Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Gibraltar - a very special place.

2 cruise liners dock and spill out their  passengers
There are so many more architecturally superior cities than Gibraltar - think of Rome or Paris or Barcelona, Madrid or Seville. So why do we come back to Gibraltar? It is the popular stop of cruise liners. It is the hop across the border from Spain for cheap booze, petrol and cigarettes. It has fish and chips, red telephone boxes and English style pubs with British beers and people who speak English. There is tax free shopping in Mothercare, Marks and Spencers, British Home Stores and branches of British banks. There are the cute apes that will snatch your camera or packed lunch in a second or who can be tempted by the tour guides to pose on your shoulder. You are not tempted? None of these are the reason for The Curate and I returning to Gibraltar.

The main road crosses the airport runway.
There is constant noise - noise from the generators that power Gibraltar, noise from the  scooters that buzz around this outcrop like flies, noise from the mass of people who pass up and down Main street and sit in the open air bars and cafes exchanging news in a mix of Gibraltarian and English.  There is the noise of building, building on every possible scrap of rock and, if there is no rock, reclaimed land from the sea. There is the smell and noise from the engines of 500 or more cars an hour, squeezing themselves over the border onto this tiny peninsular. It doesn't sound like a holiday destination.

But look beyond the obvious, suppress your prejudices - look up above the shops, look round the corners and into the passage ways. If you are really observant you can spot the Rock's history in so many places. If you are exploring without a guide, you are helped with excellent heritage signs that explain what you are looking at. Gibraltar was a fortress and fought over many times. It is the northern Pillar of Hercules - sail pass this and you were in the unknown . It is thought to be the last outpost of  Neanderthal man  who lived in the caves in the limestone rock. 
In AD 711 it was conquered by the Moors and the Moorish castle still stands as evidence of their occupation. The Rock itself is riddled with tunnels - these helping it to survive 'The great siege' between 1779 and 1883. During the 2nd world war these tunnels were in full use  with hospitals and command centres being situated actually inside the rock. We were lucky enough to be taken on a tour when we lived in Gibraltar. Looking out to Spain from an opening high up on the north face of the rock, that you probably would not have noticed from ground level, is amazing These Siege tunnels are now open for everyone to see.
Gibraltar has a turbulent past - fought over by different countries and civilizations often because of its strategic position.

It is the last resting place of sailors who may have survived the battle of Trafalgar and there is a leafy green graveyard that you pass on the way to the cable car. It is a place to stop and rest, read and remember.  

We just scratch the surface of Gibraltar - each time we visit we discover something new and we see huge changes. Hopefully, despite the need to provide modern housing, the Gibraltarian government will value the old town. Hopefully all the Gibraltarians will learn the history of Gibraltar. Our taxi driver told us he only learned about Gibraltar when he became a tour guide and 'Did we know there had been a prisoner of war camp in Gibraltar?' .

This is only part of the reason we return to this unique, perhaps unlikely holiday destination. It is because here, towards the end of our posting here with  Royal Navy - my husband walked through our front door and told me that he knew all that he had been hearing in The Methodist Church - was true. And from that moment - the direction of his life changed ......and mine.
 And every so often, we both need to be reminded of this very special place.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Friday, 22 July 2011

Tea and cake.

Can I recommend The Vicar's wife's malt loaf - Since seeing it on her Blog I have had several successful attempts at making it (and a couple of bricks due to my measuring skills). Here it is looking over Gibraltar towards Africa (which has got lost in the mist today). I added walnuts to this loaf and it has travelled with us and helped fill the gap between lunch and tapas in a very English tradition!

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Spanish Markets

I love markets - abroad or in England I love browsing the stalls for bargains and unusual products. It is so easy to nip across the border into Spain and the market in La Linea so this is what we did today. In these markets ( found in many countries in rural areas) you get a taste of where food really comes from. 
When we lived here in Gibraltar we would always cross to the Saturday market and buy a kilo of small clams and a bunch of fresh parsley  and cook them with garlic and white wine for Saturday night. It was so cheap to eat like this. Of course - we made our mistakes such as buying three kilos of ripe tangerines and finding it impossible to eat that many - before they rotted.


Today we enjoyed the stalls ladened with bags of caracoles (small snails) and watched the ladies buying fresh bunches of herbs.

It's also the prickly pear season - and the fruit can be bought and peeled there and then for you.

 So many countries still have these markets -  where the prices are cheaper than the supermarkets.
Local produce for local people.
 Nothing is plastic wrapped and you can specify exactly what you want.

Both of us wanted to be back living here again.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

We are not alone!

 There is a slight risk that our room may be visited by an ape if we leave the doors to the balcony open. This happened last year - although we did not leave the door open. An ape had learned to throw himself against the windows and on sliding down -caught the door handle and the door swung open! Others are opportunists and walk up and down the balconies waiting for a door to be left ajar. This morning three apes were on patrol - climbing between the balconies or sitting on the roof - waiting.

 This one was looking up to the balconies - I thought he had seen me and was heading towards us! They tend to sit outside on the balcony rail - which comes as a shock when you open the curtains.

They add to the flavour of staying here - and the apes have long been associated with this part of the world.
Once inside your room they know exactly what they are looking for - sugar and anything edible. They leave a trail of footprints but didn't touch anything else of ours last year.

This morning the apes put on quite a show for the guests as they waited for any opportunities to arise! 
This notice is attached to each balcony. 

Do you know where we are yet?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Where are we now?

We have sun - lots of sun! We are visiting old haunts. Where are we?

This was once the only way in.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Remind me .....this is summer.

From my gardens.

It's raining again and I do not want to get up. I would rather pull the duvet over my head and doze, listening to the radio murmuring, masking the sound of rain driving at our bedroom window. But I can't, this is a three service Sunday which means I get the early dog walk so that The Curate can get off to church. The rain means socks, wellies and waterproofs - in July - I ask you! 

I have been willing the flowers in our garden to open but I fear this weather will either set them back a bit  - or flatten them. Fortunately I have been photographing the few that dare to open in my shady garden. With the wonder of technology, I can put them all together in this collage (and miraculously duplicate them) and dream of what my garden might be! 

Friday, 15 July 2011

A Dip on Dartmoor

This is not the Tropics. This is not the Caribbean. This is Devon. This is Dartmoor. This is cold! 

My first wild swim and I am smiling.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

So ..what's The Curate doing while I kick up my heels?

The Curate at work.
One of the problems of being a teacher is that, unless your partner is also a teacher, you find yourself with holiday time on your hands - which is great. - Not so great for my other half  - The Curate. He was at work this morning (- and not looking at motorbikes on E Bay) so I thought I'd capture it for the records. He was so engrossed, he didn't even notice I had taken the photo. 

The Curate is finding his feet in the parish and covering a number of services as his Boss is on holiday. Finding how the parish works and who does what and when - all takes time. He has had me up at 7.15 on a Sunday morning to help him prepare for the early BCP service because he didn't know if anyone would be there to help. He should have known better as this is an extremely well organised parish and  two people were ready and waiting at the church door. But I didn't mind as it was good to meet another groupof church members.

One of The Curate's roles in the last parish was to visit and offer home communion to those that requested it. This is something that does not seem to happen here but The Curate is still exploring the possibilities because he felt so much was gained during these visits. He also went into schools and spent time within a class - hearing readers and getting to know the children. I had suggested this as the first school assembly can be a frightening affair if there are no allies in the crowd. It also meant that the children could really get to know him and would recognise him as a familiar face should they venture into church . I was most impressed when he regularly spent time in a reception class as well as year 6. He was amazed how the children learned through play and were guided by a very talented teacher. In this parish, he has had to go straight into taking assemblies but the time spent with the children on the North Coast has served him well.

With time on my hands, I have decided to improve my fitness and have joined a sort of gym which is ladies only and you do three circuits of various machines and that's it! Up beat music and a bit of fun as well, might make a bit of difference to my shape - but it also gets me out of the house. It takes some getting used to having The Curate working from home - I mean I can't sit and watch day time TV without feeling guilty (as if I would!)

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Arrivals and departures

If God sends you down a stony path,
may he give you strong shoes.

Just over a week ago, The Curate and I were rushing into Terminal 4 at Heathrow airport, both rapidly scanning the sea of faces. We were late - we do not often leave Devon and so we had forgotten how awful the traffic can be - especially on a Friday. I love meeting people at airports - and I love being met. Walking through the doors from customs, loaded with suitcases, you walk out to a crowd of expectant faces and people holding boards with names on them. Spotting your 'meeter and greeter'  brings relief and joy - you have arrived safely! Only this time - we were late for the pick up. So it was with a huge sense of relief to see our eldest son and girlfriend striding through the crowd  - they had seen us first. 

We have had a lovely week with them - both sons and their girlfriends were together for a large family celebration in Essex and then we all returned to Devon. All too soon, it was time to see them off again, back to Dubai via London. Standing at the railway station, I was willing the tears to stay away but the lump in my throat seemed to get larger and larger. Looking up at the departures board, we could see that the train was on time, thankfully - no long drawn out goodbyes with no one knowing what to say. So they go back to their busy lives and, hopefully, we will see them again before too long

This last year seems to have been full of departures and arrivals. I have reached the end of my school year and the year 6 children are leaving for the next stage of their education. This is always a poignant time for children and staff. The children are departing as the oldest children in the school and will be arriving at the next stage of education as the youngest. They will have to learn the rules of survival and make new friends. It can be a difficult time for some and others breeze into it with ease.

And so it is in life - the comings and goings don't seem to come to an end. Some are easier to cope with than others. Some are more painful than others but how sad a world it would be if we always maintained that British 'stiff upper lip' and didn't show some emotion. It reminds me of a picture of parents waving evacuated children off on the trains out of London - stoic and resigned to doing the best for their children. Raw emotions would not have helped here but I bet many a parent went home and wept.

Service spouses have more than their fair share of arrivals and departures - and they do not get any easier with time. I never got used to all the comings and goings - the actual parting was the worst. Once gone, I learned to click into my other roles and get on with life. The Curate and I thought we were experienced enough to manage the three/four year curacy living in different places. We learned that we were not. On that Sunday when our leaving from our last parish was announced, The Curate told the congregation that it broke his heart to be leaving that church but, each Monday, his heart was broken when I left for the south coast. I wept (much to my embarrassment!).

An Irish Prayer 
May God give you...
For every storm, a rainbow,
For every tear, a smile,
For every care, a promise,
And a blessing in each trial.
For every problem life sends,
A faithful friend to share,
For every sigh, a sweet song,
And an answer for each prayer.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Searching for that wild swim.

We have been searching Dartmoor for swimming spots because I am a bit of a water rat and when (if ) the weather warms up, I will need to be near water. Living next to the sea and being able to go for a quick surf or swim was fantastic for the last two years. Now we are by the moor I am setting myself the challenge to find some of the wild swimming places.
The other day we followed this river until we came to a beautiful pool. We didn't swim but it looked inviting. It is very, very cold at the moment - a few minutes paddling and I couldn't feel my toes! I guess I'm going to have to harden up!

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Blowing away the cobwebs on the Higher Godsworthy Road, Dartmoor

There is a glorious stillness to Dartmoor on a grey day. The sheet of monotone, slate cloud that stretches all around, appears to isolate us from all sound - until a single sky lark, disturbed from its dust bath, soars into the sky  and showers us with its joyful song.
The song jolts us out of our lethargy and we quicken our pace - keen to reach the summit of Cox Tor. Slowly the sky clears to a brilliant blue - the like of which we have not see for days and there is a sense of urgency- in case the cloud returns and views lose their clarity. 

The dogs run on ahead of us, occasionally turning to check we are keeping up. They love this open moorland. The Collie is always keen to lead the way. Our 14 year old Lakeland seem to sense this is the type of terraine her breed was meant for and she still tries to leap from boulder to boulder. Her head is willing but, sadly, her legs often are not. But typically of her breed, she keeps going, finding ways around the rocks and snacking on the fresh sheep droppings!
As always, our ascent is watched by wary natives, this year wearing red designer coats. Despite hiding behind rocks - they are easily spotted. We keep the dogs under close supervision and they (very slowly) amble away. The Lakeland is trembling with excitement - in her mind, she thinks she can still chase anything that turns tail and runs. (Click on the photos to enlarge.)
You can see how quickly the weather can come in. The clouds are building and views may disappear but we are with in reach of the Tor. The views are worth the walk.

 What better way to clear the head than to just stand and stare?