

I have a meeting with a couple of bankers who are a little too grim for my taste. There may not be many pubs called "The Jolly Banker" but if you are dealing with customers you need a light touch and these guys do not have it.

Later I pop in to the expensive accountants and discover from the Gibraltar Chronicle in their reception that the "the cruise ship with Cristmas Tree lights" was, in fact, the Omani royal yacht, Al Said. It was certainly very pretty.

We shelter in the Cafe Solo in Casemates Square and have a snack of dry meats and cheese which is very nice but a bit short on the bread front. On the way back to the hotel we try to buy a camera tripod for which the man is asking 44. We finally get stuck with him at 37.50 and me at 35 but neither of us will budge and we leave. I thought he may run after us but he does not.

Just outside the city gates where the taxi touts stand is an amazing tree that has flowers that look exactly like pipe cleaners. So much so that unless you saw the tree you would think it was a joke

As we approach the hotel I remark to my girlfriend that although we are tired it is getting slightly easier to get up the hill and by the end of the year we may well be fit. She responds by saying that by this point the average person would be in a hospital hooked up to a deep fried Mars bar drip.

At 5.30pm we walk to the Queens Cinema and pay 4.50 each to see "Horton Hears a Who" which is a film that billions of people worldwide have quite rightly decided not to see. It is the story of an elephant who carries round a flower on which is a speck of dust containing a complete world for which he now assumes responsibility. Arthur C Clarke and Stanley Kubrick could have maybe done something with this theme but whoever put this together Clarke and Kubrick they are not. And in case you were wondering they were not Jonathan Swift either. Frankly the film is a stinker unless you are under ten in which case it would probably be fun. The ideal kids film is one enjoyable on many different levels like Shrek which I have seen dozens of times "That's right, fool", "I'm looking down", "Everybody likes cakes"

Later we go for a pizza and then walk right round the botanical gardens which are beautiful but totally deserted.

Tueday 8 April 2008

Up early as we are going to see another flat soon with the nice lady from Diana Bray who is called Helen. At least, she is called Helen by most people but I keep calling her Diana which is slightly embarrassing. We need a flat fairly soon as I am running out of shirts and underwear.

The weather is cold and windy and likely to stay that way for a while according to the excellent BBC weather website.

There are no interesting ships in the harbour that I can see and I wonder if there are more exciting sea views elsewhere. I reflect on this and decide that there are four types of sea view:

Type 1. Just sea - very boring
Type 2. A working harbour with endless ships coming, mooring and going - interesting
Type 3. Marinas - boring after a while
Type 4. Swimming pools - mostly very boring but occasionally too interesting

I think we will stick with Type 2.

We go out and it is really raining and we buy a couple of flimsy collapsible umbrellas for 4 each. By the time we reach the other end of town my girlfriend is looking miserable. I ask her what is the matter and she replies that "it is dark and raining inside my shoes". The holes all along the top which are supposed to let her foot breathe are letting in water. I have lunch with a surveyor who tells me that in Gibraltar there are times when the rain goes upwards and wets the underside of the eaves of houses. This is because of the current of air rising over the rock when there is a strong wind from the Atlantic. All of this comes as a bit of a shock.

We finally buy a nice big solid tripod. I take a number of photos with and without the tripod and can detect no difference. As it gets darker, however, the tripod comes into its own as longer exposures are needed. In town I have noticed a pair of huge Helios binoculars (Quantum - 5 20/40x100) which cost 1,500 and weigh fifteen pounds - 100 per pound. I tell the man we will consider the matter. Later that evening I discover that they can be bought on the web for just over 700.

We walk up an endless series of steps that eventually end up in somebody's back yard where there is an amazing collection of aerials and satellite dishes.

In the evening we go to see "27 Dresses" at the Queens Cinema which is still operating near the Rock Hotel. In due course we are told that the cinema is going to relocate into the new leisure centre that already contains the ice rink and bowling alley (see Saturday 22nd March 2008). The film was probably quite good but I only caught one word in ten because of the appalling voices of the flock of actresses and because I am somewhat deaf. Afterwards we discuss things that I prefer over a female New York accent:

1. A dry mitten stuffed in the mouth
2. Nails scratching down a blackboard
3. A chain saw hitting metal
4. A drawn out car crash
5. Someone learning the bagpipes

Wednesday 9th April 2008

When I get up all the ships in the harbour are pointing towards the SouthWest and the flags in front of the Rock Hotel are blowing strongly. It is gradually dawning on me that this can be a cold, wet and windy spot. I can feel a bout of "What the Hell am I doing here?" coming on. Not a full blown attack but certainly some symptoms are becoming apparent.

I get an email from England. Apparently property values are collapsing nicely and this cheers me up.

"HMS Nottingham (D91), is a batch two Type 42 Destroyer of the Royal Navy" according to Wikipedia and it has just turned up here and is parked where the Omani Royal Yacht was a couple of days ago. "Rubicon Maverick" has also come back. Maybe it was less fun wherever they went - it often is. You think all the other ships are having more fun but when you get there it is just as boring.

In the afternoon we look round yet another flat and afterwards we shelter for an hour or so from the torrential rain. I run out through the pouring rain and buy some newspapers which we read for the next hour. On the way back we buy yet another umbrella and some stamps. The girl in the Post Office is very unfriendly and unhelpful and this cheers me up too as it makes me feel at home.

I haven't seen a police person for a while and those I have seen all seem to be very small. I know that they get younger as the years go by but smaller?

Not only is it bucketing down with rain it is seriously windy.

My email and lots of web sites have been unavailable for a few hours - I suspect this is to do with the appalling weather. Maybe a ship dragged its anchor across an undersea cable or something?

Thursday 10th April 2008

Still very windy and wet. We have to go to Spain to renew the car hire but the map they have provided bears no relationship to Google's map or my recollection. They are near Mc Donalds so that should narrow it down a little. They want us to bring a printed voucher they have emailed to us but we have no printer. So, we get a voucher faxed to the hotel.

It tells us that Crown Car Hire is located "inside FOCONA public park" and is opposite Mc Donalds. So, all we have to do if find the Big Mac and there, surrounded by grass and palm trees in a park will be the car hire. Wrong. We get out of Gibraltar very quickly and drive towards the alleged position of Mc Donalds. We catch a fleeting glance as we drive past and turn in the general direction. After a while we can see it maybe 50 yards away but we cannot get close to it because the roads are closed for a big building project. While wondering what to do we spot an underground car park called FOCONA and a sign saying CROWN car hire. So, clearly they meant "inside the FOCONA underground car park". Wrong again. We drive in and find ourselves in the world's largest underground car park. It is huge. We drive round for 20 minutes until we can finally get back to the entrance. The attendant points to the office which is right at the entrance. If you guys ever read this what you actually meant was:

"Auriga Crown is located at the entrance to the FOCONA underground car park in La Linea, which is near Mc Donalds"

All we are doing is extending the car hire so how hard can that be? The answer is "very hard" and involves endless tapping on keyboards and filling in of forms which are then screwed up and thrown in the bin. And phone calls.

While we are waiting a guy comes in and the car hire man, whose English is rudimentary asks what he wants. The man starts up in a whining and nasal London accent. "I've been let darn by anover carhire firm and I was finking like maybe I'd ask around to see if anybody else could like rent me a car or sumfink, know what I mean?"I can scarcely understand him and the car hire man has not got the faintest idea what he is talking about so he ignores him and carries on serving me. What he should have done is point to himself and say "Brum, brum, me want car"

Finally we are done and head towards PC City in Los Barrios where helpful pretty girls sell us a HP 1600 printer (for half the price demanded for a similar printer in Gibraltar) and a PC Line DX 20 shredder so we can destroy the evidence. Meanwhile the sun is emerging now and then.

The shredder is great fun and we keep looking round for things to shred. It makes a really enthusiastic noise and obviously enjoys it's work enormously.

Next we set off for Sotogrande which we hear is nice. The Tom Tom says that to get there we have to travel over unpaved roads but we are made of stern stuff so off we go undaunted. In due course we arrive at what looks like a pay booth so clearly this is a private development but where is Sotogrande? We try another route with the same result. We give up and go home. Later, on the web I discover that:

"Sotogrande, one of the most luxurious sports and residential developments in Europe. Its 2,500 hectares (6,178 acres) encompass all the amenities you could imagine as a complement to the Polo Club. Golf, unspoiled beaches, a world class marina and incredible bars, restaurants and even leisure centres combined with fabulous weather make this a unique experience."

6,178 acres is almost ten square miles so this is seriously big investment. Maybe they should also invest in a sign so that the punters know where they have arrived at? Just a suggestion. Trying to be helpful.

In the evening we eat at an excellent Italian restaurant, Rojo, right next to the Pizzaghetti Factory in Irish Town. I have lamb and my girlfriend has duck and both are really good and the bill is about 35. We waddle back to the hotel and I fall asleep in the lounge.

Friday 11th April 2008

Up early and the wind has died down. The sun is shining on Spain but not yet on the water as it is still in the shadow of the Rock. As the day goes on it will work its way towards us.

Later that morning we are in a nice cafe (Time Out Cafe 106 Eurotowers, Gibraltar Tel: 76044)and I notice that the shadow of my coffee cup points one way and the shadow of the chairs in the other direction. Eventually I realise that the sun is reflecting strongly off a nearby office building.

We look around yet another flat which has no curtains in the main living room. The agent explains that this is because it has tinted glass. My girlfriend asks if that means nobody will be able to see her if she walks around naked. He confirms that nobody will see her. "I guess I'll have to open the windows, then" she says.

We sort of agree to take the flat but we have forgotten the check list so throughout the day we think of new things we need. Suddenly all the agents for other flats start ringing us and before we know it we are back to square one and as confused as ever. This is like being a footballer at a disco. "Do you like the tall skinny blonde or the curvy brunette or maybe the Chinese girl in the corner?" We are spoiled for choice. Gibraltar has lots of huge building which are nearing completion and they need tenants.

In the evening we have a snack at the Piccadilly Garden Bar in Rosia Road which for 13.50 is very good value. It is surprisingly cold out and we wonder what it will be like in January. We walk back up to the Rock Hotel and arrive feeling like we could walk another 20 yards or maybe even further if our lives depended on it.

Saturday 12th April 2008

There is a beautiful ship in the bay which is brightly coloured like a butterfly. It is the TALLINK from Estonia which is about 3,000 miles away. Maybe they are lost? (Guys, just keep turning right and then ask again when you see Finland sticking out.)

In the afternoon we put our feet up by the RocK Hotel swimming pool. In the case of my feet, this results in them being burned.

Later we have a snack at the Lek Bangkok on Europort Avenue. This place is its own worst enemy. Firstly they have a sign up saying closed when they are very much open. Secondly when you walk into a takeaway you expect to see a menu up on the wall so you have a quick idea of what you are letting yourself in for and they haven't. Thirdly, there was no indication that they actually have a little restaurant upstairs. We had two dishes (sweet sour pork and tiger prawn thingy) plus two bottles of sparkling mineral water upstairs and the bill was 13.50 for the two of us. Very good value.


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