Not being religious, nor having family, and not exactly a big turkey-eater as a vegetarian, our Christmas is hardly traditional.
There’s no opening presents by the tree, twinkling with the tiny lights as there was when I was a kid and there’s no overeating (which I didn’t particularly do even then).
And while childhood Christmases were lovely, there’s no point harking back to the past and trying to recreate it.
I did put up nice large trees in the UK, and at one point, we bought some artificial trees. They may have been plastic (or whatever) but at least it didn’t involve indiscriminate chopping down of real trees.
For a few years I kept putting up small ones in Spain, but eventually I was ordered to consign them to the bin as they looked raggier and raggier each year I got them out. So despite having boxes of ornaments and lights – I am treeless now. I don’t have space in Gibflat either.
So my nine Christmas cards are the only concession to the ‘festive season’ in our home.
What I love about Christmas in Gibraltar is the peace and tranquility. It is always quiet at weekends, but Christmas Day is even quieter.
On the Sunday before Christmas I was lured out to go visit a new supermarket in Gib. Me, the hater of shopping, having a walk to look at a supermarket. Eroski, on the far side (ie north) of the runway.
The only reason I agreed to go was because there were a couple of geocaches en route in the centre of the city, and Sunday was a good quiet day to stealthily acquire them.
Arriving in Casemates, where I confidently expected the cache to be (I have no idea why as the cache was called ‘Main Street’) I announced the clue. ‘Time for a rest?’
I figured it must refer to one of the many restaurants in the square.
Partner looked at me and immediately said ‘It must be on a bench.’ What a smart-arse. Trust him to spot the obvious.
I looked at the co-ordinates on the GPS. We had gone past the cache. It wasn’t one of these benches. We headed back up Main Street, looking for the likely bench.
There were two possible candidates together. When the occupants moved away, I took the first bench and he took the second. I felt all around the bench. Nothing. I looked at the GPS. I figured it was his bench. Rats.
‘It’s not on my bench,’ he piped up. ‘Yes, it is,’ I said assertively. I wandered over and adopted his trick of dropping down to pretend to do up my shoelace. Bingo! There it was underneath one side of the bench. I went and sat next to him and reached underneath to retrieve it and smirk.
We cleared off elsewhere to sign the log and then I put it back. He didn’t think I had put it back sufficiently well so promptly interfered. I wandered over to a shop window and then turned round to ensure it was suitably hidden. It was.
Off we went to try and find the next cache. This was in one of Gib’s old fortifications. Here is the quote from the cache site, which gives the history.
The North Bastion, formerly the Baluarte San Pablo (St. Paul’s Bastion) was part of the fortifications of Gibraltar, in the north of the peninsula, protecting the town against attack from the mainland of Spain. The bastion was based on the older Giralda tower, built in 1309. The bastion, with a mole that extended into the Bay of Gibraltar to the west and a curtain wall stretching to the Rock of Gibraltar on its east, was a key element in the defenses of the peninsula. After the British took Gibraltar in 1704 they further strengthened these fortifications, flooding the land in front and turning the curtain wall into the Grand Battery.
Today, the bastion is surrounded by reclaimed land to the west and north. Glacis Road runs along the base of the bastion’s former glacis. Smith Dorrien Avenue separates the bastion from the curtain wall, which is still largely intact. The bastion is occupied by the Giralda Gardens and a pétanque club. The government has plans to rehabilitate the site as part of a plan to develop the old fortifications as tourist attractions.
The clue was ‘at eye level’ so at least we didn’t need to bend down endlessly tying up our shoelaces and looking even more suspicious and furtive than we already were.
For a street away from the shops and on a Sunday morning, there was an annoying number of people walking around. We didn’t seem to be getting anywhere.
‘It could be over the road,’ he said. ‘No, it’s not,’ I snapped. Just to prove my point, we walked over anyway, and the GPS promptly said we were going away from it. Back we went nonchalantly gazing at the wall again. He thought it might be hidden behind a cigarette packet. Stupid idea. Everyone knows that stones are the most popular ways to conceal a cache. So I was looking for a crevice in the wall, with a loose stone. It had to be in the old part of the wall because the new part was too smooth. And then I found it. Extremely neatly hidden and slightly obscured by a plant. Two finds in one morning by ME!
We skipped over the road to sign the log on what looked like a former fountain with an inscription saying ‘For the animals 1934.’ I wonder what the history of that was?
Off we went to Eroski, about which I have nothing to say except that it is cheaper than Morrisons although further away and not as convenient for buses. Unless you wish to pay to jump on the frontier bus which we didn’t, it means a walk across the runway to get to the nearest free bus stops at Referendum House or opposite Glacis Estate.
Christmas Eve started off as a nice lazy day, we curled up with a book and did very little until I got a sudden urge to clean the bathroom tiles. In fact I got so engrossed with this exciting task that before I knew it, Partner had made a seitan and tofu casserole, and put on the potatoes. Excellent.
On Christmas Day we’d planned another geocaching adventure to Rosia and Europa Point, but woke up to rain, thunder and lightning. So instead, it was curl up on the sofa with book again. This time, I used the left-over casserole and added some more goodies to it, while he cooked lots of pasta twists (extra so I could make pasta salad later).
I mention our totally normal meals in case anyone is wondering ‘What does a vegetarian eat for Christmas?’ – in our case, what we eat seven days of the week.
In the past I have cooked fancy meals, invariably a nut roast, or steamed hazlenut pudding, or something with pastry. If I was entertaining that’s what I would do. But I don’t entertain. So that’s easy. [More on ‘entertaining‘ on Clouds]
I discovered a long time ago, that good Christmases can be the simple ones. Many years back, he bought me a Peter Carey novel (probably The Taxman). We lit a fire in the sitting room and I happily lay on the sofa reading all day. Lunch was spaghetti and tomato sauce. It’s one of the most memorable Christmases I’ve had just because it was sheer indulgent luxury to do nothing (apart from read).
This Christmas Day was pretty similar – without the fire.
And on Boxing Day, we started Operation Bedroom. Well, he did. I was still on Operation Bathroom.
Clean the walls with a fungicidal bleach to get rid of the damp spores, let dry for 24 hours, and the following day, coat up with Dulux Mouldshield Fungicidal Matt. No idea what the UK price is, but here in Gib it is nearly fifty quid. It covers well, and looks good, so fingers crossed it will keep back the mould for a year or so before it is time for another repaint.
Having shown everyone the inside and linings of my curtains, I thought a pic of them drawn might be helpful. The background is slightly crazed and shaded, the main design is the unicorns on the twirly pattern. There is a feng shui belief that it is good to have some type of animal representation in your decorations.
Back on the walls are the mirror (the only decent thing the previous owner left behind) and our Hockney print (of which more later on an art post). In the mirror you can see the furniture piled up in the middle of the room and covered with dust sheets. Part of my helpful contribution to the task as painter’s assistant. In fact, Operation Bathroom didn’t get a look in yesterday.
And to end with, the inevitable curry. If the shops in the UK don’t stock up between Christmas and New Year, it’s even worse here in Gib. I went to the market yesterday and the only stall open was a meat one! Not much use to me, so I said ‘Hola,’ asked if they were the only stall, and turned round and walked out.
In which case curry comes in extremely handy. Spicy red lentil dal, bombay style potatoes, mushrooms and turmeric with roasted cumin seeds and rice, and a raita (Yeo organic yoghurt, salt, black pepper, lemon juice, paprika, cayenne, tomato, cucumber, red onion, and green chilli). Recipe for the red lentil dal and potatoes are under Channa dal on the recipe page. I’ll add the other two later.