Posts Tagged ‘Malta’

A quick dollar at Australia’s peril.

June 24, 2022

During the sixties and seventies, Australia discovered making free money by selling all our previously held government assets. Government insurances, the post and telegraph, banks, anything that could be sold, electricity, water , you name it and it would turn a dollar . And that wasn’t enough. It was followed by selling the ground underneath us. There were more riches to be made, oil, gas, iron ore, silver gold, coal uranium, titanium and now the richest of them all, lithium.

But what happened to all that money? Where is it now?

Here it is.

1 Gina Rhinehart (mining) $32.64 billion.

2Andrew Forrest (mining) $31.77 billion.

3 Clive Palmer (mining) $ 18.35 Billion.

4 Ivan Glasenberg (mining) $9,10 Billion.

With a looming economic recession rapidly coming over the horizon one wonders if all that wealth in just a few hands could have been better spent or, saved for a rainy day!. Look at the level of run down public hospitals and public education. The paltry salaries teachers and nurses earn? When was the last time a new hospital was build, a new school, a police station? There are voices calling for nationalizing our resources. They should never have been sold.

Even our public education is being sold and privatized. Almost 40% of school children now attend private or independent schools, one of the highest rates n the world. Why, for heaven’s sake? Education should be good for all of our children, not that private schools have a better vision of what education actually means. They just nurture separation and inequality.

Why Australia should ban private schools & More News Here

UNICEF has ranked Australia 39 out of 41 high and middle income countries on our level of education. This is extremely serious for our growing population. Only Romania and Turkey were ranked below Australia in education in the latest United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report card. Finland, of course came number 1 and Malta 2.

The Dutch Aunt married in Kings Cross.( Seniors only)

August 4, 2016

41yjSAQeq1L__SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ oosterman treats

Faithful readers might remember a period when I was working for De Rotterdamse Bank, Bij-Kantoor Middenweg, Amsterdam South, as the book-keeper. It all happened during my first trip back to Holland around 1961/62 or so. A few years after my parents migrated to Australia. I wanted to work in an office wearing a suit and carrying an attaché briefcase to and fro work on the tram. It was also thought that my school friendships of the past could be resurrected. There was also the hope it might be possible to find a ‘good woman/girl.’ (I had already met ‘good woman’, but little did I know, but of that later.)

Prior to my first return to Holland and still in Australia, the search for first romantic liaisons had resulted in a piquant but dangerous episode with a large Maltese woman who was married to a nice butcher who kept a loaded shotgun in their marital wardrobe. While this episode solved some of my curiosities about the opposite sex, it wasn’t really all that edifying. The seduction came from her side, giving me a rather weak excuse. It happened while watching the epic ‘Bonanza’ with Ben Cartwright’s three sons chasing bad cowboys on galloping horses going around and around the same set of rocks. It was breathtaking in its audacity. The husband was sitting opposite! I was sure it wasn’t a reflection of Maltese cultural standards. I am so lucky to have survived. ( Dutch migrant shot dead while watching Bonanza!)

I was trying to make the best of my stay in Amsterdam, and lived with an uncle I never heard of. The poor man was permanently red in the face with anger about his former wife whom his was divorced from for many years. He also had cancer in his shoulder. He loved my chili meat patties which was nothing more than minced meat mixed with bread and lots of sambal. He felt it would burn his cancer away and cure him. It did not and he died a few months after I had left to live in Italy.

There were lonely times too, which my ‘good’ Aunt Agnes relieved somewhat by inviting me over to her place on Surinamer Plein, Amsterdam not far from the angry uncle. It was on one of those visits that she introduced me to one of her best friends who lived at the same address. It was a multi story building housing single women only. It is proof of the well developed social conscience of the Dutch that good housing is provided for all groups including single women. I never thought much of it and accepted that good social housing was the norm.

Aunt Agnes’s friend’s name was Rieta van de Meer. Also a retired teacher and never married. But, and here comes Rieta’s amazing story. On a holiday in Norway in the bus doing the rounds of Fjords and snow-capped mountains around Bergen, the Cupid angel of romance had shot it’s arrow inside this bus. She met a retired Australian farmer. He turned out to be the epitome of the jovial, easy going Australian. A barrel of laughter and lightness. Easy come easy go. The original larrikin of the ‘no worries’ man from the bush.

He was divorced too but not an ounce of rancour or bitter heart. He was also well retired, not short of a quid. Helvi and I met this jovial man a few years after Rieta and the ex-farmer married and living in Australia. She played the piano and both lived in an apartment in King’s Cross-Sydney, for many years. The hub of life and Continental excitement. It was obvious they both shone in each other’s company. He was a lot older and sadly going blind. She worked hard at making the best of it. I remember my parents visiting all of us and grandchildren in Australia meeting up with the happy couple. She was on the floor trying to hack open a can of something with a hammer and chisel. My Mum couldn’t understand the trouble she was going through. Rieta just laughed and said it amused her husband watching her trying to open the can. A kind of challenge.

It is never too late for joy and happiness.

A take on Brexit. Should we follow with Libexit?

June 25, 2016



Too good not to pass on. By Richard O’Brien (from his Facebook page):

“So the nation that invaded and colonised Aden, Anguilla, Australia, Bahamas, Bahrain, Barbados, Basutoland, Bechuanaland, Bermuda, British East Africa, British Cameroons, British Guiana, British Honduras, British Somaliland, Brunei, Canada, Cayman Islands, Ceylon, Cook Islands, Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Fiji, Gambia, Gibraltar, Gold Coast, Grenada, Hong Kong, China, India, Ireland, Jamaica, Kenya, Kuwait, Malaya, Maldive Islands, Malta, Mauritius, Montserrat, Newfoundland, New Zealand, Nigeria, North Borneo, Nyasaland, Papua New Guinea, Pitcairn Islands, Samoa, Rhodesia, Sarawak, St Helena, St Lucia, St Vincent, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, South West Africa, Sudan, Tanganyika, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Trucial Oman, Turks and Caicos Islands, Uganda and Zanzibar has voted to leave the EU, potentially sparking a global financial crisis, because they thought their sovereignty was under threat.”

Striking out on one’s own and first Sex..

May 30, 2015


Etching 'is it love?'

Etching ‘is it love?’

The next few years after the momentous and epic Woy Woy first date journey, time seems to have gone quickly.  I kept up going to Vic’s Cabaret and even expanded my dancing skills by learning ‘the Stomp’ which was of short duration. It was taken over by doing the ‘twist’ . Looking at old footage of twisting and stomping it all seems to have been so silly. You did not even touch the girl. At least with jiving you threw the girl over your back,  or dragged her beween your legs, teach her a good lesson.  Of course, the hidden message of that dance was for the boy to be dragged between the girls’ legs which happened in some rare instances but always with the boy facing the floor, never upwards into her billowing skirt. I did not experience that till later. It was with a nice woman from Malta that I finally lost my virginity. “It was on the Isle of Malta where I met you…”, no, not really, it was in a boarding house in Sydney’s Paddington. The problem with the Maltese woman was not her generosity of spirit and her overabundance of yielding softness but that she had a husband, a butcher by trade, who kept a loaded shotgun in the wardrobe.

I would be lying to say that dating girls ever led to much more than a furtive kiss given in return for a movie with chocolate Maltesers or packet of crisps. The Parramatta scooter club that I belonged to folded when motor bikes joined and we could not agree on how to keep the Vespa club at bay. They seemed to outnumber the Lambrettas now and ran treasure hunts to Palm Beach to which a few of our own members had been seen going to. There was a seething discontent in scooter clubs of the fifties and sixties. Now of course this has seeped into the Comancheros and Hells Angels. They now have guns and rocks of crystal meth while we had malted milkshakes.

This boat of love seemed to flounder forever on the rocky shores of my Isle of Doom. The problem was my ‘mien’. It was the somewhat sombre impression at first sight. Girls had to overcome this. Not an easy task.  I could not change what was the essence of my own being.  It was at the same time also my best feature. I say this with some confidence because this mien always stood me in good faith later on.  The dilemma is that most young girls and boys like good cheer with easy going friendly smiling demeanours. Not many girls seemed to be drawn at my ice-breaking attempts introducing small talk about a demonically violin playing  Paganini, or a ponder about lives behind the venetian blinds, or indeed my clear own unique insight in the state of Australian cemeteries. I suppose suburbs don’t encourage seriousness when the essence of  life in burbs can be so bleak and lacking in a joie de vivre already. The last thing anyone wants on a night out is a dark Schubert journey of KlageLieder and hopeless love buried in the deepest of  oceans. This Jeremiah wasn’t a Don Juan.

A helping hand was soon  knocking at the front-door of my life. A fortuitous move on hindsight was the move away from home to rent a room with board in Paddington. The Landlady was from Malta and she certainly had a good mien. A bundle of laughs and generosity expressed by ample heaving  and shuddering breasts. On accepting the terms she immediately cooked me some lovely lamb cutlets with lots of garlic and salted anchovies with rosemary. I remember it so well. “I give you plenty food, Gerard,” she said. The full board was to include bed and all meals with her and family, including the husband, with shotgun as previously touched upon.



Within a week of settling in I was watching TV with her husband sitting opposite from his wife sitting directly next to me. A few days before she had invited me over to look at some photos of her and her husband’s wedding in Malta. We were both seated on her marital bed. I thought it a very friendly gesture and put it down to Maltese culture and openness. None of that Anglo Saxon reserve. I was happy but a bit nervous. Her bosom was  welling up but with such a large and generous endowment one would have to wear a knight’s armour and necktie to seek cover. “My husband sick now”, she added, of which its significance escaped me at that moment.

While watching TV and Bonanza with the three brothers and their father galloping around the same set of rocks several times, I felt a movement in my left pocket. It was the hand of the Maltese landlady searching me…. me. It took a while to sink in but was sure her hand wasn’t looking for my hanky. It was definitely an amorous attempt, sexual even. A tour de force. I was petrified and with her husband sitting in the other opposite corner!.  Did he not know? However, her hand and gentle but insistent fingers ambushed my resolve to end it by me running away.  Au contraire. It was so lovely.  I was so excited and even collegially leant a bit backwards to give more room to her expert married hand. I had the temerity to lightly stroke her back,  keeping a guilty eye out for her husband. What could I do for her. Wasn’t this supposed to go twin carburettor for both of us? The horses and Bonanza all but a black and white blur, running berserk for all I cared. A fata morgana that was now really happening to me. The oasis of a real woman.

Can you understand the dread, fear and yet the rewards coming finally to me so longed for and dreamed about? The misery of home life. The rejections of dates and dorky evenings at the cinema with Ben Hur, a Moses with tablets, or some Quo Vadis on a big screen. Here it was, her lovely hand, let the husband shoot me, who cares! Bonanza finished. She got up after her husband had left. “Gerard, get some ‘Frenchies’ tomorrow, quickly”. She smiled and kissed me good night. What a Bonanza.

Next day at 9.01 am I was at the chemist. You will know that condoms at that time could only be given consent and sold by the chemist himself. He or a she would always be standing, as today, on a podium. I asked for three packets of condoms. All caution to the wind now and I was on a high. He looked me over and grumpily sold me the condoms. Next morning, I was in bed which was on a linoleum floor, all shiny and clean. She walked in with husband gone to work (slicing the sausages). She smiled and lifted her dress standing next to my head. Both of us in a single bed and she was so big. But where there is a will… And that was it. A great initiation by a good woman. I left suddenly after a few days. I did not like the deceit on her husband and especially not with a loaded shotgun in the wardrobe. The situation was so dangerous.

Was he really sick and why this gun? I could not understand that she had the nerve to do this with her husband in the same room. She did like me and for a year or so she would phone and I knew it was her. She would say, “Gerard, Gerard”, but I did not answer her.

Perhaps she too had sadness. Don’t we all at times?


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.

Rosaria from Gozo (Entertainment with Friends and Ophra)

August 15, 2012


Back in Australia’s Rockdale, Hzanna with husband and friends inside the RSL club made the hazardous trip to their dining table without anyone getting lost in those labyrinthine, twinkling, garish and beckoning gambling caves.

As is normal in many clubs, the menu is perused by the hungry on huge blackboards behind the counter. Only the best of sign writers are employed in using the many colourful arrangements of crayons to write up an ever-changing daily menu. This perusing is done while patrons shuffle patiently ever forward in a queue which can be quite large, especially moments after opening for dinner.

Mr Azzopardi had a penchant for roast pork with apple sauce. The main attraction for him was the salty crackling that accompanied this particular dish. He always, rather good-humouredly, warned at the cash register that the crackling should not be missed. It was just one of those little culinary joys of life that he looked forward to. It was perhaps all a bit askew, seeing he was a purveyor of ‘meat solutions’. Surely this butcher from Malta had all the logistics at his finger-tips to produce all the crackling he could ever eat. There you go though; life still holds mysteries, even in Rockdale. Challenges and solutions are galore for those with enough business acumen.

After everyone had settled at the table waiting for their plates to arrive, they started sipping the chardonnay. Hzanna, after the invigorating hot stone treatment that afternoon felt aglow with life if not hunger as well. She ordered a bottle of bubbly pinot and with a twinkle in her eye to her husband; she quickly gulped down a large mouthful. The evening was young and anything could happen.

While the plates arrived, the pre-food wine sipping started to work wonders, loosening tongues and giving oral bravery to where there were none before.  The Azzopardi couple’s friends soon started divulging and exchanging intimate tit bits on their relationships. “We are working on ours, trying new things.” . This sexual little confession worked like grist for the mill. “Yes, we too”, are trying to invigorate with new techniques as well, the other couple responded.

Do you ever watch Ophra? It’s a really good program and very intimate.   They are so much more advanced over in America. They all work on relationships, almost non-stop. Of course, Hzanna hadn’t quite got to grips with the somewhat largish black American woman on the TV. She knew that that show was enormously successful. She was also very rich and influential. Indeed, Australia was soon to be graced by her visit, promising to outdo a previous papal visit.

Hzanna was puzzled however that her visit would put Australia back on the map as far as tourism was going. Would tourists flock to Australia because of Ophra?  What about tourism based on the wonders of Australia, she thought?

Anyway, the magic of Ophra’s show certainly was the theme at this dinner table. Ophra never held back when it came to couples divulging their relationships on her TV shows. Not an issue was kept away from the cheering audience. Nothing too shameful or too intimate a detail was to be denied to the ever sensation hungry crowd, nor would any reticence by the participants be allowed. Just a grimace or an awry pulling of face behind the backs of the hapless couple  and a renewed cheering on by the crowd, would result in more outpouring of more detailed sexual intimacies. All their secrets were thrown for instant consumption by the hysterical crowd. All was clapping and ovations, while Ophra counted her billions.

Hzanna thought it all very silly but nonetheless, the table was all in praise of trying out new things and renew the fervour and excitement with ‘working on’ their relationships. If Ophra gave it the nod of approval, why not do the same for Rockdale couples? “Bert wanted me to do things with vegetables”, the wife blurted out. “Yah, but only if you sliced them up afterwards and put them in the soup”, Bert replied.

Bert was now duly fortified by the Shiraz coyly named the “Promised Land.” The diners, now well over half way through their dishes and three quarters through their wine, hooted in response. “Did you see, Dr Phil and that man who confessed to erectile dysfunction on stage yesterday, Bert’s wife blurted? “No, I didn’t Hzanna replied”, noticing Bert was stooped over the last of his roast lamb wiping his plate clean of the remnants of the mint sauce. She hoped that the wife’s resorting to using vegetarian dildos wasn’t due to Bert’s over indulgence to wine and his ensuing floppiness during trying out ‘new techniques’ and working on a ‘renewal’….of an Ophra induced marital work-out.

Hzanna was getting ill at ease. The evening’s conversation was not focussed on exchange of something new, just seemed to meander on being rather soulless. She often felt an ache when trying so hard to make new friends.

No way was she going to reveal their marital state. What was there to work on? Surely, the ups and downs were all part and parcel of anything, especially relationships? Her husband was still munching on his pork crackling which he had kept till last. He did not want that to be spoilt by the thought of an inappropriate use of vegetables, no matter where they ended up being put.

To him food was sacred and to be respected. He did entertain the idea though, that he might try out selling hot crackling. Hot crackling in a nice container could sell easily for three dollars a pop. His busy brain feverishly and always at work, always improving at things.  He was  mentally already back at his Meat Solutions shop, honing his filleting knife, getting ready to  strip bare the potential fat off whole sides of porkers. It could well be a go-er.  Nothing would stop this brave entrepreneur.

He also did not feel too enticed into revealing the ups and downs of their relationship, decided to keep all that firmly tucked between the sheets of their recently acquired King Size bed with built in surround sound, no matter how often Dr Phil or Ophra would make public America’s obsession to use TV as a confessional for trivia.

Still, each to their own, if others felt the need to work on their relationships and use props or other devices, so be it, he thought benevolently. Rosaria had just sent them some music from Malta. He made a mental note of putting the music on when back at home. Hzanna eyes were still twinkling with promise, even though half the pinot remained in the bottle. The evening wasn’t finished yet!

Rosaria from Gozo ( with Halal sausages making an entrance)

August 4, 2012

29, 2011 by gerard oosterman

The sausages were flying out of Azzopardi’s Meat Solutions shop at Australia’s Rockdale Shopping Emporium. Ever since his brilliant flash of insight to use chopped up rosemary, a touch of hot chilli with the mince, together with the stamp of Halal, his turnover doubled. He cleverly managed attracting the many Moslims in the area into buying his Meat Solutions.
He now had a separate Halal division whereby for just 50cents a kilo more those sausages turned into Halal blessed snags. The ingredients were the same and Joe reckoned that dead sheep don’t talk too much about Islam, let alone Halal. He assuaged his conscience by a self administered reassurance of being exceptionally well endowed with sound business acumen. Once inside the mouth, Halal killed or not, his sausages would taste succulent and lovely anyway.

A further improvement, aided by his ever accelerating ‘business acumen’ was for his wife to sometimes wear a headscarf when helping out during busy times. This scarf wasn’t necessarily a sign of belonging to the faith of Islam. At least it was a hint. People were free to interpret it the way they wanted to. It could do no harm. In fact, the opposite, it did no harm, but, this little item of a scarf could well add to the ‘bottom line’. Money kept rolling in. The ‘bottom line’ is what this proud butcher now frequently used. What is your bottom line? He was forever asking this lately especially at social events such as at sausage sizzles or at the local club?

Whenever a subject turned towards his religion he would smartly have some ‘bottom liners’ ready to steer things to the safety of money-talk and the making of it. This was much more important.

He sometimes laid awake tossing and turning, his conscience nagging him somewhat. Was dishonesty creeping up, gaining the upper hand? He turned around, back to back to his wife in their new King size bed with the inbuilt stereo. They hadn’t listened to much music lately, too busy. What can one do? He wanted to be successful and that is what the scarf and Halal was providing him and his family. Hzanna had queried him on her having to wear a scarf in his shop. She knew her canny husband. She wondered how she could possibly explain this in the next Skype episode with her sister Rosaria.

Of course, years ago, Maltese women wore scarfs going to their Sunday church as well. She might have to explain that Halal and Islam were very close to Catholicism and that the scarf was for hygiene as well as respect for customers. It was all a bit complicated. She felt like getting up; take a long shower with a good scrubbing down. Was she feeling a bit sullied by the infusion of not only rosemary into the Halal sausages but also by wearing a scarf with such dubious intentions?

They had joined the local RSL club some weeks ago and just before her birthday she received a very considerate ‘congratulations’ but also an offer of special deals including the dinner for two for the price of one. They often had special deals on lunches and wine. The clatter and jingling of poker machines were just next to the Restaurant. This was convenient for those wanting to glaze the evening with a chance to even make some money and to have a play on the pokies, especially when a dinner just cost half. The club had shown great insight and good planning in placing the machines just next to the diners.

It was the Friday and her birthday when they invited some of their friends to go and celebrate at the Rockdale RSL. That day Hzanna had been to her health and beauty trainer for a hot stone treatment. Now that the meat solution shop was doing so well, husband had been very generous in allowing a few little luxuries. They denied much when the children were growing up and just lived frugally, eating most of the meat that had dated somewhat and could no longer be used in the sausages. Not even the Halal ones. One had standards to uphold and the inspectors of butcher-shops were especially trained to inspect suspect dark skinned pretend butchers trying to muscle into the Rockdale precinct. Mr Azzopardi was too much of a conscientious and trained butcher to risk being seen in the category of dodgy meat traders. There were certain standards to uphold!

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 Malta. (Azzopardi’s Halal approved sausages)

July 26, 2012

Rosaria from Gozo


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.

“Fat is Good,” so is Spam

March 6, 2012

“Fat is Good”, so was Spam.

I like spam. Back in the late nineteen fifties I was living in a sparsely furnished room at a Paddington Boarding House. The front door had a sign “Migrants Welcome”. The boarding house was run by a Maltese woman. Her husband was a butcher. They were a good and devout family and a loaded shotgun was kept in the wardrobe.

On the wall and above my bed was a picture of a Jesus cruelly nailed to a wooden cross. What was disconcertingly spooky, depending on what angle this picture was viewed at, that its eyes would open and shut alternatively when stepping past.

When the Jesus had its eyes open they were piously cast upwards. Perhaps the subliminal message and hope being, that the viewer would also become pious and work towards that upwards heavenly goal as well. It turned me off 3D pictures and holograms for life.

At night, and before hopping into my bed, I would turn the picture facing the wall. During the day and before going to work I would always politely turn Jesus back again allowing it to ponder and gaze over my bed. It would, at least during daytime, allow Him to cast his eyes, perhaps in a despairingly manner, heavenly upwards again for anyone passing my bed during the day. I did not want to upset a devout family with a shotgun in the wardrobe.

Sometimes, most often after work and tired, I used to sit on the edge of my single bed, open a tin of spam with that handy little tool that was attached to the top and ever so slowly (in order not to break it) turn and twist the lid off.

One was greeted by a little white coloured blubbery bit of fat coagelatined to the top hiding its deliciously pink coloured innards. The bouquet of the spam greeting the nostrils was always immensely pervasive. Scooping it up with a teaspoon while turning the pages of V.Woolf’s Orlando, was one of those little pleasures of bachelorhood that  gets forgotten once married, and sitting and eating on the edge of a bed becomes, very sensibly IMHO, banned forever. I remember it though as if yesterday.

Now the original and true meaning of ‘spam’ is lost  and for baby boomers that joy forever denied, even though, while sauntering past the acreages of Woolies isles I sometimes still spot a  tin of Spam, proudly and defiantly competing with more modern delicacies such as the cryonically preserved  Crunchy Chico Bar or boxes loaded with healthy  Fruity Loops.

So much now is lost and gone into the bowels of history forever, the same as so much else during that era. We have all but  forgotten the pungent smell of the spattering mutton legs on Friday afternoons together with mum’s baked pumpkin and spuds, and  happy kids hurtling  down-hill on Billy carts, all at Redfern’s or Rockdale’s back lanes.

And yet, looking at photos from the fifties and sixties, there is striking difference between then and now. We were all skinny. Well, skinny, not really, but compared with now, sure, skinny! Hardly a fat person is in sight. Now, here  surely  is something to ponder about? The latest information on obesity puts the blame on diets.

The question that never seems to get asked is; if we were all so slim and taut some fifty years ago, and Spam and Mutton was one of our most staple diets, how come we were all so much slimmer?

The answer might well be because of spam and mutton spatter with lashes of salty larded on white Tip-Top. Let’s go back, if that’s the way to beating obesity.

I have noticed that canny advertisers are quick in the uptake to grab the dollar and turn a perceived adversity into a handsome profit.  All of a sudden we have the most glorious and lusciously full ample bosomed and ravishingly beautiful size eighteen models lolling and rolling around on our TV screens and on beaches. They are shown on the advertisements seducing equally larger men that drive around Volvo’s or seen walking into banks for larger mortgages.

Larger men are also now used in advertising with huge bums sticking out of large cars strapping in the large toddlers with the large wife looking on with smiles of conjugal promises and/or generous approval. Yes, definitely, model agencies are looking for larger people now and those anemic looking bone skinny girls on catwalks will soon be given the flick. About time too ,we all need more room, move over. C’est la vie.

Obviously, those large Insurance companies have done their homework and also assiduously studied the latest statistics. They don’t seem at all alarmed or daunted by large people. They wouldn’t advertise them would they? Is ‘fat is good’ replacing ‘greed is good?

As for those boarding rooms in Paddington, they are all gone now. The Maltese family most likely retired in Santa Magdalena retirement villa on Rosella’s circuit at Dooley-Vale. The picture of Jesus and the roving eyes having survived all. It’s hanging above their double bed, the loaded shotgun never used. They were a devout family.

“Fat is good”.