Week 35 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 9th November 2008

After the party in La Linea we get a taxi to the border and then ring up for another taxi to take us home. This is one of the complications of living next to another country - taxis do not do cross border trips. The taxi arrives within a few minutes and we get home without incident. Normally we would walk the whole way but my girlfriend is wearing high heels and even if she were not I am concerned that she may be suffering from ethanol poisoning.

In the morning we wake up bright and early to attend Rememberance Day service which takes place at 12.00 noon. If we are honest, our real motive for attending is that we hope there will be a fly past of fighter aircraft going very low and making lots of noise. We are disappointed - there are none.

There is a fair crowd but I suspect that like most amateur theatrical performances, the majority of the spectators are relatives of those taking part.

Monday 10th November 2008

At about two O'Clock in the afternoon my girlfriend gives a yell and as I emerge onto the balcony there is a tremendous noise and what I assume is a Eurofighter Typhoon streaks across the sky. Realistically, it would have been about 300 feet above the water and maybe a thousand yards away. She takes several very good photographs.

In the evening we go to see The Boy in the Striped Pajamas at the newly opened two screen cinema in the Kings Bastion Leisure Centre which is just down the road from our flat in Gibraltar. The film is gripping and my girlfriend (who loves horror films) is deeply upset. I am less moved because the portrayal of the concentration camp is far less brutal than the reality. In the film, an eight year old boy is free to wander around the camp and pass things through the wire. In the vast majority of cases children were killed on arrival and the wire was electrified.

Tuesday 11th November 2008

A branch of Peacocks has opened in John Mackintosh Square (aka La Piazza) and my girlfriend does her bit to prop up the local economy. Top Shop also have a very stylish shop nearby. What is really needed is Boots the Chemist but with the current downturn I guess we may have a long wait.

The weather is somewhat overcast and feels like August by the sea in England.

Wednesday 12th November 2008

On our way into town in the mid afternoon we have to pass the Cafe Roxy, home to what my girlfriend calls the Spanish Stare. When it comes to X-Ray vision, these guys make Superman look like a short-sighted amateur.

For some reason, none of the guides to Gibraltar feature the Cafe Roxy so I hope this makes up for their omission.

Thursday 13th November 2008

Another nice sunny day and more helicopter activity.

In the evening we discover that our TV does, after all, receive BBC programms and without paying the licence fee. Ya, boo sucks. On which subject I send the following letter to the scientific illiterates on the Daily Telegraph:

On 12th November 2008 you published a letter saying, with regard to TV detector vans, "It is well known in scientific circles that there is no basis for these vans". You then published a letter on 13th November saying "detector vans used to work by sensing the 50 hertz mains hum from the valve heater supply".

Both of these statement are wrong. For the last 70 years or so, the vast majority of TVs and radios use the Superheterodyne Principle. A Beat Frequency Oscillator (BFO) is used to produce a variable frequency radio signal which is then mixed with the incoming signal received by the TV aerial to produce a constant radio frequency called the Intermediate Frequency. This is so that the subsequent Radio Frequency amplifier can amplify at a constant rather than a changing frequency, since this is more efficient.

Accordingly, the BFO in a TV produces a radio signal of varying frequency which can be picked up by a sensitive radio receiver. The exact frequency will depend on which program you are watching on your TV. A TV Detector van driving down a street of houses could say with some certainty that a TV was operating in a particular address and that it was tuned to a particular channel. They could then check if the householder had a TV Licence. I suspect they would struggle with a block of flats or if you lined your entire house (including the windows) with baking foil thereby creating a Faraday Cage.

Incidentally, computers also emit radio waves which is why airlines don't like you to use a laptop computer during takeoff and landing. The "clock speed" of a computer (eg 2.8Ghz) is the rate at which the computer loops and it will produce a radio signal at that frequency as well as harmonics.

No doubt they will not publish my letter but you have just read it so that's a start.

Friday 14th November 2008

At 9.20am I notice a ship approaching. It only has one funnel and appears to be far too small to be a cruise ship. As it gets closer I zoom in on the name and discover to my amazement that it is the Queen Elizabeth 2, on her way to a retirement home in Dubai.

Saturday 15th November 2008

Click on the part that interests you for bigger images

As people who cross the border from Gibraltar into Spain regularly will know, one of the problems which Gibraltar has faced in the past is that at peak times the waiting traffic can stretch right back into the town itself and reduce the whole place to gridlock. To avoid this, the Governmant has recently spent hundreds of thousands of pounds widening the car "holding area" to four lanes and also extending it. A sensible thing to do.

At about 1.20pm we approach the border and find that it is extremely busy and the traffic is backing up almost to the airport runway and already creating chaos. Accordingly, you can imagine my surprise when we find that the idiots waiting are only using two of the four lanes provided. There are two totally empty lanes right in front of us. There is no indication that they are closed. Accordingly, we decide to set an example to others in order to reduce congestion and use these lanes for their intended purpose.

So, are we given a medal? No, we are accused by the police of lane jumping and humilated by being sent like naughty children to the back of the queue. It turns out that further round the police have closed two of the lanes off. It seems that people approaching are supposed to know this by intuition or telepathy.

So, some questions:

1. Why are they not using all four lanes as intended?

2. If there is a good reason why all four lanes are not being used, why did they not close off the two lanes on the approach - all they had to do was move a couple of bollards across?

3. Will they use the lanes in future for their intended purpose?

4. Finally, who is going to apologise to us for the humiliation and delay we suffered as a result of trying to set a sensible example?

I shall write to the Chief Constable to find out and let you know.

Later we see ships, oranges, nice towns and an excellent late lunch.

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