The stories of my life on a little island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea ... and my occasional adventures beyond these shores.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Books for boys

Every night, before going to sleep, I would read to my son. It was our special time, a time of bonding. And what better way to bond than over books? We read all sorts of stories, letting our imaginations soar above the clouds. But, as with everything in life, there were some books that became favourites and we returned to them again and again (sometimes two or three times in one evening). Here are some of them:


Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown

This beloved book, which I am sure needs  no introduction, has lulled generations of children to sleep and is one of those classics whose appeal will never fade.

“Good night room

Goodnight moon

Goodnight cow jumping over the moon”


Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson

This is a cute book about a red-haired (friendly) witch and her cat, who ride a broom, lose a few things, make some new friends and scare off a monster – all in one night.

““Down!” cried the witch,

and they flew to the ground.

They searched for the hat

but no hat could be found.”


Giraffes Can’t Dance by Giles Andreae

At the annual Jungle Dance all the animals are able to dance – except for Gerald the giraffe. But with the advice of a friendly cricket, Gerald finally finds his own sweet tune. There is a lesson that children can learn from this book – that we are all unique and in the end we will all find our special niche.

“With that, the cricket smiled

And picked up his violin.

Then Gerald felt his body

Do the most amazing thing.”


If You Take a Mouse To The Movies by Laura Numeroff

My son absolutely loves this book. Even now that he is almost ten, this book gets taken off the shelf every Christmas season and is re-read time and again. The book came with a mouse soft-toy in red dungarees. It was love at first sight. My Mischief Maker and the little mouse (who was named Cheddar) are inseparable to this day.

“If you take a mouse to the movies, he’ll ask you for some popcorn,

When you give him the popcorn, he’ll want to string it all together.”


Aliens Love Underpants by Claire Freedman

This is the perfect book to make little boys giggle, especially since aliens end up on Earth for the sole purpose of stealing underwear.

“They like them red, they like them green,

Or orange like satsumas.

But best of all they love the sight

Of Granny’s spotted bloomers.”


How The Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss

This is another well-loved tale that I am sure you are all familiar with. The Grinch ranks right up there with Scrooge when it comes to hating the Christmas season. But, like Scrooge, he also has a change of heart. This story, told in Dr. Seuss’ imitable style, is one that appeals to both the young and the young at heart. It is a book that we really enjoy and which we read with that  same sense of wonder year after year.

““Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.

“Maybe Christmas … perhaps … means a little bit more!””

Monday, November 16, 2015

No words

I am  lost for words. In truth I am too angry to write what’s really on my mind. That we are standing with Paris, with Beirut, with all the people that are hurting, goes without saying. Yet I fear that more words are not going to make any of it better. So I will leave it at that and leave you with some quotes I found. I hope we can all derive some strength and solace from them.



(None of the quotes are mine. I could not find the source of all of them.)

Location: Paris, March 2009

Thursday, November 5, 2015

All Hallows’ eve

All Hallows’ eve: lightning, thunder, rain showers and a newly restored fortress – the perfect setting for this spookiest of nights. They say that the veil between the worlds is thin at this time of  year. Thin enough to reach out and touch – what? A solid wall, centuries-old, and beyond that, a vague notion of whispers, of shadows, of things that go bump in the night. The place is haunted, or so they say.

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I could feel shivers up and down my back. But it was probably the wind. Yes, it was most certainly the wind. It tends to get a bit chilly at this time of year and an old, draughty fortress is not exactly conducive to feelings of warmth.

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But it was Halloween, or Samhain as some call it, and the weather-scarred walls of the fort seemed to reverberate with their own strange energy. I lightly traced my fingers across the pitted stones, as I always do when a place has a story to tell. And this place, with foundations dating back to the thirteenth century, probably has more tales to recount than I could write down in a lifetime.

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On any other day I would have been inclined to linger and coax a story or two out of those towering walls – walls that had withstood the Ottoman siege and the might of the Luftwaffe. But today was Samhain, lost souls might wander from that world to this and I was not quite sure that I wanted to hear, that I wanted to see …

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Just for today, I would be content with the song of the wind, with long-silent cannons and the rusted bases of anti-aircraft guns. There was an odd normality about these things, a fleeting sense of security.

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But the sky was darkening fast and, again, I felt a shiver run down my  spine, a mysterious whisper in my ear. It was time to go; and as the heavy doors clanged shut behind me and the brooding ramparts rose like towers above my head, I knew that the fort behind my back was a keeper of secrets that would haunt my dreams for many  winter nights to come.

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Location: Fort St Angelo, Birgu, All Hallows Eve 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

A little something something

The clouds whirled and twirled above my head, the trees swayed drunkenly this way and that and the wind chime jangled a tuneless melody. It was that magical moment before the storm broke. And then the rain came – hard and heavy.

Ghar Lapsi (49)

For half an hour it poured down from the bloated clouds, pelting the windows in an erratic, staccato rhythm that ended in a burst of hail-stones the size of marbles. Then it was over and around half an hour later the sun tentatively showed its golden face amid the fragments of the storm and shooed the clouds away.

Ghar Lapsi (8)

That was last week. Saturday morning dawned with a perfect mixture of sunlight and brooding clouds and I felt that inexplicable urge to go out in search of something that I could not name, in the hope of discovering what I shall call that little something something, that missing fragment of the puzzle.

Ghar Lapsi (27)-001

So, without further ado, we set out and drove to a cove that we had frequented many times. But this time we did not take the easy path to the sea but took the trail to the path less travelled; the lonesome path beneath the cliffs. Soon, it was just us, the bleak garigue, the craggy rocks, the patchwork sea and the huge expanse of the infinite sky.

Ghar Lapsi (51)

It’s mostly barren here – the long hot summer and predominantly dry autumn have taken their toll on almost everything except for some hardy bushes that, in spite of the harsh conditions, cling to life. Everything seems dead, beyond any hope of redemption and the flowers of spring are but a distant memory, a few withered fragments at our feet.

Ghar Lapsi (43)

I had lost hope of finding new life or new growth but Nature is resilient in a way that I cannot quite comprehend. In spite of all the odds, life is renewed. Despite the excesses of the past season it still burst forth in an emerald explosion right where I least expected it.

Ghar Lapsi (47)

I had found life where no life should be. In the most secret places of my heart I smiled. This was the little something something that I had set out to discover. It was enough for now. The promise of regeneration is near at hand.

Ghar Lapsi (40)

Location: Ghar Lapsi, October 2015

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


Sometimes I dream of a place where the sun is kind and the air is as soft as rose petals. It is a place where fat clouds roll in from the ocean and weep gentle tears on the land. Wild flowers grow in abundance here and the grass seems to shimmer with its own particular shade of green. There are gentle streams and jagged cliffs and valleys that cascade into the sea.
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The silence is broken by the shrill cry of the gulls and, on some days, the mist envelopes the land in a ghostly embrace. There are pretty harbours and ruined castles and an abundance of history and legends. And I would be at peace there. My soul would soar to the heavens and fly with the birds. My wandering heart would have found its home.
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And I often wake up from these dreams, in the stillness and darkness of the night, with a yearning for I know not what. Because sometimes I feel like a stranger in my own land. Like an exile  from some other other place or some other time. Because the sun is unforgiving here and the land is dry as a bone. All summer long I have searched in vain for a blade of grass or something that will remind me of the beauty of spring. And when I don’t find it? Well, I wish myself away. Over the sea and far away. Because although  I am here physically, totally grounded, with the weight of responsibility anchoring me down, that other part of me (my spirit self?) soars to that other place; that other place where the sun is kind and the air is sweet and the mist embraces the land.
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Hiraeth: a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return,a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.
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Don’t you just love Pinterest? It’s a great place for finding these weird and wonderful words that totally inspire me to create my own take on them. Hiraeth is a Welsh word (in Cornish it is hireth) so I won’t attempt to pronounce it, but you can hear how the Welsh say it here.


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