Posts Tagged ‘Gozo’

Double glazing

June 4, 2014
future fire-men

future fire-men

It was bound to be a day of excitement. The glass windows and doors were delivered last Friday. A man from Samoa with a large truck unloaded them and stored them in our garage. He was a well built and stocky man. His ankles protruded from his socks and boots like timber posts rising up from the harbour to support a bulk carrier. I asked him if he played rugby which he denied. I later found out he has six kids to support and a lovely Gauguin Tahitian like wife. He proudly showed me a photo. That would keep him as busy as any training session in any sport.

It is reassuring that there still are families bestowed with generous fruit of the womb progeny for further future development. I mean, the percentage of over 70 seems to dominate any street scene now. Only last week a scientists was being interviewed on television who claimed there is something magic in red wine which promises to be the elixir of all youth. He is trying the red wine ingredient on himself and he did look rather flush with vigour if not a bit floral as well. People in their nineties will be playing tennis soon, he enthused. One wonders though that those that are growing obese will keep those wonders of the ageing red wine contingent at bay with dying earlier. It is a neck on neck race.

So, last Monday the shop fitters arrived and installed all the glass windows and doors. It were a father and son team. Both were also stocky with belts around their waists with a variety of tools arranged hanging from them. Anyone turning up with loaded belts must inspire confidence and trustworthiness. I mean, have you seen firemen lately in full regalia? Awesome. One must be tempted to start one just to see them arrive and jump off the truck all ready for action. In fact, sometimes one reads about firemen starting a fire secretly in order to see some action. It is not unusual. It must be boring to spent so much time up a loft all dressed for action, when day after day there are no fires. The wives waiting at home; “did you have good fire to fight today, darling?” “No, he answers grumpily”. “Just dried some hoses and did some training, sliding down the pole.”

The windows and doors were fitted by 2pm. Can you believe it? It just shows that experts just do it. No fiddling or wrong measurements. The father came from a Maltese background and both his sons had visited Valetta two years before with their grand-dad. Malta is a great little country and I would recommend a stay there at any time. I wrote a story about a Maltese lady called Rosaria.
You might like to read some of it.
https://oosterman.wordpress.com/2012/08/01/rosaria-from-gozo-the-harrowing-story-of-halal-sausages/

Rosaria from Gozo ( Mustafa’s dilemma)

August 12, 2012

Hzanna was somewhat piqued after the evening and it wasn’t the pinot. It had all turned a bit fluffy. Never mind, it was a nice meal and she blamed the imbibing of just a mouthful too much alcohol that made her friends step over the limits of what could perhaps better have been left alone. The vegetable confession would soon be forgotten.  Perhaps club venues were at fault. All those lights, the faux bon jolliness of it all, the whole place somehow reeked of failure; a downgrading of what getting together ought to be about. These couples’s sittings together in the lounge, waiting for the meat raffles to start. Why the vacant staring at the blown up TV screens, the yawningly emptiness of it all? It was called ‘a night out’. Hooting of the locomotive and the rattling of coins, somebody had a reprieve from permanently losing money, their home and family. Hzanna thought it more of a night lost.

She still remembered, sitting around with friends in Gozo. It was different then. This was another world though, just as valid. Was it? Perhaps it was still settling down, finding its legs.

Hzanna’s husband thought that the pork crackling could be the catalyst for a renewed business venture.  He was working on it, doing back of the envelope calculations. Hzanna noticed his familiar furrowed brow. Deep in thought, he had to weigh up the sensitivities amongst his customers that were opposed to pork and those on the other side, that loved pork and for whom crunchy crackling might well be a most desired snack. Still, the Islamic community was far more tolerant than most thought. They stayed away from pubs and gambling but did not object to those that did frequent those venues. If some chose to eat pork, so be it.  For Muslims it is an unclean animal, doesn’t even produce cud, and would happily eat human excrement. But, if there are those who bought pork and ate it, let them.

He decided to seek council from one of his best friends, Mustafa, a devout Muslim and known for his endless storytelling, a wit that made the world in Rockdale laugh, and a born raconteur whose parents came from Lebanon.

Mustafa has his own business. It is a good business, somewhat hot in summer but a bonus in winter. He had a Doner Kebab with Falafel franchise tucked in between a newsagent and a T.A.B. It couldn’t be better positioned. Even if it wasn’t sign-posted Halal, it was expected to be so. No self respecting Doner Kebab merchant would ever sell pork kebabs. The T.A.B shop of course would not hold too many Islamic customers for Mustafa’s Kebabs; they would never step inside any horse betting shop. On the other hand, many, especially the locals, some of whom might have lost a bundle but still liquid enough would queue up to purchase a kebab. For those, the ache of a loss would be compensated with a tasty Kebab roll.

Mustafa would be busy slicing the lamb or chicken with a mountain of pre-sliced onions proudly showcased under a small glass cabinet. The spicy aroma of freshly chopped parsley, coriander tomatoes would spread far enough to entice others as well.

Opposite Mustafa’s take away was a massage establishment ‘Sally’s Therapy’ discretely advertised on a flickering pink neon sign. The entrance was hidden at the back. There was a steady toeing and froing of tense looking men, seeking spinal relief or just getting a full service for all sorts of undefinable stresses or ailments. Whatever they received from Sally, it did not lessen their appetite. Most seemed ravenous or at least very hungry afterwards. Mustafa was busy with the ever diminishing rotating pyramid of compressed meat, heating the pide, packing it with the fore-mentioned onions, parsley and tomatoes. ‘With or without chilli sauce’, was the burning question. Most ordered ‘with’.

While Mustafa was catering for the hungry and Sally for those in pain or lost for love, Mr Azzopardi decided to seek council from his friend Mustafa. ‘What would you, do my friend, about my idea of nice salty pork crackling’? Mustafa, who in his alcove of rotating towers of meats, (not unlike the swirling dervishes of his youth) always took time for philosophical discussions, no matter what the subject.

He was devout but not one suffering from idée fixe. His tolerance towards others and beliefs was generous and he had, in his Doner Kebab world, met many different types of people, of whom to be tolerable of. Some were better than others but he wasn’t easily upset or disappointed in the general environs of Rockdale’s mankind.

His parents had come from a war torn country and embraced their new country without condition or bias. Indeed, his parents had wholly accepted this new world but insisted on the children to stick to Islam and a general following of the Quran. Not that they were at all fanatic. ‘It soothes your soul’, they used to tell their son Mustafa. It doesn’t do much harm to have a belief in what is good, have respect for the world you live in. ‘You don’t get respect out of thin air, they often added. ‘You have to earn it”.

Mustafa sometimes riled his parents,’ my idea of what’s good might not be yours’, he said. ‘We all share what’s good if you don’t do harm to others,’ his mother added.  Well, I don’t, Mustafa shot back quickly.

He had however, in a moment of weakness of spirit but not of body, darted across the road to seek the healing and stroking hands of Sally. He had stuck ‘back in twenty minutes’ into the rotating compressed lamb tower but otherwise left his stall open. Afterwards, with his pleasure subsiding, his conscience nagged a little. Had he now failed in the department of ‘respect’? Sally seemed accepting and cheerful enough. ‘I give pleasure for money’, she simply stated. He found himself now questioning his moral stance, the essence of his beliefs. How could something that felt so good be possibly bad?  Could he now also be swayed to accept pork crackling next?  For many, the eating of crackling also felt good!  What next; pork chops?

What will become of me now, Mustafa asked himself?

Rosaria from Gozo (Halal approved sausages continued)

July 31, 2012

Rosaria from Gozo

Gozo lace making by Rosaria

Rosaria in Gozo was deeply puzzled by the need for Botox implants in Australia’s Rockdale. In Malta, women had rather fulsome facial features with generous and ample bosoms. Not much needed propping or lifting. In any case, she was convinced that as you got older one would look of an age whereby years of living expressed themselves in looking older. Was looking young so important? Did grandmothers not want to look as if they had grown wiser and older than a teenager? She knew from gossip magazines that in Valetta there had been some that were suspected of also having injected a kind of filler under their skin to get rid of ageing wrinkles. Rosaria thought that the pictures of those people often showed vacancies of minds with eyes looking out without seeing much at all. To be so self-absorbed, wasn’t ever present in Rosaria’s world.

She had a lot to ponder about while sitting in the shade of a large and very old olive tree. Rosaria wasn’t just being idle in the shade of that lovely tree. Anyone having a closer look would see a fast and deft movement of hands. There were arrangements of small narrow shaped wooden bobbins in her lap that would be changed around rapidly. Each of those bobbins had a thread which Rosaria was using to make garments of lace. On a chair she had arranged the lace on a covered straw cushion with lots of pins holding the different threads in place. Near her feet was a large sized porcelain doll partially dressed in colourful cloth. It was a picture perfect. Somehow, Rosaria’s pregnant swollen belly with a large doll on the ground and threaded bobbins in her lap told a story of creativity, peace and serenity.

The filtered light under the ancient olive tree was adding to a dream-like landscape of a rugged rock island telling its ancient history. She had been dressing those porcelain dolls for some years now. Her mother had taught her the basics of that skill when she was very young. The main thing was to not get the bobbins mixed up while creating the intricate work of fabric making sure each thread remained independent from each other. When she had four dolls finished she would catch the ferry to Sicily’s Messina and sell them to a gallery specialising in exhibiting her exquisite dolls, all dressed in colourful hand stitched traditional costume. The laced material would be applied on top of the hand stitched fabric, allowing the colours to show through. People from around the world would travel to Sicily’s Messina to visit the gallery and buy those intricate dolls. The dolls were works of high art. Rosaria was getting a name for herself as one of the master lace makers for the hand cast porcelain dolls. Those dolls were passed from generation to generation, becoming priceless family heirlooms.

While his wife was busying herself with lace, Joe was bobbing around on his boat. He had caught more than enough fish and was just reflecting on how his wife’s sister was faring in Australia. He was amazed about all those home improvements going on so far away.  He was trying to imagine the timber stud walls with plaster sheeting and the magic of a stud finder beeping on its search for timber studs. It must be the same as his fish-finder, he reckoned. He also relied on electronics to find fish. They were not all that far apart. Did the world not rely now on electronics to find almost everything? Joe was deeply immerged in his philosophical ponderings. For once this hot summer there was a cool breeze blowing about his boat.

Rosaria from Gozo (Malta) halal sausages

July 29, 2012

Rosaria from Gozo (continued)

 

Gozo

Hzanna’s husband duly returned from yet another highly lucrative day at his own Azzopardi’s “Meat Solutions’ shop selling an incredible amount of lamb cutlets and rosemary ‘infused’ sausages. He quickly nipped into Bunning to pick up the shelving, special screws and grommets. He had found out that screwing into the plaster boards of his brick veneer home was fraught with failure. The plasterboard after all was part of the veneer. The plaster would not hold any weight, just crumble. Life and life-styles were learning curves to overcome. Nothing was easy. His close friend and husband from the Sicilian Mamone family had far more experience in the ways of own home and home improvements. You need a stud finder, he advised. It will tell you were the timber studs are to screw your shelving on.  You can’t just bang screws in willy-nilly in a brick veneer like back in Malta where walls were made hewn from solid stone.  What’s more; those walls were made hundreds of years ago. Here in Australia we are modern and all is new here. Go, get a ‘stud finder’ and make sure it has a battery, he said.

 

He was hardly home when Hzanna found her husband creeping along the walls of the brick veneer own home, holding a gadget that emitted a pulsing sound. When the pulsing stopped and made a continuous sound the ‘stud-finder’ had found a stud. It was marvellous. Home improvements technology at its best. In no time were the white shelving unwrapped from their plastic imprisonment and husband proceeded, with the help of the stud finder, to fasten the shelving onto the studs hidden behind the plaster walls. The shelving came with an Allen key, which Hzanna thought belonged to Allen. He explained this was not so. It was just the name of a small hexagonal tool that could drive screws and bolts &nuts to fasten different ‘home improvements’, he explained. Hzanna decided to memorise all those details to relate to Rosaria when next connected by Skype. You need a lot of patience and fortitude but after a while the mysteries of ‘life-style’ will become clearer she hoped.

Even so, when Rosaria send her the photos of the party at Gozo’s L-Ghadira beach, she suffered pangs of warm memories, not quite having faded out. The Malta memories were persistent, not easy to obliterate. The Rosaria olives with stuffing she remembered from all those years ago. The climb over the rocks. The washing and drying of clothes on those same rocks. The singing voice of Aunt Sophia she could still hear together with the peppers and chillies hanging from the doorways and fishing-boats coming at the harbour side. The salted anchovies’ bouquet still on her tongue. Rockdale is just as good she consoled herself, yet again. She knew that her husband was proud of his Azzopardi’s ‘Meat Solutions’ shop in Rockdale. It was doing well and money was rolling in.

Her daughter’s lack of suitable boyfriends was a niggling problem. She thought that perhaps she should give her the chance of finding someone back in Malta. But, she was now more Australian and hardly even spoke Maltese. Even so, it remained a worry.  Hzanna was reflecting how things were different in Rockdale with frowns on her forehead. Malta was different as well. They don’t have Bunning’s improvements or modern brick veneer. Apart from her daughter’s problems with football loving and beer drinking boyfriends, Hzanna had noticed a change in her daughter’s facial features. Her lips were curled and becoming somewhat pouting. She overheard the word Botox and had read that some women thought it important to try and prevent growing older. There was a method of injecting a youth retaining substance now. This method would fill cracks and hollows and loose skin would be rejuvenated to its former unblemished glory. Why did she at twenty three already feel she needed to retain youth? Was her daughter not in the middle of ‘youth’? Perplexing problems reared its head. Still, the shelving had been put in place and she finally had space to put the family photos including the full coloured one of Azzopardi’s Meat Solutions shopfront in Rockdale’s shopping Emporium.

Rosaria from Malta. (Azzopardi’s Halal approved sausages)

July 26, 2012

Rosaria from Gozo

L-Ghadira

Self- opinionated doctors always know what’s best. “Walk”, they advice many of their patients, as they tilt back in their comfy and soft leathered chair with grotesque limbs spilling and splayed outwards. It is amazing how many doctors are over-weight. Mrs Azzopardi went to see Dr Raymond about a suspicious and persistent little rash on her elbow. Dr Raymond is also the owner of those large spilling limbs and does most of his work on diagnosing patients’ ills and itches on a computer. He typed in ‘rash’ while also peering over the edge of his computer at the patient.

Mrs Azzopardi was from Maltese background and 47 years of age. She had left Valetta as a young bride married to a butcher and had two lovely children, now grown up. The daughter was 23 and worked at a flower-shop doing arrangements for weddings and funerals. Arranging for funerals was preferred. No one complained because after the service the flowers were either thrown in the grave or just left to the elements. Marital flower pieces were a different kettle of fish, often difficult to get right, dealing with nervous and totally over the top brides and their fiercely dominating mothers. Mrs Azzopardi’s daughter hated it. At times, the flower pieces and all the other wedding paraphernalia that came with it seemed to overtake all. When the future husband took a peek in her shop, she often thought the wedding was doomed before it even had begun. With her bevy of hopeless boyfriends so far she had become somewhat despondent on ever finding a ‘good one’. By that she meant someone beyond the usual ‘football before anything”, and for which romance was something you tried to grope afterwards. Why did they all have to smell of beer and then try and stick their tongue in a mouth?

Mrs Azzopardi’s son was just 19 and he was studying IT. The world of IT was still a concept of awe and wonder for her, steeped in the unimaginable miracles of computers and Skype.  Her son had set up Skype and this is how she could still have contact with her Maltese family. Apparently, her side of the family had less trouble with the modern technology of App’s, Pods, and Pads in Malta than she had living in Australia’s Rockdale. This ‘Skype’ enabled her to not only talk to Rosaria, but see her too. Rosaria was her sister, married to a Maltese fisherman living in Gozo. He was one of those happy go lucky Maltese for which a change of country would be the end of his ‘happy and lucky’. If you had fish on your plate and a wine to wash it down with; what more could you want? He could never figure any one even living away from his islands and thought it foolish the world wasn’t knocking on Gozo’s door wanting to live in the best country in the world. Mind you, most of his time was overlooking the vast expanse of the Mediterranean on his little boat. Just the one throw of his net would haul in enough to feed his little family. A second throw of the net, petrol for his boat, yet another one, to buy life’s necessities. He wasn’t and would never be rich but also didn’t want to steep down to a level of having to worry about keeping and adding to a pile of money.

Rosaria’s husband ‘Joe’ was somewhat philosophical in matter of life’s happiness versus seeking material improvements, and with his wife and another baby on the way, could not imagine it getting any better. He moved his small fishing business to Gozo from Valetta after his marriage but fished in the same waters as before. Fish is fish, no matter in what part of the world, he figured, and eating fish with his loving wife added even more to his enjoyment. Rosaria was born in Gozo and had a large extended family. They had welcomed him as one of their own. In fact, they more or less all fished from the same waters, drank from the same well, and pulled the same carts. It was agreed by all that Joe was bringing fresh blood to Gozo, a renewal of spirit as well as an extra boat.  It had Joe beat that there were some that apparently wanted something more and would leave for different shores. Some went so far away; they would never be seen again. In Rosaria sister’s departure, they had Skype. Joe figured that Skype was just another form of a depth finder. If a depth finder could find him schools of flounder, Skype was just another step up from that. Instead of flounder, Skype found Rosaria in Gozo all the way from the Azzopardi family in Australia’s Rockdale.

The name Rockdale found some joy at Rosaria’s and Joe’s family when translated from English. It sounded as if taken from a Gozon village. ‘A dale made of Rocks’, perhaps not unlike Gozo? Gozo was mainly rocks as well. Was Rockdale an even better and a lovelier place than Gozo, pondered Rosaria? Would Rockdale also have the people of their village come around? Hzanna Azzopardi from Rockdale did say they lived not far from the ocean but did not say if they also held watch for incoming fishing boats. They did eat fish which they had with fried strips of potato. It was called ‘fish and chips’. Rosaria was most curious if they ate on the outside near the water’s edge. Did they eat with many people?  Did they cook the fish on the beach? How many friends did they share the food with? How was the wine? Who did the most laughing? Did their neighbours grow their own wine in those Rockdale dales?

Hzanna said they made friends with some Sicilian people, the Mamone family who had been in Australia for nearly twenty years. They had bought a large house made from bricks and even had veneer. It had a nice garden. The husband grew own tomatoes. They knew some people who made their own wine too. Hzanna seemed happy on those Skype excursions and her two grown up children were certainly doing well. Thanks to her son studying IT, they had Skype and did see each other regularly on a computer. No matter what Joe saw on Skype, he didn’t see Rockdale as a tempting place to go to or that his life of fishing with his soft Rosaria and her yielding thighs (and baby on the way) could possibly ever be improved upon. No, going to another country wasn’t attractive nor in his sights. Joe’s life was just too busy and full. He was also somewhat mystified about the people from Rockdale and the brick veneers. The houses seemed far apart and neighbours couldn’t see each other. They did not want to be seen. They want ‘privacy’, Hzanna told Rosaria. That’s what people like here, living in brick veneers, she added. Joe and Rosaria certainly thought it different.

There was going to be a getting together of Rosaria’s family at L-Ghadira. It was within walking distance of everyone. This little inlet always provided a cool breeze. Usually but not always, after enough wine, most would take a swim, frolic in the water or drink even more. Rosaria was excited. It would be a break for Joe. You can only do so much fishing. She had a goat killed and went to the market to get the largest green olives which she would stuff with her very famous and secret mixture. It would, as always be very spicy. Chilli certainly was one of the ingredients. The mixture of herbs and salty fish was another possibility. No one could outdo Rosaria when it came to stuffing olives. Whether it was the stuffed olives, the copious wine drinking or the grilled goat, everyone would end up enjoying a riotous getting together. The flute playing by Antonio, the singing voices of Maria and her mother Sophia would always bring out the tears as well as the impromptu dancing.

On the day, a general sauntering towards this L-Ghadira inlet was seen to be taken place. Men with bundles of wood, women with baskets of food and the bloodied goat wrapped in hessian were descending towards the water’s edge which was surrounded by huge boulders as well as some small sandy beaches. Blankets and rugs were spread. The children were already swimming. Some arrived by small boats. As the day progressed, more and more arrived. A variety of tables were set up. Huge jars of Rosaria’s stuffed olives were displayed together with baskets of grapes, dates, lettuces, pickled onions, pickled fish, a variety of nuts and dozens of wine bottles. The wine was home- made, young and unlabelled, to be drunk with some urgency.  Then there were tables with the breads, stone ground flour dough bread, sour dough breads, black breads, olive breads. There were sweets, honey breads and stringy vermicelli baked sweets soaked for days in molasses. The children dipped into a large vessel of orange cordial and other soft drinks. Fires were lit. Kerosene lamps made ready for when evening would arrive. Musical notes and some singing were soon to be heard and cries of joy began to rent the balmy evening air.

The women were dressed in flowing dresses, many showing sturdy calves with alluring hips and a generous softness higher-up. Their bodies were aglow with robust health which only generations living on diets of mainly fish could have brought about. Rosaria was starting to show her pregnancy adding to her sensuousness. A woman could not have been more alive.

The singing and flute playing had started and the goat had now been on the smouldering heat for several hours.  As the music got hold, the wind died and the sea becalmed. All of a sudden the lilt of Sophia’s voice was carried along Gozo’s shore of L-Ghadira. This was a voice as never heard before. Sounds of such ancient origin without words but redolent with roses and cinnamon. Those thrills of continuous notes could only have come, carried along the river reeds of the Euphrates and being of a Methuselah’s age. Or was it from Babylon sprinkled with Myrrh? Perhaps it was a lore born by deep oceans and of their sunken hidden myths. Singing and poetry with Sophia’s voice the lyre. This music Sophia could only have learnt from generations of women and mothers.

Now the singing and music held laughter as well as their tears. The dancing became earnest. Rosaria and Joe with many other couples were seen dancing together with a closeness that held a promise of even closer beckoning loins later on but back in the village, with an urgency that satisfied and sated but that would inexorably collapse in a deep and sweet slumber.

Rosaria from Gozo ( A descendant from Hebron)

September 12, 2011

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?

Rosaria of Gozo ( The pokies of Rockdale RSL)

August 17, 2011


The double glass doors to the Rockdale’s Returned soldier’s Club were always obliging to anyone passing by. They would swing open regardless of the intention to enter or walk by. That electronic eye above those doors didn’t miss a beat or a person, and would even swing open for the occasional straying dog. Music was amplified as well to the outside world. That’s if it was music. Often it was the drone of football crowds, cricket or sport commentary being piped into the pedestrians ears.

For a while the Azzopardis had to subject them-selves to the ritual that all clubs have, the ‘signing in.’ Non members had to sign in and have proof of existence and show a driver’s license or other proof of being alive and in the here and all of Rockdale’s environs. It was always an area of confusion and bafflement which they finally solved by just joining. Non-members paid more for meals and drinks, so what was the ‘signing’ up for? The joining and becoming a member involved a photo imprinted on a card. From then on no one would ever check the card or the bone fide of the member. Members would go through those open doors and show the membership cards from a distance. The mere opening of a wallet sufficed and the nod of approval given. You were in with the rest of them and accepted.

Many of the clubs gave excellent value. Dinners of fish and chips for instance for pensioners still alive on a Thursday night would be treated to this delightful dish for just $ 5.-. Hzanna and her husband generally avoided the pensioner special night. The carefully built-up aura of ‘business acumen’ might get a bit of a knock if the proprietors of The Azzopardi’s Meat Solutions were seen to hob-knob with those whose sole achievements in live did now depended on the $5.- Fish & Chips special. Of course, the pious ‘Halal’ and ‘head scarf wearing facade’ as so subtly presented in the Azzopardi’s Meat Solutions Shop would need some caution when entering those hallowed gambling and drinking venues. Hzanna thought it rather devious when they had to walk by the club and around the block when a known and solidly financial customer was spotted whose preferences in the carnivorous world was known to include Halal obligations.
Of course, once inside those concerns could be jettisoned. No believer of Islam would ever consider getting near those dens of alcohol beverages and gambling machinery.

Once through those glass doors and past the membership card desk, the Azzopardis would quicken their steps, relieved that their ethics (or their dodgy religious ardour) weren’t spotted by their devoted customers.
The walk towards the dining table would be over a bright blue soft surface which had a mix of solid red British Commonwealth stars and green Royal bangles woven into the hard wearing and mainly acrylic floor covering. This walk would glide them past an area where most of the noise piped to the outside was coming from. A mixture of music, rattling of coins and TV sporting noise. A cacophony of noise of many an Australian club that would travel (tsunami-like) and repeat itself over the thousands of kilometres throughout the time zones of the Southern Hemisphere of Australia. To compliment the carpet there would be on many walls a happy mixture of framed and glassed hand-signed football heroes’ T-Shirts with a couple of youthful Queen Elizabeth’s, flanked by Phil, hung in between it all, just for good measure.

If anyone could be bothered to investigate the noises including of rattling coins a bit closer, he (or indeed a she) could do no better than to hone in on a room separated from the rest, somewhat clad in darkness but with a night-club glitter and sparkling lights. Indeed with some poetic license (and a couple of beers,) it almost resembled a sky lit-up by fireworks on a New Year’s Eve. The noise was not so much from the people inside the room but from loudspeakers and screens mounted around a (con)-agglomerate of flashing lights and spinning wheels, all encased within a cabinet in front of which would be seated a stubbornly silent club member in deep and serious concentration focussed on those rotating and spinning wheels. Every now and then, he or she would lift an arm quickly and push a button that would then result in a renewed and vigorous rotating of the wheels. Those wheels seemed to have playing cards on them. This was playing poker at its most convenient. Chairs were provided and you did not have to talk to others. All one did was feed coins or notes into it.

The Azzopardis remained deeply puzzled by this past time. They were still too much Maltese to understand getting together and then still not converse and talk. Why the silence? Why indeed. Things are just different, that’s why!

Rosaria from Gozo

August 11, 2011

Rosaria had finished the exquisite lace on the four porcelain dolls and started to prepare herself for the boat trip to Messina. Once more she overlooked her art works which she had spread along the front of her house, carefully propped up against the facade of those ancient rocks. The lace had an even more intricate pattern than ever before and she was very happy; felt that each one of those dolls was better than the previous ones. She didn’t quite know how that happened except that she felt free to just follow her instincts. Her nature was loath to repeat things and wanted always to feel inspired by something new and different. Not that anything was ever deliberately different or showy. The colourful garments and the lace on top complimented each other. For her each work was a kind of playing and the dolls themselves almost telling her how to move those bobbins. The resulting works were art by accident more than by a deliberate imposition. In any case, Rosario was never worried about this. She just made beautiful lace.

The trips to Sicily were most times done by ferry but Joe decided to just borrow a bigger boat. It was much bigger, had a galley, separate rooms with bedding and all the comforts of a luxury cruiser, even had navigation gadgets that he never sat eyes on before. Rosaria and Joe would surprise their aunt Maria asking her to join them as well. It would be the last trip before the baby was born and aunt was always a joy to be with either on terra firma or at sea. She had kept up her singing voice and often could be heard in the evening when the sultry evening beckoned everyone to be outside. The smell of cooking wafting throughout Gozo with the aroma of lamb and fish, all basted, cooked and infused with rosemary as well. The sun was like a fiery orange ball, sinking in the sea late in the evening with laughter and music slowly fading at last. Gozo slept well during those nights.

If only the Azzopardi family could see it all again. That was not possible. They were truly and well entrenched, and very happily, in the delights of the life style of Rockdale and its many possibilities of improvements. All thanks to Halal and the magic of so many meat solutions.

The porcelain dolls were woken up early when Rosaria packed them in wood shavings and into sturdy carton boxes. Joe reckons the trip would take about 5 hours and had already loaded enough diesel fuel for the return trip. He had also packed enough food, almost as if Messina was getting a feed from Malta now. Sharing of food was of course reciprocal no matter where one went in the Mediterranean. At times, almost a contest who could outdo each other with the giving of meals. Rosaria’s stuffed olives eagerly expected at the gallery where most of the dolls were being exhibited and sold.

A letter was received the previous week in which the gallery had received an order for her dolls from someone from England. His name was Frank Bovims and his wife Wendy, who had their own gallery in London, would take care of the dolls if they were sold. Amazingly it seemed that the dolls had practically sold already. Joe was pleased that his wife was getting such a name for herself. She was the best in more ways than one.

He helped her aboard. While she jumped from the plank she had tucked her skirt in between her legs exposing her shapely thighs. He still fancied throwing a bold peak at her sturdy legs and she knew his way, looked up and smiled back. The still fancying of each other was something they did not take too much for granted. They left late in the afternoon, and at dusk almost halfway, they dropped anchor. Aunt Maria didn’t disappoint, she sang beautiful with the swell of the sea breathing as if pregnant as well. Joe and Rosaria were soon in a deep slumber but not before there had been some hugging and tugging at each other with a loving embrace.

Even in Gozo modern times had arrived. Skype was not just confined to Rosaria and family. Young people would now also be seen with heads bowed down onto a small object with tiny buttons and shiny screens. The pushing of those buttons was often seen as a form of voodoo by some elders, whose comprehension did not really include communicating in such silence. There you go though; this is the way of an even braver world. It even had spread its wings to lovely Gozo.

Rosaria from Gozo

July 23, 2011

Gozo lace making by Rosaria


Rosaria in Gozo was deeply puzzled by the need for Botox implants in Australia’s Rockdale. In Malta, women had rather fulsome facial features with generous and ample bosoms. Not much needed propping or lifting. In any case, she was convinced that as you got older one would look of an age whereby years of living expressed themselves in looking older. Was looking young so important? Did grandmothers not want to look as if they had grown wiser and older than a teenager? She knew from gossip magazines that in Valetta there had been some that were suspected of also having injected a kind of filler under their skin to get rid of ageing wrinkles. Rosaria thought that the pictures of those people often showed vacancies of minds with eyes looking out without seeing much at all. To be so self-absorbed, wasn’t ever present in Rosaria’s world.

She had a lot to ponder about while sitting in the shade of a large and very old olive tree. Rosaria wasn’t just being idle in the shade of that lovely tree.
Anyone having a closer look would see a fast and deft movement of hands. There were arrangements of small narrow shaped wooden bobbins in her lap that would be changed around rapidly. Each of those bobbins had a thread which Rosaria was using to make garments of lace. On a chair she had arranged the lace on a covered straw cushion with lots of pins holding the different threads in place. Near her feet was a large sized porcelain doll partially dressed in colourful cloth. It was a picture perfect. Somehow, Rosaria’s pregnant swollen belly with a large doll on the ground and threaded bobbins in her lap told a story of creativity, piece and serenity.

The filtered light under the ancient olive tree was adding to a dream-like landscape of a rugged rock island telling its ancient history.
She had been dressing those porcelain dolls for some years now. Her mother had taught her the basics of that skill when she was very young. The main thing was to not get the bobbins mixed up while creating the intricate work of fabric making sure each thread remained independent from each other. When she had four dolls finished she would catch the ferry to Sicily’s Messina and sell them to a gallery specialising in exhibiting her exquisite dolls, all dressed in colourful hand stitched traditional costume. The laced material would be applied on top of the hand stitched fabric, allowing the colours to show through. People from around the world would travel to Sicily’s Messina to visit the gallery and buy those intricate dolls. The dolls were works of high art. Rosaria was getting a name for herself as one of the master lace makers for the hand cast porcelain dolls. Those dolls were passed from generation to generation, becoming priceless family heirlooms.

While his wife was busying herself with lace, Joe was bobbing around on his boat. He had caught more than enough fish and was just reflecting on how his wife’s sister was faring in Australia. He was amazed about all those home improvements going on so far away. He was trying to imagine the timber stud walls with plaster sheeting and the magic of a stud finder beeping on its search for timber studs. It must be the same as his fish-finder, he reckoned. He also relied on electronics to find fish. They were not all that far apart. Did the world not rely now on electronics to find almost everything? Joe was deeply immerged in his philosophical ponderings. For once this hot summer there was a cool breeze blowing about his boat.

Rosaria from Gozo (continued)

July 15, 2011

Gozo


Hzanna’s husband duly returned from yet another highly lucrative day at his own Azzopardi’s “Meat Solutions’ shop selling an incredible amount of lamb cutlets and rosemary ‘infused’ sausages. He quickly nipped into Bunning to pick up the shelving, special screws and grommets. He had found out that screwing into the plaster boards of his brick veneer home was fraught with failure. The plasterboard after all was part of the veneer. The plaster would not hold any weight, just crumble. Life and life-styles were learning curves to overcome. Nothing was easy. His close friend and husband from the Sicilian Mamone family had far more experience in the ways of own home and home improvements. You need a stud finder, he advised. It will tell you were the timber studs are to screw your shelving on. You can’t just bang screws in willy-nilly in a brick veneer like back in Malta where walls were made hewn from solid stone. What’s more; those walls were made hundreds of years ago. Here in Australia we are modern and all is new here. Go, get a ‘stud finder’ and make sure it has a battery, he said.

He was hardly home when Hzanna found her husband creeping along the walls of the brick veneer own home, holding a gadget that emitted a pulsing sound. When the pulsing stopped and made a continuous sound the ‘stud-finder’ had found a stud. It was marvellous. Home improvements technology at its best. In no time were the white shelving unwrapped from their plastic imprisonment and husband proceeded, with the help of the stud finder, to fasten the shelving onto the studs hidden behind the plaster walls. The shelving came with an Allen key, which Hzanna thought belonged to Allen. He explained this was not so. It was just the name of a small hexagonal tool that could drive screws and bolts &nuts to fasten different ‘home improvements’, he explained. Hzanna decided to memorise all those details to relate to Rosaria when next connected by Skype. You need a lot of patience and fortitude but after a while the mysteries of ‘life-style’ will become clearer she hoped.

Even so, when Rosaria send her the photos of the party at Gozo’s L-Ghadira beach, she suffered pangs of warm memories, not quite having faded out. The Malta memories were persistent, not easy to obliterate. The Rosaria olives with stuffing she remembered from all those years ago. The climb over the rocks. The washing and drying of clothes on those same rocks. The singing voice of Aunt Sophia she could still hear together with the peppers and chillies hanging from the doorways and fishing-boats coming at the harbour side. The salted anchovies’ bouquet still on her tongue. Rockdale is just as good she consoled herself, yet again. She knew that her husband was proud of his Azzopardi’s ‘Meat Solutions’ shop in Rockdale. It was doing well and money was rolling in.

Her daughter’s lack of suitable boyfriends was a niggling problem. She thought that perhaps she should give her the chance of finding someone back in Malta. But, she was now more Australian and hardly even spoke Maltese. Even so, it remained a worry. Hzanna was reflecting how things were different in Rockdale with frowns on her forehead. Malta was different as well. They don’t have Bunning’s improvements or modern brick veneer. Apart from her daughter’s problems with football loving and beer drinking boyfriends, Hzanna had noticed a change in her daughter’s facial features. Her lips were curled and becoming somewhat pouting. She overheard the word Botox and had read that some women thought it important to try and prevent growing older. There was a method of injecting a youth retaining substance now. This method would fill cracks and hollows and loose skin would be rejuvenated to its former unblemished glory. Why did she at twenty three already feel she needed to retain youth? Was her daughter not in the middle of ‘youth’? Perplexing problems reared its head.
Still, the shelving had been put in place and she finally had space to put the family photos including the full coloured one of Azzopardi’s Meat Solutions shopfront in Rockdale’s shopping Emporium.
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