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

Monday, 29 July 2013

Summer Is …

… trips to the beach
End August 006
… basil and mint
… scorching days and balmy nights
… geckos on walls
August 2004 024
… cicadas and crickets
… sandy toes
… sunlight and shadows
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… sandals and flip-flops
… scurrying lizards
… fiery sunsets
September 2004 076
the dog days
… ice-creams
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… running though water fountains
… peaches, grapes and prickly-pears
… family vacations
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These are some of the words that have ‘summer’ written all over them. Words that are linked to so  many wonderful memories. Which words say ‘summer’ to you?

Friday, 19 July 2013

A Tale Of Summer And A Restless Sea

We have had a steady crescendo of heat these past two weeks. There is not much respite – except by the sea. We headed to one of our favourite beaches last weekend and enjoyed a refreshing swim. While the Mischief Maker and my husband went to talk to the people from the local Sharklab, I relaxed in my little pop-up tent. Or I tried to. The beach wasn’t crowded but it was hard to drown out all the voices. I looked around me, picking out different nationalities: the Italians, toned and tanned and the loudest on the beach; the Germans, sturdy and tall and smelling strongly of sun-tan lotion; the Brits, mostly middle-aged or elderly, reading the newspaper while trying desperately to get a tan; the Scandinavians, as pale as alabaster and with bodies like seasoned athletes; and, at the periphery, alone and aloof, a small family of Africans, their skin as dark as coffee beans.
First Swim of the Year (15)
The boat people they called them, 12 or so years ago, when they first landed on our shores. Now the adjectives are not quite so kind. From sub-Saharan Africa they are leaving their countries and their families, crossing the ferociously hot desert until they reach the countries of the Maghreb. From there they get on whatever rickety boat or ship will take them, hoping they will cross the water to freedom. Their aim is to reach mainland Europe but sometimes these islands, and a few others, get in the way. And sometimes the sea has other plans.
First Swim of the Year (19)
It’s willful, this sea that surrounds us, and it conjures winds and waves out of the placid air like a magician draws rabbits out of a hat. Sometimes it just claims their lives for itself.There is no media coverage, no headline news; nobody cries, nobody sheds a single tear. There are laws against racism, of course, here and in the rest of Europe. But this continent is a strange place. Despite the European Union, despite the efforts of all the intervening years since WW2, national pride in all the different countries is alive and strong and national idiosyncrasies even stronger. We take offence when others stereo-type us, yet we delight in pigeon-holing ourselves so tightly that we prove the stereo-type correct.
First Swim of the Year (21)
We frequently forget it, but we are living in troubled times. A great  migration has started and my country-men, and anyone else who thinks we will emerge from this unchanged and unscathed, are living in a fantasy world. This turbulent sea has never been at rest. It has seen empires rise and fall; cities crumble to dust. It has claimed thousands upon thousands of lives without compassion or compunction. This placid sea, that gently curled itself around my toes last Saturday, has no heart or conscience. Throughout its history, I do not think that there has ever been peace on its shores. Even today, in those easternmost cities as old as the Bible, the fighting rages on.
First Swim of the Year (22)
It is proud, this sea, and it has basked in the importance of its own lime-light for millennia. Perhaps it has started weaving together the final chapter of its chequered history. And perhaps we are all pawns in its game. Whatever the outcome, it would be wise to learn from the past before looking to the future.
Gnejna Bay (28)
Because the boat-people have come and they will continue to come. And perhaps we will be required to go. Because we are just transient beings. But the sea, the sea goes on forever.
Gnejna Bay (35)-001
Location: Gnejna Bay, Mgarr

Thursday, 11 July 2013

We Are All Stories

all stories
Image via She Wolf
I wonder  sometimes, if we each had to write the story of our lives, what type of story it would be? Would it be happy? Would it be sad? Would it be a memorable story? Or would it simply fade away, like graffiti on a wall?
Imnarja Eve 071
Our life is the sum of our experiences, of the places we’ve seen and the people we’ve known. Of decisions that have shaped us. Of our triumphs and our regrets. It’s made up of layers, some of which have peeled away, leaving us vulnerable and exposed. That’s our story. That curious mixture of the mundane, the tragic, the comic and, occasionally, the sublime. We share it with loved ones but we are the only ones who will ever know every intimate secret, every dream, every sigh.
And who would want to read my story? What’s so interesting about my life? I’ve lived on this island almost all of my life. I’ve been bewitched by a stretch of water that’s as ancient as the earth itself. I’ve felt the breath of Africa scorching my skin and been buffeted by a thousand different winds. But I do have a story to tell, and I wonder, if I listened to the whispers of my heart, whether I could give a voice to that child within me that never dared dreamed big.
Imnarja Eve 072
Because notwithstanding everything, there is a uniqueness to it, as there is a uniqueness to your story; and to yours; and to yours too. We are all different. We are all heroes. We are all stories in the end.
Location: Strait Street, Valletta

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A Stroll Around The City

It was Mnarja eve. In days gone by, young couples would hitch their donkey, or their mule, to a cart and ride to Buskett, to celebrate a festival which, although heavily Christianized, has its roots entrenched in paganism: Luminaria – the feast of lights.
Valletta (1)
It was Mnarja eve. The Mischief Maker had a party and my husband had a work function. I was free for a couple of hours, free to do as I pleased. So I took my camera for a walk in the grid-like streets of  Valletta. It is strange, our capital city, enclosed as it is by its massive walls. While other cities sprawl and grow, ours has remained the same for centuries. I parked right in front of the monastery of St Ursula, home to an order of cloistered nuns and, as always, wondered what it felt like to live forever in seclusion. From there I wandered, without rhyme or reason, just hoping to discover the je ne sais quoi.
Imnarja Eve 057
It was Mnarja eve. Some streets were deserted – left to their shadows; left to their dreams. I eavesdropped behind the open doors of a church as the sound of the evening hymns floated lazily towards the cornflower-blue sky.
Imnarja Eve 058
I walked down steps and across bridges; beneath the unseeing eyes of long-dead saints; past decaying brothels of yesteryear; until I reached the harbour and the vast expanse of the open sea. The sea – always the sea; never far from my thoughts and forever in my dreams.
Imnarja Eve 054
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It was  Mnarja eve. I shook myself out of my reverie and reluctantly put my camera away. It was time to pick the Mischeif Maker up. Time to exchange dreams for reality.
Imnarja Eve 063
Location: Valletta, June 2013


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