Għax dik fuq ir-Relief…

http://www.inewsmalta.com/dart/20130621-ax-dik-fuq-ir-relief

Broom

11:26  |  21.06.2013

Fuq tal-linja telgħu tlett ibniet li bejniethom kellhom sebat itfal. Basktijiet tal-iskola, fliexken tal-iced tea, buggy taż-żgħira nett… insomma, qisna sejrin ix-xalata tad-duttrina…

Għalkemm bħas soltu kelli earbud tar-radju waħda f’widinti, stajt ninduna li kien hemm min dehrlu li għandu juri li “dawn l-affarijiet ma jsirux”.

Waħda Ingliża xiħa daret fuq l-eqreb waħda u staqsietha “are they all yours?” – mistoqsija li probabbilment xtaqu jistaqsuha xi erbgħa minn dawk li kien hemm fuq tal-linja dak il-ħin.

“No! Course not!” qalet din. “Him and her mine, him and him hers (u ppuntat lejn oħra) u her her and him hers…”

Tbissimt, u… nistqarr li ħarist bl-ikrah lejn dik il-mara li dehret li ma ħadetx gost li wieħed mis-subien kien bilwieqfa ħdejha, mill-ħars li bdiet tagħtih.

Insomma, dawn niżlu… u din il-gustuża qalet “…u żgur. Imħatra qegħdin fuq ir-Relief, u żewġi jaħdem għalihom…Bajd u beċċun, ifaqqsu biex jieħdu iżjed…”

Hija ħaġa minn ewl id-dinja li meta ngħidu “fuq ir-Relief” – espressjoni li ġejja minn żmien żemżem – aktarx li nkunu qed infissru lil xi ħadd li jidher qisu ċakkara, jew xi ħadd li għażżien wisq biex jaħdem, jew xi ħadd li għandu xi diżabbiltà u ma sabx xogħol. U m’għandniex xi ngħidu, l-immaġinazzjoni tagħna tgħidilna li dawn in-nies jgħixu f’dar maħmuġa tinten, għandhom xi sitt iklieb, u… bilħaqq, it-tfal iżjed iva milli le, ikollhom salt qamel f’xagħarhom.

U… jekk m’għandhomx il-ġrieden, ukoll… dawn il-parassiti tas-soċjetà.

Il-midja u dawk kollha li jaħdmu fost dawn in-nies bi bżonnijiet jgħidulna li dawn huma “l-foqra” – mhux għax m’għandhomx flus, iżda forsi jew ma jafux jużaw il-flus li għandhom sew.

Iżda din m’hiex il-verità kollha.

Ninsew li hemm min qiegħed f’dik l-emerġenza temporanja; ngħidu aħna, xi ħadd li tilef ix-xogħol għax l-entità li kien jaħdem magħha falliet, u ma kellux biżżejjed biex jieħu l-benefiċċju tal-qgħad. Allura dawn “għażżenin”?

Nieħdu mara li romlot… li għandha t-tfal żgħar u mhux f’pożizzjoni li toħroġ taħdem, u (li la hi biċċa tiegħi u anqas tiegħek) tiddeċiedi li ma tkunx tista’ tgħajjex lil uliedha bil-penzjoni. Allura din għażżiena?

Aħna l-Maltin x’aktarx li noqomsu biex ngħinuhom lil dawn… jekk inkunu nafu bihom. Imma hemm min ma jkunx jixtieq juri li għandu bżonn lil xi ħadd, meta soltu dejjem kien ivinċi sewwa.

U jekk xi ħadd marad, jew korra? Allura jekk ir-raġel jew il-mara tiegħu ma joħorġux jaħdmu fis… allura dawn għażżenin? U min iħallas flejjes kbar għall-kera ta’ gorboġ, għax ma jarax għalfejn għandu jxrti post… u anqas li kieku, qatt m’hu ser jasal… allura dan għażżien… għax ma tantx jibqagħlu flus?

U jekk joffrulhom xogħol prekarju u ma jaċċettawx… allura dawn għażżenin? Inkella, jmorru jaħdmu bla ktieb… bla ebda sigurtà… allura hekk irriduhom, biex juruna li m’humiex għażżenin?

U meta naraw il-barranin jaħdmu… xi xogħlijiet li huma meqjusa li “mhux puliti” – allura dawn qed ‘joħdulna xogħolna’, jew qed jaħdmu flok l-“għażżenin”?

Barra minnhekk, naraw li hemm għadd kbir ta’ xjuħ li jieħdu l-għajnuna soċjali. Min aħna aħna biex niġġudikawhom, għax ma faddlux biżżejjed meta kienu kapaċi jaħdmu?

Min għandu xogħol tajjeb, u bejn wieħed u ieħor jista’ jixtri li jrid, ma jistax jifhem xi jfisser li ma jkollokx flus biex tixtri kwart perżut għax aħjar tixtri l-ħobż… għax dak iżjed jimla’ ż-żaqq tat-tfal. U din, emmnuni, mhux “esaġerazzjoni”.

U bilħaqq… imaġina li int m’għandekx telefon ċellulari, u / jew karozza. Tapplika għax-xogħol, u jistaqsuk minn fejn int. Imbagħad jistaqsuk għandekx karozza. “Għandek siegħa u nofs biex tasal, kieku…” “Ma jimpurtax… għat-tfal nagħmel kull sagrifiċċju jien…” “Eh, għandek it-tfal? U jekk jimirdu, għandek min joqgħod magħhom?”

U żgur li mhux legali dawn il-mistoqsijiet u kummenti. U żgur li kieku lil raġel ma kienux jistaqsuhomlu. Mhux bilfors li hawn min jaqta’ qalbu, u jgħidlek li almenu bl-assistenza soċjali jieħu “xi ħaġa” żgur?

Ma ninsewx ukoll li hawn min hu mdorri f’kultura fejn li tieħu l-assistenza soċjali hija meqjusa bħala xi ħaġa “normali”. Mhux tajjeb għaddejin, jew?

Min jaf jirranġa, minn hawn u minn hemm, forsi ma jarax il-bżonn li ma jibqax jgħix f’din il-ħajja… iżda jista’ jkun li jekk xi ħadd ikun irid joħroġ minn dan iċ-ċirku, ta’ madwaru jiddieħqu bih. Tarax ħej, irid isir Professur.

Mhux daqshekk faċli li tkun taf x’ħinu għaddej fil-ħajja privata ta’ dak li jkun. Għax kultant, anqas l-istatistiċi ma jixhdu l-verità.

The Maltese Ħobża

Anyone who thinks that nectar, ambrosia, and manna are the foods of the gods is way off the mark.

Nothing beats a ġenba torn off the side of a warm ħobża before one even leaves the bakery premises. This explains the trail of crumbs from the counter (or a plank resting on two soft drinks cases) and the door. In my day, when the bread was too hot to handle, Tal-Ħobża always had a supply of bits of cardboard torn off the mound of collapsed boxes collected expressly for this purpose. And the aroma inside the bakery would cling to the clothes.

It is a Semitic tradition to break bread with someone as a sign of welcome, and friendship. And no wonder. Our bread is nothing like the anaemic, oblong, spongy loaves bought for convenience rather than taste and texture. Indeed, Maltese bread is the best thing since before sliced bread.

How could you honestly hope to mop up the gooey garlicky mess at the bottom of the fenek fry-pan? Could you use anything else but tal-Malti to slather with butter and eat with ġbejniet tal-bżar? Would any other type of bread taste as good, spread with kunserva, drizzled with olive oil, and sprinkled liberally with freshly-crushed black pepper and Mediterranean sea-salt?

Incidentally, if you can get an unbaked loaf of bread from the baker, you will find that it makes the ideal pizza.

The friable crust and soft crumb (this is the bieba as opposed to crumbs, which are the frak) make for an ideal marriage of textures and tastes… with one proviso: contrary to the sanitised breads that keep relatively fresh for up to three days, Maltese bread is best eaten on the day it is baked. And anyone who has bought sliced Maltese bread, packaged inside a knotted plastic bag, knows that this is not the way to eat it, either.

Most areas are blessed with twice-daily bread deliveries, mostly from the Maltese equivalent of Bethlehem (“the house of bread”) – Qormi, which was also known as Casal Forno. This enables us to purchase ħobż that are never more than half a day old (it takes eight hours in total to produce a loaf of bread). You may, of course, opt for the unleavened ftira – especially if you are off to the beach, as this holds my preferred filling – tomatoes or tomato paste, capers and olives, anchovies and onion rings – so much better.

Unless you intend to make speciality breads, the above means that buying a bread-making machine would probably be a waste of money. Bakers always leave a clump of dough from the day before, in order to start off the fermentation of the next day; machines always stipulate yeast as an ingredient – and the taste is never quite the same.

Bakers will tell you that the end result depends upon many variables – the type of flour, and water used, the proportion of the ingredients, the temperature at which it is cooked, as well as the type of oven. The dictum goes that the bigger the hole, the better the quality.

The dough is always different depending on the quantities of ingredients, the type of water used, the type of flour, the temperature to which it is subjected and so on.

As in the case of puddings and pies, however, each household has its own ‘recipe’ for what goes inside a ħobż biż-żejt… tinned tuna, pickles, garlic, marinated vegetables, leeks, thinly-sliced cucumbers, grated carrots, capsicums…

Maltese bread, soaked in a mixture of milk and water, and squeezed out, forms the basis for pudina. To this, you add whatever you have in your larder in the way of vine fruit, dried and candied fruits, cocoa, and rum (or anisette or brandy or vermouth). Some people add sugar, desiccated coconut, butter, and an egg or two.

The mixture is placed in a buttered, floured dish and cooked at a low heat until it forms a crust, and a knife stuck into it comes out clean.

Whichever way you decide to use it, small wonder that the smell, texture and sheer debauchery of the Maltese hobza, over any other local food offering, is what breaks the heart of all émigrés every time.

News Print

Three missed calls, in quick succession – from a withheld number. It was our Signal – and I use Upper Case on purpose.

He’s in Malta! My heart missed a beat.

As I had done an untold number of times before, I called the 12-digit number I had concocted out of our combined birthdates. This hooked up to an exchange, whence it was re-directed to the self-same phone from which he had called me.

I hated this cloak-and-dagger stuff, but he had patiently explained how it was a necessary safety precaution.

Answer, dammit! I knew that the procedure involved allowing the phone to ring seven times at his end, but nonetheless I panted as I counted the beeps, waiting to for the line to connect. Click!

“Meet me at the Upper Barrakka in ten minutes, near where the Lift used to be. Hurry!” That’s all he said. Not even the usual “See-you-love-you!” which, he knew, made shivers run up and down my spine.

Oh heavens, he knows I’m pregnant. Why didn’t he pick the Lower Barrakka, just across the road? He knows I have oedema, and I tire easily – and it’s uphill all the way… I will never, ever, understand that man as long as I live.

I bunched up my hair, and jammed on my crochet beret, the one he had bought me from Paris when he was on assignment there… in 2015. He had left the Charlie Hebdo offices at 11.00a.m., because he wanted to catch the 11.15a.m. train back to his hotel.

As I struggled to put on my parka, I rapped on my neighbour’s door and told her I needed to run… I stopped short of adding “literally”. I handed her the key to the flat, and asked her to switch off the oven in fifteen minutes’ time. “Oh, do be careful!” she unconsciously looked at my tummy.

“Yes.”

“Watch out where you’re going, idiot!”  exclaimed the woman I bumped into as I turned into Saint Christopher Street.

If only you knew.

I poked out my tongue at her retreating back, and ran up the steps. I crossed Saint Ursula Street, and turned left when I got to Saint Paul Street.

I was already huffing. I counted each corner. 1, 2, 3… Incongruously, at the back of my mind, there were those dreary history lessons in which I had learned how all the streets of Valletta, except for the coast road, were at right angles to one another.

However, learning their position on a map was extremely difficult – I have dyslexia.

My English Language teacher had mocked me in front of the whole class when, during the Careers Convention, I had declared I intended to become a journalist.

“You can’t even read a Primer!” she’d snorted, and on cue, all of my classmates, except for Shirley, had sniggered. They wanted to gain Brownie points from her.  She had taken an instant dislike to me, and I only found out the reason years afterwards… a boy she fancied had totally ignored her, and dated my sister, instead. So… I was the recipient of her spleen.

Eventually, my name had appeared on the front page of The Malta Daily. I had written a story about how ghostly presences had been seen walking – floating, actually – along Saint Barbara Bastions. The wraiths had appeared during the daytime as well as at night – so there was no question of their being candid camera holograms.

The said teacher had actually called my Editor to say that someone must be ghost-writing my articles. He laughed, because he found the repeated use of “ghost” amusing. She went ballistic, and threatened to get him fired; and this convinced him even more that she was a nutcase.

She sputtered that I was a cheat and an impostor, and that I was dyslexic, and that disabled people should not be allowed to trick their way into jobs because people pitied them… and so on and so forth. When he managed to get a word in edgewise, my Editor reassured her that I had compiled the story in the Press Room, and added, for good measure, that anyway, it was none of her business how he chose to place copy in the paper.

She had slammed down the phone, and he had paged me to tell me what happened.

“…A medium had sworn he’d been contacted by ‘foreigners’ who were against the proposed underground track service, since it would desecrate their final resting places. The people who had proposed it said he was talking bunkum – but it turned out that a prison for slaves had existed in that general area at the time of the Knights of Saint John.

Not many people noticed that, one Sunday morning, a priest had visited the site, said some prayers and sprinkled some holy water from an asperses over the bastion sill…

I had been looking out of my bedroom window – and included the incident in my report. Talk about Primary Sources!

He’ll think I’m not coming.

I gasped, and began climbing the shallow steps in the upper part of Saint Paul’s Street. People were looking inquiringly at my flushed face, and, no doubt, my swollen belly. I was actually on maternity leave, but at a subliminal level I realised that I (also!) wanted to one-up the silly journalist from the rival paper with what I knew would be a scoop.

Once at the very top of Saint Paul Street, I took a deep breath and ran all the way to the entrance of the gardens, heading toward the back.

You made it!”

I caught my breath. It struck me simultaneously that he looked deathly pale, and that he did not get up to hug me (I always told him that within his arms was the safest place in the world for me). It was only then that I noticed he was sitting in a wheelchair. I flinched.

“They broke both my legs. And then kneecapped me, to make sure I never walked again… But it doesn’t matter. Here, take this,” he said, as he handed me a huge manila envelope, no doubt bulging with secrets.

He put his hands gently on either side of my belly. Our child moved. “Leave. Now.

“No!” I said.

He shook his head; and suddenly the wheelchair was empty. I felt, instinctively, that for the baby’s sake, it would be better if I left immediately.

Returning home via Saint Ursula Street, I heard a commotion. People screamed, but because the street curves, I could not see what was happening.

I retrieved my key from my neighbour (who had meanwhile folded my laundry and put the kettle on), and sat down on the bed. I was in shock.

I didn’t even realise I had switched on my laptop and Googled his name, until I had actually done so.

The first link that came up was his obituary. He had died five months previously, in a freak accident on an assignment in Brussels. I had been used to him not contacting me because of… well, things… so I hadn’t been worried about it.

I turned away from the screen, and retched.

Later, I riffled through the contents of the envelope. Oh. Wow. I will make my Editor’s hair curl – no matter that he’s bald!

In the 8.00p.m. news bulletin, the newscaster said that an SUV had skidded to a halt just in front of the public garden gate. Two thugs wearing balaclavas had dashed out, leaving the doors open, and ran into the gardens, guns blazing.

Nobody was hurt, except for an old woman who was pushed aside, and fell, by one of the criminals because she was in his way.

And the contents of the envelope had worldwide repercussions. 

The way we were

December 15, 2008|Tanja CiliaTimes of Malta

Ava Gardner; Dima Bilan; Edwige Fenech; Howard Hughes; Rex Stout; Ricky Martin; Saint Ignatius of Loyola…

All these people were born on December 24. And that, according to Maltese lore, makes them eligible for Gawgaw status.

Tradition held that it was “not nice” for anyone to share a birthday with Jesus – although, for some reason, the date ‘reserved’ for the Christ child was not December 25, i.e. Christmas Day, officially adopted by Bishop Liberius of Rome in 354, but Christmas Eve.

It was said that a person born on that day was destined to become a ghost on Christmas Eve, fated to haunt the streets until the dawn of Christmas morning… when the physical body would again come to life.

There was, of course an antidote for this curse – counting the holes on a sieve from dusk until dawn. Either way, the person would feel like a wet rag on the morrow; and not many people would believe the second option would have been the reason for this fatigue!

On the other hand, people who are born on Christmas Day proper are supposed to be immune to murders by hanging or drowning. The minus side of this is that they are gifted with “Sixth Sense” that allows them to see all manner of ghosts, ghouls, spirits and phantoms… although some cultures have it exactly the opposite… just as a black cat is good luck for some, and bad luck for others. The Irish believe that the gates of Heaven open at midnight on Christmas Eve, and therefore those who die then go straight to Heaven.

A poem dated 1525 says that it is not only the date of birth that matters, but also the day on which Christmas happens to fall that will affect the person’s life:

Yef that day that Cryste was borne. Falle upon a Sunday …
what chylde that day borne be, A grete lorde he shalle be

Yf Crystemas day on Monday be …
They that be borne that day, I wene,
They shalle be stronge eche on and kene…

Yf Crystmas day on Tuysday be…
Alle that be born there in may se,
They shalbe stronge and covethouse…

Yf Cyrstmas day the so the to say, Fall upon a Woydnysday
What childe that day borne ys, He shall dowghte and lyghte i-wysse…

Yf Crystmas day on Thursday be,
What chylde that day borne bee, He shalle have happy ryghte well to the,
Of deeds he shall be good and stabylle; Of speche and tonge wyse and reasonabylle…

Yf Crystmas day on Friday be,
The chylde that ys borne that day,
Shall long lyve and lecherowus be aye…

Yf Crystmas on the Saterday falle…
chyldren that e born that day,
Within a halfe a yere they shall dye, par fay.

In Malta, we are quite likely to have a mild winter – some foolhardy souls might even brave a dip in the briny to prove the point – but elsewhere there is the proverb that “A green Christmas makes a full graveyard”.
This distils the rural belief that mild winter weather is followed by more diseases in livestock and produce. The proverb does not refer to the custom of decorating homes with greenery – although for a time, even that was forbidden, since it was considered a pagan custom… for instance, Sweet By is the ancient laurel, the “glory herb” lorbeer or daphne, used as a wreath for heroes and poets. Indeed, the word “bachelor” in our college degrees comes from “bacca-laureus” or “laurel- berry” through the French bachelier.

Superstition and custom mish-mash in a nation’s folklore, such that no one knows where one begins and the other ends. Eastertide and Yuletide seem especially rife with these folk beliefs – perhaps because originally, the periods of the year in which these two major festivals lie were hitherto devoted to pagan deities, and several customs are but Christianised pagan rituals.

However, most people appear to agree that the first person to pass from near the door to the house (on the inside) on Christmas morning, was supposed to open wide the door, sweep the household’s troubles from the threshold, and welcome Christmas. For his pains, he was supposed to have good luck thought the year following, as did the first person in a household who heard the rooster crow.

That is – unless he took down the Christmas tree before the year was out, in which case, bad luck would dog him – or anyone else who did – throughout the next twelve months, up to the anniversary of the day in which he would have done it. It is also said that no decorations must be taken down until the twelfth night is past, but always before Candlemas.

It almost goes without saying that on Christmas Night, the bells of all the churches that have been destroyed by earthquakes, fire, flood, and landslides, may be heard tolling in unity, to celebrate this special time.

Many superstitions involve the greenery associated with Christmas – holly, for instance, was not supposed to be brought inside the house before Christmas Eve, lest a member of the family died during the year. It is said that myrrh plants will flower only for an hour on Christmas Eve… and some animals, if you listen carefully, will have acquired the power of speech on Holy Night, too.

Bales of hay carried around a church three times on Christmas Eve would meet the requirements of cattle far more efficiently than they otherwise would have done.

Even if you can’t bear the taste of mince pies – remember that eating one made by a different person in a different house, means a month of happiness.

For a full purse, you are to carry in your pocket a scale from a fish eaten at Christmas.

Min Hu Għajri?

Samaritan

Kelma helwa hi bħal żejt fuq il-feriti…

Kelli għalliema li kienet tinsisti li naqraw l-hekk imsejħa “kotba klassiċi”, biex ‘iżjed ‘l quddiem’, jiġifieri issa, meta xi ħadd jagħmel referenza għlihom, ma nibqgħux ċassi għax inkunu nafu minn fejn ġejjjin xi kwotazzjoni, jew xi incident partikolari.

Wieħed minn dawn il-kotba kien Pilgrim’s Progress ta’ John Bunyan, li, niftakar, kull meta kont naqbdu f’idi kien jaqbadi nagħas kbir u bilkem kont inkun naf x’qed naqra; eżatt kif kien jiġrili meta nipprova naqra War and Peace.

Imma id-dehra, xi frażijiet weħlu, għax dan l-aħħar ftakar fih meta attendejt Seminar li kien imfassal fuq il-parabbola ta-Ħanin Samaritan, spejagata tant tajjeb mill-qassis żagħżugħ Dun Bastjan Caruana.

Għalkemm hawn min jgħid li din it-tagħlima, meta nagħmluha allegorija, hija ftit jew xejn esaġerata, lili għoġbitni, u bil-permess tiegħu qed naqsamha hawn…

Id-Dun spjegalna kif is-Santi Padri taw tifsiriet speċjali li kull dettal tal-istorja. San Ġwann Kriżostmu jgħid li din l-istorja tgħin li fiha nsibu stampa tal-misteru kollu tas-salvazzjoni, u turija tal-imħabba t’Alla.

Mela, raġel kien nieżel minn Ġerusalemm għal Ġeriko; l-Adam, mimli bill-fiduċja fih innifsu minnflok f’Alla, qabad it-triq tan-niżla, waħda u sew, għax Ġeriko qiegħed 825 pied taħt il-livell tal-baħar. Attakkawh il-ħallelin; għax meta l-bniedem jitbiegħed in Alla, ikollu l-għadu jsus warajh.

Ħadulu l-ħwejjeġ: il-libsa li kienet kieku tintitolah għall-eternita. Telqu u ħallewh għal mejjet – suġġett għal dnub u l-mewt ta’ dejjem. Il-Levita, il-qassis, qasam it-triq. Rajt ma rajtx, gedwed waħdu. Fl-aħħar wasal is-Samaritan. Ħass għalih, infaxxalu l-feriti wara li dewwih biż-żejt u bl-imbid. It-tagħlim huwa l-faxex, iż-żejt iffarakrna fidlik tas-Sagramenti, u l-inbid fl-Ewkaristija…kollha meħtieġa biex aħna nfiequ.

Lil tal-ħotel, tah żewġ dinari u qallu, “Ibża għalih, u meta nerġa niġi, inħallsek il-bilanċ.” Fiha x’tifhem, din. Naraw kif il-ħajja tal-Knisja hija maqsuma skot il-karattri ta’din l-istorja: l-morda, dawk li qegħidin ifiequ bi-kura, u dawk – il-qaddisin – li diġà fiequ. Naraw kif is-Santi Padri ma jikkategorizzwx lin-nies f’tajbin jew ħżiena fuq il-bażi tal-liġijiet materjali, għax din hija xi ħaġa superfiċjali. Il-morda fil-ruħ jinħtieġu l-purifikazzjoni, u d-dawl. Hemm bżonn sptar spiritwali biex jgħin lil kull min hu batut.

U aħna? Nibżgħu li jekk nagħmluha maz-zopp, f’għeluq is-sena, insiru bħalu? Jew nitniġġsu mill-arja ta’ madwar dawk li telqu l-fidi għax ġratilhom xi traġedja? Ninjoraw lil min ikun jixtieq kelma ta’ faraġ, għax hekk jaqbel, ma jmurx xi ħadd jarana miegħu u jittimbrana bl-istess titlu, bħal mal-qassis u l-Levita beżghù li ma jibqgħux indaf, skont il-liġi Testment il-Qadim? Skuża taba li ngħidu li aħna (ovvjament) m’aħniex il-papa, u li jekk iridu jafu fejn hu l-bieb ta-knisja.

Is-Samaritan ma staqsiex fejn kien il-qassis, jew fejn telaq il-Fariżew, jew fejn staħba l-għalliem tal-Lhud. Is-Samaritan intebaħ li kien hemm il-bżonn, u għen kif seta’, b’li kellu dak il-ħin.

Kelma helwa hi bħal żejt fuq il-feriti ta’ qalb mimlija uġieh.

Mort Coffee Morning – U Funeral

Christmas Coffee

Inzertat ġurnata tal-Erbgħa u ħsibt li la ma kellix daqstant x’nagħmel, nitla’ sas-suq ta’ Birkirkara.

Mela kif ħriġt mill-bieb eżatt, iċempel it-telefon; kienet ħabiba li kont ilni qatiegħ ma niltaqa’ magħha. “Ġejt f’moħħi!” qaltli. “Għax ili biex inċempillek. Naf Ii mhux ħa tieħu għalik jekk ngħidlek li għandi biljett żejjed għal High Tea…” “Meta?” “Illum – jekk trid, nofs siegħ’oħra ngħaddi għalik għax sejrin minn hawn bil-Coach. Tibżax, nerġa nwasslek id-dar wara…”

Bdejt nidħaq, u għedtilha li għal ftit sekondi laħqitni.

Sakemm wasalna fejn il-Coach, ma waqafniex intaqtqu. Il-familja, ix-xogħol, nies li konna nafuhom it-tnejn… għax din waħda minn dawk li m’għandiex paġna fuq Facebook.   Insomma, f’kemm ili ngħidlek irrakuntajna bi tletin sena ġrajjiet.

Introduċietni mal-ħbieb tagħha; u hawn aħjar ma ngħaddix kummenti iżjed għax kulħadd ikun jaf għal min qed ngħid.

Ħabibti qaltli li dan l-avventiment kien għall-ġbir ta’ fondi (għax issa hekk moda), u flok Coffee Morning sempliċi, għamluh iżjed elaborat.

Wasalna fil-Hotel, u anqas domna ħames minuti b’kollox nistennew, għax mill-ewwel bdew ġejjin dixxijiet kontra dixxijiet imburġati bl-ikel delikat u delizzjuż, li soltu jittiekel fis-sular ta’ fuq waqt dawk l-episodji ta’ Upstairs, Downstairs.

Kien hemm xi ħames tipi ta’ tè, u tlieta ta’ kafe. Sandwiches ċkejkin, gidma kollox, mimlija bis-salamun affumikat, jew ħjar imqatta’ trasparenti, jew taħlita ta’ isfra tal-bajd u mustarda; pasti żgħar bil-ġamm jew bil-krema; kejkijiet liema bħalhom… u kulħadd induna li kien hemm min ma kienx bi ħsiebu jiekol f’nofs inhar… u kien hemm min deher ideffes xi ikel f’borża tal-plastik, ukoll… u ħabibti ittini f’ġenbi, u ċċaqlaq ħuġbejha, u bla kliem tindikali ‘l dik u lill-oħra.

Kienu qorbu l-ħdax u nofs… u kien sar i-ħin għat-tombla. “Hawn aħna…” Iżda ġara li dik li organiżżat il-ħarġa qalet li min ried, eta’ joħroġ barra jagħmel passiġġata… u ħabibti qaltli li kienet tipretendi li min jagħmelhekk jagħti donazzjoni ta’ almenu kemm jiswa’ ġog wieħed.

Ħallasna – u tlaqna ‘barra.

Mela ġara li nzertajna funeral ta’ “xi ħadd importanti” li sa dak il-ħin ma konniex nafu min hu, f’waħda mill-kappelli. Għedt importani għax kien hemm għadd ta’ nies li isimhom u wiċċhom u leħinhom huma familjari mal-maġġorranza tal-Maltin.

Ħabibti qaltli li kieku għadhom moda, kienet toħroġ l-autograph book – u fis timlih (għax din waħda li ssegwi d-dinja tal-medja sew). U bit-twila u bil-qasira, billi l-coffee morning kellu jdum almenu siegħa oħra – “Filkas żgur iċempluli…” – ssibna postna fuq il-bankijiet.

Fit-tnedijiet tal-imwiet, tisma’ kultant li huwa mitlub li ma jintlibisx iswed għal waqt il-Quddiesa. Iżda hawn, kulħadd assuma li l-iswed huwa sinjal ta’ rispett – u li kellhom iswed, libsuh. Jekk kiex ġins; libsa trasparenti jew imqaċċta (minn dawk ta’ bla ċingi li l-ħin kollu trid tirranġahom għax inkella ikollok wardrobe malfunction); dublett qasir; libsa qisha tal-baħar, b’żewgt ixquq l fuq mill-irkoppa fil-ġenb… kien hemm varjeta sħiħa. Imma stenna’ ftit – forsi libsu dawn il-ħwejjeġ għax huma nies li jżommuha, u saħansitra f’funeral riedu li ma jidhrux qishsom sejrin funeral? Min jaf. Forsi għalhekk dawk it-tkaken, ukoll.

Inzerta li ta’ warajna ġew tard. U dehrilhom (kif smajnihom jgħidu) li kienet għarukaża li aħna ħadnilhom posthom; każ ta’ ‘injoranza grassa’. Kemm domna hemm, sirna nafu min ma kienx hemm għax kien imsefer, u fejn, u għaliex; min qiegħed ma’ min; x’kienu ser isajjru; kemm ġabu t-tfal fl-eżamijiet, eċċ, eċċ.

Anqas il-qassis ma ħelisha. Meta beda’ jirreferi għall-mejjet b’ismu (kif kien fuq is-santa li tawna wara), waħda minn dawn qalet “Imma kemm hu ridikolu… ma jafx li kulħadd [#] kien isejjaħlu…”

Ħriġna mill-knisja, u x-xufier tal-karozza bit-tebut iddejjaq jistenna’ biex jaqla’ (għax it-traffiku kien ġejn min-naħa l-oħra u ħadd ma ċeda, għalkemm raw li kien hemm funeral…x’rispett, rispet…).

Mela, fettillu joħroġ ftit iżjed, u f’daqqa waħda isib trakk daqshiex qudddiemu, li kieku ma ġibidx il-brejk, probabbli li kien iħallih tal-kolp. Dawk li kienu għadhom hemm għamlu kjass. Min jgħajjat max-xufier tat-trakk għax imissu jistħi għax dan funeral; min ilum lil tal-karozza tal-mejjet; min jgħid kemm żdied it-traffiku…

U aħna? Għaġġilna lejn il-Hotel, għax cemplulna ħa jaraw fejn konna ħrabna.

Għaliex Meta Nagħtu…

Making Bracelets

Leħen is-Sewwa 24/05/2015

It-tfal tal-Klassi 3.2 tal-iskola primarja ta’ Birkirkara fil-Kulleġġ Santa Teresa, flimkien mal-għalliema tagħhom Miss Claudine Slater, jafu sew xi tfisser din il-frażi mit-talba ta’ San Franġisk. Bil-ħidma sfieqa tagħhom, bejn bl-insiġ ta’ brazzuletti, bejn bir-riklamar għalihom u l-bejgħ tagħhom, irnexxielhom itellgħu s-somma ta’ €1070 li ngħataw lis-Sorijiet tal-Ursolini ta’ Tas-Sliema.

Din kienet opra li ma bħalha; ħidma li wriet li t-tfal jafu jħossu u jħobbu, u li lesti jaqsmu dak li għandhom ma’ ħaddieħor.

Kemm-il darba nisimgħu il-frażi “ma nafx x’naqbad intih”, meta niġu biex nagħtu xi rigal lil xi ħadd. Ħallik li dan iż-żmien l-għarajjes itaffulek id-dilemma għax jordnawlek biex tagħtihom flus, biex żgur jixtru dak li jridu, u mhux teħles minn xi remiżolja li tkun writt mingħand in-nanna.

Sfortunatament, hawn min jonfoq ħafna flus fir-rigali; jew biex jiffanfra, jew biex jippika ma’ min ikun se jagħti rigal lill-istess persuna… jew biex jeħles minn dmir, u mir-responsabbiltajiet li suppost li jwettaq mal-persuna li lilha jkun ta r-rigal. Rigal mhux rigal jekk ma jiġix mill-qalb u jingħata bilfors. Rigal mhux rigal jekk ma jferraħx, u jekk min jirċevih ma jkunx jippreferi l-preżenza tiegħek aktar mill-għotja.

Kulħadd jaf idaħħal idu fil-but u joħroġ karta tal-€50, “għax it-tifel jieħu gost u jixtri li jrid”. Imma int lest li mal-€50 tqum minn hemm u tmur tixtri kaxxa żgħira Ludo, u tqiegħed il-flus fiha, biex turi li almenu għamilt sforz li ssib xi ħaġa li hi għal qalb it-tifel? Hawn rigali oħra li jiswew ħafna, iżda ma jissarfux fi flus, jew fi flus li jingħataw f’daqqa.

Forsi wasal iż-żmien li flok irroxxu l-bżar, nużaw il-ħxejjex aromatiċi wkoll.

  • M’hemm xejn ħażin Ii rigal ikun “użat” – fis-sens li jekk il-ħabiba tiegħek qaltlek darba, darbtejn, bis-sinċerità kolha, kemm hu sabih dak il-flokk, int forsi jfettillek tagħlaq għajnejk u ttihulha. Jew jekk taf ħabibtek tħobb taqra, tmur sal-bażar u tixtrilha basket kotba.
  • Kultant, il-ħin jiswa mitqlu deheb. Frosi xi ħadd għandu bżonn jgħid kelma, jew ftit għajnuna fil-faċendi, jew li xi ħadd joqgħodlu mat-tfal. Dak rigal li ma jinxtarax.
  • Hawn min jippreferi għadd ta’ rigali żgħar, minflok wieħed kbir. Tkun idea tajba li kieku tibda tfaddal “rigali” flok “flus” meta tinzertahom. Kull meta tisma’ lil xi ħadd jgħid “kemm nixtieq kelli…” ikteb x’qal fuq karta.
  • Tinsiex li iżjed ma tixtri affarijiet, iżjed se jkollok x’tiżbarazza, xi tnaddaf, u xi tkisser. Naqqas mix-xiri tal-affarijiet bla sugu.
  • Ir-rigali jistgħu jkunu, ngħidu aħna, qoffa mimlija ikel, bħal ma jagħmlu l-hampers tal-parroċċa. Imma hawn, tagħżel l-affarijiet int u timlieh ftit ftit.
  • Rigal jista’ jkun kors taż-żfin, għawm, jew tisjir, jew li tikteb lil xi ħadd f’xi rivista dwar xi suġġett li jinteressah.
  • Jekk ikun ġej xi kantant Malta, tista’ tagħti biljetti għax-show tiegħu jekk taf Ii dawn jinżlu tajjeb.
  • Hawn min japprezza li għal jum wiehed, int titlaq kollox u tgħaddih miegħu – jew toħroġ, jew tbajjadlu, jew issajru flimkien, jew tagħmlu xogħol tal-idejn, jew tħitu… li jkun jixtieq dak li jkun.
  • Bħalma tkun lestejt hamper għall-kbar, tista’ tagħmel wieħed għat-tfal… mimli lapsijiet, kuluri, karti, kolla, pinen tal-kaligrafija u linka ta’ kuluri differenti

U bilħaqq, jekk ikollkom ġiżirani mqatta’, jew m’għadkomx tilbushom, tuhomlna rigal, biex nagħmlu iżjed affarijiet sbieħ biex jinbiegħu għall-karità. Tistgħu tħalluhomlna fl-uffiċċju ta’ dan il-ġurnal. Nirringrazzjawkom bil-quddiem.

Sex Appals

Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 12:10  

The other day, Welsh international footballer Ched Evans raped a teenager. His friend, Port Vale defender Clayton McDonald had sex with her.

Is there any difference between the terms, seeing that both men claimed it was consensual? Does it make any difference that she was drunk at the time, and that she has no memory at all of what happened, perhaps because one or more of her drinks (allegedly wine, double vodkas with lemonade and a Sambuca shot)  had been spiked?

The Court held that Evans was guilty of rape, and sentenced him to five years in prison; McDonald was deemed ‘not guilty’ of rape.

Sheffield United player Connor Brown sought to ‘defend’ his friend by calling the victim ‘a money-grabbing little tramp’. He then went on to use bad English and worse words in his Twitter account to insult the girl, but later removed his posts.

The aura of the rich, the powerful, the handsome, the popular, and those who consider themselves above the law, sometimes translates into these wannabe studs (correctly) thinking they can pick and choose women for sex. Some go even further and expect the women to think they are being done a favour, and, hence, no type of compensation to her would be due.

This, essentially, means that any girl who decides to complain – or, heaven forbid – press charges later, will automatically be branded a bitch, a liar, or  a  gold-digger, and sometimes all three at once.  

Consider, for a moment, the current crisis assailing the American Secret Service.

About 11 Secret Service agents brought prostitutes back to their rooms while they were preparing the venue for President Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas. Although such doings are illegal, the police in the area have some ‘tolerance zones’ – which apparently are both in the concrete and in the abstract.

However, as it happened, one of the women refused to leave the premises after 7.00am, as is the praxis. But she had a reason; she had not been paid adequately for services rendered. And this is, basically, what lit the fuse that exploded the bomb that blew the story open.

There will always be  teachers who will try to din into students’ minds that ‘sluts’ (read a girl who has sex before she is married, with one person or more) are merely fornicators with a more modern name.

There will always be people like Albert Locher, the Sacramento County District Attorney, who actually arrest rape victims to make sure they are present to testify against their aggressors.

But the worst thing of all is that there are a whole slew of myths, masquerading as reasons, why many people do not accept that rape would have happened.

We are asked to believe that it’s not rape if the woman:  didn’t put up a fight;  had been with another man twenty-four hours before or after the attack;  had no signs of violence on her body; has an active sex life; is a prostitute ‘anyway’;  is old, and ugly, and might not otherwise have had sex; is a lesbian; is young and  attractive, and therefore a temptation;  did not know what was happening anyway; ordered, tempted or dared the man to have sex;  uses birth-control; was dating the man; was dressed indecently; was drinking to make herself lose her inhibitions; was not supposed to be where she was; or went to his place of her own volition.

Moreover, if “her no obviously meant yes”; if the sex was consensual, and / or the man used a prophylactic; or of the act happened in her house or a neutral place, we are supposed to think that the woman is crying wolf as well as rape.  

These conditions nicely cover just about any situation, do they not?

As far as I am concerned, a “slut” is someone who uses sex-related accusations to lie about a man for her own ends – when no sex at all would have taken place.

Yet it remains a sad fact of life that in most countries, sex crimes are treated differently from other types of crimes.

If you sell stolen goods, you are guilty of that.  If you help someone hide a murdered body, you are an accessory after the fact. In a nutshell, if you aid and abet someone in a crime, you have to pay the penalty.

Just because someone entices you to commit murder, fraud, theft, or perjury, you do not just play along willy-nilly. Whether the issue involves stealing a car for joy-riding, beating up someone, robbing a house, doing drugs, or jumping off a cliff, it cuts no ice to tell the judge that “peer pressure” made you comply.

Yet sex between consenting adults is sometimes considered all right; especially if it is the word of one person ‘with a reputation’ against an abuser who may or may not be in collusion with other witnesses.

Incidentally, most women who have had unwanted sexual relations, inclusive of rape, usually go home to scrub themselves physically clean from their emotional trauma. 

This, too, may count against them – because they are ‘supposed’ to hie off for an examination that would document evidence of any kind available. 

Pigging Out for Prosperity!

December 30, 2009

An Austrian New Year’s Eve celebration would not be complete without the traditional pink pig-shaped biscuits. A Sylvesterabend (Eve of St. Sylvester) dinner also includes actual pork. If it’s not a ham hock, it’s sausages – which, being fatty, connote fattening wallets. If the past year was unlucky, then the part of the hog to cook was the jowl, supposed to bring about a reversal of fortune. Germanic people tend to pick beef short-ribs as lucky foods.

Italians combine the pork with lentils. In other countries, the legumes of choice are black-eyed peas. This is because during cooking both swell and look like coins; in some cultures they are combined with rice or cereals. Strictly speaking, one ought to eat 365 lentils, black-eyed peas, or grains of rice, in order to “qualify” for a lucky new year. The Italians eat cotechino (boned, stuffed trotter) con lenticchie just after midnight.

Counting, for the Spanish and Portuguese, and their former colonies such as Venezuela, Cuba, Mexico, Ecuador, and Peru, is a matter of months – they pop a grape for each stroke of midnight, and if a grape turns out to be bitter, the month it represents will be so, too. Peruvians insist on taking in a 13th grape for good measure. Rumour has it that this tradition was deliberately begun in 1909, when there was a surplus of grapes in the Alicante region.

Saint Sylvester is credited with having baptized Constantine the Great; and this means that not only is he the precursor of a new year, but also the vanguard of a new Christian era. It is traditional to toast one another with a typical punch on this night.

Dollar bills are called greenbacks and cabbage in slang. This idea is also transposed to the dinner table – and therefore, eating green leafy vegetables (kale, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, or, to stretch a point sauerkraut or coleslaw) that are torn, as opposed to being cut with a blade, is supposed to bring luck for the forthcoming year. The Danish sprinkled their stewed kale with sugar and cinnamon.

Germans have been known to place fish scales, since they look like shiny coins, in their wallets for good luck. By association, eating herring on the stroke of Midnight on New Year’s Eve will bring health, wealth, and happiness. Herring is eaten either as roll mops (marinated and rolled around a pickled cocktail onion) or, when it is of portion side, whole, with salad.

If the very thought of pink biscuits makes your tail curl, you can follow the Greek customs and put some coins into a plain cake – cheating to make sure that there is one in every slice, perhaps.

The pig, however, remains a prime candidate for New Year’s Eve dinners, perhaps because of its corpulent body, a symbol of opulence. In many American states, it is traditional to eat Hoppin’ John, which combines all three principal ‘lucky’ ingredients – pork, beans and greens.

As with minestra, Christmas Log, and other dishes, everyone insists that there is only one correct recipe – his – for Hoppin’ John. If the dish is going to be cooked like the Italian risi e bisi, must the rice and the peas be cooked separately, and combined, or must they be allowed to simmer together for the flavours to mingle better? Should tomatoes be added to the pot, or must they be purred into a pouring sauce consistency? Or must they be chopped, and raw? Must the peas be mushy, or must they have bite? Is it wrong to use a Dutch oven, a wok, a pressure cooker, or anything else except the traditional cast-iron skillet? If you are using chitterlings, must they be cooked separately, or should you begin with them and then add the rice, and later, the peas? May one use processed peas? The questions go on – and on.

Why Does NORAD Track Santa?

December 28, 2009

Once upon a time, there was CONAD (The American Continental Air Defence Command). Since 1958, this has been known as NORAD (The North American Aerospace Defense Command).


Included in the nitty-gritty that was part and parcel of the workload of the former, passed on to the latter, is literally and figuratively a flight of fancy.

NORAD is responsible for tracking Santa’s Flight across the skies. This will take him past Mount Fuji , 100 times faster than a 500 series Shinkansen bullet train, and also to Britain, France and Switzerland – but for some reason he does not fly across the Mediterranean. This began through whimsical happenstance. There was a Sears Roebuck and Company advertisement with a typo in it. This gave the number of the agency rather than the Santa Hotline one it had been supposed to give.

When a little girl saw the advertisement, in a Colorado Springs newspaper, which said “Hey, Kiddies! Call me direct and be sure and dial the correct number.” She obeyed the instructions. Yet she got through to Colonel Harry Shoup, the Director of Operations on duty on December 24, 1955 at the time. He happened to be the right person in the right pace at the right time. Rather than being officious and telling the child she he had a wrong number, the Colonel, perhaps touched by the innocence of the child, decided to ask his staff for the radar readings of the whereabouts of Santa’s Sleigh. The children who called later were given updates – and so a cute tradition was born.

In 1997, Canadian Major Jamie Robertson took over the programme, and went on the www with it. The idea remains to track Santa as he travels across the skies to deliver presents – not only through the original radar, but through satellite systems as well. Thousands of volunteers staff computers and telephones at Cheyenne Mountain and Peterson Air Force Base in order to answer phones and provide Santa updates live – to children, adults, as well as the media.

This tracking scheme has now achieved cult status; this year, Google introduced its own 2D and 3D Google Earth maps, which indicate Santa’s position on lifelike maps. The NORAD Tracks Santa website www.noradsanta.org offers a service in seven languages – English, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish.

This year, new videos of Santa flying over Zurich, Switzerland; Toronto in Ontario, Canada, and Mexico City, Mexico were added on You Tube. Like all the others, it features a voice-over by a member of the NORAD staff, indicating Santa’s location, and showing the sleigh, complete with Rudolph’s hooter at full brilliance, approaching the city and then slaloming in the air currents over it, accompanied by the familiar jingling bells.
Those who were after a more personalised service, however, could email his team at noradtrackssanta@gmail.com and get updates sent directly to their inbox. There were also several social networking sites offering the service – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and TroopTube.tv.

You can watch Santa’s message here www.youtube.com/watch?v=FZ-YkFOfITc, and the one by General Renuart, Commander of NORAD, here www.youtube.com/watch?v=hipMSF5vpA0