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A night out in Copenhagen


Six weeks in Gibraltar
John Julius Norwich Writer
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After a short Christmas break, we then went back on board and we went down to Gibraltar for six weeks. That was a good deal less fun, really, because, you know, I mean, Gibraltar is fine, but not for the whole weekend. And we were there for six weeks and you got to know every... you know, you walked up and down that high street every afternoon and you knew every item in every shop window and the tedium was very, very great. And there were two enormous pubs with two elderly ladies doing Spanish dances. The same old ladies had been doing them, I think, for the past half century. One of them was called Sweaty Betty; I can't remember what the other one was called, but they wore dresses like enormous lamp-shades, you know, and castanets, and they were perfectly terrible but were cheered to the echo by all the drunken sailory.

And on three occasions we were allowed out of Gibraltar, three occasions in the six weeks. We were allowed into Spain. One, we went... a friend of mine he was a [unclear] and, actually, we went off to La Línea, which was really one, huge red light district for the Navy. And eventually we were both rather frightened, but we were prevailed upon to go in and watch an exhibition, which was performed by two elderly ladies with a large banana, and was one of the most unsexy evenings I think I've ever spent in my life – put you off sex for life! One time we went to Malaga on a trip, and it was ever so extraordinary. It was quite a long bus drive to Malaga and seeing all these tiny, little, lovely little white-painted villages on the coast, you know, one of which was Benidorm and one of which was Torremolinos, and now, and I'm thinking, you know, how lovely it would be just to buy one of these tiny, little cottages to see... and now they're skyscrapers. It's quite extraordinary how that coastline has changed. I mean, when I knew it there was no development on it at all, that first time I went.

And then the third time, actually, we didn't go to Spain at all. We went to Tangier where we went by submarine, which was rather fun. It was the only time I'd ever been in a submarine. We didn't submerge, we stayed on the surface. Not much fun, because you can't see out of the window, but anyway, that's how we went. And there was a wonderful old man called David Herbert who was a tremendous friend of my parents, who was the Queen, in every sense of the word, of Tangier and who lived in Tangier. And was wonderful, he was funny. He'd been a great war hero and... but was very, very gay and, of course, which was still theoretically a crime in England, so he lived permanently in Tangier, and invited me out to lunch, and there were a lot of nice, jolly people and took me to Tangier's famous gay bar which was called Deans. And then we came, we left at about 5, I suppose, on our submarine to get back to Gibraltar, again, many very bad drunks on this submarine, including the padre, who was in a terrible way. He was wearing a fez for reasons which I can't quite make out now, but he was going around and saying to everybody, 'I can't remember your name, but your fez is familiar.' And that was the second of the three cruises.

John Julius Norwich (1929-2018) was an English popular historian, travel writer and television personality. He was educated at Upper Canada College, Toronto, at Eton, at the University of Strasbourg and on the lower deck of the Royal Navy before taking a degree in French and Russian at New College, Oxford. He then spent twelve years in H.M. Foreign Service, with posts at the Embassies in Belgrade and Beirut and at the Disarmament Conference in Geneva. In 1964 he resigned to become a writer. He is the author of histories of Norman Sicily, the Republic of Venice, the Byzantine Empire and, most recently, 'The Popes: A History'. He also wrote on architecture, music and the history plays of Shakespeare, and presented some thirty historical documentaries on BBC Television.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: Gibraltar, Tangier

Duration: 3 minutes, 50 seconds

Date story recorded: 2017

Date story went live: 03 October 2018