Week 36 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 16th November 2008

Now this really is a cruise ship - our old friend Costa Mediterranea. It weighs 85,619 tons as opposed to the Queen Elizabeth II, which weighs 48,923 tons - no wonder the latter looked so small when it turned up here.

The Queen Elizabeth II, of course, is a real ship, designed to cross the Atlantic at high speed and cope with weather that leaves the floating hotels running for shelter. Built in the days when men had hair on their chest ... as opposed to a nice wax job.

Monday 17th November 2008

And here is another one - the Celebrity Century!

The reason I am posting so many ships coming in is that normally you either see them when they have arrived or when they are not there. The reason for this is mathematics - it only takes about 10 minutes to arrive from just being a smudge on the horizon and then they are parked up for about 24 hours until the shop keepers have extracted all the loose change and then they are off again. So the odds of seeing one coming in are about 1 in 150.

Actually, the odds are a bit better than that because they only arrive in daylight but you get the idea - it is the same reason you never see people in hotel corridors even when the hotel is full.

Tuesday 18th November 2008

While I am gazing out of the window I see a toy boat manouvering. When I look closer I realise that it is actually quite a big private yacht - note the people on deck.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the market in fancy yachts has crashed - or should that be sunk? For the last ten years the market has been supported by cheap money that has washed around the world like a Tsunami. For the last 6 months it has been sustained by the oil and commodity rich operators but now the prices of oil and commodities have crashed the yacht market is left without props. Oh dear.

Incidentally, do you remember all those scare stories a few months back about how the price of wheat had rocketed and we were all going to starve to death? Well, farmers in the Ukraine responded by suddenly producing 15 million tons of the stuff and the problem is now where to put it. The price has halved in the last four months but don't expect to read about that in the Guardian.

That is how markets work - the world never runs out of anything, the price merely rockets thereby cutting back demand and at the same time encouraging production. Enough already.

Wednesday 19th November 2008

An the morning I am feeling a bit restless and decide that the best cure for that is a good walk. Accordingly, we stroll down to the harbour which is about two hundred yards away. To our surprise, there is a fire hydrant spewing water onto the street. Now fresh water is very precious in the Mediterranean, so do the numerous passers by express any interest? They do not.

As usual, it is left to us to do something. I ring 195 and am told that I should ring 192. Which I do but am cut off. This is two international calls so far since my mobile is UK based. It is calling Gib Telecomm, which we can physically see, via Basingstoke - or somewhere. We decide to return to the flat.

In the flat I consult the telephone directory. There are no emergency numbers for water. There is no entry for water under the white or yellow sections. Finally, I phone 192 and am given three numbers to ring. Two are engaged and one does not answer. Finally, I call the police on 999 and a nice man promises to do something about it.

Five hours later the hydrant is still spewing water. Then it stops mysteriously. To be fair, there may be good reasons for the delay - lunch for instance.

Thursday 20th November 2008

Most days we walk past this door but have never noticed it before. What other gems are there that we never see because they are right in front of our faces?

In the evening we watch a very unsatisfactory programme on the Spanish Flu epidemic, (H1N1), which killed about 50 million people after the first world war. They spent the entire episode dealing with the exhumation of a flu victim from 1918 and was ghoulish sensationalism with no scientific content - typical BBC dumbing down.

If you drive along the North Wales coast you will certainly notice the beautiful church of St. Margaret, the "Marble Church". If you look round the cemetry you will see hundreds of small white crosses, all bearing the names of men in their twenties who died in 1918. You would naturally assume that they died in the war but you would be wrong - they were all healthy young Canadians who had just arrived in a nearby camp as the war ended, so they had never fought. Then they caught the flu and died.

Friday 21st November 2008

The weather is very cold and windy. In the late afternoon we decide to go to the cinema in the Kings Bastion Leisure Centre. They still have not put up a sign showing their prices, nor is there a list of films currently showing. Or coming soon, for that matter. By telepathy, we decide to see Ghost Town with Ricky Gervais.

This is typical of Gibraltar - everybody just assumes people know things. Maybe they do, but the whole point of advertising is to attract people who don't. Admission is 5 per head for adults. Children are not allowed in under any circumstances.

As we are queuing well before the film starts, a friend of ours turns up, by complete coincidence, to see the same film and we go for a drink in the adjoining Boyds Bar (out on the roof terrace). In order to get a large coke with my Bacardi and coke, I have to pay an extra 50p which is annoyingly petty. Quite why I am giving them a mention I don't know but God knows they need it because the place has no references on the web and is always empty and the music is too loud. Otherwise it is all right.

The film starts at 5.30pm. Whenever I read accounts of some "brilliantly funny" comedian I feel my hackles rising and know that I am in for some irritatingly laboured and juvenile humour which will leave me feeling bad tempered. Accordingly, never having seen or heard the man in action I am prepared for the worst but after 10 minutes I know I am in the presence of genius.

Ricky Gervais plays the part of a half dead English dentist in New York. Being half dead he can communicate both with the living and the dead. This makes him in great demand as a potential conduit between these two camps. The film is very funny and quite moving in places - highly recommended. Without Ricky, however, it would have been God Awful. Obviously, since it is full of Americans. Actually, that is a bit unfair because Wedding Crashers and Blades of Glory are both extremely funny.

On the way home we walk through John Mackintosh Square which is nicely lit up - it will soon be Christmas.

Saturday 22nd November 2008


Click on the part that interests you for bigger images

A nice sunny day and we drive to Ronda. All the lanes are now open at the border and we sail through without delay. On the way we pass several places selling oranges by the side of the road. They cost 70c per kilo and are delicious (they are like large Satsumas and can be peeled open by hand). We eventually buy industrial quantities.

In Ronda we have a bite to eat at a tourist trap that overlooks the gorge. The sweet corn comes with extra protein. When we show the photograph to the waitress she is embarrassed but not embarrassed enough to knock anything off the bill.

We wander around in the brilliant sunshine and start cafe spotting - there are literally dozens of them. Compare this with, say, the spa town of Buxton where there is just one dismal municipal cafe in the entire town.

On the way down to Marbella we are overtaken by a big motorbike which we expect to see disappear quickly into the distance. In fact we catch him up on the next bend. At the third bend I am beginning to get irritated as he is holding us up - even though he is leaning the bike as far as he dare. At this he pulls over and gives up and we then hurtle through twenty miles of endless bends with the tyres endlessly screaming - truly this is a delight. My girlfriend is grinning from ear to ear.

At eight o'clock I start watching a Poirot on the TV that I have seen before but cannot remember what happens. When it finally sort of ends just before ten o'clock we rush off as we are supposed to be in La Linea with friends to eat at The Taste, which is an English Indian restaurant. Our first taxi takes forever to arrive at the border. When we eventually get to La Linea nobody at the taxi rank there knows where it is. As we drive off in our second taxi of the night (taxis do not cross the border so most trips involve two separate taxis) my girlfriend points out that all the taxis have adverts for The Taste on their doors. So much for advertising. A website would be a better idea (they don't have one). For the record, The Taste Indian restaurant is on the corner of Avenue del Ejercito and Calle Gibraltar in La Linea.

The Taste turns out to be about two hundred yards from the border but about two miles by taxi - especially a taxi that is driven very decisively even though the driver has no idea where he is going - a bit like Gordon Brown during the banking crisis.

Later I reflect on the Poirot - it is no wonder I cannot rememeber what happened as it seems to involve a whole host of separate murderers all holed up in France busily murdering each other - very confusing. The Taste turns out to be pretty good.


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