Monday, 24 October 2016

Malta Diaries 2016: The Capital, Valletta

Valletta, the capital of Malta was built in 1566 by the Knights of the Order of St John and named after it's grand master. It took 15 yrs to build and taking into consideration that there was no mechanical tools to help with the build it was no mean feat.
Valletta is a walled city and a fort containing magnificent churches and buildings. 
It is very busy as it is a a place where many people live and work and also has many, many visitors daily. Designer shops mix with shops selling souvenir tat and there's even a Marks and Spencer. It is now a world heritage city.
I loved this place so much we visited three times during our holiday.

You can't take your car through the city gates and all the cars here are owned by the people who live in the city. Of course shops and cafes have to have deliveries so there are many vans driving about too. 
To enjoy Valletta you have to put your blinkers on and ignore the crowds and parked cars and look up at the buildings and the architecture and think yourself back into another age. I would love to have been here in the evening when it is dark. It seems it's lovely,quiet and low key. You will find me repeating myself when I tell you in another post about the ancient capital of Malta know as The Silent City.

On our first visit we stopped for a drink at seats outside a cafe in a large square. We met the boldest pigeons we have ever seen landing on tables trying to steal food from plates. I'm so glad we were only having a drink. Another visit and we sat outside a cafe in a little side street. It was quiet and peaceful and I spotted a door up high with a cute little balcony. I wasn't the only one who photographed it.

On our first visit we watched a film about the history of Malta and went for a tour of the war museum which dated back to the 1500's. I won't bore you with it all but it's amazing how many different countries have occupied Malta at some time in history. Our guide told us that if The Knights Of St John hadn't defeated the Turkish she would be talking to us as a Muslin woman. It could easily gave gone either way.

What fascinated me the most was the tour of the Knights hospital. The Knights Hospitallers were primary a nursing order (only men) . They began in Jerusalem in 1080 in a hospital ran by monks. They treated everyone no matter of creed or colour. During the many wars they travelled from country to country sometimes having to fight for the survival of that country. They moved to Malta in 1565 and signs that they were there can be seen all over the island. The eight point Malteese cross came from the cross wore on the knight's uniform and is also the sign we see on St John's Ambulances. 

The top photo was the longest hospital ward in Europe during the 16 th/17th century it held 297 beds.
Each bed had a canopy hanging from above it. Different coloured canopies depicted what illness the occupant was suffering from. Between each bed was a little alcove containing a toilet these were covered by ornate tapestries for privacy. There were drains under the toilets and even a ventilation system with went out into the gardens which were planted with orange and lemon trees to mask the smell.
People using this ward were usually rich and had to pay. The poorer patients were housed two floors down and entered through a tunnel probably so they didn't come in contact with the rich. The ward for them was similar but with three patients to each bed and three to each toilet. This is slightly better then the hospitals I have stayed in where four patients shared each toilet, but at least we had a bed to ourselves.
Salt,honey,and turpentine were used to disinfect wounds and because of the wars most wounds were amputations performed by saw or guillotine.
The long ward in the first photo was being renovated and beams were being replaced. It is now used as a conference centre and for weddings.The second photo is of a smaller ward where you can see the tapestries covering the alcoves where the toilets were. No women were allowed.

Views from the city.

And the streets

I love this photo of the washing on the line. Life goes on visitors or no visitors! 

 I saw this plaque on the wall of a building.

The poet lived here for two years although it only says one on the plaque. He worked as secretary to the governor but was really here to get his health back and withdraw from opium.

And last but not least.
If you can enlarge this last photo it's a letter from King George V1 awarding the George Cross to Malta after the Second World War. The cross is there also. 

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Malta Diaries : Finding Our Way Around.

We decided to explore. The easiest way of doing this is by bus for a few reasons. The driving is a bit mad and busy and there was no where nearby to park a hired car,so the bus it was. We purchased a weekly bus pass for €12 each, this gave us unlimited travel on all buses. The normal single fare is €1.50 but this ticket can be used again and again within a three hour time frame. This proved to be useful to us during our second week when we only had occasional bus trips as to go to most places we had to get the bus to the large bus station in Valetta and then get another one.
The buses are all single decker and air conditioned which was wonderful. They were also very busy and it was not always possible to sit down for the whole journey. 
I moaned about the hills in my last post but we could walk along the seafront which is flat into Sliema passing many restaurants along the way as well as a few swimming pools which were attached to restaurants or swimming clubs. For €12 euro you could use the pool and sun beds all day but it did get very busy in the afternoon and that's when I turned into Mrs Grumpy. Does no one teach their children that it's rude to jump in the pool front of someone when they're swimming? I despair! 
Here are some photos on the way to and in Sliema.

Back in St Julians again and one of the things I have noticed is there are cranes everywhere, I'm surrounded by them. Not the feathered kind I'm afraid but ugly steel industrial cranes. In fact if I stood at the seafront outside our apartment and turned 360 deg I can count about 12 cranes. Which goes to prove how much building work is still going on. Or perhaps they just can't be bothered removing them.

After spending many days gazing out from the balcony I spotted a little piece of history on the other side of the harbour. We were told that some of the restaurants here are in what used to be boathouses or boatyards and some have kept the original doors. I spotted what looks like the front of a mini castle right in the middle of modern buildings. I have enlarged the photo so you can see. The tall building on the left is an office block and the tallest in Malta.
Do you see it? Next to the white apartments . I wonder what it's like inside.

There is a piece of artwork at the corner of the harbour. It's an upside down LOVE sign. I didn't know the reason why it was upside down until I came home but they say you have to look at its reflection in the water and will see it the right way up. Now the sea isn't always calm and there are ripples and other boats tied up there and you can't always see the letters, but they say you can't always see love,it's always there but sometimes you can't spot it if the sea isn't calm enough. Altogether now...aweeee!!!!
The railings and bollards near the sign are covered in padlocks, put there by young lovers who then throw the key in the sea so that no one can't unlock the padlock and they'll always be in love....I know! You'll be in tears soon. Here are the photos!

I wonder if the owners of the padlocks are all still together.

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Malta Diaries 2016- First Impressions

Someone told me,"People either love Malta or hate it" Well for me that wasn't true as I am somewhere in between. We did visit in August, the busiest and hottest time of the year. I obviously didn't do my research very well. It was so very busy. I longed for open spaces,for trees and hills, but we saw none of that.
We stayed at Spinola Bay which is in St Julians. We rented and apartment on the main road with an amazing view. No matter what time of the night you looked out of the window you would see people walking up and down the road. Maybe nightclubers walking home. Then about six am the joggers and runners and power walkers were out in force. 
We didn't know that the entrance to our apartment wasn't on the Main Street but behind the building which meant climbing a hill up to it. I don't do hills,I really don't and 14 days later climbing that hill didn't get any easier.
On our first day we jumped on a bus tour to give us some idea of our surroundings. It was so long and we had only seen a small corner of Malta. Here are some photos.
The lovely views across Spinola Bay and our apartment ringed in red.

 The bus tour passed by Valletta the capital of Malta which we loved and visited a few times and Mdina The silent city which is the historical capital. Here are a few photos taken from the bus.
This is the walls of Valletta and the next photo is of a huge cruise ship I was very impressed with and wanted to be on.
This bus wouldn't move for me to get a better photo. The interesting thing about this church and I think every church in Malta is that it has two clocks. One clock is set to the right time and the other stays at the same time,sometimes the second one is just painted on. The reason behind this is to confuse the devil if he comes to earth. Hmmm! Hope it works. Well this is only day one. I'm using an iPad app to write my posts as I can't get my photos loaded onto PC so I hope it works.

Saturday, 6 August 2016

My Inner Child,Fairies and Sunshine.

I have had the pleasure of my three favourite children staying with me for a few days. My two granddaughters and dinosaur boy. The two oldest will be brand new six and five this month and the youngest is two and a half.
I love it when they get together although it's hard work sometimes. I enjoy watching them learning how to share,play and how to put others needs before their own. Sometimes it takes a little persuasion but they get there in the end.
Having them here brings out the inner child in me. I love crafting and stickers and colouring  and making things. The joy on their faces when they accomplish something and when they are praised for being so creative is priceless.
We managed to go to a makeshift cinema in the local town hall which was about a quarter of the price of the big cinemas. We saw Finding Dory which they loved and so did gran.

When we go to the park it makes me laugh when they think I'm capable of attempting the climbing frame or sitting inside the spinning teacup, ha ha I'd never get back out again. 
did once slide down the slide when out with dinosaur boy, he kept asking me to have a go and I said I was too old his reply was,
The Proof.
" Age is just life not what you are, your heart might be old but your brain is young,you can do this. Age is just a number." He had just turned five. 
With a tear in my eye I climbed the steps,slid down the slide and nearly got stuck. There was no one else in the park that day,thank goodness. 

At the end of their stay I remembered I had bought a fairy door. We found a good place to stick this magic door and the three of them sprinkled fairy dust over it saying,"Fairy please come and stay and give us lovely dreams each night." Because this is what fairies do. We left the tiny bottle which held the tiny key beside the door. If the key disappeared we would know a fairy had found the door and made her magic house behind it. 

The two girls had to go home before dinosaur boy but he couldn't content himself and was looking at the door constantly. He even left a toy car beside it for the fairy to get around in. 
The magical moment came when he found the tiny bottle empty and the key missing. Hubby and I were called upstairs to witness this moment. He was so excited. The next day the fairy had left a thank you note (as polite fairies always do) thanking the three children for her beautiful door and saying she wished they could see her magical house behind the door. A special thank you for the use of the car and she would make sure they had lovely dreams. Dinosaur boy was beyond excited by this time.
Of course when the girls return they will find the same things and the excitement will start all over again. I have plans for lots of tiny fairy things to magically appear beside the door just to prove there really is a fairy living there. By the way her name is Primrose.

The house is now back to normal, games,toys, stickers all packed away. It is so quiet and I always miss them a few seconds after they leave. 
I am now preparing for our summer holiday. Packing cases and trying not to forget anything important like my kindle. I will enjoy relaxing and reading although I think this holiday will be more about sightseeing than lying by a pool. We are going to Malta which is steeped in history and seems to be a very interesting country.
I hope you will come back and read my Malta Diaries when I return. Sunshine here I come! 

Saturday, 30 July 2016

Happy Birthday Blog!

I've only just realised that it was five years ago today I posted my first post on here and started my first blog. I now have a book review blog too which at times feels as though it's taking over my life. The reason being I can just never refuse to read and review a book. So many books,so little time.
I've always loved writing. At school we called them compositions or essays. I can still remember some of them. 
When I started this blog I was dipping my toe back into the water again. When my children were young I wrote poems but never anything more. I have loved writing this blog so much and I have met such lovely people through its pages. 
My posts are fewer now and the reason for that is I have finally joined a writing group. Every week I have to come up with a new story or poem which I'm loving. It does eat into my time and that's the reason there hasn't been the same number of blogposts from me.
Over five years I have posted 195 times and have had over 17,000 page views. People have visited from all over the world, although some may be a spam visit I like to think that most of them are real people so just leave me in my bubble. 
On the plus side to my writing group I now have a whole folder full of stories. I am writing longer stories than ever but I'm not at that stage yet where I could write a book and I really don't care if I never do as I'm enjoying what I'm doing at the moment so much. 
My second post on this blog five years ago was about me waiting for my first grandchild to be born. She will be turning five soon and is now joined by her sister who's two. Another little one will be joining us in October and we can't wait.

Those of you who have read my blog will remember dinosaur boy who I looked after for his mum. We had many many adventures together and even although I have moved to the other side of the city he is still a big part of my life. He will be six very soon and is a big schoolboy now.
My granddaughters and dinosaur boy are coming to stay today for a few days and I'm looking forward to hugging them.

So thank you to everyone who's read this blog over the last five years. I will keep it going although maybe not as many posts as there have been.
To the faithful crew who read every post and comment,thank you so much. A special mention to Rosalind, Carol H, Val,and Jo, these women have been so supportive and I'm sure if I lived near them I would be starting on my first book by now. Thank you ladies. For Joanne and zinger from the USA thank you too for continually reading my blog.
I'm having problems commenting on blogs that are being moderated and I have no idea how to fix it. My comments are being emailed back to me. I am reading and trying to comment on all your blogs.
Here's to the next five years of writing,reading and blogging. Please have some cake and some luminous champagne before you leave.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Lest We Forget.

Today is my birthday but more important than that it is the 100th anniversary of the first day of the battle of The Somme. My grandfather John Downes fought during the first world war. I have no idea if he was present at the Somme. I never met him. He came home suffering from the effects of mustard gas poisoning which damaged his lungs and resulted in him dying far too young.
Thousands of men never returned from France and thousands more believed there would never be another war after that one.
Our country and the world is in such turmoil today. There's so much hatred and badness among so many people. We can't trust the people who run our country. We have to look to ourselves to be good, to be kind and to understand what others are going through. We can not let those men down again.

                                                 The Soldier.                                                

Silence,I have forgotten it's sound.
 My ears have become accustomed to gunfire and bombing.
Think of the loudest noise you have heard and multiply it by hundreds, no, thousands of decibels.
I long for the sweet smell of my wife’s perfume, my baby boy’s skin, 
a rose and sausages sizzling in a pan.
I'm sick of the smell of burning,of gunfire,of dirt,of death.
You ask what death smells like?
It smells of a life lost, the end of hope.
It burns your nostrils and it makes you afraid.
Did you know that mud smells too?
Of blood,urine and unwashed men.
When you live in mud it smells of you.
Ypres, Flanders, Passchendaele, the Somme.
We trudge from one battle to another, pieces on a chessboard moved by an unseen hand.
Three steps forward and two steps back.
I am losing hope but I am kept going by the thought that this will be the war to end all wars.
 Man will never fight against his fellow man again.
 My son will be safe. 
He will never have to don a uniform and find himself fighting in a foreign land.
Lessons will be learned.
                                         Anne Mackle

10th Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment of the 31st Division. Marching to the front line. photo credit By Brooks, Ernest (Lieutenant) (Photographer) - is photograph Q 724 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain,



Monday, 18 April 2016

Beyond The Wall.

I was given a task at my writing group to write something with the title Beyond The Wall. This is about how hard I find it to meditate and what happens when I do. It's also about how wonderful dreams can be. 

                      Beyond The Wall.

Beyond the wall there's a beautiful land,
With bright pink sea and purple sand.
The trees are laden with twinkling stars,
And tiny moonbeams live in jars.
Beyond the wall

I stroked a lion and hugged a bear,
And we sat together,without a care.
A green stripy tiger came to say hello
And played a tune on a small banjo.
Beyond the wall

I rode a wild stallion, it's mane was shiney blue.
I'd never rode a horse before but I knew what to do.
Faster and faster it ran on purple sand, then 
A rainbow came down and covered all the land.
Beyond the wall.

Every night I hope to visit that weird and wonderful place.
Every morning I return and never leave a trace.
No footprints in the sand,the sea washed them away.
I'm back to reality and my world has turned to grey.
I have seen beyond the wall.

You can't go there by boat or plane,
Not even by a very fast train.
A car's no use nor is a bike,
And it's far too far if you wanted to hike.
The wall is big and long and wide.
You wouldn't get there if you hitched a ride.

You don't need money or credit card.
But getting there can be oh so hard.
The wall is black and tries to hide
What it's like on the other side

If I empty my mind of the thoughts of today,
And think like the child I used to be.
If I close my eyes and let myself fall,
I hope I shall land there
Beyond the wall.

My dreams will be of pink seas and purple sands,
And banjo playing tigers forming a band.
Of riding horses and hugging a bear.
And having a moonbeam as a clasp in my hair.
When I am beyond the wall.