A Don's Life: What is Gibraltar for?

I came back from Spain from Gibraltar airport (thanks again for all suggestions on visiting places, much enjoyed Italica...). The truth is that I have not ever given very much thought to this little island, beyond reflecting that Spain didn't have much of a leg to stand on, given its own tiny overseas territories in North Africa (Ceuta andMelilla).When I actually set foot in the place, it all seemed rather more puzzling.

First I hadn't quite realised exactly how tiny it was. What on earth can living here really be like, especially as there are so many people? Do they really, whatever the protestations, operate as a de facto part of Spain? It didn't to be honrest look like that, despite the very wide range of polyglot names in the local paper which I picked up, for some enlightenment.

And there were clear signs of a practical stand-off.

On the way to the airport (above) from the Spanish side there are NO signs directing you to it at all. Now I had already spotted that Spain can give helpful signs in Arabic on the motorway to the North African ferry, so to have no sign whatsoever to the Gibraltar airport can only be a hostile gesture. Indeed some indications of route would have been extremely useful, as we were stuck for some time in an almighty traffic jam, caused as it turned out by a little plane landing at the airport. I had read, but not taken in, that the main road to the rock crosses the airport runway. This means that there is a level crossing style queue every time something lands or takes off. Yes, really.

But what turned out to be most puzzling was the official status of the whole place. It is a British overseas territory, and it is a member of the EU. So how come I can buy duty free booze? I queried this, saying at the duty free that I was going back to the UK (I dont think the airport, which is pretty damn new, built as a presumably aggressive gesture, actually serves anywhere else) .. was I really entitled to a bottle of Absolut Vodka for 8.50? Yes madam, they said. I thought we were part of the the same country, I queried.... Puzzled look from the shop-man.

I left none the wiser, but not particularly planning a return trip.

Published http://timesonline.typepad.com/dons_life/2015/04/what-is-gibraltar-for.html

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