At the border between Spain and the U.K.
“You can always recognize British people easily,” Jonny says, “they walk like they’re not entirely normal.” I smile. He should know; he’s British and he’d be the first to admit that his own motorics fit his description.
We’ve walked through the costums office on our way from Spanish La Linea de la Concepción to British Gibraltar and now we stand packed and ready with our guitars and equipment in the oppressive heat before a barrier. Waiting for airplanes. Yes: laying right across the one and only access road to the city are the runway and airstrip of Gibraltar airport. Practical. Maybe a "hidden" sign of the Dutch that conquered this little part of Spain together with the British then. Airplanes in 1700? Hmm. “No, then the Brazilians,” Jonny interrupts my thoughts, “they dance when they walk! Smoothly and elegant, nothing like the stumbling British clumsiness.” I have learned a lot about Brazil in Portugal and Spain, and in Cádiz I added “Brazilian music” to my list of good reasons to go there. “Hmm, …” I hum dreamy while the barrier goes up and the procession of cars, busses and pedestrians slowly start to move again, “Brazil… I’ll go there some time for sure!” Jonny has been there a few years ago. He takes a moment to take a good look at me and says: “You could have been a Brazilian acually.” These words surprise me, and I feel some kind of pride; after his description of the Brazilian tread and elegance, this is an unexpected compliment. An unjust compliment too, but for a long moment the pleasent surprise-effect weighs heavier than the reality. I straighten my back a bit and cheerful I continue walking along the cars driving on the left side of the road. Without taking his eyes off the huge monkey-rock that proudly rises above Gibraltar, he continues: “Except for, of course, you should learn to walk like one.” There you go.
Gibraltar was not the succes that we hoped for. We got sent away several times, by both shop owners, the police and restaurateurs. It was a tiring morning with a lot of wandering around, playing, waiting and moving again. Gibraltar turned out to be a day-trip attraction and a city to travel through; a curiosity with funny red mailboxes and double deckers under the Spanish sun, but where other cities had “real” inhabitants and “real” life behind the housefronts, it seemed that right here there was nothing hidden behind the friendly streetview. Nothing but emptiness. Right after the British lunch (to my great joy Jonny actually seemed to have difficulties choosing between his scepticism towards his home country, and moderate pride, like when he ordered a “John Smith” and the waitress asked him if he was “really” from the U.K.) we went back, a little disappointed, to our hostel at the Spanish side of the border. La Linea was known as a place where you should be careful: with your money, your passport, your stuff and of yourself. We had seen the pieces of glass and the barbed wire on top of the walls in a neighbouring area, and we decided not to go anywhere near after sunset. But in the centre there was a big square with restaurants, terraces and even little playground. We would try our luck there tonight. After Gibraltar, La linea could only be better than expected, thanks to (or maybe despite of?) her reputation.
A long time before we even played a single note, a public of about twenty children had gotten together around our bags. What are you doing here? Where are you from? “I can sing too,” a little girl in a blue dress with white puff sleeves said, and before we could react she started performing her favourite song for us. The weather was great for playing, the people on the busy terraces applauded regularly, they came over to have a chat, a passing police car stopped and drove on, we sold some cd’s and when we finally reached the end of our repertoire, it turned out that we made enough money to pay for the bus, the lunch and the hostel. And that we even had enough left for a good dinner.
After the dessert and a drink in a cozy dubious bar on a dark square, I loose another pool game; I lost count a long time ago already. "I thought you said you were good at this! Tsss.. I'm not gonna let you win or anything, just so you know!" I know. Hey, what are we gonna do tomorrow before the bus leaves? No Gibraltar anymore for us, don't you think? “No, we’re not going back there, are we?” His British accent strikes me more than usual. "I like it here in La Linea. Maybe we can try playing here at lunchtime tomorrow." He stumbles upon the doorstep and a little clumsy he climbs the stairs. “I like La Linea,” I hear him mumble. Me too, Jonny. Buenas noches.