This was a rather scrappy week, with weather again a limiting factor and further aggravated by having no car, until Friday night.
One of the most notable things about this time of year here are the migrating birds passing through on their way north from their winter roosts in Africa. We have seen many bats, swallows, some finch-like birds and a large bird of prey (?buzzard/eagle) from our window. There are also a huge number of white butterflies, but so far have seen no brightly coloured ones. Must bring our binoculars back next time.
The winds were strong enough to blow my planters off the balcony sill onto the patio (replanting of geraniums needed) and the cars locally are all heavily covered with the red sand carried with it. This weather then continued to Friday which was a beautiful day.
The car saga has now come to a conclusion. The agent here in Malta of the company we shipped the car with has been amazingly helpful. The registration of a foreign car here is not an easy thing. They offered to do it all for us which we readily agreed. They had to find our car among 3000 on the dockside, get the equivalent of an MOT inspection, get it insured and taxed, pay the huge registration fee and get the Malta plates put on. As they knew the system, we felt it would be easier. Thank goodness we did. However, Charles queued at the ADT (Malta Transport Administration) on Thursday to do the necessary, only to be told that the rules had changed (no official notice given) and the owner had to be present. So, next morning his wife Doreen picked up Lawrence at 8:30am and drove him down to the ADT centre where Charles was already queuing. It turned out that Lawrence was not necessary for any of the procedures! Charles literally just had to point him out. He did not even have to go to the counter. Fortunately he had the company of Miguel, Charles’s delightful young son who kept him entertained. Anyway, the car was in our possession on Friday afternoon at long last.
So, off to Golden Bay that evening for supper in the Beach Cafe there. It was a glorious evening, the sunset on the still sea making us yearn to slip a canoe onto the water. The bay is bordered by high cliffs which makes it a very sheltered beach for swimming which is the weekend pastime for the Maltese in summer. Beaches to be avoided then. The cafe is right down on the beach and there was a serious game of ladies’ beach volleyball going on. It was obviously a team practising and they were very impressive!
When we got home we sat up to watch the fireworks over Valletta from the balcony. It was the annual international fireworks competition, with entries from Italy, Austria, France, Malta all done to music. Some of the entries were very spectacular, including some that looked like gigantic palm trees. We are at quite a distance, but got the flavour of it all.
On Saturday, I finally got to go to the concert held twice-weekly in the Carmelite Priory in Mdina. It was a flute concert of Bach’s music which was appropriate for the baroque surroundings. The flautist was very accomplished and delivered his music to a small audience of 6 in the priory’s oratory – fortunately a small room. The concert comes free with the ticket into the priory which is €4.
Malta is full of contradictions. The Carmelites are a strict order where silence is enforced, monks stay much of their time in their cell, only coming out if required for duties in the monastery. The cells are spartan to say the least. Contrast that with their Carmelite Church. I have been to the main cathedrals here with their famous grandeur, but I was totally unprepared for the impact of the dark colours of the drapery and the wooden panels, the soaring ceiling with its beautifully painted dome, the seven chapels around the periphery, each with its own magnificent artwork, fiercely gilded and decorated. That so much could be contained in such a small church was almost overwhelming. It seemed not so much an uplifting place as one which exerted a historical pressure, an awareness of the depth, intensity, and relevance of its particular role in the community, both monastic and in the wider community, past and present. I certainly had an awareness of the multitude of people who had been there before me over the centuries. Any of you who come to Malta will not be disappointed if you visit it as part of your tour of Mdina.
Up early on Sunday and down to the fish market in Marsaxlokk. We have been there many times, but not early enough to see the fishmongers with their fresh catches from the local boats. The king prawns here are gigantic langoustines, and the salmon steaks I bought were twice the size we would get at home. Octopus and squid (alive!), shellfish, ling, lampuki, mullet, skate – though may have been a small ray! – swordfish etc etc. I think this is the best market here. It is only a 20 minute drive. The Maltese come here before 10 o’clock to buy their fish and produce, then leave it to the tourists’ stalls. The serious vegetable, fish, and bakery stalls pack up then.
I have downloaded a recipe for Maltese rabbit stew, so I think I will have to find some fishy local recipes too. Wish me luck. I may yet turn into a Maltese cook!