We noticed a login to your account @manna_nectar_ambrosia from a new device. Was this you?

Well, actually, it was, and it wasn’t. I hate to break it to you, but when you read this, I will have gone back to where I came from.

You know the double statue of Nyuserre?

You know Nimrud’s Striding Sphinxes?

You know The Sanxing [Fu, Lu, and Shou]?

You know the opal statue of Lakshmi and Ganesha copulating, unearthed last year in Australia?

Well, so do I — I actually crafted them myself. So, you see, since in my universe we have the decimal system, not imperial measurements, I had to come back to create my fifth opus, the one to beat them all!

So, ladies and laddies, here you are: The Leonine Seraphim, at the entrance of Shin-au-av in Death Valley in the Mojave Desert.

You are seeing them now, because I arranged for a temporal shift, to keep them hidden until I was spaceborne and well out of your spatial light cone.

In order to do this, I had to send my clone to access my e-mail account from my go-to Base Office in Malta, which everybody knows is what remains of Atlantis.

I needed to hack into the records of the Thorjan Empire, so that I could make the statues enough like those that were destroyed in The Great Flood, to confound archaeologists.

Then, I had to coordinate the tectonic plates to cause the tsunami that would sweep away the sand from where I had hidden the statues. It’s easy, when you are a whiz at Applied Mathematics.

Lo and behold! All the world’s media was taken aback that such an opus had lain, well, stood actually, hidden for all these years. They can’t identify the stone, they can’t hydrocarbon-date it, and they can’t place the style.

My job is done.

The Prisoner



Hey, you, out there; you think you know everything, but you are misinformed.


Just because you watch re-runs of Prisoners, or the dubbed version of Santa Monika, you don’t even begin to know what life is like behind bars.


Oh yes, the dramas about favouritism, butches and Nellies, and physical and psychological violence do exist. The script-writers have to provide colourful back-stories to explain why the motley assembly of actresses portray us inmates. But when the cameras stop rolling, your pin-up girls go home to their hot cocoa and more.


Nobody tells us to take five; if we act up, they just remind us that solitary is only a warden’s whim away. To the blazes with human rights; we signed them away when we broke the law.


Only one more day to go.


Six months ago, we’d got a new librarian. Right place, wrong time? Or was it wrong place, right time? She seemed to be harbouring a secret.


I was like that, once. A quarter of a century ago. Except that then, I had been pregnant. The father of my child told me that he had only seduced me because his pals had dared him to do so. He said that I flattered myself to think that he would really fall for Miss Goody Two-Shoes (oh, how that jibe hurt!).


There was no one else, he said; it was just that he did not want to be bogged down with a partner and child. In those days, you did what your parents told you to do. Dad made me go to Gozo to an aunt’s house. My child was, as they told me, stillborn.


I wanted to prove myself. I went to University and got a first class degree, a Master’s and then a doctorate while still working, hell-bent on erasing my sorry past. All along, I wrote as if my life depended upon it – perhaps it did.  My pot-boilers, under a different name, kept me in clover. People would be shocked to know that the same person who wrote textbooks and treatises also authored hardcore erotica.


On his deathbed, my father confessed. My child had not died; she was given up for adoption to a couple who would have gone their separate ways had it not been for his intervention. An Elestoplast child, go figure. He said I ought to count myself lucky that my child was, as he crassly put it, sold into a better life than I could ever give her. That is when I lost it. The judge said he could not understand why I was such an ingrate; after all, my father had acted to the best of his ability. He had saved me from the stigma of single parenthood, and my child from the shame of having “unknown father” on her birth certificate.  I had to be restrained. My sentence was harsher because I had shown contempt of court.


I kept writing throughout my stretch. The academia was easy to get past the guards. Anything else required a battle plan.


Our new librarian had probably been warned about me; I noticed she gave me several wary sidelong glances as she pushed the tray with books along the common room floor. So I gained her trust little by little; and discovered she was familiar with my educational works and boy, was she impressed! I did not mention my pen name, lest I scare her off.


We became friends; and I know she’s going to miss me when I leave, tomorrow. Her eyes are aquamarine with golden flecks. Just like her father’s.

“Oh, How Sad I Am!”




Nothing ever turns out right for me!

Inhale deeply and noisily. Groan. Grimace to show how miserable you are.

If this were a scene from a play, the script would read “sighs and lamentations”. It would have been our cue to say, in a concerned voice “Oh, poor soul, long-suffering, self-denying Romilda! What is it that’s bothering you? Shall I make you a cup of? Go and put your feet up; I shall see to what needs to be done, myself…”

Yet this is a phenomenon of everyday life. It would seem that there is a club to which people who actually like being depressed, belong. And like any organization, they have a set of regulations.

  1. Make sure you watch all the news bulletins on all the television stations you can. Tis keeps you informed of all accidents and earthquakes, and asteroids that explode when they come into contact with in the atmosphere, so you can speak knowledgeably of them.
  2. Spend long hours on social sites, especially Facebook. Thus, can you envy people who bought a new car, those who have gone on a trip, and those who have gobbled up a dozen (Maltese) cheesecakes. And there you are, moping within the same old four walls…
  3. Learn how to wreak revenge. If someone did you wrong, tell all the world, albeit sotto voce so that each person thinks he is your only confidante. Then raise your voice and say that today respect no longer exists.
  4. Contaminate others. Everyone knows that a Bad Mood Disease infects others more rapidly than Smile Syndrome. So like those people who clean the house before the cleaning lady calls, so that she does not gossip about them, make sure you always have something about which to grumble.
  5. Weigh yourself often, and go at least once a month to the doctor for a check-up. After all, if you lost weight, you might have got diabetes, or a thyroid condition – or maybe you are pregnant.
  6. Eat junk. In summer, who can be bothered to stand in front of the stove to cook? Who has time for that, anyway? So what if the garbage you eat give you indigestion? You’ll have something cut and dried about which to grumble. Indeed, such a diet, high in omega 6 and omega 3 low, creates a substantial disruption in the nerve functions. Who cares?
  7. Be negative. Why smile if it’s sunny? That kind of weather makes you feel dizzy, and will give you cancer. Why smile if it rains? Now everyone will be leaving footprints all over the clean floor, and the clothes will take forever to dry.
  8. Don’t get enough sleep. Otherwise, how can you cope with everything, seeing that nobody else but you does anything that need to be done? This is guaranteed to make you even more of an expert grumbler.

It is high time that we realise that we are responsible for our moods. We should not be saying “you make me sad / angry / mad / upset”. Yet this does mean that if we see a member of the aforementioned Club in need, we are not to nurture and help this person, if need be.

Let’s make it our mission to adopt them, albeit surreptitiously, and lead them away from despondency, depression, despair, and dejection.

Teach them to:

  1. Be positive. When you do something that is enjoyable, the body responds by creating chemicals that heighten your pleasure. Whether it is reading a book, seeing a film, sewing, knitting or doing crochet, the body’s reaction helps beat the temptation to grumble, as tends to happen in an idle and empty life.
  2. Have values. Material possessions will never make you totally content. You can allow your life experiences to make you or mar you. Be just and fair with everyone.
  3. Do volunteering. Show them what a wonderful thing it is to donate your time and talents, and to expect nothing in return – not even thanks. I know that there are places where, if you are not part of a clique, you cannot do this – but there are hundreds of others where everyone may lend a hand.
  4. Learn the art of appreciation. When you try and seek out the good, and make an effort to see the best in the other person, and in the situations obtaining, you will be a shining light unto others.
  5. Be authentic. When you lie, it weighs heavy on your mind. You fear that someone will suss you out. If you double-deal, it may come out even when you are not present somewhere, and someone mentions your name. This worry is extraneous – don’t go there.
  6. Love. There are things, chores that must necessarily be done… by us. So why not bite the bullet and smile, and get on with it?

And you – what do you think about this?

Isma’ Naqra!


Jigsaw Puzzle


Mela darba, m’ilux wisq, Chief tat-Tribu Lakota kien mistieden Manhattan għal xi taħdidiet.

Ħin minnhom, qal lir-rapreżentant ta’ Ithaca li xtaq idur naqra mal-belt, u dan wegħdu li kif tispiċċa s-sessjoni ta’ filgħodu, jmorru jħufu ‘l hawn u ‘l hinn.

Hekk għamlu, u x’hin waslu Times Square kien għoddu sar nofisinhar. It-toroq kienu mimlija nies, għax kien il-ħin tal-brejk tagħhom. Karozzi jpaqpqu, tat-taxi jieħdu kull brejk li jġiegħel lir-roti jewrżqu… nies jitkellmu… sireni tal-pulizija… radjijiet ta-ħwienet… ħsejjes ma jaqtgħu xejn.

F’daqqa waħda, iċ-Chief waqqaf lil sieħbu u qallu “Isma’! Werżieq!”

L-ieħor ħasbu qed jiċċajta. “U mela, u żgur!” qallu.

“Ieqaf naqra. Ikkonċentra.”

“U ejja. Tgħidlix li f’dan l-istrbju kollu, int qed tisma tisma’ werżieq?”

“Iva. U jekk tagħmel moħħok hem, int ukoll tista’ tisimgħu. Ara, agħalaq għajnejk.”

Bilkemm ma hasibx, l-ieħor, li kien hem xi Candid Camera tiġbed xi filmat. Imma xorta għalaq għajnejh, biex ikompli ma’ dik li ħaseb li kienet ħlieqa.

U tablhaqq, meta għalaq għajnejh u qagħad jisma’ bir-reqqa, ir-raġel minn Ithaca sema’ tisfira helwa. Iċ-Chief sadanittant kien qed isawwar rasu ‘l hawn u ‘l hinn, jgħolli geddumu, u jerġa’ jniżżlu.

F’daqqa waħda, mexa lejn hawt tas-siment big fejn kien hemm arbuxell daqshiex. Dar dawra miegħu. Ipponta b’subgħajh. “Ara fejn hu…” qal lill sieħbu, u dan resaq biex jara.

“Inkredibbli! Int għandek widnejk bħal ta’ Superman!”

“Le, ta. Widnejja bħal tiegħek u bħal ta’ kulħadd. Imma jien tgħallimt minn meta kont żgħir li bħal insodd widnejja għall-istorbju u fl-istess hin, niftagħhom għal dak li hu importanti…”


“Iva. Ara, ħa nurik xi ħaġa…”

U hawn, iċ-Chief daħħal idu fil-but tal-qalziet, u ħareġ ftit żgħar. Immira lejn arblu, u tefagħhom. Laqat sewwa, u il-muniti għamlu ħoss metalliku.

Ma ngħidilkomx kemm nies f’dik it-triq iffullata waqfu biex iħarsu lejn mnejn kien ġie l-ħoss tal-flus. Dan ġara għaliex għalihom, il-ħoss tal-flus jinstabtu ma’ arblu ma kienx wieħed li jisimgħu is-soltu… u forsi ukoll għax għalihom il-flus kienu “imprtanti”.

“X’kull waħa!” qal ir-raġel.

“Iva. Dan kollu juri li kulħadd għandu il-prijoritajiet!”

Min għandu kelb, jew qattus, jaf kemm il-darba, filli ma jkunu jidhru imkien, u filli x’hin tiftaħ bott tal-ikel, issibhom ġew jiġru hdejn saqajk. Jista’ mhux iun hem il-ħoss tar-radju għaddej… xorta jisimgħuh.

U forsi int, meta l-mamà tgħidlek biex tmur tonxor, ma tismagħhiex, mma meta tgħidlek, “Ejja, qalbi, ħa mmorru għandi in-nanna…” tant tinżel it-taraġ tiġri li tkun ħa toħodha għal wiċċek.

X’hinu importanti għalik? Għal liema ħsejjes toqgħod attent?

Ġieli labtuha dik il-logħba li fiha jkun hem xi ħaġa f’kaxxa, u mill-ħsejjes li tagħmel hi u taħbat mal-ġnun, tipprovaw taqtgħu x’hini?

Jien naħseb li kultant, mhux għax ma nkunux smajna dak li qed jiġri madwarna, iżda għax ma nkunux attenti, jew forsi għax ma jimpurtaniex.

U ma ninsewx ukoll li kultant, suppost li tant inkunu “għassa” ta’ sħabna, fsens tajjeb, m’għandniex xi ngħidu, li suppost li anki meta ma jkellmuniex, nisimgħu il-bżonnijiet tagħhom.

U intom… x’tahsbu?

Fleur u Lee u T-Torta

“Għandi ġuħ ta’ nagħma,” qal Lee, filwaqt li għorok żaqqu.
“U ajma, int!” qaltlu n-nanna Kitty. “Għajnejk ikbar minn żaqqek. Kumbinazzjoni il-bieraħ għamilt torta tal-lampuki, u billi kont naf li ġejjin intom, għamiltha fid-dixx il-kbir biex jibqgħali biċċa għalikom.”
“Isma’ imma għadu l-ħin, tafux.Illum suppost sawm.Naf li aħna għadna żgħar, imma billi nagħmlu sagrifiċċju…” qalet Fleur, li dejjem kienet tkun trid kollox kif imiss. “Mela fil-ħdax ta’ filgħodu ħin li tiekol it-torta?”
“Anqas li ser taqa’ d-dinja jekk insaħħanlu biċċa issa, ruħi qalbi!” tbissmet in-nanna. U fis marret fil-kċina biex tħejji l-platt għal Lee.
“Mur ara, billi niekol issa flok f’nofsinhar. Ma nafx għalfejn dejjem tfittex ix-xagħra fl-għaġina int, ajma…” qal lil oħtu, u għajjibha.
Mill-kċina bdiet ġejja riħa taqsam il-qlub. “Trid nagħasrlek żewġ larinġiet?” staqsietu n-nanna, meta qagħad mal-mejda. “Ma ngħidlekx le…” qal it-tifel. Fleur kompliet taparsi taqra, imma xtaqet li kienet gidmet ilsienha u ma qalet xejn dwar il-ħinijiet li fihom suppost isir l-ikel, għax ir-riħa fetħitilha l-aptit. 

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Pique on Earth : Please Do Not Wreck the Halls!



The term ‘extended family’ is often spoken of with a frisson of aversion, if not utter hostility.

It’s not only in dysfunctional families that sozzled uncles will carry a tatty piece of plastic mistletoe in their pockets, hoping to catch you unawares as they dangle it over your head and claim their prize.

Christmas is a time for joy and peace to all mankind. It is also a time for zinger migraine and jaws that ache from false smiles. Last year, righteous indignation gave way to teeth-clenching wrath when you realised this. But this year, it will be different!

1. Aromatherapy candles and/or essential oils diffusers will keep the atmosphere calm, and the air fragrant.

2. Be part of a support group of people who can connect via some device, without those present being aware of it. Alternatively, keep a journal.

3. Christmastide is an excuse to get rid of clutter. Give away what you do not use, and try and keep flat surfaces clear of what does not belong there. This gives you something to do rather than fidget.

4. Do not depend upon your hosts for entertainment – especially if you know they cheat at cards. Refuse match-making ruses unless you actually know who your blind date is, and you like them.

5. Food is an integral part of the festivities. Eat small helpings of what is available, rather than inviting comments about finicky diners. If you are the cook, don’t force anyone to eat; if they feel sick they will blame you.

6. Gifts may often be packaged revenge. Rise above comparing what you spent with the returns you got for it, and remember that charity shops appreciate donations.

7. If you are utilising the spare room, make sure that everything is ready, well before the guests arrive. That way you will not have to bustle about finding clean sheets and relatively new towels.

8. In most families there are bound to be different ideology, parenting, fashion, culinary and political beliefs, apart from personal ill-feeling. Be thankful that this, too, shall pass.

9. It is considered bad form to spend a visit with your nose in a book; but if you take some kind of handcraft with you, the attitude is different, since you can throw monosyllables into the conversation.

10. Listen to music or read something inspirational before you sleep, if your visit, or that of people inside your house, lasts overnight or more. Don’t rely on air-conditioned air all the time.

11. Never trust alcohol to relax you. It loosens the tongue, makes you over-eat, and gives you a hangover.

12. Pack gifts before you begin the serious cooking. You will have one less thing to worry about.

13. React immediately if you think people have violated your privacy. Specify that you appreciate a person’s desire to help, but insist, gently, that you will not talk about that particular topic.

14. Rehearse possible answers to embarrassing questions. You do not have to answer personal questions. Indicate this clearly.

15. Remember your trainers. When the implied or actual insults stifle you, excuse yourself politely and go for a walk.

16. Should you feel cornered, deflect people’s attention. A friend had a habit of spilling red wine on pristine tablecloths each time she was asked why she had not yet “settled down”. Nobody asks her that, now.

17. Take a ten-minute break of “doing nothing” each day. Focus on each part of your body, from the toes up. Feel the pressure, strain and anxiety evaporate from the top of your head.

18. Tone down your expectations, and remember that Christmas is actually included in the Holmes-Rahe Social Readjustment Ratings Scale.

19. When you are visiting, especially if staying over, make sure you clarify your E.T.A. and the day and time you will be leaving. Just make sure you have transport ready.

20. Whenever it’s your turn to entertain, make your own rules. Banish anyone who lights up out into the street. You don’t want to be washing curtains and quilts after you’ve just done them for the Season, because they reek of bird-cage bottoms.



River Deep, Mountain High…



We noticed a login to your account @manna_nectar_ambrosia from a new device. Was this you?

Well, actually, it was, and it wasn’t. I hate to break it to you, but when you read this, I will have gone  back to where I came from.

You know the double statue of Nyuserre?

You know Nimrud’s Striding Sphinxes?

You know The Sanxing [Fu, Lu, and Shou]?

You know the opal statue of Lakshmi and Ganesha copulating, unearthed last year in Australia?

Well, so do I – I actually crafted them myself. So, you see, since in my universe we have the decimal system, not imperial measurements, I had to come back to create my fifth opus, the one to beat them all!

So, ladies and laddies, here you are: The Leonine Seraphim, at the entrance of Shin-au-av in Death Valley in the Mojave Desert.

You are seeing them now, because I arranged for a temporal shift, to keep them hidden until I was spaceborne and well out of your spatial light cone.

In order to do this, I had to send my clone to access my e-mail account from my go-to Base Office in Malta, which everybody knows is what remains of Atlantis.

I needed to hack into the records of the Thorjan Empire, so that I could make the statues enough like those that were destroyed in The Great Flood, to confound archaeologists.

Then, I had to co-ordinate the tectonic plates to cause the tsunami that would sweep away the sand from where I had hidden the statues. It’s easy, when you are a whizz at Applied Mathematics.

Lo and behold! All the world’s media was taken aback that such an opus had lain, well, stood actually, hidden for all these years. They can’t identify the stone, they can’t hydrocarbon-date it, and they can’t place the style.

My job is done.


Horns of a goat and hooves of ram;
Stuffs of lore, since time began.
Birdsfoot trefoil, nose of dog
Dybbuk’s trap in quicksand hog.
Lesser spearwort, cotton grass,
Murky waters, smooth as glass.
Wetlands, grasslands, Everglades…
Therein lie the roads to Hades
Anise, hyssop, bergamot;
Throw them in the boiling pot…
Canine fur and ogre ears;
Damned embodiment of fears…
Biting stonecrop, sedge and reed;
Potion’s done and jinx decreed…
“Oh, do shut up! There will be hell to pay if ma comes and the chores aren’t done.”
“An idle brain is the devil’s workshop, so I scribble down my rhymes before I forget them.”
“Said devil can cite Scripture for his own purpose. Put that pen down and git.”
“Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t know.”
“He who sups with the devil should have a long spoon.
“The devil is in the details, natch!”
“Mum’s new boyfriend will be along any minute.”
“You think that my spell won’t work?”
Phone rings…
“Hello? Please tell your ma I’m not coming. I’m very sick, with a high fever. The doctor says it’s the worse reaction to Devil’s Ivy he’s ever seen; not that I remember touching it!”

Death By Proxy


It all began when I was standing at the sink.

No, no, I tell a lie. It all began much before that; even before there was a power outage.

Probably, it began the moment I set eyes on my (ex!) husband – but for the sake of this story, let’s just say that it began after supper.

Just for the record, the first time we met he’d arranged my bangs and the collar of my blouse “just the way he liked them”, and, mea culpa, I never realised it was a symptom of the way that he would try to fix my life – and me – from that moment on. I was enthralled by his attention. The snide comments and hostile criticism came later.

But I digress.

I had spent the morning and part of the afternoon in bed engrossed in the first two books of different series I had won on a television Trivia Quiz – you know, the ones where they ask questions about obscure topics…such as what the name of the character Liam Neeson played in Taken, was.

War ‘n’ Wit and Tex, the Witch Boy had…well, bewitched me.

It was getting too dark for me to see to read – and when I went to switch on the bedside lamp I realised that not only was it 5.00 pm, but there was no electricity.

I had not even had breakfast, go figure prepared dinner – and my (ex!) husband was due home in two hours.

I realised I would have to move fast to avoid the usual Grumpy Cat running commentary.

I leapt out of bed and whipped the quilt into place. I half-filled a pot with water, chucked in one chicken and one Italian herbs stock cube, some brandy, a knob of butter, the four turkey drumsticks that had been soaking overnight in marinade, a packet of mixed frozen vegetables, and a handful of frozen onion rings. Then I prepared a bowl of instant mashed potatoes, and chopped up some cherry tomatoes, olives, and garlic cloves, and doused them in olive oil (I would drain them just before serving).

The dusk and the street light gave me just enough light to work.

I put some water and disinfectant in a bucket and went over the floors with a cloth wrapped around a squeegee, and switched on the ceiling fans.

While the food cooked and the floor dried, I changed out of my pyjamas, brushed my hair and pulled it back in a pony-tail, washed and flossed my teeth, put the books away, and leapt down the stairs three at a time.

I got out the votive candles that I’d bought for the Christmas centrepiece and lit them. They made eerie shadows dance on the walls, and of course I could not help playing about with my fingers to make some shadow animals.

My (ex!) husband always insisted that I do the newspaper crossword, daily, to “work my sloth-brain”, as he so courteously put it. So I took it out and called my genius friend Samantha to give me the solutions, as I usually did; I barter with her by keeping her kids while she is with her lover. I left out a couple of easy ones, so I would be able to act as if I had just thought of them while we were having dinner. I was – am – smug about the fact that my acting prowess never failed to take my husband in.

I grabbed the sponge to give my (ex!) husband’s breakfast mug and cereal bowl a quick rub-and-rinse, but as soon as I opened the kitchen sink tap, I screamed.

I felt as if someone had taken a steel sledge-hammer to my knuckles; not all of them, just six out of ten. My joints swelled, and my fingers throbbed and turned purple.

With tears pouring down my cheeks and biting my lower and upper lips alternately, I finished the task and sat down in front of the aforesaid crossword, barely able to hold the pencil… just in time, because the next moment, my (ex!) husband’s key turned in the lock.

I went to greet him, and he kissed me perfunctorily – as he usually did, and sniffed the air – and he likewise usually did. Smells good. But you’ve put in too much onion. I said it in my mind before he actually said it out loud, word-for-word, in exactly the same intonation.

He whipped off his jacket and draped it over the chair, and undid his tie, positioning it exactly over the middle of the jacket. Creature of habit, my (ex!) husband.

He had not even noticed my fingers. I showed them to him and of course, he assumed it was my clumsiness that had injured me. I told him what had happened, and he said that after he ate, he would take me to the clinic. Selfish sonofabitch.

He sat at table, and as he expected me to do, I asked about his day so he could boast about his wheeling and dealing. I was sick and tired of this charade – but it suited me, because I quite liked being the Lady of the Manor and not having to go out to work.

He happened to glance at the crossword, and pursed his lips. Not ready yet? I said it to myself before he did. “Oh!” I said, gingerly picking up the pencil, pincer-style like a Kindergartner, and dashing off the last five words without even looking at the clues, “I’ve been thinking about them while I fixed dinner…”

So, we went to the Clinic and the doctor said it was Gardner-Diamond syndrome. My (ex!) husband asked him – twice – whether I could have hurt myself shutting a drawer because she is so clumsy… and the doctor explained patiently how veins sometimes rupture spontaneously, and the red blood cells cause the contusions, and the swellings, and the pain.

The doctor said I must support each injured finger by taping it to the one next to it, and avoid extremes of temperature, and to wear mittens if possible.

We returned home, and the rest of the evening passed as it usually did – except for the part where he parked himself in front of the television set because we had wasted the time at the Clinic. Sex, showers, and bed. Did he care that I was in pain? Did he heck. The power came back at around midnight.

The throbbing pain kept me from sleeping, despite the analgesic balm I had rubbed on my fingers (and the whiskey I’d drunk).

As I sometimes did, to escape from my dreary existence, I let my imagination run riot. I idly toyed with the idea of drawing my rouge blood cells out with a syringe… and injecting them into the butt of my sleeping (ex!) husband, to create enough pain so he would not be able to sit down for a month of Sundays.

Ah! This would be the other meaning of Blood Doping, as per articles with facetious titles such as If I Did a Bag of Lance Armstrong’s Blood, Could I Bike up a Mountain? (without the rider ‘and what if said blood were spiked?’)…

I concocted plans to inject him with air, to create an embolism. Probably, though, I’d be rumbled, if they decided to do an autopsy, because he did not have a dickey heart. Maybe I could kill him with insulin…Reversal of Fortune style, but I’d make sure my approach would work. But there was nobody, of all my friends who have diabetes, whom I could trust to give me a pre-drawn syringe, and keep mum about it. Oh, to delegate the whole enchilada to a hit-man. Or a cat’s-paw.

And that’s when the idea hit me. My (ex!) husband usually spent Saturdays entrenched in the greenhouse, fiddling about with his beloved orchids. He sold each bloom at about €50 a pop. Not because he needed the money, but just because he could.

It was Monday. Time enough. Maybe… My plan was sketchy…it was a long shot…it might not work… but it was worth a try. No one would suspect me, what with my quasi-disabled hands and restricted movement-span.

When replenishing my kitchen freezer from the one in the basement, I had noticed a wasps’s nest at one corner of the ceiling. They’d probably been grateful for the box of newspapers I saved for the once-a-month recycling collection, because it meant they did not have to forage far for material with which to build it.

I poured a good measure of honey inside a big bin bag, and made my way downstairs. There were no wasps flying about, and I heaved a sigh of relief. I manoeuvred a table just under the nest, keeping one eye open for the insects, and placed a chair on the table.

Then, I cautiously climbed on the table, and stood on tiptoe, on the chair, placing the opening of the bag over the nest. I knew I was risking a broken leg or two, but I was on an adrenaline high and nothing could stop me. Using the outside of the bag to shield my hands (I thought it would be better not to use gloves, since there would be some kind of residue on them), I detached the nest from its anchors and nudged it into the bag.

There was such an angry surge of buzzing that I nearly overbalanced. Apparently, the wasps were quick to notice the honey, and they quietened down almost immediately.

As best I could, I held on to the neck of the pulsating, droning bag while putting the furniture in its place again.

Next stop: The Greenhouse.

I took the bag and went in through the back door, just in case one of the neighbours was looking out of a window; and anyway, the orchids were nearer there than the front entrance.

Gently, very gently, I upended the bag and out rolled the nest, sticky with honey. Some of the wasps had died a sweet death by drowning – alas, there was nothing I could do about that. The others appeared lethargic. I hoped they would recover in time to carry out their duty.

I have always been taught that unless you act aggressively towards wasps, they will not attack you. So I kept calm when some of them flew toward me to examine me; and true enough, I was not stung.

I grasped the bottom of the bag and turned it inside out, making sure that no wasps were stuck to the plastic, turned it back sticky side in, and folded it into an oblong small enough to fit into my jeans pocket. I left the greenhouse, walking backward, in slow movements, just in case, and nonchalantly walked around two blocks, hands in pockets – discarding the bag into the street litter bin farthest from the house.

The strain nearly killed me.

Just as the wasps killed my (ex!) husband.

Around the time he left for the greenhouse, as I had planned, I was standing, not a hair out of place, at the delicatessen counter at the supermarket, selecting cheeses for the weekend, as I always did.

It had been my original plan to walk back casually, do some light chores, and then call him on the intercom to say that dinner was in ten minutes. I had stopped scheming at that point, since I would then play it on the wing, so it would appear to be a spontaneous thing.

However, my plan was dashed when one of the neighbours met me halfway. She had been running, and her words came out in between her gasps for air. Wasps… husband… urgent… stings… come… ambulance… swell… heart-attack…

I really should be nominated for an Academy Award.

I grabbed her by the arm and shook her, asking her to explain what she was on about. Taking a deep breath, she said that she had heard shouting and the sounds of breaking glass, and had run out of the house just in time to see my (ex!) husband reeling about in the middle of the street, wheezing and lurching, holding a hand to his throat. His face and hands were covered with angry red welts. With great difficulty, he had whispered my name and “supermarket”.

She had pounded on the door of another neighbour, explained the situation and told her to call for an ambulance, and ran to fetch me. It had been faster and easier than I thought it would be. Indeed, I later found out that wasps do not die after stinging someone, since their stingers are not barbed like those of bees, and are therefore not pulled out of their bodies when they attack.

I was told that probably, since the attack on my (ex!) husband happened in an enclosed space, the whole nest had been mobilised to sting. In these cases, unless antihistamine treatment is given within minutes, the victim dies of severe anaphylactic shock.

It could be that he had swatted one of the insects, and it had released a pheromone that warned the others that there was a threat, and caused them to attack him.

I will never know. Not that I want to. The Coroner’s Report states “death by misadventure”.


Christmas legends: Part 3


The legend of the donkey’s bray

After hiding in Egypt for some years, Joseph decided to move his family back to Nazareth. During the night they camped along the side of the road. One night while they slept, their donkey heard the soldiers’ horses coming from far away, almost before they were visible as a tiny spevck. Afraid that the soldiers were coming to kill Jesus, the donkey neighed to wake Joseph. He neighed and neighed, again and again, but his voice was just too soft to wake the sleepers. Finally, as the soldiers approached, the donkey prayed for a loud voice to wake the family. When he neighed again, he was rewarded with the loud bray such as donkeys have had ever since.

The legend of the rosemary

When Jesus was born, the rosemary was just a plain green plant without fragrance or blossom. One day as the holy family travelled to Egypt, Mary stopped to wash some of the baby’s clothes in a stream. Looking about for something to hang the little garments on to dry, Mary chose the rosemary bush and hung Jesus’ clothes upon it. As Mary gathered the dry clothes together, she blessed the rosemary with blue flowers to match the colour of her own cloak and a spicy fragrance as a remembrance of Christ’s garments.

The legend of the camel’s hump

In order to visit the newborn king, the three wise men travelled with a caravan across many miles of desert. Travelling as quickly as they could, to reach the baby before the star departed, they neglected to carry enough water for both man and beast. The wise men asked the camels to travel without water until the end of their journey so they might reach the baby in time.The camels agreed to do this, and raced across the desert without rest or water. When they finally reached the stable, the camels worshipped the baby and thanked God for giving them the strength for their waterless journey. Drinking their fill from the stable’s trough, the camels were rewarded with humps to keep them from thirsting in the desert in the future.