Rosaria from Gozo ( A descendant from Hebron)

With the pulling on of clothes and winching up of anchor, the voyage to Messina continued on. The morning was calm and the sun just skimming over the surface. It would be a perfect day. After just a few hours they arrived and were picked up by the gallery owner whom they had phoned just prior to arrival.

Their boat was berthed next to a flotilla of much larger and more luxurious vessels. The power was connected to the boat and fridge and batteries re-charged. Rosaria’s dolls were taken into the boot of the gallery owner’s car which then drove to a cafe for late breakfast and a coffee.
To their surprise they were introduced to Sir Frank Bovims and his wife Wendy at the cafe. Wendy had a strong English accent but Frank had a thick middle European accent which Rosaria recognized from the many tourists from central Europe visiting Malta with many filtering over to her island of Gozo. Some of those from Slovakia, Slovenia and Chechnya had accents very similar to Sir Frank.

Many seemed to have a fondness for nude bathing, which on Gozo was accepted in some hidden coves facing the Mediterranean. The cultural fondness by many Europeans to go naked when swimming or sunbaking wasn’t necessarily based on anything deliberately flaunting a kind of sexual naughtiness, but more based on taking clothes off and then putting them back on afterwards as a more practical solution than putting on swimming gear.

Of course, many from mainland Malta, especially English tourists would be seen motoring past those nudist coves hoping for a glance at a pubic bush of which many amongst the “Mittel Europa Menschen” were well endowed and renowned for. For some reason, the English fondness for perving on huge pubes seemed to go hand in hand with the consumption of vast quantities of beer of which the empty cans floated on-shore. One wondered if those pubic triangles could even be male or female discernable when viewed from some distance away. Perhaps the Brit’s’ lives were so dull, that anything with hair on it would make them break out in riotous behaviour, especially when away from their much loved ‘privacy’ of their homes. Many of the English male tourists had shaven heads, wore nose rings and, according to their blue arm and leg markings, could possibly have spent more time in tattoo dens than at schools.

The nudists would first clear the sandy coves of those beer cans and bottles, a kind of symbiosis in tourism whereby Malta encouraged the tourists to come and spend their money which in turn made other tourists clean their much loved Maltese environment of the detritus caused by that same tourism.

After the introduction at the Sicilian cafe to Sir Frank and Lady Wendy Bovims, it turned out that Wendy had spent many years living in Australia. She knew about Rockdale, in fact she used to go to clubs and play the pokies. This was before she met Frank Bovims. The subject of Australia certainly was an ice-breaker and the little group soon got on very well. It turned out they had flown to Sicily the night before and had chartered their own plane. The Bovims were rumoured to be very well off. He had spent his life building up a world- wide conglomerate of shipping and construction businesses which were floated on the UK stock-market many years ago. Recently there had been a bitter struggle between Sir Frank’s company and a hostile takeover by one of Australia’s largest construction companies. The final offer for the take-over was just too much to resist and Frank could not but recommend the take-over to his loyal shareholders by the Australian company. All this Wendy explained smilingly to Rosaria and Joe.

Rosaria’s English was very good she had gone through high school and had studied art and design at Malta’s university, while Joe’s English was a bit more a result of having taken foreign tourists around on fishing expeditions. Even so, he got most of the gist of the conversation which meandered between Australia, art, and central Europe. Wendy explained that she only recently married Frank. They had been going together for some years. His first wife had recently died. Rosaria was curious about the title ‘Sir and Lady’.

Wendy explained that like so many descendants of Hebron who had the misfortune to live in Europe during Hitler’s time, teen-age Frank and his parents’ family were simply rounded up and after a while told to undress, given a piece of soap and were walked towards the doors of hell. Frank, being a strong teenage boy, was spared, survived and after the war went back to Brno’s university. The communist takeover with the denouncement of anything ‘bourgeois’, Frank was again imprisoned and made to work in uranium mines.

After gaining a pardon on Stalin’s birthday he was given the choice to work in construction or mining. When, for the third time another oppressive regime and the Russian tanks rolled into Prague, Frank and his wife had enough, fled with one suitcase to England to join their son who was studying at Oxford University.

Frank resumed his career in construction and one of his biggest jobs was the construction of The Canary Wharf and many even other large construction jobs in the Middle East, including the PETRONAS Towers in Kuala Lumpur, a huge shopping complex under the Red Square in Moscow. He was duly awarded the Queen’s Award for Exports. He had also joined the Board of a shipping line P&O. Wendy seemed to know so much.

Frank, in the meantime seemed more interested in Joe and his fishing boat, wanted to know how he was going and how he sold the fish. Did the fish get sold through a Co-Op or through private marketing? Joe told him that on a good day he would catch enough to see him out for the rest of the week. He would then take tourists around on fishing expeditions and that’s how he managed to learn his English. Frank seemed genuinely impressed.

Rosaria was agog, nothing whatsoever had prepared her to sit with Wendy and Frank at a cafe in Messina not really knowing much about the couple who might buy her dolls with her lace. What, she wondered, had destined her to meet up with such an extraordinary couple, Sir Frank and Lady Wendy?

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