The Parent Police

I’m going to go straight to the point here:

How do complete strangers who do not know you think it’s ok to criticize your parenting skills.

No, it does not come from a place of caring. It simply doesn’t. How could a comment in passing about my child from someone I do not know, possibly be for my daughter’s wellbeing?

It isn’t.

Here is a list of admonishments I have received while out with my daughter in her stroller at various stages of her 19 months here on earth. I am not going to dignify them with an explanation, I don’t owe anything to anyone.

1. On a scorching hot afternoon in May a woman told her husband as she passed by ‘oh that poor baby, with her thighs out in the cold! Doesn’t her mum afford a pair of tights? Poor baby!’

2. I was cuddling and kissing my daughter while walking to the car in a parking lot- ‘oh my God, is that lady going to keep kissing her baby? That’s why children are so spoilt now!’

3. My daughter removed her hair clip and her fringe was in her eyes- ‘why don’t you put a clip in her hair? Otherwise we can’t see her lovely face!’

4. ‘Oh Mary mother of Jesus, look at that baby with two fingers in her mouth!’

5. ‘What a little fatty that baby is! How tubby and fat!’

I’m reading over this list again and I can’t help imagining what it would be like if I said these things to the people who said them about my daughter and when it boils down to it, me…imagine if I went up to a random adult and said ‘hey lady, put some tights on, your thighs look chilly!’ It is considered incredibly rude to comment about other people’s bodies and do you know how many times I have to look away from teenagers running around Valletta, sticking their tongues down each other’s throats, giving each other a good old fashioned tonsil polish, yet people had something to say about a few pecks on the cheek for a baby.

I have a motto in life: before speaking I ask myself ‘is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?’

Mums are under so much pressure now…there is so much information out there that we worry ourselves sick if our child isn’t studying astrophysics by the time it’s 4 months old and we freak out if they aren’t pirhouetting down the stairs at 14 months old. The last thing we need is an unhelpful two bit comment which you might forget the moment to you pass us by but we cling to for days or sometimes weeks.

It’s downright mean. And asshole-ish.

Don’t be an asshole. Just shut-up. Your two cents are not welcome here.

I started a mom war.

My tiny one is 18 months. She toddles but prefers to be held and cuddled, understands everything, asks for things (well, more like demands), loves music and in general is an absolute delight. I especially love watching her interact with other children, it is so sweet, she is so friendly.

Another thing about my kid: she eats anything. There are very few things that she does not enjoy. That is one headache that I don’t have to deal with for now. Peas, spinach, chicken, fish, pasta, muesli…you name it, she will eat it. With gusto. Which is precisely what got me in trouble.

You see, many kids are not like vacuum cleaners when it comes to food. Many children are very, very picky. I found this out from the numerous mommy groups I am part of on social media.

Now I always try to give my kid fresh food and variety. From a plain omelette to chicken murg mahkani , she has tried it all and for the most part liked it and licked the plate when she’s done (I am actively trying to discourage this practice, but she only does this at home so I’m not too worried). But some of these other moms….wow. They put me to shame. They make these absolutely beautiful platters of food for their toddlers, on wooden plates in the shape of woodland animals. My goodness, I would gladly eat their fare, let alone my daughter. Seriously gorgeous stuff.

Now whether their kids actually eat this gourmet fodder is another story entirely as nobody posts pictures of their kids actually eating the food. They also don’t tell us just how long before their offspring destroyed their rose-shaped tomato and orange supremes. I distinctly remember one mum having the courage to show a little honesty and basically told us that her child refused to even nibble her turmeric and salmon fritters, which is a crying shame because I would have eaten them myself in a heartbeat.

So on day, I decided to poke a little fun. I was tired, I had a headache, and I turned to Captain Birdseye for my daughter’s lunch and steamed some peas for her and gave her a couple of crackers as an appetizer. It was a little half hearted, with slightly high sodium levels, but oh well. It also wasn’t exactly pretty:

The chicken nuggets were already inhaled at this point.

I posted this picture on social media and basically said that I’m a lazy mommy and Captain Birdseye was my friend.

Then I went to the toilet.

5 minutes later, I return to my phone and find 30 notifications.

Little did I know that while nature called, I had started a full-on mommy war.

Most mums were very understanding about how we all have off days.

But some mums accused me of depleting their self esteem because their kids ONLY eat chicken nuggets so are they lazy mums then? Huh?! Are they!?

Then quick as a flash, before I could intervene (because my motto is ‘don’t throw kerosene on a fire’) another mum said ‘yes! You are lazy if you make chicken nuggets every day!’


This was a joke! A funny, light hearted joke! A joke to show that we are mommies but we are also human and even though most wont admit it, convenience food can be a godsend! We can’t make organic falafel every single day. And not every vegetable we give our kids can come from a lush field where the fertilizer comes from unicorn poop and the air is purified through the flapping motions of the wings of a thousand majestic eagles. Sometimes we have to open a packet of frozen peas and get our kids fed on time, before the hunger whining sets in (and trust me, hunger whining makes you want to saw your ears off and coat them in breading and deep fat frying those suckers.)

I ended up deleting the post. I couldn’t deal with the drama. I’m exhausted all the time as it is with toddler drama, I can’t really do more.

But I do need to say one thing:

The mommy shaming has to stop. Everyone has a different reality to deal with. It’s not easy being a modern day mum.

But at the same time, I think we should lighten up and get a sense of humour….I find it helps me on the hard days.

School stories.

I’m very candid that school was not a fun time for me, I rarely went with any form of joy or vigour. School was a place where I was, for the most part, grossly misunderstood by my peers and teachers alike. It doesn’t mean that it was a bad school. It wasn’t. I just didn’t enjoy it much.

There were some funny moments however. At the time they did seem so, but twenty or so years later I am more than capable of seeing the funny side.

1. Needlework: for the first half of the school year in form 1 and 2 the class is divided in half, surnames beginning from a to m got to do home-economics and the rest had to do needlework. We were taught by a nun who had an obsession about not allowing students to walk behind her. She would sit like a queen at the head of this massive table and demonstrate what we were meant to do. On the first day we all had to say our names. When I said ‘Marie-Claire Pisani’ she looked with sudden interest.

Sister: Pisani? Are you Clementine’s girl?

(My mum taught at my school)

Me: yes, I am.

Sister: I was expecting a redhead!

Sorry sister, my dad has the coloring of a light skinned arab, so the ginger genetics didn’t quite swing my way.

Sister: are you quite sure Clementine’s your mother?

Me: yes, sister.

(Well, the woman comes home with me, has the massive c-section scar to prove it).

Sister: I thought you’d be a redhead.

Me: sorry to disappoint you sister.

Sister: mmmmmm.

I was rubbish at sewing. And we made the most useless stuff. Tissue box covers. Tacky Christmas decorations. Ugly stuffed animals.

Those stuffed animals. She made us stuff them until they were so hard, I considered carrying one around to use as a club if anyone bothered me. And she expected our stitches to be so tight, industrial strength, instead of tiny, 11 year-old finger strength. I remember distinctly that my friend made this awful blue teddy, and while the nun was inspecting it, she grabbed its nose and exclaimed ‘These stitches are too loose! What if a little boy were to do this?!’ and with Herculean effort, she tore the nose clean off poor teddy’s face, leaving a few strands of thread where his little snout once was. Everyone stared in horror at the newly mutilated bear and stitched with all their might with our miniscule pre-pubescent fingers.

In the end I whipped out my trusty stapler. Somehow, the nun didn’t notice. She was probably too distracted by my mundane Mediterranean appearance.

2. Religion lessons: in form one, we didn’t have religion. We had doctrine. Because that is precisely what it was. Our teacher told us plainly from day one that we are to study her notes off by rote, word for word because we were all too young to possibly be able to study any other way.

The condescending hussy. After all, why were her notes any authority on the teachings of the Catholic Church? Did she have weekly phone calls from the pope, giving her pointers on how to mold our young minds?

In her tests and exams, if you did not write out her notes as a perfect mirror image, she would deduct marks.

This woman absolutely didn’t score any points with me. And she made us learn the most useless rubbish. On her very first lesson with us, she handed out two A5 bits of paper with a list of every single book in the Bible, to be learned off by heart to get tested on later. I couldn’t remember this ridiculous list for the life of me so I actually composed a little song to help me.

I sometimes find myself thinking ‘hmmmm, let me dig up my bible and see what good old Hosea had to say about the modern day problems I face right now….’

Yeah, I really don’t do that. I never have. And when I was eleven I simply thought that Hosea was the funniest name I ever heard. I always imagined an old man with a beard, brandishing a hose.

Which is why making little kids study entire passages of prose by heart without any explanation is criminal …there I sat, learning that the book of Hosea exists, without knowing who Hosea was. To be entirely honest, I found out Hosea was actually a person because when I got home I asked my dad ‘What’s a Hosea and why is one so great that it has its own book in the Bible?’

The teacher’s reasoning behind giving us the laborious task of learning all the books in the Bible by heart? Because they’ll ask us about them in the o’level.

Five years passed. I did the religion o’level, aced it, no questions whatsoever on Hosea and his posse.

3. Luring us in: there are very few vocations to speak of nowadays. Part of going to a convent school involves constantly being reminded that if you want, you too can become a nun. This would be done in a number of ways-

(i) telling us all about ‘the call’: God will tell you specifically if He wants you to become a nun. It is very important to recognize the call as you can’t become a nun without it.

(ii) bribing us: on the notice board there was a sign to visit the nuns quarters if we wanted some ice cream. We were 11. We wanted ice cream. The moment we sat down to eat this ice cream, a herd of elderly nuns came out and told us about ‘the call’ and if we became nuns we could eat ice cream every day, which seemed wonderful and amazing. Ofcourse none of us knew what sex was and if we became nuns we would definitely not be having that every day. So in the grand scheme of things, ice cream looked pretty grand.

(iii) live ins: these would be weekends where we would basically sleepover at school and have the nuns take care of us. These would happen when we were slightly older, 14 or so. All the stops would be pulled out on these occasions: the best food, very little rules, being allowed to chat and run around all night…. because being a nun is fun! And before lights out we would be reminded about ‘the call’ and how we must obey it if it comes and it may come at any time.

(iv) we considered it: back then, nobody would admit it, but I’m sure the idea crossed all of our minds at some point. I thought of it for a few days. I even had the courage to tell a friend and we contemplated becoming nuns together.

Nobody in my year became a nun.

School is such an interesting experience. You spend the greater portion of your childhood in that place and certain experiences you kind of carry along with you forever. And what makes it so interesting is how your perspective changes when you look back: when you are very young, school is basically your world and all you know. As an adult, it feels like hardly a blip on this radar we call life.

When they taught us about time in primary school, I doubt we knew what a wondrous and mystifying thing it is.

I love my dad.

My dad is such a special guy. I’m sure a lot of people say that about their dads, but it’s really true about mine. It’s Father’s Day tomorrow and my hubby is entertaining the baby, so I’ll just write a quick post about how great and funny my dad is.

1. Once we were walking through Valletta when I was in my twenties and my dress was a little short. My dad told me “You are getting looks from unsavory characters…but don’t worry, if they try anything I’ll give them a knuckle sandwich!”

2. We had just arrived in Malta to live here for good in 1992. I was almost 7 and my dad and I went to Valletta to run errands, but in reality I think he just really wanted a chicken sandwich from Cordina. He told me ‘shall we make this fast and stand at the bar? I’ll get you a milkshake…’ So we stood at the bar. What my dad failed to realize was that I was 6 and couldn’t reach the bar, so while he ate his sandwich in a haze of nostalgic bliss, I was jumping with my arms outstretched trying to get my milkshake. When he had his last morsel and suddenly remembered that he had a daughter he said ‘don’t you want your milkshake? If not I’ll have it!’ Just as he was about to devour it, he became aware of my predicament and handed it down to me.

3. When I was 5, I had a crush on a boy at school. It was reciprocated. Before getting off the school bus at my house, I would give this boy a kiss on the cheek and he would give me one back and I’d be off. when my dad found out he told me very calmly that if that boy ever kissed me again he would keep his lips together for good with cement. The next day, when this boy turned to kiss me as I got off the bus I told him ‘better not, because if my daddy cements you’re lips together, you won’t be able to talk or eat and those things are more important than kissing.’ And I hopped off the bus.

4. When I was in form 1, my English teacher told my dad on parents day that my English left much to be desired. This came as a shock to my dad and he asked why and the teacher said it’s because I used words like ‘weird’ and ‘messy’ which were not appropriate in an English essay. Dad said ‘imma dawn hmerijiet!’ (but that’s nonsense) and he left.

5. Every birthday he makes me this special pork dish that’s really time consuming and nobody else likes but me. And he makes it every single year.

6. He ADORES my daughter. ADORES her. She’s the apple of his eye. He buys her toys and dresses and makes her special food. He put her picture in a special frame. Simply adores her.

7. When I was 20 and my sister was 15, we went out for a curry with my dad. I think my mum had papers to correct and my brother had to study which is why they didn’t join us. While waiting to be seated, my dad was daydreaming and the waiter approached my sister and I and said: ‘table for 2, girls?’ My sister replied: ‘and our father. So 3 please’ The waiter said ‘oh, what lucky girls you are, with a daddy who takes you out to dinner!’ Suddenly, my dad snapped back into consciousness and told the waiter ‘what are you talking about?!’ and the waiter said ‘oh no sir, no worries, I’m just having some fun with your girls, hee hee hee!’

Dad turned an interesting shade of puce.


‘Ok sir, so sorry sir, no fun sir, ever sir.’

‘GOOD. Now show us to our table please.’

Best. Curry. Ever.

Happy Father’s Day, dad. You are truly one in a million and we really love you.

A chicken sandwich and a memory

Today for lunch I made grilled chicken breasts with vegetables and potatoes, a pretty standard meal. As usual, I cooked enough for a family of five, so we had some leftover. However, I honestly did not feel like eating it again, so I figured I’d slice some up and make a sandwich.

I don’t know if it’s only me, but food often conjures memories and since being on lockdown, so many memories have just come flooding back and randomly racing through my mind.

And the chicken sandwich from Cordina is one of them.

During the ‘90s, being the good little catholic family that we were, we would hear mass every Sunday in Valletta at St. Barbara’s at 10am. In French. My mum is a massive Francophile, so we would troupe down there and listen to mass in French. It was generally very poorly attended so when my mother sang the hymns, you could REALLY hear her. It wasn’t nice. I can still hear her ‘seigneurRRRRRR ecouteEEEEE nous SEIGNEUR exauce nouUUUUUUUSSSSS!’ A voice that can turn milk into ricotta. But what she lacked in talent she made up for in enthusiasm. And she always delivered the readings for the congregation beautifully. There was also this member of the congregation who used to pull things out from between his teeth and rub them on the bench in front of him and then tried to shake your hand when offering peace. We fondly called him Monsieur Cure-Dent, or Mr. Toothpick, if you please.

Good times, fun stuff.

However the highlight would be going to Cordina afterwards. Us kids would be given pastizzi and milkshakes or cokes. But my dad would get the elusive chicken sandwich.

I was so curious about that chicken sandwich, but I knew better than to ask for one. When you are one of three siblings, if I got one the other two would have to get one too and I knew they probably cost a lot more than pastizzi. And pastizzi were great. So ah well. Also, watching my sister eat one was entertaining. When she was little she had this habit of doing what we called naked-ising food. Like if you gave her an aero mint chocolate bar, she managed to eat off the chocolate and leave a perfect green bubbly bar, grooves and all. She could nibble off the outer casing of garden peas. The girl had nimble teeth. When eating a cheese cake, she would manage to eat away the pastry and be left with this perfectly round disc of ricotta. It was quite impressive.

Yet one Sunday morning, my sister was at a sleepover and my older brother had severe allergies and had to stay home so I got to be an only child for a morning. We heard mass at St.Barbara’s and without my siblings, the congregation was even smaller than usual, making the acoustics insufferable.

Then we went to Cordina as usual. But this time, there were no siblings to speak of. I thought yes, now is my chance. I deserve a chicken sandwich. I’m a nice catholic girl who’s ear drums have just been assaulted with French hymn singing.

And I got one. We stood at the bar to eat it, so I could watch them make it. They brought out the chicken spread from an enormous stainless steel bowl. The lady was wearing these transparent gloves to make it, like at the delicatessen at a supermarket. It was placed in front of me on a little white saucer.

And it was delicious. It was everything I hoped it would be. And I felt so grown up and sophisticated. No pastizzi for this girl. She has risen up in the world. She eats delicate chicken sandwiches now.

Needless to say that next Sunday we were the five of us once again and this newly sophisticated young lady was back to pastizzi and watching her little sister perform surgery on hers.

In the mid ‘00s, they stopped making their chicken sandwiches with that delicious spread and now they are quite generic. Good, but not special.

In a desperate plight of nostalgia, this evening I tried to replicate that spread by blending up the chicken I made for lunch with some cream cheese and mayo and then added a few capers for good measure.

It was a very good attempt. Almost exact. I took a bite, in my kitchen, surrounded by baby snacks, the loud whirr of the robot vacuum on the floor and in my ratty pajamas and was immediately transported to the hustle and bustle of cafe Cordina on a Sunday morning, with the smell of coffee and a time where true happiness was a chicken sandwich.

The rain in Spain

After remembering my Hungarian disaster, memories came flooding back of past trips I’ve been on. It wasn’t disastrous, but definitely memorable.

1. In 2011 I visited the south of Spain with my mum, dad and sister. They were going on a tour organized by some agency and being seasoned tourists, they knew that going as an odd number is never a great idea because someone will have to sit near a stranger on the tour bus. Yeah, we are a friendly lot. So I went to Spain over Easter for 10 days.

2. We were a large group, two tour busses full. We had the plane to ourselves. I started to suss out the people I would be spending time with for the next week. Most of them were pensioners, there was one family with an 8 year old girl and a mother and daughter duo. But the person of note had to be the tour leader.

3. I honestly don’t remember his name. We called him Sean. No, he was not of Irish descent. But any word ending with ‘tion’ or ‘sion’ was over pronounced so he would say ‘today we are going to an exhibi-SHON followed by an excur-SHON to a renowned institu-SHON…’ so yeah, Sean. He also thought he was very funny. I have very little patience for people who think they are funny and then turn out not to be. He had free reign of the microphone on the tour bus where he would make crass jokes that nobody would laugh at and dedicate songs to various members of the tour. It would have been humiliating if he did not butcher the names of the other tourists so badly that we would have no idea who he was talking about.

4. The tour guide thought it would be amusing to change our names to have a more Spanish ring to them, so he would call me Maria Pellegrinos or my sister Georgina Pisanos (my sister’s name is Yvonne Georgette, but since he had a great devotion to St. George, he’d just leave out the Yvonne part). There was one old lady in our group, I think she was over 80 , Jane Borg who subsequently became Guzeppa de los Borgos, even though there is nothing Spanish about the name Guzeppa.

5. Guzeppa de los Borgos turned out to be quite a character. She was over 80, and even though the tour was pretty fast paced, she kept up quite well. One afternoon we were off to Seville and Sean did a head count and we couldn’t find Jane. And we were all frantic, calling out her name and looking for her… ‘Jane!’ ‘Jane!’ ‘Guzeppa de los Borgos!’ She was eventually found, fast asleep on the sofa of the hotel lobby.

6. My dad had an interesting nickname for her: the firecracker. This nickname had nothing to do with her speed and agility. No. It was because of the ripping farts she would let out while on the bus. The bus would be rank with the smell of Jane’s bum vapour. My dad, who is slightly deaf so he really yells when he talks, would shout out ‘oh God! The firecracker strikes again!’ Thank goodness, nobody could understand what he was on about. Kind of like Sean and his dedications.

7. We spent an afternoon at the Alhambra palace. It was amazing. And huge. We were given this high tech walkie talkie headset and we followed an expert on the place while he gave us explanations of everything and let us take pictures. I think it was my favourite part of the whole trip. When it was time to go back to the hotel, we piled in to the bus and the firecracker happened to be sitting in front of us sitting next to this other lady who happened to be a doctor who was traveling solo. We had been driving for half an hour when Guzeppa de los Borgos told the lady next to her ‘By the way, what am I meant to do with this?’ and she brought out the high tech walkie talkie from a plastic bag of souvenirs she was carrying. My sister burst out laughing and said very audibly ‘oh my God! The firecracker is a thief!’ The doctor momentarily had a look of horror on her face and told her ‘oh well, now leave it!’ Ah! She got herself an accomplice!

8. There was one guy who had a rather pronounced limp. His wife was a peroxide blonde screechy woman. Every day he would go up to my mum and dad and tell them how much he liked their daughters. Sometimes he would approach us directly and tell us. We named him Limp-perv.

9. Breakfast was a buffet every morning, generally consisting of buns and various cold cuts. But one morning there were strawberries and I nudged my sister because we both like them. As usual we would keep the table while my parents served themselves and then my sis and I switch places with them. When we got to the fruit table there were no strawberries to be seen. I guess we had imagined them or something. Later on the bus, Limp-perv’s wife opened her handbag and it was teeming with strawberries. When she noticed us noticing her, she hunched her shoulders and turned away from us. The selfish hussy.

10. Sean used to run through the streets of every place we would visit. This was not good for the pensioners. It wasn’t good for most people. At a point the eight year-old piped up and said ‘mummy, why is it like we are always in a hurry? It’s like he always has to go to the bathroom!’ Ah, from the mouth of babes….

11. It was Easter time and in Andalusia they make a huge deal, with massive processions attracting huge crowds. The crowds were moving way too slowly and my sister and I don’t do well with large amounts of people surrounding us, so I grabbed her hand and lead her to the front where there was more space. All of a sudden we heard a panicked bellow ‘MARIE-CLAIRE! YVONNE! WHERE ARE YOU??!’ May I mention that I was 27 and my sister was 23? I wonder what my dad thought? That we got lost maybe ten meters in front of them?

All in all, we had a great time and it was a great holiday. I had never been to Spain up until that point and it was a wonderful experience. I hope to travel again with my sister, hopefully with Eloïse in tow. I can’t wait.

The Hungarian disaster.

I haven’t travelled in a really long time and lately I was reminiscing about past trips. Most of the time, my holidays have been great fun, but one sticks out as being the complete opposite of fun. It was an awful horrendous shit show. I refer to it fondly as:


It was 2003. I was 19 and quite active with the Green Party. I was young and idealistic and I was kind of discovering the world somewhat. This opportunity to go on an exchange in Hungary came my way with a group of friends and we took it. We thought it would be fun. And it was practically free. It was linked with the Green Party, and meant for ‘young European greens’. So I’ll just break this down and begin at the beginning.

1. It was to be a camping, outdoors experience in a remote part of Hungary called Kesztolc. Now, this would be an immediate deterrent for me, as I am partial to being able to flush away my personal waste. However the email exchanges made this camp site seem quite civilized. They mentioned eco-toilets and eco-showers and a functional kitchen. So we were sold. We were told we would be provided with a luxury tent so we didn’t have to bring our own. Oh and it was an all vegetarian camp.

2. On the day we had to leave, our group leader had to drop out as he got chickenpox. Another member of our group’s grandma had passed away the night before, so he was out too. From a group of six we became four. All of a sudden, the group seemed rather mismatched. I only really and truly knew one of them particularly well. The other was an old school friend who I had kind of lost contact with and the final member, the last guy on the team happened to be someone I had dated briefly and didn’t end particularly well.

3. We arrived really late at the camp site, it was already dark. The campsite was on an incline. The luxury tent was a kind of makeshift teepee/wigwam. Where the foundation poles met at the top was a gaping hole. And it was freezing. The eco toilet was a bucket with two planks across it, one for each butt cheek, surrounded by transparent cheese cloth for privacy. Near the ‘receiving bucket’ was another bucket full of ash and a little shovel. The idea was to smother your poop with ash when you were done. Someone had been there before me. There was like a small, ash covered Eiffel Tower in the bucket. When I urinated on it, some of the ash washed away. It wasn’t nice.

4. We were actually given chores. We had days where we had to go shopping at a tiny grocer that was nearby and make breakfast and dinner for the camp. Since it was a vegetarian camp, my friend and I decided to make minestra. We bought all the vegetables and set ourselves up in the kitchen. The kitchen was a chopping board, a cauldron and fire. That was the ‘fully functioning kitchen’. The cauldron was so old and used that it was making the stock go an interesting grayish purple colour. Everyone in the camp (and believe me when I say half of Europe was there) ate it without qualms. Being Maltese, we made too much and it was left in the cauldron overnight. By then, the stock was deep grey and it had congealed. The hippies ate it for dinner again. I was surprised that nobody had died.

5. By day four, the small Eiffel Tower in the poop bucket was looking more like the tower of Pisa, and almost the same scale. The poop had surpassed the planks of wood and you could no longer sit if you needed to do your business. People were still optimistically trying to cover it with ash which resulted in this large fuzzy swamp creature ready to engulf you. That is if the fumes didn’t first.

6. The eco shower. It was a hose with one temperature: cold. Again more transparent cheesecloth for privacy. Shower gel and shampoo were banned from this camp because the residue is very bad for the environment. I was expected to wash myself using ash. Well, I’m not the contents of the eco toilet, so I disobeyed and snuck in soap, shampoo and conditioner. I’m such a rebel, wanting to be clean and all. When the camp leaders approached me later they were very suspicious that I smelt of the body shop ananya range. I said it was my natural scent. Yep.

7. The camp had a dog. His name was Toponc. Even the dog was a hippie. He was a Hungarian Puli dog, their coat is naturally formed into dreadlocks. Toponc looked like this:

Toponc was dirty, slobbery and rank, but he had a very sweet and friendly nature. One of the Maltese contingent sharing our teepee was a total slob. She was constantly eating, leaving crumbs everywhere, she spilt a sugary drink on someone’s sleeping bag and eventually attracted ants. Low waisted jeans were very fashionable back then and she wore hers with a thong, which was ALWAYS visible. Oh, and she had no qualms farting in public while sitting on someone else’s sleeping bag. Also, she was hoarding meat that she was buying from the supermarket like ham and salami. She was also constantly accusing others of stealing her ‘loot’. Well one afternoon I headed back to the tent to get my jacket and there was Toponc, sitting on my sleeping bag, chowing down on the meat stash. The camp prided itself with having a vegetarian dog. Ah well, not anymore.

8. The meat was too much for dear Toponc and he vomited on my friend’s sleeping bag. She ended up having a massive row with the slob. That’s when we had enough and three of us ran away to Budapest. The slob stayed at the camp.

9. We found out that there wasn’t a bus to Budapest until the next day. We were desperate and did something insane. We hitched. A man passed by with his young daughter in the front seat. It was crazy but we did it. Turned out it was a really nice guy. But it could have also ended very badly.

10. We checked into a hotel and jumped up and down on the beds. We soaked for hours in the bath. We flushed the toilets because we could. We hadn’t eaten in 4 days and we went to a restaurant and ordered a three course meal and had terrible indigestion.

11. On catching the subway back to the hotel we got fined because we bought the wrong train tickets. My friend elbowed me in the ribs and told me ‘cry!’ and I said ‘what?’ she went ‘I said cry, for Christ’s sake!’ So we both went ‘Waaaaaaaaaaah!’ We still got fined, but less. The guy I used to date who was with us had to pay the full fine. Ha ha.

12.There was some festival in Budapest at the time, so we only had the hotel for a couple of nights. We spent the last night asleep on the floor of the airport. The only time the airport was totally empty was between 3am and 4am. The flight was at 7am. A security guard came by to check our passports and I was shitting myself thinking she was going to throw us out into the streets at 3.30 in the morning, but she didn’t. We caught our flight at 7am and finally got home.

At the end of the day, I don’t regret a thing. 16 years have passed, and my friend and I still mention this disaster. It’s one of those memories that always makes me laugh.

I don’t know when I’ll get to travel again, but I know I will never have another experience like that.

Goodbye grandma.

Yesterday my phone rang and I didn’t pick it up, as it was on the other side of the room and I was feeding the baby. It rang again but I still couldn’t pick up. My husband asked ‘do you think it’s urgent?’ to which I answered ‘probably not….’ because let’s face it, since we’ve been on lock down and implementing social distancing, my phone has been pretty busy. But then my husband’s phone rang and it was right next to him and it was my dad.

My grandma died.

She was 96 and a really tough old bird. She was so tiny, but mighty. She was my godmother twice. She actually came to Canada back in 1984 for the baptism and I understand that traveling wasn’t so easy in the 80s. The second time was for my confirmation, which was in Mosta, an understandably easier commute. I remember there was a girl with a really ugly dress, it had a ton of ruffles and she could barely sit in it. My grandma whispered rather audibly ‘what a ridiculous dress!’ and I remember just nodding, because well, it was kind of true. Nanna always called it as she saw it.

I did not have much of a relationship with my grandparents because the greater part of my childhood was spent in Canada. We would come to Malta during summer holidays, whirlwind sojourns trying to cram all our friends and relatives in the couple of months that we would be there.

But I do remember all of us meeting at her house, the cousins were all quite close in age…my uncle’s first was born in ‘83, I was born in ‘84 and my other cousin in ‘85. And coincidentally, our children were also born in succession, one in 2017, the other in 2018 and mine in 2019.

We used to play hide and seek around her house and sometimes pick capers from the bushes nearby. It’s so funny, back then my older brother, born in ‘78 seemed ancient and my little sister born in ‘88 seemed so little. My grandma would make cheese sandwiches and we would drink all her orange squash. We used to mix it with sparkling water and call it Fanta because my grandma had this weird aversion to soft drinks.

When I was 9, my grandma wanted to make me a dress. It was not very important if I actually wanted a dress, because she REALLY wanted to make me a dress. Remember, my grandma only sort of knew me, we hardly had any relationship to speak of and at the time, dresses weren’t really my thing. She made me a grey dress with pink buttons. If I walked over a grate, it would inflate. It was a bad dress. But it was made with so much love, that I ended up wearing it quite often. I wish I still had it.

She also saved my ass once. At school we had needlework and I was terrible at it. We had to make a tissue box cover (now that’s truly ridiculous) and mine looked more like a misshapen shower cap. She fixed it for me in a heartbeat and I didn’t have to face the wrath of sister Doris.

When she got to know I was pregnant, she was 95 and her health was going downward and obviously she was not as sharp as she used to be, but she would always ask my parents if I was ok.

Rest in peace, dear nanna. We live in weird times where you can’t be given a funeral but I’m sure all those who knew you are thinking of you.

My grandma on her wedding day

Grandma and I 4 years ago

Some funny things.

Today I’m feeling a little down in the dumps. The worst part is that nobody knows when it could possibly end.

At times like these, I like to think of ‘funny things’. Funny things that have happened to me or in my presence. For some reason, I seem to attract weird situations. I’ll be just minding my own business and bang, I find myself in some odd situation which later makes me smile. Big emphasis on the word ‘later’. So I decided to list some of them to make myself smile and hopefully others who are reading this post.

1. I am from Lebanon: I was at work and I like patients to keep their curtains open if possible, so if something bad happens, I’ll know right away. So I was absentmindedly opening curtains and I accidentally opened the curtain on a little old lady who was about to get dressed, with her daughter giving her a hand.

Me: oh, I’m sorry, please excuse me…

Old lady: oh don’t worry, you’re a lady too! I’m not going to impress you….unless you are…you know…

Me: I don’t know what you are talking about…

Old lady: oh you know….*whispers* Lebanese!

Well, I do make a mean tabouleh….

2. Good Friday: I had only ever seen a Good Friday procession when I came to Malta…in Canada there is no such tradition. I was always impressed by the hooded participants dressed in white so during a religion lesson when I was eleven, the teacher asked if we had any questions regarding Easter traditions and I asked why do members of the Ku klux klan take part in the procession. (Anyone who went to sacred heart, I asked this of Mrs. Fenech, who didn’t take kindly to such an inquiry).

3. A bit crass: Maltese was not my greatest forte and I needed to go to the bathroom during the Maltese lesson…so I asked my teacher ‘Nista mmur sal-loki?’ I had heard my grandmother refer to the toilet like that and honestly had no idea that it was not used in polite conversation. I mean, my grandma said it, it couldn’t have been that bad, right? (Again, those at sacred heart, this was with Mrs. Grech who was much kinder when it came to childhood idiocy)

4. The one toilet: back in st.lukes, where I used to work, there was only one staff toilet. I had drank about six cups of coffee during my break and I bolted for it because I was absolutely bursting. When I lifted the toilet lid, there was this massive log of faeces just staring back up at me. It was HUGE, the ends of it were poking out of the water. Ew, who was this dirty pig who didn’t flush? Anyway, I flushed hastily, emptied my bladder and as I opened the door, I came face to face with another member of staff, holding a can of air freshener clearly at the ready to take care of his disgusting deposit. Busted. We looked each other in the eye, he grabbed his air freshener, twirled it around like a majorette’s baton and gave a little whistle and walked away, like he always just happens to walk around with air freshener in his hands. Always prepared. Like a Boy Scout.

5. In church: St. Paul’s church in Valletta is kind of notorious for attracting weirdos and we used to go there quite often because my uncle who was a priest would say mass. Well, right in the middle of his homily, an old man walked right up to the altar and just snapped a picture of my uncle saying mass. Now this was the mid nineties, there weren’t any discreet camera phones or digicams. This old man brought out this massive instamatic camera complete with flash cubes and snapped away. Then out of nowhere, he pulled out a hotdog and went to town on it.

There are many more where those came from and I will try think of more to share in the coming weeks.

Stay positive people.

One is not necessarily the loneliest number.

I’m sitting in our living room. It is quite spotless. I have disinfected everything, even my daughter’s toys. She hasn’t been out of the house in ages and neither have I. We are getting our purchases delivered to us, but since my husband has to go to work, he bites the bullet, armed with sanitizer and gloves and goes to the local grocer to get us our essentials.

We plan everything to the letter. We have planned our meals for the next number of days and made sure to buy all the ingredients so he won’t have to make more trips than absolutely necessary. Usually, I just wing it…go to the supermarket, see what’s fresh or if there are special offers or I wake up with an idea I want to execute. That’s a luxury that had to be extinguished. We reorganized our cupboards and went through everything and planned meals around the stuff so as not to waste.

In a strange way, this behavior somehow makes me feel as if I’m a little in control of everything that’s going on. I mean, I know I’m not. But seeing the cupboards all organized, seeing my lists, allows me to breathe. This is an altogether alien feeling for me. I’m a notoriously untidy person. I’m a firm advocate of the ‘dust if you must’ philosophy and I look upon those obsessed with having everything in place as vapid and substituting having a personality with orderliness.

Well, my eyes have been truly opened. I understand. Keeping things in order honestly gives one a sense of control. I see it. I feel it.

I’m not panicking about covid-19. I’m oddly calm. Unhappy, but calm. And I’m tired. Sometimes I get some horrible thoughts, but thank goodness they are fleeting. I make an effort not to dwell on them. I’m very good at dealing with whatever is thrown my way and if something awful does happen, I’ll figure it out, as I have always done.

I have renewed my parental leave (well, pending acceptance). I did this in an effort to safeguard my daughter since I am in a lucky position to be able to. Or is it lucky? Because a big part of me feels like such a coward. My colleagues are all on the frontline, fighting and here I am, holed up at home, making lists and re-organizing things. It’s a double-edged sword, because I went through so much to just be able to have a baby so I protect her with all I’ve got but at the same time I could actually tangibly help in the fight against the corona virus and I’m not.

I have my husband and my daughter and I feel so loved. But I miss all the other people in my life. I want to walk arm in arm with my sister. I want to hug my best friend. I wanted to restart my career. I want to have brunch with my posse.

All in all, staying indoors is not like some big sacrifice, nothing near the sacrifices people in war torn countries have to make.

Maybe, in a way, this can be a time of reflection: never ever take the people you love for granted. Savor every hug and kiss and conversation and handshake.

Stay safe.

Stay inside.

But also, stay sane.