Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Malta

Mrs P and I have been to experience the delights of Malta, the tiny island in the middle of the Mediterranean, just south of Sicily. And why not? It's the perfect short getaway for a resident Bournemouth. Flights from the local airport, just a ten minute drive from home, are cheap - from £60 to £100 return - and it's just three hours away. We set off early on a Thursday morning, enjoyed two full days in the sun and flew back mid-morning on Sunday, lightly bronzed and thoroughly relaxed.

What did I know of Malta before I went? It's small and rocky. The islanders bravely fended off the Nazis in WW2 - the Maltese flag features the St George cross, awarded by their then imperial master, the British. There's a bit of an issue with organised crime and suppression of the press. There's the Maltese dog. That was about it. Mrs P and I argued over just how small Malta is. I said smaller than the Isle of Wight. She disagreed. I have checked. And I was right. 

What didn't I know about Malta that I am now better informed of? Maltese is the only recognised semitic language in the European Union. It's a confusing tongue. Half the words are of Italian origin. English makes up anything from 10 to 20% of the vocabulary, with whole phrases abruptly interrupting an otherwise unintelligible stream of chatter. And a Tunisian would be able to understand about 30 to 40 per cent of an average Maltese conversation. Indeed, Malta seemed in many regards - language, food and architecture - to have something of a confused sense of identity. It doesn't, of course. Cultural blends are to be found in every land. It was I who was confused.

We also discovered that Malta itself isn't the cheapest European destination once landed. Buses are good value when getting around, at €2 for two hours travel. Food and accommodation are a little pricey. Not extravagantly so. But closer to what one would pay in Paris than in Budapest or Sofia. But for a long weekend, Malta is worthy of consideration. We may well return, particularly when we are in need of a little bit of southern  European sunshine. 




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Wednesday, 5 June 2019

The Secret Garden


We Brits have few nice things to say about our weather. We do not receive the amount of sunshine that we would like. But it's not just about the gross amount of solar rays that reach our little island. It's the useable quantity. Let me give an example. Last week we set off on a day trip, deep into rural Wiltshire. It had been sunny all week, so why not make the most of it? Needless to say, the sun disappeared the moment we departed. And stubbornly refused to to reappear until the moment we returned home. We Brits have been playing this game of galactic hide and seek for millenia. It's a game that we are handsomely losing.

The garden? It's a strenuous half hour walk from the nearest train station at Avoncliff, up and down a steep hill. But that is all I can say. Mrs P has declared it a 'secret garden', just for us.
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