Posts Tagged ‘Sicily.’

All aboard to sunny Australia.

April 27, 2015

‘Let’s now move forward to, or back to, depending on what you might have read so far, to our period of migrating to Australia. The first murmurs I heard involved Argentina followed by South Africa. Australia came about because some war-time friends had already taken the step in the very early fifties or perhaps even the late forties. It took them 9 days to fly to Australia, so I am inclined to think it was the late forties. Their choice had been Australia. Many letters were exchanged and they were of the most euphoric kind. The streets of Australia were paved in gold and all was possible, own cars, own homes, cake eating on Sunday with mountains of cream, you name it, Australia had it all. My mother was really taken in by it,  ‘own home’ was beckoning more than anything, and especially with a bathroom.

At three years of age with same cousin Eva and her brother Paul. This time bare-footed. Fruit trees in background?

At three years of age with same cousin Eva and her brother Paul. This time bare-footed. Fruit trees in background?

Here a quick look again at those earlier war time periods. I seem to be joking or having fun still… Thirteen years later and I would find myself in Australia. It took a while for ‘fun’ to surface again.

But getting back to migrating and those last few weeks. The planning stage evolved rapidly with a visit to the Australian embassy and inspection by Australian Doctor. X rays were taken and the basics of our health determined by standing around in underpants while chests were listened to and asked to turn this way and that way. We had to touch toes and stick our tongues out to the Doctor. All our vaccinations were always strictly adhered to. Soon we all were deemed to be fit for Australia. We were the perfect white family for migrating and as there were six of us, Australia must have been drooling licking its still very British oriented but recent Australian Federation lips. Not a hint of a brown colour or smidgeon of Dutch colonial imprint of any kind. Blond and fair, just what the Doctor ordered

The canvas hooded walkway to our ship that we all walked through. Bye, bye Holland. I took my first photo onboard.

The canvas hooded walkway to our ship that we all walked through. Bye, bye Holland. I took my first photo on-board.

Above photo shows the gate-way to five weeks on-board a luxury boat full of Dutch migrants. There was a little band that would play over and over, ‘t was on the isle of Capri that I found her, with ‘O’ sole mio’ after we left Genoa. All hell broke lose when the boat pulled away from Sicily’s Messina. Many of those sons of Italian families would never be seen back again in those ancient villages.  Their mothers would be milling together, shedding tears around the water-wells for many months yet. The journey away from shores and love, so sadly final and permanent. A return impossibly expensive and at the time would not have been contemplated. Luigi, the best cobbler in Palermo now gone so was Antonio the dressmaker’s son. When the boat pulled away from Amsterdam and harbour, my mum and dad must have felt that too, but with six of us needing to find our cabins, they soon kept busy.

 

Brother Frank,(tall) with Herman on his left, sister Dora on right with brother Adrian

Brother Frank,(tall) with Herman on his left, sister Dora on right with brother Adrian

Photo above; Bye, Bye Holland. I took this photo with my newly bought camera earned from delivering fruit and vegetables to Embassies in the many weeks before. (mainly from American Embassy tips, which were extraordinarily generous,and with hot soup as well)

A sunset in mid ocean. Pity about the rope.

A sunset in mid ocean. Pity about the rope.

Of this photo I remember the on-board film shop developer praising me. I think it might also have been a moon shot. I don’t see any sun, but…it was a long time ago now. The time on board was amazing, a holiday as never before. Can you imagine getting a new menu to chose from each time?  The decisions to make; pork or beef, chicken, and in morning, eggs boiled or fried? There was table tennis, a sweep stake which we always won some money with. And that little orchestra; It was on the Isle of Capri that I found you, forget about the walnuts! The Italians were still doe eyed, sad!

This is a re-fuel stop at Aden. Last port before Freemantle

This is a re-fuel stop at Aden. Last port before Freemantle

The two weeks after leaving Aden to Freemantle was mainly spent by my parents getting their luggage trunks from down the bowels of the ship on deck to make an inventory and make sure we would all be ready for Sydney. My parents wanted us to make a good impression in Australia and only Sunday best would do. The arrival in Freemantle was on a Sunday.  I have to go back a few months  now. A good friend told me; tell your parents to think twice before going to Australia. ‘It is a very boring country and on Sunday everything is closed’.

The arrival in Freemantle on a Sunday proved his warning and I remembered. The only people walking around were the passengers from the boat. It was something like out of the Neville Shute book and film ‘On the Beach’ that was yet to be made. All of us looking at each other, all of us dressed Sunday-best with proper coats and ties, cleanly scrubbed necks and underpants. But, what for?

Freemantle was empty or at least it looked empty. I did hear a cricket score filtering through the blinds, not that I knew a cricket score then, but do know now.

FREMANTLE IN 1956 ON sUNDAY

FREEMANTLE IN 1956 ON sUNDAY

 

Arrival in Sydney.

Sydney's arrival at last, and my last photo on-board which I developed myself later, hence the 'quality'.

Sydney’s arrival at last, and my last photo on-board which I developed myself later, hence the ‘quality’.

 

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The ‘Greening’ of Australia

March 31, 2015
My grandparents house in Holland.

My grandparents house in Holland.

If greening means anything al  it should at least include the colour green. Gardens that are filled with concrete and pebblecrete are often seen as lacking in some growth of  an organic nature. The inner city suburbs that now exclude anyone without a spare couple of millions, were the first to be bought up by migrants from Italy ,Greece and later on from the  former war torn Yugoslavian countries. While many liked their houses to have some garden, many did not.  Some felt it was a sign of prosperity and of having ‘arrived’ not having to grow vegetables on every square inch of land anymore like back home. Concrete was easy and cheap and it would keep the car parked very nice and clean as well.  They did not migrate to Australia having to continue growing tomatoes, potatoes and zucchini like back home just to stave off hunger and bendy legs. They were now well beyond poverty that they had left behind. A clean start with a concrete yard was the aim of many.

With time passing and migration from Europe slowing down the inner city suburbs with the concreted-over yards became fashionable as the original migrants got old, and as is the norm, ended up below some green grass despite their fear of it. Fading plastic flowers now biding time and keeping watch over the many Luigi’s , Nestors, Marias and so many black cladded eternally mourning Donnas.  .It has come to pass even to the best of them, irrespective of a green or grey priority. We will all end up bleached boned and push up cheerful  nodding daisies. A new and far more moneyed class are buying up the inner city houses, pushing up prices to unbelievable levels. Two million dollars for a 2 bedr. worker’s cottage is now the norm. Those poor Sicilians leaving Messina for Leichhardt or Balmain could not have foreseen that the  $ 600.- back in 1950s would turn into a couple of million some sixty years later.

A different greening is now beholden of so many. No more apparent than at last Saturday’s voting for a state government. The same party did not get booted out as was hoped as they should have, but the Green party with future more in mind than all the others combined gave some hope for this voter. As a member I had volunteered to hand out how to vote for the Green party. After arrival at 8am sharp a Green member was unfolding a little table on which to spread out the literature of what they stand for; anti coal seam gas extraction (fracking), anti coal mining and anti selling the ‘poles and wires’ leases  for 49 years. And for me their main stand on humane handling of refugees.  ‘Fracking’ seems to give the game away just by sheer use of that unknown verb. It is not even in the dictionary. That says a lot already! I mean, how can a worker get home and tell his loving wife; I have done some good fracking today dear, while taking his boots off.

I had a very social time and all the volunteers seemed a happy lot, no matter what party or creed they stood for. We soon crossed over and started talking and…get this…a Liberal party member volunteered to get coffees from the local café just around the corner from where the voting took place. There was not a hint of animosity or rancour. We were all joking and laughing, bonhomie galore. It makes one think that on a level of just ‘normal’ people  getting together there are no problems that could not be solved over a friendly latte, but once they form into different and separate groups and parties, the rot seems to set in.

It might be too simplistic a notion but would banning political parties ( except the Greens)make things better or at least ban Prime Ministers like Abbott or Howard?

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.

The Farewells of no Return

May 25, 2012

I can’t remember the actual packing of furniture or any other belongings that got shipped over before our departure day. I was taken out of school and was set to work delivering fruit and vegies for a fruit shop. They were mainly deliveries to Embassies which were a rich vein of never ending tips. The tips were the start of an awareness of the value of having a bit of money. It never left me. Of course, the bulk of my earnings as a fifteen year old went to my parents who needed every cent for the uncertain future ahead. Even so, I managed to buy a camera and had some money saved up when we finally boarded the ship. The good bye to friends and family members was heart wrenching, but what could one do now? The departure from the Port of Rotterdam was on a rainy and miserable day. I consoled myself by mentally going over the immigration movie of Newspaper and Postal leaping over white picket fences with glorious sun and smiles from inhabitants of far away Sydney. The exploration of all the nooks and crannies of the large boat called ‘The Johan Van OldenBarnevelt gave relief to pangs of sadness and aches and pains about friends that were most likely never to be seen again.

There were quite a few English ‘ten pound’ single men migrants saying their permanent farewells with parents on the quay. I remember,” Goodbye Jack, don’t forget to write to your sister. Cheerio son. Let us know how you are going, won’t you?  Yes mum, see you then. Keep well boy,” and with these words of parting they too set sail for Australia.

After a couple of days, the sun came out and weather was getting Mediterranean with passengers settled. I was most impressed with the food and menus that we were asked to choose from. Can you imagine, getting to choose between boiled or fried eggs, beef or pork, mashed or boiled spuds, carrots or spinach, tea or coffee?

After a few days, arriving first in Genoa then Naples and finally Messina in Sicily, where I then witnessed the goodbyes of all goodbyes. Not only to mama, Papa, sorelli and brothers, uncles and aunties, the barber, grandparents, villages and brotherhoods, but also forever and ever with the unrelieved and spine tingling goodbyes that haunt those harbours still.  With great heaving, wailings, endless sobbing, and despair soaked up in acres of their best hankies. These were the goodbyes at their best and saddest and so final.

Those were the farewells of no return.

As the ship of Johan.V.Oldenbarnevelt finally pulled away from moorings and thick ropes, huge cries would rise again; reach across the widening gap of water. One old man, and papa to dear son Luigi departing, the best cobbler of the village, so unrelentingly steeped in grief and sobbing, lost his dentures in the water as well as son (going far away,) no doubt to be found that same week by a keen archaeologist of that ancient harbour.

The Dutch way of departing was a bit in between, more practical matters would be discussed. Have you got enough underwear for the six weeks? Don’t forget the cod liver oil. We heard the vegetables are not fresh. Yes, we are doing this for the children, and yes, we heard there are bathrooms in some of the houses in Sydney.  The weather is much warmer there and palm trees too. Stop sniffling and fidgeting Gerard!

Next day on board, those sad Sicilians were still hanging over the sides of the boat. Doe eyed and cast towards the shores that had disappeared and gone forever with’ famille en casa con la tavola’. While the young poms were strolling towards the bars that would open up in international waters away from coast and provide tax free alcohol relief. A little orchestra would soon strike up a cheery waltz, such as the much favourite; It’s on the isle of Capri where I met you………Was it Dean Martin? It would be another two weeks before an ’Oh sole mio’ would be tried. Tables would be set up for card games and Tombola. After a couple of days, the red rimmed eyes of the Southern Italians would revert to black again and friendships were being made quickly.

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 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.