Malta research trip: Day thirteen

I’m sitting in the internet cafe, music blaring, as it does everywhere here – it’s some really bad Europop this evening but anything is a pleasant change from Engelbert Humperdink’s Greatest Hit And Twenty Other Songs that I’ve been listening to all day on the boat. What is it with the muzak thing in Europe? I have never heard so many Gloria Estafan songs in my life.
Today was the final research day, the bit I’ve been looking forward to – the circumnavigation of the islands. Did without the guide after yesterday (“What do you want to go down there for? Seen one catacomb you’ve seen them all”) but we did have a sublime rabbit stew in Mgarr.
So I just booked one of those normal cruise boat things, filled with sunburned English people who all sound like extras from Bad Girls (“Wot’s that then?” “Cliff, innit.”) all unsuspecting that they are involved in a great pirate enterprise. They thought they were going snorkelling in the Blue Lagoon (with buffet). Actually, it wasn’t blue today, just a crazy kind of aqua. Because today was the first cold day. Nobody told the Lobsters who were all in their swimming gear, all the better to get
sunburnt.
After lunch came the coastline I really need to see, because I’ve decided on all these pirate landing places and my guide had put the fear of God into me by saying they are all hopeless – and of course he showed me the cliffs that were about as death-defying as a council drain.
The cliffs! From the sea, they soar. For miles. And the pirate haven I had chosen on the basis of book-learning only looked absolutely perfect to me, and there are grottos (in French, it’s “La Grot”) deep into the limestone and on every headland a Knights of Malta watchtower still stands, beautiful squat stone things they are too. The wind rose, the sea was heaving and a wonderful dark blue. I was grinning from ear to ear again, and then heard a rather disconcerting noise.
On the top deck, holding on for dear life in the wind was me, some Maltese-born Canadian women with their whole families so excited they pointed out every rock (“Look Derek, LOOK!” “Yes, dear, I see it, it’s a cliff. It’s the same cliff you pointed out two minutes ago.”) and a few hardy Germans. We were all having a blast. Down below things turned out to be not quite so pretty, as the heaving seas had the Lobsters heaving up their buffets.
Worst thing that happened to me was that when I got back to the hotel I realised my hair had gone all Marj Simpson. Actually, it was more like the woman on the Bentley bonnet badge, streaming out behind me, very Art Nouveau. Well, it would have streamed, but since I don’t have much hair it was streaming in principle. And I seem to be swaying in my chair from the after-effects of the swell.
I’m coming to the end of my time here, and it’s been a bit mad, rushing around, and yet quite often I’ve found myself all alone in some of the best museums. In the Fine Arts Museum, for example, I was the only person there, which made me a sitting duck for Leonard The Bored Guard and Art Expert who physically dragged me from painting to painting and explained the Renaissance as the bit that came before real art (ie Baroque, in which Malta specialises). Bless him. He got so excited about one of
Preti’s St John’s that he gave me a hug. It’s a bit like that here.
There are lots of boats, excitable people, cool buses (and hats), perfect cities and wonderful fortresses. And pirates. Even if I have to invent them myself.

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