When is a scarf not a scarf? Possibly when made cleverly into a kimono. I have an excess of scarves, so why would I show you my devore silk kimono? Travelling these days ....or should I say when I travelled in the past!.....I like to pack items which are versatile. I can wear this turquoise, soft brown and cream number as a jacket or wrapped round my head or neck as a scarf. It was definitely going in my only piece of carry-on luggage for a birthday trip to Malta with my two daughters. Well, that was an economical start with the packing. No excess so far.
It was my first trip to Malta and I had always wanted to see where my husband was stationed as a young airman before we met. One daughter had visited before and had planned a very ambitious week of sightseeing. Comfortable shoes another essential.
Our first evening was spent quietly, walking along the waterfront to an Italian bistro to enjoy the first of many great meals, looking over the bay to the twinkling lights of Valletta. From then on, there was little rest, ferries across the harbour every day, churches, yet more churches, museums, cobbled streets up vicious hills, local buses to remote villages and yes, lots of stops at cafes and bars. We had to visit 136 Bishop Street in Valletta. Now, I am going to talk about excess. You will remember Oliver Reed in Gladiator which was filmed in Malta. He died in the bar at this address after drinking with a Royal Navy crew from HMS Cumberland. He had consumed 14 whiskies, 8 lagers and 12 double rums and insisted on buying the round for all the sailors! He died there of a heart attack! We cautiously had one beer!
My girls had planned a special treat for my birthday at the Silent City of Mdina in the finest restaurant. The ancient walled fortified city built on one of the highest hills had been the capital with four thousand years of history, but when it ceased to be the capital, it turned into a ghost town. It was very peaceful within the walls and I was very happy to spend my birthday in such a memorable place wearing my silk kimono. I had not realised how memorable it would be. At exactly 3pm shortly after we finished our gourmet lunch of many courses, not far from Mdina, Caruana Galicia, a female journalist was blown to pieces in her car as she left her home. She had been exposing the political corruption and had actively blogged about the Panama Papers scandal. Suddenly, my birthday celebration turned dark, as we realised there was an ugly underbelly to this island. Until this moment, we had felt so safe walking the streets at night, riding local buses, eating in odd ‘holes in the wall’, drinking in dubious dives. The wonderful ancient history, Crusaders, close wartime bonds with the Navy and UK, the magnificent St. John’s Cathedral were suddenly blotted out by mysterious huge foreign yachts, dubious passports, money laundering and we were even sickened by the sight of gigantic cruise ships in and out of the harbour for short one day stops. They all shouted Excess!
There was a vigil for the journalist that night in Sliema where we were staying. It was her birthplace. We walked quietly the next morning along the Sliema waterfront and witnessed the burnt out candles. It was chilling. I am trying to forget birthdays as I get older, but I will never forget the one in 2017.
Having just written that, I am going to retract, and decide to spend each day as if it is my birthday. I’ll make some little cakes with birthday candles and make a wish each day! Let’s go for Excess in a big way. I even have two bags of self-raising flour.
I’ll raise a sun-kissed G&T to that!
Busy Bee, Scarf Face!