Friday, 8 March 2013

Enjoy Your Visit! ... and Memories of Malta

Couldn't believe this was a genuine sign when I came across it in a London park.  But it is.


Now what else could I add to the list?  How about this one:


"Just don't come here at all" ?

Actually it was quite a nice park, and perhaps better for not having all those things done in it - who knows?

I mightn't hurry back to that particular park, but one place I WOULD like to be is exploring the incredible fortifications of Grand Harbour, Valletta,  Malta.  I've just written a little piece about the island, and it reminded me so much of what it used to be like when I lived there as a teenager. What fun it was clambering around these huge ramparts - probably quite dangerous at times, but I didn't think about that.

My dad worked in the big building shown in the picture - it's called the Auberge de Castille.   It was very grand.  We would go to balls there occasionally. For a teenager it was rather amazing, and distinctly Edwardian, dancing quadrilles, believe it or not) wearing long evening dresses,  in these vast, grand, wood panelled rooms. (Er, what century was that, again?)



If I could walk into that old picture I'd be able to go and visit my dad at the Castille. Then I could catch the huge rattly lift down to the launch, and go back by sea to the lido near our house, and my mum would be there, pruning the grape vines or something..

Sigh, oh well, those times are gone. I am glad I had the chance to do it, though. Malta's got a lot more developed since those days, and I'm glad I knew it when the dghajsas and luzzu (traditional boats) were used every day, and not just for tourists,


(Photo  www.triporiginator.com)

....and donkeys were used to work the stony farms and we'd go and idle away hot afternoons with lemon granitas and cheese pies from the venerable Caffe Cordina.  

It was a hard life for most people,  though and I imagine most Maltese people prefer it the way it is now.  I went back more than ten years ago to write a feature on it for an American magazine, and I was pleased that so much remained unchanged, although I doubt anyone dances quadrilles any more.

In fact I can hardly believe that we did it then. But we did. While searching for a clip I found this, which I think is quite brilliant.    I love to see him changing partners, advancing, etc. all by himself.  Actually when danced for real (rather than extra-carefully as a "historical dance") it's lots of fun.




59 comments:

  1. It is the lovely kind of humour you rarely find these days anymore in movies, I'm afraid.
    Your description of your teenage years on Malta do sound like something from a different century... well, in fact, it WAS a different century; my own teenage years were in a different century, too!
    Malta is a place I've long had on my list of places I really want to see. But sadly, it is also one of those places I keep saying "some day..." and so far have not managed to actually do anything about it. Ah well, some day...!

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  2. Wonderful post
    Stepping into the photo to see your Father is a wonderful and loving thought.

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  3. Interesting memories to look back on. I've never visited Malta, but have met a few Maltese people since living in Canada. All spoke of it fondly.
    I remember Richard Hearne appearing on Sunday Night at the London Palladium, when I was a child. Corny now, but we thought it was hilarious.
    xx

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  4. Such an interesting life you had and continue to have. So nice of you to share it with us!

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  5. I know a few people who have been to Malta and have said that it is a nice place. Your photos are lovely.

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  6. Sounds like a dream, quadrilles and all.

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  7. Oh, my gosh! That first sign is just too much! What do they expect you to do, just stand there and look at it?

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  8. What an amazing sign!! I wonder how many people actually take the time to look at it carefully and absorb all the restrictions. I would admittedly like to post that sign in my neighborhood.

    The Auberge de Castille is wonderful and you are fortunate to have so many treasured memories connected with it.

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  9. Oh that clip - I'm still giggling.

    Right, laughing tears dried, and I'm trying to choose between Malta and a London park in the rain ... um ...

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  10. What a remarkable place to spend your growing up years. It's so beautiful -- my heart would pound and I can only imagine a ball would be quite grand! And the sunny water/gondola photo -- it's a bit like a dream with that big splash of yellow! Thanks for taking us to a spot I've never seen and probably won't, but can imagine now.

    And the park sign totally cracked me up!

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  11. Don't you just love government speak? I recently received a government form which says, "Provision of this information is voluntary. However, failure to provide it may lead to the rejection of your application." Can't beat that for clarity!

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  12. What a wonderful post! I felt a whole range of emotion from indignation to nostalgia to laugh-out-loud. I loved your memories of Malta, thanks for sharing. It would be so wonderful to walk into that picture and visit with your father. I never went to a dance with my parents--I don't know that they ever did themselves. I did learn to do a quadrille and the Virginia Reel at a wedding in a historic town in Pennsylvania in the 70s. It was great fun and, most likely, a once in a lifetime event.

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  13. The sign reminds me of the conversation, "Be good, have fun!" "Well, which do you want me to do?" ;)

    You have had some amazing adventures, and the dance does sound like fun.

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  14. What wonderful memories and experiences of such an enriching upbringing. What a place Jenny!

    Sad, but over here in many places around Oz along with designated "dog parks" there are now designated parks for being permitted to play with a ball!
    Good heavens whoever would have thought!

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  15. What an I interesting childhood you had. Nothing but our memories remain the same.

    Loved the video.

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  16. Lovely memories, and gorgeous photos, Jenny. I was supposed to go to Malta a few weeks back, but events conspired against me and I didn't make it. I think I would have loved it when you were there too.

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  17. It's fun going back to places from your past and revisit/remember things like this. I can remember going to special events where I had to wear a long dress. I also remember that things like dancing wasn't as easy as one would have thought it to be...

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  18. I wish I could travel as much as you do.

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  19. How wonderful to have memories of growing up in Malta! I have never been there, but my in-laws spent a winter there a number of years ago.

    LOL at the sign in the park!

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  20. I haven't been to Malta, but my mum goes regularly. I'm pretty sure I'd love it :-)

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  21. That's my kind of park.
    I've had Malta on my wish list for a while.

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  22. Thank you for the memories - our friend in Malta used to work in that building (I think) when he was a Private Secretary for the PM. When we visited there, he took us round the Island on several occasions as a sortof guided tour. We would not have loved the Island so much if he hadn't showed us some of its treasures. Haven't been for a couple of years as we are now exploring Scotland but your post brought back some wonderful memories.
    Thank you again.

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  23. Saw your blog. Funny park signs. Where's the "No reading signs" sign?

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  24. This post is a giggle from the “no walking” sign to the dancing man at the end. In between I found your adventures as a teen amid ancient buildings and gorgeous (albeit at times dangerous) settings fascinating. Funny how we take risks as teens without thinking of the dangers. I remember taking long treks on a train track with no where to run on either side should a train go by … gives me a sweat just to think about it. :)

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  25. Jenny, I'd love to visit Malta! your story and photos are interesting!
    I know some Russian students who studied English in Maltese Language school. They were pleased with the quality of education. Have a nice Sunday evening!

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  26. Such enchanting memories! Quadrilles and long evening dresses in your teen years. Quite different from mini-skirts and rock'n'roll. I remember laughing myself silly as a kid, along with my grandmother, watching Mr.Pastry...probably on the Ed Sullivan show.

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  27. The first photo looks like the entrance to a railway tunnel. Is it? Or is it something more mysterious? In any case, I like it.

    The park signs are amazingly ridiculous. It reminds me of a scene from a Three Stooges film where they are walking through the woods and come upon all of these different signs - "No Hunting", "No Camping", "No Fishing", on and on, another six or seven of them, then finally, "No Nothing - Scram!"

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  28. All places are haunted, one way or another.

    Quadrilles are fun, and I always think of Alice and the Lobsters.

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  29. I must confess I'm with the park regulations! Kensington Gardens when I was there was in danger of being taken over by neds playing football or such like. Too much crime attached to them then.

    Malta looks good in the sun! One day when rich.......!

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  30. The green in front of Exeter Cathedral might be able to beat that park sign. I know there were so many circular 'don't's on it that I was quite taken aback and felt how unwelcoming it was. (Though I don't recall the don't pick flowers one - I assume that is what a line through a flower means - or perhaps it means we don't allow flowers in here?) Do people not realise how off-putting that sort of thing is? Surely there is snother way of politely asking people to 'Please use this park respectfully' or something like that? (I just re-read your sign and see it actually uses the word respect - in terms of people - but that got totaslly lost in my instant impression of the 'don't's.)
    Thank Heavens you went on to tell us about your teenage years in Malta. So happy-making. Being a bloke I'm not sure that dancing quadrilles would have been my style but then again - if I had lived in that century, I mean country, perhaps I would have learned to dance.
    A lovely post, thank you, Jenny.

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  31. You lived in Malta? I'd love to hear more Malta memories!

    PS: That sign chock-a-block with instructions? That looks like a pretty standard Japanese sign. :D

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  32. Those park signs - well, come to Malaysia. You see all the stuff you are not supposed to do in a park, here. ;p

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  33. Sounds like Malta used to be in a bit of a time warp, what with the quadrilles, the long evening dresses, the donkeys. From what I can gather it's a still in a bit of a time warp - like parts of Northern Ireland! I'd like to visit though, it looks very pretty.

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  34. Hmmm, that park wasn't Victoria Embankment Gardens was it? Those gardens are behind my work and it is irritating that you can't even sit on the grass when it gets packed in the summer.

    It sounds like you had an idyllic time growing up in Malta. I grew up in a very urban, concrete world and the only dancing we did was in discos and later clubs!

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  35. oh i would love to visit...what a cool castle...and riding a gondolla...ha on that park...no ball games...for real....we would not be able to visit it....

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  36. That surely sounds like a very "peculiar" type of park! :-) Thanks for the introduction to Malta, a country of which I've heard a lot but which I've never visited. Lovely photos.

    Greetings from London.

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  37. Oh my, that sign! I love your own idea for an addition:) And such a contrast with the beauty, airiness and sun from the Malta photos. I've never been but what a place and what warm memories you shared. Thank you.

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  38. En fait, là, il n'est pas interdit d'interdire.

    A little hello from Lausanne, Switzerland.

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  39. Nice reminicing Jenny. I also enjoyed the short video - Dave

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  40. Who? What? is the park meant for, I wonder! Unbelievable!

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  41. The park signs make you wonder, it would take so long to read them all it would be time to go home. Enjoyed your description of living in Malta. What great memories.

    Darla

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  42. Thank you for the nice and interesting comments, and it was nice to see some new names which I did not recognise, I shall visit your blogs and make your acquaintances!

    One of the things that intrigues me about the Mr. Pastry clip is that he is flinging himself around so much (and it's such a nice piece of miming) that I suppose he must be younger than he looks. I've just looked him up on Wikipedia and so I suppose he must have been about 50. And he was also interviewed to be "Dr Who" but wanted to play it for laughs so it went to Tom Baker instead. What we learn, eh?

    Malta is a very small and crowded island, actually but very interesting. It was strange to return there to write a major article a few years ago.

    Yes, Scriptor Senex, one does feel that there could be a better way of getting the message across to people that they need to treat the park well. In fact, I think that too many "don't" signs can be counter productive, they alienate people and make them not want to take care. Yep, Suldog, the 3 Stooges got it right as usual. :)

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  43. Hi Jenny,

    My um eagerly anticipated arrival was delayed due to me signing autographs for all my adoring fans. Okay, delusional moment is over.

    Today, I'm going to keep my comment mercifully brief. I certainly enjoyed my visit and it was a fascinating read about Malta. Nice and reflecting. I must go now because there is a sign that indicates my meter has run out.

    Be well, Jenny

    Gary

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  44. London is full of signs telling us what we can't do. I guess we need rules in such a big city. As for you, well, it looks like you had quite an unusual upbringing. I have never been to Malta and absolutely need to go.

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  45. The loss of the quadrille.

    I shall think of that today. :-)

    Pearl

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  46. Ah dear Mr Pastry, the original slapstick! Thank you for this clip. We went to Malta a few years ago as my hsuband had last visited as a teenager with his parents and wanted to re-live some memories I think. We enjoyed it very much and I do remember taking pictures of those colourful traditional boats. I had a great-great grandfather who served at the Malta Barracks between 1821-8.

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  47. Ha ha I loved that video. He was great!


    So does that mean it's was okay to erm, have a bit of hanky panky in the park? Or just topless sunbathing then? :D

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  48. No wonder you became a travel writer!
    And the Mr. Pastry clip is a great way to learn the quadrille.

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  49. I would be surprised if there is a no walking sign at the park although people here are not allowed at the park in the middle of the night. It sounds like you had an adventurous childhood. No wonder you grew up to be a travel writer!

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  50. I have never been to Malta, and I am jealous. The pictures are beautiful! As for the park, they couldn't put up a sign like that here in the USA. God only knows what people would do there!

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  51. Hi Jenny!

    Well they sure know how to welcome people into that park, don't they. Perhaps they could have just reduced it to one sign -- No Cell Phones. That would have cleared out a huge chunk of the population.

    I was enthralled by your youth in Malta -- dancing quadrilles in grand ballrooms and living by the seaside. Aaahhh. I've never been to Malta but am now intrigued. The closest I've ever been is to Morocco. Coincidentally, I was just messaging an old friend today and described wandering through the labyrinthine walls of Fez. Every step and every turn took you further back in time. Have you done any travel writing there?

    Hope all is well with you and family.

    Jenny

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  52. Malta has always been on my list of places to visit 'sometime' along with Greece. You've re-awakened my interest and pushed it up the list quite a lot with the post and then down a bit with the comment that it is very crowded. A lot of friends have connections with the Island (a few have lived there 'tho more recently than you) so I had better seek advice and get a move on.

    I did love the days when I used to go to functions wearing a dinner jacket as a matter of course. Having said that I rarely enjoyed the actual functions. Peacock syndrome I suppose.

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  53. I have never been to Malta and it sounds interesting as I read about your childhood adventures.
    We have lots of such signs on our tiny island, many visitors called us 'a fine city. hehe....

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  54. Is that all the nos? Give it another year and they'll have at least doubled.

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  55. Malta is very popular with the Italians and very easy to get to from Italy, yet we have not visited, somewhere we would like to though. Thanks for your recent kind words about my husbands health.

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  56. Hello Jenny, it was good to hear from you in your recent comment. It was so interesting to read about your life in Malta once upon a time. The dancing part did sound a little Nineteenth Century didn't it! I know it must have been a little bittersweet for you to look at these photos and remember your dad and mom and your life then, but good to remember nonetheless. You seem to have had some wonderful experiences in your childhood.

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  57. Excellent post Jenny and how wonderful it would be if we could step into photo's and in doing so recapture our past... lovely thought.

    Anna :o]

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  58. I wonder if you are allowed to smile in that park!

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  59. Are you Maltese? Both my parents are. We were just there last year.

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