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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Hanging in the balance

A bone marrow donor has finally been found for schoolboy Jamie Zammit suffering from a rare and life-threatening genetic disorder, from Kent news:

For three years, Jamie Zammit’s life has been hanging in the balance as doctors have fought to keep him alive through daily blood transplants and steroid treatments.
His mother, Donna, 34, even had another baby in the desperate search for a match for 10-year-old Jamie, who is from Bromley..

Jamie has Fanconi anaemia, which eventually leads to bone marrow failure. Without a successful transplant he could suffer organ failure or the early stages of leukaemia or pneumonia. Mrs Zammit has been tirelessly campaigning to save her son and made constant pleas through local, national and international media for people to join the bone marrow register in the hope of finding a match for Jamie.

The Zammit family have Maltese heritage. When they moved back to the Mediterranean archipelago in 2004 Jamie began to show signs of the illness and they had to return to England for treatment. The Times of Malta called on its readers to ask relatives in England to register their bone marrow with the Anthony Nolan Trust.

Mrs Zammit has also been part of a campaign, which has gone as far as the European Parliament, trying to get the Maltese government to establish its own register. Out of desperation to save the 10-year-old, Mrs Zammit and her husband Thomas took a huge gamble by naturally conceiving a baby, even though there was a one in four chance it could have Fanconi’s too...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Deployment 1975

Chrisbeek says that on their way to Malta "they fired off a few Exocet missiles at an old cargo boat as a target in the missile testing zone". In this piece, he recalls events in the harbour area including Straight Street:

Sailing into Grand Harbour Valletta was again just magic, original fortress walls going back to the crusades and like Gibraltar, Malta was another very important Naval port. Malta was also billed as the No2 best 'run ashore' in the world, being 'Singers', so the in-famous 'Gut' was beckoning.

I did all the usual tours, the 'blue Grotto' being one of the high lites. We were there for a month, so lots of free time and 'make and mends' ( afternoon off, in the old days to repair your kit). The dockyard NAAFI was a very popular destination, just about in staggering distance. 'Shorts' were cheaper than the mixers so many a lunch time 'sesh' started and finished at the NAFFI.

The dock yard was on the opposite side of the harbour from Valletta, so the quickest and cheapest way across was by 'Diso' (Gondola). If you missed the last one back it was a long and expensive Taxi ride. Always check the boat had a motor, as it took ages to get rowed across!

Two memories of Straight St, the 'Gut'.......'Chicken Inn' just the best place place for 'big eats' after a night on the town. Frank as mentioned in the Gib entry has the leading role in this story.......The 'Gut' was of course the Red light district, so it got pretty 'wild' at times...

Friday, August 29, 2008

A little sister with a large heart

Gozo lives in Malta’s shadow but has plenty of its own visual and culinary pleasures to delight the discerning traveller, writes Louise Roddon in The Telegraph:

Secluded bays, bracing walks and charming restaurants are what Gozo does best. And it’s all set in a wild terrain that nonsense poet Edward Lear found so magnificent he pronounced it “pomskizillious and gromphiberous”.

This is Malta’s tiny tranquil sister island: an unpretentious outpost that is relatively unscathed by the excesses of tourism. Here, terraced fertile valleys give way to surf-bashed rocky headlands and sheltered creeks. Hill villages dip down to the cactus-strewn central plains, where elaborately conceived rotunda churches and bell towers add a handsome vertical accent.

Most visitors come for a quiet day’s respite from lively Malta but there are treats off the day-trippers’ circuit that deserve longer scrutiny...The east, favoured by locals, boasts several bays that are quite hard to reach, but the effort pays off. Ramla Bay is next to two such gems. San Blas, a shallow inlet with sun umbrellas and a kiosk, is reachable by a bumpy track lined with orange groves. Then, Dahlet Qorrot, where pastel-coloured boat houses line a tiny bay. Mgarr Ix-Xini, a sheltered creek on the south-east, is similarly remote, with a restaurant offering grilled fish for hungry swimmers.

In the west, tourists favour Dwerja’s Azure Window – a huge natural arch in the cliffs. The Blue Hole, a vertical “chimney”, is popular with divers. Opposite, the imposing Fungus Rock takes its name from the Knights of St John. A rare plant was found to have healing properties useful in their hospitals. The knights built Qawra Tower opposite to guard their find...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dying of exposure

More than 70 people were feared to have died in the sea south of Malta in one of the worst disasters involving clandestine migrants in the Mediterranean, John Hooper writes in The Guardian:

Reports of the tragedy emerged the day after similar calamity off Spain, and brought to 100 the number believed to have perished in the Mediterranean this week. The deaths came amid a steep increase in the number of landings on Europe's southern shores. Police on Malta said eight survivors from a half-sunken dinghy had told them that the boat on which they were trying to reach Europe had set off from Libya with 79 people aboard. They said the migrants had told a horrific tale of hunger and sudden death.

Two days after leaving the port of Zuwara, Libya, their food and water had run out, and the boat's outboard engine had been torn off. They spent the next seven days adrift in heavy seas as their numbers gradually dwindled. Some of those aboard died of exposure. Others were swept away by waves breaking over the fragile vessel.

Those who made it to Malta were quoted as saying that most of the would-be migrants who boarded the vessel in Libya had been Sudanese and Eritreans. They were said to have included a child and eight women, four of them pregnant. Sea conditions in the area where the craft was found, 40 nautical miles south of Malta, were reported to be very rough.

The survivors were rescued from their waterlogged boat by the crew of a Maltese fishing vessel. From there, they were transferred to a Maltese naval ship taking part in patrols organised by the EU's Frontex agency, according to a report from the Maltese capital, Valletta. The earliest accounts referred to 10 dead. But after police questioned the survivors with the help of an interpreter, they said 71 people were believed to be missing...

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The narrow road

Refresh My Soul is a blog created by Angela, an American Baptist, as a platform for her random thoughts. In this post, she blogs about her recent visit to Malta:

A land filled with beautiful cathedrals. There is a 98% Roman Catholic presence on the island. These churches are the most beautiful I have seen. Each township has one and they are the center of all city business. The problem is that most of them are so steeped in tradition that the building or statues they are dedicated to are more important than a personal relationship with Jesus Christ..

..This is an interesting picture of the roads. They really are this narrow everywhere. Very crazy compared to what I am used to. Plus they drive on the opposite side of the road. The bus drivers were the most scary. Man, I am praising God we made it. When you can light a cigarette, make change, print a ticket, and drive all at the same time on these narrow roads I think you have arrived! :) I kept thinking of the Scripture Narrow is the road that leads to life and Wide is the road that leads to destruction. Help these precious people find the narrow road Lord..

..Here is a beautiful shot of the bay. Also somewhere over there is a movie studio. They filmed Count of Monti Cristo and Gladiator among others here. It is so beautiful. The whole island. Love the rich history and people. They really are hospitable like the Bible described in the days of Paul's stay...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Religous but lost

Ken Duggan, Senior Pastor Dallas Bay Church, Hixson, TN who blogs here, has just been to Malta to work on a 5 year agreement with Maltese missionaries. In this post he says that the Maltese are "very religous but lost":

..It has been a few days since I returned with 4 others from Malta. Malta seems to be one of those places everyone has heard of they just don't seem to remember where or why. It has a tremendously interesting history going back thousands of years. There is the oldest free-standing temple in the world on the island that pre-dates Stonehenge by 1,000 years. While there my team attended a festival where the church was celebrating its 600 year anniversary. If you ever saw the movie "Gladiator" it was filmed on Malta. The Grand Harbor is the deepest natural harbor in the world where Allied ships sailed into during WWII..

..The people go so far as to celebrate the sinless life and ascension of Saint Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is so revered our team rejoiced whenever we saw a statue of Jesus higher on the side ot the church than Mary. Some cathedrals were almost devoid of pictures of Jesus while they were filled with icons of Mary. They refer to her as the "Queen of Heaven" and are petitioning Rome to make her "Co-Redemptress" along with Jesus.

It is heartbreaking to see such kind people be so terribly blinded to the truth of God's Word. One lady told us when she converted to Christianity (Yes they differentiate between Catholicism and Christianity) her family dis-owned her. Another said that if she read the Bible for herself she was told by her mother she would go mad.

While I was there I was asked to pray for the people. I did, but God impressed upon me to pray in another way as well. I felt impressed to pray against the forces of darkness. I remembered the words of Paul who said "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood." I prayed against the principalities and powers of darkness that had plunged these wonderful people into a spiritual midnight of the soul. I became keenly aware that the enemy uses different tactics in different cultures according to his schemes.

While we have been lulled into spiritual apathy in America, the Maltese are very religious but lost. Would you join with me and pray against the spiritual powers that have the citizens of Malta cloaked in spiritual darkness? If you ever have the chance to travel with me or other teams traveling to Malta from Dallas Bay over the next several years I hope you will go. I want you to pray for these people as well. What a great victory it would be for the Kingdom if there were many people led out of idolatry into grace by the power of prayer. I'll talk with you soon.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Saved from dinghy

Immigrants rescued from stranded dinghy off Malta, from AFP:

Over a hundred illegal immigrants were brought ashore Sunday in two separate operations off Malta, the island's army said in a statement. Early Sunday, a Spanish trawler reported 79 illegal immigrants, claiming to be from Sudan and including four women, were adrift in a rubber dinghy taking in water and with engine trouble.

A container vessel travelling to Malta was diverted to the scene, 53 miles from Malta (80 kilometres), and took the immigrants aboard. The immigrants were then transferred in heavy seas to two army patrol boats and brought ashore.

Another boat arrived in the fishing port of Marsaxlokk where 21 migrants made it ashore. Ten of their colleagues remained on board and attempted to escape and continue their journey to Italy.

They were caught by a police boat. This group comprised 27 men, two women and two children. Around 1,700 clandestine migrants landed on Malta in 2007, according to an AFP count.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Terry and Lynne in Balzan

Life in Malta is a blog that records the story of Terry and Lynne from Northeast Philadelphia who have been living in Malta the past 18 months. This post tells of an incident which had a good ending:

On Wednesday - my only totally free day each week since I started working - I ran errands. On Friday afternoon I tried to buy chlorine and discovered my credit card was not in my wallet. I got Terry on the phone and had him check our account - no funky charges. Then he said the last charge was from a pharmacy. I had completely forgotten about that errand! It turns out the pharmacy was on the way home from the pool place so I was passing it anyway.

I went in and before I even said anything the pharmacist - who was the same guy who had helped me when I went in Wednesday - said I had left my card there. He went to get it and said he tried to run after me when I left but didn't find me, and that he tried calling the credit card company in the USA to have them contact me to tell me the card was there but he couldn't get through.

THAT'S customer service and I am now a huge fan and lifetime patron of the Balzan Pharmacy, in case anyone in Malta reads this
Malta in The New York Times

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Ryanair growth

Ryanair sees tremendous growth on Malta route, from asap news:

Ryanair announced this week that during the month of July passenger numbers on its service to Malta reached more than 40,000, which was a 116 per cent increase over the same month in 2007.

The budget carrier released these figures as it announced the release of two million seats valid for travel this October to three destinations in Europe. At a price of just €5 one way, inclusive of charges and taxes, passengers can fly to Barcelona, Valencia or Venice, so long as the booking is made on through this Sunday.

A spokesperson for the airline, Alessia Viviani, said: “While Malta airport registered traffic growth of only 1.3 percent in July 2008 compared to July 2007, Ryanair has increased its traffic volume by 116 percent making a vital impact on the Maltese economy.”

She added: “Ryanair is confident that this significant growth will remain strong as Ryanair guarantees the lowest fares and no fuel surcharge ever.” The new special seat sale will make it possible for two million passengers to travel to select points in Europe during October for the incredibly low fare of just €5.

Ryanair has strongly advised potential travellers to book the €5 seats directly on the carrier’s website,, and to avoid she “screenscraping” websites which, it indicated, added hidden fees that actually double or treble Ryanair’s low advertised prices.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Beer Nut is a Dublin based guy who enjoys travel and beer 'preferably simultaneously'. In this post he takes a look at Maltese Lacto:

At a homebrew tasting in the pub last night one of the guys (hi Kevin) brought out a beer he'd picked up in Malta, a milk stout rejoicing in the name of Lacto. It's my second milk stout in the last week, and ever. There's even less to it than there is to the Left Hand. Again with the smooth milky texture, but basically no stouty roastiness: just a very sweet condensed-milk or Caramac flavour. What it reminded me most of was the malta soft drink I had in Cuba back in May -- just as easy drinking and, at 3.8% ABV, only a smidge more alcohol. It could pass for a lot weaker too.

I've never been to Malta, but it's somewhere I would like to visit (one of Mrs Beer Nut's distant relatives was shot down over it during the siege). I'm guessing that, faced with the the usual dull hot country lagers, Lacto is probably welcome relief when drinking Maltese beers. At a table in one of the best-stocked pubs in the country, however, it loses its special status quite quickly. Nevertheless, thanks Kevin, even if you only brought it to make your all-grain stout look good...

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mediterranean inducements

TripAdvisor marvels over Top 10 Mediterranean islands:

Steeped in culture and history, Malta also features beautiful beaches and secluded coves, making the island feel like paradise. Stroll along Dingli Cliffs, watching the sunset at the highest area in Malta or visit the impressive Hypogeum temple featuring the sleeping Venus of Malta at the entrance. As one TripAdvisor traveller said about Malta, "It has all the Mediterranean inducements: amazingly clear, blue, warm waters, blue skies, sidewalk cafes, good food and wine and charming villages."

"All of these islands offer pristine beaches and their own unique features," said Michele Perry, vice president of global communications for TripAdvisor. "Our travellers have identified the hot islands in the Med this summer, especially if you want sun, sea and dancing all night."
Old trucks in Malta

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Proving a point

Derek Bennett, from the British midlands, takes a sceptic look at Malta:

..Often referred to as the George Cross island because of the bravery the Maltese people showed during World War Two, it's an odd place which I describe as a curates egg - good in parts. My better half and I have only visited the Island once, that was for a week during September 2006, we stayed at the resort of Buggiba which I would not recommend. A lot of Malta is scruffy and unkempt with building works taking place, Buggiba itself has grown rapidly in the last ten years and is not the best planned place - although the Sunflower Hotel where we stayed was pleasant and as long as someone is not looking for the Ritz I would recommend highly, although it's tucked away at the back of the town.

The one good thing about Buggiba was its bus service, you could jump on one of Malta's rickety old buses and go anywhere on the island quite easily - which is where the good bits come in such as Melehia, Mdina, Valletta, Victoria on Gozo and Golden beach for a days sunbathing. So what am I going on about Malta for? After all this is not a tourist blog it's an anti-EU blog. Well, my interest in Malta began some years ago when it was announced that it was negotiating membership of the EU as part of one of the ten accession countries and was to hold a referendum on membership.

Knowing some of it's newspapers printed in English I decided to start a letter writing campaign to the Times of Malta and the Independent in the hope the Maltese people would learn from our experiences that EU membership was bad news - especially for your democracy and freedom. Every chance I had I wrote letters the Maltese press, along with a number of other enlightened British anti-EU campaigners...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Walter Scott's 'unworthy' final works

Two “lost” works by Sir Walter Scott that were deemed unworthy of publication by his friends and family will be brought out at last, nearly 200 years after his death, from The UK TimesOnline:

Scott's final manuscripts, The Siege Of Malta and Bizarro, were written in 1831 and 1832 after he had had a succession of strokes and his fragile health was in terminal decline. His frailty brought a marked deterioration in his literary abilities and those who read the manuscripts - notably his publisher, Robert Cadell - believed that they should never see the light of day..

“If he had recovered his health, he probably would have published The Siege of Malta, but not in this form. These two works will not enhance his literary reputation, but they are a very moving testimony to the spirit which made him write,” she said.

Both works were written in the period after Scott's life had crashed about his ears. Books such as Waverley and Ivanhoe had established him as a literary success but in 1826 the publishing firm that he part-owned was bankrupted and he resolved to pay off all his creditors using the power of his pen to generate money. Over the next five years he produced a prodigious amount of work before becoming ill.

In summer 1831, for the good of his health, his doctors ordered him to take a tour of the Mediterranean. He travelled to Malta, where he soon devoured the local history and again took up his pen. A quarter of The Siege of Malta had been finished by December and Scott sent the final draft to his publisher from Rome in spring 1832. He died in London later that year. It is a work of historical fiction based on the defence of the island by the Order of St John of Jerusalem against a larger Moorish force...
Scotland on Sunday: Grave robbing; More here including reference to Donald Sultana's research on Scott

Monday, August 18, 2008

Drink clouds 'sun-and-study' image

Reports of drunken language students blighting Malta's tourist centres threaten to stall Malta's growing popularity as an English-learning destination, says Karl Schembri in The Guardian Weekly:

As a new day dawns in Paceville, Malta's tourist entertainment mecca, the rising sun catches lager and vodka bottles littering the street. Around a corner a crowd of foreign students - some of them below legal drinking age - gathers at a beer shop to stock up on more cheap alcohol. For some of these students it is only a short walk from the bars and clubs of the night before to their English language schools and, hangover permitting, another morning in class.

Young European students, attracted in their thousands each year by the promise of Malta's native fluency in English and Mediterranean sun, are increasingly falling foul of another more intoxicating cocktail: cheap booze and freedom from parents. This summer has seen a rise in complaints from locals and other tourists about young people running amok and reports in the foreign press that the problem could be getting out of hand.

The Goteborgs Posten, an influential Swedish newspaper, reported last month that students in Malta have "sex on the beach, unlimited access to alcohol, drugs and nightlife", while images of teenagers engaged in drunken brawls or unconscious on the street have been making headlines.

This former British colony of 400,000, which gained membership of the EU in 2004, is reliant on its tourism industry and the English language has been a major selling point. English language teaching accounts for about 9% of Malta's total income from tourism and the sector employs some 1,500 teachers and support staff, but Feltom, the federation of English language schools in Malta, has already warned that the recent bad press may have serious consequences...
article history:21 9 07

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Big moon over Malta

Kat and Marcos explain why they were surprised to discover that Malta was better than they expected:

We arrived late on a Friday night after a local transport strike we had been hearing about on the news had just been lifted… so we were hoping everything would be okay for us getting to and from the airport, and it was. Our hotel was right on the sea front, in a place called Sliema which is one of the main tourist spots. We arrived pretty late but still went out for a drink at a little bar down the road..

The next day, the sun was shining and it was really hot! So we decided to go straight to the island of Comino, which is a small uninhabited island right next to Malta. We caught a VERY scary Maltese bus to the port of Cerkewa. At one point I think we were on two wheels. They are just crazy drivers. We caught a ferry from the port to Comino, where we found the bluest water we had ever seen and a paradise-like island, with heaps of travellers and tourists swimming and finding space to sit on the cliff side..

We caught the boat back from Comino to Malta, and at night we went into St Julians, which is the main area for restaurants and bars. We caught buses everywhere and eventually got used to the insane drivers who all seemed to be in some kind of rally race and each had a different decoration on the side of their bus. St Julians was really pretty and we ate at a Maltese restaurant on the water. The moon was really big in Malta!

On Sunday, we went into the main city of Valetta, which is heritage listed and looks like a fortress, as it was built this way to protect the island. It was a really beautiful city, with big walls and old buildings. It had a few big old churches, and quite a few shops. In the afternoon, we caught the bus back to our hotel and then went swimming off the rock platforms in the ocean - it was a popular spot and a lot of people swim off these platforms, as there is no sandy beach in Sliema. Malta was a really beautiful place, and one that surprised us!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Poetic Olympics

Reno Calleja discusses the story of the arrival in Malta of the Poetic Olympic Torch and the publication of the Maltese version of a poem by Shi Tao:

On April 26th, Jacques Rogge, the President of the International Olympic Committee spoke to the Financial Times about the controversy surrounding China's human rights record. This is what he had to say. 'You don't obtain anything in China with a loud voice. Respectful, quiet but firm discussion is the way to get things done...Rogge reminded the Western countries who are bashing China on its human rights record, that most of these countries, granted independence to their colonies only 4O years ago.' It took us (the western countries) 2OO years to evolve from the French Revolution. China started only in 1949". Rogge told the Financial Times.

I believe that Kevin Saliba and Antoine Cassar who translated the poem by Shi Tao, are two enlightened persons. I also believe that they, together with writer of that excellent comment, know their history well.

However just in case they have forgotten it would be illuminating, I suppose, to recall what happened in Tlatelolco, on October 2, 1968, ten days before the opening of the Olympic Games in Mexico City. On that dark day hundreds of unarmed students, women and children were gunned down by machine guns and rifles. The brutal police and soldiers just passed over the dead bodies and proceeded to chase the innocent demonstrators to continue with their systematic slaughter..

However in l968, when was very active in the journalistic field in Malta, I do not recall any demonstrations against the Mexican regime when the Olympic Torch traveled from one country to the other. I do not recall one single protest sentence of protest or dissent in the speech made by the Olympic Committee President. I do not recall that the U.S. President or any other European leader boycotted the games...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Malta supports Sheffield United

A groundbreaking sponsorship deal will mean Sheffield United will be backed by Malta this season, from The Sheffield Telegraph:

The Championship club, which owns or has partnerships with a family of international football clubs, will be sponsored by the Mediterranean island of Malta. The lucrative deal will see: The Blades wearing the logo on their playing strip; Significant Malta tourism branding at the club's Bramall Lane stadium; United managing an academy for emerging young players capable of playing for the national team of the island; United overseeing the development of a community programme for the island's youngsters..

United chief executive Jason Rockett said: "This really is an international sponsorship deal with a difference. "Whilst financially a good deal, the sponsorship will see us working in partnership with the island's government to deliver dual benefits including the development of players, community schemes and proactively marketing Malta as a tourist destination. "The spin-offs for us and Malta could be huge. We look forward to developing all aspects of this sponsorship deal."

Chris Fenech, Director for UK & Ireland for the Malta Tourist Authority, said: "The Malta Tourism Authority is delighted to enter into this partnership with Sheffield United FC. We believe that the collaboration between the two parties, which will stretch to beyond the simple footballing aspects, will be of benefit to all. "Apart from associating Malta with one of the most historic clubs in the football league, this partnership will enable the Malta Tourism Authority to help at a social level, an aspect which we value highly..

Blades chairman Kevin McCabe, who was also instrumental in sealing the deal, said: "The Malta Tourism Authority was impressed by our growing international presence which stretches into Hungary, China and Australia..."They were impressed with the work we have done with our academy and how we have delivered an effective community programme targeting youngsters across the Sheffield city region. They want to replicate this in Malta and have brought us on board to help.
Maltese Academy

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Prize for Dom

The International Committee for the Al-Qathafi Award for Human Rights has just announced that former Prime Minister of Malta, Dom Mintoff, has been awarded the Prize for the year 2008, from The Tripoli Post:

In a statement issued in Algeria where the committee held its meeting it said: "In their appreciation of those honourable leaders of the North who have stood by justice and right and who defended the causes of oppressed peoples, especially in Palestine and Iraq, the International Committee of Al-Qathafi Award for Peace of 2008 is awarded to the European leader and former Prime Minister of Malta."

Ahmed Bin Bella, the Chairman of the committee and former President of Algeria, chaired the meeting in Algeria. By doing so, the Al-Qathafi Award aims to attract the attention of all peoples of the North and South that they should commit their relentless struggle toward world justice and peace.

The committee cited examples of injustice in today's world that include the recent decision by the International Court of Justice against leaders of the South, meaning the President of Sudan Omar Bashir. It said the North has a monopoly over all international organisations and uses these organisations in order to further dominate the South, steal its resources and humiliate its peoples.

Dom Mintoff (born Dominic Mintoff on August 6, 1916, is a former Prime Minister of Malta. He turned 92 last Wednesday. He was the leader of the Malta Labour Party from 1949 to 1984, Prime Minister of Malta from 1955 to 1958 (when Malta was still a British crown colony) and again, post-Independence, from 1971 to 1984...
New Statesman: Human Rights in Libya

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Bidding for the shipyards

Malta invites bidders in shipyard privatisation, by Reuters:

The Maltese government on Monday kicked off the privatisation of Malta Shipyards by issuing an international call for expressions of interest. The loss-making dockyard is being sold off just before the expiry of an EU deadline on December 31 which will not allow further state subsidies to the enterprise.

Malta Shipyards (formerly Malta Drydocks) includes a supertanker dry dock (300,000 DWT) and five smaller docks, heavy steel fabrication facilities and superyacht repair and refit facilities. The government last week also unveiled generous early retirement schemes in a bid to reduce the workforce from the current 1,600 to around 700, to make the shipyard more attractive to potential investors, Finance Minister Tonio Fenech said.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Quiet days on the beach

This is my final post on Wired Malta. I extended past my weekend slot due to a combination of being on lazy vacation and as former guest blogger Sabine Cassar-Alpert pointed out on her Gozo blog, Malta was having internet trouble on Sunday. Thanks to the folks at Wired Malta for the opportunity to write about this place I love.

There are beach people and there aren't. For some, the phrase "A day at the beach" could be a long season in hell but for those who can get into it the beach is the most magical of public spaces. It's the closest I ever want to get to camping and it's the only time I have bare feet for extended periods of time. Beaches bend time and the rules, and an hour might seem like 3 or maybe just 15 minutes. The sun slides across the sky and "should I go in the water now or later" becomes a monumental decision. Malta, being an island, has a special relationship with the beach -- it's a part of daily life, much like how city dwellers automatically make a stroll in the park part of their day. On Sunday's the Maltese will stay late into the evening and eat dinner on the beach -- the whole family will be there, even the Nana's wearing their polka-dotted dresses. The Maltese are fairly relaxed about the beach, and people who don't have bikini bodies wear them and nobody seems to mind and that's how it should be.

Malta has both sandy and rocky beaches. Both are good, but sometimes the rocks are more interesting, and there is more sea life below and no sand to get in between your toes.

At the beach you make a mini-camp and take over a tiny plot of space and temporarily make it your own. Some build elaborate tent-like structures with multiple umbrellas. I'm bad at planning so keep it simple with just a mat, towel, umbrella and maybe a beer or two -- though most of the beaches in Malta have a kiosk nearby where you can buy beer and much more. Since this is not camping, it's ok to have these amenities near by. The beach is where civilization and the wilderness meet up and touch. Toronto has some good beaches and some entrepreneurs have set up kiosks, but we are a little more hung up on things like alcohol in public, so such things are kept on the down low and maybe that's also as it should be. Here at Ghajn Tuffieha beach my little camp was pushed up against the hill as those southern winds are making big waves that make the beach rather narrow.

I brought some Toronto with me in the form of Michael Ondaatje's Divisadero. It's kind of wet and salty now and maybe a bit slimy with sun tan lotion (probably nobody wants to borrow this copy when I return). The other day at this same spot a woman sat down next to me on her towel and opened up Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride. It was like a Toronto reading room here in Malta. I almost said that I used to live around the corner from here, and sometimes she'd be in her front garden as we walked by, but that seemed like a breach, and maybe creepy, so we read in silence.

I may be too trustworthy, but I always feel safe leaving whatever I have with me (iPod, phone, keys, salty book) on the beach when I go into the water. It might simply be the spell of the place that suspends my usual (mild) suspicion of the safety of objects in public spaces, but I've never had a problem. I forgot my contact lenses in Toronto so once out in the water my little camp becomes a blur. What is the Robber Bride doing standing up? It's hard to tell. Is she leaving or stealing my stuff? I can't tell and continue to float in the Mediterranean roil. When I return to shore my stuff is still there but she's all gone. Here the waves are bigger, the water warmer, the beach a little more dramatic, and the bathing suits generally smaller, but the experience of going to the beach in Malta is not too far removed from some of Toronto's good freshwater beaches. In Toronto we seem to collectively think things are better elsewhere. Maybe they are, but not by too much.

One thing Maltese folks (at least the ones I meet) and visitors seem to complain about constantly is the litter problem on the island. Depending on the wind it will float in and collect along the shore and rocks. Such a small island with so little precious space is often treated so badly. It's hard to tell in the picture above but some Maltese teenagers were sitting on the rocks throwing bags, water bottles and beer cans into the sea. They hit some people snorkeling who of course objected audibly. They were told by the teens to fornicate with their mothers. In the 18 years (with some big breaks in between) I've been coming to Malta, the litter problem has endured. It is difficult to explain why this happens here on Malta, it simply doesn't make sense.

Back in Paceville, the beach that nurses those Eurobeat hangovers by day becomes a giant party at night, with big groups of kids sitting around drinking, sometimes wading out into the water. Maybe not a good mix, but in Malta the beach is never far from ones thoughts.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Island of serenity

Malta may be small but this Mediterranean gem is big on culture, cuisine and charm, writes Shereen Low in Aberdeen's Press & Journal

Once associated with wave-ruling Britannia and latterly seen as a holiday retreat for pensioners, Malta has tried hard to shake off its British colonial and somewhat stuffy past, and the country we see today is very different. Malta has become a romantic haven for couples, both young and old, all yearning to escape from the hustle and bustle of the urban landscape and seeking a bit of privacy from the usual touristy hotspots of Paris, Venice and the Greek islands.

One of my girlfriends even recalled the story of how her boyfriend – now husband – proposed to her on the beautiful Maltese shores...With a new, younger Malta in mind, as well as the idea of getting away from gloomy British weather, my boyfriend and I booked a long weekend here..

Beach bunnies can while away time at the hotel’s pool, but culture vultures should travel around the island, making sure to include Valletta and the “silent city” of Mdina, to explore Malta’s historical background.

One of the greatest sights is Valletta’s spectacularly cinematic Grand Harbour with its honey-coloured spires and bastions, where little has changed through the centuries. If it looks familiar, that’s because film epics such as Gladiator, Troy and The Count Of Monte Cristo used it as a backdrop..

It’s worth noting that Malta follows the Mediterranean practice of siesta, and the whole island shuts down between 1pm and 4pm, and even when night sets in, Malta remains largely an island of serenity...It may be tiny in size, but Malta is big in promise, offering visitors an abundance of culture, cuisine and charm.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Paceville and the End of Europe

Malta is a collision of cultures at all times. It's always been like this -- this island has been taken over by just about everybody and they have all left their mark on the language, the food, even the genetic code. For me the most shocking collision is the one between the ultra-catholic Malta (the one I was told about growing up in Canada) and a place called Paceville (Patch-a-ville), an over-the-top club zone in the seaside town of St. Julians (above) where one bar spills into the next and out onto the sidewalk. They say Catholic cities have more fun, but the extremes of Paceville make that phrase a holy understatement.

On an island as unique as Malta, Paceville is a genuine European Nowhere, a Rohypnol wasteland where the kissing never stops. You can hear it blocks away, like a giant Eurobeat jackhammer machine, the bass from one club booming out into the street and mixing with that of adjacent club. Sometimes the volume on the street itself is club level and you have to yell to be heard. It's all lit with old school neon lights over the clubs and various food kiosks. I call it Malta Blade Runner because it so closely resembles that landmark film's dystopic aesthetic, minus the helicopters and robots. It's Malta, but it isn't, and there are people from all corners of the EU working some angle here, making whatever money they can squeeze out of the sidewalks.

A woman without much clothes on asked if I was a spy one night when I was taking pictures. I said no. Where are you from you don't sound British? I'm from Toronto. Where? Canada. Ah, she said with her Russian accent. I'm Pilipino and my family lives in Canada. Where, I asked? I don't know, the city I think. Yes. She didn't give me one of the flyers she was being paid to hand out (only to men, I noticed, as she drifted back into the crowd) so I don't know what angle she was on. But there are lots.

Most clubs have open fronts, but are chilled inside by powerful air conditioners that produce a blizzard of cold air powered by 240 volts of expensive British-style oil fired electricity generated on the other side of the island. I certainly didn't drink enough cheap beer to pay for the amount of cold air I used up, but the other patrons likely made up for it.

I've been to other clublands in other cities, but none are as open and fluid as Paceville. In Toronto's clubland there are crowds on the streets but each club or bar is a separate experience with no easy flow from one to another. The public and private divide is nearly invisible here, as bottles and glasses are taken out of one bar and into another and drinks can be finished on the street. Paceville is full of tourists and loads of ESL students stationed in Malta, but also Maltese themselves.

The clubs are big and small and they all have an individual DJ playing the Eurobeat (that seems to repeat every half hour or so) who get on the mic occasionally and work the crowd into a frenzy. "Is Romania in the house tonight!?" Yeah! Gozo? UK? Dubai? Yes, they were all there. A lot of these DJs look and sound like British Ex Pats. If you've seen It's all gone Pete Tong you'll know this particular breed of aging, well tanned fellow with the wrinkled skin and cocaine face. However, Malta is not Ibiza, so imagine a non-superstar version of Pete Tong, without the entourage, money or fame. It was one of these guys that announced a "Happy 14th Birthday" for a girl one night in a club and then go on to to sing "who loves testicles?" over the music -- both of which we took as a signals to leave as quickly as possible. In other clubs giant plasma TV's show CNN Situation Room coverage of an earthquake in Southern California while the crowd shouts along with whatever Euro-anthem was playing. On Saturday night, at a club built like a prehistoric cave, perfectly sculpted Olympic athletes worked the pummel horse in High Definition while the sweaty mass underneath smoked and drank the super cheap alcohol and sort-of danced, but mostly raised their hands above their heads and/or groped each other. The sacred and the profane, making each look more extreme.

The proximity of very different spaces in Paceville is most amazing. Just off the 3 or 4 blocks of wasteland are nice restaurants that serve food late and luxury hotels where multi-million dollar yachts dock in human-made coves. Paceville -- and Malta in general -- is truly urban as these can coexist so close to each other.

By day Paceville is relatively quiet, with most of the clubs closed and workers power spraying the vomit and sweat and smeg into the drains, while people head to the beach to nurse hangovers in the killer sun, getting ready for another night, followed by another night, and another…

Note: Night pictures taken on a "quiet" Tuesday evening. Cross posted on Spacing Toronto.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

The unrelenting carving knife heat

Last night a hot wind started blowing in from the south and it hasn't stopped. It's coming from Libya or Tunisia, somewhere possibly hotter than here, and picking up dust and grit and covering everything with a fine film. Skin has a sheen of sweat on it at all times that the grit sticks, so you feel it all over. It's hot and it's unrelentingly hot, day and night. Today was 34 or maybe they said it feels like 39? I stopped checking and plug my ears when the radio tries to tell me. There is no relief except to get in the car and drive with the windows up and the air conditioning on full or find a café that has it on.

You can jump in the sea, but the sea temperature is about 27C so it feels like a bathtub (though a rather nice bathtub I won't complain about that). And now the dusty humid superheated wind blows in from the south and I wonder how the Maltese do not kill each other, let alone think clearly. They've developed some kind of deep resistance -- maybe it's the afternoon siesta -- and can deal with it but it reminds of the Raymond Chandler quote Joan Didion used when she wrote about the hot Santa Ana winds that blow down from the mountains for days and infiltrates Los Angeles with so much heat: "Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands necks." I'm keeping away from the knives but if I didn't have a flight back to Toronto on Wednesday I'm not sure I could handle a long future being covered in sweat just moments after drying off after a shower . It makes brains mush, and I forget everything important, except the heat, and dwell on the heat, and try and hide from it but it will not let up.

Danger everywhere

In Malta danger is never far away. Not from crime or some other urban spectre, but from everyday life. When I visit the island I'm always struck at how unforgiving a place it is, and wonder why I don't see more people with broken bones. Everything is made of stone with sharp angles. A fall or bump inevitably hurts, or worse.

I find when walking around Malta I need to keep my eyes on the ground instead of looking at the places I'm passing through because sidewalks routinely end, dropping down a foot or so to the pavement below. Back in Toronto, I can always trust the pavement or sidewalk will be there for me. Along an otherwise nice stretch of sidewalk here in Malta there might also be a large, unmarked hole in the middle waiting to twist an ankle or worse. It is simply the way it is here. When I go for runs in the evening I approach the streets of Malta the same way I would an off-road countryside run, ready to respond to unexpected bumps and rough terrain.

One of the few places to run or walk without concern is the promenades that run along the sea in many towns. This is where the sidewalk budget got used up, and the only things to dodge here are tourists and ice cream cones.

Children's playgrounds built not over sand or crushed stone but pavement.

A real shock to anybody used to a hyper-regulated society is a visit to a village festa. Malta is crazy for fireworks, and when a town is celebrating its Feast -- essentially a giant street party ostensibly for the patron saint of that church, but as much a secular event as it is religious -- fireworks will blast day and night. While the air fireworks tend to be launched just outside of town -- though in built up areas you can get rather close and watch -- it's the ground fireworks that are the most thrilling in terms of risk.

Giant elaborate pinwheels are set up in the town square, surrounded by people, waiting to be lit later in the evening. A small sign might ask people not to smoke nearby. When the man with the light wanders by to start the show, people make room, but not much, around the one that's about to go. Then sparks fly into shirts, on-fire cigar shaped missiles fly off the pinwheels and hit little girls' legs (their dads wave off their concern and cries) and thick sulpher smoke drifts through he crowd.

I'm not advocating changing any of this, because it is unlike anything I've experienced elsewhere. Elemental maybe, being so close to fire that has the means to reach out and poke you in the eye.

Driving, of course, is an entirely separate subject in Malta. There are apocryphal stories that even notoriously wild Italian drivers think Malta is a bit over the top. I like this too though as it's one of the most emotional and instinctive experiences I've ever had. You simply just go forward and things take care of themselves, somehow. You get on the roundabout, and get off, by pointing the car. And it works. I've tried to figure out how it works, and can't, but it does. Some anger at times at the ridiculous drivers, but when there are no rules (there are rules on the books they tell me) it's hard to get hung up on anything, and the (road, biking, pedestrian) rage that so often comes in Toronto seems unnecessary here.

There are, however, reminders at every curve that this kind of driving kills people. Roadside shrines are plentiful in Malta, many with flickering candles lit by vigilant relatives. You can also find shrines and memorials on the edge of cliffs, where people were too enthusiastic about the view.

Cross posted to Spacing Toronto.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Where does the present fit in between Maltese history?

In Malta there is so much history it risks snuffing out contemporary life. How do you live in and around the glory and ruins of 5000 years of human activity? A fun example was found yesterday afternoon at the Upper Barrakka Gardens where preparations were under way for a wine festival. Tables were being set up in between cannons on the the "saluting battery". If you think about it too much, the proximity of war and leisure seems a strange mix, but in practice it's beautiful, peaceful, and the view unparalleled. However, when I'm visiting Malta, I feel overloaded by "older" or "official" history, whether it's the Knights of Saint John, the ornate churches or something involving World War II. I have a harder time getting a sense of what Malta was like more recently, during the 1970s or 1980s. And what interesting things are Maltese artists, intellectuals and up to today? As a visitor, I have to work hard to find this kind of thing, but it's there. Malta is not alone, artists and creative people in places like Edinburgh and Paris have a hard time doing "new" things under the weight of all that beautiful history.

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Valletta's very urban streets

Like anybody who comes to Malta, I visit the capital Valletta a few times while here. There isn't much I need to go there for as I've seen and toured the landmarks on previous trips, and I don't want to buy anything, but it's "The City" as people on this very urban island call it, and to get your bearings you need to go to the centre of things a few times. It's a sort of smaller Renaissance version of Manhattan, a perfect grid laid out in roughly a rectangle on a rocky peninsula. However with the rather steep hills, it might be more aptly compared to the relentless grid of San Francisco that made no allowance for topography and kept the streets straight and the corners 90 degrees no matter the elevation. Valletta accommodates by having entire streets made of steps -- long and wide landings almost that might take two strides each -- big enough for a horse to climb (likely used in the time of the Knights who built this city). Like many European cities, it's a pleasure to be a pedestrian here, even if some of Malta's notoriously wild drivers regularly race down the narrow streets or park on the sidewalks.

I never make it to Valletta before 11 or noon because as hard as I try, I just can't get into the early-rising Maltese way, so by the time I get to The City it appears that a number of places have closed for either the day or the traditional early afternoon siesta. Most stores on Republic Street -- the "high street" -- stay open all day long however. On the side streets though many of the stores appear to be closed permanently, as even when I made it to Valletta by 11am the dusty gates and doors don't appear to have been opened recently. Malta has experienced it's own version of sprawl, and near-big-box stores and other large chains have moved onto the island and located outside of the city, meaning Valletta is no longer the main commercial hub. Shopping is decentralized and people can get what they need without entering this walled city. Thus, many parts of The City off the main streets have a run down and neglected look to them.

Valetta has much in common with Toronto neighbourhoods whose retail strips have seen better days, but are about to return. Valletta, traditionally a quiet ("near dead") city in the evening, is undergoing gentrification as its old buildings have become quite in demand with young professional Maltese (and with Malta's full participation in the EU and investment pressure from the Middle East, foreigners too) who are moving in, renovating, and driving up prices. It's likely these old storefronts won't remain vacant, dusty or quiet for long.

What I'll miss when Valletta changes is the old colonial signage that many of the independent stores used. I call it colonial because it reminds me of some of the signs used in Toronto's Little India neighbourhood (as well as pictures I've seen of India itself) and I suspect there must be a connection between these and the British Empire. Though the transformation of Valletta is not without its pressures and strains (culturally, financially), the urban bones of this places are exactly the kind of foundation (re)new(ed) great cities everywhere need. The trick will be keeping Valletta a centre for all Maltese and visitors, not just a playground for the affluent as Manhattan has become in many places.

Crossposted to Spacing Toronto.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Guest blogging by Shawn Micallef

It is my pleasure to introduce to you Shawn Micallef, a Toronto based-writer, who will be guest blogging here till Sunday. He is associate editor at Spacing Magazine, a web and print publication that covers the urban landscape from a public space angle. He is also co-founder of the location-based mobile phone documentary project [murmur] that records personal stories and memories and lets people hear those stories where they take place.

Shawn has an MA in political science and was a resident at the Canadian Film Centre's media lab where [murmur] was initially developed. Shawn's writing on civic life, architecture, urban design and culture has been found in The Globe and Mail, The Toronto Star, The National Post and Eye Weekly, where his "Stroll" column has explored many corners of Toronto on foot. His essays have been published in four books.

Shawn also teaches interactive design at the Ontario College of Art and Design and is a regular commentator on civic events and life in print, television and radio and has lectured on urban culture throughout North American and Europe. Shawn is second generation Maltese as his father's family emigrated from Msida to Canada in 1964, and happily returns to the island for an annual visit.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Yoga in Gozo

You have to be a right poseur on a holiday to Gozo says Lauren Booth in The Belfast Telegraph:

On the ferry from Malta to Gozo I had time to ponder how my family would cope with a holiday that was all about me. A Yogatraveller break, essentially a yoga course in an exotic location, does not allow for husbandly hangovers. Nor, as it turned out, would sleep-ins be part of the package.

Things started hopefully enough. Halfway between Gibraltar and Alexandria, Sicily and North Africa, Gozo has been at the crossroads of trade and battle routes since Odysseus was a lad. Our first glimpse of the island, whose name means "joy" in Castilian (the title given by the Aragonese in 1282), bought gasps of "oh wow" from my easily unimpressed family.

Dolphins frolicked beside the ferry as little fishing boats bobbed in an azure sea. High above on a rocky peak, the Lady of Lourdes church, her warm orange walls reddened by late afternoon sun, observed the terraced fields in supplication below. Maybe, just maybe, "mum's choice" of holiday would work out fine after all.

Our apartment, Ta Sbejha, was a plush, traditionally decorated complex on the hills above the village of Gharb. The arches and the stonework spoke volumes about the island's centuries of Arab rule.

That first evening we strolled into Gharb, enchanted by the giant prickly pears that line the country roads. As dusk fell, the only sounds came from sheep hidden behind the traditional houses – wonderful reminders of the best local delicacy, a white cheese covered in black pepper and preserved in oil...

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A previous engagement

A previous engagement is a Canadian film with Malta as a setting. It is currently showing at the Eden Cinemas. Jeannette Catsoulis wrote this review in The New York Times

More tired than the fantasy it promotes, “A Previous Engagement” aims at middle-aged women with the subtlety of a pitch for bladder-control medication. Take a frustrated wife and her sexually inept husband, add a dollop of temptation (a French accent can’t hurt), and plunk it all down in an exotic location.

The world may roll on, but the dreams of the everyday housewife are as predictable as the tides. When Julia (Juliet Stevenson), an uptight librarian, drags her stodgy husband, Jack (Daniel Stern), to Malta, the vacation is an excuse to rendezvous with her first love (Tcheky Karyo). Leaving Jack to fiddle with his cherished jigsaw puzzles, the erstwhile lovers bask in memories of transcendent sex and world-changing ambitions, but when Jack encounters a boozy divorcée (the marvelous Valerie Mahaffey), Julia feels the need to defend her territory. “Do you know how much laundry I’ve done?” she whines. Enough to wash away her senses, clearly.

Monday, August 04, 2008

New lease of life

Love affair with Malta leads to investments and new lease of life, from EasierProperty:

David Prizeman a former construction worker, who was originally from Dublin, first visited Malta back in 1990; in the same month that Tina Turner played a live concert there. It was to be the start of a long standing love affair with the island, that 10 years later led him to make his first property investment on the island.

Now permanently based in Malta, David has invested in another property, this time at Tigne Point, which is part of a 450 million Euro brown field regeneration programme offering panoramic views over the capital Valletta. Tigne Point is a premier lifestyle development combining residential, commercial and leisure facilities all within a 30 acre pedestrian car free zone.

David said, “My first investment was an apartment in Swieqi, which has served me well over the years. In fact I have just spent the last 6 months renovating this property into a four bedroom luxury maisonette with its own garden. However it was the Tigne Point development that caught my attention. A regeneration programme of this magnitude, in such a sought after location, ticked all of the boxes for my investment requirements. Knowing Malta as I now do, I would compare Tigne Point and the Sliema area to Ballsbridge in Dublin, an area renowned for good capital appreciation and superb letting potential.

Since I first visited Malta, the island has become far more accessible. In the last year alone, Ryan Air has increased direct flights from Dublin to three times a week. This in its self should give a good indication as to the growing popularity of the island. In fact Malta is becoming a home from home for me, as the number of Irish tourists and property investors are at an all time high. Further substance to this is a close friend of mine, Jackie Spain of JK Travel in Edenderry, Ireland who specialises in arranging Irish weddings on the island. She already has numerous bookings for 2009 and has never been so busy!”...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Online check-in

National airline Air Malta has made a new online check-in facility available to its passengers, from Justtheflight:

People travelling with or without baggage can check in online and print their boarding passes at home.Customers can also choose their seat on the aircraft through the web check-in facility, which will be available between 23 hours and two hours before departure time. On arrival at the airport, passengers with luggage should proceed to the drop-off web check-in counter to deposit their bags.

The service is available from Malta to EU countries and also from gateways including Gatwick Airport, Stansted Airport and Birmingham Airport to Malta.Joe Cappello, chief executive of Air Malta, said: "With web check-in Air Malta is continuing to invest and make use of innovative technology to enhance our customers' experience. "We are not only simplifying the check-in process but also saving valuable time [for] our passengers. "Flights to Malta are available from a number of UK hubs, including Manchester Airport, Edinburgh Airport and Leeds-Bradford Airport.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Triumphs and misfortunes

The weather in Malta during March was like this adventurous trip by the author of The Cellini Masterpiece, sunny at times and plain ugly at others:

..We were expected at the out-of-way but inexpensive guesthouse where we always stay, but our room was near the top level and, as in the story, the elevator wasn’t working. The Bellestrado in the book is actually the Soleado in disguise. Exhausted from lack of sleep, we puffed our way up the stairway and went to bed..

The next morning we were ready to start promoting the book. Even though we didn’t have a copy of it with us (they were all still at Gatwick) we had a few fliers in our backpacks. We decided we would visit every bookshop in Valletta to let the shop owners know that we were in town and that copies would be available from Agius (pronounced as ah jus in case you aren’t familiar with Maltese) and Agius Booksellers. The shops were cheery and smelled of fresh newsprint, but we found few of the purchasers present. The clerks were friendly and told me to come back tomorrow. One actually suggested a definite time. Little did we know that this was just a taste of the typical Malta business style, and that we would be gnawing off the ends of our fingers before the trip was over..

..We immediately headed for legendary Strait Street where the talk show was produced. In the old days Knights dueled each other on the cobblestones and ladies of the night came there to show off their wares. No one had any idea where we wanted to go, (numerical addresses mean nothing in Malta), but finally a pub owner pointed at a newer structure across the street. The building turned out to be a highlight of the trip. A dark entryway and hallway passed an iron gate. Beyond, a courtyard with hundreds of exposed pipes hissed and gave off a hint of methane..

..A woman who was a perfect Caterina from my novel treated me. She was tall, gorgeous, and had the bubbly personality to match and I immediately started to dream about the day when I make a movie out of the Cellini Masterpiece so I could cast her in the role. She gave me a prescription for an anti-inflammatory and painkiller and sent us on our way. Unfortunately, her prescriptions didn’t work and we were back at the hospital at four the next morning. The doctor on duty hospitalized me and I was given a powerful injection that finally relieved my agony. The next day I was to have an MRI.

Getting to my exam was cheaper by ambulance than by cab and the woman who rode with me was chatty. She told me how Maltese women hate the Russian women who were coming to the island. “We cook for our husbands,” she said in a disgusted voice, “we keep house for them and have their babies. Then these Russians come and steal them from us. And they only know one thing. It’s terrible.” I laughed so hard I didn’t need any pain medicine for the rest of the day.

The next day I was released in time for the book signing. We only sold a few copies but I was convinced that the distributor was genuinely interested in the book and we both felt that once it started making the rounds to the kiosks and shops, it would sell well with the tourists. Unfortunately the talk show didn’t pan out. Because we didn’t know the language we watched the entire two-and-a-half hour show in perplexed silence. It never appeared.
The Cellini Masterpiece by Raymond John - the penname of John Anderson - is available here. John spent more than 10 years as a reserve Intelligence Analyst with the US Naval Reserves and has visited Malta seven times.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Tribute to the Leader

The leader of the revolution receives the President of Malta, from the Jamaharija news agency:

The Leader of the Revolution received this afternoon President Edward Fenech Adami of Malta who arrived earlier for a visit to Gt Jamahiriya. President Adami paid tribute to the Leader, expressing his appreciation of his effort to promote relations between the two countries. The Maltese president told the Leader, Malta's membership of the European Union would not impediment the upgrading of friendly relations between Libya and Malta.

He voiced his satisfaction with the ongoing contacts between two countries over the exploitation of the joint continental shelf area for oil exploration, for the mutual benefit of both the Libyan and Maltese peoples.
More here