Week 5 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 13th April 2008

Beautiful sunny day and we get up late. We wonder down to Casemates Square where we have a snack.

Later that evening we have a drink in the Rock Hotel terrace which is not only heated by patio heaters but hazed in smoke from people old enough to know better. Smoking is not yet dead in Gibraltar but doubtless it will be soon as they seem to follow the UK in terms of legislation.

Later we go inside the bar area as it is getting a little chilly. I am astonished to hear a man right at the other side of the room who appears to talk very quietly but whos every word can easily be heard. Maybe he is an actor and has some special technique designed to annoy the hell out of the rest of us? Meanwhile the waittress is standing right in front of me and I cannot hear a word she is saying - I can see her lips move so I know she is talking but I can hear nothing.

Monday 14th April 2008

The Hurst Point is leaving so we watch as it edges out accompanied by two minders. In the top photo you can just about see it but the bottom photo reveals the full power of the Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ-18.

Later in the Jules cafe at the bottom of John McDonald square we have three cups of coffee. The bill is 4.50 but we only have a 20 note and she has no change. So I ask for the 20 back and give her a 10 note and she then gives me 9.50 change at which point I give her back 5 (pay attention at the back we will be asking questions later). In other words she was about to give us free coffee.

My girlfriends shoes which cost 1 each in Primark in Manchester fall apart so we do repairs with the aid of my Swiss Army Knife and they are as good as new ((ie not very good, really).

You should always carry the three P's - Pen, Paper and Pocket Knife. On the other hand you could just buy some decent shoes in the first place.

Tueday 15th April 2008

I go down town alone to buy a wastepaper basket (4.99 from The Beacon Press at 3/5 Cloister Ramp) and on my return I find a drama developing near the Rock Hotel. A police motorcyclist is holding up the traffic. Then another police bike turns up then a prison van and then a giant crane. I wait for the fire brigade and the SAS but they seem to have been delayed. Probably as well. I don't think the waste paper basket would provide much protection for my head if bullets start flying around so I take it off and go on my way.

Later we go for a bite to eat at Bianca's (Biancas 6 - 7 Admiral's Walk, Marina Bay, Tel: 73379). Unfortunately, they only serve coke from a post mix dispenser (ie not bottled or canned). This means that they make a few more pence per drink but it also means variable quality and hardly any coke in my Bacardi and Coke. It also means that it will be the last they see of me. Especially since they had run out of the only thing I wanted on the bar menu, namely potato skins.

Later I fall asleep and by the time I wake up we have missed "2 Tuesday" at the Queens Cinema (11-13 Boyd Street). Damn!

Wednesday 16th April 2008

It cannot have escaped your notice that there are dozens of new developments round Gibraltar and that poses a potentially serious problem. Naming them all. We have Ocean Village, Queensway Quay, Euro Plaza and so on. So, here, as a service to the real estate community, is an auto name generator. This is not just looking to the past but is geared to the future.

Looks very cloudy and grim outside but the BBC is still under the illusion that the sun is shining. I am beginning to agree with the elderly member of the aristocracy who threw a barometer indicating "Fair" out into the rain with the comment "There, you bloody fool, see for yourself". Wow! Televisions do make such a satisfying sound when they hit the ground from the third floor.

Most days there is an interesting ship in the harbour and today is no exception. At this rate I will have to buy myself an anorak. Later I find that it is the Dewa Maru, a Japanese methane carrier.

Thursday 17th April 2008

Raining yet again - Gibraltar is Manchester on Sea with added sunshine.

Todays "Ship of the Day" is the container ship "Safmarine Illovo" which I watch enter the inner harbour being pulled by the tug "Sun Swale" with "Egerton" keeping it straight from behind. Maybe they ran out of petrol?

Later I visit a charming lady at a firm of lawyers. Since she is so charming I will not tell you their name. I know they are in P******* House and I find it with no trouble. Just inside the entrance a sign tells me that they are in Suites 13 to 18 on the first floor. How hard can that be?

I follow the sign to the stairs and am confronted with 4 brown doors, none of which says "Stairs". I open a few of them and in due course I find the stairs. On the first floor I see lots of signs to Suites 1 to 12 but nothing else. I wander around for a while and eventually find a man who says "Oh, we get asked for them all the time. They are on the second floor".

I go to the second floor and find a door with their name on it but it is locked and there is no reply when I knock - obviously they are a small firm and have all gone home - by now I am running very late. At that point I am all set to give up and call the firm who thought I had come to mend the lavatory but by luck a lovely lady turns up who takes me to a reception area on the second floor. Eventually, an even more lovely lady escorts me to the ground floor where it appears I should have been in the first place. The reason I am not on the ground floor is that, unfortunately, my psychic antenae are out of order today awaiting routine maintenance.

So guys, why not reorganise your signs? Lord knows how many prospective non-psychic clients you have lost. Dumb as it may seem, a lot of people hearing you are in P******* House will look for you in P******* House. I know you will find that hard to believe but it's true. Bear in mind that signs are for people who do not know where you are - new clients with lots of money to spend. A confusing sign is worse than no sign at all.

While we are on the subject of "confuse the stupid foreigner" did you know that John Mackintosh Square is known as the PIAZZA? Showing commendable independance, Google knows it as the PLAZZA. Personally, I know it as the location of the public lavatories (very nice and clean).

Friday 18th April 2008

Very rainy and very windy.

[rant starts here]
There are lots of banks in Gibraltar and if you are a wealthy individual who wishes to have somebody look after a few million pounds then you will find no shortage of volunteers. Here is a list of banks operating in Gibraltar - there may well be more:

Abbey National Treasury International Limited
ABN Amro Bank NV
Banco Atlantico (Gibraltar) Ltd
Banque Central Populaire
Banque Jacob Safra (Gibraltar) Limited
Barclays Bank Offshore Financial Services (Gibraltar) Limited
Barclays Bank Plc
BBV Privanza International (Gibraltar) Limited
Credit Agricole Indosuez
Credit Suisse (Gibraltar) Limited
Jyske Bank (Gibraltar) Limited
Key Building Society
Holbeck Building Society
Lloyds TSB Bank PLC
Lombard Odier Darier Hentsh Private Bank Limited
Nationwide International Ltd
Natwest Offshore Limited (Royal Bank of Scotland International Limited)
Newcastle Building Society
Norwich Peterborough Building Society
Royal Bank of Scotland (Gibraltar) Limited
SG Hambros Bank Trust (Gibraltar) Limited
Turicum Private Bank Limited


But how about the ordinary punter who just wants a bank that does things that ordinary banks do? How does he fare? Well, judging from my experience, not so well. Here is his choice and the snags. I have excluded the building societies and investment banks which do not provide nornal banking facilities.

Name of Bank Group Minimum Deposit Temporary Cheque Books Banker's Drafts Comments
Barclays Bank Offshore Financial Services (Gibraltar) Limited Barclays Bank Plc Nominal No Yes Major Clearing Bank
Jyske Bank (Gibraltar) Limited Locally Owned bank Not Known Not Known Not Known Not a UK Clearing Bank so transfers are complex
Lloyds TSB Private Bank Lloyds TSB 250,000 No Yes  
Nat West Bank RBS Nominal No No Helpful People
RBS RBS Assumed as for NatWest Assumed as for NatWest Assumed as for NatWest  

So, the choice for a UK national really comes down to Barclays. If you are going to buy a boat or a car or do a deal how can you operate without banker's drafts? Send the money via BACs and then hope the guy gives you the car in due course? I don't think so. Cash? Really? Waliking around with 20,000 in notes? Have you ever tried counting 20,000 in notes - in the street? That's assuming you are not mugged "by coincidence" on the way to the deal.

Like much of Gibraltar's business community this boils down to a cosy lttle club where there is little incentive to really compete by providing good service to customers at attractive prices. Why bother?

At the moment the Gibraltart Government stops wealthy Category 2 residents from running businesses in Gibraltar so as not to damage local businesses. This is understandable but means that prices are held unecessarily high and ultimately it is the consumer who pays.
[/rant]

So, finally, we manage to sort of get some money to the agents who handle our new flat and they give us the keys. Thanks Christopher and Maria Gloria at BMI. What a lovely name, "Maria Gloria" - straight out of Handell's Messiah, or it should be anyway. No wonder she was not too keen on her new business cards, calling her "Maggie". If my name were "Maria Gloria" I would expect to be accompanied by trumpeters and maidens to carry my train. And to bathe in asses milk.

On the subject of "asses" and "milk", here is a word of advice for those moving house. Do NOT fill a large plastic bucket with all your most sensitive electronic devices and then put a plastic container of milk on top.

Saturday 19th April 2008

Very rainy and very windy - again.

A man called Angel comes to install a television which appears to be OK but we manage to press a button which sends it into a sulk. We decide to try to fix it later.

Because of the Milky Mouse Incident, we have to go off to see our friends in PC City to buy a new mouse, which looks the same but uses smaller batteries (Logitech V320 Laser Mouse - excellent). On the way back we decide to call in at Carrefour in La Linea. The Tom Tom takes us at our word when we say "Shortest Route" and sends us up a rabbit run of very narrow streets. Eventually we get to a huge car park with a huge slightly run down building with lots of words written on it, including "Carrefour".

We park and look inside. It does not look like a supermarket, it looks like a shopping centre. Maybe the words say "Carrefour used to be Here" or "Tough luck if you are looking for Carrefour". Who knows? Spanish people, obviously, but not us.

On closer inspection we decide it probably is Carrefour and we begin the hunt for a trolley. We cannot find any. Eventually we track one down to the car park. It demands money. 50c, 1 euro or maybe 2 euros. This is a Gordon Brown of trolleys that cannot make up its mind. After stuffing it with a variety of coins we give up. A second trolley is more sensible and gratefully accepts our one euro coin. Sometimes in life there are situations where you just accept whatever deal you are offered and clearly this trolley realises that this is one of them.

Having found a trolley there only remains the long trudge while we attempt to find a way into the actual area where we can buy things. When we do finally get there we realise that the prices of electrical goods are much higher than good old Tesco back in the UK. Obviously, Tesco's Chinese slaves do a much better job than Carrefour's Chinese slaves. Or maybe Tesco is just less greedy.

We buy a few electrical items and then give up. We spend the rest of the day queueing in Morrisons in Gibraltar.

We spend the evening trying to master the new TV which appears to prefer to talk to us in Serbo Croat or Chinese but eventually I show it the drop off the balcony and it sees reason and decides that it can, after all, speak Engish.


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