Life is made of these…

Yesterday was quite surreal. My brother found a video recording of my dad, taken during a family holiday. It was startling and fascinating to watch. It was a short video, but his voice could be heard clearly and his face is focused. i listened to it over and over again. I closed my eyes whilst doing so, and for a second I imagined he was next to me talking. I had not heard that voice for nearly nine years, and try as I did, my recollection of my father’s voice was next to nil. It is easy to remember a face because a photo and a dream easily trigger the memory. But the voice is a different matter. The voice is perhaps the first memory of a person to fade away. And after nine years, my father’s was a very distant recollection.

I can not believe that in two months time, he will be gone for nine years. So many things happened and so many things changed that it’s difficult to think about how much he missed out in the meantime.

Which makes me affirm our decision to move back to Malta. England was great. England was about new experiences, opportunities, new friends and horizons. But Malta is where our roots our. Our family is here, our friends are here, our familiar places are here. And having children only made us want to settle down here more and more. It was not easy, I’m sure you all remember my posts back then. But over time, we have come to adjust quite well, and even though England will always hold a special place in our heart, Malta is home now. And perhaps the one thing which reaffirms our decision again and again is seeing both sets of families with our children. All faces light up. It is chuckles all round and smiles as big as that of the Cheshire cat itself. Having them experience both children growing up on a daily basis made each difficult step of this journey worth it. We didn’t want them having a weekend every month. I didn’t want the children seeing our families a couple of days a year, not knowing who their parents families and friends are. I have to say that one thing that always puts a smile on my face is seeing Cesca play and interact with children of our friends, and knowing friends who had children around the time Bettina was born. It feels as if a full circle is being drawn and things are being completed.

Because I have learnt that life is all about memories. Small snippets of happy moments is what makes a life worthwhile. And although we may have missed out by moving back to Malta, it definitely does not feel like it. Because my children are making beautiful memories with our families, and the grandparents are in seventh heaven in the meantime. We meet up with old friends and laugh, and have learnt how to be a couple again, with some proper ‘us’ time. My dad’s demise taught me that. It’s all about the little, simple things. The rest does not really matter after all.

And although my dad is not here to experience Cesca and Bettina first-hand, I know and feel that he is their guardian angel. Which makes them lucky children. From every aspect.

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Randomness

My mind is full of ideas. Yet like I wrote last time, I am finding some difficulty in composing a fully-fledged post. So for now I’ll resort to bullet-listing what’s happening and what’s been cooking in this mind of mine. If this is the way this blog will work for the time being, then so be it.

– We vowed that 2014 would be calmer and less hectic than 2013. We’re happy 2013 happened but we’re much more happier that it’s gone and done with. At moments it felt like one never-ending roller-coster ride. It’s good to be in the midst of calm for at least a moment or two before madness finds us again.

– It seemed just months ago I was pregnant with C, and now we have just chosen schools for her to start attending this October. Yes, SCHOOLS!! We won’t know for certain which one she’ll attend for a couple of weeks, but to have even started thinking about it broke me down in a one big panic attack and emotional mess. How did this come about so quickly? I don’t think I can get away with calling her a baby anymore… 😥

– We are excitedly planning some trips for our little family. Living in Gozo and staying here for long stretches of time does make us fidgety and restless. If there’s one thing we miss from England, it has to be the ease with which you could travel and change scenery. The closest thing we can do here in Gozo is travel to Malta. And if you’re Maltese and think that’s pathetic, well know you can imagine how impossible it is to be cooped up in Gozo for a long period of time.

– As much as I complain sometimes how impossible 2013 was at times and how hard it sometimes is living on a small rock, I have to admit that we have all found ourselves again. I have started working and as much as I miss my little C, I have to admit that I am a better person because of it. I needed so badly to start waking up, dressing up in something other than track-pants, meeting adults and getting my brain back to normal working order. My time with Cesca is much less than what I had with her in England, but the quality is much better. I will never forget or regret the 2 years I was with her 24/7. But it is so easy to lose yourself in the process and to forget who you are and what you love doing. I am still trying to find a balance at times and it is not an easy thing to do, but I do believe I am in the right track.

– As for Cesca, she is now a little girl. She loves ‘singing’ Sandcastle Royale on Disney Junior, she switches on the radio to dance, she is still learning how to jump and she is adamant on keeping on her nappy for as long as humanely possible it seems. She now forms full sentences and is much easier to communicate with. She is a stubborn monkey at times, and a ‘no’ always remains a ‘no’, no matter how much chocolate I bribe her with. She is still a fussy eater and still screams but I’m not bothered about that any longer. So little yet so much remain of the Cesca who moved to Malta last year. I can’t get my head around how much she has grown. It is only when I find myself buying her size 4-5 clothes that I realize it!

For 2014 we prayed for lots of things. Health, wealth and happiness of course. And some other things – finally being able to start building our proper house, Cesca starting and liking her new school, appreciating the little things and always seeing the good in whatever situation.

I prayed and still pray to wake up with the extra weight I have, suddenly disappearing (no such luck yet), and for H&M and Boots to start shipping to Malta (not lucky there either).

I’m not giving up though…

Talk to you later x

 

Grace

We’re soon nearing the six-month ‘anniversary’ from when we moved back to Malta from England. A couple of weeks after we arrived, things were in absolute chaos and everything was up in the air. Nowadays we are much more calm and settled. We have adapted well to the Gozitan way of living. It’s still a small pleasure being able to go out for a coffee whenever you wish (those who lived abroad will understand me!) and meeting familiar faces whenever out and about. Our apprehension about how Cesca would adapt to the change proved to be futile because she was the easiest one to adapt to it all. In fact I sometimes think what it would be like to move back to England and force her to stay a couple of days indoors (due to the cold winter ahead), and I am definitely sure it would be hell to do. The girl loves the outdoors and her freedom!

We had planned a visit to England in the coming weeks, but life and responsibilities have made us postpone the visit. I’m dying to visit our friends and to see Canterbury again. Walking up and down the High Street, shopping at Boots, stopping at Cafe Nero for a coffee and at Carluccio for a quick snack are things I sometimes day-dream about.

And my yearning for English shops sky-rockets whenever I enter a shop here in Gozo.

Charm? Grace? What?!

I don’t know about you, but whenever I enter a shop I always get greeting by bothered looks from the person responsible. I always think I’ve somehow offended the person by stepping foot into his establishment. After the initial glacial look-over, said owner then proceeds to ignore me. Does anyone on the island get greeted with a smile and a hello? It must be me or the shops I visit, but I sense the air of hostility some shops have from the moment I enter the shop. And good luck with asking them for help. Rest assured that they will help you yes, but they will make you feel like a proper unwelcome guest when they do. Interrupting their working hours by asking for their help? Shame on you. They must be left to chat with their co-workers about their weekend adventures, or else munch away on bubble-gum or food behind the counter.

My most surreal episode has to be that of a couple of weeks ago, when I entered a shoe store and found two salesgirls trying out very high-heeled embellished shoes, giggling away and shouting across the room at each other ‘I feel like Lady Gaga in these heels!”

The English way of doing things involved lots of smiles, greetings, apologies for letting you wait and questions as to whether you have been served correctly or not. Sometimes it is all a bit over the top, but I definitely prefer an extra smile or thank-you than the stiff customer care this island has going on. Some people need to learn that a smile is free and goes a long way!

One of the reasons

These past couple of weeks have been busy.  The summer months are draining in more sense than one, and I for one can not be happier that autumn is soon with us. Autumn means shorter days, cooler weather, less humidity and better moods. C’s mosquito bites can perhaps finally start healing and my hair will be more presentable and less all-over-the-place. Trousers can finally start to be tolerated and it’s earlier bedtimes for all of us! Yes, I’m pretty happy the summer months are coming to an end.

Like I said, we’ve been busy. We are preparing for our first proper and complete winter on The Rock. We’ve never stayed for more than 3-4 days every 4-5 weeks, so we’ve got some adapting to do.  One thing I won’t miss from England is the terrible cold, but then perhaps thanks to that awful chill-factor I won’t feel as cold here as I used to prior to moving to England.

In the meantime we’re winding down slowly. After the flooding rain we had a couple of days ago, we packed up our outdoor table and chairs, and the barbeque has been used only once or twice since. C’s summer shoes which were too big in June are now barely fitting her – she was a size 6 in the beginning of summer and is now wearing an 8!   We can now enjoy watching films at home during the week instead of ‘having’ to go out as we do in summer. C’s bedtime is slowly moving back to her winter schedule and we have begun thinking and talking schools, nurseries and winter activities. I spend every other day drooling over winter clothes online and end up getting frustrated when I find I can’t order and have them shipped here to Malta. It sometimes seems as if we are stuck in an ancient rut.

But I’m not complaining about Malta. Thanks to us being here now, I have started to enjoy my friends again. These past couple of weeks I have met up with my oldest and dearest friends, and although one of us went through a terrible ordeal and experience just days ago, we managed to meet up for old time’s sake, and we laughed at forgotten episodes and cried over recent ones. There is something so reassuring about meeting up with friends ten years or more down the line, and still enjoying their company. We were a small group, we all had our place within it, and today we still fit in just as we did then.

I’ve enjoyed my ‘newer’ friends. We’ve had occasion to meet up with drinks and partners (and now children) and it beats sending a message every once in a while through Facebook or email. I’ve still to meet some special friends, and appointments have been set up for the coming days. Nothing beats a good chat and laugh with someone you know who gets you and doesn’t stare at you strangely at some silly thing you say. I don’t have many close friends, but the ones I have I’m blessed to call my friends. A post written over three years ago comes to mind. It’s still as valid now as it was then, and every word could have been written right here and now.

C is joining in on all this fun. She’s been to three birthday parties and is off to another one this afternoon. She is no longer the same girl she was back in April. She is now much, much, much more confident and bubbly, and my fears that she was not used being around other children her age, is now an expired thought. She’s a strong girl with a very strong character and a million times more hard-headed than I am. She knows which buttons to press and she knows what she wants. She drives us up the wall one minute and has us in tears of laughter the next. She sings like a drunken old lady and her vocabulary is growing at an explosive rate. She’s my tall, wild-haired, brown-eyed toddler who still loves fiddling around with her/our ears when bed-time is near, and who ‘reads’ books when the lights are out.

That last part is all me 🙂

So all this, all these words are just one reason why we came back. It’s hard seeing the positive at times and somehow today’s troubles always seem bigger than yesterday’s. At least for me they do. But I then read a friend’s sms, or see a picture another friend posted on Facebook, remember the episode and I smile and laugh.

Perhaps I had never truly realized how much I missed my friends while abroad. In a way I’m thankful that I didn’t. I was allowed to meet new people and share stories and episodes with them as well, and more than anything – enjoy them. But bumping into friends while walking around town, having a two-hour coffee with a friend whenever you want to, or hearing someone call your name from across the street?

Priceless.

At least 12 years ago. We were all so young and carefree and had no idea at how tough life could be.

At least 12 years ago. We were all so young and carefree and had no idea at how tough life could be.

We may now be older in age, but in spirit and when together, we're a bunch of giggly teenagers who enjoy nothing but each other's company!

We may now be older in age, but in spirit and when together, we’re a bunch of giggly teenagers who enjoy nothing but each other’s company!

Easy Tiger

It’s crazy isn’t it. One evening last week I met up with a good friend and it was so windy, I was dressed up in a denim jacket and was still feeling a bit chilly. Cue forward a couple of days and The Rock is in official summer-mode. The long, hot days are here and I think it’s safe to say that I can finally store my light cardigans away for now. All of a sudden we NEED air-conditioning, and it seems that  now not even a fan will do! To think that only a couple of days ago I was still making use of a light duvet…

There is no middle way for Maltese weather. It is either windy, cold and wet or else hot, humid and dry. We only have two officially seasons – winter and summer, there is no spring or fall for us, bar a couple of days which can not really classify themselves as proper seasons. Remember the dates when the seasons officially start? That does not apply to Malta. Summer does not last three months here, more like six months and counting. By October we are all officially baked, cooked and burnt.

So with this heat comes survival mechanisms.

Drink lots and lots of chilled water. Add some pieces of lemon and mint to vary it a bit.

Avoid the sun during the lethal morning and afternoon hours.

Slap on sunscreen like there’s no tomorrow. My laissez-faire attitude last year has caused me pigmentation spots and so now I’m always putting on sunscreen. I don’t mind if my face is that bit shinier, that’s what light powder is for!

Stop straight blow-dries. There is no real purpose in blow-drying your hair in a cool salon, step outside and end up with your pulled up in a bun or a pony-tail. In the past I used to really try to take care of my blow-dries. I would be the one with my hair loose down my back in the sweltering heat, trying to stop myself from sweating.  I now have two options this summer – I can either blow-dry my hair in a loose-curl manner which allows me to gather it up, or else I can rely on my cherished oil-spray to let it run loose (and wild) in its natural state. Either way I won’t have any hairs sticking to my back and that works just fine with me!

There is no middle-ground for us Maltese when it comes to weather. No there isn’t. As much as lots is said about English weather, I have to say it never really bothered me. Yes, there would be long, grey days at end when I would have killed to spend a day or two in sunny Malta just to properly realize that it was June or July after all. But there was no real humidity problem, no sweating, no mosquitoes and their irritating bites. And sometimes on a freakishly chilly day, even the heating would go on!

We are now learning to deal with this hot weather. Cesca’s appetite is practically non-existent but thankfully she still loves her milk. She has had some rash patches come up due to this heat and sweating. She’s learnt the drill of putting on sunscreen and knows that after putting on the cream, an outing ensues. She runs around in her nappy all day and sleeps longer during the night. Her normally light wavy-hair becomes a bird’s nest of curls whenever she sweats. Keeping her light and wet seems the way to do things. So I’m envisaging early morning swimming dips and lots and lots of water.

And sunscreen. And insect-repellant cream. And anti-irritation cream.

Summer. Bliss.

Oh, and did you hear the new version of numbers that’s going around? Here’s Cesca reciting it. You know the one – it finishes with ‘…8,9, face!’

Substituting Alternatives

Yesterday I baked cupcakes. Somehow Thursday has become my Baking Day, and seeing how my baking lot gets divided up between so many (dare I say eager?) mouths, it’s fun and encouraging to set forth with my apron and utensils.

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I needed soured cream for one lot of these cupcakes. And as it turns out, soured cream is not that easy to find on The Rock. Same as buttermilk, passion fruit, pretzel bread, individually-packed chicken breast (although I have found a patient butcher who does this for me), raspberries, the sweet-sounding conference pears and jazz apples, and the wide variety of readily-cut and sliced stir-fry vegetables. I miss the weekly recipe cards Waitrose had available and which nearly-filled my recipe book. I miss the 3 for 2 offers, the slashed prices at the deli counter at the end of the day and the gazillion of choices in everything.

Three supermarkets later I found my soured cream, and needing two tubs of it, I figured paying six Euro for that alone was a tad too much. So I did what I am now often doing – I googled substitutes. Turns out natural yoghurt with some baking soda works just as well as soured cream. And buttermilk’s substitute? Milk with some lemon juice or white vinegar.

It’s amazing how much you learn when things aren’t presented to you ready and finished.

I’m still discovering the supermarkets here. I only really knew one that well before I left for England. But having to bulk-buy, I have started dividing up my shopping – I go to A for deli, B for household cleaning goods, Mr. C sells me fresh vegetables and fruit and D has a great deal on C’s nappies. So I often find myself wandering aimlessly up and down an aisle trying to locate something, only to realize I’m in the wrong aisle. The supermarket set-up of some does not help – supermarket B has its dried fruits and nut packets scattered round three areas, so trying to compare like goods is a tough one. Supermarket D has an explosive jumble of things going on, whilst A changed its layout a couple of months ago but of course I’m only just learning the new position of everything just now.

I am a supermarket junkie. I loved the English ones, I would visit them everyday and spend hours (and lots of money) there. The variety of items, the vastness of the shops and the service of the employees always made it an enjoyable experience. So it makes perfect sense to me that whilst I’m getting lost in a supermarket somewhere on The Rock, deep deep down I’m silently crying out for my Waitrose and M&S. I could walk down the aisles there blindfold and still find every single thing I was looking for.

Yes, I’m still missing England.

I'm not the only one in the family who loves supermarkets...

I’m not the only one in the family who loves supermarkets…

One Month P-M

It’s already been one month since we left England. With everything that’s happened it seems to feel we’ve been away much longer. We are constantly gasping for a breath, waiting for a short pause of calmness but it still has not happened. Everything has been thrown in our face and the one thing we did not want to happen, did. Things are far from what we imagined them to be and I have to be honest. I’m missing England terribly.

It’s a bit of everything.

Without me even realizing it, I had become accustomed to a certain way of living. I took lots of things for granted and am now being hit with the stark realization that I need to start thinking and acting otherwise. I’m not talking about physical things – what’s bothering me most is the fact that I’m feeling as if I need to change the way I’ve been living my life for these past three years and it’s not a comfortable feeling.

So if I meet you outside and you ask me how I’m getting used to life on The Rock, please don’t misunderstand my lost look for a flippant attitude. My inability to answer your question is because I truly feel lost. I truly do not know how I’m getting on with everything. And if I tell you that it’s harder than I thought it would be, please don’t think I’m being a drama queen about the whole situation. It truly is. Before informing me that it must be easier with family and friends around, let me tell you it’s not about that. It never was. It’s about leaving a life you knew and were comfortable with and starting afresh in a country you know and love, but suddenly feel uncomfortable in. It was our choice and I will stop myself short of saying it was a mistake because I still feel it was not that at all. I know things will become clearer and less shady.  I just need time, we all need time to (cue the magic word)… adjust.

You may think I’m babbling on and on about nothing, and I am probably not making as much sense of things as I’m feeling them, but I can not explain myself better than this. I just want things to start feeling as they did a short while ago. Which now seems like eons away.

Probably the most apt photo for this particular moment. Pregnant and not knowing it, I was an avalanche of moody behaviour. I was feeling everything. I'm not pregnant now, but the feelings of confusion and loss are there...

Probably the most apt photo for this particular moment. Pregnant and not knowing it, I was an avalanche of moody behaviour. I was feeling everything. I’m not pregnant now, but the feelings of confusion and loss are there…