‘Every time a building is destroyed, you know that your memories are also being destroyed … and that a part of you will have gone with it.’
Sometimes, when I think about how much Gibraltar has changed in the last thirty or forty years, I feel a little like the narrator of Grant Gee’s wonderful film Innocence of Memories.
The drilling noises, the truck-mounted cranes, the cage-like towers of scaffolding, the trails of hard-hatted workers scurrying like ants through cratered building sites, the endless traffic hold-ups that inevitably form around most of these construction projects – all of it makes me think of the days of my childhood and youth, when life in Gibraltar appeared to follow a gentler and far less abrasive rhythm.
Invariably, then, I find myself remembering all the places where I used to play as a child and which don’t exist any more: the NOP hockey pitch, the Naval Ground football pitches, the strolling promenade next to the frontier fence, the little stone pier at the old Med Rowing club, the raised concrete podium at John Mackintosh Square.
At times like these I am aware of two Gibraltars – the one that lies before me and the Gibraltar that exists in my mind, the two of them fusing together like a pair of overlaid plastic transparencies.
Often, a feeling of melancholy will stir in my chest, an awareness of the fleetingness of all things.
And yet, as sad and wistful as I am during those moments, I also know that change and mutability are the natural order of things.
For as the narrator of Innocence of Memories says, cities are always evolving … and even characterless new buildings will one day be impregnated with the memories of those who come after us.
M. G. Sanchez has written nine books on Gibraltarian subjects, among them novels, short story collections, books of essays and autobiographical memoirs, all of which are available on Amazon. More information on his writing can be found on his Facebook page. He also tweets under the handle @MGSanchez