Week 9 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 11th May 2008

Normally, when I get up I look out into Gibraltar harbour to see what ships are there. In future, thanks to Google and Sven I won't need to do that - it can all be done with the click of a mouse. Actually, you can only track cruise ships at the moment but who knows what the future may bring? You can hang up your anorak and stay in your dressing gown all day. Here is what you do:

  1. Install Google Earth if you do not have it already
  2. Click on this link to SeaScanner
  3. Click on "Open" when the box comes up
  4. Wait while stuff downloads
  5. Zoom in and out of what looks like heaps of yellow custard on blue plates - these are the cruise ships
  6. Or, click on the list of cruise ships down the left hand side.

Whether this updates in real time via GPS or is based on scheduled sailings, I don't know. I will let you know next time a cruise ship on the list comes into Gibraltar. Meanwhile, the Costa Mediterranea is due to depart from Cadiz Harbour in Spain in three minutes so I will await developments.

Well, according to the list down the left hand side it has been sailing for two minutes but not much sign of movement on Google Earth that I can see. I'll click on SeaScanner again and see what happens. I suspect that I did not need to do that as it says it is streaming at the bottom of the screen.

Wait! This really is sensational news - Google's power is such that they have produced a clone of the Costa Mediterranea and it is sailing out of the harbour as I write these words - let's hope they don't collide with the original ship which is still shown as being parked up. Oh, how boring, the original ship has now disappeared and we just have only one ship - I knew it was too good to last.

Incidentally, it seems that when you close Google Earth all the custard disappears and you have to start again if you are interested. In other words, there does not appear to be any permanent damage which is one of the main reason why people are reluctant to download software.

Meanwhile, it is quite chilly here in the real world in Gibraltar. Maybe Google can conjure up Google Sun which will give you a nice tan by just sitting in front of your computer?

Monday 12th May 2008

If you have ever wanted to be a German submarine captain during the Second World War, then you may have been tempted by the latest craze, Digiscoping. Crudely, instead of paying maybe 500 for a proper zoom lens you buy a spotting scope (as used by target shooters) and just take a photo with your digital camera of what you see through the lens. I happen to have a spotter scope with a 40x magnification eyepiece so I set it up on my tripod and had a go. Incidentally, without a tripod, spotter scopes are a waste of time.

The view through the eyepiece of the spotter scope is spectacular but when I tried to photograph it with my Panasonic DMC-FZ18 I could not get anything to show. It was not a case of a bad photo, it was a case of no photo. My Panasonic DMC-FX50 was a bit better and produced the shot of Aegean XI on the left. The shot on the right was taken with the Panasonic DMC-FZ18 just using it as a camera (ie not using the spotter scope).

So, if you already have a spotter scope by all means have a go but don't break your neck to rush out to the shops and buy one. Obviously, if somebody shows you a spotter scope/camera combination that produces brilliant results then that is a different matter.

Tuesday 13th May 2008

A blog about Gibraltar would hardly be complete without a picture of a red telephone box and a policeman in a helmet helping a passerby, so here it is.

I haven't shown the picture of the policeman in really cool shades and speaking in Spanish as that may shatter your illusions.

I have just read another rant against Tesco in one of the Newspapers. Here, as far as I can work out, are some of the reasons people hate Tesco:

  1. They sell high quality goods at very low prices and this pisses off the small shopkeepers who like to sell low quality goods at very high prices
  2. The PR people who represent the small shopkeepers buy the newspaper writers much better lunches than Tesco
  3. Posh people want the posh shops to stay in business otherwise they may be forced to go shopping in the same places as common people
  4. Tesco stop their suppliers from making much of a profit and the posh people have shares in the suppliers
  5. Er ... that's it

Wednesday 14th May 2008

For many years I have thought that John Major's greatest achievement was introducing legislation ensuring that all electrical appliances in the UK must be sold with a plug attached. Indeed, it has often struck me that there would be room for a political party which just set out a list of say 100 mundane things about which people could hardly disagree and then relentlessly implemented them. Here is a list to start with:

  1. It should be illegal to put up a sign that says, "To the Town Centre" without specifying the name of the town. This should be especially illegal in Stoke-on-Trent where there is Hanley, Burslem, Tunstall, Longton, Fenton, Kidsgrove, Stoke, Newcastle and probably a couple of others to contend with. The delineation between them is virtually non-existent.

  2. All houses and shops (especially) should display a clear number.

  3. All motorway illuminated signs should be confined strictly to the averting of danger and should not, under any circumstances, be used for "nanny state" admonitions such as, "Don't drink and drive", "Check your fuel level", and other patronising and irritating nonsense.

  4. All 1,200 (yes, really) public relations people employed by the Government should be sacked and replaced by a simple telephone answering message that says, "The problem concerned was caused by the actions of a junior official who has now been disciplined. Valuable lessons have been learned and it is now time to move on".

  5. All technical manuals should be vetted by a panel of idiots before being issued (this would provide valuable employment opportunities for a large section of the British population). For example, in the manual that comes with my Audi, the section dealing with how to set the clock is under "Q" ("Q", of course, standing for Quartz clock).

  6. Er ... over to you, readers

Thursday 15th May 2008

Today I have the honour and privilege of meeting the man who invented the word planebow. He is called Steve and we have been friends for many years. We are due to meet at Malaga Airport and I get up with lots of time to spare. Since I have lots of time to spare I start checking my emails and generally messing about and then suddenly realise that I am now running late. I arrive at the border into Spain at 9.00am and to my amazement find that I am the only car there and I drive through without stopping. His flight is due in at 10.25am but by driving very fast I get to the airport at 10.30am. I don't go on the Toll Road as I am too mean.

I can only see one car park (ie there do not appear to be Short Stay and a Long Stay car parks). The helpful machine gives me a ticket and a few words of welcome in Spanish. Actually, for all I know it may have been saying "we will get you, English bastard" because that is what it is thinking.

I need Arrivals and there is a sign that points at 45 degrees. Up, down and straight on I understand but 45 degrees I don't understand. I consult a number of English speaking experts who are all unanimous that you must go up to the second floor, along to the right and then down some stairs. I follow their advice and eventually arrive at Arrivals. It was, as you are expecting, on the ground floor just down the street - if you go up then down again you do tend to end up where you started.

Steve is there and I go off to work some magic with the ticket. I put it in a machine which then says "Pulse Boton". While I am wondering which Boton to Pulse it ejects the ticket and my heart sinks. Then it does something amazing - it spits out 5c change and I realise that even without Pulsing any Botons it has worked.

We drive out and I confidently insert the ticket. Nothing much happens for a while and then it says, in English, "Registration Number Error". Actually, this is a machine with a lot to say and this is just a precis of a long and interesting discourse in Spanish and fractured English. Quite how and why my Registration Number is relevant I have no idea but I suspect that this is something to look forward to in the future. No doubt teams of black shirted men in dark glasses are working on the coding as I write these words.

I start wondering if I have a spade in the boot as we may have to tunnel our way out but on our third attempt it grudgingly decides to let us off with a warning and we are free.

Friday 16th May 2008

A man comes to fit curtains in our flat. While I am busy demonstrating to him that they do not work properly I suddenly see a boat coming across the harbour so fast that I can scarcely believe it. I grab my camera and only have time for one shot before it disappears from view. Usually when I do that it is a shot of the back of my hand or Morrison's Car park but on this particular occasion I strike lucky. I put the camera down while wondering what the police are up to, allowing idiots to race at that speed across the harnour but on closer examination I discover that what the police are up to is driving the boat.

Later on I have to drive to Malaga yet again to pick up my girlfriend who has been to see her mum for a few days. This time I set off far too early and arrive with an hour to spare. On top of that her flight is delayed so I read The Times and drink some freshly squeezed orange juice that costs four euros.

According to The Times, there is a plague of ants in America called Crazy Rasberry Ants (formal name "paratrenicha species near pubens"). Yes, I know, "near pubens", I don't believe it either but it gets better. They eat computers for a living and are marching towards your laptop as you read these words. They use piles of their dead to get across areas covered with pesticide. The only good thing about them is that they also eat fire ants and will eat all the rubbish in your wheelie bin thereby saving you from being fined by the Council for over -filling it. Actually, I made the last bit up - what they actually do is eat the wheelie bin and leave all your rubbish on the ground. All right, so I made that bit up as well but once you get started on Crazy Rasberry Ants it becomes addictive - there is nothing that these critters can't do. In fact, I hear they have decided to eat Jade Goody.

News Flash: Before they eat Jade Goody they are going to eat Victoria Beckham as an appetizer.

Finally she arrives (my girlfriend, that is). She has evidently spent the entire week digging up and replanting trees with her mum and she is exhausted. Now, of course, I am an expert on the layout of Malaga Airport and so we set off with total confidence along the outside road towards the car. What I had not realised is that this is not a route favoured by the decision makers of Spain and they have introduced a number of anti-trolley measures such as narrow gaps, changes in level and a surface designed to deter invasion by the Warsaw Pact.

So, if you want Arrivals, what you do is go up to the second floor, along to the right and then down some stairs.

Saturday 17th May 2008

When I get up there is a new ship in the harbour which appears to be called the "Express Sanatorium". I assume it is a hospital ship which rushes from place to place curing the sick and handing out free condoms to the natives. Or maybe it is full of old codgers who enjoy the stiff breezes while hoping the wind will not blow their zimmer frames away? Sadly, closer examination reveals it to be the Express Santorini which is a Greek ferry. Quite what a Greek ferry is doing here I have no idea.

I have been thinking about new words and have decided to try my luck. If Steve can have a new word, why can't I? So, here are three new words for you.

Anticide: Pesticide aimed at ants

Flausible: Something which is plausible but flawed eg your explanantion is flausible

Planedrop: A large block of ice that falls from a plane eg as in the song "Planedrops keep falling on my head"

Remember, you saw it here first. For all the latest new words and developments in Gibraltar Harbour stay tuned to this channel.

Click on the part that interests you for bigger images

Later we go to Ronda where there is almost too much to photograph - here are just a few of the hundreds of photos we took until the batteries ran flat. A lot of these were of storks - you have no idea how difficult it was to get them to sit with their beaks all lined up. The rest were of a wedding party that we kept bumping into as we just wandered round the town.

We drive home via Marbella. The drive down to the sea is motorcycle heaven - I am driving a SEAT Leon which I push to the absolute limit with my girlfriend screaming with delight along with the tyres which are also screaming. She is one of those very exceptional people who just love being a passenger in a car being driven very fast round an endless series of sweeping bends . Personally, I would not dream of being a passenger in a car driven by somebody like me. [note to rental company: only kidding guys]

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