By Claire Spencer

“Cabin Crew seats for landing” the disembodied plummy voice announces

Clouds are everywhere swirling in an atmospheric stewpot

The plane is still descending, ears are popping, excitement rising

Then, through a gap in the sunlit clouds, I see it: The Rock of Ages

That temple of the ancients, the gateway to Atlantis where Hercules laboured

In Arabic Gibel al Tarik; Tarik’s mystical mountain, fortress Gibraltar.

 

Ships anchored in the straits, wisps of clouds racing past

Circling the Rock, looking down at the town glinting in the sun, we’re coming in fast

See all the cars stopped for the plane, buildings flash by, flaps come up

Then it’s full stop on the runway  looking up at that sheer limestone cliff face

And the The intercom cheerfully welcomes us all to Gibraltar

Where the time is 8.45 and the temperature outside is 26 degrees.

 

Mad rush time, I don’t know why everyone’s in such a crazy hurry,

Such a wonderful place why should there be any worry

Queuing for passport control then the cheapest duty free around

Waiting for the baggage to  magically appear on the carousel

Friendly faces at arrivals, taxis waiting to whisk you away,

Tempting coffee smells straying silently over from Spain

Welcoming me back, with whispers of “It’s her again.”

 

Wave lapped beach bars beckon me from over the border.

From where you can watch the moon rise over a silver sea

Or see Levanter breezes whipping up streaming clouds from the Rock

Making Battleship Britain of The Western Med look as if it’s on fire

The view from here on the Spanish lines is just fine like so many other bars

As the twinkling lights of Morocco appear across the straits like brightly coloured stars.

 

Two countries, so close together, so different get your fish and chips in Gib

Red phone boxes, Union Flags, English priced beer, mischievous monkeys,

Fancy a change, then hop over the border, flash your passport to the border guard

Y está! You’re in Spain, café y churros por desayuno, maybe some tapas

Art galleries, fountain decked plazas, endless lazy afternoon siestas,

While undercover of the night the boats come out  across the water

Smuggling cartons of cigarettes across the Spanish border.

 

Then all too soon, what have I done with  my time here, It’s  so perverse

I’m back at the airport waiting to return and  I have to do all this again in reverse,

Up the steps, The Rock looking on in silent witness, as if to say, “Well, Goodbye,”

The engines spit out fire, and I’m pushed back in my chair, trying not to sigh,

And then we’re landing in Luton where the outside temperature is 10 degrees

Under a slate grey sky With steady rain and a moderate breeze

I’m back to grey old England, where everyday is the same old grind

There’s no welcome here,  just quiet awareness of what I’ve left behind.

 

 

(The author donated their fee to Street Safe, a charity for the homeless.)