Heartbroken

(Tom Petty’s official website confirms the sad news)

Just a month after the death of Steely Dan’s Walter Becker another true music ‘great’ has left us. Tom Petty, best known as the leader of Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, died suddenly of cardiac arrest at the age of 66.

After more than 40 years in the business he was still churning them out. His last studio album with the Heartbreakers was 2014’s Hypnotic Eye, but his most recent offering was the second LP by Mudcrutch, the name of the band he co-founded in 1970, released last year. He had just completed a US tour with 3 sell-out nights at the Hollywood Bowl.

I discovered Tom Petty relatively late, around 1997 or 1998, when I bought a second-hand copy of Wildflowers, which I still consider one of his best albums. I was instantly hooked.

I lapped up his back catalogue and bought every subsequent CD, not just those with the Heartbreakers, but his solo albums and the two recordings by supergroup The Traveling Wilburys in which he was joined by Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne (of ELO fame), Roy Orbison and George Harrison no less!

I was able to cross out one of the items on my bucket list when my son and I saw the band live in Dublin in 2012, a dream come true. They were magnificent. Needless to say I got the T shirt!

Sadly we’ll never see him perform again, but if you’d like to know more about the man, the band and their music get hold of  Peter Bogdanovich’s excellent 2008 documentary Runnin’ Down a Dream.

The 4-disc set includes the 30th anniversary concert Petty and the Heartbreakers gave in his hometown of Gainesville, Florida in 2006.

Before you do that though, give the playlist below a listen. It’s an hour’s worth of my favourite Tom Petty tracks. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

 

Rest In Peace and thank you Tom, your songs will live forever.

 

 

 

 

 

9 UK universities in world’s top 100

With a new academic year underway, many students will be thinking about their upcoming ‘A’ level exams and the possibility of going on to higher education. Some may have already decided what course they’d like to take and what universities they’ll apply to. Others may be poring over the prospectuses or perusing the relevant websites before making up their minds.

All I imagine, if only for curiosity’s sake, will be interested in looking up the 2017 Academic Ranking of World Universities that’s recently been published. According to Wikipedia, the ranking is considered one of the three most influential university measures, together with QS World University Rankings and Times Higher Education World University Rankings.

In this year’s edition, as in previous ones, United States universities dominate, with 48 in the top 100. Harvard places first for the 15th year with Stanford second.

But, given that’s where most of them will actually go, our students will probably be more interested in how British universities fare. And they do pretty well

The University of Cambridge has overtaken two other American universities, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California, Berkeley, to make third place overall. Traditional rivals Oxford come in at number seven. There are nine British universities in the top 100 including Cardiff University, which breaks into this élite group for the first time at number 99. My alma mater, Bristol University, is 61st.

For context, only eight of the 28 European Union member states have universities that feature among the world’s 100 best. Germany and Netherlands have four each, France and Sweden three. Spain has none in the top 200.

The full results are available here.

IS E-GOV A-OK?

 I don’t know about you, but the much-vaunted e-government that was supposed to make our lives so much easier didn’t work for me.

I hadn’t resorted to using it before, but when I received a letter from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Department informing me that my car was due for its first roadworthiness test I decided I’d give it a try. Rather than go to the counter at the Test Centre in Devil’s Tower Road, I thought, I’ll arrange an appointment online. After all, the Number Six press release three years ago announcing that e-government had arrived claimed: “No-one will ever need to…queue to book a Driving Test at the MOT Centre”.

Maybe not a driving test, but I’m afraid I did end up having to go there in person to book the roadworthiness test.

Admittedly the problems started after an initial mistake on my part. When I went to the egov.gi website I booked the first available slot and paid the £31 fee, not remembering I would be away from Gibraltar on that day. Still, this must also have happened to other people I guessed. I’ll just telephone the office and ask to change the date.

Wishful thinking. You have to cancel and rebook online yourself; the staff can’t do it for you. And, by the way, you have to pay the fee a second time before your first payment is refunded.

This wouldn’t have unduly bothered me if things had gone smoothly from then on. But they didn’t.

The computer asked me for a booking number that I hadn’t been given. When I requested it, it said it couldn’t find my appointment with the information provided.

When I called the department a second time the sympathetic lady at the end of the line sounded like she’d heard it all before. Oh dear, you haven’t been sent your booking details. Ah yes, you want to change the appointment but can’t cancel online. Tell you what, why don’t you bring us your logbook and we’ll sort it out.

Which I did the next day.

But it kind of defeats the purpose of e-government, doesn’t it?

Was it a Miracle?

An elephant statuette is drinking milk, they told me, get down there and investigate. Sure, I thought. And if I look out the window I might just see pigs flying.

I had finished work for the day and was relaxing at home when the call came from the GBC newsroom. A “miracle” that had occurred in India that day, and spread to various countries, was also taking place in Gibraltar.

It was September 21st 1995 and worshippers at a New Delhi temple were astounded when a statue of the Hindu elephant-god Ganesh seemed to accept an offering of milk, “drinking” it through its trunk. Within a few hours there were many similar reports across the country and in Hindu communities further afield including in the USA, Canada and the UK.

I recalled this event after reading reports that a Russian MP claimed a statue of the last emperor, Nicholas the Second, began to cry on the 100th anniversary of the revolution that deposed him. Natalya Poklonskaya, a member of Vladimir Putin’s ruling United Russian party, said it was a miracle no one could explain.

As those who know me know, I’m rather sceptical about the supernatural. My expectations of a “good story” were therefore pretty low when we set off for the flat in Parliament Lane where the phenomenon was said to be happening.

Places of worship are often solemnly lit, and so it was here. The apartment was illuminated only by candlelight and full of people. I knew many of them and my presence was not seen as an intrusion. On the contrary, they obligingly made space for my cameraman and I to reach the right room. There, inside a metal bowl placed on a table, stood a figure of Ganesh one of the best known and most worshipped Hindu gods.

The statue, they said, had been drinking milk for several hours. Would I like to offer it some? Yes, I said. But privately I was a little unsure. What if it didn’t happen, how awkward would that be?

I needn’t have worried.

With everyone looking on and the camera rolling, I placed a tablespoon of milk below the effigy’s trunk and watched incredulously as the level of the liquid dropped until there was none left. I repeated the action several times with the same result. The milk unfailingly drained from the spoon. I even examined the statue to satisfy myself there was no trickery involved and found no evidence of anything suspicious. There was no mechanism or opening in the trunk through which the milk might have entered.

Scientists would later try to rationalise the event, suggesting the milk was drawn up by capillary action. Maybe so, but that doesn’t explain why all attempts to “feed” Ganesh after midnight met with failure. And while there have been reports of similar incidents since, none has had the same worldwide impact.

Was it a miracle?

Your guess is as good as mine.

All I can say is that that assignment remains one of the most memorable and intriguing of my career.

Parking, the Problem

As Gibraltar continues to grapple with traffic congestion could there be an unexpected solution around the corner?

The 2017 edition of an annual study called Beyond The Car indicates that while car ownership remains strong for the moment, attitudes may be shifting. In 2016, 29% of respondents saw ride sharing and the ability to book a cab through their smartphone as an alternative to owning a car. This year that had gone up to 34% – over a third.

Of course Gibraltar doesn’t have a tap-and-ride service like Uber yet. But it surely can’t be long before we catch up with the major cities of the world in this aspect of modern life.

We already have one significant advantage over most other places, a free public bus service. That, coupled with on-demand transportation, might eventually persuade some of us to use our car less, if not actually deter us from buying one in the first place.

Which would be just as well because, as the long-suffering motorist knows, parking too remains a major problem. Numerous car parks have been built in recent years, both under the present and previous administrations, but to little avail it seems. Why is this?

Nature abhors a vacuum, the saying goes. Maybe the same is true of a parking lot: build it and they – cars – will come. It’s certainly true of the car park above Catalan Bay, ‘my’ beach for nearly forty years. I was there by ten o’clock on some mornings this summer when very few people were around, yet already parking spaces were scarce.

Apart from those occupied by derelict vehicles, most were taken by Spanish-registered cars. Some, no doubt, belong to employees of establishments in and around Catalan Bay village. But the sheer number suggests others must be using it too and not for the purpose of going to the beach.

I’ve noticed a similar trend at Landport Ditch at weekends, when parking is free.

And why must so many spaces in multi-storey car parks be made available for purchase or rental? It’s good for the government’s coffers no doubt, but doesn’t it defeat the purpose if you build a super-duper car park but over time the number of spaces available for the public steadily decreases as the better off buy or rent there? I’ve seen the ‘full’ sign lit up at the entrance to the Mid Town car park rather more often than you’d expect for a facility of that size. Fingers crossed that the projected new car park at Grand Parade doesn’t go the same way.

The fact that this policy frees up roadside parking spaces is of little consolation to locals because many of them, as at Catalan Bay and Landport, are taken up by non-residents.

Another factor that contributes to the parking problem is the removal of spaces on the public highway for reasons such as the widening or construction of pavements. While this is welcome from the pedestrian’s perspective it inevitably results in the sudden loss of parking availability, sometimes in areas where residents have for years been used to leaving their cars unhindered.

There’s no easy solution, and governments inevitably shy away from taking drastic steps that would be unpopular with voters. But unless something happens to reduce car ownership demand, the bullet’s going to have to be bitten.

One-bedroomed, open-plan flat with walk-in shower for sale

Well, summer’s nearly over and I can report that I’ve turned a deeper shade of brown over the last couple of months. What’s tickled me pink between sunbathing sessions though is the language used by estate agents to try and persuade you to buy one of their properties.

Let me explain.

One of my wife’s hobbies is what I call ‘pretend house hunting’. We lived in our first home for 14 years and have moved three times since. We’ve been at our present address for nearly two decades and I tell her she has absolutely no prospect of getting me to up sticks again despite her view that we should downsize, now that our children are grown up and have flown the roost. Does that deter her from perusing every property advertisement that comes her way? Not one jot.

Which means I end up reading them as well.

In the forlorn hope of curbing her zeal, I’ve taken to translating estate agent-speak for her.

For instance: how likely is it, as claimed, that a one-bedroom flat with a combined kitchen and dining room (described as ‘open plan’ to make it sound nicer) and a bathroom with no bath, but a ‘walk in’ (not ‘drive in?’) shower is truly ‘amazing’ and ‘wonderfully appointed’? What does wonderfully appointed even mean?

Or take an apartment that ‘benefits from’ (why not simply ‘has’?) a ‘small room, which is currently used as a store room’. That’s because, try as you might, you just can’t fit a bed in it. Otherwise it would be touted as having one more bedroom. And for the prospective purchaser’s sake, let’s hope the fact that the flat has an ‘airy feel throughout’ isn’t code for ‘it’s draughty’!

Consider also the fantastic, ground floor, corner studio apartment that ‘offers full open plan living’. Enticed? Me neither. Especially when the balcony offers “views over the rooftops” (seriously, that’s what it says) and ‘partial views of the sea’.

Our second home was sold to us on the basis of it having partial sea views. The reality was that it was a Rock-facing flat from where you could just about glimpse a sliver of blue below the horizon if you stood sideways at one end of the balcony and craned your neck 45 degrees anti-clockwise. Not worth the effort believe me.

Be wary, too, of adverts that highlight nearby amenities rather than the property itself. One I saw mentioned practically every kind of establishment in the neighbourhood, from a hairdresser to a showroom, but didn’t point out that the flat is in a location that’s inaccessible by road and parking in the area is a nightmare. This particular property has a ‘fantastic walk in shower’ (another one) and ‘a small but perfectly formed area for storage’. I’m still trying to work that one out.

Another recognised estate agent tactic is to use pleasant-sounding words and expressions to disguise the truth.

A ‘galley kitchen’ may conjure up thoughts of enjoying a romantic dinner at sea. If the kitchen’s in a flat instead of a boat though, the reality is more prosaic: there’s no room for a table and chairs and probably not enough space for more than one person to be in it at any one time.

Flats are sometimes described as one or two ‘bedroomed’. Be suspicious. This could signify they’re poky, little box-rooms and the suffix is intended to make them sound grander.

And why do so many advertisements end with the exhortation that viewing is ‘a must’ or ‘highly recommended’? Surely no one in their right mind is going to buy a property without seeing it first, are they?

P.S: Estate agents please disregard everything I’ve said and be as florid and imaginative as possible with your descriptions of our home, should we end up putting it on the market after all!

Remembering Walter Becker

Another music great left us this week. Walter Becker, one-half of the creative force that was Steely Dan, passed away at the age of 67. Together with Donald Fagen he founded one of the most influential groups of the 1970s, practically inventing the jazz-rock genre. Their songs are cerebral, sophisticated and excellently produced. Their first album, 1972’s Can’t Buy A Thrill, is in my opinion one of the best debuts of all time by any band.

(Walter Becker & Donald Fagen)

Years ago a musician friend of mine asked to borrow some of my Steely Dan CDs as he was planning to incorporate some of their songs into his band’s repertoire. He returned the discs a few days later, saying they were too hard to learn. Here’s my own personal tribute to the legend that is Walter Becker, in the shape of a Spotify playlist comprising some of the Dan’s best tracks. I hope you enjoy them, and that the list serves as an introduction to this wonderful band.

RIP Walter.

 

 

Classic Rock instrumentals

Hi everyone,

Stephen’s Niche is back in the Gibraltar Chronicle soon but before starting on the serious stuff, here’s a playlist I created on Spotify that I hope you’ll enjoy. It consists of eleven instrumental rock tracks, mainly from the 70s, that are among my favourites. Below I say something about each one and why they’re meaningful to me. If you enjoy the list, or otherwise, please let me know. Feel free to comment and tell me about your special songs.

  1. Bron-Yr-Aur : Led Zeppelin

Acknowledged as one of hard rock’s pioneers and most successful ever bands, Led Zeppelin also had a gentler side. Their classic track Stairway to Heaven showcases both to perfection.

Bron-Yr-Aur is off their 1975 double album Physical Graffiti which was critically and popularly acclaimed. It includes one of Zep’s most popular tracks Kashmir, although my personal favourite is In My Time of Dying – their rendition of a traditional gospel music song. Bron-Yr-Aur was a holiday cottage in Wales where guitarist Jimmy Page and vocalist Robert Plant wrote most of the material for 1971’s Led Zeppelin III although the track never made it onto that album. Physical Graffiti is special for me because it was the first Zeppelin album I anticipated: their five previous ones I bought after having already discovered hard rock.

2. Sanctuary-Fritha-The Snow Goose: Camel

My favourite band, bar none. There’s any number of instrumentals I could have chosen but in the end I settled for this excerpt, that I edited as one piece of music, from the band’s breakthrough third album. Camel must have had mixed feelings about it because it brought them fame, but they were threatened with legal action for copyright infringement by author Paul Gallico, who had written the novella The Snow Goose. The LP’s name was consequently changed to Music inspired by the Snow Goose. The band’s next album, 1976’s Moonmadness, is the one I’d choose if I could keep just one.

3. Albatross: Fleetwood Mac

It’s hard to believe this track was released nearly half a century ago, it still sounds so fresh and magical. You can just picture the giant seabird winging its way effortlessly across the seas. As a young boy I would play it over in my head to help me get to sleep. Albatross is from the Peter Green, blues-rock era of Fleetwood Mac, before Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham commercialised the band’s sound culminating in the mega 1977 hit album, Rumours. Green wrote many other wonderful songs. Give Man of the World a spin, or experience the original Black Magic Woman before Santana made it an international hit.

4. The Whale: Electric Light Orchestra

A deep cut from their sensational Out of the Blue double LP released in 1977 that spawned four UK top twenty singles including their best-known, Mr Blue Sky. The album is extra special for me because it was a present from my girlfriend, later to become my wife.

It’s incredible to think that composer Jeff Lynne wrote all 17 songs in ELO’s acknowledged masterpiece in just three and a half weeks!

Jeff’s still going strong by the way: I saw him and his band (including long-serving ELO member Richard Tandy) live last year in Manchester when they were touring their latest album. It’s well worth a listen.

 

5. Take Me With You: Santana

Another deep cut habitually overlooked due to the popularity of Europa, (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile), the other instrumental on Santana’s 1976 album Amigos. Europa was my favourite track at the time too, not least because we always played it at our weekly school dances when the ‘slows’ started! I feel Take Me With You has aged better though. Stunning keyboards from Tom Coster before Carlos Santana’s guitar takes over.

6. F.U.B.B.: Wishbone Ash

One of the first bands I saw live as an undergraduate student, Wishbone Ash combined elements of progressive rock, folk and even classical music. They were famous for having two lead guitarists, often playing in harmony as on this number which closed their 1974 album There’s the Rub. 

My  two favourite ‘Ash songs, Persephone and Lady Jay are also on this. If you’re wondering, the title of the track on this playlist stands for F****d Up Beyond Belief. Which it is. I love it.

7. Mood for a Day: Yes

Yes’s fourth album, Fragile, features standout group compositions like Roundabout and Heart of the Sunrise. It also includes solo tracks from each of the band’s five members. Mood for a Day is lead guitarist Steve Howe’s contribution. When I was in school, it was one of the songs (America’s Ventura Highway was another) that my would-be guitarist classmates tried to master. They failed of course.

 

8. Mount Teidi: Mike Oldfield

Mention the name Mike Oldfield and most will associate it with his iconic debut album, and first for Richard Branson’s Virgin label, Tubular Bells on which he played almost every instrument. Its haunting opening sequence was used to great effect in horror classic The Exorcist. But there’s much more to this musical genius, as his 26 studio albums so far will attest.

Mount Teidi is from his underrated 1982 LP Five Miles Out, one of his best in my humble opinion.

9. Breakaway: Alan Parsons

As with Camel, there’s loads of instrumentals by Parsons on his own, or as part of The Alan Parsons Project I could have selected for this playlist. In fact, between us, I’ve a compilation I’m happy to share! This particular track is the most recent on this list, appearing in his first solo album Try Anything Once released in 1993. As well as a musician, Alan Parsons is an audio engineer and record producer. He was involved in the recording of such landmark albums as The Beatles’ Abbey Road and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. A T-shirt signed by the maestro himself is among my prized possessions!

10. Fluff: Black Sabbath

The masters of heavy metal, imitated but never equalled. Most of their albums had quieter moments, and this is it on 1974’s Sabbath Bloody Sabbath my favourite Sabbath album, and one of my top albums ever.

11. Los Endos: Genesis

The ‘Masters of Melody’ as these prog giants were dubbed. This is off 1976’s A Trick of the Tail, their first album following the departure of frontman and leader Peter Gabriel. With Phil Collins assuming that role the band took a more commercial, radio-friendly direction, but the presence of guitarist Steve Hackett and keyboardist Tony Banks meant the prog influence was still strong, for now at least.

I can proudly say I was one of the first people in Gibraltar to own this album. BFBS Radio ran a competition and the prize was A Trick Of The Tail before it had arrived in the shops. The question, actually, was who had taken over as lead vocalist from Gabriel. Rather than just answer it I wrote a history of the band from its inception in 1969 with From Genesis to Revelation. When I went to collect the prize they swore me to secrecy, and said that having read my letter they saw I was a true fan and couldn’t give the LP to anyone else. I hope that, 41 years later, they’ll forgive me for spilling the beans!

Do please give me some feedback on whether you like this sort of thing, or prefer that I stick to politics and local affairs. Thanks for reading.

And Then There Were Five…

As Harold Macmillan is purported to have replied when asked what a prime minister most feared: “Events, dear boy, events”. Well, it’s events that have prompted me to interrupt my summer break and put pen to paper again earlier than planned.

Back in April in this column I mused on what I saw as the near impossibility of an independent election candidate winning a seat in parliament. I argued that the block voting system that has become so entrenched in our collective psyche militated against it. A vote for an independent, I reasoned, would be more than neutralised by the other nine votes an elector is entitled to cast.

It turns out my analysis was wrong.

An independent may, indeed, become an MP and the way to do it is simple. Just reverse the process: instead of standing for election on your own in the hope of winning sufficient votes, stand as part of a party’s line-up. If you get in, resign from the party but don’t renounce your seat. Hey presto!

I’m not suggesting either of them joined the Gibraltar Social Democrats with the intention of doing this already in their mind, but we now have two MPs, Marlene Hassan Nahon and Lawrence Llamas, who became independents in this way. They were elected as members of the Gibraltar Social Democrats in 2015 but left in order to plough their own parliamentary furrow.

Not for a moment do I doubt their sincerity about wanting to continue to serve the people of Gibraltar “freed from the shackles” of GSD membership, as Mr Llamas put it in his personal resignation statement.

And legally they’ve done nothing wrong. The Parliament Act speaks about “candidates” not “parties”, so electors are technically choosing individuals, even though the tendency is to vote for most or all of the individuals in their preferred party or alliance’s slate.

But is it morally right?

In my view the honourable thing to do in these circumstances is to seek a direct mandate from the electorate. Resign not just from the party, but from parliament too. The ensuing by-election would determine whether voters support your views, policies and actions. It would also give the party you’ve left an opportunity to reclaim the seat you vacated. After all, it would be understandable if GSD voters felt betrayed.

Given that MPs currently earn a minimum of more than 35 thousand pounds a year, this course of action would also serve to dispel any suspicion that the decision to remain in parliament is motivated more by financial self-interest than a desire to serve the community.

Incidentally, both Ms Hassan Nahon and Mr Llamas cited Daniel Feetham’s style of leadership as a major factor in their decision to quit. With Mr Feetham no longer in charge, might they return to the GSD fold?

(This post is slightly amended from the version first published as an opinion piece in the Gibraltar Chronicle)

My last Gibraltar Chronicle column until after the summer

Hands up if you’ve heard of Open Courseware.

The Education Department has of course, but I’m not sure that’s true of the community more generally. I was unaware of it myself until literally stumbling upon it on the quite excellent Stumble Upon mobile app that I frequently browse. (It’s available on both iOS and Android as well as on the web: stumbleupon.com. And no, I don’t get a commission!).

The OpenCourseWare (OCW) movement as it’s known began in 1999 in Germany and really took off three years later when American universities, notably the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University, embraced it.

There are now more than 250 institutions around the world that have made their course materials available for free on the Internet as open educational resources through the Open Education Consortium (oeconsortium.org), a non-profit organisation registered in the United States that operates globally. As of December 2015, over 2,300 courses were available.

There are graduate and postgraduate courses in all manner of subjects, complete with lectures, notes, videos, assignments and even textbooks. Okay you can’t actually get a degree qualification unless you pay, but having all that information at your disposal for nothing is not to be sneezed at. And because you don’t sit an exam you can complete your chosen course entirely at your own pace.

I’ve always lamented that because of circumstances at the time I was unable to read English at university as I would have liked, and settled instead for Modern Languages.

Maybe, just maybe, I’ll summon the willpower to eventually put that right, now that I’m into my 60th year!

 

THE LONGEST DAY AND A ‘BYE FOR NOW

…Not before enjoying the summer though, my first since retiring.

I’m a bit of a beach bum and I can’t wait to soak up the sun for the next couple of months instead of just a couple of weeks, as I had to make do with during my working life.

For us in the Northern Hemisphere today is the longest day of the year. The summer solstice to give it its proper name.

If you like your stats, the sun rose at 7.04 this morning and won’t set until 21.41, giving us a whopping 14 hours and 37 minutes of daylight. That’s very nearly five hours more than we’ll get on the shortest day.

Even though 21 June heralds the summer the date is tinged with just a little regret for me. That’s because from tomorrow, days will get progressively shorter until the low point of 21 December, the winter solstice. My least favourite day is when clocks go back an hour, ending Daylight Saving Time. This year that will happen on the 29 October. In one fell swoop we’ll lose a whole extra hour’s daylight, dammit!

But I won’t dwell on that right now.

Tonight I’ll sip a mojito as I watch the setting sun, grateful that I’m able to ease my brain into neutral for a while: Yes, Stephen’s Niche is taking a summer break, but I hope to return if the editor lets me!

Whatever you’re doing, have a great summer and see you soon.

( PS: I finally got to have my mojito three days later, in Conil)

‘UN’necessary?

 

When Chief Minister Joe Bossano stood before the United Nations’ Special Committee of 24 on Decolonisation on 28 July 1992 he pointed out that Gibraltar had been absent from putting its views directly to this committee for a quarter of a century.

A further 25 years have since passed.

This month Fabian Picardo, Mr Bossano’s successor as GSLP leader, delivered the latest speech at the UN in defence of Gibraltar’s right to self-determination. Besides addressing the C24, the Chief Minister also goes to New York in the autumn to plead the Rock’s case before the Fourth Committee. To what avail?

Despite the best efforts of Mr Bossano, Mr Picardo and Sir Peter Caruana, who also lobbied the UN for the almost 16 years the GSD were in government, there’s been no tangible progress.

The C24 has ignored repeated invitations to visit the Rock to see the reality of Gibraltar for itself.

With slight variations, the Fourth Committee continues to adopt an annual Consensus Decision on Gibraltar that amounts to little more than an Anglo-Spanish fudge.

The UN has not recognised our right to decide our own future and, frustratingly, Gibraltar remains firmly on its list of 17 non-self-governing territories alongside places like the Pitcairn Islands and Western Sahara. This despite our updated 2006 Constitution that arguably grants the maximum amount of self-government short of independence and so meets the delisting criteria.

Are these twice-yearly trips to the UN worth it, then?

I went there many times starting in 1993 covering the interventions of all three chief ministers mentioned.

You can’t appreciate it on TV, but scant attention is paid by delegates at either committee to the words of the various petitioners. They’re more intent on putting the finishing touches to their own speeches than listening to what others have to say.

I understand and agree that it’s important for Gibraltar to continue to assert its right to self-determination and rebut Spain’s “territorial integrity” argument. But does the chief minister, or any other minister for that matter, have to physically be in New York to do that? Neither the UK nor Spain send ministers to either the Committee of 24 nor the Fourth Committee, relying instead on members of their Permanent Mission to place their respective positions on the record.

We have a government representative in New York who could perfectly well read out the chief minister’s prepared speech. In this Internet age, there’s no reason why even last-minute changes couldn’t be incorporated into the text. And if there are questions from the floor, which in my recent experience there rarely are, Number Six Convent Place could provide the answers subsequently.

The important thing is for the Gibraltar view to also be on the record and it would be, regardless of who delivers the address.

Commendably in my opinion, the government scaled back the Gibraltar Day in London events last year inviting 300 guests instead of the customary 1,000 thereby reining in costs. Further savings for the public purse, always desirable and more so in the current Brexit uncertainty, could be made through a similar initiative in respect of UN visits