Sunday, April 28, 2013

The Grass Is Greener (Part 1)

Have you heard the often used human expression "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence"? Well, it's true, but only because there's been a lot more bullshit deposited on it. As a guinea pig I know this because grass makes up a substantial percentage of my diet and next door's grass tastes like crap. My male staff is familiar with this term too. Not in the literal sense you understand. He doesn't eat grass, never even smoked it. In fact I think he must be the only human in the great state of Queensland who isn't permanently off his face. However, that's beside the point. What I'm getting at is that my male staff is only too prone to believe that things are better elsewhere.

For example, in the mid nineteen seventies my male staff gave up his first ever job - trainee supermarket manger - in the London suburb of Rayners Lane to join his parents in Gibraltar - one of the last overseas outposts of the British Empire (If you don't count Hayling Island.), where his Father had just been posted with the Royal Air Force. On the face of it it wasn't such an odd decision. After all Gibraltar has sunshine, a nice warm sea, afternoon siestas and barbary apes, (which are in fact tailless monkeys, not apes at all, but that's what happens when you allow humans to name stuff. As evidence of this I present my previous post.) While at the time London had miserable drizzling rain, a polluted river, a six day working week and mangy stray cats.

So off he went, landing on Gibraltar's short runway for the first time and stepping out of the Boeing 727 onto the tarmac on a beautiful early December day, a balmy breeze blowing off the Bay of Algeciras and a benevolent Mediterranean sun warming his shoulders as he strode with his family toward the terminal. He should have made the most of that short stroll because it pissed with rain for the next three months. Storms blew in with monotonous reliability from the grey Atlantic Ocean on a weekly basis and the wind seemed to be permanently set at hurricane level. You couldn't even walk on the beach because the storms blew in great globules of oil that stuck to your feet like bush chocolate to a freshly laundered and ironed pair of trousers. Of course a little bit of research would have told my male staff that the western end of the Mediterranean is often like that in winter and spring, but seventeen year old male humans have never been keen on research, unless of course you count ogling mammary glands in "adult magazines" research.

As May approached the weather improved, but my male staff's dress sense deteriorated markedly. It was that fateful summer of 1976 that he adopted his green Frankenstein look. A lime green suit, cream and brown four inch platform shoes, a pink shirt and a newspaper print tie, beneath which lurked a big metal "Hand of Fatima" medallion which turned large parts of his narrow chest green.
He wangled a civilian job with the Royal Air Force and things started to look up, and yet an air of claustrophobia  persisted. My male staff and his family lived in the Air Force married quarters which were squashed between the towering twelve hundred foot sheer north face of the rock of Gibraltar and a busy military runway that was operational twenty four hours a day. Gibraltar is tiny, about three miles long and a mile wide and although it has a land border with Spain the border was closed by General Franco and remained closed even after the nasty old fascist kicked the bucket a month before my male staff arrived. This was particularly hard on the locals. The border was closed so abruptly that family members were separated on opposite sides of the fence, fifty yards away across a stretch of no mans land. Every Sunday afternoon the separated families would gather on their respective sides of the fence and yell their news to each other.

Gibraltar. The Spanish border is roughly the bottom of the photo. My male staff lived in one of those buildings close to the left hand end of the runway, close to the beach.

To get to the other side of the border one had to take a ferry across the Straits of Gibraltar to Tangier, then another back to Algeciras across the bay in Spain, then finally a train or a dodgy Spanish bus driven by an escaped psychopathic criminal to La Linea fifty yards away from Gibraltar. That fifty yards trip took all day if you were lucky and the ferries were running on time. Alternatively one could fly from Gibraltar to London Heathrow - almost three hours and then catch another flight to Madrid, jump on a train or another dodgy bus driven by another escaped psychopathic criminal to La Linea, and hey presto in just two days you had travelled exactly fifty yards. Under these circumstances my male staff began to go a little stir crazy. It didn't help that the local girls were mostly locked away by their parents who had no intention of allowing a lime green British Frankenstein anywhere near their daughters. Some of the barbary apes were beginning to look very alluring to my male staff. Britain started to look good again, and so when he was offered the chance to take part in trials for four professional British football clubs he was off like a shot.

Angela. My male staff's first Gibraltarian girlfriend.


Billy's male staff is such a fool. Fancy risking the health of your feet just because you might have the chance to earn millions of pounds playing football.

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