Friday, 19 October 2007

Malta VI

Our last day was horribly grey, windy and wet. We took Lu and Arrow to Ta' Qali, the old RAF air strip from WWII that is now turned into a craft 'village' and pootled around Mdina glass for a while. It's quite fun, as you see Maltese glass blowers actually plying their trade, with typical lack of care for their own safety. I didn't see a single pair of protective glasses, an apron, or anything at all really. One female glass blower sported a fetching pair of high heeled sandals. I can't imagine what would have happened to her feet if she'd dropped any white-hot glass on them. They all wandered around with iPods plugged in, molten bits of blown glass at the end of long poles, and nary a care in the world. The glass, though, was beautiful.

Less beautiful are the depressing shacks where silver workers produce the usual filigree, and Maltese crosses, and attempt to flog them to curious tourists. Sad.

It being a dull day, and having done so much, we couldn't really summon up the energy to have a big sight-seeing day, so after Ta' Qali we set off on a long trip round the island, taking in the coastal road and finishing up at St George's Bay where Lu had to buy herself a Hard Rock Café t-shirt for some reason (!). The usual bedlam of poor signing, diversions and appalling traffic served to put me in a thoroughly bad temper, but a cup of terrible coffee at one of the tourist bars you find in that neck of the woods cheered me up. There's nothing like reminding yourself how lucky you are not to be staying in Package Tour Hell to give your mood a boost.

Once the t-shirt was bought and a geochache found, we set off in search of lunch. Astonishingly we drove right the way round the coast and found nothing open at all, despite it being the most touristy part of the island. We eventually ended up at the St James Centre in Valletta eating tolerable pizza while the rain tipped down on the awning beneath which we huddled.

The rest of the day was devoted to football, which was my concession to myself. Arrow and I found - eventually - a café in Porto Masso with the right channel, and we witnessed England get soundly and rightfully beaten by Russia in Moscow. It was the England of old: hoof the ball long, lose possession, defend, then hoof the ball long. When will Steven Gerrard actually produce a performance worth noting for England?

Anyway, they lost, so it's highly doubtful they'll qualify for the European championships and I can be left in goddamned peace. Scotland managed to get themselves gubbed by Georgia as well, which is just the shit icing on the cake of shit, really.

After watching the England game, we zoomed back to the house, dropped Lu and Fisher off and picked up Ma, and headed to the National Stadium to watch Malta try not to finish bottom of the group as they battled Moldova. We arrived a few minutes after kick off, to find the skies open and bucketing down, while everyone stood willy nilly wherever they chose. No stewards kept people in their seats, so I spent an inordinate amount of time asking people to stop standing in front of us so we couldn't see.

The first half was dire. Malta went 0-3 down and looked to have no answers at all to Moldova's more organised attack. The second half was equally dreadful, until the last 15 minutes when their burly number 3 went on a chest-thumping run up the field before passing to some geezer, who managed to keep possession even after a solid tackle and score a superb goal, bending the ball along the ground, round the keeper's outstretched hand and into the bottom right corner. The stadium went mildly crazy, but not nearly as insane as when a penalty was awarded a few minutes later and the ball was coolly slotted past the keeper to make it 2-3. Alas, although their efforts were valiant, Malta couldn't score again and the game finished with a disappointing loss.

I don't think Ma will be back in a hurry - at least, not in weather like that! - but she did get terribly excited over the two Malta goals, to the extent she nearly poked the poor bloke behind us in the eye with her umbrella as she yelled 'whoopee!' and waved it frantically in the air.

We returned home drenched, ate bread and soup, and turned in for an early night. It was a 5am start the next day, followed by the usual hell of travel - but the rewards at the end were great, as LC had not only kept our pooches happy as lambs, but cleaned the house from top to bottom as well! There's nothing better than a clean house and ecstatic dogs.

And that, amigos, is that.