Palma.—The Barcelona-based Consul General, Andrew Gwatkin, who is responsible for Catalonia, Andorra, Aragon and the Balearics accompanied the British Ambassador to Spain, Giles Paxman and the Vice-Consul Gillian Brion, to the Bulletin's 50th anniversary celebrations on Thursday night and was able to enjoy what he loves most about the job, meeting people.

Cardiff born and bred, Gwatkin went on to study Italian literature and language at Birmingham University. “I had always had a love of language and Italy and the degree course involved a year studying in Florence so it was just ideal for me,” he told the Bulletin. “I think literature is a great way of understanding society and people, he added.
Being in Italy also enabled him to keep in touch with one of his other great passions - rugby. “I played a lot of rugby when I was younger, at school, for my university, try and catch as many Six Nations games as I can.” While he was at university he worked in Sainsburys to “help pay the bills” and then, as part of a student job, spent three months knocking on doors in the Scottish boarders as a door-to-door salesman.

Once he had graduated, Gwatkin went travelling to the United States and around Europe and then worked for a while in a bookshop before moving to the Italian airline Alitalia and then Barclays. “I first worked for them in the UK and then in Italy, where I set up Barclays's operation, Spain and Dublin. “But, I had always had an inclination to work in Foreign and Commonwealth Office and in May, 2009, was part of the first intake of private sector workers into the Foreign Office. “Because of the senior position I had with Barclays, managing and organising large teams of people I was taken on as Consul General in Barcelona and since then my patch has expanded to now include the Balearics. “What I most like about the job is that we're dealing with the people face to face. “Some people, may consider some of the things we do as rather menial, but for the Britons we are helping, it could prove vital. And I am always looking to improve the way we can help British citizens in Spain and I am fortunate to have great teams working in my area who are self motivated and extremely dedicated. “We are all in this to help people, not for the money, and in Palma Gillian and her team are doing an excellent job, as all my teams are every where else, so when I can not be in two places at the same time, I know that the Consulates and British nationals are in good hands,” Gwatkin said. “And, it is nice to have been able to leave the big corporate approach to life behind and be able to deal with things on a more low key, personal level and I think that is what motivates us all,” he added. “We also do as much as we can for the local British communities be it socially or helping charities or the local church for example. We are a public service but it is even more than that for me, it's about giving something back,” Gwatkin said.

Gwatkin has one other major passion in life and that is cycling and not only does he take to the roads and mountain tracks of Spain and in particular Majorca whenever he can, he also ventures overseas for some extreme cycling.

Just a few weeks ago, he took part in the Titan Desert Challenge in Morocco. “It was a great experience. There were a total of 350 cyclists, including a number of famous Spanish actors, who took part. “Some did the ride for charity others just for their own satisfaction and it lasted six days. It involved two days cycling in the mountains and then four days in the desert. We all had to camp out overnight, wonderful camaraderie and fantastic fun. But it is sponsored by hearing company GEAS and while we were there, they had teams helping improve the hearing of local children.” Giving something back again.