You will know when it exists -- Obscure journalism direct from our man on the ground.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Down and Out at The End of Europe - A budding journalist discouraged by The Gibraltar Magazine

Gibraltar. Many call it the arse end of Spain. After two weeks living here I consider that flattery. It’s more like the rectal passage of a constipated Europe, clogged with a crooked turd that has been stinging the asshole of Spain for hundreds of years.

What brought me to such a foul location?

A journalism job beckoned.

Camp Bay, Gibraltar

Tuesday 25th of September 2012
I’ve weighed my suitcase (23kg) and paid for the extra weight online. My alarm wakes me at 3am. I kiss my girl for the last time. Two buses get me to the airport, where Monarch airlines tell me my bag weighs 28kg and charge me another £50. I should have expected this sort of treatment from a company called Monarch.

I arrive in Gibraltar at 11am, get a bus to Casemates square and walk to La Bayuca: the office of The Gibraltar Magazine. I say hello to Andrea (The Publisher), her Chihuahuas, the cat and the kittens.

Then I go to the recently inaugurated, faux-Caribbean marina, Ocean Village and visit all the bars. Not boozing. Asking for weekend work to supplement the 20 hours a week promised by the magazine. There seems to be a demand for weekend-staff but each establishment wants a printed CV.

Back at the office Andrea asks where I am staying.

“Over the border in La Linea, with some Scottish guy that answered my request on CouchSurfing.Org. I’m a bit worried because I’ve never CouchSurfed before and this guy has the same name as a famous folk singer. But I have faith in the goodness of the human race… and I like his songs.” I say as I empty the various cables and electronic equipment from my rucksack and fill it with some essential clothing.

Andrea looks worried and says, “I wouldn’t trust anybody I didn’t know if I were you. Give me your Mum’s mobile number so I can tell her that Spanish gypsies have murdered you and removed your kidneys and eyes to sell on the black market.”

“Don’t put thoughts like that into my head. I’ll be fine. Anyway he spells Euan differently to the folk singer, and he sounds decent. Here read his message.” I say whilst getting the CouchSurfing conversation up on one of the office computers.

Andrea’s comments become slightly more positive “Well he does say I stay with my father rather than I live with my father, that’s very Scottish. So at least he’s not a Spanish gypsy.
No answer when I call his mobile though. I buzz the flat. No answer. I walk around and see a bike shop. I go in and ask if they have any cheap second hand racers. I am told to come back tomorrow. I go and wait on the fly ridden benches besides the bullring until the working day is done.

A large man wearing glasses and a checked shirt answers the door. His name is Laurence: Euan’s father. He tells me to grab a beer from the fridge and puts on ‘Line of Sight’ a movie filmed by madcap bicycle messengers who are also the subject matter. Euan (a tall lad in his early twenties) arrives home with a friend from work and Laurence cooks us all dinner, which we eat listening to The Ramones.

As the evening progresses and more beers are drunk an occasional paranoid thought runs through my head: Are treating me to free food and beer for the purpose of stealing my organs? I share with them what Andrea said. It’s slightly awkward but not in the scheme of things. Before long I am having a real good time chatting away. Eventually I go to bed in the spare room and the paranoia returns, but only mildly. I fall asleep and wake up again the next morning fully intact.

La Bayuca, head office of The Gibraltar Magazine

Wednesday 26th September 2012
The walk into Gibraltar and across the runway is a drag in the rain. At La Bayuca they are surprised to see me alive. I borrow an umbrella, print some CVs and hand them out at Ocean Village.

Spain. 5pm. Using a tourist map I manage to navigate my way through the residential maze of La Linea to the address of a flat I have arranged a viewing for. I wait for Carlos the estate agent. I am early. He is exactly on time. The landlady is inside smoking and doing some last minute cleaning. I like the flat and plans are made to draw up the contract tomorrow. Later, at the bike shop the second hand racer has arrived and costs me €30. Good. Plus the rain has stopped.

I return to The Scots’ house and give Laurence the latest (unreleased) copy of The Gibraltar Magazine, flicking through to an article on e-gaming (online gambling), one of Gibraltar’s largest industries. Laurence works in online security at William Hill. I ask him about the social implications and ramifications of this industry.

Laurence is keen to inform me about the subject at length “It’s a relatively new industry, and it’s growing at an astonishing rate. Until recently people would go to a bingo hall on a Sunday afternoon. The Internet has changed everything. Now those people can play bingo on their mobile phone 24 hours a day. Nobody’s seen anything like this before. I’m sure it will mess a lot of people up, but the industry makes too much money to have to worry about the ramifications… And the governments love it. Of course they do: it’s taxable.”

The talk then turns to the EU economy and Laurence says, “Europe is crumbling around the edges. Everything might seem fine in Berlin or Brussels but there were riots in Madrid and Greece today... Italy tomorrow.” He tilts his head to the side in a gesture of knowing. “On the outer limits, on the fringes you can see it, it’s obvious. Like here in La Linea, it’s crumbling before your eyes.” He lights a cigarette and a licks his lips.

I say I have heard that the Police force in La Linea hasn’t been paid for over three months.

“Aye, some people ‘round here haven’t been paid for a year”

“So how do they survive?”

“Borrow from friends I suppose. Make do.”

The talk continues along a political vein as we turn to red wine for solace. As the Tinto flows Laurence gets evermore riled up “Capitalism’s fucked. It’s clearly not working but nobody’s got any better ideas.”

I ask him if he used to be a member of The Co-operative. He asks me how I knew that. I tell him that my dissertation was on the subject and that I know it was an institution in Scotland. He says it used to be known simply as ‘The Store’ - it was that ubiquitous.

My phone rings. The boss of Celebrity Wine Bar wants to meet me tomorrow at 8pm.

The conversation turns to protests. I explain what I have witnessed personally over the last few years in London:
  • The riots in the summer of 2011 when, from the window of my flat, I saw a group of youths smash their way into Jessops and steal a few cameras (New Scotland Yard was less than 200 yards away).
  • The Occupy Movement outside St Paul’s Cathedral with its makeshift library that taught me more about politics by default than college.
  • And finally the mass student marches that I was a part of until realising they were futile.

I recall, “I wasn’t part of the last student march, I knew by then that the government weren’t listening, but I went down to Parliament Square and watched from behind the Police lines. I saw the Constabulary’s horses charge into the cold, kettled protestors, who by that point just wanted to go home.”

“Aye” Laurence agreed, “Peaceful protests will do fuck all. Those in power will do anything they can to stay in power. They always have done. Look at Gibraltar: it’s run by Freemasons and The Royals and it’s totally corrupt.”

The conversation moved to what’s been happening across North Africa and the Arabic world, and how Europe is not so far from reaching a similar fate. One phrase repeatedly turned to was ‘Armed Insurrection.’

Say it with a Scottish accent.

“Armed Insurrection.”

It wasn’t long ago that Spain was a dictatorship. In a volatile world who’s to say when the next big political shift will be?

Euan arrives home and tells me more about the work he does for – it sounds like Gibraltar is a breeding ground for professional gamblers. Before long we all cycle down to get some tapas from Patagonica, a small Argentinian steak counter. Each plate costs around €3 and is served with a baked potato. After a few Canjas I’m ready to speak some Spanish and I want some butter.

“?Tienes mantiquilla por favor?

Bargain bike

Thursday 27th September 2012
In the morning the house is empty. Strange sentences circulate my mind. I climb through the shower and back into reality.

I go to the main street of La Linea to get the dinero to give to Carlos. Each and every ATM I go to has insufficient funds for the €350 deposit, let alone enough to withdraw a month’s rent in advance and the estate agent’s commission. Eventually, after trying about six different banks I find one that has enough cash for the deposit. The landlord is at the estate agents office and - once the contract has been put through Google translate - we both sign it and I get the keys. (If only it could be that easy in London!)

After dumping my backpack and buying water I cycle into Gibraltar to meet the manager of Celebrity Wine Bar. The meeting is short, he says come to work tomorrow at 8pm. Cycling back is fun. The roads are wet allowing for some controlled skids on the racing bike’s skinny tyres. A line of cars has been snaking all the way around Gibraltar at a standstill for the last three hours making it even more satisfying: pedaling fast down the middle of a traffic jam.

I move the furniture around to make my flat feel less like a motel. I put the fridge in the living room. I notice there are no bed sheets (my sleeping bag is still in my suitcase at the office).

I take off my leather brogues and see that my toes are all bleeding because I have been constantly moving the last few days.

I am forced to use a curtain as a blanket.

Unfinished mural, La Linea

Friday 28th September 2012
Today I begin work for The Gibraltar Magazine.

It’s 7.30am and it’s raining hard. The cycle into Gibraltar is invigorating but by the time I get there I am sodden. I leave the bike outside The Lord Nelson. I am early and have to wait under a balcony until Andrea arrives.

I am told to go and meet Jolene (the company’s only other employee) who is driving a hire-van. The rain is coming down in sheets and I can hardly see, it is so bad that by the time I get to the meeting point the van has gone. I phone Jolene, get to the next meeting point, and for the next five hours drive around delivering stacks of the latest edition to all the establishments that will take it: car dealerships, cafes, restaurants, pubs, industrial parks, builders merchants, hotels, retirement homes, offices, paint shops.

Once we have finished we take all the empty cardboard boxes to a tunnel full of wheelie-bins. I ask Jolene if there is anywhere we could recycle them.
She says “No, it’s not good here like the UK for that.”

A brief glance around the dumpsters and I see heaps and heaps of discarded cigarette boxes. I think back to something Andrea previously told me.

With a certain fondness of tone she had said, “Gibraltar is twenty years behind the UK.”
I had taken it as mere affection for Gib’s idiosyncrasies but now it struck me as something that shouldn’t be shrugged off as a slightly backwards quirkiness. Sure it might be cute that there are no Starbucks and people still wear shell-suits, but a European country having no infrastructure for recycling in 2012 is shameful.

The downpour had dwindled in the early afternoon but after dumping the trash and getting back to the office it started raining crazy-heavy. The newspaper ‘Sur in English’ later reported that the ‘culprit’ of this torrential downpour - that caused catastrophic flooding throughout Andalucía - was ‘the typically Mediterranean meteorological phenomenon known as the ‘gota fria’ or ‘cold drop’; temperatures plunged and the heavens opened’

At the time, trapped in the office, I just wanted to get my belongings back to my flat so that I could get settled over the weekend.

Thunder and lightning kicked in and one of the Chihuahuas started shaking frantically like a Polaroid picture of a puppy with Parkinson’s. After about half an hour the rain abated.

“OK. See you at nine on Monday then.” says Andrea with a wave.

Just as I reach the shelter of the bus station the torrential rain begins again. After getting the bus to the Frontier I load my things into a Spanish taxi.

The courtyard of my new flat has become a paddling pool. If it rises another inch it will seep under my front door. I need to get to the supermarket; the cupboards are bare, and I need to eat before my first shift at the Celebrity Wine Bar.

I’m wet enough as it is, so I walk out in my plimpsols and a ‘splash proof’ jacket. The Flood has come! The water reaches the sewer’s brink and the drains spew scores of cockroaches. They may be able to survive nuclear holocaust but nothing survives The Flood!

The roads are filling up like blocked urinals on a Saturday night: the water already above ankle level. When I get to the supermarket I am wetter than a snowman in July. I don’t own any pots or pans so I get a pizza. On my way back I pick up the umbrella that I left at Laurence’s house.

I warm up in the shower, dry off and dress in black. The monsoon stops as I eat dinner. Most of the water has drained away by the time I walk into Gibraltar. I move my bike from The Lord Nelson before it gets drunk and rowdy.

8pm. Celebrity Wine Bar. The bar staff ballet: pirouetting and pouring until 4am. Sure enough nothing is recycled. Aluminum cans, glass bottles and cardboard boxes are all thrown away in the same bag. Around 11pm it got very busy and the air was thick with smoke. This is the last weekend before Gibraltar finally introduces a smoking ban for enclosed public spaces.

I smoke a few cigarettes myself before leaving and one of the Spanish barmaids (who had been squeezing my biceps as we worked) tells me “You work nice.”

I cycle home happily along empty streets and sleep in my sleeping bag: no more curtains for me.

Refuse tunnel, Chatham Countergaurd

The Gibraltar Magazine's favourite dumping ground.

Selection of newspaper articles about The Flood.

Saturday 29th September 2012
First I rest. Then I buy essentials from one of the Chinese Bazaars that have just about every household product you could ever need.

I get a pot, a pan, an espresso maker, a rope, some sponges, a light-bulb, nail clippers, a chopping board, electrical adapters and laundry detergent.

-- If they don’t have it, you don’t get it –

I manage to withdraw the rest of the money to pay for the flat.

Chinese pan.

Neighbour's ganja plantation.

View of The Rock from my roof

Sunday 30th September 2012
After stocking the cupboards and doing the household chores I cycle to Santa Margarita the nearest village. After the short trip eyes feel grimey and my wind-pipe feels narrow.

If you look down the coast towards the Algeciras you see industrial chimneys spouting plumes that rise slowly into the atmosphere. Laurence reassures me air-quality tests have been done and pollution levels are not particularly high - what they did find though was floating particles of sand that get blown across the strait from the Sahara. Solemnly he foresees that Andalucía will be a desert itself within 100 years.
In the evening - as I am making a ‘to do’ list - I realise that the battery in my phone has run out. I must have left the charger at The Gibraltar Magazine in the confusion of The Flood. I have no other form of alarm. All I can do is go to bed and hope I wake up in time for my first day at the office.


Monday 1st October 2012
Despite my best efforts I arrive at work at 10am.

“Hello. What’s up?” I inquire cheerfully as I walk through the door.

I am greeted with silence and a scornful look from Andrea…

I say “I’m sorry that I’m late but the battery on my phone ran out so I didn’t have an alarm – I left my phone charger here on Friday.”

As she becomes more vocal she remains scornful. She does not except my excuse as valid. I say I know it doesn’t look good that I am late on my second day but ask her to make some allowances seeing that I arrived less than a week ago and only moved in to my flat a few days ago. I tell her this would never happen usually, it has just been chaotic getting settled in so quickly.

“Your personal life is none of my concern Chris. All I am concerned about is running this magazine.”

She goes on to say she was not at all impressed that my first words weren’t ‘sorry’ but instead were ‘what’s up?’


Eventually she says she is seriously considering not employing me. She gives me an official warning. Strike one. Again I apologise and assure her it won’t happen again. But her tirade doesn’t let up.

“If I were you I’d have come in on my knees this morning groveling to keep my job.”


Eventually she gives me a task: To compose a template e-mail which I will then use to contact potential advertisers for Yacht Scene Gibraltar 2013 - a sailor’s guide to the surrounding area and directory of services available in Gibraltar.

At 2pm I leave the office and queue for over half an hour to buy a Gibraltar sim card. When I get home my nose starts bleeding. I walk into La Linea town center and see a Language school. I enquire about Spanish lessons. They say they are going to run some… when they have enough people interested.

I go and pay the estate agent the rent and his commission. I greet him with “Buenos tardes” which he seems to appreciate. I borrow a tape measure from Laurence, measure my bed, buy some bed sheets and a pillow, charge my phone, set my alarm and go to sleep.

Gibraltar, Fuck City

Tuesday 2nd October 2012
I get to work super early and wait.

After taking the Chihuahuas out of her bag Andrea gets right down to it.

“So, I was going to sign your contract first thing yesterday but… well, you weren’t there. I’m afraid you just aren’t right for this job Chris.”

I am shocked, what is she telling me? “You said yesterday that you were giving me an official warning.” I reply.

Andrea stares at me through her cold grey eyes “Last night I talked to the other employees and we all agreed that you are clearly unreliable. So, now that I have slept on it I’ve decided that I can’t offer you a contract.”

I begin to plead, “I moved here from England to work for this magazine, I think that shows a lot of commitment… And your job description said ‘flexible hours’.”

“Flexible hours does not mean turning up at ten when we agreed on nine... I just don’t think I can trust you enough to fill in the official papers. I’ll pay you in cash for Friday, yesterday and today.” Andrea says, as if she is being generous.

My heart is sinking with the recognition of what this means, “I just signed a six month contract on a flat. What am I supposed to do now?”

She thinks briefly then says “Well you could go to the tax office and register as self-employed. If you do that then I might be able to give you some work as a freelancer.”

All right I say and walk out. I apply for self-employed status by 11am, the precise time I arrived exactly one week ago.

Opposite the tax office I find John Mackintosh Hall: a public library with computers. I get on the Internet and start working on plan B.

In the evening I get DRUNK.

Cycling around in an inebriated state I quickly become lost. The streets of La Linea are complicated enough when walking sober. When riding you find that the one-way system prevalent on nearly every road leads you on an perplexing spiral through a labyrinth worthy of Jorge Luis Borges.

When I finally find my street I view the elapsed hours that it took me to find my way as a metaphor for my life: Unexpectedly adrift, directionless, wasted.

The office dog.

Wednesday 3rd October 2012
Numerous people that I re-told the firing incident to suggest that Andrea may have jumped at an excuse to save money and not employ me with a fixed hour contract. My Father suggests I go see a lawyer and try to get some compensation.

I go to Stephen L. ffrench Davis BARRISTER AT LAW Acting solicitor & Comm. For Oaths. His chambers are a house with a kitchen and a Labrador. He sits upright in the study. A pre-rolled cigarette sits incongruously on the desk. We shake hands.

“I think I have been unfairly dismissed from a job. Is there any chance I could get some compensation?” I inquire.

In a smooth English accent he asks me to give him the whole story, from the beginning:

Well “I e-mailed The Gibraltar Magazine speculatively asking if they had any work. They told me they did have a job available. 20 hours a week, £8 an hour, working flexible hours.

They said they liked my CV but would have to meet me before offering me the job. I flew out for a week in late August with my girlfriend. I did a couple of hours work as a trial. The Publisher gave me the job and told me I could start as soon as I moved out here.

A month later I arrived...”

[I continue to explain the last week to the solicitor]

“So did they e-mail you saying that you had the job?” asks Stephen L. ffrench Davis.

“No. I was told in person.” I answer, feeling slightly embarrassed at my own naivety.

He shakes his head, “Well you know what they say about verbal contracts… they aren’t worth the paper they are printed on.”

He asks if the publisher is called Andrea. I nod.

“Yes from what I’ve heard she can be very tricky.” He says in manner that brings to mind Sherlock Holmes.

He informs me there is no use pursuing this legally because I have no statutory rights to stand on. The only way to do it would be to take it to the Supreme Court and that would mean a lot of legal costs, and if I were to loose the case I would end up having to pay the defendants costs as well.

He advises me against freelancing for The Gibraltar Magazine. “You don’t want to start your career like that” he says and phones the Gibraltar Broadcasting Company asking for the head of personnel. He writes the name and number on the back of his business card.

He clearly believes an injustice has been done and is trying to do all he can to put it right. One of the good guys. If you are ever in Gibraltar and need a lawyer – which I pray you never are – then go and see this man.

“Thanks for being so decent to me” I say as I am walking out.

“I assume you travel light?” he asks.

“I have one large suitcase and a backpack.”

“Well you can always just leave and put this week down as expenses.”

I wish it was that easy Stephen, but I’ve got a goddamn contract on an apartment and I’m flat out broke. Oh well ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!’

On the way out of Gibraltar the roads are blocked again. The police have set up cones and are directing traffic to form a long queue circling all the available roundabouts. It poses no logistical problem for cyclists - you just ride in between the stationary motor-vehicles – but, as you cleanly circumvent the pile-up, inhaling the fumes of a thousand exhausts is unavoidable.

Beating the traffic at the border.

Thursday 4th October 2012
I am falling into a daily routine. I pass the Gibraltar Regiment Guard stationed outside the Governor’s Residence and warily eye the blade of their bayoneted rifle. I get to the sanctity of John Mackintosh Hall and apply for jobs. No responses yet, only a heartbreaking message from my EX-girlfriend. I don’t know why it didn’t sink in before that things between us could never be the same. (Since) I did leave her for the filth-ridden destitution of the impoverished Spanish frontier.

The roads are blocked again for hours in the late afternoon. Only on foot or on bike can get you get out of Gibraltar without having to wait for literally hours.

In the evening I work on the script for a video-essay I am producing about illegal boathouses in Malta. Later I go out drinking in La Linea. On the way home my bike’s front tyre pops.


Friday 5th October 2012
After wheeling my bike into the shop where bought it and asking them to fix it, I follow my daily routine.

In the evening it is back to work at Celebrity Wine Bar. It is not so busy as last weekend, possibly because the smoking ban has come into effect, which gives me a chance to observe the clientele: tattooed ape-men with vacant eyes, their tongues falling out, dance around swinging loose arms and punch-drunk eyes. God knows what sort of powders they have taken, I’ve never seen ‘dancing’ like it. They constantly punch, bear-hug or sit on one another. Their mullets and attempts at play-fighting make the straighter-laced customers visibly nervous. All the while their mouths hang open with cumbersome tongues protruding. The women seem to find this behavior digestible. I - on the other hand - try to avoid any eye contact.

Shop front, Main Street

Saturday 5th October 2012
The sun has returned and the Andalucían heat is touching 30C. A grim smell of sewage wafts through the forlorn streets. The decrepit pavements are pocked with mounds of doggy-doo. In La Linea you have to dodge a crap every couple of yards while flies land on your eyelashes.

In the evening I sat drinking beers at The Soviet Bar with Mario a local postman. He spoke little English, I spoke little Spanish, but we managed to converse on the subjects such of Politics and Art. He spoke to me of the Franco era, of Andalucía’s current level of unemployment (around 33%) and of Dali and Picasso; how they were forward thinkers beyond what lesser artists could have imagined, and how the world is at a point where it could use really use some contemporary forward thinkers.



Sunday 6th October 2012
My throat starts to feel tight and I find it hard to swallow. I worry my breathing will be effected but so far it only appears to be causing me psychological distress. I imagine an invisible hand squeezing my gullet.

I walk to the bus station and pick up a free newspaper: the Euro Weekly News. On the beach, trying to read it, I get covered in flies and can’t concentrate. The air on the Playa de Poniente smells contaminated, there is some sort of drainage outlet in the middle and the sand is littered with rubbish and cigarette butts.

I go home and spend the day finalising my Malta film. All it needs now is for the narrator to record his voiceover and it will be finished. [Coming soon]. (COME)


La Linea

Monday 8th October 2012
Picked up my bike with its new front tyre (cost (€18).

Using the computers at The John Mackintosh Hall I apply to work for the Euro Weekly News. A family of Barbary Apes scales the walls of the Trafalgar Cemetery.

My throat is still constricting. Could be something to do with my neck, from cycling or from sleeping funny or too much smoking? Maybe a virus, the low air quality, or some sort of Masonic Voodoo? I don’t know what the hell it is but it is freaking me out. All I can do is christen the disorder ‘Sahara Lung’.

I begin to grasp the fact that the traffic jams originating at the border are an everyday occurrence. I ask around as to what’s causing these daily delays: It seems cigarettes are so cut-rate that Spanish customs and excise officers have to check almost every vehicle to ebb the flow of illegal cigarettes being run into Spain. Plus the low price of petrol brings in extra vehicles that come for the sole purpose of filling their tanks with cheap fuel.

Statue commemorating cycling workers, La Linea.

Tuesday 9th October 2012
The sun was high and bright over Campo De Gibraltar but a solitary cloud embraced the east side of The Rock. I took photos at the deserted Eastern beach. Long air-horn blasts interrupt the silence as Cargo ships announce themselves in the mist. I also took photos of the daily backlog of drivers trying to get out of Gib.

Wednesday 10th October 2012
The tail-less monkeys are down in the town again. ‘Sahara Lung’ is driving me to disturbance. I walk around holding my neck and chest, looking at the floor.

I send a postcard to my Grandparents, opening with “This is possibly the least positive postcard you’ll ever have received.”

Thursday 11th October 2012
My application for Self-employment is finally approved. I just have to pick it up and sign some papers at the employment office located in New Harbours Industrial Estate. The road leading in is the worst I have yet to encounter in Gibraltar, and that’s saying something as they are all in a state of disrepair. The roads here are so bad I can imagine they put many a budding cyclists off altogether. Cracks, raised drains, holes, sunk drains, lumps, bumps, slopes, concrete eruptions, shattered glass – obstacles you have to swerve to avoid. I now understand why I am one of the few people with a racing bike. Here the sensible cyclist has suspension.

Paint and petro-chemical odors hit the back of my throat as I enter the industrial estate. At the employment offices I’m now told to register as self employed I have to pay £50. I decide to e-mail Andrea and see exactly what freelance work she plans to offer me before handing over the money.

I cycle out of New Harbours on Rosia Road to have a look at the western beaches. They are depressing. Empty swimming pools, empty playgrounds, and empty restaurants look out onto sand-less beaches fronting a bay dominated by lingering cargo ships.

I continue along Keightley Way though a dank tunnel to Europa Point. The tip of Gibraltar, the end of Europe; Tariffa appears lower on the map but does not have the air of doomed finality required to bear the symbolic title of ‘the end of Europe’. Here mini-buses unload cruise ship passengers who meander around like alienated zombies. Instead of brains they crave ice cream. Around corner from the tourists is the Gibraltar crematorium, which at first I perceive as being in a tasteful position. Setting the ashes of loved ones over the sea towards North-Africa. However its neighbouring structure is a Garbage Incineration Plant. Next door to this at a layby-cum-dump trucks offload refuse and the stench of waste becomes overbearing.

I speed through Dudley Ward Tunnel out onto Sir Herbert Miles Road and complete the circuit. Back in town on Main Street I pick up a copy of the monthly tabloid newspaper ‘GibLive!’ One article strikes me. An article praising Spain’s clampdown on cigarette smuggling but blaming inadequacy on the part of the Spanish authorities for the daily tail-backs in Gibraltar.
The article reads:
‘It is also difficult to be fully supportive of these crime fighters in the wake of two-hour queues in temperatures of 30C.
If Spain wants support from the people of Gibraltar against this crime-wave then they must find a way to go about their business without bringing the traffic to a standstill.’

The solution seems very simple to me. If Gibraltar’s government imposed a tax making cigarettes cost the same as in Spain then smuggling would be rendered obsolete. Thus eliminating the need for regular customs checks and consequently eliminating unnecessary fuel consumption. Maybe the money raised from this tax could be used to resurface the roads and instigate a system of recycling. I can’t think of any reason why something along these lines wouldn’t be advantageous to the majority of Gibraltarians. A few tobacconists would loose outside custom but they would still have the native market.

Why was this solution not blatantly apparent to the government of Gibraltar?

There was one man I knew would have the answers.

He is sitting in the kitchen with a bald bloke called Johnny from Leeds who is quality.

With a full glass of red wine in hand Laurence stares at me for a moment then says bluntly “I’ve already told you why: Gibraltar is totally corrupt.”

“I’m sorry, I get forgetful after I’ve had a few beers” I tell him.

So Laurence elaborates “If you walk down Main Street and look at the shop fronts you’ll see there are about four or five recurring family names, each owning an off-license, a tobacconists, an electrical shop etc. These families have been doing business here for years and will all have family members in the government. Nepotism (& Freemasonry) ensures there is no tax, so that the big merchants can make as much money out of that little rock as possible.”

I conclude there is no doubt ‘GibLive!’ are on the payroll– just look at the advertisers. Then I’m hit with a recollection. Flash back to the day Andrea explained the job to me.
“We publish positive articles about all things Gibraltar related.” She’d said.

If I hadn’t been fired you can be sure all I’d have wrote would’ve been little more than marketing. P.R. for the greed consortium. I knew this and I was willing to give it a go: to get hands-on publishing experience and hone my reportage skills (whilst doing some real writing on the side). But I shan’t fret about not working for a spineless dinosaur of a publication like The Gibraltar Magazine.

In the words of Ella Wheeler Wilcox “To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards out of men.”

Article from GibLive!

Evil dolphins, Camp Bay

ice cream van, Little Bay

View of Europa Point from Incineration Plant

Kiosk for the essentials, Gibraltar


Andrea has yet to reply to my e-mail asking what sort of hours she would give me if I registered as self-employed and went freelance for The Gibraltar Magazine.

The Sarah Lung still grips my neck but the countdown has begun until I leave this ill-fated masonic municipality.

In the next episode my drink gets spiked and I end up in Spanish jail read about it here and finally here.


  1. Thanks again. I already read your other article on how to solve the border crisis. I enjoyed reading this new entry, particularly from someone who has been there. It seems Gibraltar is not the paradise place that is portrayed to the outside world. Corruption is present everywhere I guess. Can you tell us a bit more about the Spaniards living in La Línea?

    1. I think I anwered this on my second reply on the Border Crisis post :)

    2. Yes, thanks.

  2. worst article ever. you couldn't have got it all more wrong!

    1. Tell me more. What did I get wrong exactly? Please correct me.

  3. Unemployed journalist bitching about failing his probation on a verbal contract for a magazine in Gibraltar whilst living in La Linea. Though I sympathise that you were perhaps slightly unlucky when you dealt with this lady I cannot but fault you for not having the common sense to sign a contract and also make sure you were on time to the job that was to be your only source of income. When I read your article I felt that you were simply ranting at the injustice of it all much like a teen would when he felt that the scolding his getting at school is unwarranted. An article vilifying Gibraltar and La Linea (the local population of both cities must love you right now) justified? Why? A Literary Crusade to dispel the illusion of paradise Gibraltar surrounds itself with? An illusion strongly nourished by the Government of Spain may I add - or do you not read the Spanish press? Gibraltar leeches their economy dry (reduced VAT), Gibraltar kidnaps (one of earlier queue stops of 8 hours left thousands of people and hundreds of cars trapped/grid locked on the Rock) or enslaves their civilians (El Gran Debate, Director of ABC and La Razon calling the people of La Linea "La Servidumbre de Gibraltar" - later on labelling them as traitors and that they should leave Spain and join Gibraltar). Frankly I've grown tired of commenting on this post already. I congratulate you for absorbing so much of my time on such a paltry and ill-conceived article - ostensibly from a grown man and journalist apparent. I'll watch some Cbeebies or big brother now to go along with the rest of drivel I have so foolishly digested.

    1. I find your message very rude. Give him a break. I think it is actually a very well put day by day report. Life is not always easy, not even in Gibraltar.

    2. Dear anonymous: Thank you for your response but you have made a few errors in your message, possibly due to being ditracted by Cbeebies while reading the article. To start with the magazine was not my only source of income; did you miss the part about me also working in a bar? Therefor I was not unemployed. I'm afaid I no longer read the Spanish press, but I did while I was there (in fact I spoke about doing this within the article), however I do know about the reduced VAT (also discussed in this article) and the traffic jams, which I dipped into here and wrote a further post on more recently enjoy Big Brother, that program was the subject of my first ever post on this blog if you want to read some more drivel then please read it here

    3. Dear Michael, thanks for your support :)

  4. What a load of rubbish

    1. My sentiments exactly. Clean those beaches!

  5. I'm sorry for your troubles but you are have been quite unfair and rude with all Gibraltarians who haven't caused you any harm. I have been in the UK and met some idiots myself who have not made my life easy yet I wouldn't classify England or English people collectively as anything out of spite. If you have a grievance with anyone sort it out with them rather than attacking their community. Anyhow I hope that you have better luck the next time.

    1. I'm sorry if I offended you. I don't think that I called all Gibraltarians idiots though. I merely insinuted that some where: namely those in charge of the recycling system, a few particular clientele of the bar where I worked and those who have the power to put a stop to the traffic jams. If you point out to me exactly where I classified Gibraltarians collectively as anything then I will happily delete it, as this was never my intention.

  6. I've visited Gibraltar twice and had two very different experiences. I blog myself and the tone and 'view of the world' change dramatically depending on your own experience and emotions at the time so there's definitely cause for your view of Gib reading about your story! However, it can be a very beautiful and friendly place and does have a lot to offer if you're lucky enough to meet the right people and see the right things, just like anywhere really.

    1. I completely agree Sophie. Before moving there I visited for a week and enjoyed myself. I wouldn't have moved there unless I thought I'd like it. What is the address of your blog? I'd like to check it out.

  7. A budding journalist with a very short journalist career. I think one has a huge sack of potatoes on his shoulder!

    1. Potatoes... chips... chip... I get it. Nice. I'll admit I was holding a little grudge. Thanks for reading.

  8. Very good read, and by all accounts very accurate. Gibraltarians are an interesting breed though, and you will of course upset them greatly with this article. They are too small minded and ignorant to accept that they may not live in the luxury they like to believe, nor that others might not possibly like it. They naively believe that the UK loves it's Gibbo cousins, yet the truth of course is that the majority of Brits have never even heard of the place.

    I could rant for a long time on the stupidities of this place, but to be honest your blog covered a lot. All I will say is that things have only got worse since this article was written, of course the ability to change is in the hands of Gibraltar, not Spain as all the locals will rant and moan, bit of course the government don't want to fix the issue, they simply want to complain to the UK and get them to fight their battles.

    I've lived here for 5 Years and wish I didn't, but I have a mortgage and a good job and a family, so unfortunately I am here for the duration!

    Your article has been posted on a Facebook group for idiotic Gibbos to complain about anyone /anything that doesn't sing praises about their little hell hole, so expect some angry comments soon but rest assured they will be from uneducated, inbred neanderthals!

    1. Thank you very much. I'm sad to hear that things have gotten worse since last year. With it being the very start of 2014 I hope things will improve this year.

      I wondered why this article suddenly got hundreds of hits yesterday! Thanks for the heads up.

    2. I love this article and also this response! You hit the nail on the head about Gibraltar. The narrow-mindedness and sheer squalor of the place lead me to fail to understand why anyone would want to exist there. I was dragged there kicking and screaming as a tween and managed to escape back to the country of my birth, glorious England, before I'd been there for 20 years. The hatred and spite which seeps out of the pore of almost every Gibraltarian is evident and apparent in the way they conduct themselves online on Facebook, slagging off Spain at every opportunity. Their sheer hypocrisy rears its head every weekend when thousands of them flood into Spain to do their VAT-free shopping, after which they merrily cheer at the TV supporting their favourite Spanish football teams. Growing up, I was subjected to such comments as "Oh it's great to be back in our safe Gibraltar, there's no place like it" after day trips or holidays to Spain. If Southern Spain is the arse end of Europe, Gibraltar is a boil on its arse.

  9. The writer is an ignorant prat with a serious attitude problem. Massively inaccurate and totally misleading. The rule of journalism you seem to have missed is "report the truth".

    1. Could you please tell me specifically what it is that is untrue?

    2. It's all true. Gibraltarians love their hearsay and conjecture, and lack any solid proof or evidence to back up their so-called truths. The place is a hellhole and your descriptions and photographs captured the ambience eloquently, down to the description of the knuckle-dragging Guido-type males punch-dancing in Celebrity's "Wine Bar". All Gibraltarian men are short, rotund, brown gypsy types with serious misogynistic issues, problems with gay people, and all the while carrying small handbags across their bodies.

  10. From an outsider living in Gibraltar - i understand exactly how this guy feels - you are either in - and living in Gibraltar is everything you wish it to be - or its a hard slog through the corruption and laziness. The die hard locals could be a lot more open and less bigoted to those they feel choose are outsiders! Ps the woman at the gibraltar mag is known as a bitch by all - no loss not working for a magazine that no one reads and is dumped free everywhere - most use it as kindling for fires or a last gasp attempt to make a roach out of something!

    1. Ha ha thanks! Keep roaching those magazines!

  11. Why did you have to identify the kind 'Scots' and name the guys employer? Is this how you reward for hospitality?

    1. I didn't think he'd mind. I thought I painted him in a kind light.

  12. Hi Chris! My blog is and since writing my comment above I have relocated to Gibraltar you'll be interested to hear I'm sure...

    1. Cool keep me posted, and let me know how it goes (@chrisgjcooley if you have twitter). I'm sure it will be fine. Not everyone has such bad luck as I do.

  13. As well as being paranoid, Gibraltarians are thin-skinned and cannot take criticism of their supposed paradise. any suggestion that it is less than perfect or honourable provokes outrage and howls of 'but what about...?' The worst people for this are those who came to Gibraltar from the UK and went native, and indulge in inverse snobbery towards the UK, and Gibraltarians living in the UK whose view of the place is even more dated - 'it's no better or worse than anywhere else in the world, it's just different!' (No one said it was worse, but how about making it better?)

    Sections of the UK media think that being in a timewarp makes Gibraltar charming, but there is a world of difference between visiting the Rock on a short trip and living there - you were sensible enough to give the disgusting Emile 'Youth' Hostel on Line Wall Road a wide berth. Andrea sounds like an ice queen, and mercifully any dealings I may have with her will be as an advertiser, not an employee. However you didn't do your cause any good by forgetting your phone charger and by not apologising to your employer.

    I'm glad that Stephen ffrench Davis did his best to help you, although he doesn't use his middle initial, which is a US affectation - if his name were George Bush, it would be understandable.

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