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.