Week 33 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 26th October 2008

We spend the entire day inside reading industrial quantities of heavyweight newspapers. I am struck by the fact that although there is acres of print about Barack Obama and Lewis Hamilton, nobody has made a song and dance about the fact that both of these remarkable young black men will have their respective fates determined within days of each other - Hamilton on Sunday 2nd November in the final Grand Prix in Brazil and Obama in the US Presidential elections on 4th November. They have also both achieved the feat of having major support from white people - possibly because, to quote Colin Powell, (a talented army bureaucrat) "I'm not very black".

Oh, and that's a cheese eating surrender monkey ship.

Monday 27th October 2008

Normally cruise ships don't come close but occasionally thay do and this is one of those occasions. The above shot has NOT been resampled to make the size more manageable (ie it is a BIG photograph if you wish to download it). If you were on the Celebrity Century in Gibraltar on 27th October 2008 you may well be in this composite shot taken via our TeleVue-85. Is that lady on the extreme left really topless?

At about 9.00pm we decide to go stargazing. Not that we know anything about stars, " a lot of little dots", to quote the Donkey in Shrek. The night is cloudless and there is no moon. We set off for an area in the middle of a triangle formed by Gibraltar, Marbella and Jerez to avoid light pollution. We come off the motorway after about 30 miles and go through a huge town that is not on our map. Apart from a pack of wild dogs there is no sign of life. Not a car or a person moves.

We leave the ghost town and drive on. It is seriously black. When we stop the car and turn off the lights it is scarey but after a minute or so we can see a whole lot of stars but also a whole lot of flashing lights about a mile away. A small airfield, also not on our map and obviously awaiting a cargo of drugs. We drive on. After a few miles we stop again but a pickup truck drives past very slowly, does a U-turn and drives back again and then does yet another U-turn. We get the hint and leave, somewhat shaken and stirred.

The next two stops set off choruses of ghastly howling from wild dogs and banshees. By now we are beginning to think we are in a horror movie - the extreme darkness is not something I have ever experienced before and it is disorientating. Eventually we find a peaceful spot and do some serious gazing. We both see shooting stars and it is seriously awesome. And then lights approach and stop. It is a good job we are not armed as we would undoubtedly have blown them off the road - a full frontal with the RPG then a broad sweep with the MiniMe. Only kidding, guys but I can see how people get killed in the USA - there is nothing more dangerous than a nervous person with a gun.

As it is, the police want to know what we are doing. At least I assume that is what they want to know. I speak to them in an alien tongue (English) and point up at the sky. They drive off very quickly. Afterwards I realise why they left so quickly - they think that we are extra terrestrials from the planet Zog. An hour later we rendezvous with our mother ship hovering over Gibraltar. Well, actually we just drive back to our flat but you get the idea.

Tuesday 28th October 2008

Suddenly there is the roar of engines and three helicopters sweep overhead. Then there is the hunt for the camera, the turning on and focussing and the opening of the window. I only get two of them in one shot. Very close.

Wednesday 29th October 2008

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Winter is a new experience for us in Gibraltar and the first shock is the realisation that it gets cold! At night it drops to about 10 degrees centigrade (50 degrees Fahrenheit). The day is crystal clear and sunny and I take a series of shots via the TeleVue-85 and Canon EOS1000D of Algeciras which is 5 miles away across the bay. The shot above is as good as it is possible to get with this equipment - whether it is up to standard is for you to judge. Bear in mind that at 5 miles range you normally just see a faint haze. Although the shot has been cropped it has not been "messed with"

Later on the flat warms up in the sunshine and we deliberately let it get as hot as possible as we only have very inadequate heating. It reaches 30.6 degrees Centigrade (87 degrees Fahrenheit) but soon cools as the sun goes down.

In the evening we set off for
Castillo de Castellar to continue our star gazing activities. It is very cold and the sky is beautifully clear. We know from previous experience that it is a waste of time trying to take photos of stars with our equipment so we do not even bother. You need a clever device to compensate for the rotation of the earth, even for a 5 second time exposure. See Introduction to Astrophotography if you want to pursue this subject.

Thursday 30th October 2008

A while back our Panasonic FZ18 went into a sulk. The zoom control seized up and we were facing disaster. Or at least a stay in intensive care. So, I decided to try a tiny squirt of oil from an aerosol and it seems to have worked. Fingers crossed.

Another beautiful day in the sun but as the evening turns into night the storm returns and the thermometer continues to drop.

Friday 31st October 2008

A gale force wind blasts rain at our windows all day. At one point I start to open a window to take a photograph but the wind grabs the window and almost knocks me off my feet. Still, as they say, it is an ill wind that blows no good and this particular wind blows beautifully clean windows - every trace of salt and dirt is washed away.

Saturday 1st November 2008

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It is cold and wet - more like Manchester than the Mediterranean.

In the afternoon we come across the start of a land extension scheme. It appears that the floating pump picks up a mixture of mud and water and pumps it into a long tube which curves round and is supported by sections of plastic pipe which have had their ends capped off. From there it is pumped into a lagoon where the water flows out but most of the heavy mud remains behind. Presumably in about a week or so the lagoon will be full of mud which they will allow to settle for a few months. And then, Hey Presto - new land. Clever.

In the evening we go to a restaurant in La Linea at about nine o'clock with a group of people but unfortunately it is full of screaming seven year olds. After a while they leave, thank God, but at that point dozens of ten year olds arrive who scream even louder.

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      End of Week 33 of Gibraltar Diary

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