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 good-quality 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.

That Thing Called Child Abuse


Only a few people would probably remember Victoria Adjo Climbié and Kyria Ishaq. And the furore over Baby P, which brought to light how, in Britain alone, “three children a week are dying of abuse or neglect at the hands of parents or guardians” has all but faded away. Thousands of stories remain untold, ironically, sometimes, because those who could do something about it do not even notice what is going on right under their noses, be they parents or educators.
Child abuse is not “just” about the stereotypical dirty old man in the playground, playing spider to the fly. It usually happens within the four walls of the family home, the very place where a child’s rights include being loved, nurtured, fed, and clothed, or, by extension, in those places where we mistakenly think our children are safe.
Children may suffer neglect as well as physical, emotional and sexual abuse. Typically, different types of abuse obtain in conjunction with one another more often than they exist alone. Sexually-abused children are often neglected and physically-abused children are also being emotionally abused.
There are times when, because of conflicting timetables, workload, illness or other commitments, we have to leave our children in the care of others.
Recent statistics indicate that, on average, there is at least one case of child abuse a day in Malta. Even if you would never plead guilty to abusing your child through neglect – because you work all God’s hours to give him everything (except, perhaps, the love he craves) – there are some red flags that may indicate that not all is well between your child and his alternative carers.
A child winces when you raise your hand to cover your mouth as you yawn. His demeanour changes at the sound of approaching footsteps.
He throws a tantrum when you mention a particular relative at whose house he will have to sleep over because you are going abroad on business…
Consider when a child who spends time in someone else’s care:
1. Appears constantly on edge, as if fearing what may happen.
2. Appears to have changed his eating and sleeping patterns.
3. Becomes aggressive, excessively withdrawn, compliant or passive.
4. Becomes tearful or throws tantrums at the least provocation.
5. Behaves in an over-the-top way in a given situation.
6. Behaves precociously, reverts to infantile habits, or self-harms.
7. Boasts, albeit in jest, that he has watched pornography.
8. Bullies children who are weaker or is cruel towards pets.
9. Develops medical problems (herpes, gum or teeth problems, dermatitis, etc).
10. Develops pruritus, a nervous tic, or repetitive behaviour.
11. Has an odd smell, or downright BO, when he returns from his visit.
12. Has bruises or other marks, explained away as falls, or bumps.
13. Has difficulty concentrating and occasionally daydreams.
14. Has not done his homework because he was not adequately supervised.
15. Is ambivalent when asked how he spent his time away from home.
16. Is in possession of gifts that he tries to conceal.
17. Now refuses to allow you to bathe him.
18. Rarely contributes comments during family discussions.
19. Refuses alternative carer(s), saying he is old enough to look after himself.
20. Says that so-and-so “allows” him to drink alcohol.
If sexual abuse is involved, there will be additional red flags, including a sudden, sophisticated or unusual sexual nous. A child, apart from having experiencing difficulty walking or sitting, may suddenly refuse to change for PE lessons in front of his peers, with a vehemence that may even cause his teachers to contact you.
Children may even run away from home or play truant from school. They may have nightmares or start wetting the bed. Appetite may be affected too; bulimia and anorexia may be a child’s subconscious effort to “cleanse” himself or become unattractive to his predator.
We strive to teach children that nobody may touch their “private body”, that they must respect authority figures and that they must avoid “tricky people”. Unfortunately, here “stranger danger” ceases to exist per se because sexual abuse, like other abuse, is usually carried out by people whom the child knows well. We, as parents, strive to give our kids all they could possibly need, and want, and more, ironically, perhaps, while someone else is ruining them physically, emotionally and mentally while we earn the money to be able to do so.
Victims of child abuse exist in a locked cage. They are told that they are bad children and, therefore, deserve to be abused instead of being sent to prison or to hell. They are threatened that the family will break up if they tell. Sometimes, they are asked whether they would rather the abuse happened to younger siblings.
Consider when an adult to whom you entrust your child:
1. Appears over-eager to look after him, even when it is not necessary.
2. Appears reluctant to hand over your child back when you call for him.
3. Appears to be depressed or admits being on medication.
4. Asks whether he may use physical punishment if your child misbehaves.
5. Bawls out, slaps, spanks or smacks your children as if they were his own.
6. Behaves irrationally, perhaps because of substance abuse.
7. Behaves possessively, alienating the child from other children.
8. Demands total devotion from your child, playing on his emotions.
9. Denies the existence of any problems or lies about them.
10. Either offers no explanation for your child’s injury or explains it away glibly.
11. Finds fault with whatever your child does or, conversely, praises him effusively.
12. Has a history of being abused as a child.
13. Insists that when children are inherently evil, they deserve punishment,
14. Insists that the child sorely tests one’s patience but that he adores him anyway.
15. Intimates that he is doing the child and the parent a favour by offering care.
16. Rarely, if ever, looks the child in the eye, except as what could be a “secret signal”.
17. Seeks out your child for care, attention and emotional needs rather than his partner.
18. Seems oblivious to the child’s needs, calling him a big baby and similar names.
19. Touches the child as one would touch an inanimate object.
20. Tries to bribe or steal the child’s affections from his parent(s).
This is a wake-up call; let’s not allow an obsession with materialism to place our children in jeopardy.
A pious fool is he who sees a child struggling in water and says: I’ll take off my tefillin and then save the child (Talmud Jerushalmi: Sota).

Pizza The Action

And so it came to pass that Boss Guy and his Buddies met up for a bite to eat at a fast food joint.
It was par for the course that they would order whatever junk food was on the menu – it was a boys’ night out after all… but the jury is still out on whether it was a wine and pizza party or whether they ordered Buds, as would have befitted the occasion – for lack of evidence (which some would call proof).
Right? Well, actually – wrong, on several counts.
As with the Giaconda, (and the “Hitler” You Tube clip) The Last Supper is one of the most used and abused works of art in the advertising world.
The advertising team of New York Best followed suit and had Jesus and his Apostles depicted wolfing down pizza, hamburgers, and such like… in an effort to garner publicity for their diner. That, they did… and alas, not all of it was the sycophantic adulation they had hoped for.
“Original!” cried some. When it was pointed out that this plagiarism was the nth one, the wannabe back-slappers claimed it was the first time they had seen it – which does not say much for their assumed worldliness.
Be that as it may… most people would know that the Last Supper was, in effect a Pesach meal. Therefore, leavened bread would have been anathema… and that means, pizza dough and hamburger baps would never have featured in the meal. Also… it would be later, much later, that tomatoes would be discovered in America – so pizza sauce and ketchup would not have been available, either.
But of course, that is not the point at all.
Anyone who believes that The Last Supper was when the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist was insulted was highly offended at this levity. “Grow up – its 2017!” is an argument that does not hold water… but it is the one that is bandied about when someone is not ‘modern enough for someone else’s liking.
Inevitably, there were those who dragged the incidents leading to Je Suis Charlie disaster into the fray – but, again, that had nothing to do with it. Predictably, too, some sought to haul (literally and figuratively) paedophilic clergy into it – rather as if this abominable plague is a prerogative of the Catholic Church – but let’s not digress.
It is a pity that some people do not know how to stick to an argument – “Was this offensive?” but seek to gain brownie points by going off at the tangent that best meets their needs (and sentiments) at the moment.
It is, I repeat, not a question of censorship. It is not a question of a niminy-piminy religious attitude. It is not a question of being a wet blanket and not recognising brilliant art when one sees it.
I find it ironic that the people who want “ethics” rather than “comparative religions” (let alone catechism / religion) to be taught in the classroom, found this depiction “beautiful” and “artistic” and “fantastic”…. When they really ought to have been protesting that the more than life-size mugs of ‘religious figures’ had been plastered across a wall for all to see (and enjoy?).
They ought to have been griping about the fact that this was an affront to their secular sensibilities. After all, who wants to see something “preposterous” (wise choice of word, that) day in, day out.
However, and this is a big however, this is where I draw the line.
Just because I don’t like something, or somewhere, (or someone) it does not mean that I can willy-nilly destroy, vandalise, (or kill) that thing, place (or person) to “set things right”. This is the stuff totalitarian regimes and kangaroo courts are made of.
I have said elsewhere that I would be the first one to smash car windows if I saw infants or pets inside, and no signs of ventilation (“I left the AC on,” is not an excuse if the glass is hot.) I have asked people (politely) to stop blaspheming in public. I have gently chided others who might not have known they were breaking the littering law by grinding cigarette butts into the ground, and leaving them there.

But I will never, ever, condone actions such as the vandal one perpetrated by those who high-handedly, and mistakenly, thought they were heroes defending their version of the Catholic Religion… and at the same time, consider some humans less worthy of living, than others.

At this point, I can only sort of quote – Oh (Religious) Liberty, what crimes are committed in thy name.




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.
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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.
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Not always. I used to eat them when I was a child, though.
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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.
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Oh, you know – usual stuff.
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I would rather live in a cave.
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France and Thailand.
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Fantastic. But I Can’t swim.
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How many languages do you speak?
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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$‡ð’>ðç˜Í¸„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ÝŸ ÏÐmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÄžñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­>ãÐ ÆúÎÏây°èT ýÅÒ`>o!|QÃŽ ÖÈWÏ{ÇO‡Ü»‰+#ÚMËØÅÈÓ X‚¨¨¸­¨¶
Mostly I read. Real books, not interfaces or eBooks.
+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽ ÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓ X‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅX ‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(ÚXL“Æ ÑÕÏ“ ÑrjœK¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­Õç㸄¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­YõžÀ= ’°;”Ý, =RÔsݜҐ• ÚÅèóX‚¨¨¸­`IðXi³q»¸¶Kv=³ÛÕÝ¡¨¶+ŒÄŽÑÊ›×çÓxœ›ªOM¬ ;‚º{⯝K ŠöŒ³ð?»Ã—ò,MËÅÈÓX ‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ªMáÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­ˆ<TY¬ç“Ìx[•••¢˜ÈÌÇèù²ƒ-$ÙMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈħċġÓX‚¨¨¸­v¹ˆŒƒ»Â°;´¢¨¶+ŒÄŽÑ\•¹È…ŸÅµƒ>’Å^¦ìé¥j²›úV
Yes, I heard about that. It makes things artificial. The lazy way out.
ƨ¶+Œ ĎѵïX èÅÈ ÓX‚¨¨¸­ƒ¨¶+ ŒÄŽÑƒjû铘ËûçÂv ºÏܯ¤•®Y?KõM;¯ê’J´Ãs­»å¨¶+ Ѹ„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­)å¨Óv(y¢V;æLiTÄó¤ Ö w¤ÖÈWÏ{ÇO‡Ü»‰+#ÚMËØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨ ¶+Œ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑĎѸ„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅÈ ÓX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(ÚXL“ÆÑÕÏO¡Æµë)ûÚ„¡í®o¥Ê–ÈПÏÒÊÁŽ¸„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­r!O¨¶+ŒÄŽÑªñ,˜þt˜R«±r è ¸„¤Å èó X‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ïœTÄ–i.Žñ.ɸӐXŠR«Ômtãj¯„$i¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­ ‚¨¨¸­ßî´ÂИㄺ¨¶+ŒÄŽÑ\Ñ=ˆšÎ*œ X‚¨¨¸­!—
Oh, I still wrote longhand.
¶Ñ^²‘êyŒ ˜qÓjµ Ö‹„/Æí︛;¹ÕªÞT¨°Ólž­¥çÓó^Îˬ ‡;Ñz Û¨¶õú~î<ÛÛz–¨Ú½ÛË׺—Ï‹ÞQ[SÅ èóX‚¨¨¸­ðo›<…{ˆO ñþÝ„¥¨¶+Œ ÄŽÑ•‘Âí öoTÕîzùªXçv{rÅèóX‚¨¨¸­¸„¤ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­‹\Ù ƒÜêo¬l
I bet you could.
x)o ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­Å ¤#˜Ž:‡ªÑ+ì„̪ ÆÚºo‘ÖöÈwÏ{çO‡ ü»‰+#ÚmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ ŽÑÄž ñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(Úx l“æñõÏ‘Z‹MËØÅ ÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+Œ¨¶+ ÑĎѸ„¤ ‚¨¨¸­!öÈwÏ{ç ‡ü»‰+#ÚmëØÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­¨¶+ ¶+ŒÄŽÑÄž ñ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨ ¸­•ÅèóX‚¨¨¸­Ý°Í®ª(Úxl“æñõύ Ö*åóê’«ü#ƃ¹I…¨¶+ĦĠĊċŽÑlÕ¸„¤ÅÈÓX‚¨¨¸­‚¨¨¸­¨¶:Ê?,/“Vy•]³¶Ã õŒ‰^À¶¬
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”.

Moon Beam




‘Burp. Vmpph. Glugg. Boqqqq. Frixxx.’

The eructations went on for half the night. Zlink’s wife could take it no more.  She sloshed out of their cave, and went to gather some posidonia. She’d make him a tisane, and hopefully, he’d fart his gas instead of belching it.

It was the night of the perigee-syzygy moon – when the moon was the closest to Earth, and the brightest, for the last 60 years. Zlink had done The Selkie Thing, and had gone celebrating, with his cronies. He had returned to the Cave slightly green at the gills… this was to be expected, seeing that he did indeed have gills, and his scales were iridescent green.

The wife knew that he had, usual, overdone it. He had not taken kindly to her new job, but after his, accident (long story!); he had already become used to the idea of staying home while she brought in the wampum.

Never in a nixert years would he have imagined the wife would go into modelling. It had been happenstance. A woman’s magazine had been caught by the breeze and deposited on the surface of the sea, where it floated enticingly.

Glaffa had to wait until it had become saturated enough to sink gracefully to the bottom – it would not have done for her to reach out a feeler and snatch it, because the hunters who called themselves Scientists and Conservationists would have been out in force.

Glaffa devoured the written words before she wolfed down the publication itself.  All of it, that is, except for the centrefold – which she saved to re-read a dozen times before deciding whether or not to take the bait (in a manner of speaking).

“Envious eyes curse a building and its inhabitants. No one is immune to the Evil Eye.” This drivel went on for  several paragraphs, and mentioned such ‘remedies’ as salt thrown over the left shoulder, pimento-like charms, herbs, upright palms of hands, blessed water and more.

The upshot of the advertorial was that the firm of architects taking out the advert wanted a model for the one corbel holding up the corner of the northern balcony, and for the one gargoyle that would be allowed on the façade of the building to house the new Houses of Parliament.

The carvings, of course, were intended to be apotropaic, hence the verbiage.  Glaffa had won a couple of modelling contests when she was still a child – before childbearing and gravity and time took their combined toll on her.

At the ripe old age of fifty brinhs, she rarely bothered to de-scale her armpits anymore – go figure imagine posing for any artiste. Yet she found the whole set-up intriguing.  She resolved to do The Selkie Thing and see what gave.

Glaffa was the eldest wannabe at the auditions.  And she got the job, because what they wanted were size, shape, and weight – and an abysmal lack of poise. 

Whereas glamour photographers usually yell at models to “smile, flirt, twist, wink”, Glaffa was told to snarl, put out her tongue, make the corna, the fica, and the digitus impudicus, and cross her eyes… and all these gesticulations were photographed and filed.  She drew the line, however, at showing her boobs. She lied about wearing a padded bra, and for good measure, she said that she did not want her descendants to consider here a mere  Sheela-na-gigg.  The sculptor said he’d meet her halfway, and as a compromise she’d have to waive a fraction of the fee.  

The idea was to have Glaffa’s poses transmogrified into three creatures, one atop the other, for the corbel and the matching gargoyle. The topmost one was a bare-breasted woman with her hands flat on her head so as to create a flattish surface, and the middle one was a feline creature peeping out of her navel. The woman stood on a multi-coiled snake with the face of a platypus.  For the gargoyle, water came out of its beak. The effigies were supposed to be so repulsive that passers-by would look away in disgust.

For ten sittings, Glaffa got as much pelf as Zlink would earn in an earth year. The Exchange did take a commission, but the whole caboodle was well worth it.

Where was I, though?

Oh. Zlink. When the Clinic opened, he and Glaffa made their way there.

After a frin-test and a biopsy, doctor removed his pince nez and bit his upper lip.

“Lay off the beer and pizza.  You have Coeliac Condition.”



Meta Sigriet Ma Jibqax…

Lehen is-Sewwa 1 ta’ Frar 2015




Henry ried jiżżewwiġha biex ikollu t-tfal. Dorothy riedet tiżżewġu biex tgħix ħajja ta’ sinjura. Darba qaltli li beżgħet li jekk ikollha t-tfal “titlef kollox” inkluż il-figura sabiħa li kellha. Qaltli biex inżomm kollox sigriet. U jien hekk għamilt.

Dan l-aħħar iltqajt magħha, u bqajt issummata. Fejn kienet l-artista li kont naf? Niftehmu, xorta kienet qisha artista, imma flok Diva, kienet qisha s-Saħħara l-Ħażina tal-Wizard of Oz; għajnejha ħomor, xagħar b’ferq abjad ta’ pulzier, riħa ta’ għaraq qares, nifs jinten…

Morna nieħdu kafe. Qaltli li stajt ma nżommux iżjed is-sigriet. Anzi, insistiet li ngħidu biex jitgħallem ħaddieħor. Qaltli li kellha ħabiba tal-qalb li magħha kienet tafda kollox. Qaltilha li biex ma tinqabadx tqila, kienet tieħu l-kontraċettivi. U l-oħra qaltiha li sewwa kienet tagħmel għax it-tfal tagħha inkwiet biss kienu ġabulha. Għiduli naqra, x’inkwiet jistgħu jġibu tfal ta’ inqas minn għaxar snin, għajr xi ġlieda ’l hawn u ’l hinn u li ma jkunux iridu jistudjaw?

Darba minnhom Henry wasal id-dar tard wara x-xogħol, u Dorothy staqsietu, bla ebda ħsieb ta’ xejn, fejn kien mar. “Mhux aħjar tara fejn tmur int?” ħatafha. Hi ħasbitu qed jiċċajta. Imma kien qed jitkellem bis-serjetà kollha. “Għalhekk ma ridtx tmur taħdem, ja mara ħażina…”

Wara ġlieda papali, li fiha akkużaha li kienet qed taqlibhielu, u insinwazzjonijiet dwar li għalhekk qatt ma riedet tfal, biex tkun tista’ tiġġerra ’l hawn u ’l hinn, taha daqqa ta’ ħarta u qasmilha xoffitha. Din kienet l-ewwel darba li kien refa’ idu fuqha.

Dorothy intilfet. Filli dak il-fsied kollu u filli jgħajjarha mara tat-triq. U la ried jiekol u la ried jibqa’ fl-istess sular li kienet hi… Biex jorqod, issakkar fl-istudju tiegħu, fejn kellu sufan. Qabel ma sabbat il-bieb, qalilha li jieħdu żgur l-annullament għax kienet ħbietlu li ma ridetx tfal.

Hi kienet taf li qatt ma tat wiċċ lil ħaddieħor. Bilfors li xi ħadd kien gideb fuqha, u mlieh bil-velenu. Bil-kwiet, ippakkjat ftit ħwejjeġ f’basket, u telqet ’il barra bla ma taf fejn kienet se tagħti rasha. Ċemplet lill-ħabiba tagħha, u rrakuntatilha x’ġara. Din qaltilha li sewwa kienet għamlet li telqet mid-dar, għax la kien sawwatha (użat dik il-kelma tabilħaqq) darba, kien se jkompli jagħmel hekk.

Imma… ma setgħetx iżżommha għandha, “għax taf int, bit-tfal…”. U għal Dorothy dik l-enfasi fuq il-kelma tfal kienet kixfet lill-oħra. Qisha xegħlet bozza tal-elf f’daqqa. Mela hi kienet hi li kixfitha ma’ Henry. Ċemplitlu? Iltaqgħet miegħu wara x-xogħol? Bagħtitlu xi ittra?

L-oħra staqsietha x’kienet se tagħmel issa. Dorothy ħassitha mifnija. B’vuċi maħnuqa, staqsiet lil ħabibitha (għalkemm kienet taf it-tweġiba, imma bħal riedet konferma) jekk kinetx qalet is-sigriet tagħha lil Henry. “U ma tarax!” weġbitha l-ħabiba b’nofs daħqa. “Mela jien xi peċluqa għajjura, jew?”

L-istorja spiċċat b’li Dorothy marret tgħix ftit għand ħuha, u Henry baqa’ jsostni li daħqet bih. Hi, allavolja kienet taħlef li dejjem kienet retta, ma ridetx terġa’ tmur id-dar meta kienet taf li hu ma kienx jafdaha. U fejn qatt ma ħadmet f’ħajjitha, issa bdiet tmur taħsel għand in-nies, u moħħha donnu ħfief ukoll.

Saħqet li jien għandi ngħaddi żewġ messaġġi importanti; li ż-żwieġ mhux logħba, u li l-koppja għandhom iqiegħdu l-karti kollha fuq il-mejda. U siġriet tal-qrar, fil-qrar biss għandu jingħad.

Iżda l-iżjed ħaġa li nsistiet fuqha kienet li kulħadd jixtarr sewwa il-kliem tal-Mulej: “Kunu mela għaqlin bħas-sriep u safjin bħall-ħamiem. Oqogħdu attenti mill-bnedmin!” allavolja hawn meħudin barra mill-kuntest tagħhom.

If I’ve Told You Once…



Don’t do that. Stop that. Enough. Stop. Put that book away or you’ll throw up. How naughty you are. Push back your hair. That’s not nice. Stop fidgeting. Hold your bag properly. Stop playing with your hair. Close your mouth when you chew. Stop picking your nose. Drink some water. Stop moving your legs. Stop making faces. That’s enough…

This litany went on and on, during a bus ride from Birkirkara to Bugibba. Alas, it was not a teacher with her summer school brood on an outing – it was a mother with just one child, obviously on their way to the beach. The parent gave the expression Maltese Gemgem a new lease of life. I wonder how much the girl enjoyed the visit to the beach, and whether she was wise enough to float her troubles away once she jumped into the sea.

Nagging and grumbling appear to be very popular – to the extent that some people would grumble if there were not anyone around to nag, and nag the speakers on the radio if there is no one at whom to grumble.

Some friends of mine – modern by other standards – still believe in the “broken record” method of communication. They even cite scripture about it, in that it is certain that a person will comply with your wishes if only to stop your staccato whinging, rather than because they really want to.

Some would think that social sites like facebook have given mothers the world over a new type of ammunition – “this photo gets posted on my wall and yours if you don’t clean your room within the next hour”. Unfortunately, only a few children will cave in to this type of blackmail. Others will call their mothers’ bluff (she doesn’t want people to think she is a bad parent because she lets my room get to this state…) and others simply don’t care of the world find out they use the chairs for a wardrobe.

Nagging, most of the time, is a waste of energy – both for the nagger, and also for the person being nagged. The former will feel frustrated; the latter will feel resentful.

There are times when nagging actually has the effect opposite to the desired one. If a child has to learn discipline, it is useless for a parent to nag him to fulfil his duties, because once the nagging is not present, for any reason, he will revert to type.

Parents nag children to do their homework; they will never learn what the consequences of not doing it are, until it is too late to learn how to do it even if and when they do not feel like it, because it is their duty. Had they been left to their own devices, they would have suffered the penalty of turning up at school without homework – and then, this would have led them to decide whether an extra hour of facebook was worth three hours of detention. This kind of lesson will get through even to children who pretend not to hear their parents’ nagging.

We nag because we have valid grievances. Yet it does not follow that the people whom we harry will be grateful; they will become defensive, angry and irritated. Nagging is disrespectful and negative and therefore, automatically unhealthy for the mind, heart, soul and body. It sours relationships.

Badgering our children to do what (we think) is right is not a clause in the job description for mothers – but discussion and compromise are.

It is irritating to hear a child sniffle; yet ordering him to stop will not stop his need to do so. It will, however, make him feel pestered, demeaned, and incapable of looking after himself. Wordlessly handing him a handkerchief would probably have encouraged him to use it. So would a polite request, and a non sequitur about how nice it was when the child did something nice for someone else without being asked, to divert him from the issue.

I know for a fact that some people like to nag to draw attention to themselves, or to their children, when there is an audience. In private, they may not even speak to the child unless absolutely necessary. Others nag because they feel safer when they consider themselves superior to others, or simply because as parents, they can throw their weight around and show who’s boss.

Nagging does not stop when our children know they will lose privileges if they do not toe our line. It stops when we decide we must stop harping persistently on the same points, and begin being positive instead.

Let’s all make a back-to-school resolution to stop nagging for a week, and see what happens.