Somewhere between Barcelona and Gibraltar I finally succumbed to the Arcadia Cough, a slightly more vicious beast than I had imagined. This resulted in a late slow start which combined with only a half day port call meant we saw precious little of The Rock. With good intent we walked Main Street to the cable car and then realised that the journey up and down would make us late for the 13:00 departure time; I was in no fit state to run.
What we did see felt like a theme park based on an English high street. There are the extras dressed up as English bobbies, street furniture which is an exact copy of Hexham’s, red postboxes, red phone booths of a type which have long ceased to exist at home and all the usual stores: Marks and Spencer, Next, BHS and perhaps most perversely of all, a branch of the Newcastle Building Society. The inaccuracy is that it is absolutely thriving with not charity shop nor a boarded up window in sight; this is what English high streets would be but for disproportionate business rates, and more significantly, the rise and rise of supermarkets. The Gibraltarians remain defiantly British:
On the way back from the cable car and close to the Southport Gates is the quiet and subdued Trafalgar Cemetery which is the final resting place for a small number of casualties from the great sea battle. An old man, I like to think a sailor, stood in front of this grave and slowly read the inscription. He then placed his hand reassuringly on the headstone as though upon the shoulder of Thomas Norman. Not in vain, not forgotten.
So now we are heading back to Southampton after days under blue un-Christmas skies and mostly flat calm seas, we are even promised a gentle crossing of the Bay of Biscay.