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 January 2014

Fabulous Fridays: Zebras

After some thought, I’ve decided to bring back Fabulous Fridays. For those who are new here, Fabulous Fridays is where I talk about anything fun, cute or frivolous – whether it is a favourite quote, a new blog or book I’ve discovered, products I can’t live without or just some photos from my travels (saying that makes me  sound like the fabled Gulliver). My main aim is to share something short and light-hearted before the weekend and then get down to the more serious stuff on some other day of the week; and I will end each post with my favourite song for that particular week – the one which I sing while I’m driving or when no one else can hear me. How does that sound?

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I’ve been feeling rather uninspired this week. I desperately need to go out and take photos. It’s quite amazing what a balm to my soul photography is. Digging through my archives I came across these  photos that I took last summer.

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I used to tell my son that zebras are ponies in pyjamas. He doesn’t believe that anymore, of course. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking that they are absolutely cute and huggable.

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I hate it when I watch wildlife documentaries and see them hunted down by lions or ambushed by crocodiles. That’s the sad reality of the food chain in the natural world though and, notwithstanding my mixed feelings about zoos, it’s nice to know  that these particular zebras are safe from any lurking prey.

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I hope they have made you smile.

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Zebras photographed at St Louis Zoo, August 2013

Singing along to:

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Let’s Talk About Books

There are few things on earth created by  Man that I love more than books (except chocolate). So it probably comes as no surprise that one of my objectives for 2013 was to read more books. Before I was married I read at least one book a week. I was not very picky. I would go to the public library and choose four books, which I then  proceeded to devour with my eyes. So, back then, reading a trashy book was not such a  big deal. But now that I have limited time, I try to be more discerning. I only read books that interest me; books which will leave some mark on me or books which will give me some type of enjoyment. These are the books I read last year:
Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert
Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
I thought I would enjoy this book a lot   more but certain parts were too slow, especially the “Pray” part. I thought Elizabeth would never leave India and get on with it. With all the rave reviews that this book received, I expected more from it. It’s not a bad book but, dare I say that I found it rather flat and boring? I do not think I would recommend it to anyone. Perhaps the movie was better. I haven’t seen it yet.
Slash by Slash with Anthony Bozza
Slash by Slash with Anthony Bozza
I enjoyed this candid auto-biography of a man who was always a bit of a mystery. From his childhood, to his battle with alcohol and drugs, to his tempestuous relationship with Guns N’ Roses front-man Axl Rose, Slash takes us into the glitzy world of rock ‘n roll. My advice: if you’re not into Guns N’ Roses and eccentric guitarists, don’t bother with it.

The Cellist of Sarajevo - Steven Galloway
The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway
This book I totally recommend. It is not a story with a complicated plot, with lots of twists and turns. Instead it is a story about everyday life in Sarajevo during the Bosnian War. The author paints a skillful picture of three ordinary citizens; of their strength and their frailties; of what war does to a nation and how the simple act of crossing the city for water is fraught with danger. I thought it was a beautiful, thought-provoking book.
Peaches for Monsieur Le Curé
Peaches fo Monsieur le Cure’ by Joanne  Harris
This is the third installment in the series that started with Chocolat. Joanne Harris has a special knack of making the flawed characters of a little village in France come to life. I enjoyed it but it does not have the same magic that Chocolat did.

The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
I had been meaning to read this book for a long time but the fact that it was about Afghanistan held me back. I guess you can call it prejudice but, for me, Afghanistan meant the Taliban and that was it. This book opened my eyes to the fact that Afghanistan used to be very different and, if only for that, I am glad I read this book. The story itself is about friendship, betray and redemption.
The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato
The Botticelli Secret by Marina Fiorato
This is a light-hearted book and not what I would call “high literature”. Having said that, the story made for an enjoyable read and there were enough unexpected twists in the plot to pique my curiosity. At the centre of the book is Renaissance Italy and  Botticelli’s famous painting ‘La Primavera’.
A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
 A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini
In my opinion, this book is a tribute to the women of Afghanistan, to those that live and suffer behind the burqa. If you have not read this book, I suggest that you should. It is an eye-opener on the harsh realities of life that, for some, still exist in 21st century. This book taught me not to take the liberties that I have for granted.
So there you have it. It’s not an impressively long list but I aim to do better this year.

Monday, 13 January 2014

The Chapel At The Edge of The Cliff

There is a chapel at the edge of a cliff, at the end of a narrow country lane. On New Year’s Eve we went for a drive and ended up there – beneath the chapel, on the edge of the cliff.The sky was grey, the rain fell and the north-west wind, the one that  in some countries they call the mistral, blew fierce and strong. We were in one of the remoter places on the island – just a lonely hamlet huddled under the shoulder of the cliff, a few scattered farms and the squat chapel with its bright red dome.
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As we sat in the car and watched the rain fall, a squall of wind tore the clouds asunder and the struggling rays of the sun turned to burnished silver a patch of slate-grey sea. I left the warmth of the car and wrapped my scarf tightly around my face. I walked, alone, around the perimeter of the chapel, taking in the weathered stones, the water-spouts shaped like cannons, and  a simple wreath hanging on the main door  – the only concession to Christmas. Finally, I came to a stop at the boundary wall and looked out at the expanse of sea and sky. The simplicity of the scene before me was heart-wrenchingly beautiful.
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I knew that far away in the towns, the annual, chaotic ritual of people gathering together to welcome the new year would soon be played out. But here, it felt to me like time had stood still; or if it moved at all, it did so in infinitesimally small paces. The scene before me was the same today as it was yesterday and it would be the same again tomorrow. The chapel behind me had seen a thousand sunsets and it will probably still be here to witness at least a thousand more. It had about it a hint of the infinite while I … I was just a transient being – a grain of sand in the hour-glass of time. In that briefest of moments I had glimpsed eternity but, before I knew it, the moment was gone. A deafening silence reigned.
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In the heavens, the clouds obscured the last sunset of the year while, behind me, a solitary wreath flapped madly in the wind.
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Location: The Chapel of the Nativity of Our Lady (aka Our Lady of Victories), Mtahleb.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

A Year Of Wonders

So here we are, at the threshold of another year.  I don’t know about you, but I felt that 2013 slipped away as quickly as grains of sand through an hour-glass. It has been a year of small discoveries, little celebrations – and one long road trip. So here they are, my most memorable moments of the past year.
As I have said so many times, this island may be small and yet, on several occasions I have had the thrill of unexpectedly finding something new. Like this red country house just a few miles from our home. Or this Rapunzel-like tower in a narrow country lane.
In Spring, our most beautiful season, when the sun is pleasantly warm and the breezes still fresh, we took drives to the countryside to enjoy the multitude of colours as plants burst into bloom simultaneously and our hills and valleys were as bright as a painter’s palette. As March gave way to April, the call of the siren was impossible to ignore. The sea too donned its most enchanting hues and it was time to wade in for the first time – just up to our knees,mind you, as the water was still numbingly cold.
Another happy discovery was  Margo’s. It’s just a pizzeria on an island choc-a-block with pizzerias. But this one is different because the pizza tastes sublime – and now we don’t eat it anywhere else unless we absolutely have to.
But 2013 was also the year we celebrated our tenth anniversary. So we flew to St Louis (I wish it was that quick and that easy)  and then to Salt Lake City (where I almost met sweet Suze). From there we drove to Yellowstone National Park via Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park. This summer I discovered another part of America’s wild west. Some may think that, in the present day, the term ‘wild west’ is a misnomer. But it isn’t. We drove through a wild terrain that has barely changed since people left the frontier towns and journeyed into the great unknown in rickety wagons. I am as European as they come and I love nothing better than a city with ancient foundations, its ruins scattered carelessly in the grass like beads from an unstrung necklace. But America’s wild west holds me in thrall mainly because, in my mind, it is still the land of the native tribes.
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We saw some wondrous sights: the Grand Tetons, Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, waterfalls, hot springs, forests and geysers. In bends on the road and in open meadows we came across buffalo and elk. The forests were alive with the cheeky chatter of squirrels and chipmunks. But the most poignant moment was in a small grocery store in West Yellowstone (Montana), when a Native American man walked past me, his greying hair in two neat braids and a fierce pride in his eyes. In an inexplicable way, I suddenly felt like a trespasser on land that was once sacred to so many.
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Yellowstone Day 2-001
Back home we continued the renovation of the Mischief  Maker’s room as he transitioned from frogs and turtles to sharks. It required truck-loads of patience to paint waves on his walls but the end result was worth it. We now just need to hang a few pictures and we will be done (and I might be brave enough to share some pictures with you).
The last quarter of the year was pretty low-key: walks on the beach, a visit to the brand new National Aquarium and lots of craziness at work. We celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas and caught up on some much-needed family time during the holidays.
And that, in not quite a  nut-shell, was 2013 – a year of indelible memories that I will cherish. There were  moments that I have shared with you and others that I, somehow, never did. I thank you all for coming here, reading and leaving encouraging comments. But most of all I thank you for friendships that are being kindled across thousands of miles. May 2014 be a year of wonderful memories. 
P.S. For those of you that have read this far, I promise that I probably won’t write anything this long until next year. But then again, you  never know …


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