In light of the recent split of Gibraltar from the EU, here’s one on my trip to Andalusia. Has anyone remembered Gibraltarians?
With 4%, they had the lowest “leave” vote of all the UK territories and, as per the taxi driver who brought us to the border, they are very scared to get locked up on their peninsula again, as they were from Franco times until the 80s. It was Franco though who had the border closed, and isn’t Franco deader than ever after his remains were recently moved from a fancy mausoleum to a plain folks’ cemetery?
It’s not easy to get here from Spain. From the closest train station, you have to take a taxi, cross the border on foot, and then walk across the runway of Gibraltar airport to get to town. We have a cup of tea and scones at the marina.
Apart from serving drinks, Susie, the owner of a café-bar-shop overlooking the port, sells all kinds of stuff that sailors may need, crackers, ropes, tennis balls, toilet paper, and makes temporary and permanent residents feel welcome alike. A fellow Welshman and carpenter stops by her terrace, they talk so loud that we naturally join the conversation; a sailing pensioner tips over his glass of wine and she wipes it up without even interrupting her sentence, as if it was part of the process. They all say “see you later” when they leave. I wonder if life in the sun has made her such an easy hugger, or if she’s just like that. I also tell her “see you later … maybe”, just to be sincere, because Susie’s place is not around the corner from our hotel. She is indignant: “Maybe!!?”
On the other end of the peninsula, there’s a rugby field, a mosque and not much going on. Looking at the sea from the edge of Europe, you can see Morocco and tankers and police boats. It is silent here. The barbed wire fences are on the other side of the water, in Ceuta.
The air is nice only up on the rocks where monkeys eye tourists with scorn – I only heard English-speakers. Downtown, it smells of old diesel truck exhausts – most workers come from Spain and Morocco –, and the locals’ SUVs also make their contribution.
Inside the pub it smells of pub: booze, fries and humans. Immersed in ostensible britishness, over a pint and a delicious Guinness pie with peas, half-watching a football game, I forget the Mediterranean outside with its gloomy border feeling. Those paintings of four-masters on the wall could make you believe that old splendour is real.
In daylight, having kosher breakfast outside on a warm winter Friday, my attention is drawn back to the future as demonstrators in school uniform march up and fill the government square. Bobbies were already waiting, used to the weekly worries of the young. While Brexit will probably affect them less than rising sea levels, I hope they won’t have too much reason to cry.
We have another cup of tea at Susie’s before we head. She doesn’t seem eager to talk about Brexit, but asks us to come back. I don’t think she wants to leave her port anyway.