Week 15 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 22nd June 2008

When I get up the first thing I notice is the Zhen Hua 5 carrying a large crane. Unfortunately she is right in front of another ship and the photos I take are confusing. Meanwhile the Leader, which seems to live in Gibraltar, feels that she is not getting enough attention and decides to stage some kind of contest. Quite what they are up to I have no idea but I think the guy on the right is winning.

After a while I decide to walk up to the Rock Hotel to get a better view of the Zhen Hua 5. When I get there, bathed in sweat, I discover that the batteries on the camera are almost flat. The zoom extends with agonising slowness but I manage to take all the photos I need and walk back to the flat after a drink and a sandwich.

Later, I collect all the hens from the Montecastillo Hotel which is a vast complex including a golf course and swimming pools right next to the Formula 1 track. It is excellent value provided you do not attempt to eat. The hens have stayed in what amounts to a two bedroom flat for a total cost of 175 euros and are very happy but hungry.

Monday 23rd June 2008

In the evening, I go for a meal at the Rock Hotel while my girlfriend goes to see Sex and the City at the Queens Cinema, Gibraltar. Judging by the lorry loads of women arriving at the cinema this was a wise decision on my part. Afterwards a bird of a different feather wanders in but decides to leave shortly afterwards.

Tuesday 24th June 2008

In the morning, the first thing I see is a big military vessel arrive escorted by three tugs. She goes by the helpful description of "48" and is probably American but I can find no reference to her anywhere. I decide to consult the experts on shipspotting.com who will know everything about her - including what the crew had for breakfast.

Well, so far the experts have come up with nothing but I eventually find her - she is the USS Ashland LSD 48. Maybe the LSD explains why they forgot to put the name up?

My girlfriend wants to go to Ronda to buy a dress as she is going to a couple of weddings shortly and wants to ensure that nobody else is wearing the same creation. I understand how she feels. Imagine going to a business meeting in a grey suit and finding that somebody else was wearing a grey suit as well - the shame of it. Actually, all the world's dresses are made by a few thousand children in Sri Lanka and are all the same but I don't tell her that. We go via our storks who are doing very well and send their regards.

After we have bought the dress - a stressful experience I do not recommend to anyone, we return to the car. Or rather, we return to where we vaguely remember leaving the car. After at least half an hour of looking we cannot find it. What we do find is a label stuck to the pavement in a spot that no sane person would park in. We do not know the number of our car but we do remember that it was grey and possibly French.

After a few phone calls it turns out that the car parked in a ludicrous position is, or was, ours. Clearly aliens have moved it while we were away and then parked it somewhere stupid. Dumbos. Then it has been further removed by the "Local servicie of breakdown truk". Keep on truking, guys.

We establish via a helpful hotel receptionist (if you ever need an unpaid interpreter just wander into the nearest hotel) that the car pound is both near and open. Amazingly, for 65 euros we are reunited with our car and drive home, keeping a careful eye out for aliens and their anal probes.

Wednesday 25th June 2008

Click on the part that interests you for bigger images

I put on my anorak and off we go ship spotting. This probably sounds like a nerdish activity undertaken by spotty youths and old men with nothing better to do (true) but it has elements of James Bond. To get a decent view you have to keep a sharp eye out for jobsworths and men with guns - the naval base is on "Normal" alert and we manage to get a nice shot of the SD Newton, which despite appearances is a naval vessel.

Finally, by climbing an external fire escape we access a supermarket which is Gibraltar's best kept secret. We buy ten ice lollies for 2.30 but give two of them to an old couple waiting for a bus. We then slurp down four each and finally arrive at the Rock Hotel which is rapidly becoming the livestock centre of Gibraltar (23rd June 2008). This time, instead of a duck, we encounter a large dragon fly.

In the evening my girlfriend wants to go to the fair in Algeciras which is across the bay. The whole thing is magnificent and instead of snarling youths drunk on lager we encounter pretty girls in traditional Spanish dress - a delight. I watch while my girlfriend goes on a series of terrifying rides and then we drive home.

Thursday 26th June 2008

In the morning HMS Albion - L14 arrives in the harbour accompanied by the tug Capable - A226. Later we go up to the Rock Hotel to try to get a more photographs but she has been tucked away behind a building so we content ourselves with eating apple pie and cream.

Later I have to go across the border to Spain to see some people who have very kindly invited me to a meal at a restaurant that does not exist in a town that does not exist either ("you can't miss it"). On the way I am held up as an Easy Jet plane takes off across the main road out of Gibraltar. They are building a tunnel under the runway but that will doubtless take a year or so but in the meantime we get a close up view.

Eventually I get to the ristorante Macues in Puerto de la Duquesa which is very good - not to be confused with the ristorante Marquesa (which does not exist) in Castillo de la Duquesa which is half a mile up the road. Yet again my psychic powers are deficient. But thanks, guys, it was fun once I got there.

Friday 27th June 2008

The Dutch dock-landing ship Johan de Witt - L801, shows up early on. There is speculation on one of the forums that it must present a big target on radar with its large slab sided design but maybe the reverse is true? It looks like an American stealth fighter plane to me.

In the afternoon we try to go across to Spain but it is total chaos. It takes us an hour to get through customs and traffic is backed up all around Gibraltar. We resolve to stay in on Friday afternoons in future.

Saturday 28th June 2008

Gibraltar has many advantages if you are an English national thinking of living overseas - including cool breezes from the Atlantic which make the heat bearable in the summer. We take advantage of this to walk down to the new marina in Ocean Village. This entails walking past one of the less elegant aspects of Gibraltar, namely the world's tallest washing line.

Once there, we enjoy a drink in Pussers Landing. Quite where they got the name I am not sure but they claim it has historical authenticity. My guess is that it was meant to be Purser's Landing but the signwriter got confused and they thought "what the hell, who cares". Then the PR people got to work "in 1695 the famous pirate, Henry Pusser of Bristol, known as Black Pussy, landed here with the booty from the Spanish Galleon Santa Maria de la Frontera".

Who needs history books?

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