Paul OGarra was born in Gibraltar on May 8, 1962. His father, Louis, was a Manchester British schoolmaster turned war soldier and served in the Royal Artillery on the Rock. He came back after the war ended and started a school, St Josephs, the first post-war school. Gibraltar still has, but barely, recovered from the turbulent years. Night airstrikes and bullet-proof shelling, the suffering that accompanies any major armed conflict is still vividly etched in the recent memory of wartime inhabitants. Trying to get back to work as usual, the troops began to dock at the port. They were carrying the many refugee families who had returned and had been evacuated by the royal navy. So many people from Gibraltar exiled by war to the UK, and further afield, and more exotic places like Madeira, French Morocco, Jamaica and Northern Ireland.
Louis married Teresa Azzopardi, the beautiful little daughter, the baby of a family of Gibraltar sailors, fervent Roman Catholics, descendants of intrepid men and women who had rowed their Maltese boats to make a home on the Rock. Luis and Teresa had four children, of whom Pablo was the third oldest. The children were raised with English discipline, learning, and romantic literature on the one hand, and a large local family of uncles, aunts, cousins, and a loving grandmother, who was Spanish from Cádiz, on the other.
I spent my childhood touring the South, Rosia and Europe in areas of Gibraltar participating in childhood games and adventures, extensively reading books such as Enid Blyton’s Adventure Series, Famous Five, Secret Seven, Swallows and Amazons Forever, John Buchan and The Thugs. of Gorbal. Saturday mornings were a day to dig deep and search the shelves of the old Garrison Library to discover new horizons, characters, and stories. The journey of discovery that had begun with Baba the elephant eventually began to grow rich as the classics were devoured.
Paul was educated at Bishop Fitzgerald’s school, where his father was the principal, and insisted on treating all children equally. Subsequently, he attended Gibraltar primary school, until he saw other students of the Jewish persuasion prepare to go to Tel Aviv to defend Israel. The Jewish boys had their adventure ruined by the premature arrival of General Moshe Dayan at the gates of Cairo. Israel’s most difficult moment had been passed and young students from around the world were no longer so necessary that their studies and futures could be put in jeopardy. The Holy Land was safe and the General with an eye patch, the undisputed new love of the Western world. Paul as soon as possible set off on a steamer from Tangier, sailing to Southampton with a friend who was shipping Moroccan leather goods to the UK. After working in London, he left the UK to discover his roots in Malta. Later he tried to get back to Gib. only to fly again and discover new places. He alternated callings as a Moroccan tour guide and broken down rented car reclaimer, southern Spain tour guide, and eventually running a flamenco club on the Costa del Sol, back in the days. When the Coast was still a new and exciting place to visit.
In recent years, Paul was getting married and had a family of three daughters, owned and ran the business of real estate agencies in the UK and Spain. Eventually he set off again to discover new places in the Middle and Far East and the Philippines, and when Perestroika and Glastnost finally came into the hands of Mihail Gorbacheff and the Soviet Union was open, he set off to discover the East. He studied Russian in St. Petersburg and spent time traveling to the Udmurt Republic, Kazan, Siberia, and an unknown river to meet the tribes still living in the area. Nizhny Novgorod and the South Volga. Then to Ukraine, traveling from city to city, falling more and more in love with the great Russian writers and painters.
Fourteen years ago, at the age of fifty, Paul contracted kidney cancer. He was operated successfully at the Hospital de Toreros de Pamplona, in northern Spain. The next two years he spent his life to the full in the company of Spanish and Russian friends who had come to pick him up at the hospital just three days after intensive care. They arrived armed with a ham and a lot of wine. The post-surgery celebration was interrupted by the timely appearance of the hospital chaplain. The operation had been a success as the tumor had been totally encapsulated within the removed kidney. Metastasis was virtually impossible, surgeons cheerfully reported. Two years later, the cancer metastasized in the lungs where he was properly operated and half of the lungs were removed. Later, for undefined reasons, he suffered blows to both eyes and lost partial sight in one eye and total sight in the left, which was duly recovered by swimming and praying. Thirteen years have passed since the kidney cancer was discovered, and seven years since his last operation and everything is fine, the remission seems to be complete.
Paul’s lifestyle has not been affected due to his illnesses due to his hard head. He still swims at least a kilometer or two a day throughout the year, traveling, practicing martial arts and fervently believing that the Lord guides him by the hand. After leaving the hospital, he spent time in Tangier, hairless, emaciated, and on crutches, but enjoying the warmth and affection of many new friends there. After going to Prague to study filmmaking, he made several shorts, but finally decided that he would write first and then make films when the time came.