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

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Frescobol... in London


The first time I heard about Fresco-ball or 'Frescobol' was in Mediterraneo, Monocle's summer newspaper. I liked the look of the sturdy wooden paddles that would undoubtedly last longer than the cheap, plastic, souvenir-shop bats I was used to. Prior to reading Monocle's annual guide to poncing around Europe's coastline, I had never considered investing in quality equipment for the beach game known, to me and my associates, as Pit-Pat: two people hitting a ball back and forth to each other. But now it all made sense, I was fed up with how quickly the tourist-shop tat broke...
I was ready to get serious.

While investigating which brand of bat to buy online, I came across a London based group who went by the name of The Superflex Frescobol & Beach-Tennis Club. I got in touch with them and they invited me to a beach-sports open-day at Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.

The first question that I asked them was "Is this a really a sport?"

"YES", apparently.

To play competitively, each pair has to bat the ball back and forth to each other as many times as possible in three minutes. Teams take it in turns against the clock and at the end of the competition the pair with the most passes wins.

Well it would be if there weren't also extra points awarded for 'style' - i.e jumping & diving.

I had fun at the open-day and the barbecued jerk chicken was tasty, but I never returned.

I had not yet reached a point in my life where I was ready to fully commit to a club. Though shortly after I did get my own set of paddles and a ball and I must say they add a whole new level of intensity to a simple holiday past-time. Compared to Pit-Pat, Frescobol is more accurate and powerful and much faster. 

One of the reasons I finally decided to write this post is because I met a blogger - Laila from Brazil - who seeks out cultural curiosities in Europe and compares them to similar cultural phenomenon in her home country.

SO - I decided to contrast Frescobol in the UK with the same sport played in its spiritual home:

The English only feel the sand between their feet for about two weeks a year and games like beach tennis are a side thought. In Brazil the sun can be taken for granted and with major cities on the coast,  additional reasons - like sport - may be required before a visit to the beach is called for.

In the UK, 'Pit-Pat' is something you do when you go to the beach.

In Brazil, Frescobol is a reason to go to the beach?

Having played it once at The Imperial War Museum park in early autumn I have concluded it is only really fun at the beach. Parks are for drinking cans of stella in. But one has to admire Team Superflex for attempting to introduce Frescobol to the UK, for their dedication to the sport even in the winter and for the innovative fashion that derives from playing a Brazilian beach game, in a sandpit, in Crystal Palace.

Saturday, 8 December 2012


In an effort to increase the hit-count of a video I made I decided to do a post about it on this 'ere blog. Instead of writing about it myself - an exercise akin to a rotten dog licking its own tallywacker - I decided to post up some of the feedback I got in the same way that West End shows do i.e. "Excellently Superb" - The Sun, "Brilliant" - The Star, "Shit" - The Moon etc etc.

“Your narrator sounds like Will Self: an achievement in of itself.” – J.r. Oldman


“It was fascinating - quietly putting some very strong, thoughtful points across that go way beyond the boat house discussion.” – Liz Ayling / Malta Inside Out

“Editing needed some refinement, but other then that is an awesome project. Never stop creating. One of the lessons that I have learned is not to distinguish between being creative, and being a creative.” - Miguel Olivares

“You can certainly write well, good words on the video!” – Justin Manners / This is Malta

“Why you didn't discuss LIDL supermarkets of Hal Safi and Hal Luqa? They were built on ODZ (Out of Development Zone), but no one says a word because they are owned by powerful people.” - Carm Glucophage

"I’d rather spend time and energy campaigning against big companies occupying land rather than individual people who most of them are just enjoying a simple life. Interestingly a few meters from those boathouses, in Marfa there is the Rivera Hotel, which was built illegally on government land by a well-known macho construction company and nobody said anything." - Chris Mizzi  


“I thought it was really good, both visually and content wise. Although I did come away from it not knowing which side of the argument I am or should be on, but maybe that's a good thing?! It feels very open ended, guess you expect a conclusion but…”  - Isabel Eeles

 So here is the movie:


Monday, 12 November 2012

The MET gives up - or why Scotland Yard's sign was moved

The encroaching privatisation of the Police force in the UK has been widely discussed in the mainstream press. This may be due to a Conservative Party push to privatise everything or plain laziness (AKA doughnut syndrome). The first scenario may initially seem more plausible but new evidence suggests the Constabulary increasingly 'just can't be bothered'.

One trivial detail has so far gone unreported (according to a Google search): New Scotland Yard - HQ of the Metropolitan Police - has moved its sign. The significance of this becomes apparent when another incidence missed by the mainstream media is revealed. Some time in 2010, sparked by this video, an underground extreme sport emerged.

The adrenaline fueled contest known as New Scotland Yard RODEO became an instant hit with anarchists and fringe organisations who competed to see who could ride the iconic sign for the longest duration without getting arrested. The unofficial record currently stands at 49 seconds.

Due to the unprecedented popularity of this ‘sport’ in mid 2012 the sign was moved away from the 'mounting fence' and stationed in a hard to reach spot.

New anti-climb location.

Previous location - note the 'mounting fence'.

One can't help but reminisce about the good-old-days when the Police were all for an honest to God chase. This is yet another in a slew of cases that suggest the boys in blue have thrown in their custodian helmets. And if G4S & co. are all there is to look forward to then things do not bode well for justice as we know it.

Out of reach, the glory days are over.

Monday, 29 October 2012

The Facts Add To The Mystery

The final Gibraltar post. I hope.
(click here for part 1)

This morning I went to court wearing my best shirt, smart shoes and a suit. After waiting around for a few hours I finally got some answers and to my relief the case was dropped completely. No fines to pay & I AM FREE.

...What actually happened remains vague at best.

What the police report said: 7A.M. They were called to the address 7 Calle Italia by the man who lives there. He had walked into his bedroom and found me asleep in the bed. The police woke me. I did not want to leave. There was no sign of a forced entry. It is unknown to all involved how I came to be there.

What Sunil -- The Boss of Celebrity -- said: Himself, his friend Alan and I were at The Diner, he had a ham and cheese toastie then he and Alan went back to Gibralatar as I began walking home.

What I know: I finished work at 6A.M. I had a couple of whiskey-cokes, went to The Diner and the next thing I can recall is being in the police station being asked questions and asked to sign papers.

What makes this all so strange is that the house I allegedly 'trespassed' in was only a few doors down from my own address. I lived at 19 Calle Italia, the address where the police report identifies me as being asleep was 7 Calle Italia.

[Since taking photos I discovered that 7 Calle Italia does not exist... number 5 is adjacent to 9!!]

If anyone can make heads or tales of that then please let me know. I lay the blame, as ever, on Masonic Voodoo.

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Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Curse of Gibraltar - Jailed for crimes unknown

Flight back to London booked for Tuesday 30th October. The earliest one I could afford.

I just want to get out, to get away…

…But nothing’s ever easy.

This cursed place has tried and will try again to drag me down.

This emergency report for NecessCity is coming to you direct from Christopher Gj Cooley, straight out the pen.

Friday 26th October 2012
I started work at Celebrity Wine Bar at 11P.M. It was a Halloween costume party, a band called Jet Stream played a very long set. It was busy. The glass washer was broken. It was chaos.

When the shift ended at 6 A.M. I felt like relaxing. I had two whiskey-cokes and then left with The Boss and his associate. The last thing I remember is being at a roadside restaurant ordering food. After that I draw a complete blank, until: I’m in a Spanish fucking prison. They are asking me questions; I can’t remember what they said, or what I said. All I remember is that I wouldn’t sign any of the pieces of paper they put in front of me. Then I am taken to a cell. The seriousness of the situation begins to dawn upon me. Where is my lawyer? Can I have some water? What have I done wrong? Sheer confusion, panic and shock.

It is all a mystery when you are alone in The Cell. Conspiracy theories circulate your head. Did they take your shoelaces just to put the thought of hanging yourself into your head?

Why can’t I remember anything? I had only had a couple of drinks surely that would not have made me black-out. How long will I be in this prison? It is all very weird in here. A door made of metal bars. Tiled walls. Tiled floor. No window. No sense of time. On the white roof somebody has burnt the words ‘No no’ – one last-ditch attempt to communicate. Before The End. Before the feds come in and club you to death, just for fun.

To stay sane and remain calm I try to keep my sense of humour, but it is a task to laugh at the situation. The Messiah of all failures: Dear Grandparents, Mum, Dad, brothers and sisters “How did I start my career after university?” Imprisonment in Spain. Ha Ha, but it could all be too real. Yes you are in a jail but how is that funny? This is no joke. It could be horribly serious.

After a few hours in The Cell I’m taken to a room where a photographer tries to take my photo but for some reason he can’t seem to get the settings right on the camera and it takes him maybe 15 minutes. Then every single one of my fingerprints is taken. My hands black with ink.

Then back to The Cell. I can’t sleep: too anxious. I attempt to sing ‘Spancil Hill’ but in my distraught state I can’t remember the lyrics. Some time later I’m given ‘Fabada’: a plate of beans with two bits of black sausage and one bit of pasta floating in it. And three packets of crackers. I would have preferred a cigarette. The strange paranoia I was feeling drove me to roll up the packaging of these foul tasting foods and stash them in my sock.

Prison food.

I tried to sleep again but I couldn’t. I just lay there, trying to remember anything. Trying to make some sort of sense. I decide the only explanation can be that somebody drugged me. But why?

I bang on the bars and ask to go to the toilet. The toilet has a window and I see it is sunny outside.

Finally a lawyer arrives along with a translator. They ask me what happened.

“I finished work, went with my boss to a restaurant, then when I was walking home I was arrested.” I say, as a police officer stares at me over the desk.

“And you remember everything?” Asks the translator.

“Yes.” I lie, instinctively.

“Why am I here?” I ask.

“You were in a house that is not yours.” The translator tells me.

I am asked to sign some papers, this time they are translated and describe a court date on Monday. Suspicious terror leads me to sign them with a newly invented signature.

Then I am handed my possessions in a brown envelope: shoelaces, belt, passport, keys, a £10 note, a lighter and a packet of Marlboro gold. I am told I can leave. There are three doors and I am completely disoriented. I pick one and walk towards it until they tell me the exit is the opposite door.

Freedom. Walking the streets, the sickening taste of jail-beans haunting your mouth. The wind blows heavy and you debate with yourself whether to stop and lace your shoes or just keep going.

And you debate going to court. You could flee.

You should have asked the lawyer what the charges were. Asked her what the possible sentences might be. The best you can hope for is an incremental fine. Hopefully some clarity.

Court date.

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.