‘Mustafa’s dead,’ said Chair. No idea how his name is spelt, but it sounds like chair, so chair it is.
Partner had bumped into him down Main Street, as you do.
He came back from Morocco, was rushed into hospital in Spain, and died there after not very long at all.
Later Partner bumped into someone else from the previous firm. ‘Mustafa’s dead. He died in hospital in Gib.’
‘No he didn’t, it was in Spain,’ contradicted Partner confidently. Chair rents a flat underneath the deceased Mustafa so Partner was pretty sure about the authenticity of his information.
Mustafa was a painter (sort of) on the firm, pretty scruffy, smoked dope, had a finca a hundred kilometres or so outside Rabat (Morocco) and had a few girlfriends in Gib, as well as a wife and family in Morocco.
He’s worked all his life in Gib, and at 62, was planning to retire in three years and spend his retirement at home in Morocco.
Partner told the Moroccan who cleans cars in the car park. He knew Mustafa but hadn’t heard he’d died. He obviously doubted Partner, being a white non-Muslim Brit, as a source of information because a day or so later, he acknowledged that his information was correct. ‘He had his fecha de caducidad aquí,’ he said pointing to his forehead, referring to Mustafa’s time to go, literally sell-by date, or date of expiry.
One of the residents of a block Partner had worked on mentioned it to him. ‘Yes,’ said Partner, and rattled off his info. ‘You’re a good source of information,’ said the old boy. Partner shrugged. He gets on with Moroccans and Spaniards just as he does Brits and Gibbos. And there’s no language barrier because his Spanish is good enough for conversation. So it means he has a lot of networks.
‘You know what Gib’s like, you don’t always get it right, there’s always misinformation,’ and Partner quoted the two different stories about Mustafa’s place of death, adding that he figured the Moroccan who lived underneath Mustafa was more likely to be right than a Gibraltarian who lived 15 or 20 minutes away.
‘Yes,’ agreed the old boy. ‘There are always false stories doing the rounds.’
Photos of the cable car above the car park as it’s more interesting than cars parked.
Bumping into Big Al the other day, who’s retired and on a pension but looking for joinery work, Al mentioned there were loads of jobs at the job centre.
‘Go and see an employment officer, they’ve got a big book with lots of construction work in it,’ he said.
So Partner went to the Job Centre. No queue. Only one employment officer when there had been up to four previously and huge queues. No jobs on the board apart from gaming, previously there was a room full, then they blocked off half the room, then they closed the room and put the few token jobs in the main area.
The employment officer recognised Partner immediately. No jobs, he said.
‘What about the big book you have?’ asked Partner puzzled.
‘Nothing,’ EO said, ‘apart from two joinery jobs at £6.50 an hour.’
‘That’s below the official trade rate,’ said Partner.
‘What can we do?’ said EO. ‘We get Eastern Europeans coming in every day with contracts to be confirmed. If we were notified of all these jobs, we would have a bookful. It’s a question of knocking on doors.’
‘I thought this government was trying to support Gibraltarians,’ said Partner.
It used to be Spaniards, then Portuguese, now Eastern Europeans are here in droves. After all, they speak good English so Gib is an easy sunny option for them, and they share a cheap flat in Spain until they have amassed enough money to do whatever they want to do. Go on a world trip, pay off their house in Estonia, pay their university fees. Economic migrancy is an interesting phenomenon that has been totally changed by the open borders across Europe. Should Morocco ever join the EU… If you think the perilous trips made across the Med to Spain and Italy are bad, imagine what it will be like if the right to live and work in Europe becomes legal.
Meanwhile, our late sixties/early 70s neighbour was telling us about his browsing on Facebook. What is he doing on there? I wondered. Anyway he told us about some Muslim who flies back and forth to Luton airport and has a banner/sign/placard urging everyone to convert to Islam. And he has police protection. WTF? I haven’t checked out the veracity of this tale. If it’s true it would only depress me.
Would I get police protection if I settled outside Luton airport exhorting everyone to abandon their religion? Or maybe ‘Repent all ye sinners! Abandon your pernicious habits of killing animals to eat their flesh when there are perfectly good crops kicking around!’ (Assuming you can find any free from GM and pesticides).
And at the supermarket yesterday (no, I wasn’t there skipping gaily around on my crutches) the woman behind Partner commented on his healthy basket. Apart from the tins of San Miguel. ‘Everything’s fresh,’ she said in surprise. The trucks had come down from the UK to Morrisons so he’d bought organic tomatoes, cucumber, celery, red peppers, courgettes, and non-organic peas and broad beans.
It says a lot about our society that a shopping basket full of fresh food elicits comments whereas a trolley piled high with junk food is the norm.
The man in front didn’t have enough money for his shopping. He had to start putting back food, to get it down from £65 to £55. Back went two packs of bacon, two packs of cheddar cheese, and the pack of dog biscuits. ‘No!’ said Partner and the check-out woman together. ‘Don’t do that, don’t leave your dog without food, I’ll pay.’ But the man said he had some left at home anyway. Who knows?
Of course if he’d had a similar basket to Partner it wouldn’t have come to anywhere near £55 or £65. Although it’s not why we eat vegetarian, it’s still one hell of a lot cheaper than buying flesh, fowl, and fish.
Lance’s Travels – UK, by Lance Leuven (book review)
But onto Lance’s Travels which are humorous and informative. Approaching his 30th birthday, Lance Leuven decided to give up his job, buy a caravan and car and travel round the UK, as you do. I can empathise with that having chucked my job just after 40 and clearing off to Europe.
It must have taken him a hell of a long time to research his trip because there is a wealth of information in his book. The emphasis is on history, the natural environment, and local culture. It’s probably the sort of trip I would have made, so reading it was a pleasure. What it isn’t, is Tony Hawks traipsing round Ireland with a fridge.
Not only does Lance discuss history and natural history, he writes about people too – Churchill, Darwin, Emmeline Pankhurst. Interestingly, Pankhurst’s parents were keen supporters of suffrage, but thought Emmeline’s future would best be served as a homemaker. As she lay in bed one night, she heard her father saying, ‘What a pity she wasn’t born a lad’. Says it all. Other interesting characters include John Snow, Dickens, Alexander Fleming, Alan Turing, Isaac Newton, Robert Owen, Robert Burns, James Watt, and Shakespeare among others.
While I knew much of the history, there were items I didn’t know or had forgotten. The first computer being invented at Bletchley for example, but not revealed for years because of the information black-out.
I learned that Sydney Harbour Bridge isn’t based on the earlier completed Tyne bridge in Newcastle, both are based on Hell Gate Bridge in New York.
There were loads of other interesting facts and statistics that Lance had unearthed to get the most out of his trip.
It’s the sort of book to read with your feet up, enjoying a vicarious journey up the east coast, to York, over the North Yorkshire Moors, up to Northumberland and Bamburgh beach, on and up through Scotland with a trip to the Orkneys and the fabulous Skara Brae, back down the west coast, a trip over to Northern Ireland and Giant’s Causeway, back to GB and the Lakes, the Peak District, Wales… you get the idea. Southern destinations included Cornwall, Dartmoor, Exmoor, Stonehenge, Avebury, the New Forest, those counties in the bottom right hand, and of course, London.
It has a nice tidy ending in which he summarises his thoughts about his trip, and adds the practical side, such as needing to sell his car and caravan as he was tight for money.
Included in the book are a couple of photos at the end of each chapter. Cost prevented him uploading more, but they do provide a tasty treat. More photos are on his blog.
And in between the descriptions of the buildings, history, people, national parks and regional food, Lance manages to include his caravan mishaps, his run-in with the police as a suspicious character, and a predilection for getting lost when walking to and from camp sites. Add to that, an interesting social commentary and a dry sense of humour and it makes for a good read if this is your type of book. For anyone planning a long or short trip around the UK it would make for a travel guide to start your itinerary. It also reminds me that I really need to set aside time to write up my travels.
There are typos, not enough to detract heavily, but it’s always a shame when a decent book has more than the odd one or two. One thing I would have found helpful in a book like this would have been chapter titles rather than Chapter One, Two, Three etc. So a sense of days and destinations at the beginning of each chapter, eg Days 10-15 – York to the Scottish Border, would have given an indication of what the chapter held in store and given a feel for timescale. Plus, in the contents listing it would have served to give a full itinerary at a glance.
Thanks to Lance for a free copy of his book for an independent review.
Lance’s blog: Lance’s Travels – links to his photos and book available on there.
And apols to Sonel for no monkey pix. You will have to make do with my boys. So here they are, captions on each photo. Some from Spain where the major event was hacking up concrete, cycling around three towns to find the correct hose, and finally fixing it. A three-day event no less.