Jammed Sliding Doors




When I followed Quantum Leap assiduously, my favorite expression was, “Oh, Boy!” Samuel Beckett’s catchphrase just before he felt that he was leaping into the body of his next “host.”

Throughout the series, we were given piecemeal information about how this partial amnesia happened; the concept behind the show was Sam’s swiss cheese brain. In each episode, he is someone else – the person he sees in the mirror – of either gender and of any age, nationality, religion, or physiogamy.

He is not alone in his predicament; however his mentor Rear Admiral Albert Calavicci is a hologram.

cloche skirt is based on two concentric circles drawn on a piece of fabric.  The diameter of the inner circle is one fourth of your waist measurement and the outer one is that plus length of the skirt. To make the circles, you simply tie a piece of chalk to the end of the string, pin the other end to the centre of the fabric, and stretch the string while drawing around the pin. You remove the inner circle, make two hems, and thread elastic through the narrower one. Very simple!

The theory of life-travel was also explained by the parallelism of a piece of string, but in a totally different analogy. One end of the string was Sam’s date of birth; the other end was his date of death. Sam’s two ends are connected, and the resulting loop scrunched such that bits and bobs intersect at different points. Sam can travel from one “junction” in his life to another, in the bat of an eye.

In the Gwyneth Paltrow film Sliding Doors, she plays a public relations specialist who has just lost her job. She just misses the subway train when the sliding doors close in front of her – or do they?  For from then on, we see two of her lives in parallel – the Helen who just made it and caught her boyfriend in flagrante delicto, and the Helen who missed the trip and got mugged (and met a new man.)

Life is a series of choices. We may choose to go with the flow or be the best “we” possible. We may choose to use our lives for the service of others or we may just live in an ego-centric universe. But wouldn’t it be nice to tie up all the loose ends of all the strings every so often?


Spinning Yarn

One ball of string has countless
feasibilities and possibilities:
lace, crochet, tatting, macramé, knitting, weaves.
Or simple, just-for-fun-things:
braiding, pom-pom chicks,
string art snowflakes, rag-doll wigs,
from to coils of rope to finger-lace hair-braids,
misanga mementos, yarn doll souvenirs,
dream catcher keepsakes, friendship bracelet tokens.
Useful, functional, convenient.
One life has countless opportunities.
Help me find enough time to empathize;
time enough to help.

Tanja Cilia


Santa’s Blog – 5

Arsenic and Old Lace has a plot that these days would be considered politically incorrect, since it shows depends upon the foibles of several people who are not mentally stable (“eccentrics”) for its dénouement. Cary Grant’s shouts “Can you hear me? I’m not really a Brewster. I’m a son of a sea cook!” and the taxi driver counters this with “I’m not a cab driver. I’m a coffee pot.”

At one point, Cary Grant, as Mortimer Brewster the drama critic is sitting by a tombstone that bears the name Archie Leach. Film aficionados would know that Grant’s real name was Archibald Alexander Leach. Just for the record, the final scene in the script of the play had Mortimer’s two maiden aunts pour some of their infamous elderberry wine for Mr. Witherspoon, the Manager of Happydale Sanatorium. This was eliminated from the film version.

Right now, the only names I can remember are rabanadas (fried toast); lebkuchen
(chewy, honey-flavoured cookies with candied fruits and nuts); kourabiethes (shortbread with almonds & cinnamon); and bibingka (coconut and rice flour pudding)… The Missus tired them all today and of course I had to sample them. I also ate a handful of surströmming (fermented Baltic herring) and some salmiakki (salty liquorice) and I’m feeling a mite queasy.

For many people, it is a mater of pride that they can name names – not in the usual sense of the expression, but in that they remember the names of characters in obscure indie films and poems, and the lesser-known characters in Shakespeare’s plays (Aemilius, Boyet, Egeon…) as well as Biblical personalities (Nehemiah, Jadon, Josiah…).

It is easy to remember that Rudolph’s girlfriend is called Clarice. But many stumble when they are asked to name Santa’s team. Nerdology requires that not only does one remember them in sequence, but that one never forgets Olive. As in Olive, The Other Reindeer immortalised in Vivian Walsh’s book that had a Jack Russell Terrier as Olive. The Robert L. May story that later became a song by Johnny Marks gave us Rudolph – who was had very nearly been called Rollo or Reginald instead.

The poem ’Twas the Night Before Christmas names eight reindeer; Dasher (or Dascher); Dancer; Prancer; Vixen; Comet; Cupid; Donner (or Dunder or Donder); and Blitzen (or Blixem). Dunder en Blixem literally means “thunder and lightning” in Dutch – but the phrase is also idiomatic for “get a move on!”

This explains why some people say that the sled was pulled by six reindeer, and what followed their names was an order to hurry up. As for “Vixen” being the given name of a male reindeer… well, that is another story altogether. Female reindeer retain their antlers till after they give birth in the spring. So it might have been that there was at least one female reindeer in the team (many of the names appear to fit either gender, too).

The Missus takes it for granted that some of the reindeer are female; she says that otherwise, since males never ask for directions, the presents would never get delivered on time. Well, I’ll show her; it’s high time I broke in my new hovercraft snow-car anyway; much better than you know whose eight-reindeer-powered sleigh.

Too Much Information?

TV 40 news personality Christine Chubbuck shot herself in a live broadcast this morning on a Channel 40 talk program. She was rushed to Sarasota Memorial Hospital, where she remains in critical condition.

The most surreal thing about this July 15, 1974 newscast clip was that it had been written by Chubbuck herself.

The warning signs had all been there; three weeks prior to her demise, she had begun work on a feature programme about suicide. In the course of her research she had discovered the ideal type of bullet, and where to shoot it, courtesy of an officer in the sheriff’s department, which goes contrary to how things are portrayed in CSI-type series.

A definite red flag was flown when she told the night news editor that she had bought the weapon and joshed about using it live. He chided her, but that’s as far as it went. And we all know that when people joke about committing suicide, the chances are that they have been thinking about it.

Meanwhile, the station owner had ostensibly ordained that ‘blood and guts’ were to be the deigning factors of newsworthiness; and one of Chubbuck’s stories was indeed cut to be replaced by coverage of a shoot-out.

On the fateful morning, a videoclip of a shooting at  the Beef and Bottle Restaurant at the Sarasota-Bradenton Airport on U.S. 41 jammed, and Chubbuck attempted to be ad-libbing, as newscasters are wont to do when this sort of incident happens,

In keeping with Channel 40’s policy of bringing you the latest in blood and guts, and in living colour, you are going to see another first; attempted suicide. The technical director faded to black; the camera operator Jean Reed assumed it was an elaborate wind-up.

On the morning of January 22, 1987, Robert Budd Dwyer, a politician from Pennsylvania who insisted until the end that he had been framed on charges of corruption and bribery, also committed suicide on air. It happened during a televised press conference at his office in Harrisburg, the state capital.

On that day, many schools had been closed because of a heavy snowfall; had this not been so, students who had regular access to news broadcasts during school hours would have seen it happen, just as they saw the Space Shuttle Challenger tragedy and the Branch Davidian Siege in Waco, Texas.

All these incidents, and more, have been sued as “teaching materials” in media ethics classes. Indeed, Dwyer’s suicide is cited in a paper about the “ethno-methodological approach to the study of suicide”. In such instances, apparently, not even the most diligent of fingers on the Delay Button would have been able to abort the transmission.

“Severe human error”, however, was cited as the reason why yet another suicide was aired live on Fox News on Friday, September 28.

This happened during coverage of one of those popular (think O. J. Simpson) car chases that are aired live in an effort to skew viewership statistics, and not because they provide useful information.

At one point the suspect opened his vehicle door and leapt out of it, running down a dirt track, and seconds later pulled out a gun. The camera continued rolling, the death was caught live, and Smith,  the Fox News Channel anchor, Shepherd Smith  admitted they had “messed up”.

We all remember the atrocious hounding of Madeline McCann’s parents; how the press couldn’t get enough of “sexy-foxy-Knoxy”; how the press covered Joanna Yeates’ murder; and how some film directors sought to make a quick buck from elements from each story, or portraying separate ones in their celluloid entirety.

And let us not forget that the film Network ends with the narrator stating “This was the story of Howard Beale, the first known instance of a man who was killed because he had lousy ratings.”

The local media, which sometimes seems oblivious to events being played out on the world stage – at least, unless they can be perverted to serve ulterior motives – are also  sometimes all too ready to ride roughshod over good taste and people’s sensibilities. This tends to happen because they want to scoop other media… and they do not realise that the person involved in the incident there are covering could have been themselves, or someone they love.

Live television shows us how some card-carrying journalists are at their best when it comes to scooping their peers.  They forget the rules about vulnerable persons; invasions of privacy; and no close-ups. They diligently research the person’s sexual orientation (Pan-sexual Company Director Guilty of Tax Evasion);  his political affiliations (Conservative MP arrested for sexual cimes);  and his family tree (singer Trisha Dawne’s son commits suicide), in no particular order.

They ask awkward questions, not in the hope of winkling out information hitherto undiscovered by those whose job it is to do so, but to entrench themselves as the oriflammes of incisive, investigative reporting. Some even create re-enactments of crime scenes that are pathetic excuses for spoon-feeding the viewing public what they want us to assume is the truth.

Sometimes, not even a five-minute delay would be sufficient to remove footage I find objectionable… we have seen clips that would be more suited to the crime being committed at the start of almost each Columbo episode, or Cold Case flashbacks.

The latest example of this pathetic ‘live coverage’ we have seen is the hunt for April Jones, who went missing after having been seen getting into the van of a man who has since been named.

Would the cameras have stopped rolling had April been found where the searchers were looking for her? I doubt it.

Meanwhile, journalist Kay Burley, fresh from the “cadaver search dog” gaffe, actually transmitted bad news about April to two of the searchers on rolling live news reportage.

Whether this was her usual ham-fisted coverage, or a calculated stratagem for viewers to catch the reaction of the volunteers, is anybody’s guess.

Is this what makes television “good” and “actual”? Most of the people responsible for giving us this tripe would reply… Whatever!  But it’s what the people want.  

Death Watch




I had written two posts mentioning suicide.

I had hoped never to write another one.

But the recent sorry excuse for reportage – a pathetic hotchpotch of biased comments with concerted, subtle, yet vicious splotches of slut-shaming and vindictive, malicious comments and misinformation following articles, allowed to stand by newspaper editors who ought to know better,  has put paid to that hope.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that some murders and suicides that happen locally get more column space and extensive audio-visual media coverage than others. As a corollary, there is a national discussion by self-styled experts about whys and wherefores.

The media relies on the fact that its audience laps up inaccurate, oversimplified and potentially dangerous, sensationalised reports. I was perturbed at the words and out-of-context sound-bites dug out from statements.

In other sections of the press, we are told that bullying leads to suicide. However, nowhere have I seen it stated that mental manipulation, whether or not it is Gaslighting, may lead to a similar end for the victim. Neither have I seen links to helplines, except once, just in case copycat suicides are in the offing.

I am told that ‘journalists’, whatever that term means these days, have to stuck to fact and not offer opinion – that is the domain of bloggers and / or  opinionated bitches like myself, and, apparently,  the people who regularly trawl the virtual news-sites to leave their insidious,  warped points of view for our delectation.

It is not easy to ‘know everything’ about something that happens. And yet, multifaceted issues are fed to us in drips and drabs, in a seemingly logical manner, in a bid to sway our judgements and mould our conclusions to match the agendas of those who have something to hide.

At this point, I have to ask many, many questions.  If you knew your friend was shoplifting or doing drugs, or riding his motorcycle hell for leather without a crash helmet, would you shop him? Or would you not want to get involved, lest you be tarred with the same brush by ‘ignorant adults’?

If you assume it’s just a phase, or that it is not your business… would you, then, hide the fact that he was having sex with minor?  If you thought he was a megalomaniac, or  sociopath, psychopath, or any other kind of –path, whether or not he had a history of underlying mental illness would you seek help, or would you cover for him because “that is what friends do”, while secretly envying his stud-luck with the girls?

Because of course, there is only one thing worse for a girl than to be called a slut – and that’s to be called a prude. Still, alas, when a man and a child have sex, the man gets high-fives, but the girl loses respectability. Even when he, shudder, shock horror, expresses trepidation that he will be branded a paedophile.

If, on the other hand, someone told you that all of the above could precipitate a death because the person involved fell into an “at-risk category”…would you change your mind?   Or would you shrug and say “shit happens?” ignoring the fact that the warning signs were there all the time?

If you had an acquaintance who always seemed sad, would you approach her? Now let’s take this point farther. If you had a friend who self-harmed because she was lonely, and felt excluded, would you ‘do something about it’, or would you assume she was showing off, or worse, that she was ‘in good hands’ because someone else had her back.  Is it really possible for just one person to have anybody’s back, in these circumstances? Nobody in a position to do so has yet explained that suicide is not an automatic response to feelings of rejection, depression, anxiety, despair, and isolation.

The non-sheep of us have been hauled over the coals for pointing out that you do not fall from a height without breaking a limb or four; that you do not even consider the possibility of a suicide attempt failing; that you do not keep a kid out at night of you know she is listed as missing; that sexts of minors constitute child pornography; that a person’s Facebook wall is not usually removed by anyone except himself… and this cannot be done when you do not have access to it.

I chided a journalist for treating the death of Lisa Marie so flippantly and histrionically, and asked him whether he would have extracted the same quotes from a social site, had she been his little sister. He did not reply.

As part of the research for this article, I clicked a random photograph on “See who’s here” on Ask.fm. Just for the record, there is no need to have an account with the site, to do this. The very first, and only, ‘conversation’ I saw was “il-hara kemm nobodok / mur aqbez / omgzz / suwisajd”.

Is it possible that this kind of activity is ‘fun’? Healthy, and psychologically sound, it certainly is not.

Gossip feeds the voracious appetitive of idle minds; note the hullaballoo about L’Wren and Peaches Geldof, which may not, after all, have been a suicide but due to an extreme diet.

This spawns the disgusting phenomenon of writing schlock – in error-riddled English – to attract audiences.

Sock it to me!

When my eyesight was still sharp enough to thread needles galore, I spent precious minutes sewing blue, green and yellow threads inside the back elastic of hundreds of knee socks, to colour-code those of each child. Then, of course, I had to separate them into pairs, fold them, and put them away.

Since my children go through socks like a hot knife through butter, all but the first part of this operation had to be repeated very, very frequently.

Then it struck me. Ouch. I could buy each child ten pairs of the same kind of sock, that is, in different colours of the same design, and sorting them would be a piece of cake. Socks for school would be even easier to master – ten more pairs of the same type, same colour sock per child – and so whichever two they picked would be guaranteed to be a pair.

If one sock got a hole in it (not all socks may be darned these days), I did not have to throw its partner away too. And if a sock got lost – well, the same reasoning applied.

Then, I did not yet know about the site that offers sets of three socks, in matching colours but different designs, that are to be worn at random, leaving one acting as gooseberry-in-a-drawer each time. This gimmick also applies to other items of clothing – pyjamas, shirt and skirt combinations, and so on.

And suddenly I was reminded of one of my favourite dresses from when I was a child –pink polka dots on a purple background for the bodice, a stripe of pink and another of purple at the waist, and purple polka dots on a pink background for the skirt.

And when my daughter was tiny, she quite enjoyed running about the house in mismatching stripper socks (three pairs for Lm1) that could be bought from the Valletta Monti. Then, I drew the line at her going out with them, though – I would not do so now.

And that brings me to the solemn declaration by my friend Karina that July 14-21 will henceforth be Orphan Sock Blog Week. That the start coincides with the Fall of the Bastille is neither here, not there. Neither has the expression “put a sock on it”, apparently.

Most families, at one time or another, know what it is to have a bunch of orphan socks waiting listlessly for their partner, after a wash. Some people throw the orphan socks away immediately. Others place them again in the laundry basket, hoping that some cosmic magnetism will produce a matching sock out of thin air. Because, really, that’s where the missing socks would have ended up. The Sock Gremlins do not exist, although the Tooth Fairy does (at least in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld books).

Others scour the washroom, the dog’s kennel, the cat’s basket, and even have a peek on the neighbours’ roofs, just in case the errant sock is there. And then there are smug people who never, ever lose socks, because they peg them out in pairs…

Others have never lost a sock simply because their socks are still in their original state, complete with a folded cardboard strip to indicate make and size, and plastic tags to keep them united.

Having worked for some time as a Kindergarten Assistant and Facilitator, I know full well that there are several uses for odd socks (and odd gloves).

Chew toys for pets; draught excluders; puppets; hair ties; instant ice-packs for bruises; Venetian blind cleaners or chalkboard erasers; cushion stuffing; furniture, silver and brass polishers; instant gift packaging for soft toys; slipping it over chilblained fingers, or those of children who bite their nails, or those who have hives, to stop them scratching themselves raw; as protection for necklaces… the list is practically endless.

You can also pot the ends of soap bars in them and then seal the top with a rubber band. You have the ideal “thingy” with which to soap the heels and toes of other socks before chucking them in the wash.

But this list comes with a dire pre-emptive warning. The minute you make irreversible alterations to your odd sock, the partner promptly turns up. In the sock drawer. Neatly folded. With another orphan sock.

The Princess Diary


Coffee mornings always leave me feeling so drained and wretched. But I have to show up.  I organise them for the Partit (well, actually, it’s because my friend, who is the secret mistress of the tenth-in-command swears by my organisational abilities and inter alia owes me a couple of favours and thinks she compensates by throwing a few hundred Euro my way every so often…).

I know full well that if I am not there they will gossip about me, just like they chinwag about absentees. In any case, attending means I get to know what is happening behind the scenes and (almost certainly) everywhere else.

In the end, it was the digital trail that gave me away.”  Silly man, “I always-intended-to-keep-my-mouth-shut” Joe Muto, recently outed as The (erstwhile) Fox Mole.

They knew that someone, using my computer login, had accessed the sources for two videos that ended up on Gawker over the past few weeks. They couldn’t prove it entirely, but I was pretty much the only suspect.”

You’d think a grown man, a journalist to boot, would have had more sense than that. Let us forget (or not?) for the moment, that in Malta some p-people do have a predilection for checking whether colleagues have left their social sites and e-mail accounts accessible when they go to the canteen.

Nobody can trace a rumour back to me, because I never put anything in writing – I just rely on my super-duper, photographic, magnetic memory that preserves images and conserves sound-bites perfectly.

I am adept at giving non-committal replies and asking leading questions.  I could make a fortune if the Partit knew that I am not really the numbskull they take me for.

I am a weasel, a traitor, a sell-out and every bad word you can throw at me… but as of today, I am free, and I am ready to tell my story, which I wasn’t able to fully do for the previous 36 hours. Mr Muto could have learned a thing or two from me.

At last Thursday’s Gathering (I refuse to call them Morning Coffee or Coffee Morning because they are such naff terms), I learned a couple of things that will stand me in good stead, whichever way the next General Election goes. Some of the rest of the blether, as usual, was just run-of-the-mill conjecture of the “his book is ghost-written” and “she buys bourbon by the case” type.

Nobody knows why a person sometimes resorts to subterfuge intended to make people think he is a writer, just as nobody understands what drives a person to seek comfort in alcohol when to all intents and purposes her life appears perfect.

Being the sole heiress of millionaire parents, I can afford not to work. This does have its benefits. Indeed, in my nominal job as CEO of a business conglomerate, I make a meal out of donating time and money to causes that I support – and little do these people know that I am writing a book about it all –which, I am sure, will be a best-seller, especially since I am going to name names.

Before you ask – not, I am not going to turn it into a script and try to sell it to a local television station. Not that I don’t have the right connections to get my work accepted… but I think the local section of the ether is already over-saturated with sex, truths and videotape.

I have had enough of the ranting and raving in high-pitched voices, prima donnas who sulk when they are to given meaty parts (and that’s just the men) and people who want to film the general area of Wignacourt Aqueducts in Notabile Road.  I have stopped counting how many times they appear in different local productions.

I always intended to keep my mouth shut. The plan was simple: get hired, keep my head down and my views to myself, work for a few months, build my resume, and then eventually hop to a new job that didn’t make me cringe every morning when I looked in the mirror.

Well, Mr Muto, I have news (sorry!) for you. Keeping your mouth shut and your head down etc. does not involve writing a blog about your workplace on a pc that screams your name. It means raising an eyebrow when someone mentions a “very big wedding” just one year after the bride ditched her ex-fiancée, and asking after the absentee father of an Asian-looking child, ever so innocently.

That was years ago. My cringe muscles have turned into crow’s feet. The ten resumes a month I was sending out dwindled into five, then two, then one, then zero. No one wants me. I’m blacklisted.

Now we know that twisting yourself into a pretzel does not always work. You have to maintain a deadpan expression when making atrocious puns because laughing at your own humour is self-destructive as well as vain. You have to plant rumours where they will flourish; yet you also have to preach to the choir, to maintain their faith. At the same time, you have to maintain your image as a goody-two-shoes image so that no one will accuse you of having hidden agendas.

Never once believe

Rumour, gossip and tattle –

The devil’s radios.

“Joe Muto is fired effective April 12. Once the network determined that Mr Muto was the main culprit in less than 24 hours, he was suspended late today while we pursued concurrent avenues.” No mention of the need for a copy editor, one notes.

In my case, I have the perfect cover.

The Query Letter


November 20, 2011 at 2:53 AM

To who it matter
Dear all
As the man said, you aint’s seen nothing yet until you read the herewith enclosed, or rather attaché, typescript for a book about the Sceince and Art of Writing, at which I am the expert past master (mistress sounds so crass doncha thing?)
As I was saying, you don’t know what’s going to ht you right between them eyes, my man, but when you read my book about the Sceince and Art of Writing, you will have to admit that I am the be-all and end-all of experts in the field of the Sceince and Art of Writing.
As you might be saying, this person is a genius, and I want to sign her on the books at once. But before I even consider working with you, you have to tell me in Writing that you are willing to learn the ropes from me because I have been through your web-sight and I have found several typos that could not be misprints they are so silly. So for an additionally fees, I might as well correct your spelling and grammer.
As the orturs which I quote in my book say, you never no what you can do till you try and when I beganed Writing the book about the Sceince and Art of Writing, little did I know that I would come up with such a compendiuming of knowledge about the Sceince and Art of Writing.
As Dr Spock, of the child expert’s famousness said, not the one with the ears on Star Track, you know, he said you know more than you think you do. In my case this has been proven to be excellently truth because as you can see, I explain the Sceince and Art of Writing so well that nobody can approach me about it.
As my relatives and my friends to which I gave the manuscript to read kept repeating, it is a heck of a job to write so much about the Sceince and Art of Writing. Ha ha, I am not an scientist or a Artist but I managed to write 2,340 pages about the Sceince and Art of Writing, can you beat that of course you can’t.
As my mentor and consultant and best friend said, and I quoit him to make sure that you understand the worthy of my opera, “If you can get them to accept it for you, you will indeed be one happy bunny.”
As my aunty who lives in Malta says, their bunnies are not happy, because they eat them, poor things, they do the spagetti or the chips with them and they are so cute, the rabbits. But that has nothing to do with the Sceince and Art of Writing of course, but I wanted to tell you that I know the culinationary skills of the Malteses because my aunty, when she comed over for a holiday, she thought me how to cook the things of Malta kitches.
Yours truthfully
Tanja Cilia

Great Expectations – The Four Candles of Advent

Tuesday, December 2, 2008, 09:09

Advent candles come in many colours – and this often owes as much to availability as to symbolism. Moreover, they are sometimes attached to Christmas wreaths, and sometimes placed on customised candlesticks, albeit at different heights – and sometimes at the same height. With all these variations on a theme, it would be interesting to find out why Christians light four Advent Candles, and not five, three, or any other number of them.

Christmas is not a moveable feast as is Easter. In Western Christianity, the first Sunday of Advent is the fourth one prior to Christmas Day, or the one that comes closest to November 30. When Christmas Eve falls on a Sunday, it is the last or fourth Sunday of Advent. In the Julian calendar used by the Eastern Orthodox Church, Advent begins on November 15, and lasts 40 days, rather than 4 weeks.

This year, the Sundays of Advent are as follows:

• November 30 – First Sunday of Advent

• December 7 – Second Sunday of Advent

• December 14 – Third Sunday of Advent

• December 21 – Fourth Sunday of Advent

Some sources say that the Advent wreath was an adaptation of a Germanic pre-Catholic rite, dating from a time when the people wanted to find something that would symbolise the banishing of the darkness from the “four corners of the world”. During wintertime, Scandinavians lit candles around a wheel, with prayers being offered to the god of light, begging him to turn “the wheel of the earth” back toward the sun to lengthen the days and restore warmth.

As happened with other pagan rituals, the four candles were metamorphosed to something that helped the faithful contemplate the “Four Treasures of Happiness” Expectation and Hope, Faith, Joy (the pink candle) and Peace; others put them as Love, Peace, Hope, and Joy. A couple of other variations are Hope, Peace, Joy, Love (in that order), and Hope, Preparation, Joy, Love. In some traditions, the first candle stands for prophecy.

There is also a tradition that purports to explain how each week represents a thousand years, and that the fourth candle therefore represents the passing of 4,000 years from the story of the Garden of Eden, to the Birth of the Saviour. Others say that they are a representation of the four centuries of waiting between the prophet Malachi and the birth of the Lord.

The three purple, violet, or dark blue candles signify the imminent arrival of royalty. The pink, rose, or white candle is lit on the third Sunday, when the priest also wears rose vestments at Mass. This is Gaudete Sunday, so called because of the first word in the biding prayers – Gaudate, which means ‘rejoice’. All four candles, together, remind us of the “four ps” of Advent – the preparation, purification, penance and prayer that each one of us must undergo during this important period of the Liturgical year.

Increasingly often, a white candle, “The Christ Candle” is lit and placed in the centre of the wreath, or at the top of the elongated candlestick, to represent the birth of Jesus Christ. Sometimes, the Candles of Advent are associated with Biblical personalities, or Biblical happenings, all thematically arranged to draw attention to the main event – Christmas. So, one might celebrate John the Baptist, Mary, the Magi; or Bethlehem, Shepherds, and Angels; or the Annunciation, Proclamation, Fulfilment.

Originally, Advent was a fast of forty days in preparation for Christmas, beginning on the day after the feast of St. Martin (November 12), and known in some quarter as “St. Martin’s Lent”. The candles are lit, one a week, to recall the Lord’s birth, and to connect it with His Second Coming. Adventus, the Latin word meaning “arrival” or “coming”, gives us the word “Advent”.

The light of the candles, apart from the candles themselves, is also an important symbol of Advent. It reminds us that the Son of God is the Light of the World.

Interesting to note is that the circular shape of the Advent wreath symbolises eternity. Moreover, the use of evergreen leaves symbolises the immortality of our soul and the new everlasting life brought about by the birth of Christ.

Flying Dove



IN THE TIME of Kang Hsi, one of the early Ching Emperors, in the quiet village of Wanhsien, lived a charming little girl whose name translates as Flying Dove.

She was a lonely little girl; since she walked with a limp, none of her peers wanted to play with her because she could not run fast enough to keep up with them.

So one lovely spring day, Flying Dove decided to start making herself useful by going to the river to fetch water for all those people in the village who had no one else to do it for them. She was going to start doing this by means of two large clay urns hung at either end of a yoke she would carry on her shoulders.

Flying Doves family was very poor, and so her parents appreciated the fact that sometimes, the people whom she helped used to give her a piece of fruit, or a handful of rice, or an egg, in order to thank her for her aid.

One of Flying Doves jars had a tiny, hairline crack down the side; but there was nothing she could do about it, because her family could not afford to get it mended. So she always lost some of the water on her way back, because since she limped, and the water was heavy, it sloshed about, and it took her a long time to return to her village. But nobody minded, just as long as they had enough water in which to cook.

With her conical hat pulled well down in order to protect her from the sun, Flying Dove made the journey to the river and back about five times a day. Everybody was amazed that such a frail-looking girl had such stamina.

When the next spring came around, Flying Dove realised that something beautiful had happened.

On the left side of the path leading towards her village from the river, there was a profusion of flowers in all the colours of the rainbow. Breathless, she hurried home to tell her mother about the beautiful sight.

Her mother, usually such a sad person, clapped her hands with joy for the first time in years, and all the people in the village came out of their homes to see what the matter was.

They all went to see the miracle that had happened on the track; and then the wise man of the village explained to them that the dribbles from the cracked clay pot had watered the ground and caused the seeds to sprout.

What’s more, he said, he had realised that Flying Dove, because of all that exercise, no longer walked with a limp; her own kindness had caused her to cure herself.

However, although she could now run even faster than the other children, she did not waste time playing; instead, she encouraged them to be like her, ever helpful to others. Soon afterwards, the villagers had only to scratch the ideographs for their names on their water jars, and leave them outside the house; laughing, happy, united band of children used to leave for the river in along procession to fill them up, without even once complaining, And all with a spring in their step.




A lifetime ago, before irate parents could call their favourite radio stations at the drop of a hat (more on this later) I worked as a Kindergarten Assistant.

Even back then, some of the children mocked their peers because whereas they “had a wardrobe bursting at the seams”, the latter “always wore the same clothes”.

Then came the decision that children, even at pre-school age, would wear uniforms. Ironically, the parents of the Clothes Show gang were the first ones to call the radio stations to complain about the “extra expense” they were going to be put through.

Alas, for some of them, the real reason was that their perfect little angels would not be able to preen any longer because they would look “the same as the others” as one of them succinctly put it in a rant outside the school gates. “Children are individuals!” she said “so why are they being treated as if they were in the Army? If they don’t wear their nice clothes to school, when can they wear them?”

Many people would remember the story with references to the Young Pioneer Movement, which has hitherto free-spirited children having to wear a uniform (like that of their teacher) and being given sweets sent by the “Great Leader” – after prayers to God delivered nothing.

The reason that I do not like uniforms is that most of them they tend to be drab… and some of them are also ugly, itchy, and badly-designed… such as summer shirts for girls that are so flimsy that a waistcoat made from the same fabric as the skirt, guaranteed to keep the heat in, has to be worn.

Or how about socks in school colours that do not have turned-over tops, such that they slide down the legs as the child walks?

There are schools that go for distinctive, expensive uniforms as a touch of class. For reasons of their own, they even forbid parents who are excellent seamstresses to sew their children’s’ blazers.

For others, the reason is more practical. It is much easier to do a headcount of children wearing a bright yellow polo-shirt during a school outing, than it would be had they been wearing white shirts…exactly like those of four other schools in the same place on a school outing.

Many children who watch television shows depicting foreign schools complain that their peers in the equivalent of Saved By the Bell, Fame, Beverly Hills 90210, Smallville and The O.C. can get away with, literally, everything. Making a uniform mandatory would probably make the series less interesting, since the clothing of the students in these shows reflects their characters, anyway.

They fail to realise that what is depicted on the screen is not ”the truth” – surely no self-respecting head of School would allow bare midriffs, spaghetti straps and painted-on cycling shorts, or other provocative clothing.

This is not a case of a Head of School ripping loose hems of skirts that are too short, or making students go to the toilets to remove tights worn underneath knee-socks to fight the cold if they were not “exactly” flesh-coloured.

Wearing a uniform is part of the praxis of religious orders, the armed forces, and other groups that want to present a depiction of “organisation” and “discipline” to the world. This is only a part of what school uniforms represent, however.

Some of us resent the fact that uniforms may only be bought from selected outlets or from the schools themselves – especially if they are not made of good0-ality fabric and the only thing differentiating them from non-branded items is s logo that is sometimes just sewn on.

And yet, they solve the perennial what-shall-I-wear today problem, as well as indicating that a child is a part of a group with an innate sense of decorum and order.

It is a moot point whether a fail-safe dress code – no branded clothing, no jeans, no tracksuits, no visible cleavage, no stretch fabrics, covered shoulders, shorts up to the knees, no slogans of any kind (even religious ones) on t-shirts or sweater, no hoodies, no low-waisted trousers that expose underwear – would work.

It goes without saying that make-up, jewellery and piercings and non-sensible shoes will be forbidden, too.

There will always be that difference in how many different items of a type one has, and what quality they are, and whether they are new or obviously hand-me-downs. And there will always be students who assume that fashion shows and beauty contests are part and parcel of the educational system.

Ironically schools that boast they are progressive are all to ready allow children not to wear uniforms, just to prove their point, whereas the Malta Union of Teachers, in a memorandum to the political parties, has actually asked whether it is time to abolish them.

And then we have those who believe that the very wearing of a uniform is conducive to learning, because “a child in casual clothes is not in the right frame of mind to learn”. It is one less thing to worry about for school administrations. Alas, however, a uniform will not stop bullying.

One assumes that by the time the child is in tertiary education, his mind-set will be different.

At least, one hopes it will.