I’ve always said that every individual, or youngster especially, should leave the Rock for a period of time in order to ‘broaden their horizons’ and assimilate the fact that there is a bigger picture beyond our borders. Many, if not most, however, will return to their birth place… A place called home.
I left in the early 60s at a time when many emigrated to the UK and other countries. Hundreds, if not thousands, left the neighbouring town of La Linea round about then, and also when General Franco ordered the frontier closed. Thousands of Spanish workers were left jobless, especially as work was hard to come by in the Campo area.
As far as Gibraltar’s concerned though, I would say there is no match for leaving your home town for a few years when you’re young to get a taste of what life’s all about away from mummy, when stinky socks aren’t going to wash themselves and a plate of sausage, egg and chips is not going to appear on the table if you don’t get up on a cold, wintery morning and look for a job. It’s a challenge… and quite an experience.
You can imagine the scene: you’re in unfamiliar surroundings where you don’t know a soul, so having to cope in a different culture and meeting new people is a must. If you’re shy you have to snap out of it and work on your confidence – or lack of it! It should all add up to make you a better informed, clued-up and therefore a more ‘worldly’ person. The fact so many Gibraltarian youngsters leave the Rock to go to university these days is a major plus in developing you into a much more mature, professional and self-assured individual.
So then what happens to those who have completed their studies, returned to the Rock, and maybe gone off again to put into practice what they’ve learned, and those that are left in search of a new and, hopefully, better life? At what stage do they start thinking of coming back to their homeland – or do they? Are there many that perhaps don’t entertain the idea at all? I would really like to know what percentage of citizens from any given country return home to their place of birth. A number of them are inevitably struck by one of Cupid’s little arrows and fall head over heels in love with a native of the country they’re domiciled in at the time, then go on to produce offspring, and before you know it, they too have children. Years pass and you stay put, because your new family has taken root there and it’s pretty much impossible to wrench yourself away from kids and grandchildren to come back home. Others simply make a better life for themselves in their adopted country of choice, whether financially or otherwise, and maybe only return for a holiday or short visit, or perhaps never go back at all.
The fact is that for most, to my mind, ‘there’s no place like home’, wherever that is. Many of those who left La Linea in the 60s are a case in point. Many have come back to join their extended family and friends to enjoy what’s become known as – per that well known maxim – ‘a better quality of life’. I often wonder how many of those ex-pats living on the Costa del Sol and other sun-drenched paradises follow the same pattern of returning home, or are the tables turned? Do they stay in their chosen paradise because it doesn’t make sense to return to the place they escaped from – the cold, the rain and the gloomy days and dreary nights?
Your income and/or pension might go much further in the country you now call home, so you stay put! Many of these retirees do not return, and seem quite determined to live their remaining twilight years in the sun with their new found friends.
But closer to home in Gibraltar, you invariably hear of someone you haven’t seen for many years and who in fact left when they were quite young and have now returned to the Rock. After many years in the UK or in some other place they appear on Main Street and you say to yourself, “that’s a face I know”. In some cases, the returnees are of a more mature age and simply want to come back home for what’s left their time on terra firma. It has to be said too however, that you sometimes hear of the odd individual who has returned to the Rock and left again at some stage because they’ve realised it’s not really for them anymore; they’ve outlived the local way of life. It’s a question of, ‘that was then and this is now’ and what was once home is not now their cup of tea. They would suggest they’ve moved on from that ‘village mentality’ they were once part of, and that’s even taking into consideration all the pluses: your kids can roam free safely, you don’t have to commute to and from work, family is close enough to babysit for you or simply because of the price of booze and cigarettes or the love of living by the sea! Yes, it really is a case of horses for courses, but it’s interesting to see how for so many after a period of time, home has that special pull or mmagnet that makes you want to return to it.
So could it be a New Year’s resolution to stick to for some, making plans for a new dawning at some juncture during 2019? For those who return, the bottom line must be that a yearning to come home is an innate desire to return from whence you came, coupled with a sense of nostalgia and desire to seek out what you perceive will hopefully be a better life for the rest of your days. You’ve exhausted your ideas and cravings to live out fantasies of some sort, perhaps even achieved your professional goals, and now it’s time to go home, because home is where the heart is. And for a great majority, the heart is back home.