Where does the time go? That’s another week, whoosh, and as I discussed with someone recently, time does appear to go faster as you get older. So much so, that I find myself doing sums all the time: did that event really occur that many years ago? Every time I hear Sandy Denny’s song, Who Knows Where the Time Goes?, I get goosebumps because that is exactly how I feel. Such are the thoughts that intrude as I wander round, sometimes aimlessly, sometimes with purpose. Then I spot a pile of rubbish, a bag from McDonalds or a cup from Starbucks, discarded on the pavement not ten feet away from a litter bin, and my internal philosophical speculations come crashing down like that stack of plates dropped by the waitress in Pizza Express that time. Which is bright red, by the way, according to my synaesthesia.
Liesel and I walked by the river to Didsbury. The path has been improved in places, not with tarmac, but gravel. Despite the last remnants of snow, and a sprinkling of frost, neither of us went a over t and ended up in the fast flowing water.
Liesel joined the ladies of the WI for a coffee and a chat while I sat, all by myself, on my own, at another table, enjoying my lonesome coffee while doing puzzles on the phone. After which, I took a solitary stroll home, stopping off briefly at Marie Louise Gardens to watch the squirrels building snow squirrels.
I didn’t actually see any, of course, that would be ridiculous.
Then at home, I had a fight with Microsoft. I haven’t had this kind of battle for a long time, so it brought back memories of other things we don’t see on computers any more. Stack overflows. Counters. Websites in progress.
Me: sign into Microsoft with username Mick Microsoft: there’s no such account, try a different one or create a new one Me: create an account with username Mick MS: there’s already an account called Mick: if it’s yours, sign in DC al coda
Outside again, and we were delighted to see an early sign of Spring.
Just a few crocuses on Nothenden’s Village Green, but it’s a start.
And we were witness to some colourful evening skies again this week, from the comfort of our luxury apartment.
I’ve never wanted to be a TV critic, but here goes. I’m watching Dark, a complex story that involves time travel. The dialogue is in German so I really have to concentrate on the English subtitles. But there are two things I find myself saying out loud several times during each episode. ‘Turn the flipping lights on’: a lot of the show is filmed in almost complete darkness. And ‘Answer the flipping question’. One character asks a question, and another just looks blank, lost, confused, tearful and doesn’t respond. Or maybe the actor forgot their lines.
My tooth has been annoying since that time it was electrocuted in Malta. Very sensitive, and sometime very painful, with pain transferred to sinuses and upper reaches of the noggin. I visited the dentist and she said ‘your teeth are OK but your gum’s gotta go’. Well, no, not really, that’s a lyric from an Alice Cooper song. Sadly, we’ve decided the offending tooth has got to go, since it should have recovered from its trauma by now. The X-ray revealed a ligament writhing in agony. I knew I had other plans for the week, so I’ve now made an appointment for the surgery next week. It feels weird losing a part of my body that is older than me but I’m looking forward, once the wound’s healed, to an ache-free, pain-free upper right corner of the cakehole.
Because I was feeling a bit sore and sorry for myself, I missed out on the Wednesday walk, but I did go to the newly introduced Thursday one. Liesel joined us too, after the disappointment of having her yoga class cancelled. This route is longer than the others, and took us through parts of Wythenshawe where I’d never been before.
I didn’t even know there was a prison in Wythenshawe, but it looks like there’s been a jailbreak, somewhere in this town.
Could I retrace the route on my own? Probably not, because I was chatting with someone, and kept forgetting to look at street signs and I don’t know which woods and parks we passed through.
Back at the shopping centre, I was surprised to come across this old Roman mosaic.
I also missed the Friday walk because I had a meeting with David from Thrive Manchester at Boxx2Boxx.
This week’s radio show featured (mostly) songs of five minutes or so in duration. I also had a chat with Dan Tiernan earlier in the week: he’s British Comedian of the Year and a Northendenizen. You can hear this ragbag of delights right here, if you missed it on Wythenshawe Radio. I know I did, because I was chatting to an up and coming singer for next week’s show.
It’s so easy to be critical of the weather here in Manchester. People say I should be more positive. But I am positive. Positive that the weather here can be a little disappointing at times. While we were having a blast in Malta, it was raining a lot here. So much rain that the river Mersey was flowing very high and in danger of flooding. The little island opposite the playground in Riverside Park was still completely submerged when we first walked by.
Underneath the motorway, I came across someone sleeping rough. I wanted to report them to Streetlink so that they could be looked after, but this organisation is only interested if the rough sleeper is outdoors at night, not during daylight hours. Mixed feelings here. Sad to see anyone sleeping rough at all like this, but at least it wasn’t just a pile of flytipped rubbish, which is what I thought, from a distance.
Any regrets about going away to the Med for a short break? No, not really. I shouldn’t have taken my sandals though, that was a bit optimistic: I lugged all that extra weight around for nothing.
In other news, Martha and William returned to school a bit later than their peers, having just returned from their adventures with their Mummy and Daddy and Auntie Helen in Australia. What a great time they had.
A great time, apart from poor Martha fracturing a bone in her wrist, something I didn’t manage until I was 14 years old. She was very philosophical about it though: at least it wasn’t her writing hand.
Liam and Jenny managed to get away by themselves on a ‘minimoon’, spending a few days on Hamilton Island while Auntie Helen looked after the children
King Nyani is the largest bronze gorilla statue in the world and he was very pleased to welcome Helen, Martha and William to Taronga Zoo.
And here they are, feeding carrots to that well-known native of Australia, a giraffe.
Previously, I may have mentioned the weather forecast that briefly led us to consider the possibility of extending our stay in Malta. The forecast proved correct. It snowed here. Not a lot, admittedly, but overnight for three nights in a row, down it came, leading to a strange reluctance on our part to venture outside.
One morning though, I did get up stupid early to go to the hospital for my long awaited echocardiogram. The gel was cold and my heart produced some weird sound effects, straight out of Doctor Who.
Of course, we did go out for a walk in the snow a couple of times, once with the regular walking group. Well, four of us walked that day, the rest stayed behind at the coffee shop. It wasn’t as slippery in the woods as some folks anticipated.
In the afternoon, we collected Martha and William from school. It was lovely to see them again, for the first time since well before Christmas. The sunblock must have worked well, none of them had a particularly strong tan after a month in the sunshine down under.
At home, they both played with and made models from Wikki Stix. These are made of hand-knitting yarn enhanced with a microcrystalline, food-grade non-toxic wax, the kind used in bubble gum and lipstick. And that’s it. (It’s that touch of wax that allows them to stick). Martha declared them the best toy ever, but I’m not sure we agree.
To the delight of the neighbours, I’m sure, Martha and William were taken out for rides on their sledges very early next morning, well before sunrise, lots of screaming and whoops of delight ensued. Dad Liam provided the horsepower, in case you were wondering.
So there I was sitting on the sofa, when Liesel piped up, what a gorgeous sunset. I looked up, and it wasn’t too shabby.
This week’s radio show is not to be missed. The theme is Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. If you missed its broadcast on Wythenshawe Radio WFM 97.2 on Friday afternoon, you can catch up here.
Having spent the day in and roughly north of Victoria, it was now time to head eastwards. The wind was still blowing so we took a bus to Qala from where we wandered hither and thither, admiring the views.
We did see some wildlife, a few birds, the odd butterfly, but most excitingly, snails.
Many of the restaurants advertise ‘locally produced lamb’, ‘locally produced goat’ and ‘locally produced rabbit’. Along with ‘Argentinian beef’. But on all our walks, we never once saw a sheep, goat or rabbit out in the wild, not even any signs of their presence. We ate our lunch in a place recommended by our b&b host, Xerri il Bukkett. Entertainment was provided by some loud American ladies one of whom clearly knew more about breeding and raising rabbits, for food, not pets, than the local Gozitan population.
Speaking of birds which we were a minute ago, what a surprise to see these chaps out by the road.
We walked and took a bus to the Ġgantija Temples, still looking out for sheep and goats. ‘Ġgantija’ because they were built by a race of giants, according to local legend.
After about 5,500 years, the temples, older than the pyramids in Egypt, aren’t in the best of repair, and some of the stones are missing, having been acquired for re-use in new buildings. This has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1980, but that’s no excuse not to have a coffee shop at the end of the tour, along with the gift shop!
‘The typical habitat on the Ġgantija plateau is the garrigue, a seemingly arid and treeless environment. In reality, this is one of the richest habitats on the Maltese islands with hundreds of flowering plants, including the Giant Fennel, the Wild Thyme, the Mediterranean Heather, the Maltese Spurge and many others.’ I don’t think I’d seen the word ‘garrigue’ before.
The graffiti goes back hundreds of years but we’re now discouraged from such vandalism.
A couple of the walls have been secured by scaffolding until the local experts work out the best way to preserve the temples in the longer term.
The temples need another visit one day, but we were conscious of having to catch a bus. While waiting at the bus stop, we had another wildlife encounter. A cat made friends with us.
The weather hadn’t been as bad as forecast and the following day was even better. So we headed south on this occasion, to Xlendi. The walk, nay, hike, along the coastal path was more challenging than the average stroll around Northenden, that’s for sure, and in a couple of places, we lost the path. Still, no sheep nor goats to worry about.
The cliffs looked challenging to say the least, so I was glad that our hike took us in the opposite direction, along the il-Maxar – ix-Xlendi Heritage Trail. Still hilly and rocky but not vertical.
I saw the Usain Bolt of the lizard world dart across the path in front of us. Then Liesel saw one too, after which we saw a few, lone lizards, taking in the Sun on the rocks. Beautiful green lizards.
One thing we weren’t expecting to see was this little bridge. There’s no river, it just meant we didn’t have to climb all the way down the ravine and back up. I imagine this was constructed by the Romans. Or maybe the Brits.
Our destination was Sanap Cliffs, and we just enjoyed the walk in the sunshine, even as we were concerned that we might be off course, having lost the path, and might be tramping across someone’s crops. Still no sign of a goat or sheep.
‘This area, that forms the south-western part of the village of Munxar, is characterised by the high cliffs known as Sanap Cliffs. Sanap, from Maltese senapa, is the mustard plant that was possibly cultivated in the area. This place lies between Tal-Bardan, on the left, and Ras il-Bajjada in Xlendi, to the right. The surrounding fields are a grazing site for sheep and goats.
Sanap Cliffs offer an unparalleled view of the south coast of the island of Gozo. The highest point in the area is specifically known il-Pinnur, literally as the weathercock. This point is perched to the winds just as a weathercock. The island of Comino is to the left, and the north coast of Malta in front.’
So, sheep and goats do graze in the area, maybe they’re inside during the cold(er) Winter months.
As we approached Sanap Caves, our rocky, stoney, muddy path morphed into a paved walkway, very civilised. We even saw other people, but we didn’t join them at the cliff’s edge. Instead, we completed the loop, and walked back to Xlendi, following the road this time.
From a distance, neither of us could discern whether these crops were potatoes or cannabis, or maybe something else, more exotic.
Obviously, it was much faster walking along the road and we soon found ourselves by the waterside in Xlendi. We found Moby Dick Restaurant, enjoyed lunch, and coffee, and watched the Sun going down over the sea. Again, I took far too many photos of the setting Sun, with and without clouds, trying to capture the waves as they broke just behind the wall protecting Moby Dick and the other shorefront premises from the Mediterranean.
Another slog, well, a two-minute walk to the bus stop, where again we were serenaded by the susurration from a million small birds in the trees.
I think it’s fair to say that we enjoyed our few days on Gozo and that, having seen the weather forecast back home, we didn’t really want to go back. But we did, getting up early to catch a bus back to Mġarr for the ferry back to Malta. Having not seen a lot of wildlife (we can’t really count snails, lizards, cats and millions of small birds), you can only imagine the delight when we came across this old thing in the ferry terminal.
I know, I know, it looks like a donkey to us too, but the model really is titled Four Beautiful Women.
Waiting for the ferry to arrive gave plenty of opportunity to get some steps in by wandering around, of course. The boat trip itself was uneventful, as was the bus that took us across Malta, from Cirkewwa Ferry Terminal to the airport.
Malta International Airport. We checked in very quickly. A dozen or so desks, all staffed, which meant there wasn’t a ridiculously long queue. We got through security very quickly too. Lots of time to spare before our flight, so all we could do really was wander around, or sit in the Hard Rock Café for some lunch.
It was quite poignant sitting by Jeff Beck’s shirt, as he only passed away a few days earlier.
The flight was uneventful and finally, we dropped through several thousand feet of clouds to see the lights of Manchester.
Manchester Airport and yes, we were soon brought back to grinding reality. After a 3½-hour flight, it really shouldn’t take 1½ hours to get through immigration. Why was there such a delay? Because, again, only half the passport reading machines were plugged in and working. Mine wasn’t the only head shaking in disbelief.
And then we were driven home by the grumpiest taxi driver in the country. He took the longest possible route home and made a big deal out of finding his card reader because, of course, we didn’t have any British money on us. Welcome home, Mick and Liesel!
As well as being extremely narrow, some of the streets in Victoria, Gozo are incredibly steep.
Nevertheless we persisted, we walked all the way up to The Citadel from where we could look down on quite a lot of the island.
There are signs of activity on the hillock dating back to 2,500 BC, the start of the Bronze Age. There are marble artefacts from the Roman era too, so a lot of history here.
I’ll let the local experts tell us more:
The Cittadella, also known as the Castello, is the main historic fortress of Gozo, built at a strategic vantage point just in the centre of the island.
Archaeological evidence shows that the site has possibly been inhabited since Late Neolithic times and certainly fortified during the Bronze Age Period. In Roman times, Gozo was elevated to a privileged municipality, and the fortified city was transformed into a complex acropolis serving as the centre of both the administrative and military activity as well as the religious life of the inhabitants of Gaulos.
During the Middle Ages, the acropolis was converted into a fortified castle which served as a refuge for the inhabitants during corsairs’ attacks. By the 16th Century, most of the castle’s defensive walls became obsolete, and a major reconstruction of the southern side was undertaken between 1599 and 1622. The delineation of the northern medieval walls was largely retained and integrated into the revamped military architecture, transforming the old modest Castello into an imposing gunpowder fortress.
Today the Cittadella houses various notable buildings and historic places, including the Cathedral of the Assumption, which was built between 1697 and 1711 on the site of the former medieval church.
There were a few other visitors but a lot of the people we saw arriving by foot or by car were lawyers attending the court. We thought about watching whatever trial was taking place, but in the end, staying outside in the sunshine seemed a higher priority. Although the wind was still quite strong, and cold in places.
One thing we noticed was how much greener Gozo is than Malta. It might dry out in the extreme heat of Summer of course, but right now, we can see the benefits of the limited Winter precipitation.
It was interesting to see a really skilled artist at work. Emmanuel’s paintings have an almost photographic quality to them, and he was working from a photo on his phone here. How lucky to be here on the one day of his free exhibition.
From a distance, I thought this was an electric car being charged. A bit anti-social having the charging cable across the narrow pavement, definitely a trip hazard. But no. It’s a petrol pump, installed outside somebody’s house.
We wandered around fairly aimlessly for a while, but then Liesel remembered the remains of some aqueducts, so we walked along the road in that direction. Old Roman aqueducts, I gussed. Nope: built by the Brits in the early 19th century.
The supply of water in Malta is of course limited. According to one of our hosts:
Malta only receives around 550 mm of rainfall a year, the greater part of which falls over a period of a few months from October to February, with the rest of the year being dry to very dry.
Malta has no rivers or lakes; 68% of Malta’s water comes from groundwater which is being exploited at a rate of almost 50% over and above sustainable extraction levels. The balance comes from seawater desalination, which consumes 7% of all the electricity used in the country, all of which comes from the burning of fossil fuels in power stations.
One thing we both noticed is there are very few solar panels here. I’m sure there will be more solar energy in the future, but for now, it seems to be a missed opportunity. Similarly, we’ve seen no wind turbines and no evidence of off-shore energy production using tides or waves.
We walked in the general direction of Wied il-Għasri, commenting on the cactuses growing everywhere, remarking on how hilly the place is, and what a shame there’s not a decent pavement on most of the roads. We turned round and saw the Citadel. Is that the same Citadel, I asked Liesel?
The walls are all dry stone, not a drop of cement. But very strong although not necessarily strong enough to withstand impact from a badly driven vehicle.
As we walked on by, I pointed out that we had now been to Infinity… and beyond.
As we walked on by, I reminded Liesel that we had been to Infinity, and beyond.
The names of houses are varied. Half of them are English, half Maltese and half Latin. But there was one that we were amused to see:
As we walked on by, I remarked that we’d been to Infinity… and beyond.
We saw a sign advertising Gozo lizards for sale. Knock on the door or call this number. Well, I would have thought these dry-stone walls would have plenty of lizards living in the nooks and crannies, especially on the sunny side. Liesel on the other hand thought they were just rocks with lizards painted on them. It’s still a mystery.
Late in the afternoon, hundreds of birds chirp and chirrup in cacophonous unison, flitting about from branch to branch in the trees. We thought they looked like house sparrows, but I don’t know if they make that kind of racket. On the other hand, having seen pictures of Sardinian warblers, we now think they’re responsible for the noise pollution.
This is the oldest Basilica on Gozo but there was no opportunity to look around inside.
Gozo is quite hilly, I may have mentioned that. So it was interesting to see that some of the crops are grown on terraces. I thought that was just an Asian method of farming.
In the distance we spotted a lighthouse, but we felt it was too far to walk to on this occasion. We were conscious of the Sun setting at about 5 o’clock so it was with some relief that, at last, we reached the Gorge at Wied il-Għasri. People do go swimming here, but not today, as far as we could see.
We decided not to walk all the way down quite a steep path to the water’s edge. Just as well, because the trek to the nearest bus stop took us up the longest, steepest road in the whole world. Or so it seemed to these old legs. In fact, it was so long and steep, we saw the Sun set several times. It would disappear, we’d walk up the hill and watch it sink below the horizon again. And again.
Up and up we climbed, and when we reached the bus stop, we hugged it. The bus service on Malta is terrific but sometimes, you’re unlucky with the timing and have to wait for quite a while, in the cold, strong wind. But this did give me an opportunity to wander off a couple of times, and I did witness one more colourful sunset.
After nearly an hour, the bus arrived and we hugged the driver. It was a quick ride back to Victoria and a quick walk back to our b&b where we slowly thawed out and, after the longest walk of our entire trip, we enjoyed a good night’s sleep.
This really is the height of luxury. Nothing to do but walk around in the sunshine. We meandered along the promenade in the opposite direction today, away from Valetta, heading towards St Julian’s, which is where we stayed the last time we visited Malta. There was a noticeable difference in temperature between walking in the Sun and being in the shade. But it was glorious, so much more pleasant than the rain in Manchester, for which we see there’s now a yellow warning.
We’d both decided not to being swimwear with us on this occasion, but that may have been a mistake. When I saw this guy playing with his water jet-powered rocket booster system in the harbour, I thought, I’d like to have a go at that. Liesel wasn’t so keen, though.
We noticed a few shoals of fish in the water too, it was that clear, contrary to our expectations. And when we found the local Marina regulations, we could see why. I suspect most if not all local sailors follow the rules. I don’t have a boat, so I didn’t really have to commit the rules to memory, but there you go.
Under MARPOL legislation, it is illegal to discharge oily residues into the sea. All automatic bilge pumps must be switched off unless the engine (s) is equipped with a separate oil tray. A bilge water pump-out facility is available at this marina. Violators are subject to sanctions.
Enzyme-based products must be used to clean bilges, not detergents. Oil absorbent pads should be kept onboard for emergencies.
Marina regulations prohibit the discharge of sewage or grey water (effluent from shower, laundry and wash basins) into the basin. Full shore facilities (toilet/shower units, marine pump-outs and live-abourd pump-outs) are available at this marina. Violators are subject to sanctions.
It is strictly prohibited to dump any solid wastes into the marina (Food waste, paper, rags, glass, crockery, metal, ropes, packing material and any plastic articles). Violators are subject to sanctions.
The maximum speed inside the marina of any marine craft is limited to 3 Knots. Violators are subject to sanctions.
Apart from mooring lines and service cables, it is prohibited to leave or store items on the marina quay. All such items will be removed at the owner’s expense
After reaching St Julian’s, we deviated from the promenade, and found ourselves not so much walking as scrambling or scrabbling along the lunar landscape of the beach. Plenty of trip hazards for my two left feet, but I survived without mishap.
We found civilisation again close to The Westin Hotel Dragonara. I’m sure it’s a fantastic, comfortable place to stay, but we’re very happy in our little b&b.
We sat by a proper, sandy beach for a while, watching the people, me with a coffee and Liesel with an ice cream. That guy’s brave, we thought, not just for swimming in the sea, but for leaving his bag unattended, having just been flashing his mobile phone.
The sand at St George’s Bay is quite coarse, but still easier to walk on than the rocks earlier. I saw one jellyfish in the water.
As we walked back through the town, past a shopping arcade, I remarked that we’d been here before. Nope. I was by myself last time, Liesel was having a rest, a long, luxurious bubble bath or something.
The building site was a bit ugly. Aren’t they all? But this one is A new destination to elevate Malta’s urban landscape. Cutting edge entertainment for all. A carefully created shopping experience for everyone. A heightened culinary affair. Well I for one can’t wait to see what’s so different about all these new shops and restaurants. All brand new and shiny. How ironic then that, as we walked around the corner, we noticed a really, really old bus.
Always try and remember to look up.
One thing we’ve noticed all over the place is the proliferation of hire scooters. Most users are on the pavements, moving at a reasonable speed amongst us pedestrians. But some braver souls are on the roads travelling at over 20mph, easily keeping up with the general traffic flow. I thought about trying one out, but, well, it’s the thought that counts.
Of course, if this were Manchester, these scooters would all be in the water by now.
The recycling bins are pretty nifty too. We saw one guy with huge bin-bags full of cans and plastic bottles. We wondered why he didn’t just leave those bags by the recycling bins. But then we realised, those bins actually pay you for the recycled items.
It’s always good to try and work out what an item of scuplture represents, especially when the adjoining plaque only has a description in a different language, in this case, Maltese.
I think it was first made in 1986 and subsequently repaired in 2017 then located in front of Ċensu Apap’s house in Sliema. The Ministry of Transport had something to do with it. My Maltese is very limited, even with Google Translate looking over my shoulder.
On our previous visit to Malta, we visited a coffee shop at Tigné Point a couple of times. So we had to make the pilgrimage there again this time. Iced coffee and hot coffee were enjoyed, not to mention a second breakfast.
We soaked up as much Sun as we could while walking around the tip of the peninsula. One thing we didn’t anticipate seeing was a man taking his cat for a walk. Well, taking his cat out for some fresh air, at least.
I made the mistake of buying another coffee as we got close to home. Mistake? Yes. Because when we got to Lidl, the assistant wouldn’t let me take it in, which meant that Liesel had to get the shopping alone. I hung around outside, enjoying my coffee and the sound of the bells of the Parish Church of Stella Maris, just around the corner. A crowd of people were gathered outside, but I couldn’t see whether it was a wedding or some other celebration.
We’re now used to being disappointed by the weather at home when we lift the blinds each morning. And that feeling of, well, ‘dread’ is probably too strong a word, but that feeling is still there, even after being here in the Mediterranean for a few days. But so far here, we’ve never been greeted by anything other than dazzling blue skies and signs of bright sunshine. So it was no hardship to leave our house and walk to the bus stop.
I’m just glad we weren’t standing by the bus stop over the road when that balcony came a-tumbling down.
Since Covid, Manchester buses have had the windows fixed so they can’t be closed. Not that that stops people from closing them. The idea is that fresh air will reduce the spread of Covid. Here in Malta, the bus company has done the opposite. ‘Keep Windows Closed. This bus is equipped with Bioactive AC filters for improved air filtration. Please keep windows closed for maximum efficiency.’ Yes, of course some of the windows had been forced open. The first bus we caught today had a temperature of 28°. The second, a baltic 22°, brrr!
We were entertained by the American couple behind, about the same age as us, learning to use public transport, probably for the first time in their lives.
Him: Did you press Stop, dear? Her: Yes, I have ascertained how to stop the bus by pressing the button. Is there anything else you’d like me to do?
It was just a pity they hadn’t ascertained how to board the bus, through the correct door, not through the exit to avoid paying the fare.
We disembarked at Sanglea, and couldn’t help but notice this example of extreme yarn-bombing.
That was a labour of love, I wonder how long it took? Just along the road as we made our way to the tip of the peninsula, Liesel posed for a photo, sporting her exclusive shopping bag. I think that’s St Philip’s Church at the top of the road.
This is obviously an old part of Malta, one of the houses had the date 1702 inscribed.
Walls have ears. That’s the saying, and this watch tower really does have ears. And eyes.
Looking over the water towards Fort St Angelo, it would be easy to deduce that the whole island is really just one big fortress. The entrance to the Grand Harbour is fortified too.
We hadn’t really agreed a plan, but found ourselves walking around the bay, past the American University of Malta, around to visit the Fort itself. A relatively cold wind blew for a few minutes but it didn’t last long, and once we were in the sunshine again, we soon warmed up.
Quite a few of these little boats were in the water, or up on the quayside, but we didn’t go for a ride in one. They’re very colourful though. Luzzu? Ferrila? Where’s my Maltese correspondent when I need him?
On another occasion, we’ll visit the War and the Maritime Museums, but today, we were just soaking up the Sun. Outside the Maritime Museum is the first steam engine to arrive on Malta.
We’re not totally averse to visiting places and we spent a very pleasant hour or so at Fort St Angelo, although we could have spent much longer there. Most of our visit was still outdoors, up and down many steps and slopes. Which led us to wonder whether my Dad had been to Malta during the second world war when he was in the Royal Navy? We know he was in the Mediterranean, possibly in Crete… but that’s it, that’s all we know.
There is a lot of history at this fort, going back to before the original fort was built in medieval times. It was, of course, damaged during the war.
As well as being used for defensive purposes, it has been used as a prison, a Royal Naval hospital and as a court over the years. Not to mention the chapel and, now, for us visitors, it provides a great view of the harbour.
There is a café, but after all the effort of climbing stairs to find it, it was found to be closed. Nightmare.
Liesel and I decided not to climb the mast on this occasion. ‘Reaching 80 feet in height, this wooden ship-mast was installed around 1910. The Royal Naval White Ensign and the flag of the chief naval afficer responsable for Fort St Angelo, normally Flag Officer Malta, were flown daily following the Fort’s transformation into a Royal Naval shore establishment in 1906, Special signs were hoisted for the manoeuvering of naval ships in harbour and weather forecasting. Another naval ship-mast was located across the Grand Harbour on Lascaris Bastion in Valletta but was removed in the 1970s.’
We left just before closing time and carried on walking along the bay. We stopped for a beverage, both choosing a delightful, thick, tasty, hot chocolate on this occasion.
I’d like to say I hired a one-man octocopter so that I could take a picture of the fort from above, but, here’s a secret: it’s just a photo of a photo.
We walked up a hill to the bus stop and returned to Sliema. Around the corner from our b&b, we came across these stars. My guess is that they were to mark David Bowie’s birthday.
He is the original Starman after all. And who can forget his appearance at the Malta International Song Festival in July 1969 when, amongst other songs, he performed When I live my Dream, probably his best love song, with an orchestral backing? In the festival, he came second to a Spanish singer called Cristina: I wonder what happened to her?!
Later on, we dined at the top Maltese restaurant Wagamama where we were entertained by Lady Gaga. Wagagaga.
It’s hard work being on holiday so we took a day off. Reading, writing and ‘rithmetic were the order of the day for me, although Liesel did do some actual work on her laptop. We also packed to prepare for our departure.
On our previous visit to Malta, we’d missed out Gozo so we decided we’d pay a visit this time. The plan was to catch the fast ferry from Valletta. However, our plans were scuttled. Unlike the ferry, thank goodness.
Schedule Update: 10th January 2023 & 11th January 2023
Kindly be advised that due to the inclement weather conditions the Gozo Fast Ferry trips will be suspended for today Tuesday 10th January & tomorrow Wednesday 11th January.
Keep a look out on our socials or website for the latest updates.
Our plan B was to take a bus to Ċirkewwa and catch the normal, slow ferry. We could understand why the fast ferry service had been cancelled, the wind was really strong, the sea was being whipped up, such a contrast to the calm seas we’ve enjoyed for the last few days.
Here is the rough sea as seen through the dirty, rain-besplattered window of a moving bus. We waited for about half an hour at the ferry terminal where I paced up and down and round and round. There are signs everywhere telling us to wear masks, but nobody bothered. There’s even a vending machine selling them.
The voyage lasted about 25 minutes and the passage was indeed windy and rough. A couple of passengers turned a bit green but I think most of us felt ok. I went out on deck for a short while and the best thing is, my hat didn’t blow off.
Our b&b on Gozo is a bus ride away, in Victoria, below the famous citadel which we’ll explore another day. Claude met us, showed us around, and suggested some good places to walk on the island. He confirmed the public transport service is good, you can get pretty much anywhere in about 20 minutes by bus.
We went for a short walk to the town square where we had a late lunch. Or early dinner, if you prefer. And we got some shopping.
There’s space on this façade for two clocks, but rather than a sundial and a conventional clock, there is Alpha and Omega, for Jesus Christ, the beginning and end of our lives. The right hand clock gives a rough idea of the time of day, if you have no other means of telling the time.
Back at the b&b, we relaxed and considered thinking about planning what we might do and where we might go during the next few days, taking into account the conflicting weather forecasts.
Setting up the new printer was fairly straighforward. Apart from when the message appeared: We’re sorry, something went wrong. Nothing had gone wrong, the printer works perfectly. Liesel and I can now print directly from our laptops and phones. And that concludes this week’s tech news.
We didn’t stay up to watch the New Year’s fireworks from London, but we did enjoy some very loud bangs from the local displays in Northenden. Not so loud that they drowned out the noise of torrential rain battering the windows. Yes, we were quite glad we hadn’t made the effort to go out somewhere to watch a display.
I think it rained continuously for over 48 hours in the end, during which time, sadly, we took very limited exercise. One day, I took some rubbish out and checked for mail. But not to worry, we were soon off to sunnier climes where we hoped to walk for miles and miles.
Getting up at 3.30am is a rare occurrence for us, but it happens sometimes. The taxi took us to the airport, we checked in, we breezed through security having bribed them a fiver to fast-track. It would have been faster if my trays hadn’t been pulled aside. Not because there was anything suspicious, but because their machines hadn’t scanned properly.
The flight was uneventful, apart from some minor turbulence as we flew over the Alps.
I read my book, I did some puzzles and I even forked out for a cup of coffee. Liesel read for a while and also did some crocheting. When we landed, it was cloudy but warm. And as we descended the stairs from the Boeing 737-800, the Sun came out and said, welcome to Malta, Mick and Liesel.
We were in Malta three years ago, returning to the UK just in time for the first Covid lockdown. Masks seem to be optional now, although we kept ours on all the way from Manchester Airport to getting off the bus just round the corner from our b&b in Sliema.
We knew the public transport system here was good, so we bought our bus tickets at the airport. The first bus took us into Floriana, the little independent town just outside Valletta. We ignored the Christmas market stalls as we walked towards the bus stop for a second bus. Except for the stall selling pastizzi. We yielded to temptation. Liesel chose the cheese filling while I opted for the peas. Delicious. But suddenly, 20,000 volts went through one of my teeth. I had tooth-ache for the rest of the day. I’m still not sure if the puff pastry was to blame, or I just bit down in an unorthodox manner, but boy was I miserable after this. I don’t want to have to see a dentist in a foreign country. I took painkillers and tried to play down the discomfort, but I’m sure Liesel will tell a different story. Ouch.
Our host met us at the b&b, showed us around and made us welcome. It’s a nice apartment, and we only have to climb 26 stairs to get there, not as many as in Yorkshire a couple of weeks ago.
In fact, the whole neighbourhood is picturesque, and so far at least, not a lot of noise. We made ourselves comfortable before embarking on the first of many long walks.
The streets are quite narrow so we were walking in the shade whichever side we chose to walk on. I told Liesel that as soon as we reached a sunny stretch, I would hold my arms out like a demented cormorant. It felt so good.
It’s only a 5 minute stroll to the sea and we walked along the promenade, breathing the sea air in deeply.
I was quite moved to see this memorial plaque, particularly as I had recently listened to a podcast serial, Who Killed Daphne? There’s some horrible corruption in Malta amongst the natural, and man-made, beauty.
On our first full day here, we walked to Valletta. It was warm and yet many people were still dressed in their thick Winter coats. As if they look at the calendar rather than the thermometer before deciding what to wear.
My God, it’s full of books. That’s what David Bowman would have said if he were looking into this old telephone box rather than a massive monolith orbiting Jupiter.
Some of the graffiti is quite profound. This caught my eye because it might, in some way, be related to my radio show next week. You’ll just have to tune in and see.
Look how blue the sky, how calm the water, and what a beautiful ship. There were hundreds of boats, of all sizes in the harbour, and in all states of repair.
We followed the path along the waterside, and eventually we saw Valletta way over there. That was our target for the day. And see that gap, I asked Liesel? Yes? That’s the Caribbean, I said. Don’t be so silly, she replied. And, as luck would have it, a hundred yards further on, we saw this vessel:
The Black Pearl, straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean. This might not be Captain Jack Sparrow’s actual ship, I wouldn’t want to mislead you.
Yes, it’s very sad to see that capital punishment still exists in Malta. If you’re convicted of a nautical crime, they still make you take a long walk off a short plank.
This Catholic church isn’t really leaning over, that’s just side effect of a panoramic picture taken in haste on a busy road. It was almost glowing in the sunshine. Various church bells were ringing as we made our way to the Maltese capital, and we realised they were probably to mark the funeral of Pope Benedict taking place over the water in The Vatican.
Liesel sprayed her initials on this rubbish bin and couldn’t walk away fast enough. On the other hand, a bit later on, as we were walking across an area of grassland, a man in front kept turning around and looking at us. So we slowed down. And we stopped to ‘admire the view’. I think he’s got the hots for you, Liesel, I suggested. Make sure your phone’s not on display, said Liesel. We managed to lose him, or maybe he lost interest in us, and we found ourselves back in the Floriana Christmas market. No pastizzi today, thank you very much, and, since you ask, my teeth felt much better today. No painkillers required.
We entered Valletta and found somewhere decent, Kantina, to have a very welcome, late lunch. Welcome because we were hungry but also, it was nice to sit down for a while.
This train came along the road as we dined, but we were quite happy to stay put, with a coffee before continuing our perambulation.
Liesel went into a shop and while I loiterd outside, I found this celebration of Pope John Paul II’s first visit to Malta in 1990. It seems he was especially fond of Maltese people, right up until his death.
I’d forgotten that Valletta is quite hilly. So as we walked up and down, eventually heading back to the bus station, you can imagine how seeing this took ones breath away:
We didn’t walk up this street, but one parallel to it, closer to the sea. The Sun was low in the sky, and Fort Ricasoli was really looking for attention over there.
In a couple of places, we could see where the Sun would set, so we tried to get to a good vantage point. So did very many other people and try as we might, it was very hard not to ruin other people’s photo opps. But our patience paid off, and I think this is a pretty cool picture.
We wandered down to the bus stop and of course we missed a bus by 10 seconds. Back at the b&b, we ate and turned on the TV, something we rarely do when away from home, and watched a jolly good escapist movie, Glass Onion.
Unfortunately, I think we consumed too much caffeine so sleep was quite elusive. So much so, I managed to finish my first book of the year, in the middle of the night.
Also, my dreams that night, when I did eventually fall asleep, were ridiculous. For instance, if in real life, I’d asked my Mum to check that I’d left my mobile phone at home, she wouldn’t have a clue. And if I’d said I needed it to book an Uber, well. It was a different world thirty years ago.
Before we left home, I pre-recorded two radio shows, the first of which is now available. It’s on the subject of Weights and Measures. First on Wythenshawe Radio and now, here on Mixcloud.
As hinted at earlier, next week’s show is in the can and might have something to do with Laughter Therapy. Wythenshawe Radio, Friday 2pm, 97.2 FM, online, TuneIn app, smart speaker.