Wednesday, June 30, 2010


I think it was the Conservative government minister Norman Tebbit, as then was before he Lorded it over us, who back in the 1980s asked who the Asian population supported when England played India or Pakistan at cricket. The inference being that if they were now truly British it would be England. Rather simplistic but I understand his point.

I chewed the cud with my good friend Prospero this morning in Jimena’s Vecina Bar and needless to say Spain’s victory over Portugal was high on the agenda. He had been in the bar last night when the match was live on TV. It was packed with Spaniards of course – after all we are in Spain – but also a Chinese lad proudly wearing a “La Roja” shirt plus Rumanians and Brits waving the national flag.

Prospero can support England and Argentina whilst I also backed England the land of my birth and South Africa as I lived there for a while. Our mutual home for more years than either of us care to mention has been Spain so we shared the national joy when they became European football champions in 2008 and hopefully World Champions in the coming week or so.

Even my niece in England is supporting Spain although she had to be discreet yesterday as she works with a number of Portuguese. Whether Spain win or lose the team has been a joy to watch – what a contrast with the miserable performance put in by England. Nobody minds their team losing if they go out fighting to a better side – but Wayne & Co shamed us all!

So Norman, as you asked, I’ll be supporting Spain along with Alberto, Christine, Richard, Debbie, Jaime and all the Brits hereabouts because we’re all Spanish now!

Monday, June 28, 2010


A day of homage was held on Sunday by the Spanish lower house of Parliament – Congress – its first to pay respects to the victims of terrorism. By accident or design the date coincided with the 50 th anniversary of the first slaying by the Basque terrorist group ETA. The victim was a 22-month old girl, Begoña Urroz, who was killed at Amara station in San Sebastián after an incendiary bomb exploded in 1960.

Since that day the number of people killed by ETA is a staggering 858. The last victim was a French policeman Jean-Serge Nerin who died in a shot-out with members of the terrorist group on March 16. Over the years members of the military, Guardia Civil, various police forces, politicians, judges, businessmen and members of the public have been slain by their bombs and bullets.

The 80s was a very bloody period with 98 people being killed in 1980 itself and the slaughter continued to 1991 when 45 were murdered. Since then the number of deaths has declined – partly because of a change of policy by ETA and partly due to the fact that the security forces have hit back with numerous arrests and the breaking up of its assassination cells. Indeed in 1999, 2004 and 2005 there were no deaths at all but with a terror organisation you never known when they will strike again.

I fully support a people’s right to self determination. However whilst the ETA campaign started in the era of the Franco regime some of its bloodiest days have been since the introduction of democracy to Spain and its Basque region.

The Basques are a proud people and the vast majority do not support an ETA nation created with bombs and bullets – to be led by people with blood on their hands. Indeed it has been the Basques themselves who have often suffered at the hands of this terror group – starting with the innocent babe in arms Begoña Urroz.

May they all rest in peace!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


I rarely write a restaurant review for two main reasons. First I am too busy enjoying the food, wine, company and ambience to be jotting down notes. Secondly I have colleagues who write excellent reviews so am happy to leave the chore to them.

I am not going to write a strict review today either. I am going to dwell on food and a new restaurant but what interests me most is how the restaurant came to be.

Now it is well known that in various Costa resorts there are so many British and Northern European bars that you’d scarcely know you were in Spain. In contrast Sotogrande is a luxury urbanisation where the nation’s great and good and politicians come to rest their weary bodies in the summer months. Yet incredibly in Sotogrande Port whilst they have an Irish and English bar/restaurant, a Belgian eatery and international cuisine there has not been a high class Spanish restaurant – till now.

Step forward Adrian Van Loon who has been an estate agent in Sotogrande for more years than it would be polite for me to mention and who also has bravely fought to bring culture to this sun-kissed paradise – and battles on still.

Adrian’s old office has been sitting empty for a while in the heart of the port and he wanted to rent it as a restaurant. Various Argentinean and Italian restaurateurs approached him to take over the site but Adrian rebuffed them all – a brave move in this economic climate. He felt it was important that this idyllic corner of Spain actually had a Spanish restaurant.

His wait was rewarded because recently opened was La Taberna owned by Luis González Sánchez who hails from Toledo and Teresa García Ruíz who is from Sevilla. They had run the Triana Bar in central Madrid for a number of years which had become famous amongst the flamenco fraternity.

La Taberna has a large bar and terrace with a wide range of tapas and also a restaurant with an amazing ceiling probably only rivalled by the Sistine Chapel! The food is heavenly too –classic Spanish dishes with many roast lamb and sucking pig dishes cooked in the traditional styles of Castile-León.

I am not going to review the food because the menu is always changing but the lamb chops I had and the tuna on Adrian’s plate were excellent and we also sampled a white Rueda D.O. (Verdejo 100%) “Chamelin” (2009), a red Ribera de Duero (Tempranillo) “Conde de Sirvela” (Crianza 2006) and a dessert wine Moscatel espumoso “Reymos” Valencia – which complemented the food perfectly.

So if you are in Sotogrande this summer do head to La Taberna for a splendid meal with a warm welcome. Yes the owners are Spanish but when it comes to good food and wine there is no language barrier!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


The recent reports on the British GP, Dr Martin, who has admitted to acting out of “Christian compassion” to limit the final suffering of elderly and terminally ill patients – including his own 30-year-old son – have struck me deeply.

I suspect the majority of us will go through life and death without having to make the terrible decision of whether to intervene or not. I have certainly faced it but in the end was saved from that day of awful reckoning by a fatal blood clot to the lung.

When my partner was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer we believed she had at least 18 months to live. However the battle went badly and after just six months the doctor told me the end would come soon and the deterioration would be rapid.

We still maintained the stance that we were fighting cancer but the cells were now spreading from the lung around the body and would speedily take hold in the brain.

My partner had a keen mind. She enjoyed doing cryptic crosswords, reading, enjoying classical music and so on. Yet I knew when her brain failed the real crisis would set in and we would reach the stage when life for her had finished although the cancer would not yet be ready to release her from this world. It would insist on shaking the life out of her like a hunting dog with a hare.

She was already sucking on the morphine ‘chupa chups’ lollipops and the oxygen machine were by the bedside. As the days wore on the morphine requirement would grow and the breathing aid would no longer just be for an hour or so at a time.

I therefore mentally prepared myself for the end or the premature end that she might demand. I rationalised that I would not be prepared to assist her in ending her life and pain but I would be prepared to turn a blind eye, to make the morphine dose available, to not come rushing in if the oxygen machine was turned off.

Of course I now accept that the decision would never be that easy. If you had your partner’s hand in yours, looked into their eyes as they plead release, do you then simply lecture them on the sanctity of life, walk away leaving the pills at the bedside or assist them in their final hour of need? I don’t know or rather I suspect I do but don’t want to admit it.

The ending of a person’s life in these circumstances has huge moral, medical and legal implications. Whilst it has to be right, out of “Christian charity” to help end suffering we must also be aware of those who would take such actions for their own benefit. Doctors regularly make life and death decisions on behalf of their patients but surely we must beware the medic who believes his or her role is to terminate suffering wherever he or she finds it.

I also ask whether a person, a panel of wise minds or the government of the day can rule on this issue if those involved have not had to make the gut wrenching decision to end or not end a life of a loved one themselves.

I suspect not.

Thursday, June 17, 2010


The British health watchdog NICE wants children as young as five to be given lessons in sex and relationships.

NICE, which is a bit of a misnomer as this organization is normally telling the chronically or terminally ill they cannot have the drugs to save or prolong their lives, has apparently carried out a study on the matter.

One wonders how many batches of vital drugs it could have purchased for the seriously ill if instead of showboating and trying to catch the tabloid headlines it had put the money to better use.

I happen to believe that sex education is a matter for parents although I have to say mine were no use at all. They are both long since departed and I never heard anything about the birds or the bees.

My first brush with sex was at the age of six when Dorothy, my next door neighbour and the same age as me, lured me in to her garden tent to play nurse and patient. I was the patient, she was my nurse, she examined my body very thoroughly so today she would no doubt be placed on the sex offenders list. Yet for all the care and attention she left me none the wiser.

When I was eleven and at grammar school there was a lad in our class who had a nervous order and we all deemed to be mad. One day he brought in a medical book which indeed showed very accurately what a man did to a woman. However we all considered this at great lengthy and were unanimous in our view that no way would our parents do that – which just went to confirm his madness.

By the age of 15, in the midst of the swinging 60s, Jack the lad was in our class. He was very sexually experienced and assured us that he used the ink reservoir of his fountain pen as a condom. Of course you would be hard put to stretch the rubber tube over your little finger let alone anywhere else – but the fact we accepted his word as gospel is both hilarious and depressing.

Well needless to say my son stands as testament to the fact that I did finally learn the facts of sex although I have to say my education never involved any birds or bees, my parents, classmates or government body. I suspect for the majority of my generation the story is the same and as the world’s population is booming it would appear we have no trouble with the niceties of sex – although relationships and responsibility are another matter.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


The International Press Institute (IPI) has called for the removal of Europe’s defamation laws after a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights which relates to a 1995 drugs shipment that was intercepted in Algeciras port.

The director of the IPI, David Dadge, said all European countries that had defamation laws should repeal them to prevent individuals from outside of the region using them to silence the legitimate revealing of information by journalists that work in democratic countries.

Recently the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Spain’s sentencing of the Spanish editor of Diario 16, José Luis Gutiérrez (pictured above), over an article in his newspaper linking Morocco’s now-deceased King Hassan II to drug-dealers was a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention, which protects the rights of freedom of expression and of the press.

It was back in 1995, when Diario 16 published a story headlined “Five tons of hashish discovered in a consignment belonging to Hassan II’s company” and referred to on the first page under the headline “A family company belonging to Hassan II implicated in drug trafficking” – in reference to the seizure of 4.6 tonnes of hashish hidden in a lorry belonging to Domaines Royaux, a company owned by the Alaouite royal family, as its entered Spain by Algeciras.

A year later a Spanish court ruled that the drug traffickers had no connection with Domaines Royaux but were three Spanish nationals.In 1997, the Moroccan monarchy sued, in Spain, the author of the report Rosa María López, the Diario 16 editor and the publishing company, alleging that the article had damaged the king’s reputation.

The court sided with the Moroccan King ruling that there had been “an interference with the fundamental right to respect for the king’s reputation.” It also criticised the title of the article and noted a 1996 court ruling that the drug traffickers in question had no connection with Domaines Royaux.

Gutierrez and Diario 16, which has since ceased publication, were ordered to pay a fine and publish the ruling in the newspaper.

However Gutiérrez was not about to let the matter rest and made a number of appeals including one to the Spanish Supreme Court all of which failed. In July 2004, the IPI wrote to the Supreme Court to criticize the Court’s dismissal of Gutiérrez’s appeal.

The editor supported by the IPI and other freedom of expression organisations decided to press on taking his appeal all the way to the Strasbourg-based Court of Human Rights in April 2007.

Finally the Court of Human Rights gave its ruling stating that “whilst the headline had been designed to attract the reader’s attention, the information in the body of article was true,” and published in good faith.

It ruled that “the restriction on the applicant’s freedom of expression had not been proportionate to the potential seriousness of the damage to the reputation in question.”

After the court had ruled in Gutierrez’s favour he sent an email to the IPI: “This ruling of the European Court of Human Rights is a great example of support for freedom of speech and press, precisely at a time when the democratic press in the world is coming under attack by totalitarian and undemocratic forces. The pressure and denunciation by international organizations of Press Freedom, starting with the magnificent IPI, has been fundamental. Their support has certainly been of great importance to members of the tribunal.”

Freedom of the press or was it defamation? I am sure you have an opinion!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


There is no doubt that the oil giant BP has serious questions to answer in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill – probably the worst in US history.

Yet BP’s Tony Hayward is on the spot not dodging the issue heading the company’s efforts to stem the leak and then clear up the mess.

However I believe two other companies, both American, are also involved in this disaster – one of whom owns the rig that blew up killing workers. Heaven forbid they should be left out of this oily equation.

I am puzzled that President Obama instead of backing BP to find a solution to this appalling problem is more intent on kicking arse instead.

In the process he is driving down the BP share price and so hitting pensioners in his own country and the UK whose funds have collapsed largely under his onslaught.

Whatever the end result of this most tragic disaster it will be insignificant compared to the Bhopal gas explosion in 1984 in which 20,000 Indians lost their lives and 500,000 had their health destroyed.

The US company Union Carbide was responsible and the US government arranged for its chief executive Warren Anderson to flee the country never to face justice.

So before we leap to judgement in the Obama-style let us compare the actions of BP and Tony Hayward with those of Union Carbide and Warren Anderson – and then pronounce who is the slick operator.

Monday, June 7, 2010


We made our way through lush sub-tropical trees and bushes to the clearing.

There was a large glittering pool of cooling water. “It’s the sea”, said Hassan. It certainly looked blue and clear but it couldn’t be the sea because we were half way up the limestone rock that towered green and splendid above us.

A loud raucous noise broke out to our right. Ahmed calmed us, apes he said – but we weren’t sure if they were roaming free or caged.

At that moment the governor of these parts strode past and made his way to under a giant awning.

A large pride of lions came in to view, all dressed to kill, they left us unharmed.

Ahmed waved us to a table by the glittering pool. We had come to eat and a plate of five Spanish tapas was placed before us. In the centre was a small shot glass of gazpacho with a crouton stick surrounded by a chicken thigh, a cheese tartlet and other delights.

Toby broke cover to ensure all was well before returning to his beloved lions.

A sorbet followed to cleanse the palate then a barbecue but not as we know it. No drunken sweaty men surrounding hot coals here. The plate was laid out in the style of the finest restaurants with a delicious mix of delicate vegetables surrounding a generous steak. Opposite me sat a mound of mushrooms as large and tender as meat with asparagus that melted in the mouth. All was washed down by a wine that whispered it was a well-heeled chardonnay, the tongue believed it but the price tag tempted you to order a second bottle.

As the night closed in on the rock above, the birds circled. A small boat made to the exact scale of the traditional local fishing vessels, bedecked in candles, set sail on the water and a plate of tapas desserts arrived in front of us that were to die for.

Hassan brought us coffee, a light for the table lamp and a generous smile.

Toby appeared through the bushes one last time to ensure we had enjoyed our evening and to see us safely on our way.

If you would like to share the Rock Hotel’s Al Fresco dining experience - every summer night - at its beautiful poolside restaurant click here for the link to Gibraltar’s oasis in a busy world.

(By the by the Governor of Gibraltar, Sir Adrian Johns, is president of the Gibraltar Lions who that same night were entertaining their Spanish counterparts but not a roar was heard).

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Some years ago I wrote that when the colossi of Gibraltar politics, Peter Caruana and Joe Bossano, decided to call it a day it would cause major seismic change.

Well Joe Bossano has announced he will not lead his GSLP in to the elections expected in 2011. He founded the party and will be a player but he will not be the Rock’s next chief minister if the GSLP – Liberal coalition triumphs as present opinion polls indicate it will.

I presumed this would be the news, now I am not so sure. Joe Boss has delivered a GSLP in good shape to the next generation of leaders and the alliance with the Liberals has never been stronger. So maybe the news will be elsewhere.

Peter Caruana led his centre-right GSD to power in 1996 and has been a victor at the polls on four consecutive occasions. So surely he’ll go for a fifth victory or will he?

Gibraltar’s legendary leader, Sir Joshua Hassan, was a four term chief minister so Caruana has matched his record. If Caurana went for a fifth – and won – he would cement his place in the Rock’s history. Yet if he lost he’d be remembered more for that defeat than his victories.

So why should he pass up another attempt? Two opinion polls in the Chronicle and Panorama have suggested he would be defeated. Polling day is still a long way off but if the people of the Rock have decided it is time for a change there is little Caruana can do to stem that tide. Also the Bossano bogeyman will no longer be there to poke a stick at – the GSLP – Liberals will be led by a new generation of politicians – as Cameron and Clegg have demonstrated it can be an irresistible combination.

If Caruana did lose I doubt he would hang about to lead the loyal opposition as Bossano has. He’d rush off in his wig and gown to earn some dosh at the Bar.

Which of course leaves his GSD in a quandary. It had been assumed that his deputy Joe Holliday would be the man to take over but there have been suggestions he won’t be a candidate at the next elections even if Caruana fights on. This would open up a power battle within the GSD that could split the party asunder.

The minister of justice, Daniel Feetham, has ambitions to the top job. However a political carpet bagger he may be but also at heart he is a socialist. His father was a minister in one of Bossano’s administrations, Danny was a member of New Labour in the UK, joined the GSLP but stamped his foot when Bossano wouldn’t stand down, rushed off to form the Labour Party and after getting a bloody nose at the polls scampered off to be Caruana’s bag carrier before being elected at the last election.

Feetham joining the GSD and its merger with his Labour Party has already caused a split with several key members including political heavyweights Keith Azopardi and Nick Cruz going off to form the PDP. It is difficult to see Feetham leading a party whose core membership oppose everything he stands for. However if he tries and fails it could see the leaders of the struggling PDP and perhaps former deputy chief minister Peter Montegriffo returning to the GSD as soon as Caruana is out of the door.

I suspect whilst all eyes are currently on the GSLP it is the GSD where the action will be. I shall keep looking in both directions.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


When you have been in the media world as long as I you cannot avoid having worked with Jewish people – many of whom have become and remain good friends.

One such was Peter who sadly passed away last year. I still have some of his paintings to remember him by and some of his sage words.

Peter was a young man as World War II approached, he was German and of course Jewish. His family sent him to Africa to escape the Nazis – his parents perished in the holocaust.

Peter served in the British forces but proudly kept his German name, his strong Germanic accent and his Jewish faith till he died.

One sad day such as this he told me he had no time for Israel because all it had learned from the terrible events of the holocaust was hate and the worst of the Nazis’ habits. His words not mine.

He repeated that view on more than one occasion over the years.

It strikes me that Israel has few friends in the world. Nations support it out of guilt – others despise it.

Israel would have us stand in awe of its strength – for most people we stare in contempt.

Shalom to Peter’s spirit at this tragic time.

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