Sunday Sevens #33 29.5.16

Hello there, I do hope you’ve had a good week. It’s been a great one here, busy as usual, here goes…

Big blue

The week started with a belting Monday morning. It was glorious, as you can see there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. I popped out for a quick walk/ jog/ limp along and found myself in Rosia, by Parson’s Lodge and at Camp Bay. It was truly beautiful. It’s at times like this I remember just how lucky I am to live here. 

Not wishing to burst this bubble of loveliness, but within an hour of taking these pictures the clouds had rolled in and the wind was gusting. I guess I was very fortunate to enjoy the best of the day!

Spring Visual Arts Competition

The Spring Visual Arts Competition was officially opened on Tuesday. It’s a chance for anyone to enter their art works and see them hung on the walls of the Gustavo Bacarisas Gallery in Casemates Square. The categories included; Painting, Drawing, Prints & Digital Painting,  Sculpture, Photography, Video and Installation.  

In all 145 entries were considered for the big prize which was won by Alan Perez for his very moving installation (in the bottom left above). Called Shame on Europe history repeats itself, it featured photos of the European refugee crisis projected onto a huge pile of suitcases roped together. 

Natural colour combinations

On Wednesday I took a walk to a different part of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve To visit Devil’s Gap Battery. (The walk features in my latest Stroll around Gibraltar) On the way up to the footpath the nasturtiums were beautiful. I spotted this clump with the tiny purple flowers between the vibrant orangey yellow. You can’t beat that for a colour combination.

Med Steps

I just can’t keep away from them can I? I went back up the steps on Thursday morning. It was another beautiful, warm, late spring morning and I really enjoyed the walk. Every time I go up at the moment I seem to notice new flowers and plants. As one type of plant dies off it’s replaced by another stunner. I spotted these lovely flowering cacti this week. They’re like a huge version of what my Mum has in a pot in her front porch at home!

Dressmaking class


The time has finally arrived (on my dressmaking course) for me to design my own skirt. I have two very special family weddings coming up next year, so I figured I may as well make my skirt a bit special so I can wear it for those. (Plus, one wedding is on my side of the family, the other on Mr Postcard’s so no one will know I’m wearing the same outfit twice πŸ˜‰ shhh! It’s our little secret)

I’ve decided upon a fifties style of skirt and am hoping to make a top in the same fabric when I learn all about tops next year so it should look like a dress…. No pressure!

At last!

I love agapanthus. I have tried unsuccessfully to grow them for years, both at our last home in the north of England and here in Gibraltar. I reckon I’ve tried at least 4 times since we’ve been living on the Rock. You’d think living here with this climate I might be able to manage it. Well at long last, after many false starts I have a healthy specimen and she’s looking beautiful on our balcony. I think she knew it was Chelsea Flower Show this week and thought she’d better make an effort! πŸ˜‰

Crochetasaurus


This week I have been crocheting little amigurumi dinosaurs again. (The pattern for them is in Simply Crochet Magazine Issue21) I just can’t help it, they’re so addictive. I have had requests from the smallest Postcards for two and I’ve made a third as a gift for a young man I know. I love the crochet part, can you tell that the sewing together is my least favourite part? I’ll share a finished picture of them next week. 

Thank you so much for stopping by, until next time have a lovely bank holiday weekend! 

Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series featuring seven photos from the last seven days. It was devised by Nat at Threads & Bobbins blog. Pop over to her blog to find out more if you fancy joining in!

A stroll around Gibraltar No.10: Devil’s Gap Battery

Hello there, it’s been a while since I’ve taken you out for a stroll with me, so I thought I’d better put that right! This morning I found myself in town, the sky was blue, the sun was shining and I had a little bit of free time, so I made the most of it and took a walk up a footpath I have never visited before, to Devil’s Gap Battery in the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. 

It starts on the Union Jack steps you may remember from my A stroll around Gibraltar: No. 2 Steps, steps, steps…, this photo above was taken from the top of the steps on the very edge of the nature reserve looking north and down towards Upper Town. The church you can see is Sacred Heart Church which is beautiful inside with the most amazing painted ceiling (more on that another time I’m sure!).

At the top of the steps, it’s as if you cross from one side of Gibraltar into another, the concrete comes to an end and the wilder side of the Rock is waiting to take you on another adventure. The wild nasturtiums were looking glorious as they lined the stone path.

You are soon faced with a climb upwards and the path gets quite uneven. I thought, as I wasn’t straying far from town, that I wouldn’t need trainers – big mistake, my shoes had little grip on the soles and I almost came a cropper a couple of times.

One of the joys of climbing up the Rock is that once the vegetation clears you soon get stunning views of the town and the Bay of Gibraltar. This photo shows the Governor’s back garden and beyond it, Queensway Quay marina.

Onwards, and upwards…. I was really impressed with the quality of the pathways and the fact that every so often along them there are information boards to tell visitors about the history of the area and explain the views in front of them. A lot of money has been spent smartening up the Upper Rock in the last few years and that can only be a good thing. This part of Gibraltar is so important from a biodiversity angle as well as to preserve the military heritage of the Rock.

As you stand in the town centre and look up at the Rock, between all the greenery, you can’t fail to notice that there are several brick built ‘towers’ dotted around the place. It has always puzzled me as to what they are for. They are too slim to be look-out towers and don’t appear to serve any obvious purpose. Well, I can now share a piece of newly acquired knowledge with you, they are ventilation shafts to the many tunnels quarried into the rock below. I’m pleased that I’ve been able to answer that question that’s been on my mind for several years!

At this point in the walk, you get the first clear view looking south towards Morocco, in the centre of this picture, you can see a large green expanse. That is the Alameda Botanical Gardens which featured in A stroll around Gibraltar No 7: The Alameda Gardens Part 1

You can also get a great view of the Royal Naval Dockyard and the visiting ships.

I wasn’t alone on my walk, the gulls were constant companions.

The stone footpath came to an end at a flight of stairs which led to a road and this rather imposing gateway…. should I go through do you think?

Oh, go on then! I had arrived at my destination, Devil’s Gap Battery.

It had had a recent lick of paint, but it was a rather eery sort of place, which had clearly been very important once upon a time, but is abandoned to nature and the occasional visitor now.

The courtyard was surrounded with a series of locked rooms, only one featured anything of interest:

Can you see that contraption and sign saying shell lift? I can only assume it was meant to carry the shells up to the guns above.

If these walls could talk…

Mother Nature was trying to reclaim what once belonged to her.

I wonder who Private Roman was and what he’s up to these days…

A stair led upwards to above the gateway and a sentry post.

Around the back of this courtyard lay the path to the guns.


One of them was used to sink a German submarine off the coast of Algeciras opposite during the First World War, the only action Gibraltar was involved in during that war.


I’m not a huge fan of guns it has to be said, but it’s a beautiful spot.

The views are marvellous.

This is the second of the guns at the battery.

There are prickly pear cacti a plenty up here, and I was lucky enough to spy one in flower. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a wild cactus flowering.

It’s a really clear day today and Morocco was really clear in the distance. Sadly the photo doesn’t do it justice but you can still make it out with it’s cloudy hat on.

I do hope you enjoyed this little stroll with me, there are several more to be explored in the nature reserve and I hope to be able to have another walk up there before too long. If you’re in Gibraltar or planning a visit and would like to find out more about Devil’s Gap Battery and the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, there’s an app available which details the Gibraltar Nature Reserve paths.


Thanks for stopping by πŸ™‚

 

Sunday sevens #32 22.5.16

Hello there, I do hope you’re having a good weekend. Well summer seems to have arrived here in Gibraltar this week, Thursday saw the hottest day of the year so far, with highs of 26 degrees. The flip flops are out, the toenails are painted and we’ve had our first barbecue of the year!

Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series which features seven photos from the last seven days. It was devised by Natalie at Threads & Bobbins blog. Pop over to her blog to find out how you can join in.

Sunday = rest day!

After the exertions of the Med Steps 5 Challenge last Saturday, Sunday was a rather quiet and stationary affair. We did manage a walk to the botanical gardens and a trip to the supermarket but mainly it was spent at home. We made a pleasant discovery on our balcony when we found that this flower had opened without us even noticing the bud had formed. I do love my hibiscus.

Watercolour class

This week we continued our study of orchids. I finished off last week’s attempt and worked on a couple of other styles too. Still more work to do on these though…

Dressmaking class


I have done absolutely no sewing at all in my dressmaking class for the last two weeks – it’s been exam time (well sort of). In order to test the knowledge we have gleaned so far, we were given a series of skirts to make mini paper patterns for. It was just to reinforce what we already know and to push us a little to experiment and consider how other styles we haven’t yet tried are put together. 

The first few were relatively easy. The last two though, my word – my brain hurt! (The one above was one of the tricky ones). I had to go outside and have a walk to try and process what I was trying to achieve. I’m pleased to say that with a little gentle pushing in the right direction by our lovely teacher, I got there in the end. I was a bit of a zombie for the rest of the day though – I only seem to have limited brain cells available these days!!

Town scenter florals


Town scenter… do you like what I did there? No? Sorry, I won’t do it again! Walking through the new park in the centre of town this week I was overwhelmed by the beautiful scent of Jasmine. The old wall, the entire length of the park, has been planted up with Jasmine and they are in bloom right now. They look beautiful against the old brickwork and the smell is amazing. 

Crochet crazy


Wednesday was rather pleasingly filled with crochet loveliness. First, I had a lovely response to my Med Steps Crochet wreath post. The highlight being that Lucy from Attic24 who had inspired me to have a go in the first place said on Instagram that she thought it was lovely! Hurrah for that – it made my day πŸ™‚

Secondly, I went to the post office to collect my latest edition of Simply  Crochet magazine which contained a kit to make a bright flower brooch. I had intended to crack on with my spring cleaning, but got ever so slightly distracted πŸ˜‰

Med Steps… a return trip.


I did say in my last post that I would stop going on about the Med Steps but it would appear from many of your lovely comments that you’ve become rather attached to them. Well I guess I have too, as on Thursday morning I took a walk up there again. It was a lot quieter than last Saturday and it was a lot hotter too. I think I may have to stop the morning walks there as the sun’s beating down on you at that time. An alternative route will be found and Med Steps will soon have to become an afternoon or evening destination.

I was thrilled to find out this week that the Med Steps 5 Challenge raised over Β£7,000 for the Gibraltar Cancer Relief Centre. Our little gang of girls who walked up the Rock together managed to raise a fair chunk of that, over Β£1,700, which is utterly amazing to me. Our lovely friends and families have been so generous as well as a few lovely ‘blogland’ friends too. (I didn’t ask for sponsorship through the blog as I don’t like to, but a handful of lovely people actually contacted me and asked if they could support our efforts). Thank you all for helping us to help this wonderful cause. Xxx

He’s back!


Our eldest arrived back safe and sound from his week away in England with school. He had an amazing time rafting, canoeing, quad biking and learning archery among many other exciting things. I know he and his friends have made precious memories which they will cherish well into adulthood. Thank you to the teachers for looking after their precious cargo so well and bringing them safely back home to our families.

It’s been a busy week here chez Postcard, I wonder what the next seven days hold in store? Until next time, thanks for stopping by…

Wild flowers of the Med Steps


You will have noticed that of late, the Med Steps have featured very heavily in my blog posts, mainly because I’ve spent quite a lot of time climbing them recently. The one thing which has really left an impression on me, apart from the aching muscles, is just how beautiful it looks at the moment with all the wild flowers in bloom. I believe in these last few weeks I have been lucky enough to see them at their absolute peak. The poppies, candytufts, and countless other flowers which have fleetingly made their presence known and brightened up my walks.

I have been taking lots of photos of them to share with those of you who haven’t seen them for real, and I had intended to do a blog post all about them, so here it is. 

The only problem is, I don’t know much about wild flowers and the idea of researching their names etc left me cold (it would most probably make the most boring blog post anyway), so that would just leave along stream of photos of random flowers (also boring). I thought long and hard about how I could bring them to life and capture their magic both for you and for me.


 

Then I came up with an idea, (a slightly strange idea perhaps) to try to recreate the flowers in yarn. I have a book of flower patterns 100 Flowers to Knit & Crochet by Lesley Stanfield and the internet is full of ideas and patterns for crocheting all sorts of wierd and wonderful things so I started investigating. Wow, the world was my oyster, there was so much potential out there that I thought I could really do this. 

But what would I make? A blanket? No, the last one took over a year to make – I’d lose interest. A bag? No, it would soon get battered and spoiled as I used it, plus, it may look a bit odd for everyday use. Then inspiration hit…Remember I made a wreath at Christmas?

Last summer, when I was in England and blessed with lots of fantastic craft supply shops to frequent, I bought two polystyrene wreaths but so far I’d only used one. Inspired by the beautiful wreaths made by Lucy of Attic 24, I thought what if I covered it in crochet to represent the Rock of Gibraltar? There’s the greenery of the steps, the sky and sea and then add the crocheted wildflowers to that? Oh my, that’s it! I have got loads of creative ideas fizz popping in my head now, I need to get cracking.

So first things first, how on earth do I chose which flowers to include? Well Gibraltar’s National Flower, the candytuft is an obvious choice.

Then we have the poppies, with their papery thin petals nodding gently in the sea breeze. They are so delicate and yet stunning against the other greenery of the Upper Rock.

There’s a fair amount of lavender too, and that’s one of my all time favourite plants. The fragrance is so calming and comforting.

So it’s time to get started. I began with crocheting the cover for the polystyrene wreath in shades of green, grey and blue.

And here it is…

It looks a little bare don’t you think? Time to decorate… first a daisy?

Next a thistle…


I made a couple of sprigs of lavender using this pattern.          

There are some really dainty wild sweet pea kind of plants up there at the moment:


We can’t forget the poppies (this one I had to knit):

So to one of Gibraltar’s national flowers… The Candytuft. Could I find a pattern for one anywhere? Could I heck. I had to ‘invent’ one. Based on a pattern in my flower book but with a candytuft twist:


And of course, I can’t forget the little critters who enjoy the wild flowers too…

The butterfly came from the flower book and the bumble bee was made using this pattern from Attic 24. One of my favourite critters in this part of the world though is the lizards, I used this free Ellie Skene Ravelry pattern to make Gordon the gecko:

Next it was time to assemble the wreath…

I played about with the arrangement for a while and added a dandelion, a buttercup and various different shaped leaves before sewing them into place. Are you ready? Here goes :


Time for a few gratuitous close ups ;-)… The wildlife:

Florals:

Perhaps the world’s first ever crocheted Gibraltar Candytuft!:

I’m pleased with how it turned out, it’s currently hanging on the back of my front door. It brightens up my hall and reminds me of the many hours I’ve spent walking past the gorgeous wild flowers of the Med Steps and the fun I had making it. I now promise I’ll stop banging on about the Med Steps for a little while, I know I’m getting boring ;-).

Thanks for stopping by! 

Sunday sevens #31 15.5.16

Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series devised by Natalie at Threads & Bobbins blog . It features seven photos from the past seven days.

A damp start to the week

As much of the British Isles were basking in Mediterranean weather at the start of the week, we were donning our  wellies and digging our waterproofs out of the back of the wardrobe! I’m posting this photo to make all you Brits feel better about the weather up North! I don’t grudge you having the sunshine one little bit, you deserve it. We, at least are guaranteed a long, dry, hot summer, thankfully this is just a temporary blip! 

Watercolour class


This week, I tried my hand at orchids as my teacher had a lovely one in her house. As you can see, I had to take the photo while it was still wet, so the colours may have changed slightly by the time I get back to class to finish it off. It was a very calm, therapeutic lesson though. Us students joke that our teacher should charge more as she’s a therapist as well as a teacher! We can go and have a good laugh or a moan about things and we all come out feeling much better at the end and sometimes we even have a nice painting to show for our work too!

Feeling floral

I’ve been working on a floral crochet project of late, I’m hoping to be able to share a bit more of it with you soon – here’s a sneaky peak πŸ˜‰

Here comes the sun!

At long last, after a very wet week, the sun came back to us on Friday. Oh it feels good to be able to hang your washing out outside again!! 

A school trip


We waved our eldest off on a school trip on Friday night. He flew to England for a week long visit to an outdoor adventure centre. I know that he and his friends will be having a whale of a time but it was difficult saying goodbye at the airport. 

Gazing around the parents milling about at the check-in desks I guess it was us grown ups who found the parting hard, the kids much less so. This photo was taken on our walk back across the runway to collect the car. The Rock looked majestic in the evening sun. 

The traffic on Friday night was awful, there were a few planes landing, it was Friday’s rush hour – oh and Gibraltar had just been made the 211th member of FIFA so the the border queue was pretty slow heading into Spain…

Med Steps 5 Challenge


Well, we did it! 5 times round the Med Steps, that’s more than 19km in a time of 4 hours & 38 minutes. It was hot on the Eastern side of the Rock with our newly returned sunshine. When I last checked 140 individuals had registered to take part and 160 in teams of up to 5.

It was an excellent event organized by the Gibraltar Prison Service and to support the wonderful Cancer Relief Centre here in Gibraltar. Everyone was so friendly and encouraging. I’m very proud of what my team mates and I achieved and grateful to have been able to support this event and the charity it’s for. 

Thank you to everyone who has supported us and put up with the incessant ramblings about this event. We have had some lovely good luck messages and your support has been very much appreciated. We have been feeling the love – thank you!

And finally…


A glass of bubbles to toast our five times round. The wrist band was stamped on the completion of each circuit – I promise it has 5 stamps even though you can’t see them all!

The Med Steps: a few facts & figures

Unless you are completely new to this blog, you will no doubt be aware I have a rather daunting event on the horizon. Along with two friends, I am planning to climb the Med Steps to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar 5 times as part of the Med Steps 5 Challenge on Saturday. For those of you who have never had the pleasure of taking this rather scenic, steep walk, I thought I’d take you along with me. You won’t need your trainers though – I’ve done the hard work!


The length of the walk from it’s beginning at Jews’ Gate on the southern edge of the Upper Rock Nature Reserve (just opposite the monument to the Pillars of Hercules) to the summit (close to O’Hara’s Battery) is 1400 metres. At it’s start, you are 180 metres above sea level, at it’s summit, you are 419 metres above the waves below – that’s a climb of 239 metres.


It runs round the southern edge of the nature reserve and then along the eastern side of the Rock on narrow rocky paths and steps up along the cliff face.

Just next to the Jewish Cemetery and bird observatory is a flight of steps leading the way into a small wooded area.

The path winds gently up hill before opening out to offer a great view across the top of Europa Point, and the northern coast of Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar.

Close to here is Martin’s Cave the roosting and breeding site for rare bats. 

The path takes a downward turn down several steps before levelling out to a beautiful path lined at the moment with wild flowers.


Then the Med Steps begin in ernest. They are rather irregular in size, some man made, others just appear to be lumps of rock. Some take the size of ‘normal’ stairs, others are well over 30cm deep. Approximately half way up this first set of steps is the Goats Hair Twin Caves.  

Excavations during the 1970s found evidence here that suggests prehistoric man once lived there. It’s believed that many years ago, these caves were actually at sea level.

Just above the caves, there are several old military buildings serving as a reminder to the role the Rock played during World War II. 

At the top of this climb the path takes us through a small tunnel which offers much needed shade and a chance to take a breather.



It’s at this point that you often see seagulls sitting on the path, they look most put out as you approach and they feel the need to move. Clearly they are making the most of the peace and quiet and taking in the view! I have also seen a couple of native Barbary Partridges near here too, I believe Peregrine Falcons are a relatively common sight as well, but I can’t say I’ve seen any.

A little further along here and you end up on a great viewing platform which affords a fantastic view on a clear day along the eastern side of Gibraltar, across the runway and north towards the Spanish Costa del Sol.

A few metres back from this and the rocky path takes you onwards and upwards towards our goal. 

This part of the walk is particularly verdant and it was along here that I saw one of Gibraltar’s national plants, the Gibraltar Candytuft for the first time a few weeks ago.

There are several other plant species native to the Rock which can be found in this area, the Gibraltar Thyme, Gibraltar Campion, Gibraltar Chickweed and Gibraltar Saxifrage to be precise.

The walk continues meandering back and to along the side of the Rock with several more flights of stairs here and there until you find yourself at the foot of the cliff where there are 15 flights of steps zig zagging up the rocky face leading to the summit. (In my opinion; the killer part).


Up you climb, up and up. 

I love seeing this ‘seat’ carved into the rock. Every time I see it, I think of my Dad who walked up the steps with my Mum and me a couple of years ago. He stopped here for a rest. If I’m still fit enough to climb the Med Steps when I’m in my seventies, I’ll be more than happy!

Two flights later and there’s the wild flower sign – oh we’re almost there!

Just two more flights and we’re at the top – Hurrah!!!

I may have lost count due to exhaustion but I think I counted 595 man made steps up to the top (I didn’t count the extra natural rocky steps or the ones which rather annoyingly take you downwards before the main climb).

So we’re at the top, time to give yourself a pat on the back and take in that magnificent view. 


It’s now time to head down the military road which zig zags down the western side of the Rock past St Michael’s Cave and back to Jews’ Gate again. Just another 4 times round and then we can stop for a cup of tea – wish us luck!!

All information is courtesy of the GONHS

Sunday Sevens #30 8.5.16

Hello there, I hope you’re having a good weekend. It’s been a bit damp and grey here in Gibraltar which isn’t the norm for this time of year, but summer’s around the corner and we had a little taste of it last weekend. 

Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series featuring seven photos from the last seven days. It’s the creation of Nat at Threads & Bobbins blog. To find out more, pop over to her blog. 

May Day in Gibraltar

Here in Gibraltar, we don’t need too much of an excuse to have a party, and May Bank Holiday weekend was the perfect opportunity. The skies were blue, the sun was out and lots of people headed out to enjoy the beautiful spring weather. We made a bee-line for Commonwealth Park so the boys could run off a bit of energy with their scooters. This photo makes it look pretty deserted but I can assure you that there were dozens of other families there doing the same. You can probably see them in the distance on the grass. 

Later in the day there was the added excitement of a free live concert in Casemates Square featuring a series of local acts culminating in Ben Haenow, the X Factor winner from 2014.

Crochet

There was no art class this week so on bank holiday Monday instead of painting, I found myself sitting in the sun and fancied doing a spot of crochet. This little butterfly fluttered off my hook ;-).

Dressmaking class

It’s finally finished, my lined panelled skirt with an invisible zip. I’m not sure how much I like the fabric and style now it’s made up, but I learned a lot making it. 

Watercolours 

As I didn’t have watercolour class this week, I did a bit at home. I’m pleased with how my window’s coming along. I’ve managed not to spoil it…. yet!

Med Steps


So far this week with school closed 3 days out of five here (bank holiday Monday, Acension Day on Thursday and In-Service day on Friday) I only managed one single trip up the Med Steps. It was perfect conditions, overcast and cool, so I did it in a good time.  However, now I’m getting a bit worried that it’s less than a week to go to the Med Steps 5 Challenge on Saturday and that scares me a bit! 

Ouch!


On Friday night my right index finger had an argument with a pair of doors and lost. On Saturday I woke with a blue nail and swollen finger and felt rather down in the dumps as I’d spent much of Friday busily doing jobs so I could do some crochet on Saturday. 

Unable to pick up a hook, I decided to read instead and began Empty Cradles (Oranges and Subshine) by Margaret Humphreys. It’s not the cheeriest read to lift the mood but is incredibly powerful. 

It tells the true story of the hundreds (if not thousands) of British children who were shipped overseas to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Rhodesia from the 1940s until the late 1960s. They were sent away from children’s homes in the UK to help populate areas and work the land, with little hope of seeing their families or homeland again. If you are interested I social history, I can highly recommend it.

My last post


When I pressed publish on my last post Saying goodbye on Wednesday morning, I was slightly nervous about putting out such a personal account. I was overwhelmed by the response to it, both on WordPress and Facebook, and I would genuinely like to thank you for taking the time to read it and those of you who sent messages afterwards, it was very much appreciated. 

We are really blessed with the wonderful community we have here in Gibraltar and from what some people have told me, it’s a sadly rare occurrence. I shall treasure the friends I have close by and am confident that those who have moved on to pastures new will continue to play a part in our lives either online or through visits. All is not lost!

Saying goodbye…

During the last week one of my friends left Gibraltar for good and I’ve just discovered that another one is planning to leave this summer. We are entering into the time of year which is a rather painful part of being an expat (here at least), the time when families relocate back to the UK or elsewhere because of work or family reasons in time for the new school year starting.

For many of us, when we first arrive we know nobody. For those of us who are parents who don’t ‘work’ we forge a network of friends at the school gates and through contact with other families connected to our partner’s place of work. Because we are all in the same boat, friendships become strong quickly. If you land in a place where you know no one and your family are thousands of miles away, you soon learn that your friends are your support network.

I remember during our first winter in Gibraltar, my husband was overseas with work and I’d had the most uncomfortable night of my life (apart from childbirth) with a dreadful tummy upset. I waited until 7am to call the person I knew the most to ask for help. She dropped everything and came to get my eldest ready for school and took my youngest away with her (we only had two children then) and left me to alone to try to sleep and get better.

Back in England my parents lived about an hour away and I imagine I would have called them had I still been living there, as I had no one else I could call who was nearby. We lived in an area which was chosen simply because it was between our places of work, we pretty much put a pin in a map and decided on that location. We had our first home there but we both worked in different cities so knew very few people locally. We spoke to our neighbours and exchanged Christmas cards, but as we were out working most of the time in different cities we didn’t have any friends there.

Of course I have friends I have known since the first days at primary school, from secondary school and University but we are now all spread out pretty much across the world. As our jobs took us away from friends and family, I found it got increasingly difficult to make proper friends until we arrived here in Gibraltar.

Back in England, I remember my Mum telling me, as soon as the baby goes to school you’ll meet people, and I did, they were friendly, we chatted about our plans for the weekend, birthday parties etc as we waited for the kids to come out at the end of school, but that’s where it ended. I’d moved into an area where everyone else seemed to be established. They didn’t feel the need to take it a step further.

The other mums had their families down the road and knew many of the other parents at the school already. I guess I could have made the first move but I wasn’t brave enough to invite anyone to do anything because they all seemed so sorted and busy. I remember the excitement at being invited on my first  girls’ night out a whole year after my son started at the school. Finally, I thought, I’m in. That was the week we found out we were moving to Gibraltar, needless to say I didn’t want to come.

After much angst and packing we landed in Gibraltar a couple of weeks before the start of term. On the first day at the new school, as I waited for my son to come out of class, a local mum approached me and apologised, saying it was her son’s birthday soon and she hadn’t sent an invitation for my son because she didn’t know he’d be in the same class. The following day he came home with an invitation to the boy’s party and that was our welcome into the community.

The Gibraltarian people are lovely and welcoming of us newbies. They didn’t  mind helping me with my endless questions about where to go to register for this thing or that class. Or how to find birthday party venues which don’t feature on any maps and have just a string of initials for a name. But the people I forged the deepest friendships with were other incomers.  

Over time, I soon realised that many of the other expats here were in exactly the same boat as I was with no family nearby and we looked after each other. If someone was ill, had a sick child or was without a car, we’d chip in and do a bit of shopping or help with the school run. Gibraltar was the first place since being away at University that I had true friends. Like University, the nature of our lives here meant that those friendships were on fast forward and developed very quickly.

Also, because we have all been in the same situation, arriving here and knowing no one, if we spot someone new outside school or are introduced to a new arrival, we invite them to join us for coffee or to meet up at a later date. We introduce them to our other friends and soon (hopefully) they settle in and feel more at home.

As with any friendships, we are there for each other at the births of children, the deaths of loved ones and relationship breakdowns. We help were we can and if we can’t help, we may know someone who can – the community here is so small there’s usually a friend of a friend who we can call on. You may think that sounds perfect, and it is, kind of but then come the goodbyes.

Gibraltar seems to be a pretty transient place for many non-locals. Some people are here for the long haul, setting down roots and with no intentions of moving back, but lots of folk arrive here with the aim of doing a few years in post to improve their careers and then move on. Perhaps they want to live a few years in the sunshine before returning ‘home’ to the UK or heading off to their next exotic destination.

That of course means that we lose friends at a much faster rate here than we would at home in the UK, and that’s really not nice. Two years ago, my best friend and her family moved back to England after about 4 years here. We were very close. We were on a similar wavelength, with similar arty interests and with children of similar ages. When she left it was really hard, I feel emotional right now thinking about it.

Last summer, another good friend left and returned to her home town. That left another empty seat at our coffee mornings. Then, over the Bank Holiday weekend another friend, (who is one of those responsible for me taking up this blogging lark), got on a plane to the country of her birth to set up a new life for herself and her family. She is a mum who has great confidence in what she can achieve, she also has a magical gift of making you think you can achieve great things as well (she’d make a great boss).

She is the first person who suggested I should take up blogging (there were a few believe it or not), so I did – but I didn’t tell her. Afraid of looking stupid if the whole endeavour flopped I decided to blog anonymously (and to spare the blushes of my kids). Despite her not knowing it was me, I was thrilled to see she was liking my posts on Facebook and even shared one. Once I came clean and admitted it was me, she was so encouraging of my blog – and I value her views as she’s very smart.

So I guess this post is dedicated to this lovely lady, thank you for your friendship and encouragement, it’s meant a lot. I wish you every success and happiness in the next exciting chapter of your life. Please don’t forget us coffee morning girls, we’ll raise a cappuccino to you at our next gathering!

 

 

Sunday Sevens #29 1.5.16

Hello there, happy May Day to you all. I hope the sun’s shining where ever you are and that you’re enjoying a good Bank Holiday weekend. 

A message has just popped up to tell me this is my 100th blog post – how did that happen??

Sunday Sevens is a weekly blog series created by Natalie at Threads & Bobbins blog. It features seven photos from the last seven days. To find out more about it or to join in, pop over to Natalie’s blog.

Med Steps…

Well my Med Steps training has continued this week as we are now less than two weeks away from the Med Steps 5 Challenge on 14th May. There was a bank holiday in Gibraltar on Thursday (one of our usual training days) so training has had to be fitted in around the family a lot more than usual. My first trip up was on Monday and as you can see from the photo above it was very cloudy. That made for great stepping conditions, it was cool, there was no sun and there was a double bonus of climbing up into the cool, damp cloudy conditions at the top – just when you need it most. There was no one else about; I had the whole Med Steps to myself. The wild flowers were looking gorgeous even though there was no sunshine. They are so beautiful up in the Upper Rock at the moment and probably at their peak before the hot summer sun scorches the ground. I can feel a wildflower post coming on – only problem is I don’t know most of their names…. I’ll need to do a bit of research.

More Med Steps…

My BIG Med Steps training session had to be done  yesterday morning. I decided to forego my Saturday morning lie-in, and set my alarm so I was well on my way up the steps by the time the clock struck nine. I was also on my own and I’m very proud of the fact that without anyone with me to egg me on, I managed three times round solo for the first time. I’m feeling quite proud of myself but am feeling a little bit achey as I write this. The countdown is on now though so I need to step it up a gear next week I think…..
Watercolour class

Last week I had a bit of a go working on a looser style as I painted some bird of paradise flowers. I had another go at improving them this week but it didn’t go well so I gave up and started preparation work for my next project. You may remember from my post on doors that I had a go at painting one of the old doors I had photographed. I really enjoyed doing that so I decided that now is the time to start work on my next architectural painting based on a photo I took a while ago of a particularly beautiful window in the town centre.

The painting so far…

 

I found myself with a bit of time yesterday between climbing the steps, doing the washing and heading out to a kids birthday party, so I decided to crack out my paints while everyone was happy entertaining themselves. I’d been practicing how I was going to paint the reflections on the window panes – something I’d never attempted before. I had a lot of fun with it and am very happy with the result. I just hope I don’t make a mess of the rest of the painting now!!

1st holy communion season


Gibraltar, being a predominantly Catholic place, is currently in the middle of Communion and Confirmation season. My two eldest are of the ages that their school friends are celebrating these milestones of growing up. Being a non-Catholic family it’s not something we do, but it’s lovely to see their fellow students in all their finery heading into church for this big event. For those of their friends who were receiving their Holy Communions on Wednesday, the weather was beautiful and allowed for sunny photo shoots with friends and family in the park. They looked lovely.

Off the beaten track

Considering how small Gibraltar is, I find it amazing that even after almost seven years of living here, I am still discovering new things. On Friday I took a slight detour off Main Street along a side street I must have walked past hundreds, if not thousands of times during our time here and found these windows up above my head on a residential building.  I have never seen anything like this in Gibraltar before, where the windows have been bricked up and then images of windows painted over the bricks! That’s certainly one way to liven up your facade!

Cake!

Another discovery on that street was a lovely little cupcake shop. It would have been rude to return empty handed from there don’t you think? It tasted as good as it looks. The diet went a bit out of the window, but I reckon I burned it off on the Med Steps the next day πŸ˜‰
Thanks for stopping by, I hope you have a great week!