Wednesday, November 12, 2008

British Forces Open Day 2008 - RAF dogs

As promised the dog handling part of the day.

I'm not really into obedience and agility as I dislike the idea of performing animals. Having said that I couldn't resist watching the dogs, and I guess they are demonstrating their performance as working dogs rather than performing for the sake of it.

Some photos of the two GSDs just before they began their demonstration.

The first demonstration was obedience/agility, with the dark GSD. After walking to heel and obeying various visual commands, he went flying through the hoop.

And sat beaming at everyone enjoying his moment of glory. He really looked so pleased at the admiration and applause he received from the crowd.

Next up was Archie. This demonstration was to show that he could tell different colours, despite the fact that dogs have different colour vision to people.

In the tunnel were three coloured objects, blue, red and white. Archie was shown a flag of one colour and shot into the tunnel to retrieve the matching coloured object. Clever dog, he got 3/3.

Next was the spaniel doing his sniffer dog routine. He had loads of bags to check out, but when he got to the offending one, he sat down, with his tail going ninety to the dozen.

And his reward, a tennis ball.

Then we had catch-the-villain. This was Archie's territory and he duly attacked the villain with typical GSD ferocity.

And after that, the other GSD demonstrated a different tactic with villains, where he sat guarding the offender - without attacking him - waiting for his handler to arrive.

Great dogs, and a great display by them and their handlers.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

HMS Ark Royal in Gibraltar - British Forces Open Day - Remembrance Day 2008

Remembrance Sunday, Armistice Day, Poppy Day.

I've lost track of the correct name for the correct day. At school I remember wearing a poppy on the 11th of November and having a special service. And everything stopped at 11am for the two minutes' silence. When my parents had a business they stopped too. In fact when the clock in the market square chimed 11am, the whole town stopped.

It was either Remembrance Day or Poppy Day though. When my parents talked about Armistice Day it sounded so old-fashioned. Now the emphasis is not on 11th November at all, but on the second Sunday of the month. Too confusing for me, I do wish people would stick to dates instead of making it the nearest convenient weekend.

So Gibraltar's commemoration ceremony was on Sunday. But I didn't go. (Partner went to watch last year's, the post is here). Apparently there was something today too.

I did go to the British Forces Open Day however, held on Saturday at the Naval Dockyard, with the star attraction being a visit on board the Ark Royal which was open to the public. (Links at the bottom for more info about the ship).

I'd already had a sneak preview of HMS Ark Royal on Friday night when we walked the dog.

Saw the Typhoons flying past too but no idea what they were up to.

I should have realised it was going to be busy on Saturday when I headed off to the supermarket, which is in the opposite direction to the dockyard, and there were far too many people walking towards me.

By the time I arrived at the dockyard - there was a huge queue to go on board the Ark Royal. I asked about the boat rides round the harbour but there didn't seem to be any happening at the time.

Anyway it was a nice day so I joined the queue for the Ark Royal and stood around in the sunshine.

The guy behind me told me that the cost of visiting an open day in the UK was £15. (The Gib one was free). He hadn't gone, needless to say.

To relieve the excitement of queuing we watched an abseiling display. Apparently Gibraltar, Cyprus, and Faslane are the only accredited naval bases where you can abseil 60m, or some such riveting info.

The queue moved quickly and we climbed up the steep gangplank to board the Ark Royal and immediately entered the aircraft hanger.

There were lots of interesting displays about the work of the RN, and in particular the Ark Royal. Just as well really, because, visiting the Ark Royal meant walking the length of the aircraft hanger and no more.

At the end of the hanger we wound our miserable way down the steps. I stopped to ask a young officer where the famous ship's bell was. Seems it was on the quarterdeck, although normally it was in the hanger.

That's really helpful isn't it? Did they think someone was going to nick off with it?

Having spent a pleasant hour queuing to see jack shit nada, I went off to go on a patrol boat round the harbour. I was looking forward to this. In fact it was the only reason I was wearing mildly warm clothes when the sun was baking hot, because as we all know it is cooler on the water.

There was quite a queue and a sign saying "Boat rides closed." But no, a boat came in and people started boarding.

At the same time, the loudspeaker announced the dog display was due to start in five minutes.

Well, I have to say to the armed forces, what excellent timing.

The trip round the Ark Royal amounted to wandering down the aircraft hanger and looking at a PR display and then I have to choose between the boat trip and dogs.

Oh well, the dogs won. There were three dogs, two GSDs, and a spaniel. I immediately fell in love with Archie, who looked the spitting image of our GSD Prince. Archie was only two and a half however, and Prince was at least four when we rescued him. Not only did Archie look like Prince, he barked like Prince and managed to attack the 'villain' just like Prince. Awwww, what a darling he was. Archie is the last dog of the three pix below.

More dog pix to come on a separate post tomorrow.

So, it was a good afternoon out to be fair - well, Archie made an OK afternoon into a good one. All the displays were interesting, and I obviously missed loads of stuff, like the helicopter display, but I hadn't planned on making it an all-day event. Not everyone has the luxury of being able to spend five hours faffing around down there, waiting for the next event.

Billed as 11-4.30pm, but it is really 11-4pm - the extra half an hour is for everyone to clear off. Too many years in Spain and Gib has made me think I can turn up at the end of the day and still get to enjoy stuff. Apparently not. (Although I wouldn't have called turning up at 1-2pm the end of the day - but not enough time obviously).

So if I did it again - and a tip to anyone wanting to visit these sort of events - go early, pick off what you want to do, and don't waste time wandering round initially. You can do that later, if you really want to.

Oh and it was good to go inside the tower building too, it's a really lovely building and such an anachronism in this century. Another piece of Gib history that doesn't fit these days, but hasn't yet been turned into expensive pretentious flats.

Thanks to everyone who organised it and put in their time and effort. It was a good afternoon, despite my criticisms.

I guess my expectations were too high. Having spent my childhood years being dragged round one boring ship's engine room after another boring ship's engine room by my ex-RN father (diesel engineer), I was sadly disappointed not to see an engine room on this occasion. I suppose today's security restrictions and the sheer numbers of people prevent the public being allowed to do any more than literally stepping on and off the ship.

Sign of the times. Shame though.

HMS Ark Royal RN page here
The silver bell here
Current news about HMS Ark Royal's operations here

Also edited to change and correct 'planes to Typhoons - thanks Gibraltar Blogger for pointing that out, I was half asleep when I originally wrote Tornados.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Barbour jackets

"Where's the denim jacket?" he said.

"The" being code for ours, ie originally bought for one of us, but then appropriated by the other, eg sweatshirts, rugby shirts, shirts, and 'the' denim jacket.

'The' denim jacket was in Spain, as far as I remembered.

"I'll wear my Barbour," he said, hauling the rather mouldy jacket out of storage.

The trouble with living in a warm sub-tropical climate (apart from cockroaches and mosquitoes) is that things do get a bit damp, and well, mouldy.

So we dug out the Barbour Thornproof Dressing that perhaps we should have used more than once in the last 20 years. And he got to work rewaxing the jacket to get rid of the surface mould.

Of course, once out in the street, in his newly waxed jacket, he was immediately accosted by an American tourist.

"Excuse me, do you speak English?" she said.

"Of course, can I help you?"

"Can I buy one of those jackets here?" she asked. "It looks so British, and used. And I want one."

Partner said that she could buy one here but not until tomorrow and that they are rather expensive. She didn't care, and she is here tomorrow. So he told her the two shops in Gib that sell them that we know of, Garcia in Main Street, and the shop down the bottom of Irish Town on the left hand side.

An hour or so later, he went to the pub, and had yet more admiring comments from Americans, who were about the same age as the Barbour jacket.

Brief history of our Barbour jackets: we bought them 22 years ago, for around £75+ for mine, £95+ for his. As I remember. I wore mine relentlessly in and out of London as a commuter. Mine is a Beaufort (or was). (His is a Northumbria - not made any more from what I can see).

Sadly my rough tough jacket did not like commuting in and out of London and soon began to wear. Despite being - allegedly - waterproof, windproof, thornproof, whatever proof, they aren't London-proof. Although as everyone knows, an aged and distressed Barbour is even more chic than a new one. To the extent you can now buy one pre-aged. Rather like buying faded Levis I suppose.

Many years later, mine was so - genuinely - aged and distressed, holes everywhere, zip not working (I have to step in and out of it because I can't undo it), that I decided to send it back to Barbour for a bit of TLC. Now, while I am a perfectly good seamstress I just did not have the time to faff around with the jacket.

No, it was not worth Barbour's time and my money to repair. It would be more cost effective to buy a new one. Having paid the glorious sum of nearly £10 to be told this, there was no way I was going to put even more money Barbour's way.

So I hung onto it, and continued to wriggle in and out of it, invariably to everyone's fascination wherever we went.

I haven't worn it for ages, but having spent the best part of two hours rewaxing it this morning, I decided to wander out in it to let the wax dry. I think you are meant to dry it with a hairdryer or something, but it's just as easy to walk outside here in Gib.

Oooh. It was very nice. I had forgotten how nice it feels and looks. Nothing like a scruffy, but well-waxed, Barbour to look so British and middle-class. Such a nice colour and so well cut.

Must buy another tin of wax. I think we bought this one 22 years ago at the same time.

Oh and en route, some passengers from a cruise ship in cruise ship uniform. It seems one is issued with cruise ship clothing so one doesn't get lost. Rather like school uniform. How quaint. Gib is not that big.

And a strelitzia, they are in full bloom now.

Barbour waxed cotton jackets

Beaufort jacket