Tomorrow’s Word

“I want to die!” the child sobbed, rivulets of tears streaming down his chubby cheeks.
It’s not often that children step into the path of an oncoming bike, holding out the palm of their hand as a traffic warden would. Had he had run away from home after a hiding?
This was not the time to offer platitudes. I got off the bike and hugged him, then rummaged in my backpack to get him a tissue. I also fished out a bottle of orange juice, which he gulped thirstily, licking his lips and then wiping them with the back of his hand when he’d finished.
“Thank you,” he said, unfathomable pain in his eyes. “Tell me about it?” “Lean your bike against the wall, and let’s sit down on the kerb, and I’ll tell you!” he said, with a quiet authority that bewildered me. I put it down to what I had assumed to be a tough life – maybe he had younger siblings, and he was obliged to care for them.
“I almost died three times, you know…” he said, and I swiveled round to look at him. “Yes, I did, too. The first time, I fell out of my cot. The second time, I was run over by a car. The third time, the neighbours’ pit-bulls mauled me so badly the parents decided to switch off the life-support system, after I’d spent a week in hospital.”
I noticed his quaint use of the word “the” with ‘parents’ – but I didn’t comment. This child would give Charles Dickens a run for his money any day, so precocious and eloquent was he. “So, I said, half perturbed, half amused, “why is it you want to die a fourth time?” “Third!” he exclaimed.
“It might not be that difficult for you to understand…” he said, his eyes delving deep into my soul. “As a writer, you must have heard of re-incarnation.” “How…?” I asked. “I don’t have time to explain. I just know. This time, I am finding it extremely difficult to walk towards the Light” (the way he said it gave the word an upper case initial). “I cannot seem to find the right Path” (ditto).
“So, what do you want from me?” I asked him. “Nothing, really. Nothing and everything. I want you to go to this address (and here he dug his tiny hand deep into the pocket of his jeans and drew out a crumpled sheet of paper, smoothing it on his thigh) and give this to the parents so they can share it with the neighbours. Only then will I be free. I cannot go myself. Don’t ask questions. Please.”
I took the paper from his hand, and glanced up as a shadow fell upon me. “Exercise whacked you out then?” sniggered my friend. “No, I was just…” but when I looked to my left, the boy was nowhere to be seen.

The Mistress At Christmas

Lucienne: When I was Miss Goody Two-Shoes, I wondered how a person who has stolen someone else’s husband could be so blasé and supercilious about it.
My father would probably have a heart attack if he found out what I’m doing. Since mum died, 10 years ago, I know he has dated – but he has never brought a woman home…he’s that strait-laced.
It’s an addiction – I cannot live with him, but I cannot live without him. We work in the same building, for different companies, so I was fated to meet him. As they say, I chased him till he caught me.
People accuse mistresses of breaking up marriages; I’ve actually sellotaped his. He was on the verge of leaving his wife before he met me; she nags, and her cooking consists of opening tins and packets, if it’s not takeaways. I persuaded him to stay; it suits me better like this.
I have made my own arrangements for the festive period – but I will cancel them at the drop of a…hat, if he manages to shake her off for an hour or two.
Katie: Most people picture a mistress as a predator with figure-hugging clothes and perfect make-up. I’m not – but his wife is. I’, just this side of chubby, and homely, and I don’t dye my hair or do my nails. He says I am a refreshing change from his high-maintenance spouse.
When I’m with him, I feel like a teenager again; he says I’m like a breath of fresh air after her speciousness; to her, a broken manicured fingernail is a tragedy, go figure a hair sprouting on her chin.
Too much is at stake for both of us to go public. But I know I have been his only “other woman” for the last 16 years – I’ve had him followed by a private detective several times.
They will be having a family meal at a hotel with the rest of her stuck-up family. Me? I’m having snack soup and beans on toast. Who cares, when I can cook up a feast for him whenever he comes over?
Maria: He is old enough to be my… uncle. Still, I regret is not being able to flaunt him.
Meeting him was a Sliding Doors meets Benny Hill moment. I had treated my friend’s twins to an outing. They were careening towards the ice-cream compartment of the supermarket and they bumped into him, making him drop a dozen-pack carton of eggs. “Double trouble!” he said. I stuttered that they weren’t my sons. He said that blushing suits me.
Talk about audacity and duplicity… the next time I saw him, I was alone – and he was with his wife. I was simultaneously spooked, intrigued, and turned on, to realise that he was pushing the trolley and intentionally leading her, to follow me; she didn’t even notice.
He dexterously palmed his business card into my jacket pocket, and of course I followed through. This was three years ago. He has spoiled me for other men; those of my age-group seem so childish now. They don’t have his manners, charisma, and gentleness.
So I sort of understand why this “imperfect gentleman” cannot be mine these days.

Carmen: “The Other Woman” is his wife. I come first in everything, except in his will. But otherwise I’m well looked after – after all, I have to look nice for him, don’t I? No, I am not mercenary… I just have a lot of common sense.
At his insistence, I have told my best friend about him, just in case something happens to me and he won’t be in a position to know. She has his phone number, and we have prepared a coded conversation. If anything happened to him, I’d know soon enough, because… just because things are the way they are.
As a child I’d always imagined that at my age (30 last birthday) I’d be settled down with six kids, as my mum was. But, frankly, I’m enjoying almost being almost married, without being manacled to a husband, and having to answer to anyone about my abrupt movements.
On my birthday (which I share with one of his children), on Valentine’s Day, and at Christmas, I feel wretched, nonetheless. He always makes up for it, though.
I went into this with my eyes wide open but I resent it, still.
I never berate him for not calling, and I am not always available when he wants to meet me. This keeps him keen. He’d be astonished to learn I cry for him most nights. My biological clock is ticking merrily away, and this really hits me when all my siblings come to my house for the Christmas meal, with their children.
I know his wife. We were in the same class at school. We are Facebook friends, and this helps me keep tabs on him.

Maltese Gemgem: Good Moaning Begins Here!

Wednesday, 30th July 2008

Wherever Maltese are found
The grievance culture follows;
We are wont to protest
As if there’s no tomorrow.
We complain when it’s sunny;
We object when it’s not
We find fault when it’s freezing
We grouse when it is hot.
We gripe in morns and evenings
We whinge day in and out
We bellyache in cities…
In our villages and towns
We moan about the neighbours,
Our relatives and friends
We chunter about in-laws,
And the law of the land.
We beef at the high prices
But we frown when things are cheap;
Standing in queues annoys us…
But the fast life makes us weep…
This poem, dated 1976, fell out from between the pages of The Complete Works of Geoffrey Chaucer when I was looking for a quote for another feature. I must have written it in a moment of boredom during an English Literature lesson, and then forgotten all about it.
I cringe at it amateurishness – in fact, I grumble, too – when I see how it fails to scan properly, but the message is clear. Then, as now, I never complied about “being born under an unlucky star”; I may not have what I want, but I want what I have.
Grumbling is a national pastime – however, it is an essential ingredient in the money-earning potential of my psycho friends (psychologists, psychiatrists, psychotherapists). They tell me that sometimes, people complain simply because they do not want to be seen as doormats, or because they crave attention.
Because, really there is a psychological reason for grumbling. Whether it is disappointment at temperature of the tea you have been served at a bar, annoyance at having been wound up by a friend, or frustration at having been shoddily treated at a major shopping establishment where you had been a loyal customer, dissatisfaction is bound to manifest itself in letting of steam in the way of grumbling.
My kids tell me that if I didn’t have anything about which to complain, that is exactly about what I would be peevish; Sesame Street’s Grouch looks like Pollyanna when compared to me. But that is no skin off my nose. Really. But I have been vindicated.
According to my afore-mentioned psycho-friends, moaning is an essential part of life. Unless overdone into a full-blown persecution complex, it may actually be healthy to complain about something, anything – and it’s a moot point about whether it’s better than gossiping, too.
The British stiff upper lip mostly ensures that the person or institution being complained about is the last to know; but complaints about the weather are “fine”. Only rarely do they even consider complaining by “letting rip”.
But our Latin blood ensures that we Maltese are rather vociferous about complaining. Most complaints arise from the fact that we know we could carry out their jobs better than the Pope, the President and the Prime Minister and anyone else in authority.
There is also the fact that if people did things are way, life would be so much better for everyone. As Michael Winner succinctly put it, “co-operation is a lot of people doing what I say.” Why have I complained this week? let’s see… there was a host of different government departments all asking for the same documents to confirm the same thing; going to collect some photocopies that had to be ready the week before, but were not; a new pair of mules where the sole parted company with the shoe the minute my daughter climbed the steps of a bus; a new handbag that had a strap that was flaking off…
Complaining, done properly, brings results; but the chances are that when done aggressively, it alienates the person at whom the complaint is addressed, and makes him bend backwards to avoid fixing things for us. And most of us know better than to complain at eateries when another course is yet to follow.
We complain about he status quo, the slowness of the check-out girl at the supermarket; the footprints on our hitherto clean floor, the Health, Education, and Taxation systems; the amount of packaging we discard after shopping for a week; and we just know that things would be fine if everyone did things our way, simply because we cannot do everything ourselves (although it seems like that).
The book Complaint: From Minor Moans to Principled Protests by Julian Baggini, just out, mentions another type of complaint – the insincere, ‘boasting’ ones, which are part of a status symbol, rather than aimed at changing or at least improving anything. If you pay attention, you can hear people complaining about how their dress that cost €200, “apparently had the buttons stuck on with spittle..” and how difficult it was to get a table at a five-star restaurant, or how “tired” they feel because “in their social position they have to socialize nearly every night”. So the next time your friend says that it cost her €50 to do her fingernails and then she “got a fungus under three of them”, just smile coyly… and don’t remind her that where’s a blame, there’s a claim…”

How angry are you?

1st February 2009

Stand at any queue. Join any conversation at a gathering of mothers. Ride a bus. Or – perish the thought! – if you are so inclined…. go to a Coffee Morning. The chances are that at one point, someone will criticise a (male) partner… and the comment will spread like wildfire across the area, and incite several similar comments.

This week, by accident or design, many major publications happened to mention that the most read story on a particular parenting website was “Mad at Dad”, which gave the low-down on why, exactly, mothers of young children are angry at their men.

Even when these men happen to think they are “New Age” fathers (because they change nappies or make the school lunches?). We have all seen the stereotypical cartoon of a Mother (capitals mine) with twenty arms that render her capable of peeling potatoes, ironing clothes, sewing on a button, polishing shoes, combing hair, washing her teeth, and answering the phone… and doing another dozen things at once. Intended to raise a laugh, these depictions are often nothing less than the truth.

Most mothers know that having children automatically creates an uneven playing field, especially in a culture where a man “has” to go to work, and the mother – or so they tell us, “has a choice”. Yet, even when the mother hold down jobs that have longer hours than those of their partners (and often have less take-home pay then they)… most school activities like sports days and parents’ days are attended by… women only. The survey done by this website indicates that women are often “irate” at their husbands, and frequently “intensely” angry. This festering anger, which is sometimes not expressed, for several reasons, means that not only are women burdened with more than the logical 50% of responsibilities and chores… they are actually harming their health both because of the anger, and because it is being repressed.

Consider this; partners go shopping. They return home. The man sits down, riffling the newspaper and commenting upon the stupidity and selfishness of mankind… while the wife makes the coffee, stores away the packages and tins, and grates the Pecorino for the ricotta pies. How many males will cheerfully make nut-free fudge for 50, run folded cellophane sheets through the sewing machine to seal them into individual packets for them, and then stick gold stars on every helping?

This, of course, is an exaggeration – for you can always go to the Monti and buy a box of 50 single helpings of muesli –bars… but you get he gist of what I am saying. Women usually have to remember whose birthdays, dental appointments, and sports meetings are coming up. They have to recall deadlines for school projects, shoe and clothing sizes for every member of the family, ordering of class photographs, the birthday cake, and posting Christmas cards to Australia and Timbuktu.

Most of us just grin and get on with it – relaxing comes later. As we shower before bed and grab a chapter from the book we began reading a month ago. But some women, alas, allow this anger to get the better of them. Blood pressure levels shoot up, frowns become permanent wrinkles, and…they chance dropping dead from a heart attack.

Of course that are fathers who can whip up three-course meals from the contents of an empty cupboard, because they would have forgotten to shop. But men have not yet been genetically modified to multi-task. Sometimes, if they do get the clothes off the line, or maybe flick a duster around, it’s as if they are doing their partner a favour. Show me a man who washes the floor (properly) and I will show you half a dozen who would rather let their kids eat junk food (or cheese and fruit) rather than cooking from scratch when their mother is not at home.
There are men who think their hobbies are more important than those of the rest of the family. This is, they just don’t think that a chid actually wants his father to take him to football practice even though it is within walking distance, but because he wants his dad’s undivided attention for at least ten minutes. Many men will do something, if they are asked to do it – but there are actually women who would rather play the martyr, to have ammunition later on, than ask for some help.

And this shows that sometimes it is communication that’s lacking and not the help per se. It’s not pleasant to feel that you are being stoned to death with popcorn, while locked in a gilded cage. So why do women allow this to happen to them? How is it that we cannot learn the magic word “delegate”?
People have the fight-or-flight mechanism that loads the body with adrenaline when they face danger. In a relationship, it is sometimes not practical to do either. As the anger seethes inside you – and apart from the adrenaline rush, anger hinders the boy’s ability to produce the hormone that mutes the effect of the adrenaline.

This is exactly why people who have suppressed anger issues (“chronic anger”) are putting their kidneys, liver, and heart at risk. It is why they get frequent migraines and are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety states, as well as insomnia. Talking about it with your neighbour – as you both hang out yet another load of washing – is simply not enough.

Meanwhile, I say that situation comedies, where incompetent dads are par for the course, should come with a health warning.


Friday, 24th December 2010


Most people would be familiar with at least one of Leonardo da Vinci’s Virgin of the Rocks, exhibited in London and Paris.
In the paintings, the eponymous rocks are different – but there are other, more subtle differences that one may see when pictures of the two paintings are depicted side-by-side. The Louvre version, the Baptism is prophesied through the pool in the foreground.
On April 25, 1483, da Vinci had been contracted to deliver an altarpiece to decorate the chapel of the Immacolata at the church of San Francesco Grande, in Milan. Simultaneously, Evangelista De Predis, who died before the opus was finished, was to carry out the gilding, colouring and retouching with his brother Ambrogio doing the side panels. Giacomo del Maino’s commission was to carve the framework. The assembled, finished pieces would resemble a miniature temple.
The contract was explicitly worded.
Item, Our Lady is the centre: her mantle shall be of gold brocade and ultramarine blue. Item, her skirt shall be of gold brocade over crimson, in oil, varnished with a fine lacquer…Item, God the Father: his gown shall be of gold brocade and ultramarine blue. Item, the angels shall be gilded and their pleated skirts outlined in oil, in the Greek manner. Item, the mountains and rocks shall be worked in oil, in a colourful manner… [etc]
The deadline was short; on or before December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception. He didn’t kill it, and this work became the source of two interminable lawsuits. Experts hold that the Louvre version to be entirely by Leonardo; the National Gallery version one could have been a collaborative work with the De Predis. The Louvre painting was probably gifted to King Louis XII of France by da Vinci, in gratitude for settling the law suit, and it was this that would have created the need for a second artwork. In both, da Vinci made changes to the brief. He had been ordered to put across the immaculate flawlessness of Mary; in his own way, he decided that this was to be done by painting her as a flat-chested young lady, surrounded by phallic rocks and womb images. Her skirt is reminiscent of a cornucopia.
These pictures depict the legend of how, when King Herod committed the Massacre of the Innocents, John the Baptist, who was still a baby, and his mother, Elizabeth, were saved by the Archangel Uriel, who flew them with him to the house of the Virgin Mary, after their flight to Egypt. The toddlers Jesus and his cousin John are depicted playing together under the loving, watchful eyes of the Madonna.
The Louvre version of the painting is set in autumn, and Uriel is androgynous. The work was first mentioned as being in the royal collection at Fontainebleau in 1625. The painting in London’s National Gallery brings the figures closer; it has a bluer tone, and Saint John has a cross of reeds. The hand of Uriel no longer points at; there are halos, which, together with the cross, were added later by an unknown artist.
In iconography, Uriel is usually portrayed carrying a papyrus scroll (or a book), which signifies wisdom. His symbol is an open hand holding a flame, the great gift to humanity.
Uriel has many titles in non-canonical and apocryphal lore. Some sources say he is a Seraph, but others say he is a Cherub. Some of his tittles are Angel of the Presence, Flame of God, Regent of the Sun, and Archangel of Salvation. Milton calls him the “sharpest sighted spirit of all in Heaven”. Occult, apocryphal, and cabbalistic writings have often failed to differentiate between Uriel and Nuriel, Uryan, Jeremiel, Vretil, Sariel, Suriel, Puruel, Phanuel, Jehoel, Jacob, Ezrail, Azrael and Israfil/Raphael.
Uriel is the dark angel who wrestled with Jacob at Peniel, and the Messenger who warned Noah of the imminent deluge. Further back in time, he was the one who stood at the gate of Eden with a fiery sword when Adam and Eve were booted out after sinning.
Uriel is multi-talented. He disclosed the mysteries of the esoteric secrets of heaven to Ezra; the prophet asks a series of questions, and Uriel answers them. He interpreted prophecies, and led Abraham out of Ur. He is the angel of music and poetry.
Gabriel, Raphael and Michael are still today celebrated on September 29. There was a time when Uriel was considered equal to them; however, in 745AD Pope Zachary decided to remove him from the list.
In the older books of the Hebrew Bible, angels have no names. RabbiSimeon Ben Lakish of Tiberias said that all the specific names for the angels were brought back by the Jews from Babylon.
Christians, albeit not Catholics often recite an age-old prayer to Uriel the Archangel when in need of special graces:
Oh holy St. Uriel, intercede for us that our hearts may burn with the fire of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Assist us in co-operating with the graces of our confirmation that the gifts of the Holy Spirit may bear much fruit in our souls. Obtain for us the grace to use the sword of truth to pare away all that is not in conformity to the most adorable Will of God in our lives, that we may fully participate in the army of the Church Militant. Amen.
Uriel is important in the Jewish religion, Anglican, and Protestant religions.

I Am Not Pregnant…

Thursday, September 15, 2011, 20:34 , by Tanja Cilia

… and frankly, I still haven’t got around to testing for any one of the various types of cancers that may be tested for, which have beset both maternal and paternal sides of my family over the years.
But that is not the reason I shall not be posting the pseudo-lie about how far into the Club I am, and what I am craving….  or where I place my handbag… or which country I will be travelling to  or even what colour my underwear is.
Many memes are supposed to make us aware of breast cancer, a few of them with a feeble attempt at double-entendres.
This statement connected with pregnancy,  for some reason, makes a connection between pregnancy and awareness of breast cancer. Seeing that this condition often leaves women infertile – desperately wishing, in fact, that they were “six months in and craving pickles dipped in hazelnut spread” or some other disgusting concoction of the sort. And desperately wishing that they could have, eventually, breastfed the offspring they will now never have. I find it ‘distasteful’ – on all counts.
It is interesting to note that all these “chain letters”- for that, in effect, is what these things are- concentrate on sexuality. Moreover, they focus on a woman’s sexuality, totally ignoring the fact that males do get breast cancer too.
Would you pass on a message that threatens you with disaster and death of you do not make fifty copies forthwith, and forward them to people, asking them to follow suit? Does it sit well on you to play on people’s emotions and fears, and make them waste time?
Ah, you say, but this is “in jest”… rather as if breast cancer is funny.
It is not awareness of breast cancer that we need; it is education, information, and action about all types of cancers. Not just one of the many types that steal people’s lives when their deaths could have been avoided.
I speak from experience – two members of my immediate family were mis-diagnosed and told there was “nothing to worry about”. By the time someone realised we were not simply “making a fuss about nothing” and picked up all the clues, and thought to investigate further, it was way too late for both of them.
However, silly pass-it-on messages are not the only way that the female body is being exploited in a pathetic way with regards to this notion. Some internet sites have been specifically created for the posting of cleavage – no head, no torso, because “that” is the important part of the female – with the same warped view. And I use the term deliberately, because the captions to these photos are a lame excuse for attention-grabbing photographs. Because just as sites that show child models made up to look like adults pander to a paedophile’s dreams, so do these sites indulge voyeurs. In both cases, the perverts win hands down.
If you ostensibly want to draw attention to an illness, you do not draw attention to ‘perfection’ – despite fetching slogans about ‘protection’ and ‘reminders’.
Women are stricken with many types of cancers – most of which effect men, too. However, since (probably) most of us consider man-boobs unattractive, and it is not necessarily those that get breast cancer, it would not be a good gimmick to include snaps of them in any site purporting to “care” about “awareness”. Six-packs seem to be rather rare in breast awareness campaigns.
A woman who has bone, lung, or ovarian cancer, or metastatic colo-rectal cancer, apparently cannot be “represented” by a series of partial snapshots of her sisters sporting variously bejewelled, frilled, striped, or polka-dotted bikini tops. Let’s face it; a face wracked in pain is not “sexy”. Neither are gel-filled prosthesis in a box.
The equation seems to be that if you say you are boosting awareness of breast cancer, you can sell pink earrings, special edition pink sweets and rubber bracelets, pink cellular telephones… and have an excuse to parade your assets, if you are a ‘consenting adult’, because it’s “all in a good cause”.
If, like me, you do not pass on the e-mail, the social site posting, or the series of photographs, you are labelled an old sourpuss with no sense of humour. Being ‘aware’ of breast cancer does not mean you will never get it. It does not mean you are free to compare and contrast photographs, either.
What it does mean is knowing that there are many other types of cancer. It means cooking a meal for a family that has one member so stricken, and offering to look after the children during those interminable clinic visits or hospital stays…
It means getting the patient – male or female – something nice, which they would not think of getting themselves, or cannot be bothered to do so… because they know they might be going to die soon.

Iss’Mbagħad Narak

Mela, darba waħda, ċemplitli ħabiba tiegħi, u fejn soltu, bla nifs, tgħidli li qed taħseb fija, u mgħaġġla, u jekk irridx niltaqgħu għall-kafe imma mhux il-ġimgħa d-dieħla, ta’ wara, għax għandha affarijiet important (jiġiefri jien fil-kategorija tal-mhux important?) x’tagħmel, din id-darba giet bil-lajma l-lajma, tant li jien ħsibt li ġħandha xi aħabar ħażina u ħa ttiehli bil-mod il-mod.
“Isma’ Tan,” qaltli, allaviolja taf sew kemm niddejjaq min ma jsejjalix b’ismi sħiħ. “Għandi proposta għalik…”
U jien missejt il-lixka.
“Ara, bi ħsiebni noħroġ magazine… mhux website, tafx, għax dik kulħadd jaf jagħmilha… imma online, ta, għax il-karti jiswew il-flus, u insomma, nibżgħu għall-ambjent. Insomma, naf li int tħobb tikteb ħafna, u għedt bejni u bejn ruħi, li din tidħol għaliha żgur. Tkun l-editur int, u tiddeċiedi fuq il-kontenut, u hekk ikollok exposure tajba, għax int s’issa qatt ma kont editor ta xejn, hux, hlief meta tikkoreġi l-kotba…”
Għażilt li ma nikkummentax fuq l-insult… forsi biex iżjed timmaġina li jien baħbuħa li kont ser nibla’ l-lixka.
“Minuta…” għedtilha. “Jiġifieri int qisek qed tgħidli li tiprretendi li ħa nfittex lil min jikteb, jew nikteb kollox jien, u ma tħallasx sold, la lili, u la lill-oħrajn, biex bħal ikolli l-unur li nissejjaħ editur ta’ publikazzjoni online.”
Is-sarkażmu għadda dritt minn fuq rasha. “Iva, mela. Mhux tajjeb, jew? Ara, jien għedt nagħmluh bl-Ingliż biex anki barra minn Malta nxerrduh. Għandi kuntatti l-Kanada u l-Amerika u Brussels u L-Inghilterra. Nies imlaħħqin, tafx. F’pożizzjonijiet li jistgħu jgħinuk jekk ikollok bżonn xi ħaġa…. Naf kemm int tajba, u tħaffef fix-xogħol. Meta nibda’ nagħmel il-qliegħ mir-riklami, forsi nkun nista’ nħallsek xi ħaġa, imma għall-bidu, taf int, kollox iebes… u l-finanzi ma jtunix li għalissa noħroglok allowance…”
Kieku kien l-ewwel t’April, kont ngħidilha kemm ammirajta li ħarġet bi ħlieqa bħal din. Imma din it-telefonata saret iżjed tard matul is-sena. Bl-edukazzjoni kollha, għedtilha li ma kontx interessata. U staqsietni għaliex – jekk kontx marida, jew jekk kellix ħafna xogħol iehor, jew forsi għax qbiżt is-sittin u qed immajna u nitgħażżen.
Kieku dawn is-sentimenti smajthom fuq xi telenovela, insomma f’xi farsa fis-sala tal-Kappillan, kont ngħid li huma esaġerazzjonijiet.
Ma weġibtx, u staqsietni kienx weħilli ilseini, u li qatt ma kienet immaġinat li jien nagħmel għall-flus, u li kont egoista u qammiela, u li ma kontx naf x’qed nitlef. Kollox f’nifs wieħed. Tgħid, kellha script?
Bil-ħlewwa għedtilha li iva, kont naf x’qed nitlef – exposure mad-dinja kollha… u żidt li madanakollu xorta ma kontx interessata. U sabtitli t-telefon. U waslassli li marret tgħid man-nies li “ma nafx kif saret dik, taħtaf lil kulħadd”…
Din il-problema tax-xogħol bla flus hija endemika, b’mod partikolari għal dawk fl-oqsma kreattivi.
Hawn minn jippretendi li għax il-ħabiba taf tpitter, jew tinnaviga bil-kompjuters, jew tħit, jew issajjar… mela allura, is-servizzi tagħha għandhom ikunu pro bono għal ta’ ġewwa, għax wara kollox, riklam tajjeb ser jagħmlulha, u xorta tkun ser iddabbar il-mijiet tal-€wro mix-xogħol li ser jidħlilha meta tiġri l-kelma.
U biex inkunu għedna kollox, l-istess jiġri meta l-ħabiba tiegħek tkun perit, jew tabib, jew skultur. Jekk ifettilha tibgħatlek ir-rati, jew stima, jew allaħares qatt, il-kont…. ħoll xagħrek u ġib il-mantikilja.
Kull min għandu ħila mistenni li mhux talli jgħallem lill-oħrajn, talli jagħti d-doni tiegħu b’xejn, jekk mhux ukoll iħallas, jew almenu jagħti riġal li jiswa’ kemxa, talli xi ħadd bħal qed iħenn għalih u jxandar ismu u xogħolu fuq ir-radju jew fuq il-gazzetta…
U jekk dak li jkun qed jaħdem, kif kien minn ewl id-dinja, biex jaqla’ xi ħaġa? Mitt darba u elf li min jixtieq juzak (għax dik biss hi l-kelma eżatta) dan jafu sew… imma tkun meqjusa b’tosta jekk titlob dak li għandu jkun tagħha bi dritt. Ngħiduha kif inhi – ħafna minna li għanda xi talent, ikun x’ikun, nagħtu ħafna xogħol b’xejn, kemm jekk nagħmlu dan bħala volontarjat, u kemm jekk għax hekk fettlinlna. Iżda l-punt tiegħi hu li rridu nkunu aħna minn jeddna li nagħmlu dan, mhux li jiġri hekk għax iddeċiedilna xiħadd ieħor.
Qabel ma tassumi li ser tiddobba l-pjanta tad-dar b’xejn, u qabel ma timmaġina l-libsa tat-tieġ meħjuta u lesta, u qabel ma jfettillek tippjana mawra għax mingħalik li l-biljetti ser jingħatawlek b’rigal… itlob il-pjan tan-negozju lil min ser jipprovdilek il-ħaġa, jew is-servizz. Il-ħaddiem ħaqqu ħlasu – u dan il-ħlas jista’ jkun tpartit; jien inħitlek il-purtieri sakemm int tbajjadli l-kamra…
Minn-naħa l-oħra, dawk kollha li jkunu mitluba jagħtu xi servizz, tajjeb li jibgħatu r-rati tagħhom lil kulħadd, anki lil dawk li ma jitolbuhomlomx – u speċjalment lil dawk li jgħidulek “imbagħad narak”. Forsi jkollok tiddeċiedi x’tippreferi – li tmur qabda €wro minn taħt, jew li titlef ħbiberija li ilha mill-klassijiet tal-primarja… jew li turta lil xi ħadd li forsi tiġi bżonnu biex iħokklok dahrek iżjed ‘l quddiem.
U, bilħaqq… dan il-magażine li semmejt, baqa’ qatt ma ħareġ.

Fleur u Lee – Fl-Eġittu!


Miss Marija Cutajar, l-għalliema tal-ħames sena, kienet dejjem tara x’tivvinta biex li-tfal iżżommhom attenti u kuntenti.

Meta ġara li fil-vaganzi tal-Għid, hi marret vaganza żgħira fl-Eġittu mal-familja tagħha. U m’għandniex xi ngħidu, rat kif għamel u vvintat xi ħaġa biex taqsam dak li tgħallmet mat-tfal.

“Illum…” qaltilhom, filwaqt limill-basket ħarġet parċmina rrumblata u fetħitha, “…x’tahsbu li hi din?”

Wiċċ Fkeur u le xegħel. Inzertaw li l-lejl ta’ qabel kienu qed jaraw dolumentarju fuq il-Farawni Tutankhamen – u raqdu f’nfsu… iżda almenu ftakru x’kienet dik li wriethom Miss Marija. “Cartouche!” għajjat Lee, bla ma ħasibha darbtejn. “Dik turina kif kienu jiktbu isimhom in-nies, ghax kull stampa tfisser ħoss jew sillabla…”

“Bravu, Lee!” u hawn, l-għalliema uriethom sit:
fejn iżjed tard kull tifel u tifla tal-klassi kiteb ismu biex jara kif kien jidher bil-hieroglyphics, u qaltilhom li meta isem ikun f’kompartimenti ovali, dan ikun isem ta’ Farauni.

M’għandniex xi ngħidu, il-parċmina tal-apiru kienet waħda biss mill-affarojiet sbieħ li Miss Marija għallmet li-tfal dawrhom.

Qaltilhom kif ix-xmara Nil tgħaddi mid-deżert Saħara. Ta’ kull sena, l-borra ta’ fuq il-muntanji tal-Lvant tal-Afrika, meta jdub isir torrent ta’ ilma li jfawwar għal fuq ix-xtut tax-xmara, u wara li jgħarraqhom u jikskula lura għall-wied, jħalli warajh saff tajn fertili li jgħin fl-argrikoltura tal-pajjiz.

Qaltilhom kif is-socjeta’ antika tal-Eġittu kienet maqsuma fi tlieta; ta’ fuq, tan-nofs, u l-baxxi (il-fqar).  Semmitilhom nies bħal Cleopatra, Nefertiti, Akhenaton u Ptolemy, u qaltilhom li kienu l-Eġizjani li ħolqu kalendarju b’365 ġurnata.

Iżda l-iżjed li ħadu gost it-tfal kien meta mill-qiegħtal-basket ħarġet kaxxa mimlija “Ħobż tal-Palazz”. Dan kienet għamlitu awl il-lejl billi xarrbet il-bieba tal-ħobż fil-għasel, u ħmietu fil-forn.

Iżda l-lezzjoni fuq l-Eġittu tal-qedem ma kienetx spiċċat hemm. Uriethom xi stampi tal-hwejjeġ u l-ġirżirani li kienu jilbsu fl-Egittu tal-qedem, u wara li newwlitilhom folji b’siluwetti tal-Egizjani, stednithom jagħmlu kollaxx biex ilibbsuhom u jżejnuhom, bil-mostri tad-drappijiet u zibeġ li kienet ġabet magħha.

Fleur u Lee u l-Mistieden


It-tfal tal-Klassi ta’ Miss Marija rawha tfesfes xi ħaġa fil-wida ta’ Miss Yvonne, Il-Kap tal-Iskola, ftit qabel ma bdiet l-Assembly. Kif tistgħu taħsbu, bdew jagħtu bil-minkeb lil xulxin; għax il-jum ta’ qabel kienet qaltilhom il-famuża frażi “Ara, tfal…qed jgħaddili ħsieb minn moħħi…”

Iżda għalkemm iffittawha kemm felħu, ma qalet xejn iżjed dak il-hin. Joqomsu, igedwdu, fuq ix-xwiek, daħlu fil-klassi. “Kont qed naħseb…” qalet, wara li ħarġu l-kotba tal-matematika u x-xogħol li kellhom jaħdmu minn fuq d-dar.

“Naf, naf!” qabeż Lee.

“X’taf?” staqsietu.

“Int qed tipprepara xi ħaġa speċjali għall-Milied, għax rajnik tkellem lil Miss Yvonne.”

“Aqtagħha!” alulu Sephora u Marla, f’daqqa, qishom ftehmu. Miss Marija tbissmet. Xi ħmistax qabel, waħda mill-ġirien tagħħa kienet introduċietha ma’ Jérémy Willems, xwejjaħ gustuż mill-Belġju… li nzerta qisu is-Santa Claus li naraw fuq il-katolini. Dan il-kuġin ta’ miser il-ġara kien ġie Malta għall-funeral ta’ ħabib tiegħu, u billi kien penzjonant kien bi ħsiebu jqatta’ sa Marzu hawn Malta.

M’għandniex xi ngħidu, Miss Marija faqqset pjan li kien jikludi fih lil da nil-flien, lit-tfal tall-klassi, u l-Milied, li għalih kellha bżonn il-permess ta’ Miss Yvonne. Kollox inħadem bizzilla, u kull ma qaltilhom lit-tfal kien li kien ser iżurhom xiħadd mill-Belġju, li għall-vaganzi tal-Milied soltu kien imur fix-xalett li kellu fir-reġjun tal-muntanji Korvatunturi, fil-Provinċja ta’ Lapland, fil-Finlandja, imma din is-sena kien ġejn Malta minfolk.

Waslet il-ġurnata li fiha kellu jiġi l-mistieden. It-tfal kollha kienu ġabu rigal biex flimkien imorru bihom f’post fejn kienu qegħdin jinġabru laaffarijiet biex jitqassmu lin-nies fil-bżonn. U… wasal! Kien qsajjar u mbaċċaċ, b’xuxa, daqna u baffi bojod, twal, kollhom nokkli. U… kien liebes ilbies rikk, qisu ta’ isqof, iżda mhux bħal ma nafuhom aħna. It-tfal (u l-istaff tal-iskola!) baqgħu iċċassati. Kien hemm għajjat, daqħq, u agħagħ sħih.

Miss Yvonne ċapċpet idejha darbtejn, kif kienet tagħmel meta tridd tiġbed l-attenzjoni. It tfal siktu, u ħarsu lejha. “Issa bil-mod, immorru fuq il-Private; ara ħadd ma jrid jinduna li qegħdin niċċaqalqu…” U telqu.

Is-Sur Jérémy Willems qabad il-mikrofonu, u bl-Ingliz aċċentat u kemmxejn imkisser, beda’ jgħidilhom: Fil-Belġju għandna żewġ figuri li intom kieku ssejħullhom Santa Claus: St Niklaas u Père Noël. St Niklaas jagħmel żewġ żjarat lit-tfal li jitkellmu bil-Fjamming jew bl-Olandiż; fl-4 ta’ Diċembru, biex jara jekk it-tfal ikunux qagħdu sew matul is-sena, u fis-6 tax-xahar, biex min jixraqlu, jieħu rigal, u min le, isib mazz zkuk. Dawn l-affarijiet jitħallew f’ġewlaq ċkejken, jew żarbun, li jkunu tpoġġew apposta wara l-bieb. Père Noël, u l-ħabib tiegħu Père Fouettard, iżuru lit-tfal li jitkellmu bil-Walloon jew bil-Franċiż. It-tfal ‘bravi’ jingħataw ċikkulata u ħelu, u l-oħrajn, jirċievu jew faħam jew zkuk. It-tfal kienu kwieti kwieti, jisimgħu. Jahel, Julia u Jade, ma kienux qed itaqtqu, bħas-soltu, u Gerard u Zak ma kienu qed jinbxu lil ħadd.

Is-Sur Jérémy Willems żammhom attenti b’dak li kien qed jgħid. Tkellem dwar l-ikel, dwar it-tiżjin, u ċ-ċelebrazzjonijiet tal-Knisja. Meta Miss Yvonne qaltlu li dalwaqt kienu ser jaslu fejn kellhom imorru, tbissem u għallimhom kif jgħidu Il-Milied it-Tajjeb bl-Olandix – Vrolijk Kerstfeest, u bil-Walloon – Djoyeus Noyé. Meta waslu ta’ Qali, daħlu taħt it-tinda l-kbira. U meta l-voluntiera u n-nies li kien hemm raw lis-Sur Willems, malajr ħasbu li kien hemm xi stazzjon tat-televixin qiegħed jiġbed xi filmat. Kien hemm atmosfera tassew sabiħa. It-tfal raddew ir-rigali liż-żewġ tfajliet li kien hemm wara mejda mżejna, u flimkien mal-għalliema żaru l-istands li kien hemm. Wara ħarġu fil-beraħ, jieklu l-kolazzjon, u lagħbu ftit.

X’hin sari l-ħin, reġgħet il-private. Żbarazzaw kollox, u bil-kwiet, telgħu, tnejn tnejn, ferħanin u għajjenin, biex imorru lura fil-klassi. U… gergru xi ftit meeta l-għalliema qalulhom biex, kif kienu għadhom moħħom frisk, jiktbu komponiment fuq din l-avventura! Mur sabbarhom li wara li jinġabru l-komponimenti, kienu ser isiru l-fotokopji tagħhom, u kull tifel u tifla jingħataw il-ktieb bil-qoxra mpittra mis-Sinjura Xerri, li kif nafu hija n-nanna ta’ Sabrina.

Fleur u Lee u l-Vaganzi tas-Sajf


Kienet waslet l-aħħar ġimgħa tal-iskola.

Miss Marija bdiet taqla’ l-armarji. Kellha drawwa ħelwa li kull nhar ta’ Ġimgħa, din tagħti ktieb lit-tfal tal-klassi. Kellhom għażla – jew iżommuh, jew iġibuh lura biex jerġa jitqassam. Taċ-Charity Shops u tal-Bażarijiet kienu drawha, u għalkemm ma kienux jgħidulha biex ma tħossiex tistħi, jien naf li kieku jerfgħulha l-isbaħ kotba li jidħlu.

Bir-riħ t’hekk, saħansitra Olivia u Marla kienu saru jħobbu jaqraw – fejn qabel jekk imissu ktieb, dan kien ikun biss biex jaraw l-istampi. M’għandniex xi ngħidu, fl-armarju kien għad hemm ħafna kotba, u Miss Marija, bħas-soltu, kelha pjan f’moħħa.

“Ara tfal…” qalet, kif kienet tagħmel is-soltu. “Tridux intikom ftit ħomework għas-Sajf?”
Inħallikom taħsbu x’pandemonju qam. “Baqax, ukoll!” qal Zak. “Mela s-sajf qiegħed biex niktbu u nistudjaw?” “Jien irrid immur ngħin lin-nanna Doris fil-ħanut!” ġabet skuża Romina.”Jien sejra man-nanna l-Italja…” ftaħret Sabrina.

“…u kieku biss…” qabeż Lee, “sen’oħra ma nkunux f’din il-klassi, allura x’hinu l-iskop li nagħmlulek il-ħomework, Miss Marija?”

“U ajma, mela l-ħomework għall-Miss tagħmlu, kemm int kiesaħ!” widddbitu Josefa.

“Hawn donni qajjimt battalja,” tbissmet l-għalliema. Imma li kelli f’moħħi ma kienx li intm tagħmlu xi pataflun somom, tafux. Jie kont ser inqassam il-kotba li baqa’ – għal minirid, ta’, mhux għal min ma jridx…” u hawn hemżet lil Josefa, “u min irid,jagħmel qisu scrapbook. Iktbu, pinġu, waħħlu l-istampi… insomma, intom tafu. Imbagħad, meta tibdew is-sena, naraw…”

“X’naraw, Miss?” staqsa James, bħas-soltu l-iżjed wieħed kurjuż. “Min jistenna’, jithenna!” Nibitu Fleur, li kienet diġa f’moħħa mliet fajl daqs illum u għada bl-immaġinazzjoni fertili tagħha.”

“Insomma, Miss, jien kieku rrid il-kotba kollha li ngħandhom x’jaqsmu mal-karozzi!” qal Clint. Għax kieku, nieħu r-ritratti u nwaħħalhom fl-iscrapbook ukoll, u…” “Qabeż hu,” interrompih Christian. “Mela aħn’hekk, naqbdu u nikkmandaw x’għandha tagħmel Miss Marija?”

U Miss Marija tbissmet, ġhax wara kollox, hi li riedet kien li tiqajjem diskussjoni.
“Kif kont qed ngħid, intom – insomma, min irid minkom – jagħmel scrapbook. Jew ġurnal, qisu djarju. Fih tiktbu xi storja li tivvintaw, jew dwar xi ktieb li tkunu qrajtu. Forsi tpinġu xi ħaġa. Forsi twaħħlu xi biljett tal-karozza tal-linja, jew xi weraq niexfa li tkunu sibtu barra. Twaħħlux weraq friski għax jimmuffaw. Forsi tiddiskrivu lil xi ħadd li tafu sew, jew xi qattus li taraw fit-triq tagħkom, u tpinġuh ukoll. Qiskom qed tagħmlu magazine, insomma. X’taħsbu? U bilħaqq, jekk hawn min minkom imur xi Summer Club, jew tgħinu f’xi volontarjat ma’ ħutkom il-kbar jew mal-ġenituri, iktbu dwar dan, ukoll…


U għandi nifhem li ser tgħinu iżjed milli tagħmlu bħalissa, fil-faċendi tad-dar… hemm, ħa, għandkom ħafna dwar xiex tiktbu! Anki min isiefer, bħal ma ħa tagħmel Sabrina, jista’ jikteb dwar i-pajjiż fejn ikun mar. Imma jekk ser tużaw xi ritratti, qisu li dejjem tieħdu permess mingħand i-kbar qabel ma twaħħluhom fl-iscrapbook.”

Rosiane, fejn rari kienet titkellem, qqalet li dik kienet tassew ideja tajba, imma Jade tkerrħet xi ftit, għax għliha s-sajf kien jiġi biex titla’ tas-Sannat għand in-nanna Dulcie, u tgħaddi sajf qisha qegħda l-ġenna.

“Issa, min irid xi ktieb jew tnejn, jew anki iżjed, jgħolli jdejh… Naf li dan is-sajf ma tistgħux tmorru għand in-nanna ta’ Sabrina għax ser tkun imseifra, imma forsi għal darba issibu x’imkien ieħor fejn tiltaqgħu… Tafux, tfal, li jien għad għandi l-iscrapbooks li kont nagħmel ta’ kull sajf? Meta tikbru, taf kemm tieħdu gost iġġeddu l-memorji?”
Kważi t-tfal kollha għollew id waħda – u kien hemm min għollihom it-tnejn. Miss Marija stenniet ftit, biex tara x’ser jagħmlu. “Imma Miss…” qalet Georgeanne, “nistgħu nagħmlu scrapbook jekk ma nkunux ħadna kotba?”

“U żgur li iva. Il-kotba toħduhom biex jekk ma jkollkomx fuqhiex tiktbu, itukom xi idejat…” U Georgeanne u Karen għollew idejhom.

Miss Marija sejħet lit-tfal. Għamlu serbut sal-armarju fejn kien hemm il-kotba, u għall-ewwel, kulħadd ħa wieħed, biex jaraw kemm kienu ħa jservu.Li ġara kien li x’ħin dawk li baqgħu bilqegħda raw l-entużjażmu ta’ sħabhom, huma wkoll qamu għal sehmhom.
U bħad-dqiq u ż-żejt tal-armla li temgħet lil Elija, dawn il-kotba qishom bdew joktru, u kien hemm biżżejjed biex kulħadd jieħu milli inqas tnejn.

Miss Marija kienet bi ħsiebha tagħti rigal żgħir lil kull min juriha imqar erba’ karti f’folder… imma għalissa, ma ngħidulhom xejn lit-tfal tal-klassi tagħha, biex jieħdu sorpriża ħelwa.

Kos, hux, min jaf li kieku kelkom tagħmlu scrapbook intom ukoll?