Week 97 of Gibraltar Diary

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Sunday 17th January 2010

We decide that today we are going to climb the real Mediterranean Steps. Previously we have climbed the Charles Wall Steps in the impression that they were the Mediterranean Steps but they ain't. So, we walk up Engineer Road until we get to the pay booth (from which we have a great view of the 100 Ton Gun). For walkers it is 50p per head but 2 for cars and 10 each for passengers (so, tell your passengers to get out of the car and walk). Admittedly for 10 you get entry to all the sights such as tunnels and caves.

They give us a little map which show the way to the steps but we cannot work out where they are and ask an attendant. It seems we are ten feet away from them - you have to walk up the front steps of somebody's bungalow - no kidding. So, we start walking but after a while we chicken out - it looks like it is going to get seriously scary.

We decide to check out the other end of the steps so we walk up the road towards Saint Michael's Cave and follow the signs to O'Hara's Battery. Again, we are ten feet from the Mediterranean Steps but they are invisible "It can't possibly be up here". But it is. And this time they are positively terrifying - think a sheer drop of 1,000 feet into the sea. Perfect if you are a bird. So, don't even think of climbing the Mediterranean Steps unless you have nerves of steel.

From there we drop down again and then make our way to the summit - on the way we get a good view of HMS Enterprise - H88. Not to be confused with the Star Ship of a similar name. After many an exciting twist and turn we end up in the Little Rock Cafe in Casemates Square which is still serving food at 4.15pm. It is amazing to be back in civilisation.

Monday 18th January 2010

It seems there is a nuclear submarine, USS Philadelphia parked up in "Z berth of the South Mole". But where is that? Google doesn't know and nor do we.

In Cheers, our new favourite cafe, we are plagued by smoking old women and kids screaming as if they are being tortured. But at least this dog is quiet ...

Tuesday 19th January 2010

Well, it seems that the submarine is right opposite our flat! Hiding behind a couple of other boats. Even so, how did we miss it?

We go down to have a closer look from the water's edge but it is hard to see because of the sun. On the way back we have a closer look at HMS Enterprise.

Wednesday 20th January 2010

We stay in until mid afternoon waiting for Philadelphia to leave. All the signs are there - tugs, police boats, military boats all fussing round but meanwhile the crew are smoking on shore and painting the deck. Hardly signs of imminent departure.

Finally, we walk down to the Queensway Quay to get something to eat but without missing the action if she decides to leave. All the most expensive and worst restaurants in Gibraltar are here. We have never been in the Maharajah which looks very expensive and has no menu up - always a bad sign. Nevertheless, we walk in and ask to see the menu - prepared to walk out if it is outrageous.

Lamb Korma is 5.75! The prices are unbelievably low. What is the catch? Well, there are no screaming kids riding round the restaurant on bikes, no berks on mobiles, no Spanish women smoking or rasping like crows and no muzak. They don't even have any purple flock wallpaper - just blissful silence and superb food. The bill for two with drinks is 26.50. Amazing!

Thursday 21st January 2010

We are getting a little bored with the submarine that will not leave - it was nice having you for the weekend but you've been here for a week now. Haven't you got a home to go to? So, I decide to try out my new video editing skills using Windows Movie Maker (which comes free with Windows XP) and Adobe Premiere (installed on my laptop for reasons I know not). I also use a couple of clever freeware programs (freeware means really free - not try for a while and then send us some money or we'll cripple it). One of these is a Video to JPG Converter and the other is - wait for it - a JPG to Video Converter. You can see the first effort here on Youtube.

In the afternoon we go for a drive to Ronda where we eat in a nice restaurant - I am tempted by the pig hands but finally settle for lamb. The road down to the coast is warm, dry and fairly free of traffic and we have a nice leisurely trip back home.

Friday 22nd January 2010

At first light I can see that there are men standing on the conning tower of USN Philadelphia but there are no masts showing so I assume they have taken them off for maintenance. Then they take her out into the bay - presumably to turn her round for some reason? But no. They are off. It turns out the masts go up and down and I remember Das Boot "Heben Sie das Periskop wir gehen zum Angriff". The periscope and other masts are retractable.

It is all over very quickly - no going back to check that you really did turn the kettle off or hunting for passports. And we are very sad to see them go - never to meet again. Not that we ever did meet them but you get the idea. You can see the departure video here. See what I mean about the little boats getting all excited and showing off?

Then blow me, HMS Manchester (D95) arrives to join HMS Enterprise which has been here for weeks. Most ships arriving in Gibraltar Harbour pussyfoot around and take for ever but this guy is a man after my own heart. He absolutely hammers across the bay and then does a power slide into the harbour and a handbreak turn to park her up. No problem.

Saturday 23rd January 2010

This is HMS Manchester moored up - recovering after all the excitement.

In the evening we watch Mark Wahlberg in Shooter which is a typical Hollywood conspiracy movie. Wicked businessmen concoct a ludicrously complicated plan to kill the Archbishop of Ethiopia by pretending to have been trying to assassinate POTUS (President of the United States). Why can't they make real life movies about life in the FBI? "Our longstanding war with the CIA continues but I am making progress in getting the CIA budget reduced and the financial surplus transferred to us by accusing them of with-holding information from us relating to cases on which the FBI have primary responsibility under Glass Steagall". Maybe not.

Actually, Glass Steagall relates to the separation of Investment banks from Deposit Taking banks but why let the facts get in the way of a good story? Glass Steagall was put in place when it was least needed (after the 1929 Wall Street crash) and removed by Bill Clinton just as it was most needed (when the current boom really got started). Now the current POTUS is going to re-instate it prior to its inevitable removal in 2079. Try making a film about that.

If you have ever wondered why all countries have at least two lots of secret police - Abwehr/Gestapo, FBI/CIA, MI5/MI6 it is because political leaders are seriously scared about them taking control of the country so they have two lots and have each of them keep the other in check. That is why the war between the FBI and CIA will always continue with each one accusing the other of with-holding information and trespassing on its patch - CIA outside the USA and FBI inside the USA. But what about terrorists who operate both inside and outside the USA? There you have it.

Incidentally, the best way to neuter an evil force is to make it part of the establishment - just look at the Church of England - market share down from 100% to about 2% and still dropping. When you could be thrown to the lions for being a Christian it was a dynamic force. Now look at it. Not to mention Northern Ireland - a Government headed by ex-bomb makers who now spend all day arguing over budgets.

The Americans should make Osama Bin Laden president of Afghanistan and then leave. Within a few months he would be the least popular man in the country (the Afghans hate all outsiders - Arabs included) and in due course he could seek political refuge in the USA and spend the rest of his life in an old people's home in Florida - "I had nothing to do with the twin towers - it was the CIA. Or maybe the FBI"

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      End of Week 97 of Gibraltar Diary

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