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Gibraltar: The Gates of Hell. Twinned with Ballymena

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Like every fervently masturbating gamer with a penchant for online poker, a nappy and a shut-in level of social ineptitude – I’ve become a retail trader of stocks. The gamification of finance on apps like eToro has made it such that you can easily understand the white sheets (if you can be bothered to read them) and you can doomscroll the comments for ‘picks’ and to remind yourself that men are the literal worst.

‘Bears’ or ‘Bulls’ adds a beautiful homoerotic wink to the pink-sword measuring duel that is the world of online traders. There’s a cosmic explosion anytime a crypto stock is mentioned. A meek, damp, cosmic squib that rises and leaks with the chart’s volatility.

I’m into it because I have no pension. We have no sitting Government in NI and Rishi Sunak will have us all working beyond the grave to keep up with interest rates. I’ll be doing the tills as a ghost.

It’s rats and cheese. A dopamine-inducing feedback/reward loop that is lacking since I’ve stopped bothering with social media. ‘Gary’s Economics’ on YouTube is a pretty good starting point if you’re interested, don’t be put off by his fingerless gloves. There are now people going to Gamblers Anonymous over losing it all on stocks, so just be careful- Mom

So I was in Gibraltar. My hobby at the minute is researching British Overseas Territories and telling people that the return of the Showband (albeit a less problematic to downright racist version) is imminent. Every other door in Gibraltar is a bank. Nadim Zahawi knows.

Living in NI, in all but name an overseas territory, it is astounding that many of the same themes occur in the sun. I feel very hard-done-by over the head of it. Subjected to the same colonisation and still Pantone light-blue to sausage roll.

We got on this bus to go up The Rock and within seconds I clocked that the fella driving was an ex-squaddie. He had the full house of ’90s Border-Road-British-Soldier-Bingo tropes. Looked like he could kill your dog rightly. Was half tempted to ask him if he’d ever been to The Moy.

RIP Murphy.

He was laughing at the sign saying ‘Nature Reserve’.

“Nature Reserve is what they’re calling it now, but it’s actually a rock of Right Royal Military Shit Kicking. It’s one big naval transmitter with a couple of tailless apes on it”

When Boris Johnston was in town he made fun of their warship being tiny, so they put two tomahawk missiles on the back of it, making it one of the most deadly in the world. Doesn’t stop Spain’s Navy from popping up every now and then, in a high-stakes game of Henry The Hippo complete with canon warning shots. Who uses a canon anymore!?

The driver’s Dad had been in Gibraltar when Franco closed the border in the late sixties, turning it into a sort of penal colony and trapping many of the near-11,000 Spanish workforce that travel there each day. Fully opening it again only in ‘89. Newry take note.

The bordering Spanish town is where all the Drug Lords live, getting the good stuff by boats from Morocco. At a viewpoint stop looking over the strait of Gibraltar, I was saying to your fella that I was looking out for Banditos.

“We facking shoot ‘em on sight!!!” Cool cool cool cool cool.

When you go through customs a sign greets you ‘Welcome to Gibraltar. Twinned with Ballymena, Northern Ireland.’ I don’t know if you remember, but all the best drugs used to come through Ballymena. NI’s Eccie Revolution came late, and it came through Ballymena. There was uproar in the clubs when you couldn’t get anything for a few months because the police shut down the (I can’t think of a better word for this, ‘cartel’ sounds too glamorous for NI – drug runners?) cartels. Turned out it was, as usual, the paramilitaries taking what they thought was rightfully theirs. It’s odd to say, but the one reminiscence folk have about our- eh – colourful past is that drug crime was never really a problem. For you’d lose your knees over it sooner than a prison sentence.

The good ol’ days.

St Michael’s Caves as a venue is one of the most beautiful cathedrals to stalac-tights-hang-down you will ever be in. Marble Arches without the tide. Vibey. Haunting. Moist but good. The rock of Gibraltar was known as a pillar of Hercules, an entryway to Hades (or Hell). I’m guessing the reason behind the twinning with Ballymena.

I’d love to see Sunn O))) or Acid Mothers Temple, Pomeroy True Blues. Shankill Protestant Boys, or the Apprentice Boys in it. Something bombastic. An Uilleann Piper for a BBC level of balance. Drones… The Alan Lomax of Ireland Seamus Ennis maybe? But alas, we were late to be ignored by the great goitre-arsed monkeys on the hill. I could make allusions to Stormont here. But I won’t.

When I got off the bus and asked the chap if he knew somewhere good to eat he said to go to a pub called the Angry Friar (some Friars got chucked out. And they were angry) unbeknownst to me he had done the international sign for ‘cheap’ behind my back to my man-friend. Much like in the historically Loyalist areas of NI, that place was so British it felt like Thatcher could be sitting in the corner smoking fegs. None more Britisher. The pub had ‘Loyal East Belfast’ memorabilia on the walls and the sort of women working there that Chas and Dave would write about.

I asked for a salad and got:

Half an Iceberg lettuce
A round of raw onion
Quarter a tomato
Two slices of cucumber, no dressing

Like going for lunch on a sunny day to your nan’s.

They did accept an NI note though. IT’S LEGAL EFFING TENDER (London)

Una Monaghan is an experimental Harpist that launched her album Aonaracht as part of the always great ‘Out To Lunch’ Festival. She uses AI, improvisation and other sonic trickery to create collaborative sound landscapes, grounded in Irish Traditional. Somewhere between sound art and remembered tune. Paddy Glackin was there on the fiddle which people were losing the run of themselves over. He is some player alright. The piece that stood out to me ‘The Chinwag’ used collected stories that were triggered by a device on Una’s hand whilst she played. Her work isn’t as impenetrable as many other experimental performers, I mean, you’ll definitely listen to the album in full. A work of critical thought, newness, musicality and respect for a shared past.

I have a running argument/discussion with one of my pals about AI. They make some pretty interesting points that using AI text-to-image generators in their artworks removes hurdles to their creativity, as someone that suffers mental health issues. They consider the opposers of these tools to be smacking of elitism and gatekeeping. I of course will just keep saying “what about consent?” over and over until I die. They’ll keep saying “unavoidable result of expanding technology” ‘til they die. Then we’ll both be dead.

Tell you what though – my stock pick? Any company that puts money into AI research. Something that is so polarising to both Artists and Libertarians will make an absolute fortune. Buy ye an album or two. Una’s perhaps? Dawn Richardson


The people of Belfast are friendly and quiet,
Except sometimes when they like a little riot,
Belfast, Belfast I love you,
If you’re out of work, you can get the bru.

– Clubsound 1976

Renaissance Woman. Fat. White. Staring at you blankly.