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

Monday, 30 March 2009

I'm Back

Hi to all my readers. I am sorry for not blogging/reading/commenting lately but my husband and I were in Paris for 3 days. We just got back today and I am getting my photos (and myself) organised so that I can go back to the old routine. Hope to put up some posts in the next few days. Paris was great. The weather was on the cold and rainy side but we had lots of fun. Will keep you all posted soon. In the meantime, I will try to catch up with some of your posts....

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

The Mask

The paragraph below is a flash which could not be longer than 100 words. The prompt was Carnival. I hope you enjoy it. I titled it: The Mask.

Maria looked at her reflection in the mirror. Her face had been scarred and rendered grotesque by the fire. She had been beautiful before that fateful day, but now … no man would look at her twice and on her infrequent visits outside her home she was taunted by young and old.
Lovingly, she held up the mask that was lying before her and gently caressed its contours. Half sun, half moon; light and shadow. Perfect. It would hide all her imperfections. She smiled. During Carnival she could be herself again. There would be no need to hide.

I find Carnival a bit of a tedious time but I have always had a fascination with the Carnival in Venice because the masks and the costumes are so lavish and beautiful. My husband and I have been lucky to visit Venice twice, never during the Carnival, but the masks are available for purchase all year round. This particular one is not half sun, half moon, as in my flash, although these types of masks do exist. This is a mask which we bought on our first trip to Venice and is hanging on one of our walls. It is made of papier mache and is completely hand-made including the designs around the eye-slits. We bought this mask from a small store called Teatro delle Maschere (Theatre of Masks). Although countless shops sell masks, we had heard that this shop sold masks made in the traditional way and we actually saw a few being made. It is a job which takes a lot of patience and these masks do not come cheap but they are worth it. The store is in the San Polo district, not far from the Rialto bridge. We went there with a street number and no street name, we just knew the district. It took us a while to find the place and we had almost given up, having gone around countless blocks which led to a dead end or to the edge of a canal. But this strange method of finding the shop gave us an opportunity to explore certain streets and alleyways that we might not have seen had we not gone on an almost wild goose chase.

Now I know that many people are put off by masks and I agree that they can be off-putting because the person hiding behind the mask may have dark and sinister motives. Masks conjure up images of burglaries and murder, and yet, in my very short story above, I tried to look at masks from a different perspective. In this case the mask is something positive, something which allows Maria to appear normal without being taunted. I guess it is up to each one of us to help those around us fit in without making them resort to a mask. I had a few psychology lessons back when I was at college and the lecturer insisted that we all wear masks nearly all of the time. I beg to disagree with him. There are people who do wear their masks all the time but most people will wear a mask only some of the time. Am I confusing you? The masks this time are psychological , of course. Many of us will react differently when we are out of our normal environment or when we are out of our element. These are the masks which help us get through life. There is nothing sinister about them but are a method of self-preservation and a way of not getting hurt by the big bad world. Yes, there are people who wear masks for ulterior or evil motives and finally, it is these types of masks that we need to fear the most.

I hope I have not gotten too philosophical or psychological with you today. I promise my next post will be on a much lighter note.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Bygone Days

I wanted to share some pictures with you of Malta at the turn of the 20th century. These pictures were probably taken in the early 1900s, definitely before the second World War. All pictures were taken by the late Richard Ellis, one of the few photographers of that era.

Auberge de Castille - Valletta
Auberge de Castille was built by the Knights of St John. It was the headquarters of the knights of Castille & Leon. The facade is Baroque and has not changed much to this day. It currently houses the Office of the Prime Minister of Malta.

Shop front - Valletta
This is just one of the many wooden shop fronts in the capital city of Valletta. During the 1970's these beautiful fronts were allowed to deteriorate or to be pulled down and replaced with aluminium (all in the name of progress). However, in recent years, a drive to restore or rebuild these colourful shop fronts has taken place and some shop owners are going back to the original wooden shutters.

Traditional dress
This photo shows the traditional dress of the Maltese people of what was then considered to be the 'lower class'. Most of these people would have been farmers, skilled tradesmen or fishermen.

Old Bakery Street - Valletta
The name Old Bakery Street is derived from the fact that the Knights of St John had their bakery in this street. The buildings look much more grimy today due to fumes from cars and other types of pollution. Most of the buildings in this picture are still standing.

Republic Street - VallettaRepublic Street is the main street of the capital city. In the time of the Knights of St John it used to be called Strada San Giorgio. Then during the British occupation the name of the street was changed to Kingsway only to be changed again to Republic Street in the early 1970s to commemorate the formation of the Republic of Malta. However, most of the older generation still refer to this street as Kingsway. The building on the corner in the photo was destroyed during the second World War and was replaced. The kiosk in the foreground of the picture is still in existence and it is used as a booth to sell flowers and plants.

St John's Co-cathedral - Valletta

St John's was built by the Maltese architect Girolamo Cassar between 1573 and 1578. It was commissioned by Grand Master Jean de la Cassiere and houses paintings by the famed artists Mattia Preti and Caravaggio. The severe facade of the church is reminiscent of a military fort. The interior, however, is lavish and extremely ornate in Baroque style. The cathedral is the final resting place of many European nobles who served as Knights in this prestigious order.

Victoria Gate - Valletta

Victoria Gate is one of the entrances to Valletta. Being a fortified city surrounded by high bastions, entry to the city was though a number of gates. This particular gate was built by the British in 1884 as replacement to a former gate that stood in the same place (Del Monte Gate). Victoria Gate is still standing and provides an entrance to the lower part of the city.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Of Facebook...and Friendships, Old and New

Image source
About a year ago I joined Facebook. It was a pleasant distraction, especially in my pre-blog / writing days. At first the friends I added were mostly co-workers or people I was still in touch with. Then it became a means of keeping in touch with cousins in Canada and the UK and friends in Belgium, Spain, Germany, Bulgaria and the USA. It was a great way of sending messages and seemed less impersonal than forwarding an email. Facebook lets you send all sorts of silly stuff to your friends and is also an effective way of sharing photos and videos.

But the greatest thing about Facebook is that, as its tentacles spread and more and more people became addicted, I started to find old friends from University and Sixth Form (High School, for my American readers :)). Then I found a friend from primary school and then another and another. It was really awesome. It led to a five of us meeting up last June. We spent the evening talking and reminiscing. I had not seen some of these girls for 20 years but we had been very close and there literally was no ice to break. We plunged in and exchanged memories. But we could not stop there. We organised a reunion and 3 months later a group of about 25 'old girls' (I went to an all girls school) met up. And what a noisy evening that was!
Since then we have found more and more 'old girls'. Having recently found out that one of our school friends will soon be emigrating to the UK, we have decided that the time is ripe for another noisy evening of exchanging memories and photos. But the best Facebook discovery was made early this week. We got back in touch with a German girl who left our school and Malta way back when we were all 8 years old. I had never seen or heard from her till last Monday and it was the biggest surprise to get back in touch. She now lives half way around the world in Argentina and somehow it seems that Facebook has made the world a much smaller place.
So today's post is dedicated to friendships old and new; to friends who were out of my life for many years but are now back in it and who are, once again, there for me when I need them. But above all, this post is dedicated to the precious memories of childhood that we are re-living and exchanging and to a time in our life which will never come back but which we all cherish with all of our hearts.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Let's Be Friends

I was given this award by BC Doan at Waveweaver. This is an award which propagates friendships. Since starting this blog I have made a number of new friends. Some of them have been with me since the very beginning and others are newer followers. I appreciate them all and look forward to their comments on my posts. In a way, blogging creates new friendships. Most likely we will never meet each other and yet, through reading each other's posts, we are getting to know each other a little bit better. I feel that this is making the world a smaller place and breaking down the boundaries created by different cultures and race.
The rules of this award are to paste the following text somewhere in the post:
“These blogs are exceedingly charming. These kind bloggers aim to find and be friends. They are not interested in self-aggrandizement. Our hope is that when the ribbons of these prizes are cut, even more friendships are propagated. Please give more attention to these writers. Deliver this award to those bloggers who must choose at least 5 more and include this cleverly-written text into the body of their award.”
I would like to pass on this award to the following:
2. Cindy at Rosehaven Cottage
3. The Retired One at The Retirement Chronicles
5. Angie at A Book A Day
I invite you all to pay a visit to these blogs. Each one is unique in its own special way and I am happy to include these bloggers amongst my "world wide web" friends.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

A Hint of Spring

We had some wonderful weather for the past four days, sunny and warm with blue skies and puffy white clouds. It felt like Spring was here. But tonight the wind and rain are back and it is cool again. So, I thought I would cheer myself up (and hopefully my readers too) by posting some photos of flowers in our garden that I took last Saturday. I am not much of a gardener and most things grow because the conditions happen to be right for them. So I am always pleasantly surprised when I see some very wonderful flowers opening up. I have no idea what some of these flowers are but I will let their beauty speak for itself.
I think that these are wild flowers but I am not sure. They are very tiny and delicate like little baby girl flowers hiding in the midst of my dead geraniums. I don't know what happened to the geraniums this year. They are usually very hardy but this year they seem to have given up. Time to get some new ones, I suppose.
What better flower to herald the arrival of spring than the simple beauty of the daffodil? I had planted the bulbs some years ago and nothing ever flowered. I had totally forgotten all about them. Then, a few days ago, I went out and beheld these golden wonders.
These flowers are very tiny and grow in clusters. I am not sure what they are called. I had thought that the plant had died because it looked very much the worse for the heat after summer was over, but it seems to have recuperated enough to flower.

The following flowers are my faithful freesias. Since I planted them, about 3 years ago, they have always flowered. I think that for a small flower, they have some gorgeous colours. The red ones are my favourites and I really like the way the sun is lighting up the innermost part of the flower in the photo below. It seems as if the flower is burning with its own fire.

Red freesias

Purple freesias


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