Archive of ‘Malta Life’ category
Disclaimer: if you’re one of the people who took offence to ‘that post’ or you have a habit of skim reading, please note:
1) this post is written with affection for Malta and the term 20 crazy things about Malta should be taken with a pinch of salt as I had to pick a short snappy title
2) I choose my words respectfully and carefully when writing…so if you intend to comment I advise you to do the same
3) if you think this post is meant to insult, it’s a good idea to come back here to the start and reread it.
So….it’s that time of year again. The time of year when I suddenly realise marks yet another anniversary of my arrival in Malta
(which I have written about previously from different angles in Should I Stay and Home is Where). A time of year when my disbelief at still living on ‘the rock’, is at its greatest. Yes, this 9th October was eleven years since I left loving family, interminable traffic, the vibrant culture and the relentlessly grey clouds of the UK (sorry but that’s usually the first thing that strikes me when I land at Heathrow) for the endlessly sunny blue skies, bumpy roads, simpler lifestyle and 1970’s supermarkets of a country I couldn’t even point out on a world map.
I actually forgot today was the exact date (despite spending the last two months telling people I’d lived here almost eleven years) until I bumped into a couple of friends on the beach (both of them expats).
One of them told me about a woman who has given up trying to make a happy life here as she has found the adjustment too hard for various reasons
which I won’t go into here as this post is not about bashing Malta as already explained at the start. I got to thinking about the number of people I’ve known who left the island for the same reasons as this woman and I couldn’t help wondering why we have stayed for nine years longer than we planned (!) and what we like about it. Inevitably, I also thought about some of the unusual stuff you see here. I think our longevity in Malta has been partly due to our capacity to endure the rough with the smooth, partly our ability to just have a good laugh at the daft bits and mainly our steadfast refusal to go back to the blooming rain and high prices we left!
Anyway, I can’t let a Malta anniversary go by without writing something. So after the hard-hitting but honest Dear Malta You’re Breaking my Heart and the pensive How Has it Come to This?
I think it’s time I take a light-hearted look at life on the rock based on my experience.
There is so much I’ve got used to (admittedly a lot of it reluctantly) over the last 11 years to the point where I often don’t realise, until guests come over and express total shock at this that, just how much of the Mediterranean madness has become second nature to me! If you had told me 11 years ago that I would find ANY of the following ‘normal’, I would have thought you were out of your mind. Here is my list of 20 Crazy Things About Malta that I never in a million years believed I’d actually do myself or get used to (and yes the original list was longer but I narrowed it down for everyone’s sake because sometimes Netflix is more important). Oh and er…remember the disclaimer.
I never thought I would:
‘1. Go to a new furniture store..not because I need furniture…but because it’s a day out. (I think I just blushed.)
2. Get stuck behind a lorry/rubbish truck/car driver who has not broken down but is merely chatting to someone they’ve seen on the pavement…and that I would just sit there…without getting out the car or hooting in good old 1990’s road rage style (must be going soft in my old age).
3. Get used to the sound of fireworks. Every day. For three months.
4. Ask at a grocery store if I can just leave the money for my one item instead of waiting behind that woman with the large trolley. I’d NEVER do that in the UK for fear of getting lynched.
5. Read a headline in the local paper about a sulky driver, think “Oh my God what a rude way to describe that poor driver” before realising they meant the driver of a vehicle known as a sulky…not that the driver of a car was in a bad mood.
This is a sulky (noun NOT adjective!) driver
6. Say ‘I’m ready” when I mean “I’ve finished”. This is quite possibly the biggest surprise of them all considering how I wanted to Rip. My. Own. Ears. Off. every time I heard someone say this the first few years here.
7. Go to Lidl! Never mind the blooming furniture store. Ruddy hell, I never thought I’d go to Lidl. (Gold star to those of you who follow my Facebook page and have just worked out this is what I refer to as ‘the shop that shall not be named’.)
8. Complain about the traffic…when there are in fact only twelve cars in front of me. Talking of which:
I also never expected to hear a radio DJ guess the state of play on the roads because his particular radio station does not have an official traffic update service (in the form of helicopters with reporters hired to provide actual real time info). This happened about two weeks ago and I almost had to park up, I was laughing so much. He just hypothesised about how many cars may or may not be on the roads and which areas may or may not have traffic. Funniest thing I’ve heard in ages.
9. Feel perfectly comfortable walking down the street in a sarong and flip flops behind three barely-dressed children (my kids, not some randoms).
10. Accept it when a cafe only offers ham and cheese sandwiches or cheese and ham sandwiches or cheese sandwiches or ham sandwiches.
11. Park on double yellow lines (sssssshhhhhhh).
12. Get charged 2.50 euros for a cappuccino and think ‘ooh that’s expensive’. I mean it’s twice that in my home town!
13. Avoid enrolling my children in a particular sport because the location is a whopping 15 minute drive. You really do have to live here to get that one!!
14. Sing high praise for the excellent customer service and wonderfully friendly staff at such and such a place…when actually all they did was say please and thank you and serve me within ten minutes of walking in, you know, their job.
15. Leave my car key with a total stranger instead of waiting for a space in a car park and taking my key with me.
16. Go into raptures over an ‘amazing new’ cafe/hotel/shop, baffling a guest visiting from abroad who looks at me as if every brain cell has fallen out of my skull because in actual fact said cafe/hotel/shop is nothing special and I’ve simply lowered my expectations.
17. Have the following exchange (more than once)
Me: “Please can I have still water?”
Waiter: “Yes, still or sparkling?”
and not want to scream.
18. Pay 4 euros for a tiny broccoli head. I mean actually pay it. Without asking if it was grown in gold soil. And leave with my broccoli. Without whispering a breath of complaint. Or sarcasm. Never thought I’d see the day…miracle.
20. Not be in the slightest bit surprised at returning to a local beach restaurant, months after a visiting friend fell off the back verandah due to inadequate safety standards (breaking her leg and requiring surgery) only to see that NOTHING has been done to erect a protective railing since then. Shame on you Las Palmas. [Clearly this is one not-at-all-funny point in this list.]
As I finish writing this at 11pm, someone is sitting in a car hooting their horn instead of getting out and ringing the doorbell of the person they’re visiting…and all my lights have gone out.
Well it is in the Mediterranean Darling!
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So this is the first time I’m posting a photo for the #MySundayPhoto series hosted by Photalife! Can’t believe it really, considering how much I snap away on that most advanced complex skill-demanding photographic instrument, the iPhone. Anyway, despite having a mountain of DIY projects and ever-neglected chores to do around the house, we headed out for a quick walk to the stunning Ghan Tueffieha Bay, known locally as Riviera. I say quick because we slept in til super late o’clock, had to rush Cheeky K to a birthday party and by the time we’d had a late breakfast, didn’t have much time left til we had to be back home again for a super important event: Manchester v Tottenham….snoooooooore.
Anyway, I really struggled to pick one photo for My Sunday Photo 10th April because I have to say of all the pictures I’ve taken over the time we’ve lived here, today was quite possibly the day where I took THE most stunning ones. We walked up the top of Ghan Tuffieha, above the beach, along the beautiful open rocky terrain, to a stunning rock that looked like something out of a breathtaking film scene (hardly surprising when you consider that Malta has been used in the making of numerous films such as Count of Monte Cristo, Troy and most recently, By the Sea (with Brangelina). I got some incredible shots of the kids, paddle boarders, surfers and landscape in general. This picture was taken whilst downing a quick cappuccino before racing back home, you know, for that match that was much more important than spending quality time with one’s kids (ugh). If you look closely, you can see a surfer in the waters.
[She let out a happy sigh.]
The weekly blog series #effitfriday by Modern Dad Pages and Life With Baby Kicks showcases posts by bloggers who want to have a bit of a rant – funny or serious – about anything they want. Up til now, I’ve dug up something from my archives but this time I wrote something specifically for #effitfriday. Will it bring on some haters? Maybe. Do some things need to be said instead of always being politely suppressed out of fear of offending? Definitely. So if this loses me a few readers, so be it.
Here’s the thing. Many people know how positive I am about Malta. I’ve sung her praises in 30 Things That Make Me Happy, Should I Stay or Should I Go, my instagram pics and Facebook posts. Overall, I am grateful for the life I am able to live in Malta. An average of 300 days of sunshine, a safe environment, a house 100 metres from the sea…we left London behind and have never regretted it. I am blessed. I know this. And frankly, I think, when you choose to live in a country that you did not grow up in, you try to show respect towards and appreciation of that country. After all, I guess if you don’t like it…
I know no country is perfect. Every country has its negative aspects. But the negative aspects are starting to get me down a bit. You can’t tar an entire country’s people with the same brush of course. There are wonderful reasonable open-minded level-headed people here. So I’m sorry if I put anyone’s few noses out of joint, but it’s time for an #effitfriday rant about my adoptive country, this mad dusty little rock I’ve called home for almost ten years:
Dear Malta, when you leave a pushchair/washing machine/rusty bike/plastic bottles etc on the side of a road or on a picturesque path or you get up from a beach/picnic area leaving coffee cups, beer bottles, plates and napkins strewn across the area where you were sitting, you depress me with your utter disrespect for the environment when your own houses are spotlessly clean.
Dear Malta, when the fishmonger at that supermarket shouts at me, brings the whole shop to a standstill, reduces me to tears in front of my girls, causes the manager to get involved begging the fishmonger to serve me and begging me not to make a formal complaint (!), you make me question how some people are just so damned pigheaded and horrible.
Dear Malta, when your drivers, knowingly come the wrong way down a one-way road towards me, refusing to reverse even though they are stopping me from driving the correct way up the road and become aggressive when I point out their ‘error’ – day after day after effing day – you test my ability to understand humans who cannot/will not acknowledge their wrong doing.
Dear Malta, when I go to a wedding and a friend makes no secret of her distaste at ‘the immigrant’ situation and complains loudly – from her privileged vantage point over champagne and canapés – about how she has stopped going to her favourite vegetable shop as it is full of “****ing Arabs”, you make me question how humankind is so unable to empathise with others who endure unimaginable hardship and tragedy that causes them to flee their own country.
Dear Malta, when I finally get to go out for a much needed night out, drive around for ages and grab what seems to be the only parking spot only to get verbally abused by a Neanderthal shouting “Move your car” – and then once I’ve moved on to another spot get abused again by the same driver slowing down to yell “This is MY country, not YOUR country”…you kill me with your racist narrow mindedness.
Dear Malta, when I stand in a queue at the supermarket, shortly before I need to collect my kids, and a women in front of me who had only one basket in her hand then calls her husband over who rocks up with an entire trolley (and I start to ask “Ah which queue were you in?” only to get as far as “Ah” before said woman jumps down my throat in the ugliest most aggressive mannerless way, you make me wonder how the younger generation will learn how to conduct themselves.
Dear Malta, when your customer service is so lacking that the customer feels like they are a burden and you are doing them an enormous favour by eventually giving them a menu/stopping your conversation with your colleague to bark “Yes!” instead of “Hello how can I help?”/slamming their change down on the checkout ignoring the customer’s outstretched hand, you puzzle me as to how you still have soooo much to learn, years after you got into the EU and years after you might have learned something from us foreigners’ reaction to such customer service.
Dear Malta, when you constantly use the word ‘foreigner’, not realising how offensive it is to every expat living (and spending money) on your island (and when you try to get away with charging me “foreigners’ prices for my fruit and veg etc) you dishearten me and make me wonder why you insist on encouraging this divide.
Dear Malta, when you ignore sense, humanity and the conservation issue and let a referendum through that allows the barbaric shooting of birds during a two week period in their critical breeding season, where the poor dears are merely passing through your country as they migrate to other places, you leave me speechless at your cold-heartedness.
Dear Malta, out of respect, I’ve written nothing like this in 19 months of blogging. But respect is a two way thing…and it needs to be earned… So please, Malta, stop breaking my heart.
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Image courtesy of Eloise Robbertze Photography
Summer was a-coming…A.C. units were a-humming.
Then Summer was here, yay!
We put away the jeans, got out the sun cream and
“Hope it’s not a scorcher” we did say.
Image Courtesy of Eloise Robbertze Photography
Carts piled with melons, strawberries and peaches,
Buses with tourists all heading to the beaches.
Milk shakes, iced coffees, wine coolers and ice creams,
Barbecues, Valletta views and poolside kiddie screams.
Girls on their deck chairs under sun umbrellas,
Lads and their long stares…fellas will be fellas.
Super yachts, cruise ships and glorious white sails,
Boiling hot days, Golden Bay, rosé and cocktails.
Blazing sun and intense blue skies; the drivers become even more crazy,
No rain for months, the fields are dry and everyone’s tired and lazy.
Empty playgrounds, semi full cinemas but all the beaches are packed,
One day in this heat, the kids are beat and every mother is whacked.
Banana boats, pedalos, snorkellers, bikinis and jet skis,
Paragliders, intrepid divers, the Maltese summer is about the sea.
Painted toes + mojitos = nights out with girlfriends,
Festas and hot balmy nights and humidity with no end.
Image courtesy of Eloise Robbertze Photography
Strapless dresses, sun hats, shorts, vests and flip flops,
Essential summer clothing…but some time late October it will all stop.
Then suddenly from sun block and sand and swimming off the rocks,
It will be hoodies, rain macs and winter socks.
Hunters shooting, car horns hooting and months of deafening fireworks,
In the Med, you need pills for your head because the noise just drives you beserk.
Crickets chirping, children splashing, these are the sounds of our summer.
But put away the sun hat because just like that…
…she’s gone. Man…what a bummer.
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Thank you my lovelies!
So October 9th this year, it was exactly nine years since I arrived in Malta
with a 15 month-old Musical M to join my hubby and embark on a life in the sun (well…actually we thought it was going to be two or three years in the sun). Nine years, two more kids, many near misses on the roads and a few sun-induced wrinkles later, we’re STILL here. We’ve hummed and hawed over the years about leaving and flirted with various possiblities including more than a mere flirtation with the idea of moving to the States which didn’t materialise after being turned down twice for the visa (their loss I say). Yet, here we still very much are. A friend of ours said during our trip back to London this Summer “So nine years in Malta…wow really guys, what’s the appeal?!” For me, Hubster’s reply really hit the nail on the head and I couldn’t have put it better myself; but more on that in a minute.
This year is Musical M’s last year of elementary school.
She started age three…and next year she’ll move to Middle School. I can hardly believe it. It’s the only school she and Dreamy D have ever known and Cheeky K just started too. I’ve had some of the teachers twice because of three kids at the same school so we’re part of the furniture by now. We’re in no rush to leave Malta as it really has become home but I can’t help wondering sometimes if it’s time to move on. I’ve never seen myself settling in one place forever as I’m a bit of nomad at heart but when you have kids in the mix, it changes things a bit. So what does one do when trying to answer the question of ‘should I stay or should I go’? Draw up a list of reasons to stay in Malta versus reasons to leave course!
REASONS TO STAY IN MALTA vs REASONS TO LEAVE
They Are in No Hurry to Take My Money…
I can turn up at the hairdressers/restaurant/doctors without my wallet (I do this rather a lot) and I can still get a haircut/meal/appointmet and just pay next time I go. What’s more, I can borrow items from certain stores to try out/show Hubster and then just return them at a later date without even leaving so much as my phone number or a deposit.
…But They Seem To Be In A Big Hurry to Take My Life
They routinely drive through red lights as I”m coming through my green, overtake on double lines on a tight bend with zero visibility and ignore no entry signs driving straight at me. (FYI apparently their misdemeanours are not their fault; they’re mine.)
It’s So Easy to Get to Know People…
I know the guy who runs the car park at Golden Bay, the staff at our local beach restaurant, the owner of our local convenience store, the chap who comes round with his fruit and veg truck, the fishmonger at the supermarket – all by name. This is a big deal when you come from London where you can live next to the same person for ten years and never know their name.
…But Not If They Are in The Medical Profession
We’ve had the same doctor for a few years and he still looks at me like he’s never seen me or any of my kids before. Meanwhile the staff of the state hospital look at us like we built a boat and rowed all the way from India to seek refuge in Malta and one of the nurses I had at the birth of Cheeky K clearly thought I’d had one too many children and simply couldn’t find it in herself to be civil at any point during my five day stay in hospital.
If You Need to Look Good You’re Probably in the Right Place…
I have never seen so many hair salons, nail bars or beauty salons before.
…If You Need Decent Shopping, You’re In The Wrong Place
So you’ve got perfect hair, neat nails and you’ve been thoroughly ‘defluffed’ (oh come on…you didn’t really think I’d let this post go by without a tiny bit of Prabulous humour did you?). Now try finding great shoes and amazing clothes to go with it. Good luck with that. This ain’t New York, Paris or London baby…
Clear blue skies, infrequent rain and an average of 300 annual days of sunshine. What’s not to like?
It may not be Dubai or India but the four months of intense heat and two months of slightly less intense heat but awful humidity can be unbearable…not to mention all that sun on the skin… And when it does rain, they are shockingly ill prepared for it.
And the Water!
Apparently we have the most turquoise waters in the Mediterranean! I mean just look at these scenes! These were all genuinely taken with my phone during various days out around Malta and not from a tourism site. And the one bottom left really is down the road from where we live and I can stop off and fit in a cheeky half hour of snorkelling there.
By the way, if these photos make you want to come here, then these guides might inspire you:
Safety and The Simpler Life…
They may moan about how the island is changing and blame most of the ‘negative’ change on their favourite ‘f’ word…(’foreigners’) but it is still one of the safest places to live…a major consideration when you have kids. It’s a simpler life here. There is a beauty in that.
…Safe and Simple Isn’t Always Fun
Much safer and fewer things to do also means way less buzz. Nope, this sure ain’t New York, London or Paris.
It’s Lovely How Everyone knows Everyone…
There’s no need to be nervous if you’re going to a social event on your own because there is a 90% chance that you’ll walk in and know at least five people there, it’s such a small island.
…It’s A Nightmare How Everyone Knows Everyone
You have to seriously watch what you say. It will ALWAYS come back to bite you if you don’t, it’s such a small island.
You Don’t Have to Book Way Ahead For Events…
None of this months in advance nonsense…partly because they only advertise concerts or events about a month before the date. Well it is the Mediterranean Darling.
…Unless The Event is a Beauty Treatment
Women would rather go hungry here than not have tidy nails or fancy hair. Luckily I can call my magician lady at 4elements and she’ll squeeze me in for an emergency appointment even if she’s fully booked (I’m Indian. We have hair. I’m not being superficial. Believe me, it’s an emergency.)
A Night Out Doesn’t Cost a Fortune…
Crazy transport prices, exhorbitant parking costs, insane drinks prices…nope…don’t have that.
…But You’ll Always End up Going to the Same Places
A Tiny Island Means Short Distances…
Nothing is more than a 15 minute drive away. The kids’ school is a five minute drive away and my daily/weekly life pretty much takes place within a two mile radius. It’s liberating.
…But It Also Means Cabin Fever
When everything is reachable so quickly, you start craving the chance to let rip on long smooth open roads and actually drive. Problem is if you let rip on the roads of Malta and drive, you’d just end up in the sea. Not so liberating.
Life’s a Beach…
Whether it’s a full day relaxing at Golden Bay on the weekends or just delaying the reality of homework/dinner/evening routine by stopping off after school at our local beach for a cooling midweek swim, the beach is never far away. Heaven.
…But Sometimes The Beach Is The Only Thing To Do
…especially during those four blisteringly hot months of the year when It is just too hot to do anything not involving a cooling swim.
Still, you can’t do that in New York, Paris or London.
Or as Hubster said to our friends, “When you start the conversation about where to move to ‘next’ and you sit down and try to make a list of countries that have what Malta has, you end up with a very short list.” About a year after we moved here – once I’d got over my ‘rock shock’ – I realised it’s not about what Malta doesn’t have; it’s about what it does have.
Think we’ll stay a little bit longer then.
Phew. I’m glad that’s decided.
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Thank you my lovelies!
Right, so we’re back at school but here in Malta we still have at least a month of this hot humid ‘What’s the point of even showering cos I’m just gonna need another one in about five minutes’ weather to go. Don’t get me wrong. I’d rather have this than a start stop ‘is the sun coming out – ooh look there’s a ray of sun – oh no I can hear rain coming’ type of summer. But what goes hand in hand with hot humid Mediterranean weather people? Beach trips.
Ah yes…beach trips…
Basically, I reckon we pack more stuff for an afternoon on the beach than most families pack for an entire vacation. I swear it’s enough to make your teeth ache. I was going to pick another part of the body for that last sentence but this is a family show. If it’s not enough to make your teeth hurt, it is definitely enough to put you off ever wanting to come to the beach with me and my kids.
Don’t believe me? See for yourself. This is the sheer arse-ache inducing (whoops…there goes my family show status) amount of crap we take:
Obligatory beach towels with garish Hello Kitty, Spiderman and Monster High designs: Check.
Snacks (which started off as “let me whip up some home-made hummus and wholemeal wraps and four different fruits and get some low salt crackers and freshly squeezed orange juices while I’m at it” at the start of the summer and ended up more like “I know it’s out of a packet and full of salt and sugar but frankly if I never have to step foot inside a kitchen ever again I’ll pee myself with happiness so put it in the bag NOW and we’ll just order milkshakes when we get there” rubbish: Check.
Toilet paper (yep…this is the Med…take your own toilet paper folks): Check.
Kids’ individual water bottles: Check.
Waterproof low-on-pesky-chemicals sun cream which cost me a fortune: Check.
Non-waterproof organic sun cream which cost marginally less than the waterproof one: Check.
My book The Day I Realised There Was Too Much Sand in My Life by Ivana Manservant Towashitov (which I ironically won’t get a minute to read because I’m at the beach with kids): Check.
Baby wipes (because God forgive me, I know there are mountains of the world’s used wipes contributing to criminal amounts of environmentally hazardous waste but occasionally they come in useful and I swear I don’t use them much): Check.
Talc to help rub the sand off their bodies because my youngest gets her mini freak on when her feet get sand on them (I know…it’s a beach…there’s sand…lots of): Check.
9 buckets, 11 spades and way more beach toys than three kids could possibly need for one afternoon: someone sedate me and Check.
Towel swim-robes still damp from yesterday’s swim: Check.
More snacks: Check.
Cooler bag: Check.
Beach mat: Check.
Inflatable swimming ring. No not for the kids…for their mother in case she accidentally orders a mojito (what? I need something ice cold on a steaming hot day alright?) and she almost sinks afterwards: Hell yeah, Check.
Lilo which I bought, praying it wouldn’t puncture less than one month after buying it: Check.
Arm bands: Check.
Snorkeling gear x 4: Check.
Useless ineffective tape for the lilo because the buggering thing did in fact puncture less than one month after buying it: bloody flipping Check.
Sun umbrellas which threaten to fly off and injure innocent tourists x 2: Check.
2 portable sun loungers: Check.
Few more snacks…just in case (just in case what? just in case they never see food again?): Check.
Swim goggles: Check.
Spare swimsuit for little one: Check.
Extra water to refill kids’ bottles: Check.
Beach chairs (which I just had to buy in case I couldn’t face cajoling and coaxing and eventually breaking the damned sun loungers out of the back of the car and therefore needed something smaller and more manageable to sit on) x 2: Check.
Umbrella bases which I succumbed to buying after a few too many innocent tourists were in fact injured: Check.
Brown paper bag to hide the bottle of gin I’m gonna need after packing all this shit and carting it down the beach: CHECK.
Right, we’re ready to go to the beach.
For crying out loud, now where are my sunglasses?!
P.S. No I’m not going back in the house to put a jellyfish first aid kit together. Let’s just GO.
SERIOUSLY?! 2 guys just walked through the lounge of the Westin Hotel wearing nothing but speedos. I know it’s the Med and we regularly see half-clad tourists taking advantage of the good weather but speedo’s…at 11 am…nearly choked on my latte.