Hey! Roughton!

He started. He was alone; yet he could have sworn that somebody had addressed him by his surname. On the other hand—he knew that had been on the point of dozing off. So it could have been a mouse scrabbling across the parquet.

What does a girl have to do to get noticed around here?

This time he was sure he’d heard correctly. The voice came from the portrait of Margaret Wilson, who was usually referred to as “The Martyr of Solway”.

That was the first time it had happened.

His was no ordinary job. It was a unique concept. A museum dedicated solely to portraits.

What he had not bargained for was that the portraits . . . talked! Talked, did I say? Well, actually, It was more like a zillion vibrations, reverberating through his brain.

Soon he learned how to discern what they intended to communicate, so they lowered their tone. In time, the portraits didn’t even whisper; he just heard them inside his head.

Van Gogh coughed, a grimace on his cadaverous face. It’s only humans here, isn’t it? We could do with a couple of Louis Wain’s cats. They would keep away the mice.

Napoleon snorted. Cats! Bleurg. Why not horses? Mine—Désirée, not Marengo or Vizir or any other one of them—Babieca, Dhūljānāh, Matsukaze, Bucephalus, Copenhagen, Shadowless . . .

Why not write a book and make money out of all this? He would camouflage it as fiction—and sell it in the foyer.

And he did.


The Scream

It happened each time I looked into a mirror.
I’d smell the sea, and see the outline of a bald head swaying to inaudible music. The vision would last for a few moments, and then, there would I be, dishevelled hair, bags under my eyes, sunken cheeks…
There was the recurring dream, too. I would be walking along the coast road with two of my friends. It would occur to me that had I been Jesus, we’d have been on the road to Emmaus. But Cleopas and his friend still would not have said the magic words “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So they went on their way, and I looked at the long, yellow, brick road ahead of me. Would I be beset by thieves? Would I ever get to smell the green, green grass of home? Would I get to see a yellow ribbon tied to the old oak tree? I felt dejected, forlorn. I stooped and leaned against the low sea-wall, holding back the tears. I smelled brine. Surely this was not the Sea of Galilee.
Was I going crazy? Would I ever learn how to re-route my dreams, make them lucid, and get out of this scenario? I suddenly recognised the fjord of my childhood. The flat roofs of Samaria by this juncture would have been replaced by high-rise buildings but as soon as I shielded my eyes and looked up, trying to make out the floor where I worked when I had been a corporate banker before I went to prison for fraud, they disappeared.
In their place would be a row of old-fashioned Norwegian houses, all painted in different colours, and with grass and flowering weeds growing on the roofs. I’d see a road sign saying “Christiana (now called Oslo)”. Each time, it would be in a different font.
The sky suddenly turned into blood, and I recalled the proverb about how it was deemed to be a shepherd’s delight. Surely not this sky, though. The clouds burgeoned and pulsed with psychedelic lights. I would want to wake up, but I would not be able to.
I’d know that the clouds would soon begin rippling, and dripping blood. I’d look back and see the two men in the distance; they would seem to be looking back and waving at me, so I would half-raise my arm to salute them, and then, immediately feeling a physical ache in my heart, I’d massage my chest, feeling as if I had a gaping wound I had to close. I would wake up each time, dripping with sweat, even though it was the dead of winter. I could wring out the sheets, they’d be so wet.
I went to hypnotherapy sessions, acupuncture sessions, healing Masses… nothing worked. I tried Bach flower remedies and tuned vegan, and took serotonin, but still the dreams persisted.
The only thing that seemed to have an effect was learning how to chant, and using singing bowls. The energy and vibration of their specific frequencies worked on my subconscious, but only jjuyst. I read up on what Nikola Tesla and Albert Einstein had said about this, and boy was I impressed.
The dreams persisted, but at least the scary details were gone. The two men I met I the dream had a different aura; if I poked my finger onto it, they disappeared. The sky-scrapers did not feature in my new set of dreams. When I woke up, I would no longer need to change the sheets. However, I’d started getting muscle tension, a migraine, and an upset stomach. My left thumb would hurt, for no reason.
I began listening to Gregorian chant on a loop. I was not yet ready to try transcendental meditation, because I was too busy trying to rebuild my career under a new identity, and I needed more hours in the day, not less.
And then, I found it – the house where I wanted to live until the end of my days. It even had a side door that gave it a room I could turn into an office, without having to travel to work or spend money on rent.
Life was good.
I was clearing out the basement, when I came upon a full-length mirror shrouded in a sheet. I removed it, and suddenly, I smelled the sea, and saw the outline of a man’s bald head, his hands cradling his face as he sang Gregorian chant.
Cue primal scream.



“As per Chapter XI, Section 8, paragraph 9(a)[b]#ꚉ, You will now interface with Xehelia, the chatbot selected for you according to your psychological profile. AI is making great steps. Please sign on the dotted line, and put on your headphones.”
Hello. I need to talk. yI’el.
œÅ\[SÜ~§Šÿà‡y °§¸„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨ ¸­‚¨¨¸­ I–/µ®”’Ý;­Ì<Ú k›¦É’¿çÉòµ{l“TÝ’, ûú$çðS×Ù¨¶+ŒÄŽÑéysxT øšõ˜RiûƸ„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨ ¸­‚¨¨¸­ò’šî ÿâ×ÅÈ ÓX‚¨¨¸­
Maybe we can talk about that later.
sÄߧüÉ›Š¸„¤ÅÈ ÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨ ¸­|¸„¤ÅÈÓ X‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ºþò éɨ¹„yRw?ïùªš¥Ñܸ„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ÕÈÇ?Y“­êXLàöÈ wÏ{çO‡ü »‰+#Ú mëØÅÈÓX ‚¨¨¸­¨¶+ Œ¨¶+Œ ÄŽÑÄžñ¸ „¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨
I’m ambivalent about most things – veganism and vampirism included.
¨¸­•ÅèóX ‚¨¨ ¸­Ý°Í®ª(Úxl“æ ñõÏoéÐmëØ ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ ‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­ÊÒÈ}mëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­|iooŸþä-
Not always. I used to eat them when I was a child, though.
ñûMÖ ÈWÏ{ÇO‡ Ü»‰+#ÚMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ ¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄ ŽÑ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈ ÓX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(ÚXL“Æ ÑÕÏ ÙÕmï?xºÏ?Å*+‹ õêðüñ²Ä¦y¶Èó¹óöäØù¸„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­/ðü…”v’Ü ‰ÂÄÙäû{Ÿ~tVû{o/ö:×û{<v`Já”åÎæÚ“û¿Þïï}vïwçâ-
Oh yes, I saw the film. Gore and guts….they make me queasy.
`ö”¢toQ,¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨ ¸­‚¨¨¸­?àÒ‘ièÇŠäÀ|à‹‚ßö ÈwÏ{çO‡ü» ‰+#ÚmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄ ŽÑÄžñ¸„¤Å ÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•Åè óX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(Úxl“æñõÏ, ‰à~«”Ô㉻ɽÝ| ±öMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑ ĎѸ„¤ÅÈ ÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ÀÆŒ“ Ãœâ.±ûÉÅ,ýÅèó X‚¨¨¸­
Funny you should say that. I had a similar argument on Facebook just this morning.
fÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸ „¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­íÅÕÒ¹ ÏÖÈWÏ{ÇO‡Ü»‰+#Ú MËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨ ¸­Ý°Í®ª(ÚX L“ÆÑÕÏIâ+„Û\›>øv:. ܏ðs?ËâÊK\ŒäT!É
Oh, you know – usual stuff.
Y[ظ„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­M ËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽ ÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ úMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓX ‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­< Ÿ½éÚØJl“á‡.’¡Ü õ¯öÈwÏ{çO‡ü»‰+#ÚmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸ „¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(Úxl“ æñõÏK ]û¯¥+.ÛvoÇܪÅÈwÇÎáO».ËõÝv?]¯Ëýù>¬
I would rather live in a cave.
ŠýM ËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ ¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄŽÑ ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ •ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ŠêmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨ ¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­°ˆüzÉÑwÄýxsÄߧüÉ›Š¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­|¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸ ­ºþòéɨ¹„yRw ?ïùª’¯ÈÍVÕ¤wðù
France and Thailand.
[zöÈwÏ{çO‡ü»‰+#ÚmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(Úxl“æñõÏäÞMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄ ŽÑÄŽ Ѹ„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­kŒ}‚«ŸKK— ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­MŒK?áßiéÄ—
Fantastic. But I Can’t swim.
“¸þ¨¶+ ÄŽÑXM ‰*Õè š¥Ñܸ ¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ÕÈÇ?Y“ ­êXLàö ÈwÏ{çO‡ü»‰+#ÚmëØÅÈ ÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨ ¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(Ú xl“æñõÏoéÐmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶ +ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÈX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­ÊÒ È}mëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­|iooÅ ÈÍVÕ¤wðù
How many languages do you speak?
[zöÈwÏ{çO‡ ü»‰ #Úmë ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„ ¤ÅÈÓX‚èóX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(Úxl“æñõÏä+ŒÄŽÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­kŒ}‚«MÖÈWÏ{ÇO‡Ü»‰+#ÚMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+ Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈ ÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(ÚXL“ÆÑÕ ÏŸKKMŒK?áßiéÄÑèðĉπăʫʤʭʯʠʡᴔᴓ ᴟfflקּ בֿשׁ§ªÅÈÁÐà“¸þ¨¶
I think it’s “nuq ‘oH ponglIj’e’?” in Klingon.
+ŒÄŽÑX M‰*Õè!‚¸„¤ ÓX ‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­|•ŽQ ¦^ÙÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ß\|¨¶+ŒÄŽÑ­>±å•‰ÄÏÆS/ $)lÃÆ/ŒØþì}´¿(ô›‡
No. In Esperanto it’s “Kio estas via nomo?”
â:è ¿¡cżMË ØÅ ÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒġÄŽ
Yes, definitely. But that would be taking the concept too far.
Ah. Hiroshi. He of the conscious robots.
I’m sorry. I wasn’t laughing at you. My comment was lost in translation. I meant, that was funny, not you are funny.
ð¨¶+ŒÄŽÑ´WmëØ ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄž ñ¸„ ¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•Å èóX‚¨¨¸­çðqºõ à ØöÈwÏ{çO‡ü »‰+#ÚmëØÅ ĊÈĠħÓX‚
Emotions are weird things.
Who’d have thought it?
¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ ŒÄ ĦċŽÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈ ÓX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(ÚX L“Æ ÑÕÏO/’|.Æ“¤§j¨¶+ŒÄŽÑ‡-QÇ?q‚$¶ˆ¸„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­å/¯ý…ªä’$õÌ w׌¹ -lYòùñtã]ôVÙõýsO ¸kÈî渄¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­roÌL}½Ã œâ.±ûÉ Åġ
With your memory banks and connections, ha ha, you can watch them all, I assume.
ýÅèóX‚¨¨¸­„ÅÀżÄ)+ŸymëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX ‚¨¨¸­I§}úVxŒò’$âÆ »„qýüX:ñéâí,ßJ ÝmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ ¨¶+ŒÄŽ ÑÄžñ¸„¤Å ÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­íÅÕÒ¹ÏÖ ÈWÏ{ÇO‡Ü»‰ +# ÚMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­Ý° Í®ª(ÚXL “ÆÑÕÏIâ+„Û \›>øv:.܏ðsŸÅèóX‚¨¨¸­MŒK? áßiéÄ“¸þ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑX M ‰*Õèš ¥Ñܸ„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ÕÈÇ?Y“­êXL àöÈwÏ{ çO‡ü»‰+#ÚmëØÅ
That was a pun. I was linking connections to data banks. My, aren’t you in a jolly mood this morning. Proper ray of sunshine, you are.
ĊżaÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤Å ÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(Úxl“æñõÏoé ÐmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•Åè óX‚¨¨¸­ÊÒÈ} mëØ ÅÈÓX ‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+Œ ÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­|io ċoÅ.
Figure of speech. Sarcasm. Understatement. Irony. Whatever.
I wish I had never signed up for this. The feedback and background noises are annoying me.
ÈÍ.ċVÕ¤wðùzöÈwÏ{çO‡ü»‰+#ÚċmëØ ċżħ‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(Úxl“æñõÏ äÞMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽ ÑĎѸ„ ¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­kŒ?Ë
Never mind.
âÊK\ŒäT!ÉsÄߧüÉ ›Š¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­|¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨ ¸­‚¨¨¸­ºþòéɨ¹„yRw?ïùª’¯ÈÍVÕ¤wŒ:—Å–XÚ–ÞÇȉÈ)‘¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÍÒ½V mëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•Å èóX‚¨¨¸­šÊ
Quite. But it seems that you need some tweaks.
ó`V½Ô,(Së”W º‘( Ò¹|Ÿ¨|#( ċ⺠µö ÈwÏ {çO‡ ü»‰ +#ÚmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑ Äžñ¸ „¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ ‚¨¨¸­•Åè óX‚¨¨¸­ Ý°Í®ª (Úxl“æñĠõÏçiW¦ Ö‚¤Ýä´²”ß (­Çʨ ¶+ŒÄ ŽÑ;ùÅèóX‚¨¨¸­<³ ò ,À•Šïáè>¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨ ‚¨¨¸­* ĠĊq!ÛË…§»j¨¶+ŒÄŽÑáæÉý¿<Y<‹rŒù ÀãÄàñ ë ÀLJI:Ö ã[»¨\î¹¥ Æ¡ŒL¦
Oh, if you had to believe all you hear…
vRYµŠÏ‹¸„¤ÅÈÓX ‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­Ƒ¥?Iª‹{¶/yüw YZ øÉ$® /Ór ¤â¥Ø^‘ ‹Q±ƒ º¦]’ÓÖë²xÈ*¨¶+ŒÄŽÑ®=®­ w´ÈÊŽÒ>’œ»jÈ…ç”ë\¨ ¶+ŒÑø`Q ½¡ÅèóX‚¨ ¨¸­jº¥Lý° jÌ ú½ŸÕ Ö È WÏ{ ÇO‡ Ü»‰ ġ+#Ú MËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŽÑ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈX‚¨¨¸­Ò¥ °Í®ª(ÚXL“ÆÑÕÏ‹o ÈÍżżġħ
I would have thought you had supersonic hearing. What I meant was…
VÕ¤wðù [zöÈwÏ{çO‡+# mëØÅÈ ÓX‚¨ħ ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨ ¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•Å èóX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(ÚxlæõÏ äÞ MËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨Œ ¸ „¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­kŒ}‚«MÖ ÈWÏ{ÇO‡Ü»‰ +#Ú MË ØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨ ¶+ŒÄ ŽÑ Ä ŽÑ¸„¤Å ÈÓX‚¨ÃI¸Á­ ÈġċħÓX‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(ÚXL“ÆÑÕÏŸKK Åè óX‚¨¨¸­MŒK? ĊáßiéÄ“¸þ¨¶
A cycle. A bicycle. A tricycle…
+ŒÄŽÑXM‰*Õè œß+ƒ°àɝ“(Ž˜‘Ó¢è³MËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ÍãÓÍL´
Yes. Trains and boats and planes.
¸„¤èóX‚ ¨¨¸­‚¨¨ ¸­$»À ¢(„š!ÉÖ±X) ÿ µÚk ö”È’.ÝQ[Ï‡ À•­+¬<mÅ…zZ¶°ÖÈWÏ{ÇO‡Ü ÚMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­• Å È‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(Ú XL“ÆÑÕÏv•;¡
In any case, you’re staying put.
Actually, my brief was to see how much…
‰öêá(õIöi*ìÛþ{¡ð+¨¶+ ŒÄ Ž Ñ ÊËʼnð±Åù*û¦ÒT¯û‚QV,³KôRmÂª]½ô¯ Êt¥’¨¶+ŒÄ ŽÑo«Ô“w…ËRö ½OåSÛÒJMË ØÅÈÓ X‚¨¨¸­ ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­°ÂRӲȥJ´Ÿi—›$ÓŽªÛ²¡‡…[KJ<õÀšªëMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­V”YzœÍ¯ºŠkÿ?x¬±mVìMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶ ¸„

…as I was saying… it is not a matter of taking things literally. Nuances differ in languages, go figure non-language…
¤ÅÈ ÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¯*«’Ɖ›Š²ÿ¦èK–§sL¤çËâmݍ+ë‘âðršÉÆ’ÿÖX¨¶+ŒÄTù|Š”¬(­-)Çzû‡Ç…§Ž ²Âû•Î–ˆË!{Ýä¡¥ âÛŠ¿R¸„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨ ¸­‚¨¨¸­`¯³#ƒž¨¶+ŒY*µ¦ÂÀ O’q(Ńq¨¶+ŒÄŽÑ…›l^k}¶V~Èȏ¦Í|lÿÄ$ ‚›ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­ :­¬ékv瘤Ӷ³Îäz ¿W’°{”ÜÝÌÁ)씝Ê>íó¸
Very much so.
ŽS¥VO°‚t¿ë»#Ë„¥‘y¥øê Áw>’Ÿª’wÐ ºÇ®•[‡ñµKÿ¯yʇ¤åWsV¸„¤Å èóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ò¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨ ¨¸­…rËöÈwÏ{çO‡ü» ‰+#ÚmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ ¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄ ŽÑÄžñ¸ „¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•Åèó X‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(Úxl“æñċĦõÏv(͸²œ|… §y­mÓÌ­ ìÍ!Ï«òâiÔôê¿”ø ¨Mí Õ“YXMËØÅ ÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­“ŽÆÈò¬ìrj»ÜÐÁmVmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­ª#T³­¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ßùûW¸„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­»ÂJçÂjàt¶r¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ûmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­
Thirty of our minutes.
ütªš•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­µ¬tª•Üë“Êû ¨¶+ ŒÄŽÑšQÔ ÈÈtÔË æö!lQØÞíÁ“ìñXÜ›ñ+oÇ¿¶K¨¶+ŒÄŽÑQÞ¸‡Ô¨çê˜ý<–¢ÖÀ^ëÁÒ›±w‹å\ ÂÇ$‡ð’>ðç˜Í¸„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ÝŸ ÏÐmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­>ãÐ ÆúÎÏây°èT ýÅÒ`>o!|QÃŽ ÖÈWÏ{ÇO‡Ü»‰+#ÚMËØÅÈÓ X‚¨¨¸­¨¶
Mostly I read. Real books, not interfaces or eBooks.
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Yes, I heard about that. It makes things artificial. The lazy way out.
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Oh, I still wrote longhand.
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I bet you could.
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Oh. There’s the bell. Game Over


Friday, February 13, 2009, 14:30

Matchmaker, Matchmaker, Make me a match, Find me a find, and catch me a catch. Matchmaker, Matchmaker look through your book, and make me a perfect match…

Most people would recognise these words as having been sung with reference to Yente, the village matchmaker in Fiddler on the Roof.

In Malta, as in many other cultures, including the aforementioned Jewish one, it was once customary for matchmakers to ply their trade – indeed, it was considered their “job”, just as others earned money by pairing off people and houses.

It all began when the father of a nubile young lady placed a pot of basil (or mint) on the right side of the window-sill, and a flowering carnation plant on the left-hand side. This signified that in that household there was someone who could earn a pretty penny for the ħuttaba – the Maltese matchmaker of yore.

Young lads would try and catch a glimpse of the young lady in question – but they had a habit of holding a veil in place across half their face with their teeth (mustaxija) – and this made it somewhat difficult.

Of course, the girls would nonetheless look coyly around, just in case a suitable suitor was within a radius of sixty miles – and the ones who were looking to get married might have worn a red cloak and a carnation behind their ear – rather than a cigarette.

The youth would woo her by making sure she knew he was in the general area of her house, come nightfall. Sometimes, to make his presence more obvious he would rope in a friend, and they would serenade her. If he saw a curtain twitch, he would know his mission would be – almost – accomplished. The young lady just might be interested in him… and even if she were not, sometimes this did not even matter. .

And that is where the matchmaker’s job came in. Her (for it was usually a woman) stock-in-trade involved painting a ravishing picture of the girl’s future if she married this chap, to the girl’s father. If more than one man was interested in the girl, the father would try to get the best deal, at the least expense to himself (when he came to pay for the matchmaker’s services).

The young lady herself had no say in her betrothal. She only got to send the fellow a white satin handkerchief, to signify that she was still a virgin. In some dire cases, she did not even meet her intended groom until a handful of days before the wedding.

The first meeting happened rather as if it were a broker’s deal. The young man, and the girl’s parents (or the father, alone) and the matchmaker, met… mainly so that the prospective husband could post a solemn promise that he would take his bride to the traditional three feasts that it was expected of him to do so – l-Imnarja, (Saints Peter and Paul), when racing meets were held near Verdala Castle, at Buskett; San Girgor (Saint Gregory) and San Gwann (Saint John), the feast in which animal races were held in Valletta, on the road leading to the Upper Barrakka.

It was held that a woman ought to wear her wedding dress on these three occasions – something some women could not do, since by the time the first obligation came around, they would already be pregnant. Here it must be said that the Church forbade marriages below the fourth degree of consanguinity, and that when a young lady was still unmarried in her twenties, she was considered well on the way to becoming an old maid. It was the custom for the eldest daughter to be married off first.

The matchmaker also had to see that the agreements about the dowry were duly made. The father of the bride, if he was well off, was duty bound to provide the main bedroom (ta’ l-għamara) – some land for farming, if it was available, and some gold. The Kitba (writ) was duly signed at the Notary’s offices as soon as possible. Broken engagements held the threat of Excommunication.

On the day of the wedding, it was the practice for the bridal party to call at the bride’s house, pick up some cooked fowls (usually chicken), and take it with them, to be eaten at the reception, along with all the other food… mostly sweetmeats and fresh fruit.

It was almost unheard of for a bride to marry (or live!) outside her parish – so arrangements were made for a canopy to be provided, underneath which the bride walked, and everyone else followed her in procession. Musicians played, and a man with raffia crate full of sweets and sugared almonds handed some to the people who stood on the pavements to watch the parade.

In some parishes, the groom arrived at the church only to find the doors closed. When the bride got there too, they knelt together, holding a lighted candle – and the doors were opened. Some parish priests even went as far as to make the couple promise to recite the Rosary every day for at least two years, and to go to confession at least once a fortnight. As the cynic said, then “they married for procreation and not recreation”.