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

Friday, 31 July 2009

More Than Friends

These are three of my best and oldest friends. We first met in pre-school at the age of 5 and were together for the rest of our school days. Secondary school ended when we were 16. It took a chance encounter in a super-market 21 years later for us all to meet again. You would think that on an island this tiny, we would have been bumping into each other all the time. But it was not to be. Now that we've met again we've agreed that we will not lose track of each other again.
It's hard to explain friendships like the one we have. It felt like 21 years had never passed; as if we had left school Friday night and were back together again after the weekend. It was that easy, picking up where we had left off. I am still amazed that we have such a strong bond. There used to be other girls in our group, and we have managed to meet up with some of them again, but not all friendships are for real. Some so called 'friends' no longer have a part in our lives. The change was too great. Our group always used to meet in the same place, in the little cranny in front of what we used to call the Blue Hall and in between the piano cubicles which the borders used to use in the 60s. Our school was in a 300 year-old building, full of these little places, where a group of friends could meet and share jokes and secrets, dreams and hopes. By some unwritten rule, that tiny area was ours during the last 3 years we were in secondary school. We would meet there every morning and those old walls must have heard a lot of teenage giggles.
Our school days passed and we each went our separate way to pursue our dreams. Thankfully, we were able to get back in touch. I am amazed at how many personal trials each one of us has had to go through and also at how much we have changed while remaining the same deep inside. It sounds like a contradiction but it is also true. There are few people outside my immediate family that I can be so open with. Few people with whom, after 21 years, I will be ready to talk to about some of my most personal issues. That is why these girls are more than friends. To me, each one of there girls is more like a sister.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

The End Of A Generation

Henry Allingham. Perhaps you have never heard of him and probably, if he was not 113 years when he died and the oldest man in the world, most of us probably never would. So why am I writing a post about a man that I have never met and had never heard of until he died on July 19? Because he is one of the last British survivors of the First World War. What distinguishes him more than his comrades is his longevity. If he had died 30 years ago, he would have been just another old person who crossed to the other side. But the fact that he lived so long made him famous and brought into perspective a generation that is all but gone. Last November, the world celebrated 90 years since the signing of the Armistice. The First World War was over. The 'war to end all wars' was at an end. For survivors like Henry, it must have been a bittersweet day. It must have felt exhilarating to be alive and yet none of those that survived would ever forget their comrades, dead before their time, buried in unmarked graves or in the cemeteries of France and Belgium. There must have been high hopes all over the world on that November day in 1919. Yet 20 years later, Europe was at war again in a conflict which soon embroiled the rest of the world.

Few of those that survived the horror of WW1 like to talk about it: about the mud in the trenches, the stench of gangrene, the horror of going over the trench to face enemy bullets, the barbed wire, the poison gas ... The list is endless. The names of those that died are all but forgotten except by their nearest and dearest and by their brothers-in-arms. My own great-grandfather was a survivor of the campaign in the Dardanelles. Sadly, he died before I was born. The only memory we have left of those days is one photo of him in uniform. Back home, my great-grandma, like countless other women, was left to look after the children and pray for his safe return. For those lucky enough to survive, like my great-grandfather and Henry Allingham, life eventually went on. Others left their youth in the mud of the trenches or the hot sands of the Dardanelles.

And what does today's generation know about that war that took place so long ago? Most would find it difficult to even remember the years when it took place, let alone the most important battles, such as the Battle of the Somme and the Battle of the Marne. Yet, perhaps, even remembering these facts is not as important as the gratitude we should have in our hearts for people like Henry Allingham, who left their country and all that they had ever loved and known, to go and do battle into the unknown, not knowing, until it was all over, whether they would be victor or loser, dead or alive. So, maybe sometimes we should put the history books aside and focus on the human aspect of war. Perhaps we should forget about the politics that caused it and remember: that it is to men like Henry Allingham and to all his comrades that we owe our Freedom.

Henry Allingham
1896 - 2009

Thursday, 16 July 2009

La Serenissima

What can I say? It is one of the most unique cities in the world, its beauty unsurpassed, its very existence threatened by the rising waters of the Adriatic. It was, and always will be, a city of dreams - ethereal in quality, decadent to its very soul and mysterious to the core of its being. Be prepared to be bewitched - by Venice.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

At the Water's Edge

It's summer and it's heating up fast. One of the things I really like to do on a hot summer's day is to take a trip to a sandy beach and, apart from swimming, I really like to sit and look at the water. Sometimes I just close my eyes and listen. I have a fascination with the sea, an obsession which is almost a love affair. Perhaps it comes from living on a very small island where the sea is never more than ten miles away. It's always there on the horizon - a band of intense blue delineating our boundaries. It gets claustrophobic, sometimes, living on such a small island. So, perhaps, that is why I dream so much when I'm at the water's edge.
For this water that surrounds me has the power to take me anywhere that I want. The waters of this sea washes onto the shores of so many different lands, so many different cultures. So I sit there and let my spirit roam over this ancient sea, feeling the blood of countless races rush through my veins and I start to feel it talk to me, telling me a story that started thousands of years ago when people first made a boat and started to explore. It's a bloody story for countless battles were waged on this sea. Thousands have died, their bleached bones scattered in the depths. It's a story of war and a story of peace. A story of empires rising and falling; of treasures lost and treasures found; of warships, cannons, swords and guns. Domination of this sea and of its surrounding shores has led to some of the greatest battles of all time being fought on its waters. Times have changed and peace now reigns over the once-troubled waters of the Mediterranean. The focus of power has shifted elsewhere and the people who live on its shores can only be glad that the warships and pirate ships are now replaced by ocean liners, luxury yachts and speed boats.
But the sea whispers to me that it is an uneasy peace. I sit there and continue to dream. For who can tell what the future holds? I hold my breath willing the sea to give up this mystery. But all I hear is the lapping noise of the waves and the sigh of the water as it breaks over the sharp rocks.

Sunday, 5 July 2009


It's been a while since I've posted one of my flashes. The prompt for this flash was 'Cat'. I loosely based the character of the cat in this micro-story on our cat Shadi. She was a cat with a lot of attitude - most of it cheeky.

I am Bruno - a big, black, powerful cat with eyes of Irish green. I spend most of my days sleeping in a sunny spot, or hunting for mice, lizards or other small creatures. Most people would say that I look harmless enough, although some of them shun me, whispering about bad luck and making the sign against evil. Ha! Little do they know, for they have never met her, Lillian, I mean.
It’s a good thing that they haven’t. Lillian has no patience with ignorance or with fools. Nobody knows her better than I and nobody ever will. I should know - for I am her companion not just her cat. You see, Lillian is a witch, a very powerful witch; which may explain why we have so many toads in our back yard. It’s just one of Lillian’s tricks performed with one zap of her perfectly manicured fingers. I am sure you were expecting the crooked nose, grey wispy hair, warts and pointed hat. That’s were you’re wrong. She’s a beautiful woman with skin of the palest ivory and hair the colour of a raven’s wing. There is nothing witch-like about Lillian. She is just like any other woman going about her day but she comes into her own at night. That’s when she lures men to her bed. What happens there is not for you to know.
All I can say is that sometimes there are some new toads in the garden the next morning.

Apologies to Shadi for post-humously turning her into an all black tom-cat for my story. But I know that, if she was still with us, she would understand (even though she was so proud of her one golden paw and the rest of her gold patches). I may have got the gender wrong but I am sure she would approve of the rather haughty and lazy attitude of Bruno. And for those of you who are cat lovers, here is a photo of her.


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