So lovely to be back here, the warm, caramel coloured buildings, that change according to the light through honey to bleached bone, the fireworks day and night, the friendliness of the people and the ability to speak English; this last encouraging us to having some modifications done – the swim ladder, a bimini to keep us in the shade while sailing and renewing the shameful plastic work in the deck house. The swim ladder will now be vertical and so easier to ascend – later we can put some teak steps on and a little platform to stand on and have a fresh water shower – oh the luxury – but not yet.
Buses in Malta are famous – some of them must be war time, well Andy’s youth at least. They have the old names on them - Bedford, Ford, Paxton, GB and Luton and inside, around the driver’s seat they are personalized. Andy says it used to be more so with evil eyes, crucifixes and saints hanging around all over the place to ensure a safe trip. Around the drivers’ seats are pasted slogans which vary from ‘only Jesus can save you’ to ‘No woman no cry’ and ‘ I love Julie Thompson’. They are so noisy, they rattle and bang and shake. When we got off the one from Mdina the air positively hummed with silence. The driver was on his mobile phone most of the journey. The only seat belt I have been asked to put on was in the delivery van from the supermarket which I was lucky enough to hijack as its last delivery of the day took me and my shopping back to the boat.
We just had to go to the Wine Festival in Hastings Gardens. The wines and food of Malta, Spain, Morocco and Italy were on offer here. We wandered the stalls listening to the music, watching the dancing while making up our minds which we would plump for. In the end we went Maltese and had a very nice chilled Merlot accompanied by Maltese sausage which we quaffed and ate on the enormously wide walls of the town overlooking the twinkling lights of the marina where the boat was moored and out to where two sets of fireworks were competing in colour and noise.
Luciano is our glorious eccentric Italian neighbour. He has a tiny boat that is usually squished between much bigger ones on this busy visitors’ quay and we have been intimate neighbours for over a week now. He has a yellow beach umbrella covering the cockpit and greets each morning on deck arms out to the sun, sometimes talking to himself, sometimes to his boat or to the cats that roam the rocks. His deeply brown body is usually clad only in his shreddies. When he gets hot he pours a bucket of water over himself. He is so quirky. He noticed I was reading a novel called Pompeii. Later he said to me ‘I see you reading an Indian book’ – blank look from me – ‘BOMBAY!!’ of course! and then he says, ‘ donta wan to tella you the enda, they alla die; God wins!’ He found this hysterically funny.
Later he was having a drink with us and telling us about the Greek national sport of beating octopus, when suddenly, with no warning, he slapped my knee hard, ‘morta mosca’ he declared pointing at the stunned fly on the deck but then it shook itself and flew off and he joyously declared it Lazarus! He is delightful. I just wish I could speak better Italian. He has an obsession with sex, tells us that women sing after having beena mada love to – I sing quite a lot and so when Andy comes on deck now Luciano applauds him!! He has a little mantra ‘Salvatore, Salvatore, fai l’amore tutto l’ore’ and believes that there is a Salvatore in every port lurking ready for lonely women and that when we get to Greece not to worry because there will be a Dimitri! Andy is wondering who will be there for him!
Today we waved goodbye to two lovely bleached blonde little girls, Isla and Maggie, who with parents Colin and Louise are having a great life sailing the med in their catamaran, Skyran, which means ‘to glitter brightly’ in Old Orkney Norn. Hope I’ve got that correct. It is registered in Granton, just over the water from Burntisland so it was nice to have another Scottish boat close to us even though neither boat has graced its home port. Hope we’ll catch up with them somewhere along the way.
The last two nights have seen a local festival happening here in Msida Creek. The streets had been on notice to be cleared for days. ‘Strictly no parking Sunday 27th June – all cars WILL be towed’; now another one has been pasted over the last ‘Strictly no parking Tuesday 29th June – all cars WILL be towed’ and so it will go on as the festival season continues. There was the usual bouncy castle and little train rides for the kids, people sat in chairs at tables and ate and drank watching the passing crowds. We saw the sea cadets assemble and a pipe band muster around them. In a lull between a singer and a jazz band they set off marching smartly to the tune of ‘A Scottish soldier’ “There was a sojer, a Scottish sojer who wandered far away and sojered far away” – ah.............brought a tear to my eye. But that was it, a brief burst and they were gone and never reappeared.
The highlight for us was a variation on the greasy pole challenge. There is a greased pole, set at an angle and jutting out over the water. At the end is a flag. Young men, proving themselves to the girls no doubt, take a run up the pole to secure the flag. I could hardly bear to watch. One after another they ran up, wavered, hovered and tottered, making a wild lurch towards the flag before dropping into the water with various degrees of control. We only saw one guy succeed and many hobbling painfully out of the water.
Next stop Greece where we think we will remain for enough time for everyone who wants to come, to come!
Jinti - Msida, Malta, 28 June 2010