The Rock and the Hard Place

                Gibraltar is an absorbing place. If you are driving there, as we did, you must first negotiate one of the most unattractive parts of the Mediterranean coast of Spain, consisting mainly of a gigantic oil refinery at Algeciras, then deal with crossing the ‘border’-a matter of sitting in a vehicle queue for an extremely long time [even more so at present] and often in very high temperatures, followed by having to drive across an airport runway, which is at best an unnerving experience.

                Most people know Gibraltar to consist of one enormous great rock sitting on a peninsula which protrudes into the Mediterranean just before the rounded corner of Spanish coastline where the East meets the South. For some complicated, historic reason dating back to 1704 when it was captured by the Dutch and the British it actually belongs to the UK. Its area is only about two and a half square miles, but the population, which inhabits a crowded area at the foot of the rock, is 30,000.

                This population is remarkably mixed, for a UK territory, but consists of a vast number of Spanish, among others. Despite this Gibraltar retains a strong colonial flavour, sticking strongly to what used to be British traditions, cuisine and customs-more ‘British’ than the British. As you stroll along the shopping streets you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been teleported to Exeter High Street or Swindon town centre-with a few flourishes of Whitehall from the odd palace or mansion house flanked by plumed guards and a forest of flags, plus red telephone and post boxes.  All this is peppered with Ye Olde British pubs plugging pints, Sunday roast with all the trimmings and fish and chips whatever the weather.

                There is a cable car to get you up to the top of the rock, where you will have to dodge the marauding Barbary apes in order to catch what is a breathtaking view- the distant African shores and the sparkling Med dotted with myriad oil tankers. While you are taking it all in the bandit monkey gang will be mugging you for everything you have whilst spitting, baring their teeth and even biting in a most delinquent manner should you dare to remonstrate.

                All this renders Gibraltar a small gold mine in terms of tourism, but still more, it is the online gambling hub of the world and offers cheap fags, booze and petrol as well as being the gateway to Africa. So little wonder the Spanish would like it to belong to them.

                I fail to understand why countries should continue to own small bits of other countries far away, when the reasons for their ownership are so entrenched in the distant past. Spain itself owns Ceuta, a small bit of land sticking on the end of Morocco. The UK insists on hanging on to The Falklands. Yes, we all know it’s all about resources, and the inhabitants don’t want the change, but the handover can be over a period of time, as with Hong Kong, to give everyone a chance to adjust.

                Colonialism should be firmly set in the past. These days we ought to know better, oughtn’t we?

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You’re never too old for Rock and Roll

                One of the many aspects of ageing that intrigues me is what I will be listening to [always providing I am able to hear anything] when I am installed in my care or nursing home as a result of having been firmly placed there by my sprogs. They will have done this following lengthy and frequent exhortation by me and having researched widely [I hope!].

                I imagine that such ‘entertainment’ provided by institutions for the elderly consists, if it is adequate, of some kind of sing-along sessions, as well as gentle exercise to music? What, then, will that music be? Because it would have to be derived from popular songs of the inmates’ era, would it not? And what will the songs be?

                Well certainly not ‘Bluebirds over the White Cliffs of Dover’, or ‘Pack up your Troubles in your Old Kit Bag’. These belong to a bygone era. No, the popular music we babyboomers will be jigging in our orthopaedic chairs to will have to consist of hit parade favourites or sixties underground classics or punk. How about sing-along-a ‘She Loves You’ by The Beatles, or Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, or The Sex Pistols’ ‘Anarchy in the UK’?

                I like to think there is less of a generation gap in musical tastes as there used to be when I was a teenager, though I fear I am deluded, since I would be at a loss right now to be able to name any tune in the charts today.

Festivals, however are attended by a wide age range, and of course, especially this year, frequently feature vintage bands such as The Rolling Stones headlining act at Glastonbury, pilloried by that most erudite rag, The Daily Mail, with the headline ‘Night of the Living Dead’. Yes, Mailites, the Stones are oldish. They are all pushing seventy. They are wrinkly and craggy looking. Some [Keith] are too arthritic to play their instrument. But here’s a thing-a vast number of people of all ages loved it, including me. Why? Well for me it is generational. They are of my era, playing the songs that define my youth [mostly written by Keith, who merited his place on the stage for having produced such classics as ‘Gimme Shelter’ whether he played or not. The Stones, geriatric though they may be, can play on into their wheelchair years as far as I’m concerned.

And as our little, local music festival draws to a close today I look around at the substantial audience and see revellers of all ages from days old, to old and infirm and from all walks of life, sharing and enjoying the same music and best of all, the acts live on stage. So maybe in real music, unmanufactured by the likes of Simon Cowell etc there is no generation gap after all? And I can look forward to afternoon tea, Bingo and ‘I can’t get no Satisfaction’ when I wind up in sunset hotel.