Roughseas is busy, navigating the channels of life. So if you are looking for something to read, you’ll have to visit Clouds. Otherwise, I will be back. Sometime. Later.
When it’s a concertina.
I bought this flat because a) it was cheap b) it was crap and c) it was in central Gib.
My philosophy on buying houses is to buy cheap and crappy that needs tidying up rather than pay more for something that has been done up, because it will never be to my taste anyway. And it would seriously gripe me to rip out something that didn’t need to be ripped out just because I didn’t like it. But I do try to buy in good areas.
If that doesn’t make sense to anyone else, no matter, because it does to me.
I should add that nothing is cheap in Gib. Apart from Both Worlds and Ocean Heights. Both Worlds is a strange complex on the eastern side of Gib in the middle of nowhere. One side is open purchase, the other is for people aged 50 or over.
Ocean Heights was one of the many buildings in Gib originally intended to be a hotel. I used to stay there when I came to Gib to look for a property to buy, and it suited me fine as a rental apartment for a few nights. We had a friend who lived there and paid £3000 a year in service charges. This is because there are no separate meters for each apartment – remember, it was intended to be a hotel. Similarly Both Worlds has communal services such as a laundry that is included in your bills so you might as well use it.
I would rather pay low service charges than fund someone else’s extravagant electrical lifestyle through communal utility bills, thank you very much. (Electricity is expensive in Gib).
For comparison, our service charges (for block maintenance) are around £400 year. Our water and electricity is £600 or slightly more. I can never understand their bills actually. But anyway, the total cost is not £3000 a year for a one-bed apartment.
Over on the dog’s blog there are pix of our grotty flat when we first acquired it.
It was one of the many posts imported from Blogger so the comments were lost, and the pix are small, however they do enlarge. Slightly.
So the two blocks mentioned above have flats for sale for less than £100K. But elsewhere you are normally looking at £100K plus for a small one-bed flat, unless someone is desperate to sell. You can pay more for a ‘decent’ (the term being relative) one-bed flat than you can for a larger two-bed one. Premium price properties tend to be the ghastly new-build ones or the expensive conversions, or something off Main Street. People frequently fall over when a) they find out we own our own flat, and b) they discover we are just off Main Street in the Jewish quarter.
Assumptions, assumptions. People see a decorator – actually they probably consider him a painter – and immediately assume he must be renting somewhere. What they don’t see is more than 40 years of work in the same trade, running his own business in the UK, me with a well-paid job, and us owning a few houses in our previous life. As I learned on my MBA course, ‘Never ASSUME anything. It makes an ASS out of U and ME.’ It might be old and clichéed but it is certainly true.
Back to our cheap, cheerful and grotty flat. Or the dog’s kennelflat as I called it, because really, it is not much bigger than a kennel.
When I first viewed the flat, well the only time actually, the estate agent said how delightful the internal doors were. Personally I thought they were vile and kitsch in the extreme with some appalling attempt at stained glass in the top half of the doors. I put them on my get rid of list. I like proper doors and these are foldy back doors, presumably because the flat is so small. In fact as we never shut them we don’t even need them.
A few weeks ago, Partner was asked to revarnish some doors for a customer. Inspired by this, he promptly decided our front door needed doing. Fine by me. Looks crap anyway so it couldn’t look any worse. He fished out an antiquated tin of Sadolin in dark something or other and set to work. Exterior went fine. Interior did not.
The following day it was still tacky. ‘It’s because you cook all the time,’ said a neighbour helpfully.
Er yes. How else am I supposed to eat? Microwave junk from the supermarket? I don’t think so.
In fact, it was only when he said that, we realised there are no other food cooking smells in the block. Goodness knows what people eat. There used to be a tomato sauce smell sometimes, but they obviously moved out. So now I am the only cook in the block!
Anyway, the offending tacky coat was taken off and the door treated with dissolvente (can’t remember the English for that).
No problem after that. Three coats on both sides and frames.
Fired up with this success, he then started on a windowsill, this time using a medium oak stain and varnish. Another good result, so he started on one of the concertina doors. Even they started to look tolerable.
The one advantage about sleeping on camping mats on the floor in the bedroom is that it gives you space to put up a trestle table and work on the doors. There is enough space for him to sleep on the floor and I have stolen the dog’s sofa. Normal sleeping will resume when the door has been rehung.
I don’t actually like varnished doors of any type. To me doors should be solid wood and painted in white eggshell, or possibly a colour – black or dark green, never red! – if they are on the outside of your house. But it’s amazing what a few coats of well-applied varnish can do.
Oh, and it smells wonderful. Totally addictive. I can’t wait for him to start today’s varnishing work.
And from the woman who is always cooking, a couple of casseroles.
One is a veg goulash and the other is a French style daube/bourguinon with croutes. Yum.
I don’t normally play at taggy games, but the dinner party one is an interesting idea. I am meant to have five guests but I can’t possibly do that.Thanks to the history tourist for this.
And anyway it would be a buffet, so rather more of an intermingling as and when. Food for dinner party already posted on Clouds.
I studied Middlemarch at school and enjoyed it. But for my senior school exam we had an extract from Mill on the Floss that involved Maggie, Tom and the rabbits. Never liked the book from thereon.
However the complexity and the characters in Middlemarch did appeal to me. So, my first author invited to the extremely vegetarian dinner party.
Emily Bronte or Anne Bronte - or maybe all the Brontes.
Wuthering Heights and Tenant of Wildfell Hall were so powerful and full of raw emotion. Very different to Eliot’s restrained characters. Interesting contrast between the authors.
Jean Jacques Rousseau
“the savage lives within himself; the sociable man, always outside of himself, knows how to live only in the opinion of others; and it is, so to speak, from their judgement alone that he draws the sentiment of his own existence.”
One of my university courses was about the history of political thought. Rousseau was one of many that we studied. I love this quote, which I have memorised for the last 30 years or so.
My interpretation, is that more than ever, people live only in the opinion of others.
How on earth could someone produce such brilliant music when they were deaf?
Bit of a problem re the dinner party, we’d either need to write down our conversations or have a crash course in deaf and dumb language. Or maybe use computers?
Another wonderful composer, and I wonder what he would have had to say to Beethoven?
Continuing with the Russian theme, and one of the most influential politicians of the 20th century. I’d like to speak to him first-hand.
I think he is a total toe-rag and would prefer him to bring his own sandwiches. Rose to fame on the back of the Lofthouse Pit Disaster which happened a few miles away from me when I was a kid. The local view was that he milked the disaster for all it was worth. At some point, as I vaguely remember, he was arguing for more money for miners for working in dangerous conditions. Surely the point is to make the conditions safer rather than pay people extra for risky work?
But I’d be interested to hear what he would have to discuss with Lenin.
And from one extreme to the other, although in some cases maybe not.
Renowned, or rather remembered, for his infamous speech in Birmingham against immigration.
Reviled for that speech as being racist.
A man who was a professor in Ancient Greek at the University of Sydney by the age of 25. Who spoke 12 languages, or ten, or 14, depending on what you find on the internet. His mother taught him ancient Greek at the age of five?! He spoke Aramaic, Hebrew, Greek, Latin and Urdu to start with, before we even get into European languages.
He won a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, and, in his first year, won all the main classical prizes open to undergraduates: this achievement was, and remains, unique.
The truth is, this was a man of superb intellect, and basically above the rest of us in terms of intelligence. He was also ahead of his time. Many of his predictions have come true. European Union? Single currency? Race riots in Britain – Liverpool, Newcastle, Birmingham, Bristol, South London, Yorkshire (I’ve lived in half of those areas). I don’t agree with racist policies. I also don’t agree with the fact that I can no longer go back to the UK and qualify for benefit and health care – a system I paid into quite heavily – when other people from wherever can turn up at the drop of a hat.
If Enoch was known as being a monetarist before the term was invented, how about Nige? Enoch was anti-inflation, Nigel was the opposite, but did me a big favour in the 80s. An eighties babe me. Gotta ask him to dinner on those grounds alone.
Not sure who he will chat to, but as he died off Gib and his body was brought into Rosia, and my dad was in the navy (and served in Gib), he gets the dinner party gold-printed invitation too. Actually, he would probably get on with Enoch.
And the odd one on the list (Or maybe they are all odd!):
The current best-selling author worldwide.
Steel was born Danielle Fernandes Dominique Schuelein-Steel in New York City, the only child of Norma da Câmara Stone dos Reis and John Schulein-Steel. Her father was a German Jewish immigrant, a descendant of the founders of Löwenbräu beer. Her mother, born in Portugal, was the daughter of a diplomat.
Steel was raised Catholic and had wanted to be a nun during her early years. She spent much of her childhood in France, where from an early age she was included in her parents’ dinner parties, giving her an opportunity to observe the habits and lives of the wealthy and famous.
But I read a Danielle Steel novel recently. Wings. Courtesy of our informal pass-books-on club. At least it didn't involve details of cutting of gory bodies. Or cutting up bodies gorily.
It was about a woman who wanted to be a pilot in the 30s/40s in spite of her father's opposition - he owned an airfield. She also had an older man fixation, the guy she married was 14 years older than her, and the one she really loved was 18 years older than her. I don't care about disparity in ages, but older man = good, older woman ≠ good sends out bad messages. Little girls do not need protective men, thank you very much.
Anyway, she got to fly, so it wasn't a bad result. But I wonder what the Brontes would have made of Ms Steele?
Speaking of flying, both Mariano Rajoy (Spanish pres) and Cristina Kirchner (Argentinian pres) appear to be flying by the seat of their pants.
Rajoy has been accused of accepting backhanders.
Meanwhile, what is happening with the economy in the eurozone's fourth biggest economy? Oh yes, highest unemployment rate in Europe now. The highest in Spain since the 70s when stats were started.
We have now achieved a prestigious total of 60% of people under 25 being unemployed and overall, 26% of the population are jobless ie six million. More than double the EU average.
In 2012, an average of nearly 2000 people a day lost their jobs in Spain. And the country has overtaken Greece for the highest unemployment rate in the EU.
But still, it's ok if you are a Spaniard working in Gib. Because you know what, you will keep your job while a local is sacked. Once a Spaniard is sacked, it is a bit difficult to get around the paperwork to explain why a Spaniard gets preference over a Gibbo (although not impossible). So, Spaniards don't get sacked and Gibraltarian residents do. The bottom line is that firms continue to employ cross-border workers at the expense of local residents.
Just up the street from me there is a block conversion of a five-storey building. Carried out by a Portuguese firm. Using Portuguese workers. Who live over the border. Vehicles registered in Portugal. What on earth is that doing for the Gibraltarian economy? I met a neighbour who said no-one local could carry out the work. As if. I can think of ten Gib firms who could do that job.
But if you do get the push, and you live in Spain, there is that lovely Spanish dole. Mmmmmm.
Used to be 80% I think, but has dropped to 70% for the first six months, now down from 60% to 50% for the remainder - of the two year period. That's right. Two years of benefit. Two whole years.
If anyone wonders why the Spanish economy is fucked, this is one good reason. I mean it's nice to get a couple of years on 50-80% of your previous salary for doing stuff all (don't forget the obligatory redundancy payment too) but it isn't doing a lot for the national debt is it?
Here in Gib the dole is a statutory figure for 13 weeks. It’s around 85 quid for a couple. We know a guy who happily claimed his dole in Spain (been working in Gib) and drank and smoked so much he had a heart attack. Another one has said quite happily that when he gets laid off he will register in Spain. (He lives in Gib but has a Spanish home too). ‘Why don’t you do that?
Well, I know it sounds slightly old-fashioned but we have some principles. Yes, I know it is not financially sound, but I am not interested in scamming the system. Even though all the systems are a scam. I want to be able to sleep at night.
Kirchner is still claiming the Falklands and is adopting the Spanish tactics of wanting to ignore local views and representation.
Two Spanish-speaking countries with domestic and economic problems choose to intimidate British Overseas Territories.
But I’ll end with the Cordoba Agreement (2006)
about which I doubt any Brit, let alone anyone else, knows about. Britain is paying Spanish pensions. Get that? Because my pension has been put back five years (if not more) while Spaniards get paid by the UK.
“Under the Cordoba agreement the UK has made payments totalling £63,607,954.35 between April 2007 and December 2012. During this period pensioner numbers have fallen from 5,175 to 3,592. The figure covers both quarterly pension payments and one-off lump-sum payments that were made to Spanish citizens in connection with their withdrawal from the Gibraltar social insurance fund. The one-off payments made in April 2007 and April 2008 totalled approximately £24 million,” said Baroness Warsi.
I mean, sixty three million pounds? So that ‘planes can fly over Spain into Gib airport, and we can have our own telephone system (part of the agreement). Well thank you Spain. That is really helpful. One day I will work out why the UK is paying for Spanish pensions for people who have lived in Spain and worked in Gib, received a higher wage than they could in Spain and take it out to spend in Spain.
Answers on a postcard. Spanish or English equally accepted.
Getting any Christmas cards is a surprise to me these days. I’ve never had a long list of people to send cards to, and my walls have never been covered with them.
Even my mother received and sent more than I did which always surprised me as I thought they didn’t know many people. Perhaps it’s about staying in the same place and within the same circles of people which is not something I’ve done.
When I was renting a flat at university the landlady (who would probably not like to to be called that, although technically was – she was married to a consultant orthopaedic surgeon and I lived in the top floor of their house) said she thought it was particularly stupid to send cards to people you saw every day of the week. She thought they should be reserved for people that you didn’t see, and it gave you chance to catch up with them once a year.
Actually if the only thing you have in common is a once-yearly card it begs the question of why you even bother doing that.
My mother was precious about postage. Not for her the stealthy delivery around to the neighbours after dark to deliver the cards through the letterbox. No. She proudly walked down to the post office (obviously much further away), and paid for the stamps. I think she thought hand delivery was akin to being a penny-stamper – so to speak.
As you move around the country/the world, the list of Christmas card recipients becomes ever smaller. The neighbours fall off the end, with my only remaining regulars being my university friends. Even one of those didn’t bother last year, rather rudely (in my opinion) sending a cursory mail sometime between Christmas and New Year.
But new places mean new neighbours, and I do send cards to a couple of Gib ones. I’ve acquired internet card people too, so I’m nearly into double figures at this rate.
The first card was a lovely surprise. Remembering my love of donkeys she had chosen the card especially for me. How thoughtful.
The next card was a bigger surprise (although not as nice as donkeys). It was from the freeholder of our block of flats, for which I now chair the management council. I don’t think it is common practice for him to send out cards to everyone who has bought a flat in his blocks (he owns a few lucrative blocks), so I must have done something right.
The picture is a presentation of a painting of the queen (Elizabeth II) to the Earl and Countess of Wessex on their visit to Gib earlier this year, in the presence of the Governor of Gibraltar, Sir Adrian Johns. What an illustrious gathering to have on my dusty sideboard. I don’t mix in those circles but my freeholder does.
Next, and totally different, is a card from my neighbour over the road. It depicts the ‘We Three Kings’ carol, always one of my favourites – especially sung by Mario Lanza – and inside she had written a note saying how much she misses chatting to us across the street through our windows (yes we do that sort of thing in Gib) since she had a stroke. I really appreciated her taking the time to write such a personal comment inside the card.
The next card is a County Air Ambulance charity one. Another perfect card with sheep, a dog, looks like a collie to me, and what I shall choose to consider to be a rag-top Land Rover. And – the surprise with that card – was that there was a present inside too. A lovely diary in aid of a dog charity. How good is that? It is amazingly useful, because although Gib is predominantly Catholic, we seem to have every other religion under the sun here too, and it lists all their religious holidays. Extremely helpful when I live in the Jewish quarter of town. Apart from anything else I can’t call meetings for the block on Jewish holidays as it would be disrespectful, so a quick flick to the diary to check out holidays.
Finally the last surprise was a card from our Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, and our minister for employment, Joe Bossano (previous party leader and chief minister). In fact, it’s not from them as government ministers, but rather from the Gib Socialist and Liberal Party. From the GSLP family, no less, ‘working for you’. Um, they are not my family and right now they are not working for me at all.
There is far too much black labour from cross-border workers that they are doing nothing about to my knowledge. I know someone who has been working illegally in Gib for more than 20 years (in construction). There are endless cleaners working on the black. Spanish residents (of varying nationalities, British, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Eastern European), are being kept on company payrolls because once they are sacked it is hard/impossible to get them back – so Gib residents get the push instead. Great policy there that is not doing a lot for local labour.
At the job centre everything had changed yet again. No daily updates for jobs, all jumbled together in glass/perpex case displays. Not broken down by date, category or anything.
When I saw an employment officer, I asked what was going on.
‘Those are specialist jobs, for people with degrees,’ she informed me.
Right, well that wouldn’t apply to me would it, with a first degree and a Masters as well.
I didn’t bother answering. Sometimes you waste your breath.
‘The call centre has finished,’ she informed me.
Ah, the one I never heard from. Where it is staffed by inane idiots who decree what jobs I may apply for, based on a tick box form that says my interests are journalism, management, PR, and something else – I forget what because it clearly didn’t matter. They don’t need a CV do they? I might as well have ticked all 20 categories for all they knew.
‘Why did it stop?’
‘It wasn’t working.’
‘They were sending people for the wrong jobs.’
Ha! Just. Ha!
‘You need to speak to us now, as we have the jobs on file.’
Oh, that’s good, instead of an idiot at the call centre who I don’t get to see and who gets to dismiss me on the basis of my interests – and my non-Gibraltarian name? – I get to see a person in the job centre who determines what jobs I can apply for.
Note to prospective job-hunters. Do make sure you can read upside down.
‘I can speak Spanish,’ I said as she skipped a load of jobs that started with ‘must speak Spanish.’
‘Will you accept administrative work?’ she asked.
What the hell. Why not.
She gave me two cards. One was the inevitable gambling/gaming company, and the other was an HR assistant.
I rang the number. It was a legal firm. The job was not for them so I have no idea why their number was on the card apart from to mess people about.
I rang the number she gave me. It didn’t exist.
I’d done enough for the day and decided to do something more rewarding like read blogs.
It’s fun being chair of the management committee for our block.
When we came back to Gib after a weekend in Spain, our neighbour knocked on the door to say he was going on holiday and could we possibly sort out the sewage drain that was overflowing.
Er no. Why should we sort someone else’s shit for free? We promptly shut our window onto that patio.
A couple of years ago our patio was full of shit for three months. That was probably about the time we had a plague of cockroaches.
Yesterday, there was a knock on the door and partner answered. I wasn’t available. I try not to be available. Ever.
It was an extremely pleasant person from Environmental Health. Someone had complained about – the sewage in the patio. It needed to be sorted or he would have to serve a notice. I wish I had known that three years ago. It never occurred to me to complain to Env Health. Or that they would react so promptly. Overflowing sewage is an emergency apparently. Not to our freeholder it wasn’t, back then. (He doesn’t live in the block).
Partner donned boots, gloves, mask and went down to look for the drain rods which had mysteriously disappeared from the store/cleaning cupboard.
I rang up for hire prices for drain rods. Cheap. I rang up for quotes for drain clearance. Expensive. He walked up to collect the rods.
He came back and cleared the two drains, flushed them with running water and disinfected the patio and drains. I sent photos to environmental health and today received a gold star.
Yesterday I also sent an estimate to hang wallpaper (Designers Guild) on a feature wall in an expensive flat. I haven’t heard back. For the cost of two people to hang wallpaper over the best part of a week, one person could clean two drains in half a day.
We are thinking about going into drain/sewage clearance.
And a previous paperhanging job that we did do….
Even rich people suffer in times of economic depression. Honestly.
So as a contrast to the family of six adults living out of two old age state pensions and a part-time cleaning job, I thought I would tell the tale about the other side of the street. Literally.
Spain has this quaint term called ‘front line’ relating to properties. If you have a flat in a block that directly overlooks the beach, it is called front line. If you are the next block back, you are ‘second line’. OK so you can’t see the beach, but it still isn’t too far to walk for idle Spaniards.
I don’t think the description goes any further than second or third line, because after that it doesn’t matter.
Our village is not directly on the beach, it is about ten minutes walk away. An extremely nice round trip takes about 40 mins although nearer an hour in summer.
However, the street we live in, is known as front line. It is part of the old town and marks the end of the housing with views to the Mediterranean. There are about five family plots that take up most of the street. I’m including ours in that, as originally, it was part of the next door family plot, and they treat us like adopted family inasmuch as we get share-outs of family veg from the relatives up the back, we get leftover food, and – the big one – we get to go in their house to watch football! when Spain is playing, or for whatever other reason.
But across from all of these five plots is one huge finca, owned by a family further down the coast who deal in gold in Marbella and Málaga. Or they did when we first arrived. They have never lived there, but they did have beautiful horses which occasionally went to shows, a peacock and a couple of parrots plus loads of dogs and chickens.
We’ve always got on well with the groundsmen and the horse people who have worked there, and Partner has been inside a few times to help with mechanical problems or anything that needed an extra hand as a favour.
The arrogant owners have occasionally acknowledged our inferior presence when they have pulled up to collect eggs and generally make sure everything is going ok.
One day, we arrived back from Gib to find an empty finca. The groundsman had been sacked, and the horses moved to another finca. Because when you have money, you have more than one huge finca worth millions.
Since then, the ground has continued to be worked by various different agricultural workers, there are about four huge fields that grow mainly potatoes, but also courgettes and cabbage.
Just before Christmas, someone appeared. Someone was living there.
It turned out to be a relative whose business had gone bust and he had no money. Well, in as much as he wasn’t working and had nowhere to live. He still has his silver BMW. Comes from Barcelona apparently. This family has relatives all over Spain.
He’s a nice guy, friendly, and speaks amazingly clear Spanish which is somewhat disconcerting when we have got used to the Andaluz habit of dropping and slurring the endings of words.
He goes down to the bar for a bit of breakfast around 11am (he didn’t do that originally) and our neighbour collects the bread for him from the bread van, and he potters across later on to collect it. Our neighbours hold a key for him too, in case he is out and something needs to be delivered.
Recently he was out and a big silo was dismantled, presumably either to be sold, or moved elsewhere. Asset stripping your own assets in fact.
What fascinates us about this story is that it is just unbelievable. UK families that I know do not work like that. If you are out of work – tough shit. Apart from the fact that both our families don’t own multiple properties, they wouldn’t have put us up anyway in a grace and favour house. My parents did home us (for free) on return from Australia until I got a job in London. Partner’s mother said we could stay there too, as long as we paid our way. On the UK dole? Yeah, right. Not much competition there staying in a poky three-bed terrace and paying, and a large three-bed detached for free.
I should add, that years later, my father told us that we were on our own.
So, two sides of the coin, two sides of the street. But in both cases, families supporting the ones without income.
Meanwhile next door, my neighbour has suddenly started growing onions from sets in plantpots. He used to grow veg at some ground next to his daughter’s (up the street of course) but that got sold off (all Spanish ground is owned by fifty members of the same family of course and this was more someone else’s ground than his son-in-law’s).
But his terrace was always reserved for flowers and tiny guindillas (red chillis) because he likes the look of them. Now, shortage of money has made him decide to grow veg on the terrace. Or perhaps he has been encouraged by my veg growing and realised it isn’t such a bad thing to do after all.
I still have rocket, escarole, espinacas/acelga and parsley. Some of the newly planted habas/broad beans have germinated, and it looks as though a few of my onion seeds are coming through too. Broad beans are 1.90€ a kilo. A pack of seeds cost 1.45€ I think I may be planting some more.
Always grow what works for you. I have always been successful with brassicas, salad, potatoes and beans. So that’s what I’ll be growing over the winter season.
More economical/austerity/penny-pinching measures:
Partner went into town on the bike after it had been raining and fell off down the river bed. Idiot! Luckily he fell into a pile of river sand. This is why, when we used to go out on the tandem, I would jump off when I thought he was going too fast and recklessly.
We finally realised that our 82-year-old neighbour hadn’t stopped having a perm for fashion reasons. It saved going to the hairdresser and paying unnecessary money. It looks better anyway, chic and short. Her daughter always referred to it as caracolas – because it looked like curly snails.
The peg bag split (RSPB) after 20 something years. They don’t make things like they used to do they? The straps on the bike panniers went. Same comment. Solution? Make pannier into new peg bag.
I have renewed my love affair with Spanish buses. They are a) comfortable and b) cheap (I have travelled from one end of Spain to the other for around 60€) and c) normally leave on time. Of which more next time as this post is not about buses. Except that they are cheap.
Are a law unto themselves.
They start in June. When they start in June is another matter.
The other day I needed to go to the post offices in Gib, naturally, the one where you buy stamps to send mail to the UK is not the same one where you have to go to collect registered mail.
I checked on the website to see if there was any information about summer hours. No. Apart from the information that tells you what those hours are. That’s great, but I want to know when it starts. Second week in June? Is that from the 8th of June? The second Monday? The end of the second week or the start of it? Why not start at the beginning of June and make life simple?
Summer hours are this bizarre concept that means office workers can’t possibly work later than lunchtime and need to go home, eat, sleep, go to the beach or whatever else they do.
I mean, it’s a hard life in an air-conditioned office yes? Does my parter working on a construction site in the heat of the sun get summer hours? No. Although ironically our Spanish neighbour did when he was working on a local building firm. Instead of 8am-2pm and then 3-6pm, he worked from 7am-3pm.
But back to Gib. I arrived at the post office that sells stamps just after 2pm and asked when summer hours would be starting. ‘We’re on summer hours already,’ she beamed. ‘We close at 2.15.’
I glanced at the clock, nearly 2.15pm. Not much chance of me legging it round to the other post office to collect the registered mail when it’s ten minutes walk away.
All government offices do summer hours. Naturally, they don’t all do the same summer hours. A bit like they don’t all do the same hours anyway. Some open at 8.30, 8.45, 9.00 etc etc, and then closing time can be anywhere between 12 noon and 1pm. Some open in the afternoon and some don’t.
Nine to five? Forget it in Gibraltar.
The shops are the same, some take a lunch break, some don’t. Some work summer hours, some don’t. Businesses too.
And to complete the inconsistency, everyone embarks on their summer hours schedule at different dates. At some point in June.
In fact the only time to get anything done is between 10am-12noon.
Summer hours end in September. But don’t ask me when.
Confused? Me too, and I’ve been here five years.
Not me, hardly at 5’9″ or is it 10″? Who cares.
Although there are times when being amazingly tall for your age and your height being commented on isn’t much fun. But apparently it is much worse for small persons. So I hear. I really have no interest.
But this post is not about my height. It is about buildings.
I have to thank two people for this post. One is my photographic tutor – Vicky - who introduced me to the concept of converging verticals. The other is my PITA Partner, who managed to leave the key to the job behind just when I was on the point of going back to bed. So I had to take it up to him. Not well pleased as I had even opened (and closed) the sandwich bar extremely early in order for the nice return to bed.
But 7.30am is a nice time to takey some piccies.
So enjoy the verticals….
Gibraltar may be a few thousand kilometres away from the UK but we managed a suitably traditional long damp weekend holiday.
What a dutiful British Overseas Territory we are.
Although, somewhat differently, we commemorated Workers’ Memorial Day on April 28 with a public holiday on May 30, followed by another holiday on May 1 – Labour Day/International Workers’ Day – hence our long weekend a week ahead of the UK.
I like holidays that are actually celebrated on the day and not bumped forwards or backwards to the nearest Monday.
Regardless of which, it was wet. I took the rare opportunity to take wet photos. And caught a cold. Literally. I am sure the two are not connected as I was wearing my leaking Goretex.
Ironically and unintentionally this post continues the theme of the last one….
Unite the Union Gibraltar Branch renew our commitment to, and demand once more, safe and healthy work for all.
Society no-longer finds drink-driving or domestic violence acceptable. It is time for work-related ill-health, injury, and death to also become unacceptable rather than a tragic but accepted part of the world of work.
Unite the Union Gibraltar Branch has declared 28 April 2012 a Day of Action to Defend health and safety. Unite the Union Gibraltar since 2008 have held Workers Memorial Day events and have finally influenced the Gibraltar Government to recognise Workers Memorial Day.
Every year we make clear the link between deaths and illness caused by work: most workers do not die of mystery ailments, or in tragic ‘accidents’. But because an employer decided their safety or health wasn’t that important a priority.
Unlike those dying in war or major incidents, they are not publicly remembered yet over 2.3 million people are killed by work worldwide each year – more than by wars or AIDS
Can you believe that? What appalling statistics. So, meanwhile as I was saying on the other post about trainees wearing safety gear on site…..
But moving swiftly on, our Chief Minister was busy unveiling a plaque on Workers’ Memorial Day, and sending out an inspiring message to Gibraltarians:
It is now also the GSLP, with our Liberal partners, who are introducing Workers Memorial Day as an annual bank holiday. As the grandson of a man who died in an industrial accident, it has been hugely satisfactory for me to introduce this commemorative holiday as a long weekend at the end of April. I recognise the work of Unite (in particular Gilbert McCarthy and Christian Duo) in raising the profile of this day.
Workers die around the world everyday whilst they labour to earn a living. Just last year a man lost his life working in Gibraltar.
We can therefore never be too careful when it comes to the protection of life in the workplace. That is why I adopt the phrase “remember the dead and fight for the living” which Unite is promoting as part of the events of 28th April co-sponsored by the Government and to which people from across the Community and across the political divide have been invited.
I have heard criticism of the fact that we are declaring a bank holiday to commemorate those who have died at work. Surprisingly, no-one criticised bank holidays given to celebrate royal weddings or winning court cases later lost on appeal. This day is much more poignant, enduring and relevant and I am hugely proud to have been able to declare it a holiday.
Finally, if you are going to take advantage of the fact that this year will be an extra long holiday weekend to go away – wherever you are, spare a thought for the events and sacrifices that give rise to these holidays. Enjoy –but do not forget.
While I may sound sarcastic, I am not. I think those are very valid sentiments, and my sympathies go out to the Chief Minister’s family and everyone else who who knows someone, whether family, or friend, who died at work or through a work-related disease.
I hope Unite’s calls for action are heard and implemented. There is more to workers’ rights than unveiling a plaque, fine words and a public holiday. Hopefully this government will be able to strengthen health and safety for those who work in Gibraltar.
Maybe even clamp down on that odd bit of illegal working that goes on? Cross-border workers trying to earn a pittance. No cover. Risking their lives. And sadly, so are the employers who knowingly take them on as illegal employees.
Unite the Union Gibraltar Branch is calling for:
1. No reduction in the legal protection for workers and the Gibraltarian community on health and safety.
2. Those who create risk must be held accountable.
3. No freedom from inspections and an increase in inspector number.
4. Recognition and support for the role that union safety representatives play.
5. More action to prevent occupational diseases.
Meanwhile some more damp pics from my sick bed and the obligatory slideshow.
Don Miguel Rojo, I want to talk to you.
Don Miguel, I hear you’re hiring on men.
Well, I might just be available.
I gotta tell you before you hire me…
I don’t work cheap.
[A Fistful of Dollars]
But trainees do.
So cheap that they don’t have to wear hard hats on a construction site, or the scaffolding they are working on doesn’t need to be netted.
These are government trainees working on a government site, a hospital in fact.
It’s OK, because anyone working around the bottom does wear a hard hat.
The Government can confirm that all Gibraltar Training Centre employees and trainees are provided with the necessary Personal Protective clothing and equipment to satisfy the requirements of the Factories Act. As a training provider, the Centre ensures that all its employees fully comply with current and local Health and Safety Regulations by undertaking an induction period at inception stage and also undertake an independent Health and Safety test in accordance with the guidelines set out by the UK Main Awarding Body.
Moreover, trainees undertaking periods of on-site attachment are inducted on site to familiarise themselves with the site orientation, nature of development works and are instructed to follow the policies set by the Main Contractor. The GHA Project Manager responsible for the KGV refurbishment works carried out a risk assessment and its findings were that there was no need to use debris netting on this particular project. Scaffolding has been predominantly erected as a means of access to assist painters and decorators who are exclusively making use of it to decorate the main facade of the KGV Building. It is therefore not a requirement to include netting as there is no risk of falling debris, objects or heavy tools/equipment. The painting and decorating trainees are working at different heights along the platforms and are protected by overhead scaffold boards and consequently there is no need for the use of safety helmets either.
However, plasterers and bricklayers working around the site in open spaces hacking and making good wall defects at ground floor level are permanently using safety helmets. The Government in general and the Construction Training Centre in particular take this opportunity to reassure the public that it is fully committed to provide a high quality comprehensive range of learning opportunities relevant to the construction and built environment to assist the young generation and raise local standards. Furthermore, there have been no reports for many years of any incidents or near misses on the building sites where trainees have been working.
So, for starters. Scaffold clips? Scaffold tubes? Hit any of those with your head? Poke your eyes out? Anyone who has actually been on scaffolding will know what it is like – and it is very, very easy to bash your head. Or your face.
We don’t need netting because
it is too expensive no-one is working above. Really? So there is absolutely no risk of anything falling onto anyone? From anywhere? No decorators using tools?
I wonder if they are wearing hi-vis jackets? Safety boots?
How many sites do you see around Gib that have signs saying?:
No hard hat.
No safety boots.
Gib government – what are you talking about, seriously?
Twenty years ago as a press officer I wore a hard hat when I went on construction sites. These trainees are not just visiting, they are meant to be working on a site.
This is an appalling way to train young people in a trade – ostensibly – for life.
As for the reference to the Factories Act? This is not the nineteenth century – first factory act in the UK passed in 1802. The UK has specific construction site inspectors within the Health and Safety Executive. Factories are not construction sites.
And – I have read the Gib Government Factories Act – 1956. This is a construction site.
There is an awful lot about colour-washing walls in factories – of which we have a lot in Gibraltar in 2012, 56 years later no less – and matches, and steam boilers, and laundries, and steam pressure, and asbestos and, where is the bit that says you need to wear safety clothing on a construction site in 2012?
We have a new socialist government looking after workers. Or do we?
Here is good scaffolding with good practice being carried out by the workers on site.
Gib Government -
1) You still need to change your press releases, and
2) You may wish to wander around a building site.
Here is Joe Cocker, from Sheffield, Yorkshire, who sang “Leave Your Hat On,” in the 1986 Adrian Lyne film 9½ Weeks during the striptease scene. It was later sung by Tom Jones on the Full Monty. Written by Randy Newman incidentally.