No, we won’t go to war with Spain over Gibraltar, whatever Michael Howard says. Spain can’t afford it – and only 187 of the Rock’s 30,000 inhabitants voted for Spanish union in 2002.
Still, now that Gibraltar’s in the headlines, I would recommend a trip there. I’m amazed how few British people go. I only went, three years ago, because I was writing a book, following in the footsteps of Odysseus – and St Michael’s Cave, a huge cavern beneath the Rock, is supposedly the site of Hades.
There are few places in the world that are so small and so packed with incident – because of its site, at the gateway to the Mediterranean; and thanks to centuries of Anglo-Continental spats.
In my hotel, I asked the concierge – with a Spanish surname, Spanish accent and Spanish complexion – about the huge reproduction picture behind him in the lobby.
“It’s us beating the Spanish,” he said, grinning proudly.
The picture, I later discovered, was John Singleton Copley’s The Defeat of the Floating Batteries at Gibraltar, September 1782 – when Britain beat the French and the Spanish. It was all very surreal: you wouldn’t get that raw patriotism in a British hotel lobby.
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