Posts Tagged ‘Malta’

Rosaria from Gozo (Entertainment with friends and Ophra)

September 15, 2011

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 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

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


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 Gozo

July 9, 2011


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.