Category Archives: Writing

Gibraltar FAQs and more!

Tired of Gibsplaining every time Gibraltar hits the headlines?  Fed up of the constant, basic errors you see or hear about everything to do with the Rock and its people?

Then here’s a handy FAQ with some key information that you can cut out and keep or better still, share with anyone who might benefit from reading it.  (Document courtesy of Ilana Benady and Helen Wade.)

 

Share

Scratching the glass ceiling

Your starter for ten: name a top female conductor (no Googling please?)  That’s any Musical Director or conductor of the world’s top 15 orchestras?  After 2014’s Last Night of the Proms you might have heard the name Marin Alsop along with the  sound of a glass ceiling being scratched, if not shattered.

Marin Alsop Photo by Grant Leighton

Seven years ago, Marin Alsop became the first woman ever to lead a major orchestra (the Baltimore Symphony.)  In her speech at the Proms she alluded to the gender inequality still prevalent not just in classical music but across many fields and remarked wryly, that she hoped the next female conductor at the Proms wouldn’t make headlines – like she did – simply because she was a woman.  It’s a very real possibility as attitudes appear to be changing.  Scandinavia and Asia still lead the way in the growing numbers of women studying to be conductors – Europe still lags a little behind.  Continue reading

Share

Holiday heaven – Clydey Cottages, Pembrokeshire

image

Sheer, luxurious, family-holiday-heaven in a beautiful spot in Pembrokeshire. That’s how I would describe Clydey Cottages. The phrase ‘rural idyll’ was invented for it. We spent a wonderful week there with our two young sons in August 2013 and wished we’d spent two.  They really have thought of everything – dreamy, chocolate-box cottages with every modern comfort you could wish for.

imageViews that would inspire another generation of romantic poets, wandering around fields, staring at blue skies and fluffy, white clouds.  For children they’ve got playtime covered: outdoor play area with sandpit, swings and climbing frame?  Check.  Fancy swinging from the trees in a home-made rubber-tyre, Tarzan-like device?  Check.  Outdoor area with ride-on trikes and bikes?  Check.  Amazing indoor pool and spa area with hot tub and sauna for weary parents? Check.  Games room with table tennis, table football and an indoor soft-play area with Playstation and comfy leather seats and cappuccino machine for the parents? Check.  Continue reading

Share

“Gibraltarians have come into their own” – my article in the New Statesman.

Photo: courtesy Catherine Cleverly

Photo: courtesy Catherine Cleverly

My favourite meal as a child growing up in Gibraltar was “tortilla de patatas” (Spanish, potato omelette) with a dollop of tomato ketchup and baked beans.  As an adult I’m still partial to this curious, Anglo-Spanish, culinary combination, which perfectly encapsulates the hybrid nature of the Gibraltarians.  Fiercely British with a strong, Mediterranean influence, all aspects of life on the Rock of Gibraltar – from the “llanito” mishmash of English and Spanish spoken everywhere to the local traditions and way of life – feel just as curious a mix as that plate of tortilla and baked beans. Continue reading

Share

Musical legacy

WilliamGomezphotoIt’s amazing how a piece of music can move you to tears, give you goose-bumps. I came across this clip of the stunningly beautiful “Ave Maria” written by the late, Gibraltarian guitarist and composer, William Gomez, conducted by another supremely talented Gibraltarian, conductor Karel Chichon. This was performed by the Latvian soprano, Elina Garanca at the Vienna State Opera House. One talented “llanito” (Gibraltarian) keeping another’s musical legacy alive. Continue reading

Share

Everyone lost and saved

The four words said it all.  They were on a card stuck to the back of the runner in front of me.  “I am running the Race for Life for…everyone lost and saved.”  There were many similar messages on the backs of the thousands who gathered at Epsom Downs on this gloriously sunny and warm, Sunday morning.  All doing their bit to raise money for Cancer Research so that, as the charity’s slogan said, “we can kick cancer’s butt.”  I was running my first charity race with a group of Mums from my son’s primary school.

Group of St Joseph’s Mums after finishing the race.

We’d been supporting each other with tips and advice on training in the months prior to the race and there we all were on the big day, amid the sea of pink t-shirts, with our numbers proudly displayed on the front and our “speech bubble” cards on the back.  Names of loved ones who’d lost the fight against cancer, names of people still battling the disease, messages of solidarity with all those touched by “the big C” in some way or other.  Messages that showed they were in the thoughts of the 18,000 runners and walkers taking part in Race for Life at Epsom.  There was a lively, carnival atmosphere during the energetic, warm-up in the hour before the race started.  Amid the excited crowds I also spotted the odd, poignant moment of quiet contemplation – a silent, emotional hug here, a clasped hand of support there, countless photos pinned onto t-shirts, that spoke volumes.  We were all there to run the good race in support of a good cause.  As we sped off from the starting line I was surprised at how emotional I felt to be jogging along with all those thousands

Thousands of women and some children running together in support of Cancer Research.
Thousands of women and some children running together in support of Cancer Research.

of women past thousands of supporters who lined the route, hands raised, clapping and cheering us on.  “There lies true empathy,” I thought to myself as I tackled the first of many steep climbs on the five-kilometres course.  At the finishing line, hugs, tears, smiles, laughter, more water bottles and an enormous sense of achievement at having contributed to the efforts of so many in finding a cure for “the Big C.”  I’m sure almost everyone who took part will be back again next year – I know I will.

Share

Model train rides

SSME2There’s a quiet corner of the Surrey countryside that is forever England.  You wouldn’t believe it but through an unprepossessing railway arch in Leatherhead, lies the world of the model steam railway.  On 12 days a year this 9-acre site  is open to the public for train rides run by the  Surrey Society of Model Engineers  (SSME.)  It’s not just children who go mad for the little trains; they’re just as much fun for the grown-ups.

It’s one of those hidden gems (probably less hidden once this article is published) that is a throwback to another, gentler age, when a great day out for families didn’t necessarily involve exorbitant entrance fees, over-priced food and drink and the obligatory gift-shop before you can exit.  Run by a team of volunteer enthusiasts, the SSME has been going for over thirty years, meeting two or three times a week to tinker with bits of locomotive (all home-made) and train track, building and maintaining their stock of 14 diesel, battery-powered and steam trains.

SSME1On “public running days” as they’re known, men with solid, traditional names such as Roger and John, get dressed up in their old-fashioned railwaymen uniforms and spend the day running train rides.  They clearly enjoy getting their hands dirty shovelling coal, greasing parts that need oiling, checking points and filling up engine boilers with water to make steam.  There’s frequent replenishment of large mugs of tea brought over from the old-fashioned canteen opposite the ticket office.  The camaraderie between these train enthusiasts is palpable and there’s a spirit of “all hands to the pump” to ensure that everything runs smoothly.  And it does.  I’ve been to half a dozen of these “running days” but it wasn’t until my most recent visit, while my husband went on yet another train ride with our young sons, (see video) that I had a moment to reflect not just on model train rides but what lies beneath.  At the risk of sounding a bit “Pollyanna-ish” I realised that the simple, old-fashioned values of enthusiasm, hard work, camaraderie, passionate attention to detail and politeness which characterise the society of model engineers are truly uplifting. The large, green field encircled by the model railway rides was full of families enjoying a picnic, some were celebrating children’s birthday parties, others kicking a ball around as they waited for the next train ride.  All around me were relaxed, happy, smiling faces (and not a games console in sight!)   A simple idea, brilliantly executed in the most un-flashy, thoroughly British kind of way.  The result?  A day of good, honest and inexpensive family fun. Oh and to crown it all, the sun always seems to be shining (at least when we’ve been.)  Beat that if you can, theme parks!

Share