Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Beaches of Gozo and Malta are numerous and varied

There are sandy beaches, rocky beaches, primitive and well developed with accommodation for a pleasant stay.

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Reading a short story is good fun and Writing one is even greater

Reading a short story is enough to give your mind a break from the chores and hassle of everyday life.

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Christmas in Gozo, past and present

How is Christmas celebrated in Gozo today? Learn about Christmas traditions, games that children used to play, the Crib and how to make one, step by step instructions.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Learning Some Maltese

You might be visiting Gozo soon, maybe this Summer. Wouldn't it be fun if you were able to speak some words in Maltese. Simple words like "bonġu" meaning good morning, "kif inti?" meaning how are you doing? "Bonswa" meaning good evening. You may have noticed that "bonġu and bonswa" have the ring of the french words to them "bonjour and bonsoir". In fact they are derived from French. Yes our language is very old, based on the language of the Phoenicians who inhabited our Islands many years before Christ, and it was enhanced with French, Italian and English words as people began using and adding new words over the years. "Arblu" meaning a mast was probably derived from "albero" the Italian/Sicilian word for tree and there are so many more.

Here at this address you can peruse written lessons and listen to Maltese pronounciation on video.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Tragic Story of Bernardo Di Puo'

Most probably the first known habitation on Castle hill dates back to neolithic times but it is a known fact that the first fortifications started to be erected during the Bronz Age about 1500 BC. The Phoenicians continued to enlarge the site so that by the time of the Roman conquest it had developed into a kind of Acropolis with a Temple dedicated to Juno at its centre. The northern section was built by the Aragonese while the southern walls overlooking Rabat (Victoria) were completed by the Knights of St. John between 1599 and 1603.
After their failed attack on Malta in 1551, the Turks knowing full well that Gozo was only poorly protected turned their attention on the island and razed it to the ground. The Turks attacked the inhabitants in the Cittadella who after a short siege were forced to surrender when they lost all hope that help was forthcoming from Malta. The Turks enslaved the majority of the able-bodied population and carried them all away, about 5000 in all. Only 40 old men were left on the island.
Bernardo di Puo was a Knight stationed on Gozo and living with his family inside the Cittadella. His house is still standing and can still be seen today in the narrow road or alley on the left hand side of the Church. During the bloody siege of 1551 the noble knight knowing that if help from Malta was not arriving soon, they would have to surrender or die of hunger and thirst. He was even more worried about what would happen to his wife and daughter if they fell into the ruthless hands of the Turks. So on the evening before the fateful day of the surrender, without letting them know of his heart-breaking decision, he hugged and kissed his wife and daughter for the last time and with great courage he suddenly drove his sword into their hearts.
When the Cittadella doors were opened on the morrow and the maddened Turks rushed in thirsty for blood, he wisely blocked the narrow alley as best he could with wooden beams, so that the enemy would not outnumber him too easily. He fought each Turk in turn as they entered through the narrow gap to kill him. The end was inevitable however, so wounded and battle-weary he finally fell fighting but not before he had avenged himself ten-fold for the untimely death of his beloved wife and daughter .

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Recycling Waste Cardboard - Making Houses for a Christmas Crib

Project - Building a House for the Christmas Crib

Yes Christmas is still far away. But February is almost over and this month of cold and rain and March too are stay-at-home months and ideal for small projects like this. For me it's fun to sit at the kitchen table listening to the rain pattering on the window panes and employing my time playing with cardboard and glue to create something interesting that I would use later on in the year.

Materials and Tools

I have some thin cardboard handy, a roll of adhesive tape and white carpenter's glue, a stapler, scissors and a sharp knife. I have some colours (see Painting below), one or two small brushes and a small tin of semi-matt varnish. These are all the tools and materials that I need. I am using some cardboard pieces that I cut from a shoe-box.


The house I am making is roughly a cube of side 3 inches. I start by cutting a piece of cd (cardboard) 9 " x 3". Mark it at 3" intervals and draw vertical pencil lines. Hold a ruler on each of the 2 pencil lines and score with a sharp knife with some pressure over them (mind your fingers here). You might have guessed why we do this, to fold back along the knife cuts and we have the three walls of the house that we need, the centre panel being the front. Draw a small door in this panel about 1.25" high x 0 .75" wide and draw a center-line. Again use the knife to score along the 2 sides of the door. Now cut through the top and the middle line of the door so that it we can leave it slightly ajar.

Let's cut a bottom. Just 3.5 " x 3". Fix the bottom with adhesive tape from the inside so that it protrudes 0.25" from each side. Apply some white glue to the underside of both doors to set it permanently ajar. There is no need to make a back wall for the house, but if you like you can cut a 3" x 3" size cd and join it in the same way by adhesive tape; but leave this step until after we have fitted the roof.

For the roof we need a piece of cd of size 4" x 3.5". Draw a pencil line in the middle and score slightly. We are fitting a slanting roof, therefore we fold along the scored pencil line to make the roof slanting to the right and to the left and slightly protruding about 0.25" on both sides and 0.5 at the front. Fix the roof as before either with adhesive tape or you can use strips of paper thinly spread with white glue.

On the front we are left with an open triangle under the ceiling which we will have to close somehow. We cut a very narrow strip of cd 3.5" x 0.25" to resembe a log. Glue and fix about 1" below the peak of the roof or about 2.5" from the floor and let it protrude 0.25" on each side. Again cut strips of cd of various lengths and of width 0.25" and fix them vertically from the roof to the log with small spaces between them. You'll have to measure these vertical logs yourself. Use white glue to fix (see Diagram above).

We can also fit a chimney on one side of the roof. Use a little piece of well-glued rolled cd or paper for this.


For colouring the house, we can use any kind of paint - oil paint, acrylic or powdered colours. Powdered colours are mixed with water and white carpenter's glue. First make a solution by mixing a little water with a few drops of glue.

1. Yellow - First as an undercoat, we paint the whole thing yellow. Again use the saucer or small lid that we used before, put in a little yellow powder add the water-glue solution and mix. If you made the paint too watery you might need to apply a second coat when the first one is almost dry.

2. Brown-Yellow - If you have some yellow paint left, add a little brown powder and mix. If not, pour yellow powder and a tiny amount of brown and mix. Test the colour to see if it is brown enough. It just has to show over the yellow, do not make it too dark. Apply horizontal strokes with a small flat brush randomly here and there on the three walls to make it look as if the house is built of stone.
Paint the logs at the front all brown.

Mix some darker brown and dab the logs here and there. Do not worry too much, we are not painting a canvas. It will look alright in the end.

3. Green - Mix green powder as before, again not too dark. Dab the stonework randomly here and there to make the stones look old and mossy. Also draw some small horizontal and vertical lines to roughly enclose some of the brown stones and make them stand out.

4. Red - Mix red powder or yellow and red if you want and paint the roof and the door to make it reddish.

NB. If you are using oil or acrylic colours just follow the same process.


This is not the House that we are talking about, but similar

When the paint is dry some hours later, apply a thin coat of semi-matt varnish which will make the colours brighter, look wet and shiny. This is the simplest form of Christmas crib house that we could make. You can experiment with more complex forms and use your creativity to make even more arty-looking rustic dwellings to use in your Crib come Christmas.
As children we used to buy these houses/huts during the days preceeding Christmas while in the process of preparing the Crib. We also used to buy clay figurines (pasturi) for pennies from 2 particular shops that I remember.
View my other Page about: Games Children Played in the late 50's
How to build a Christmas Crib. Step by Step directions - - Go Here

Monday, February 22, 2010

Living on a Small Island Like Gozo

Living in Gozo has its advantages when you come to think of it. Some people would say that living on a island the size of Gozo, only 9 miles by 5 would make them feel like living in a prison, marooned and shut off from the rest of the world. Well they are entitled to their opinion of course. It may have been so way back in the 19th C when air transport was non-existent but it is obviously not the case any more. Times change and perceptions change too.
Nowadays, people look on Gozitans with a faint twinge of jealousy perhaps, because in Gozo, the inhabitants enjoy many advantages, blessings if you like. Those who visit Gozo for the first time become immediately aware of its redeeming features.

1. One is conscious of the clean-air environment as soon as one disembarks from the Gozo Channel ferry. The circulating fresh air prevails on the island of Gozo as a result of its small size and owing to the fact that every slight breeze tends to sweep clean the atmosphere from one end of the island to the other.

2. The tranquil way of life of the inhabitants. They are as energetic and active as they come, but they tend to go about their business and take life at a leisurely pace. Observe the attitude of the car drivers. Even when caught up in a slow-moving line of traffic* they do not swear at one another and you do not hear the angry honking of horns. They let the pedestrians use the zebra-crossings as they should and they give way to other cars coming out of the side streets. I drive in Gozo all the time because I live there and I have repeatedly noted with satisfaction this 'tolerant' attitude of the local drivers (bless them).

*(yes, this happens in Gozo too, once in a while and especially on some week-ends when people from Malta, the sister Island cross over for a quiet break)

3. In a small island like Gozo, people are not hindered by distances. One can go anywhere in 10 minutes at the most. I know that some people abroad have to travel 2 hours to their place of work and back every day. That makes their work day 12 hours long, poor guys. Many people here have their own car and they only use it to go from one village to the other since in any one locality people go on foot or sometimes they use a bicycle. 

Environmentally speaking, I would wish to see more people using bicycles in Gozo because they are really quite adequate.  I use one almost every day to go shopping and for an occasional short ride, to Ta Pinu for example. 

4. In Gozo the villages are still separate from one another by relatively vast stretches of countryside. Apart from the primeaval appearance this gives to the island, this implies that many folk from the villages still have enough space to practise part-time agriculture and this results in fresh produce in the local market every day. It is a treat to go for a morning stroll to the market in Victoria and see and smell the freshly-picked green vegetables, the appetizing red tomatoes and many kinds of other fruit. Some items are imported but nothing beats the Gozo products for their taste and goodness. Everybody knows that. As regards fish the villages of Xewkija, Gh'Sielem and the seaport of Mgarr are synonymous with the fishing industry and some of the residents of these localities are full-time fishermen. They supply the market with their fresh catches although again some varieties are imported and nowadays we have fishfarms as well.

Note: The Maltese islands produce 50 million kilograms of vegetables and fruit every year. In Malta and Gozo together we have 700 hectares of vineyards and the production of Maltese wines which are among the best in the world reaches 3.5 million gallons annually.  Not too bad for such a small island.

5. Living on a small island implies always having people that you know around you, not just your relatives and your closest friends but the men and women you work with, people that you know only by sight and all sorts of other acquaintances. It's almost like living in a large extended family and hence as a general rule the great majority of the towns-folk perhaps subconsciously tries to stick to the inbred rules of the social circle. Which is a good thing, in my opinion since there is less underhand activities and more harmony. 

In the big cities no one knows anybody else or cares about anybody else. Nobody nods at you as you brush shoulders on the sidewalks much less smiles a good-morning at you. I was in Palermo once and I saw a man who got hit by a car on a busy street. The poor man fell to the ground and the car kept going - an outrageous hit-and-run.  I ran to his help and assisted him to the pavement. Luckily he was not badly hurt but what astonished me most was the fact that nobody else offered to lend a hand. The people just looked on. They just couldn't care less or just plain afraid to interfere?

Living in a somewhat close community might be considered a harassment by some people who are used to live in the big cities, but for myself I accept these little benefits as god-sent gifts. Nowadays, in this chaotic existence of construction, congestion and noise,
peace and quiet are the most sought-after qualities in a place of residence. Hence I consider myself lucky to be living in the tranquil surroundings of the small Island of Gozo.

Take a look at my newly-restored Town House for Rent in the heart of Victoria, Gozo.