I’m sitting in an Irish pub, just been served real ale by a barmaid with the thickest Scouse accent, watching Scottish fitba’, Celtic playing Hearts, on the television. Except I’m in the southern Med and it’s 30-something outside.
In Spain for five or six days, I’ve been transported back into an Irish seaside town, from the look of at the buildings and streets, or a Cornish fishing village, from the look of the menus, or a black-and-white comedy movie from the 1950s, from the sound of the language and look of the locals.
Welcome to Gibraltar, 6.8sqkm that are a pimple on the south-side of Spain where the Union Jack still waves, the Queen’s English is spoken and you’ll have to change your euros into pounds. Gilbert & Sullivan Society, those satirists of the British Empire, would have relished Gibraltar.
It remains the outpost – or perhaps the outskirts – of Mother England on the Continent. It was so even before Nelson gave the French a good seeing-to in the Battle of Trafalgar, in the waters just out there in 1805. Military souvenirs – the naval cemetery, ramparts, war memorials, 50km of tunnels drilled into the rock – reinforce that.
These days, the 30,000 Gibraltarians rely on tourism and the enclave’s status as a tax haven under EU rules, which is why 98 per cent of them voted to stay in the EU.
In blistering heat (and, foolishly, without a hat, sunscreen or water) I climbed the Rock and chatted to its famous Barbary apes. They seemed disinterested in the effort I’d made, so I walked back down the hill into the town, with its Marks & Spencer and other symbols of empire, and found this beer. As I walked back to the Celebrity Equinox that had brought me here, a 1950s Morris 14 is parked outside the Hackney Carriage Co, Motor-car Servicing. Just like Dad drove. It was a good day. And Celtic won.