Saturday, 6th October, 2012, 0800 UTC
GIBRALTAR. Located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, the entrance to the Mediterranean,the visible sign for the African continent and its people of a Europe that lies only 12 nautical miles to their north, and yet, for most, though so desirable, is far away.
Did money play a role ? Surely "Monkey Business".
Back to Gibraltar, the rock in the sea, one of the Pillars of Hercules ( the identical twin is on the other side, the spanish enclave of Ceuta is close by ), and a British overseas territory since 1713 (Treaty of Utrecht) , with its densely populated city area, home to almost 30,000 Gibraltarians and other nationalities. It became an important base ever since for the Royal Navy and Army, and a thorn in the thigh for the Spanish.......until to these days, although the importance for the Navy is somehow gone, or at least hugely downgraded. What is left is Navy Cadets paddling around in the Bay and Marina in plastic canoes....... cost cutting has reached the far points of the former British Empire.
What a difference to the 'Good Ol'e Days, reincarnated through a selection of royal and maritime photographs in the Bar of the Rock Hotel - 'THE' Gibraltarian Institution of Stiff Upper Lip and Upper Class - although starkly irritated I assume by these Flip-Flop wearing tattoo-embroidered youngish lager louts who mingle there for a drink with the Old Establishment. Gibraltar has definitely seen better days, although the financial sector still seems to attract money or let's say, for various reasons, financial business. Some of it like 'offshore gambling' has been cleaned up, but there is still some work to be done.
Also the availability of cheap tax free cigarettes, alcohol and diesel fuel that generates a gentle income for the inhabitants, as much as all the tourists do for the foreign workforce of Spanish, Romanian, Ukrainian, Latvian, French, Indian, Bangladeshi and any other Nationality you can think of.....except for the British.
I have not met a single british waiter or shopworker or else.
How many unemployed are there in the UK ? And finally not to forget the smugglers, sometimes chased across the Bay at night by unlit Police RIBs ( rigid inflatable boat ) , but one is caught I guess, and 10 come through.
"England expects that every man do his duty"
was his famous signal from his ship HMS Victory and it was not only him who lived or better died up to it. Even today it is a humble experience to visit the 'Trafalgar Cemetery' ,situated at the end of Gibraltar's High Street. Some of those who did not survive the battle with Lord Nelson , and others from similar engaging battles, are buried here. The most intriguing tombstone I have ever come across also stands here.
That of Thomas Worth and John Buckland, who were killed by the same shot !
I wonder and try to see the battle scene : Two british soldiers in their best uniform, may be red or navy dark blue. Were they standing next to each other, like brothers, or back to back, to make a last stand, like in the film "Zulu" ? Who knows .,
No, far better than pickle, Nelson's sailors put him first into a cask of brandy mixed with camphor and myrrh, and tied it to the mainmast of HMS Victory. Later that was replaced with a lead-lined coffin filled with spirits of wine. Upon arrival in England, so the other tale goes, they all had a little sip from that stuff. Or did they try already the brandy ? Believe what you want . The rest you can read in boring history books.So , surprise, surprise,
no "Monkey Business" here ! But.....
The monkeys of Gibraltar ! Some refer to them as Apes, as in Barbary apes or rock apes, but it is a tailless species of Barbary macaque monkeys, and unlike their cousins from North Africa, the population is thriving,
Let me explain :
Sgt Alfred Holmes of the Gibraltar Regiment , and a Ernest Asquez of the Gibraltar Regiment.
A food allowance was given , fruits, nuts, vegetables, all was catered for, and their volumes of ' Social Welfare Take-aways' properly recorded in the books and budgets of the Army. Even births were recorded in truly military fashion, and each monkey had a name. And to top it up, the NHS also moved in and provided 'free-of-charge' Health Care, including visits to the Royal Naval Hospital Gibraltar.
What a Monkey Life !!!!!!
And all because of Winston Churchill !
Or almost only because of him. Because the monkeys had almost vanished. In 1942 there were only 7 animals left on the rock. But because of the popular belief that as long as Gibraltar Barbary macaques exist on the rock, the British rule would remain, none other than Sir Winston Churchill gave orders to immediately replenish the existing few left with new stock from Morocco and Algeria.
Well, if that isn't "Monkey Business", what is ?
It all ended when the Government of Gibraltar took over the responsibility for the animals some years ago, and the 'caring' public stopped the culling . Somehow the monkeys have gone wild, are not controlled in their numbers any more, chase tourists for food, and forage through the city streets of Gibraltar in search for some.
I wonder when they take over the Gibraltarian Parliament. Then we really have a "Monkey Business" !
Greetings, Master Mike.
( rejected volunteer of the Gibraltarian Musketeers !)