What do a farm in the Lake District, a pizzeria in Auckland, a doctor’s clinic in Nice, a pub in central Oxfordshire, a garage in Neuchâtel and a glitzy nightclub in Milan all have in common?
The answer is simple – they are all places which I have encountered in my travels and which have been named in some way or the other after the Rock of Gibraltar.
Every time I come across one of these places, a strange thing happens. First of all, I begin to reminisce about the friends and loved ones I’ve left behind in Gib, wondering what they are doing at that particular moment. Secondly, I wonder whether the building before me is owned by someone with a direct link with the Rock – a homesick ex-pat llanito, say, or an ex-RAF man who spent his younger years posted at North Front – or whether the name Gibraltar was chosen purely because it is a byword for strength and solidity.
But more than anything else I think about the nature of words – and how there will always be parallel worlds out there where the word ‘Gibraltar’ means something very different to what it means to us native and adopted Gibraltarians.
Mention the word Gibraltar to anyone directly associated with the Rock, after all, and they will probably think of things like the Levanter Cloud, or the Barbary Apes, or Main Street on a Saturday morning, or Catalan Bay during the Summer holidays.
But to the people who live near these ‘other Gibraltars’ the word Gibraltar might represent a place where they can buy cheap tyres, or the restaurant where they proposed to their wife, or the clinic where one of their family members was recently treated for pulmonary tuberculosis.
As the young New Zealand waiter at the Gibraltar Woodfired Pizza Café said to me almost fifteen years ago: ‘I never even knew a place called Gibraltar existed. I just thought it was a fancy name for a pizza. You know, like a Margarita or a Marinara.’
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 at www.mgsanchez.net/media or on his Facebook page. He also tweets under the handle @MGSanchez.