16 June 2013


San Dimitri, Gozo
Like Malta, Gozo is rich in history - a history that reaches far back in time - before The Pyramids, before Stonehenge. These islands are at the very crossroads of past civilisations. The Knights of St John built many defences here in the middle ages, sometimes using stones cut from Roman quarries. And the Maltese islands sit at the very edge of the Christian world - next stop North Africa and the fearsome otherness of Islam.

Last evening I wandered off from our little quadrangle of apartments and away from the village of Gharb - out towards the coast in golden June sunshine - along ancient tracks and pathways. Fields met together like jigsaw pieces - laboriously terraced by long departed farmers. The grey soil is just dust - such an unpromising nursery for little seedlings. Here those who till the land must coax it with  the accumulated ingenuity and guile of five thousand years. Water - that's what plants need - but what do you do if it hardly ever rains and you get winters like the last one that can be summarised in just one word - dry?

Into a hidden valley and up the other side past the crumbling remains of former agricultural buildings and little stone homes - all with forgotten stories to tell. Then there on the ridge with the blue of the Mediterranean sea behind it shone the honey-coloured Chapel of San Dimitri in its glorious isolation looking to the island's rolling hinterland. Madly I tried to capture it with my little digital camera - aware that the gorgeous evening light would soon dissipate. Stumbling and striding over fields and walls I finally came to the chapel's threshold and looked inside where little candles flickered in coloured glass jars.

Then I turned to Gordan Lighthouse on a dramatic rocky outcrop half a mile away. More striding and stumbling and as I drew nearer the difficulty of the ascent became more apparent. Fields of thistles and bamboo. Base rock like clods of dried earth denying me footholds. Huffing and puffing then over the protruding limestone lip near the top and there she was - the great lighthouse that dominates the west of the island. Erected in the 1840's, her light still shines out across the tempestuous sea.

By the lighthouse's southern wall a silent  rabbit hunter with rifle cocked and combat gear was surprised by my approach. I tiptoed by and down the rugged track that would eventually lead me back past  light-fading fields of melons and cabbages, courgettes, grey dust and multi-coloured flowers all the way to Gharb where Shirley had concocted a tuna and tomato sauce for our second pasta dinner of this lovely long weekend in Gozo. I had been away two and a half hours and darkness had finally fallen.
Gordan Lighthouse, Gozo


  1. Sir YP, I wasn't going to post a comment but think that it would be rude not to acknowledge the superb description of your walk and the surrounds of Gozo. I feel for those poor farmers ~ our Australian farmers have similar circumstances here experiencing either drought or flood, but very rarely a happy median. I wish I had had an English teacher like you who could have inspired me to write like this. I teach the descriptive narrative genre when I am teaching game development but have to work really hard at it because my brain has more a technical bend and I come from a corporate world. Long comment ~ to say thank you for sharing ~ I will in turn share your post with my students in the new term when I pick up a Tourism class.

  2. Upon reading your post, I had the thought, "Superb writing; I must tell him so," but when I came here to do it I saw that Carol Cunningham had already taken the word. What shall I then say?

    Magnificent. Simply (and not so simply) magnificent.

    The photographs ain't too bad either.

  3. Where DO they get water?

  4. CAROL CUNNINGHAM Stop! My head has just swollen so much I'll never get through the door...but thank you Carol. We each use words in different ways.
    RHYMES WITH PLAGUE I bow to thee my uncle!
    JAN BLAWAT They pray for winter rains. In certain parts of the island water is trapped below ground on clay shelves provided accidentally by geology and the Gozotans know how to conserve water so well with seaweed and latterly plastic. They pick their locations well and I think they probably write off August and September each year as the conditions become more and more desert-like.


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