Well, here I am back again. September has had so much crammed into it that it feels about 3 months long instead of one.
Lawrence has done three walks, two back to back in the company of our dear friend Lizzie, so now he has now covered about a quarter of his circumnavigation of the island. If you’d like to see his journeys, go to http://legsit.com where you will find great pictures and a sparse commentary!
September was a month of new beginnings. The temperature dropped a bit and the humidity rose to unprecedented levels to the extent that folk who normally breezed through the Maltese summer complained of dissolving in the unusual conditions. My local lace hand-fans were in frequent use and spared both my blushes and my tissues. The air conditioning in the car ran overtime and on occasions being in transit, by car or by the new air-conditioned (cold) buses, was the most comfortable option. We blamed it all on the fickleness of La Nina, and carried on regardless.
Our first new experience was to play bridge at the Penthouse bridge club. This is the less serious of the two bridge clubs in Malta, and hence more friendly. Our friend Barbara who is chairman of the club had given us a foretaste of duplicate bridge – which is the only sort played in bridge clubs in Malta – but it was with great trepidation that we attended our first session. This was a very well organised affair and although we were a bit slow, we managed quite well and enjoyed ourselves. Subsequent sessions found us more relaxed and we are enjoying it tremendously. There are a mixture of players who are very good, good,and average. Lawrence and I always play together, as we are the only ones who play the Acol system. Everyone else plays 5-card major openers and a strong no-trump. We have also found another couple to play bridge once weekly, so hopefully we will improve soon.
Our Sunday evenings took a pleasant turn when my singing teacher introduced us to the delights of the reception-type €12 buffet at the Palazzo Parisio. This fabulous old palazzo is the home of the Baroness of Tabria, Christiane Ramsay Scicluna and her daughter, who run the business. A very polished fine dining restaurant, lovely lunch venue and a cafe are housed in its buildings and grounds. The summer evening buffets were held in the vast gardens. The illuminated fountains, candlelit tables scattered over the lawns, and the scent of the jasmine, bougainvillea and exotic palms together with the muslin draped areas all created a romantic, calm, and convivial place to meet for the free cocktail that was included in the entry fee, and the finger-food buffet. Just a delight. These summer idylls have stopped now, but will soon recommence for the colder season in the vaulted cellars which have their own particular charm. Can’t wait!
Our next new departure was our Argentinian Tango class. Now you very well may ask what someone with my orthopoedic history is doing learning a dance that on Strictly Come Dancing seems to be vigorous, high kicking, speedy and flamboyant. Well, I do the flamboyant bit anyway, but I was so pleased to hear that the dramatic “end-game” of the dance has very slow, stable beginnings. One leans into one’s partner, always has one foot on the floor and moves at the pace of a slow, slinky walk. Whoopee!! Jax will not fall over.
The venue for the Tango class is St James’Cavalier. In the time of the knights of St John, this was built as a gun-battery to help protect the Grand Harbour. It was an enormous high platform composed of rubble and faced with limestone. In later centuries, it was hollowed out for use as war rooms, notably during the 2nd World War. Today it is a venue for activities and the arts, e.g. the live broadcasts from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York are screened there. If you would like to read a bit more about this fascinating building go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St_James_Cavalier where you can find much more detail.
Back to Tango. While you can learn the steps with a regular partner, as soon as they are walked through sufficiently to please the teachers, we have to change partners. That is a good thing as it means you have to know your own steps and cannot rely on your partner to guide you. However, trying to do your steps with someone who does not know theirs or who does not have a good sense of rhythm can be a bit difficult. Still. There is a milonga held every Wednesday night at the Phoenicia Hotel, and now that we know a little bit we will go along there and practise what we have been taught in the class. There is no teaching and up to 70 people turn up, so we can lose ourselves in the crowd if necessary.
A highlight of the month was a jazz concert held at It-Torri Ta’ Lanzun in Mensija. The singer was Claudette who used to sing professionally and her friend Dominic who was a first rate jazz pianist and accompanist. They performed a series of old jazz favorites, in the open air in the courtyard of the Torri, again surrounded by the warm limestone walls and their covering of glorious white bougainvillea, as the night darkened, the stars came out and the moon rose over the tower. Fabulous canapes and finger food were served together with free-flowing wine after the performers ended their concert. Much money was raised for the charity supported by the Military and Hospitaller Order of St Lazarus of Jerusalem, whose headquarters the Torri is. St Lazarus is the patron saint of lepers. In addition to its other charitable work, the Order continues to play a supportive role to lepers around the world.
The Torri itself is a typical military tower of its time. The name literally means “Tower of the Lance” and was originally built to defend against buccaneers. You can read a little more and see some pictures here.
Finally, we had the good fortune to be invited to the home of some friends in Mqabba to view the Malta Air Show from their rooftop. Their house is a delightful traditional Maltese building with vaulted roof in the living room, which was originally a mill room. These mill rooms can be high vaulted- large headroom, or low vaulted- take care not to bang your head. The house had rooms on many staged levels and there were three rooftops, all reached by the traditional well-worn limestone steps from which to view the display.
First to present themselves were the Italian equivalent of the Red Arrows, who gave an amazing display, with multi-coloured smoke trails and “Top Gun” stunts by the individual pilots. The noise was deafening and it took me a while to realise that I could not track them by their sound. I had to look well ahead of the sound to see them, so fast were they travelling. There were search and rescue displays, helicopters and the newest member of Malta’s Search and Rescue team was introduced to the audience. It was in fact a rescue/hospital plane. The last display was given by the 9-strong Swiss aerobatic team. It was a more refined display than the jets, but no less impressive, notable for the precision and exactitude with which the pilots held their station relative to their fellow pilots. It brought to mind the differences in the perceived national characteristics of the two countries.
So, apart from the usual day to day business, those are our September highlights. As you can tell, we are still very much in love with Malta. More to come soon