Week 13 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 8th June 2008

The lovely ladies who dart about the bay bring a new meaning to the term "skulling about" but meanwhile, we are battling for survival, well lunch anyway.

After our experience in the cafe where the girl would not take "we don't speak Spanish" as an answer, I have been giving some thought to the problem. Here, with a little help from Google and a Spanish acquaintence, is the start of an answer:

English: Sorry! We do not speak Spanish.
Spanish: Perdón! No hablamos español (Lo siento pero no hablamos español)

English: We would like 2 cafe lattes please
Spanish: Dos cafe con leche por favor!

English: We would like one Diet Coke and one ordinary Coke
Spanish: Nos gustaría una coca cola lite y una coca cola normal

English: I would like a Bacardi and Coke. In a large glass with lots of ice. Please bring the Coke separately in a bottle or can if possible
Spanish: Me gustaría un Bacardi (ron) con Coca Cola en un vaso grande con montones de hielo. Por favor, pueden servirme la Coca Cola, en lata o botella separada ... si es posible?

English: We would like one Haagen Dazs Macadamia nut brittle and one Haagen Dazs Strawberry Cheesecake
Spanish: Nos gustaría un Haagen Dazs Macadamian tuerca quebradizo y un Haagen Dazs Strawberry Cheesecake

English: Sorry, but we don't speak Spanish. Please do not ask us questions. Just make an intelligent guess. We will not complain.
Spanish: Perdón pero no hablamos español. No nos pregunte, por favor. Confío en que entienda lo que le pedimos. Estaremos contentos con lo que nos traiga, no se preocupe.... gracias!

English: Thank you!
Spanish: Gracias!

English: Can we take your sister home with us?
Spanish: ¿Podemos tomar su hermana a casa con nosotros?

Actually, we are only kidding about the sister but you get the idea.

A real live geography lesson is in progress over the rock - the wind is coming from the East and as the air rises up 1,400 feet it begins to precipitate out the water moisture in the form of clouds.

Monday 9th June 2008

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At about 11.00am I notice a colourful cruise liner on its way into the bay - it turns out to be Norwegian Jade. I have already reached the point of boredom with cruise liners but this one is actually moving. Like guests in a hotel corridor they are a rare sight - you know the hotel is full but where are the people? It boils down to mathematics - in your 24 hours in the hotel you only spend about 5 minutes in the corridor. Ships are no different - ten minutes to come into the bay and then 48 hours parked up.

We go to Morrisons to buy a newspaper. On the way we see a man painting the road - maybe he is the grafitti artist Banksy and we can dig up the road later and sell it to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt?

Later we see a seagull and her chicks parked on the roof of an adjoining building but they soon go and our plans for long term monitoring have to be abandoned.

At about 3.30pm we set off to see the Gibraltar Photographic Society Annual Exhibition. It is to be held in the John Mackintosh Hall which, we discover, is not in John Mackintosh Square but a bit further south. On the way we pass a couple of pretty girls with two big dogs.

As we are far too early we have a drink in The Rock Hotel where I manage to photograph the last two inches of the tail of a chameleon as it scampers across a wall. While my girlfriend goes to the loo I decide to take an arty shot of the oil dispenser on the table. This involves sitting on the floor but fortunately nobody even notices.

The Photographic Exhibition is very impressive but the speeches drone on. When was the last time you heard a speech and thought "I enjoyed that but it was too short?"

Tuesday 10th June 2008

There were big queues at all the petrol stations yesterday but not today - this is because they have all run out of fuel. We decide that this is a good reason to walk over the border to La Linea in Spain. We go to a tapas bar called La Taverna del Pintxo. It turns out that Pintxos are tasty morsels served on bits of bread and we eat our way through an embarrassing number together with a couple of drinks each which seem very strong. So strong that when we stand up I observe that "these drunks are very string" which is not what I meant or maybe it was.

In La Linea we go to the beach where the waves coming in from the Mediterranean are amazingly big. I know from direct experience that surfing is extremely difficult and the surfers are doing pretty well considering.

Wednesday 11th June 2008

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We suddenly realise that the fuel strike is bound to affect food supplies and so we decide that it is time to fatten up like a couple of bears facing the oncoming winter. We make for the Little Rock Cafe in Casemates Square where we have an enormous and excellent meal that costs less than £20 for the two of us.

As we waddle out we become aware of heavy troop movements in the square which we take to be rehearsals for the Queens Birthday. After a while a soldier hands us a programme and we realise with delight that we have front seats for the actual parade - today it seems, is the Birthday of our Gracious Sovereign. At the risk of sounding naff, the whole thing is magnificent.

We head off to the first meeting of the Gibraltar Hearing Impaired & Tinnitus Group. Proceedings are difficult for obvious reasons. At one point I ask the speaker, who is very nervous and speaks very quickly and indistinctly to speak more clearly as many of us are deaf. Those who can hear me laugh. The rest look baffled.

Later we decide that we should visit Morrisons which we assume will be a teeming hell. In fact it is eerily deserted but very low on food. We buy enough food for a modest siege and retreat home.

Thursday 12th June 2008

In the bay is the Chemical and Products Tanker, Clipper Katja, which appears to be equipped with unusual "quick escape" lifeboats. These presumably drop down the slide into the water. Looks great - I would love to have a go!

I decide to have another go at Digiscoping and this time the results (right) are marginally better. Clearly what is required is a proper camera attachment for the Tele Vue 85. The photo on the left was taken with the Panasonic DMC-FZ18

We go for a wander over the border and as we wander back, we pass a workman who is gazing at the bottom of a pretty girl who has just walked past. The "Spanish Stare" is a term we have invented to describe this phenomenon which makes Superman's X-Ray vision look like amateur hour. He spots my girlfriend's chest and is reduced to an agony of indecision since he cannot stare in two directions at once.

Back in Gibraltar, I spend £4.99 to buy a black canvas bag from Benamor in Main Street that hangs round my waist to carry passports, money, phone and assorted junk - a sort of male handbag on a belt. It seems to work quite well, even when driving.

We also invest £9.99 in a wind break for use on the beach.

Morrison's petrol station has a sign up saying they have "diesel only" which is an improvement over "no fuel" so we get in the car and fill up. The price has gone up and it now costs 79p per litre. I pay with £30 in one pound coins which makes it easier to walk afterwards - you can have too much loose change in your pockets.

Finally, in this orgy of rampant consumerism, we buy a machine for £5.75 which allegedly frightens away mosquitos as well as an anti-mosquito candle for £1.75. I have been horribly bitten by the little dive bombers and it is time for revenge. No doubt they will laugh in our faces.

Friday 13th June 2008

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When I wake up I spot a brightly coloured parrot perched on the edge of an adjoining building! But is it?

Later we go to Morrisons to get a paper but the only one they have is the Daily Mail. We decide to drive to the seaside now that we have some fuel. When we set off there is very little wind and I am disappointed as I want to try out our new windbreak. When we get there, however, it is blowing a gale and it is all we can do to stop the windbreak disappearing off into the Atlantic. I shelter behind it and under our beach umbrella. What I had not realised is that it would be baking hot. The choice is to fry in the sun with the benefit of a cool breeze or slowly roast behind the canvas.

The Daily Mail announces that the price of food is increasing and shows us a pretty girl in a supermarket to make the point. It occurs to me that the price of sand is probably increasing too (transport costs - ask any builder's merchant) so I take a shot of a pretty girl walking across the sand to help keep you informed.

After about an hour I convince my girlfriend that we have been there for two hours and we prepare to leave. As we pack, a formidable looking creature lands on the umbrella. It looks like it could kill you with a single glance, but I take the risk and hold the camera a couple of inches away and hope for the best. It turns out that it is a Bee Fly and there are 4,500 different species of them. The long spike at the front is used to extract nectar from flowers rather than kill people. Who would have guessed?

Finally, we go into Casemates Square for the Food Festival but there is nowhere to sit and it is deperately crowded so we sit in a cafe. On the way back we discover that Holland has beaten France 4-1, presumably at football.

Saturday 14th June 2008

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My girlfriend insists that we visit St Michael's Caves and we arrive via the cable car and sundry apes. I had been anticipating a conducted tour with bossy guides, deafening music, endless verbiage and no photography but the reality is totally the opposite. On our approach it feels wonderfully cool, if not chilly, but the attendant says it is 14 degrees and a tour will only take ten minutes.

The caves are breathtaking and beautifully lit - whoever organised all this has got it just right. We wander around at our own pace taking endless photographs - next time we will take a tripod as you need ten second time exposures much of the time. The concert hall (above left) is especially notable. Almost two hours later we emerge into what feels like a furnace and we walk down the hill heading for the Siege Tunnels.

These would no doubt be interesting if it were possible to find them - the arrows clearly point down a side road but in fact it turns out they are up the main road. After fifty yards you get to a fork in the road - is it left or right? There is no indication. We watch while an endless succession of people try to find the tunnels while sweating in the intense heat. Whoever is responsible for this idiocy should be fired. The whole point of signs is to help people who don't know where they are. Everything is obvious once you know.

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      End of Week 13 of Gibraltar Diary

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