Here is an interesting one…

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The Christmas card’s origins are hard to pin-down exactly, but the first recorded ones can be traced to being sent to King James VI & I, and was found in the National Records of Scotland. The message inside was:

“A greeting on the birthday of the Sacred King, to the most worshipful and energetic lord and most eminent James, King of Great Britain and Ireland, and Defender of the true faith, with a gesture of joyful celebration of the Birthday of the Lord, in most joyand fortune, we enter into the new auspicious year 1612″.

Mistletoe: The funny little green plant, that nobody outside their COVID bubble should be utilising this year, echoes the romance and tingly feel good feeling at this time of year. However, be warned as the two weeks in the run up to Christmas is sadly one of the most common times of the year that couples break up. 

Outer Space: On Christmas Eve 1948, the United States Air Force issued a statement saying that an “early warning radar net to the north” had detected “one unidentified sleigh, powered by eight reindeer, at 14,000 feet, heading 180 degrees.” This was the genesis of the idea to track Santa all around the world using the resources of US military satellites. The website is live from 1st December.

In 1965 two astronauts reported an unidentified craft. They contacted Mission Control describing it as having one main command module and eight smaller modules in front. They went on to mention that the pilot appeared to be wearing a red suit. After control room scratched their heads for a minute or two, the pair then burst into song, singing Jingle Bells.

Santa: In Russia, Santa is called Father Frost. He is also prevalent in other Slavic countries. He delivers his presents on New Year’s Eve to well-behaved children. Depending on the country, he is often helped by his granddaughter, known as the Snow Maiden.

Kim’s book review

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The Princess Saves Herself in This One 
by Amanda Lovelace 

This poetry collection is highly autobiographical, and as raw and emotional as it gets. It has received mixed reviews in online forums, mainly due to the stylistic choices employed by the poet, with no capitalisation at the beginning of sentences, one word lines (essentially, hitting enter after every word to begin a new line). I personally enjoy this device, as I think it ensures that every word impacts the reader, and is stressed, not lost among its fellow words in a sentence and simply skimmed over. Others, however, see this choice as lazy and ‘gimmicky’. 

The collection is divided into four parts: the princess; the damsel; the queen, and you. The first three section chronicle the author’s life, as she struggled with abusive relationships, complicated and tragic family relationships and her trajectory through low self-esteem, culminating in her revelation of personal self-worth. The final section ‘you’, serves as a note to the reader, and conveys messages of encouragement, positivity and hope. 

I fell in love with this collection right from the author’s dedication page. She addresses her lifelong fandom of Harry Potter, and writes: 

for the boy who lived.
thank you for inspiring me to be the girl who survived. you may have
a lightning bolt
to show for it
but my body is a
lightning storm. 

The poetry is powerful, moving, and wonderfully written. Its message of self-love and respect is strongly imbued throughout the entire collection. Lovelace truly is a master at her craft, and I promise that the emotional rollercoaster will be well worth it. 

Note: if you do enjoy this collection, she has also written two more that follow it: The Mermaid’s Voice Returns In This One and The Witch Doesn’t Burn In This One.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë, & Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

How many of us are put off reading classic literature, because we find the language inaccessible, or because we are subconsciously opposed to it – because we were forced to read it in school and write an essay on it? Just the capitalisation on the words ‘Classic’ and ‘Literature’ is enough to send many running a mile! I hear you. 

However, I implore you, dear reader, to please give Classics another try. Now that many of us are older and wiser, and have a deeper appreciation for humanity and our emotional vulnerabilities, I strongly recommend perhaps kicking off with these two. 

Jane Eyre is an emotional tale about a girl who is orphaned at a very young age, and subsequently sent to work as a nanny at Thornfield Hall, under the employ of the brooding and mysterious Mr Rochester. Jane falls in love with him, very quickly and very deeply. However, he is hiding a terrifying secret, which could destroy all that Jane thinks she knows about the man she loves. Many of us have heard of this story, or perhaps watched the film/s, so you might know what this secret is. 

Wide Sargasso Sea was written many years after Jane Eyre, and by a different author, but is still considered a prequel narrative, set decades before the events of Jane Eyre. It tells the tale of the doomed Mrs Rochester (or Antoinette Cosway, as she is when we meet her at the beginning of this book), a Creole who is married off to the wealthy Mr Rochester, made to leave her home in the Caribbean, and essentially imprisoned in an alien environment, with no family or friends, until she is driven mad. It is a heart-breaking and poignant tale, which is meritorious of praise in its own right, but even more when juxtaposed against Jane Eyre and I really appreciated the challenge it must have been for Rhys to take a beloved tale from a previous century, with characters we all thought we knew, and turning them on their heads; The Rochesters’ characters took on completely new nuances and roles in my eyes after reading Wide Sargasso Sea! You can read this book without having read Bronte’s work first, and find it is still a masterpiece of modern literary fiction, but I would highly recommend reading Jane Eyre first, to truly grasp the depths of the emotional journey the characters embark on in the story as a whole. 

Avid reader and book lover Kim has worked as a librarian in the public sector as well as schools.

Small Great Things

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Jodi Picoult has been one of my favourite authors for as long as I can remember. She writes with a sensitivity and respect for exceptionally difficult subject matters that truly takes my breath away at times. Small Great Things is no exception. 

Ruth is a midwife at a Connecticut hospital. She has seen a great deal in the twenty plus years of her career, and a routine check-up on a newborn baby surely does not faze her. However, she is abruptly reassigned to another patient, for no other reason than the fact that she is African American, and the baby’s parents are white supremacists. Ruth is understandably shocked and hurt by this decision, but ultimately respects the hospitals’ wishes and quietly moves along to the next patient, not wishing to cause a fuss. Suddenly, the newborn goes into cardiac distress, whilst Ruth is alone on shift at the nursery. Ruth is faced with a choice, whether to intervene or not, the outcome of which will have severe consequences. 

As readers, we can almost come to expect that Picoult’s novels can at times become formulaic: a major human rights issue is explored in direct relation to the protagonists, some type of dilemma occurs, and a court-case ensues. I admire the great lengths that Picoult goes to in her research about the legalities of her subject matters, in this case, racism and its impact on institutions. She also delves into medical malpractice, which is a nuanced topic, and the human rights of minors. 

Picoult is an empathetic and emotionally intelligent writer. She presents her characters in ways that are not judgemental, but rather lay their triumphs and flaws bare for the reader to guzzle up, all at once, and make up their own minds. This book is a challenging read; it made me very uncomfortable in parts. However, I would argue that books, as with any art form, should inspire some type of reaction in the reader, even if it is distressing. 

I do have a slight gripe with the ending, as I feel it is perhaps too idealistic, but that was the author’s artistic choice and I have to respect her craft. I suggest reading the Author’s Note at the end, to really make sense of the epilogue. 

This is a divisive book, which has received much mixed opinion on popular book review websites. I will agree that this is not a book for everyone, due to how intense and thought-provoking the content is. Nevertheless, Small Great Things is a powerful and important read, particularly relevant in today’s social climate, and I hope it is one you will enjoy, dear reader.  

Avid reader and book lover Kim has worked as a librarian in the public sector as well as schools.

At the Movies

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Paul Anderson is an Arts broadcaster, radio presenter, producer and journalist. He’s known for work on BBC 6 Music, Xfm, Capital as well as hosting his own one-hour film show ‘At The Movies’ on Smooth Radio.Paul is also a member of the London Film Critic’s Circle.Follow him on Twitter @afilmguy.


A film about Marie Curie feels somewhat overdue given how important to our modern life she is. For the most part, Radioactive is a conventional biopic. The film covers about forty years from Marie’s early days struggling to get noticed as a scientist and being thrown out of her lab space by boring boffins in white coats at the Sorbonne, to being married to Pierre Curie played by Sam Riley. Then we get the years in the sun when she is rightly recognised as one of the leading scientists of her age and the inevitable decline. 

The discovery of radium is ridiculously exciting, like playing River Deep Mountain High for the first time, and the possibilities are endless. However this is radiation and, you know, that’s dangerous so by the time we get to see Marie’s daughter Irene played by Anya Taylor Joy, who is just everywhere just now, excited to want to try X-Rays on soldiers from the first world war we all know that this stuff is a killer. 

There is a lovely cutting in of 20th century moments which adds to the documentary feel to the film; and we get both sides of the sword with the early treatment of tumours to the bombing of Hiroshima and the Chernobyl disaster.

Rosamund Pike – as you might expect – brings a fiercely intelligent performance of a fiercely intelligent woman. There is a certain stiffness throughout until the moment her husband Pierre dies, and her passion is revealed. She is a passionate woman for her science and her life and to an extent lived a personal life without shame when more was expected of women in the era. However, thankfully, by the end of her life Marie’s achievements overshadow whatever scandal society decided she was embroiled in. A bit long but a fascinating insight and history lesson on one of the most important figures, let alone women, of the modern age.      

MY SPY: 12a

JJ played by Dave Bautista, was a member of the Special Forces and he was pretty good at it. Unfortunately, when it comes to being a spy for the CIA he’s rubbish. After his last disaster of a mission, he is teamed up with a super smart teccy in Bobbi played by Kristen Schaal to embark on a surveillance job. 

The niece of the guy they are watching is Sophie played by Chloe Coleman a nine-year-old obsessed with French who turns out she could be useful to the spies after all.

JJ is desperate not to be humiliated again so he agrees to be a kind of babysitter to Sophie, taking her ice-skating and going to parents and special friends days at school. Having honed his comedic skills in the Guardians of the Galaxy films Bautista shows his physical and verbal comic moves here.

The action isn’t sophisticated, and the soundtrack and dance moves may make you squirm but there is still plenty to make you chuckle, especially the interaction between Bautista and Schaal. 

Coleman is a real find and for one so young a charismatic lead who we should keep an eye on. It’s a super thin plot with some uneven performances but in a world of chaos a decent distraction at just over an hour and a half.

Download and subscribe to the Gibraltar Insight: At The Movies – available on both Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and smart speakers.

Holocaust Remembrance Day

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First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a socialist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.


Commonwealth Park was the site for the 2020 Holocaust Memorial Day Ceremony in Gibraltar which this year marked 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

In line with global events (including one at the site of Auschwitz), members of the local Jewish community, politicians, ministers, community leaders,  representatives of the Governor and the Mayor of Gibraltar attended the ceremony to pay their respects. 

The memorial in Commonwealth Park features a poem by Martin Niemöller who was interned in Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1938 to 1945 .

Author Kitty Sewell

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Over the past few decades there have been many writers who have written novels that feature Gibraltar. International best-selling thriller writer Kitty Sewell came to the Gibunco Gibraltar Literary Festival in November 2019 where Jo Ward managed to catch up with her for a chat about her latest novel, The Fault.  

“I came here a few years ago for another reason,” Kitty tells me, “and I immediately fell in love with Gibraltar and thought it was an extraordinary place and a fascinating location in which to set a thriller, with many strange, mysterious and often sinister elements to it.” Kitty was helped in her endeavours to find out more about the Rock when she went into a restaurant owned by local restaurateur Tim Turner, and after chatting with him about her idea for a novel, he became interested in the concept. “I asked if he knew anyone that could help me get into the tunnels and possibly dive in the caves and he immediately introduced me to a whole lot of people including a structural engineer and a guy who owned the Diving Center.”

The best writers are those that get direct experience in the real world, fully immersing themselves in the characters they are writing about. Kitty was taken potholing in the bowels of the Rock and although she can scuba dive she didn’t go diving, but she told me that she had it described to her in vivid colour by several people who had been looking at the treasures on the seabed.

The Fault contains everything a good thriller should, focusing on secrets and lies, family relationships and a kidnapping, using Gibraltar as the backdrop for intriguing and unusual plot devices including the idea to build a cantilevered shelf city on the east side. The three main characters, Sebastian, a civil engineering prodigy, his teenage sister Mimi and his diver girlfriend Eva, are well developed but each seems to be dealing with their own demons, including mental health issues. Without giving away any spoilers, the claustrophobic labyrinth of tunnels are a crucial ingredient that are the perfect location in which to set the mystery.  For those who know Gibraltar, the whole place is brought vividly to life in Kitty’s portrayal of a place with mixed traditions, religious diversity and a complicated history. The narrative is full of anecdotes and well observed nuances of everyday life that enable those who don’t know the Rock to fully immerse themselves into the setting and which hopefully leaves them with a desire to visit. 

Chatting to Kitty after her talk at the Garrison Library, she said that apart from filling her in with information about the tunnels and Operation Tracer, the audience were mostly interested in how she found the discipline to write. “You are your own boss,” she says, “and unless you’ve been commissioned, there is no deadline, so you don’t know whether what you are writing is good.” Kitty adds that she always gives drafts of her novels to friends to read before sending them to the publisher. “I don’t want to know about the good stuff, I want to know what I have done wrong.”

Kitty’s life has taken her around the world. Born in Sweden, but not having lived there for over half a century, she moved with her parents to the Canary Islands and then to Canada several years after that. She continued to travel and hitchhiked solo around South America, before settling in Spain where she lives on a fruit farm in the mountains of Andalucía. As well as being a best-selling author, Kitty owns a Sculpture Park and Botanical Garden. “I exhibit my own sculptures and also the works of nearly thirty international sculptors, and there are around 160 pieces, mostly carved in stone, on display there,” she explains. Kitty Harri’s Sculpture Garden – 

There are many different threads to Kitty’s talents, and after finishing a degree in Urban Land economics, she took a degree in Law and then trained as a Psychotherapist. So where did her love of writing start? “It was almost a fluke because I was writing a weekly column about mental health for a newspaper group, which I did for 15 years, where it was the subject I wrote about that was more important than my skill as a writer,” Kitty says. “But then I got interested in perfecting my skill as a writer and I did an MA in Creative Writing and the dissertation for the MA was my first book ICE TRAP, which was subsequently published to critical acclaim and translated into 15 languages.” Asking what made the book such a success, Kitty states that it was based on the real story of something that happened to her and her husband. “We discovered a child that he didn’t know he had up in sub-Artic Canada.” Sometimes truth can be stranger than fiction! “It was a very dramatic incident in my life with a lot of complications and I wrote about it and I think it was because I put so much of myself into it that readers loved it.”

ICE TRAP was the first of Kitty’s four novels, but her initial foray into writing came when she was practising as a psychotherapist in Wales. What Took You So Long? A Girl’s Journey to Manhood, was written with Raymond Thompson and recounted the journey of his life as the first known transgender man.

Running a sculpture garden, which takes up a lot of her time, and writing best-selling novels would surely be enough for most people, but Kitty is now training to become a meditation teacher. “I’m very passionate about meditation and mindfulness and the role that they can have in saving the Earth in the future,” she states.

Kitty’s next novel is already in the pipeline but, like any good writer, she won’t divulge too much. “It’s about organ transplants, something which I know quite a bit more about than most people,” she confides, “and it’s very sinister.” 

Mirrors of Sanctity by Manolo Galliano

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Galliano’s last book – `Of Monks and Nuns’ – delved into four of Gibraltar’s `Lost Churches’…  and you’d be forgiven for thinking that was it, topic completely covered. However, being a stalwart and stickler for detail with an incessant thirst for more, he dug up a couple of dozen more places of worship situated on the Rock!

So `Mirrors of Sanctity’ is about all of those places of worship and more, of not just Gibraltar’s lost churches but some of those in the hinterland also, which came under Gibraltar’s jurisdiction during the pre British period of Spanish occupation between 1462 and 1704. The population of the Rock during that time numbered no more about 5,000 inhabitants and we sometimes hear from those visiting places like Malta telling us the island’s full of churches and chapels. Well, during those early years Gibraltar – like the Mediterranean island and more importantly other places in Spain – boasted of no less than four churches, three monasteries, a convent, eight hermitages, seven chapels and two oratories dotted all over the Rock… no excuse not to pop in to a house of prayer somewhere near you!

Clearly the Catholic Church was very much in charge or at least had a great influence in Spain during that period. All and sundry within the church were closely watched over and kept under tight control. Despite that, human nature and temptation being what it is played a part which included confrontations, co-habiting and even a murder within the religious institutions.

There is also much to read in `Mirrors of Sanctity’ relating to the Moorish occupation researched by the author relating to the Tower of Homage and elsewhere. The Moors too built their places of worship and within the Tower the mosque there became a chapel when the Spanish took over Gibraltar once again. In the town centre there were a few `homes of prayer’ dotted around the area. What used to be the Cafe Universal – now Centre Plaza, the building housing Benamor on Main Street by Horse Barrack Lane – was one. Another was where Mothercare is situated today and yet another place of worship was located in Casemates Square, or La Barcina, as it was named then. Evidently, none of them any longer there! However, at the very end of Main Street in front of St Jago’s stone block now housing the Tax Office, the frontage of the Nuestra Senora Del Rosario Hermitage remains. Many of these churches and chapels – including some of those in the hinterland close by – were either destroyed, left in a dilapidated state, left to crumble or converted into barracks, hospitals, official residences, offices or store rooms when the British took the Rock in 1704 and during the following years. Many of the church items like statues, crosses, candles, vestments and other bits and pieces were removed and taken to towns and villages in Spain by the inhabitants who fled the Rock when the British took over, presumably thinking they would be mistreated or worse by the military: some of the inhabitants remained. But not all was lost or taken. One of the statues that resided in the hermitage of St John the Baptist in the Rosia area remained on the Rock and now holds pride of place in the church of Our Lady of Sorrows in Catalan Bay!

`Mirrors of Sanctity’ treasures many gems and anecdotes of those years of religious or historical value. The work gone into this fourth and final volume of this series of books can’t go unmentioned. Research undertaken by the author has taken him, no doubt, from the Garrison Library to the Gibraltar Museum and the Gibraltar National Archives and back, probably visiting other sources and contacting informed individuals also. Much work has gone into this publication just like the other three and Manolo has no hesitation in heaping much praise on Victor Hermida for his illustrations, sketches and other drawings as well as contributing worthy ideas and suggestions. The author claims he’s not a historian per se, but someone who likes history and enjoys researching… Gibraltar’s, in particular. The editing of the book was undertaken by Joe Cortes. Thanks also go to the Minister for Education and Culture, the Heritage Trust and a great, big thank you for the assistance by way of the much needed sponsorship. Always more than handy to get projects like these off the ground. 

The bottom line is the importance of posterity for future generations for heritage and cultural reasons. It all helps to be better informed and aware, not just of Gibraltar’s military history and post British rule, but also what could be described as a forgotten period of the Rock’s very tumultuous past.

Mirrors of Sanctity can be purchased from the Heritage Trust office in John Mackintosh Square priced at £15  and all four volumes of the series including, `Under the Shadows of the Crescent and the Cross,’ `The Franciscan Monastery of Gibraltar – From House of Prayer to Seat of Power’ and `Of Monks and Nuns,’ sells at £50. 


in Culture Insight

Paul Anderson is an Arts broadcaster, radio presenter, producer and journalist. He’s known for work on BBC 6 Music, Xfm, Capital as well as hosting his own one-hour film show ‘At The Movies’ on Smooth Radio. Paul is also a member of the London Film Critic’s Circle. Follow him on Twitter @afilmguy.

Download and subscribe to the Gibraltar Insight: At The Movies – available on both Apple Podcasts and Spotify, and smart speakers.

JOKER : 15

As with Hamlet in the theatre, the role of The Joker on screen is fast becoming the defining role for male actors. It is all Heath Ledger’s fault for setting the bar so high and even with a gargantuan talent and presence such as Joaquin Phoenix that bar remains just out of reach. Todd Phillips is the director and gave us The Hangover, if you’re expecting laughs there’s nothing to be seen here. Arthur Fleck is just out of hospital clutching a veritable jamboree bag of medication. He has the Tourettic affliction of involuntary unstoppable laughter. Arthur works as a clown by day and as the worst stand up you’ve ever seen or heard at night. He has dreams of dating Sophie who lives in his block and cares for his sick mother. One day he gets beaten up and acquires a gun. He’s fired by the clown boss for taking the gun into a children’s ward at a hospital. Arthur becomes more unhinged and reliant on the Joker persona eventually killing some boys on a train. He is lured into the Gotham underworld and kills repeatedly. Phoenix is brilliant at playing unhinged and his ability as a physical actor is underrated. However, without Batman to rail against, be the nemesis of and seek to destroy, Joker lacks bite. It is an adequate study of the psychopathic tendencies of a truly disturbed character and the seductive nature of the underworld in a city such as Gotham, but it is no superhero movie. Phoenix is genuinely jaw-droppingly brilliant at times and Robert De Niro superb as chat show guy Murray Franklin. But yes, Heath Ledger is looking over your shoulder.  

JUDY : 12A

Renée Zellweger tends to do extraordinary in most of her performances and in her role as icon Judy Garland she does it again. The movie centres mainly on Garland’s attempted comeback at ‘The Talk of the Town’ nightclub in London. In so doing it relies on flashbacks to establish her childhood struggles during the filming of The Wizard Of Oz; which included being fed a cocktail of pills to help her sleep and keep her from gaining weight (Ahh, the glory days of the studio system eh?) So, begins a journey of bad habits and child custody battles, temporary homelessness and demeaning work for money way below her worth. Hence the offer snapped up to appear in London, complete with a minder (Jesse Buckley) to try and keep her in order. A barnstorming performance from Zellweger is Oscar worthy, and if anything, it feels as if that was the reason for the whole thing. Garland’s life is well documented, the drugs and booze battles alongside the incredible talent; hats off to Zellweger for studying for a year with a vocal coach although she could already sing. She’s funny, oozes personality and just about captures the essence of Garland. Judy has an excellent supporting cast with Rufus Sewell as ex-husband Sid Luft. Directed by top notch theatre guy Rupert Goold, the movie is all about Zellweger and worth the admission fee alone for that joyous performance. C’mon Get Happy!  

Gibraltar International Literary Festival – Nick Higham

in Culture Insight/Features

Back in 2003 Nick made headlines himself when he criticised the BBC by saying that there are too many “insignificant and trivial” entertainment and sports stories in news bulletins. 

Nick Higham

Returning to Gibraltar for the second year running in the role of interviewer, this year Nick Higham will be in conversation with four authors: Lord Patten, Timothy Bentinck, Ed Gorman and Violet Moller. We thought we would turn things around and focus the spotlight on Nick and find out a little more about his background, his career as a journalist and as the BBC’s arts and media correspondent.

Nick was born in Pinner, Middlesex but spent his childhood travelling around the UK because his father worked for a manufacturing company and moved from one factory to another.  “I spent my childhood in Carlisle, South Wales, Beaconsfield in Buckinghamshire, Harrogate and then back to Beaconsfield which is where we stayed until I had grown up,” he explains. 

“I was nearly born in Northern Ireland where my mother was living with my father, but she didn’t want me to be born over there so she came home to have the baby – taking her first ever flight from Belfast to do so,” he tells me, “and I mildly resent that because it means I am not eligible for an Irish passport, which in the present circumstances could be quite useful.”

Describing himself as a ‘well brought up publicly educated member of the privileged classes’, Nick went to Cambridge university where he worked on the student newspaper. “I began my career as a freelance journalist via a slightly circuitous route, accidentally specialising in the media, and then after about 10 years of that in 1988 the BBC decided to appoint its first media correspondent for television news. I applied for the job and got it, principally because the only other credible candidate was a man called Delwyn Swingewood and I don’t think they thought they could get his name on the caption at the bottom of the screen!”  

As media correspondent he must have met a myriad of different people. Who were the most memorable, I ask?  “The trouble with being an arts and media correspondent, which I did for about fifteen years, is that I didn’t really meet that many famous people and a lot of my time was spent talking to movers and shakers in the industry behind the scenes,” he replies.  Despite this Nick does conjure up the names of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman as two actors that he did interview.  “The most interesting people I met came in the last five or six years of my time at the BBC when I used to do a weekly books interview called Meet the Author on the BBC News channel,” he says. “I interviewed an author every week, some of whom were very famous, including Salman Rushdie and the former President of Ireland Mary Robinson. There was always something really interesting to talk about and it was a real privilege to meet those people.”

Back in 2003 Nick made headlines himself when he criticised the BBC by saying that there are too many “insignificant and trivial” entertainment and sports stories in news bulletins.  “That was a rather controversial thing to say at the time because covering entertainment had been part of my brief,” he tells me, going on to say that there is nothing wrong with entertainment or celebrity journalism in principle. “I had two objections to it then, and I suppose I still have now, one is that for serious news organisations it is a distraction and the other is that, for the BBC in particular, it took up airtime and the time of journalists which could have been better devoted to news of significance.”

His years of experience make Nick the perfect person to answer the question ‘what is the art of being a good interviewer’. He tells me that if you are interviewing a writer or author, it may sound obvious, but the most useful thing you can do is read the book.  “Knowing what your interviewee wants to say or is going to say, and if they need challenging – how you might challenge them, in advance is really important, so preparation is key. “

David Dimbleby used to say ‘you should never ask a question to which you don’t already know the answer’, and that is a very good principle.”

Having talked to so many authors, did he ever have any ambitions to write novels himself?  “No, largely because I don’t think I can and I haven’t got the imagination – how does one even begin to create characters and believable dialogue,” he comments.  

However, he is currently researching and writing a book about the history of London’s water supply.  Nick explain how his interest was sparked in the niche topic because he lives in north London, near the course of the New River, which isn’t new and which isn’t a river. “It was in fact a man-made aqueduct which was completed in 1613 to bring fresh water from springs in Hertfordshire down to the city of London and it still exists,” he states. 

“What I’m discovering is that writing history books is a lot more difficult than it looks – not so much the writing as the research.  I’m metaphorically drowning in information and wrestling it into shape is going to be a real challenge.” 

Gibraltar Insight Magazine is proud to be a sponsor of the Gibunco Gibraltar International Literary Festival 2019.

The speakers mentioned above are just a small selection from a full programme. More information about all the speakers and booking online for The Gibunco Gibraltar Literary Festival can be found on

Gibraltar International Literary Festival – Diana Moran

in Culture Insight/Features

“It was during a routine check-up that I heard the nurse call out that my height was five eight and a half and I said that she had got that wrong, I’m five ten and a half and could she check it again. Of course she was right and I had shrunk a couple of inches, and that was the first indication that I had osteopenia.” 

Diana Moran

An iconic figure from the 80s known for her popular exercise routines on BBC’s Breakfast Time, Diana Moran, otherwise known to many as the Green Goddess, is coming to the Gibunco Gibraltar Literary Festival. 

The fitness guru is now in her 80th year, having celebrated her birthday in June, but shows no signs of stopping her campaign to help people stay active and mobile, whatever their age. She was due to appear at the Literary Festival last year talking about the book she co-wrote called Sod Sitting, Get Moving, but unfortunately couldn’t make it. This time she is speaking about Beating Osteoporosis, published in association with the Royal Osteoporosis Society of which she has been an ambassador for several years. 

“When I was in my early 50s I took a bit of a tumble whilst ice-skating and landed heavily on my wrist resulting in a Colles’ fracture – a type of break common in people with osteoporosis, a condition that weakens bones, making them fragile and more likely to break,” she tells me. “However at the time I had no idea this was typical of an osteoporotic fracture.” It wasn’t until 2013 that she was diagnosed with osteopenia, the term applied to those whose bone density is slightly below the average.

“It was during a routine check-up that I heard the nurse call out that my height was five eight and a half and I said that she had got that wrong, I’m five ten and a half and could she check it again. Of course she was right and I had shrunk a couple of inches, and that was the first indication that I had osteopenia.” 

“I have had a few ups and downs with my health over the years but, most recently, I’ve been concerned about my bones,” she explains. Those few ups and downs include two bouts of cancer: firstly breast cancer in 1987which led to her having a double mastectomy, and then skin cancer 10 years later.

“I was working on Pebble Mill at the time and I didn’t tell anybody about my cancer diagnosis at the beginning. Nobody talked about The Big C back then,” she says. Does she think there’s still a taboo about talking about cancer, or has it changed for the better changed? “Absolutely changed for the better,” Diana exclaims, “and I work with cancer charities and know it’s openly talked about now, perhaps not quite so much with the men, but we’re getting there. Now the interesting thing is that osteoporosis isn’t talked about very much nowadays, so we need to change that.”

So what can we do to tackle osteoporosis? Diana is a strong advocate for exercise, early diagnosis, weight bearing exercise, and Vitamin D. “We need Vitamin D to keep us healthy but too much sun, as I know, is bad for us. 15 minutes a day is adequate, but in the northern hemisphere we don’t get enough sun, so taking supplements such as Vitamin D and calcium is the way to do it. They are the bone builders.”

There are no signs of Diana slowing down as she gets older. One thing that emanates from chatting with her is her positivity. “One of my mantras is that age is mind over matter – if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter,” she says. Where does that positive attitude come from? “My father was very strict and I had to abide by his rules, but when I came home from school one day at the age of sixteen, I found my mother, whom I adored, dead from a cerebral haemorrhage and I grew up overnight,” she states. 

Diana became a model in her early 20s but life changed when she was asked to do a regular fitness segment for breakfast television in the 1980s, going on to become a household name and recognised everywhere because of the vivid green leotard she wore. 

Married twice, the first time at nineteen, she has two sons and four grandchildren who affectionately call her GG, short for Granny Goddess. As we speak the doorbell rings. “Someone’s just brought me some pansies from the market,” Diana says, going on to explain that it’s Robin, a widower who lives nearby.  “I’ve been on my own for 25 years and although I’m very independent, it’s also nice to have a companion who’s on the same wavelength.”   

Keeping the brain active is all part of keeping fit and Diana’s hobbies including painting. “I got a scholarship to the West of England College of Art, but my father didn’t allow me to follow art as a career.” Now she likes to paint landscapes, seascapes, animals and flowers. “I’ve told my agent that I would love to take part in one of those painting programmes on TV.”  With Diana’s determination there is a huge probability that her wish will come to fruition. 

Diana will be appearing at The Convent on Sunday, 17th November at 2.00 pm. 

Gibraltar Insight Magazine is proud to be a sponsor of the Gibunco Gibraltar International Literary Festival 2019.

The speakers mentioned above are just a small selection from a full programme. More information about all the speakers and booking online for The Gibunco Gibraltar Literary Festival can be found on

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