Roamin’ around Rome… The long avoided threequal.

I want to apologise for the delay of this posting… In my defence I have been distracted. I blame the gaming companies. Every year, around my spawning day, various software companies release products that may almost be specifically targeted towards me. Egotistical me?

Admittedly, I am easily distracted away from anything that could be interpreted as ‘work’. Of course, all that prevarication has meant that my memories have been diluted, edited and restructured. Unfortunately this means that this will be a slightly more condensed version of OurHero and LSA’s further adventures in Rome.

But where did we get to? Oh yeah. Here…

LSA in her rightful place. At the Temple of Venus.

Having done enough of the Fora and colosseum as they can in one day Our Adventurers attempt the following day to go to the highly recommended Crypto Balbi. Unfortunately it is entirely pre-booked tickets only. Frustratingly, the only available slots are after we leave. Add it to the list of things to do next time we come.

It’s not often our adventurers plan revisits but Rome has got under our skin. Not least because our temporary “hood” looks like this of an evening…

Yes we did try nearly all of those restaurants. Who knew Tiramisu came in so many varieties.

Having failed to storm the Crypto Balbi we wander off in search of the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon.

We found them. Eventually. Half of our adventurers conversations during this trip have been along the lines of: Are we sure this is the right way? It really doesn’t help that a lot of the back streets of the older parts of Rome look pretty much like every other back street. I may have mentioned before that you cannot rely on the mother and baby paintings that are everywhere for guidance. That way lies madness, or religion. Neither of which appeal.

You may note that I haven’t shown the Trevi fountain. Here follow just a few reasons why it was not my favourite part of the trip.

1. It was far too crowded to get any good shots.

2. It was the only place I felt unsafe. Both for myself, LSA and our property.

3. It’s not my period.

4. It’s just a fountain. Yes, I know it’s superbly carved marble but Rome is full of superbly crafted marble.

5. It’s a tourist trap.

Now before you go on about how you could say that about practically everywhere we go but come on. By visiting the Colosseum I am doing more than just looking at a building, I am enhancing my understanding of an ancient culture. At the Pantheon I can study the appropriation of the material culture of Ancient Rome by the cult of Jesu. By exploring the Stadio di Domitiano I can further appreciate how much Rome has developed over the following 2000 years since it was conceived and patronised. At the Trevi I’m just looking at water gushing out of some prettified rocks.

Behind and below the fountain is entirely different kettle of fish. Here Our Hero is back in his element. Somewhere old, cold, and smelling of centuries past. Actually it wasn’t that cold but allow me some poetic licence. The Vicus Caprarius – ancient Roman cisterns “under” the Trevi Fountain, still supplying the water for the neighbourhood.

With it’s beautiful blue mood lighting, it’s tiny (but in no way disappointing or lacking) display of artefacts recovered from the cisterns depths and surrounds, and its limited visitor numbers the Vicus has forever settled itself into one of our Hero’s favourite places to visit.

Don’t believe me? Have a look…

A piece of advice here. As many a weary traveller will know, many hotels/motels/B&B’s have, somewhere around the check-in desk, an A3(ish) sized map showing you all of the local attractions, public services and a border of local business adverts. If you ever get the one from Rome, don’t trust it. It lies!

Not that it mattered, our adventurers were more than capable at getting lost with or without the terrible map. Indeed our meanderthal approach to exploration did lead us to almost literally stumble upon the Circus Maximus.

Now I’m not that bad of an historian to not know that the circus was in Rome but I did know from previous research that it is now only identifiable by its shape and archeology. Insufficient of the superstructure is left to give a true sense of the place. On a more personal level, Our Hero and LSA have previously visited the RomanoTurkish site of Aphrodisias. Within that remarkable polis is the circus. A stunning and awe inspiring edifice of marble, and considerably more complete than the Maximus. Therefore the circus was not on our adventurers list of Must Sees.

And again Rome surprises us. Obviously, when you consider how little is actually visible of the Circus Maximus, it would have – in the past – been considerably overwhelmed by practically every other heritage site around it. No longer. For we are now in the 21st century and we have the technology to (virtually) rebuild it. For the incredibly reasonable cost of €14 each (and surrendering of DL for surety) Our Hero and LSA are issued a superhero mask, some earphones and iPhone powered VR headset apiece and sent forth to discover for ourselves the history, glory and spectacle that was the Circus Maximus. Mind Blown!

Bring back chariot racing I say.

Of course, not all of our romp around Rome was flitting from one ancient site to another. We did spend time looking in shops, finding and enjoying nice restaurants, drinking obscene amounts of coffee, and chatting to random people. We spent too much. We walked everywhere! We were hassled by street vendors and had jazz played at us. We laughed, stumbled, marvelled, cursed, canoodled, and thoroughly enjoyed our visit to one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

And now… On to Ostia! Oh didn’t I mention that? Yeah well we did go on to Ostia and even managed to visit, after an extended and exhausting foray into wild Italian farmland, the Archaeological Park of the old Roman Port and town of Ostia. W

What a site! We have to go back! We were in there for hours and barely scratched the surface. It took our adventurers – many moons ago now – two full days to explore Pompeii. Ostia is bigger. Ostia is huge. Ostia is beautiful!

Unfortunately our time in Ostia is short. As the autumn sun sets behind us we routemarch back to our B&B and our final night in Italy. And finally Our Intrepid Adventurers dine upon a real Italian Pizza. Not bad actually.

You don’t need to know about our run in with Italian border control, nor the uneventful flight home. Not even the taxi ride back from the airport that took longer than the flight. I will say that our four legged flat mate was extremely pleased to see us home (and back in my rightful place as “most preferred sleeping spot”) and that the first cuppa after getting home is always the best!

Though I am going to miss the Large Birra.

Duo Cafelatte and a Permanent Grin

Finally, Our hardy adventurers are standing by a structure I spent a long time studying and historically deconstructing during my degree and it is making all my fizzy zones go into overdrive simultaneously. To be able to discern through personal observation the varying qualities of workmanship and stylistic methods visible rather than relying on a guided breakdown of two dimensional photographs is making Our Hero quite giddy. To share that knowledge with the ever patient, indulgent, and long-suffering LSA is worth all of the wrong turns, dodged vehicles, and over-heated heads.

In case you are wondering what I’m taking about, here’s a clue:

Yes! It’s the up-cycled Arch of Constantine.

What did you think, that our adventurers were going to just stumble off home after walking the entire perimeter of the Theatro de Flavian (do you know I think I’ve spelled at least two out of the last three words incorrectly, but I’m too ston hippied tired to care)? Not bloody likely.

Now can someone please point us in the direction of our hotel.

And can people please just not stop dead in front of me, only to then swing around and almost decapitate me with a bloody selfie-‘king stick?! Oh and if you are going to watch a foot-the-ball match, or an episode of Friends, please don’t do it whilst walking streets crowded with children, e-scooters, nuns, interchangeable and amorphous tour groups, and foot-weary quintagenarian grouches who are going through the first 48 hours of tea withdrawal.

[That was a bit tame for one of your rants.]

{It wasn’t a rant. It was a polite request.}

[Oh was it? Only your “Polite Requests” do sometimes resemble a rant. Not that I’m complaining, they can be quite amusing.]

“Did we come this way?”

“I think so. Maybe not. Hold on, do you recognise that?”

“It’s a picture of a woman holding a baby wearing a gold tiara. I’ve seen loads of them. Do you think they may be significant?”

“But, do you recognise that particular one? Do you think it’s the one that’s on the corner of that building near our hotel?”

“Let me have a closer look. No, this one is of a blond-eyed, blue-haired baby, wrapped in a posh bedspread, being held by a young woman with an expression suggesting she’s thinking ‘How did a good middle-eastern, Jewish girl get into this?’ The tiara is similar though.

The one near our hotel had more of a ‘That is Not the nappy of a deity!’ look about the woman’s face.

And that one over there has a baby that looks like a character from Z-Nation, while half the woman’s face has bleached away. Tell you what though, tiaras on kids must have been very popular when this was painted.

Oh look, that shop sells hats.”

New – weather appropriate – hat purchased, bearings re-established, and our happy history buffs return to their hotel; intending to rest, shower, and begin the first of the daily blogs Our Hero has promised himself he will write.

Warning! Incoming Siesta!

Warning! Incoming siesta

Warning incomingsieszzzzzzzzzz

Awareness returns sometime after sundown. After a short discussion considering the pros and cons of returning to slumber to those of seeking sustenance, our heroes once again venture forth into the narrow, cobbled lanes of Rome, their bellies to fill and their first impressions to be discussed. No Parmesan.

The Next Day.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again; what’s with all the cake and chocolate based pastries for breakfast? If it doesn’t involve bacon, it’s not breakfast. fact!

Hold on! That’s not from the Colosseum!

You are right dear reader, it is not. It is a frieze showing the Rape of the Sabine Women, on display in the Forum(s).

@Erm. Excuse me… Are you going to continue onto your “interesting” diversion into why you have been using an ellipsed S whenever you mention the Fora? OR are you going to backtrack into your observations and impressions of the Colosseum? Only the files are starting to block the corridors down here and I’m dying for a cuppa.@

{And who the hell are you?}

@Oh I’m from “Long Term Storage and Reminiscing”. Only, some of these files are getting scattered everywhere. And a lot of them are hideously confused. Do you have any idea what it takes to calm down a confused and upset memory? I Mean, if you would@

{Do you mind? You really are not helping. Keep interrupting like this and I’ll lose my train of thought.}

[OK, I think I can sort this out. Why don’t you head on back to your department and find yourself a nice cup of tea. May I suggest you start in the ‘First one after getting home having had a long and/or horrendous journey’ shelves, they have some real doozies in there.

And you. You can tell us about both the Colosseum and that aberrant s thing in your own time. I’ll jut get a mop. Some of these memories are leaving an awful mess in here. Oh I do hope that is spilled tiramisu.]

I know I’ve already spoilered this part on social media but I love it so here it is again. While LSA and Our Hero were exploring the Colosseum and its environs, Our Hero overheard a U.S. American woman ask; Is this the Parthenon? The meme of a despairing Captain Picard came swiftly to mind.

The Colosseum. What can I say that isn’t cliché? Who hasn’t waxed lyrical about this beautiful, mesmerising, colossal edifice before with more eloquence and wit than this poor language butcher?

Here, have a couple or three more pics while I get my words in order…

A small hiccup. The tickets we have pre purchased are not the “full access” we believed they were. Therefore we cannot venture down into the bowels of the arena. A situation that can be rectified by venturing to the ticket booth and upgrading for a mere €4. However, as the queues are already stretching, and our day is perforce really rather full already, LSA and Our Hero decide to forgo the dubious pleasure of joining and rejoining the aforementioned queues, and vow to do the full experience next time they come. Be it tomorrow or in a few years.

Sometimes sacrifices must be made. Nor does Our Hero feel short-changed by only visiting the Roman publicly accessible areas. The construction and history of this remarkable temple to suffering is breathtaking. I am sooooo glad they never built the proposed church within the amphitheatre as it would have, in a way I cannot fully articulate, been more than a blemish. It would have been a sacrilege.

Viewing all of the scaffolding that currently adorns the edifice it would be nice to think that future ”full access” passes will include access to the cheap seats. Not that LSA would venture up those steps. For now though, we have been surrounded by tour groups, running children and selfie seekers for just over two hours. We have read every panel, viewed every carving, marvelled at the glorious fornicating and resisted the temptation to throw at least three people over the safety rails. I’m such a good boy. But is that my old friends Nick O’Teen and Cath Feen calling? I do believe it is. Get that #@#king selfie stick out of my face!!! Onward to the Fora.

Now what were people saying about the S in Forum? Get ready folks, it’s another history hit. As I’m sure you all know the Forum was the ancient and traditional meeting place, political arena, market square, administrative centre, temple precinct, rallying point, gossip mill and (probably) cruise for a very long time. It is also built on the swampy valley floor between the Seven Hills of Rome.

Now no metropolitan area is ever static and even before the invention of the community destruction departments of the 20th century (or Town Planning as they prefer to be known) people have been redesigning and “improving” city centres. Late Republic and Imperial Rome had a succession of incredibly wealthy and powerful men who each had their own reasons for overhauling the Fora. Whether that be religious piety, improving traffic, self aggrandisement, or rebuilding after catastrophe the results were the same. The Fora were in a – pretty much constant – state of flux, resulting in reorientation, expansion, contraction and all round messing about. Today we see the results of those long dead architects. It is confusing, cluttered, overcrowded and glorious. Our Hero is almost having a crisis with every corner turned, every new aspect revealed.

I mean, look at this…

Look at the quality of the work on this bas-relief. The beards, the chains, the flowing cloth. And this is after 2000 years (ish)!

By now though, our intrepid adventurers have spent nearly three hours at the Colosseum, and at least four within the Fora exploration areas. They are getting tired. They are in need of coffee and pasta. Time to return to the hotel for a quick wash and brush up before venturing forth to find food.

Ah, lovely wide hotel bed, how we have missed you… But hold on, what’s this? Oh no… It’s another Siesta….

We will return again soon with the further adventures of “Two go a little crazy in Rome” soon…. For now we are going to leave them to their slumber… Stay tuned folks there is more to come.

SPQAre we going the right way?

Here we go… Our long awaited trip to Rome is finally happening.

Before we go any further I would just like to thank Mental and DeFrock for providing the funds that made this trip possible. Thanks to them we are able to have a little more legroom on the flights and priority boarding. Not to mention a better quality in-fight meal.

Anyway, on with the show…

I had originally planned to write a daily update type blog but we all know what happens to plans made by fools…

And so you are left with this… You have been warned…

It is All Hallows’ Eve ‘22. Our Hero and Lone Support Angel (hereafter; LSA) have enjoyed a trouble free journey from Londinium to the home of it’s founders. Having heard tales (and seen footage) of Roman driving practices Our Hero is a little apprehensive about the journey to the hotel but is pleasantly surprised that progress is made without excessive horn use or numerous near-misses involving tiny cars, reckless Vespa riders and/or apparently suicidal pedestrians.

Our hotel is welcoming and bijou. The concierge is charming and very helpful. His most welcome advise (at the time – we may come to regret heeding it) is that we will not need to get taxis as we are less than 30 mins from all the standard tourist attractions. Or as he so eloquently put it, “Keep your wallet in your pocket.” His direction giving skills need some work though. Indicating the routes towards the Colosseum and the Vatican by waving your arms in vaguely opposite directions proved slightly less than optimal for a pair of directionally challenged quinterians. A map would be useful. “Ah thank you, this one will come in very handy.” Oh how naïve we are.

Bags dumped, ablutions complete, loins girded; LSA and Our Hero stride forth into the balmy Roman evening in an attempt to get their bearings and food. You would think we would know better by now wouldn’t you? Food is easy to come by. Sense of direction, not so much.

A quick word of advice. Do not attempt to navigate Rome using an image of a woman and baby for reference. Not unless you are very good at telling the approximately 7million* versions apart.

Having successfully sated their hunger, Our Heroic Adventurers return to their hotel. Tomorrow awaits.

Day Two: Let’s Just Get Our Bearings.

“Did he say the colosseum is this way?”

“Er, yeah I think so.”

“Then lets go.”

The colosseum was not that way. Nor was it “This way.” “How about this way?” Or even “Let’s try Down Here.” We found The Tiber though.

And this: Castel Sant’Angelo.

New plan. Let’s grab a coffee and check out this “Here are all the great places in Rome” app (or something like that) we got. One Cafelatte and a lot of cursing at useless app builders later, and we are back on track. Setting off in the opposite direction we soon spot the big white building in the following photograph…

I’m sure somebody will know it is but for the life of me I cannot remember…

Anyway, whatever it is, it’s not really what we are here to see. Way too modern for our tastes. We want Ancient Rome not the imitators. But look! What’s that over there? Oh my Glod! that’s Trajan’s Column [fnar!]. Check this out…

No wonder he was so proud…

Our Hero and LSA have been wandering around for about two hours. Numerous exclamations of surprise and delight have issued forth from them both. Some complaints have also been heard. The current major issue is with the incompatibility of LSA’s footwear and the amount of gravel that seems to be the Roman equivalent of English Heritage’s mown grass around historical sites. Next stop, somewhere to get plasters.

Now we are on the right track we begin to take more notice of our fellow tourists than previously. We also note that there is far less traffic than we expected. Luckily LSA has done a bit more research on Rome beyond 212 CE and now informs Our Hero that Nov 1st is a public holiday in Italy. So that explains that.

Have you seen that Ancient Roman Forum(s)? They truly are spectacular. From all angles. But we are saving ourselves. We will not be venturing into them today. Today is for orientation rather than immersion. Having said that, we do spend a long time gawking at the forum(s) as we pass them on our way.

Whether by luck or judgement (bad in both cases) Our Hero and LSA again find ourselves trying to explore ancient sites while the future intrudes. A few years ago, when we visited Pompeii, half of Milan was closed or on diversion because of upgrades to the central bus station. This time we encounter the huge hoardings, closures, and diversions associated with the extension and expansion of the Roman Metro system. Fortuna be praised/cursed**

For those of you that don’t know Rome, if you wish to see the Arch of Constantine and you are coming from the Forum(s), you must go past the Colosseum. Which means, of course, that here is where I should start showing you pictures of it

[Why don’t you then?]

{Because I’m trying to create a narrative here. I’m not just showing you all a bunch of holiday snaps. The Seventies was a long time ago. We don’t make our friends look at slides projected onto a sheet hastily hung on the wall, while we make little in-jokes about that weird couple we met, and our guests slowly crumple into themselves in embarrassment and discomfort.

Let me do this my way.}

[Well get on with it. Archives is already getting upset because they can’t get some of these memories into “Long-term and Reminiscing” until you’ve finished playing with them.]

{If you would let me get on, this would be done a lot quicker.}

[Not really. You’ve got to charge your keyboard and pad soon.]

{Oh For Fu………

End Transmission

Resume Transmission

and she said “But it didn’t do that last time” Hold on, we’re back. Pass me the ‘Souvenir’ file and can someone please get this FU[REDACTED] [REDACTED] [REDACTED] out of here. Thank you. So, where were we?}

So no, I’m not going to bombard you with endless pictures of the Colosseum. Indeed I’m loathe to make this entire blog an endless procession of boring tourist shots. If I were going to do that I would use a photo sharing site. What I’m currently doing is cursing myself for not at least taking notes during the trip. Remember how I said at the beginning that I had intended to write a daily blog while actually in Rome and that I should know better. Well one of the reasons I wanted to do that is to avoid moments like this. Moments when things are getting shuttled back and forth between short and long-term memory storage and things are getting lost or rewritten in the process.

Another reason is because in writing a condensed version of events, you loose the spontaneity of the experience. Admittedly a lot of those daily blogs would have read pretty much the same way… We did a hell of a lot of walking, we saw all these wonderful things (insert numerous pictures here) and now we Hurt!! But they would have been spontaneous exclamations of our pain and fatigue. Luckily your in- boxes have been spared those monotonous posts and it’s thanks to The Siesta! Yes, we have reached that point in our lives when an afternoon nap is acceptable. Especially when you have spent the majority of the day wandering around a city unknown to you, filling your eyes and soul with history.

Oh and wearing the wrong hat.

[Oh no! He’s hit a tangent! Quick, don’t let him go down…. Too late]

Some weeks ago I was unable to resist the temptation to buy a new autumn/winter coat. It is a rather stylish coat that unfortunately does not match well with my usual everyday hat. Therefore I was enjoined to purchase a new, more suitable hat. These I wore to Rome. Stylish as my new hat is, it is also made of felted wool. In other words, it’s too bloody hot for a globally warmed Rome at the end of summer. Another new, cooler, hat is now required. But first, lunch. We chose here…

Where I confirmed that I really, really do not like Parmesan cheese!

Oh alright here’s a pic of Our Hero outside the Colosseum…

Note the hat.

And now Our Hero and LSA must return to the hotel for they are hot, hungry and tired. Not to mention the blistered and bleeding feet that is the result of sharp, tiny gravel invading open sandals.

*Writers own estimate.

**Delete as you feel.

1966 and all that…

Today’s date is Mon 12th of July 2021. Last night 22 men kicked a ball about for a couple of hours. 11 of them were wearing blue, the others were wearing white. Both groups of men were, if the criteria for inclusion is similar to that used in the superior game of rugby union, the very best in their field. A position 99.97% (approx) of those watching could never hope to attain. From what I can understand of the event, it was the closest one of the groups of men had got to winning a game at this level for many years. Apparently they didn’t win. Both prior to and in the aftermath of the event I have remained indifferent both to the contest and the outcome. If you still haven’t worked it out yet, I am talking about the (postponed) Euro’s 2020 foot-the-ball tournament.

Now I am sure you are both wondering why I am writing about the game of spheroid wrangling, when I have been outspoken about it’s cultural dominance and inequalities on many occasions. Truth to tell I am asking myself the same question. But I think it has something to do with the idea that foot-the-ball is not about the game, it’s much more important than that.

You see, for me, foot-the-ball has never been about the game.

I think I’m going to need to put this in context.

[That may help. Ed]

There was no foot-the-ball in my house growing up, indeed I distinctly remember being told (at about 5 or 6) that if I wished to watch a game I should go to a friends house. It’s not that it was a taboo subject or anything, I just think my parents felt they had more important things to do. But of course, a kickable spheroid was never too far away. Get a bunch of youngsters together and lo there will be a ball. I did, in my early years, get involved with what is known as a “kick about” (there may even have been coats for goalposts), but I was never really serious about it.

I have however attempted, very infrequently, over the years to watch a game or two. I would like to make it clear that these occasions were not through choice but circumstance. Being stuck in the middle of nowhere until a match is finished because your designated driver MUST watch the game. Trying not to be rude with your new girl-friends family. Doing your best to enjoy a quiet pint and realising that you’ve picked the wrong pub. That sort of thing.

However infrequent these tortures have been over the years, one aspect has remained a constant. Racism. Every match that I have endured over my nearly five decades has involved racism on one level or another. Whether it was club or international, racism was the central theme. I’m not even going to mention the sexism and misogyny. I read today of players of last night’s match; people who were, just 24 hours ago (at the of writing) were being hailed as national heroes, were being bombarded with yet more racism and hate. Some of it from POLITICIANS!!! All of it wrapped up in the national flag. All of it because somebody who has worked bloody hard to be where they are were out-performed by someone that has worked equally hard for their position. Where does race need to come into that? But it always does.

I am extremely lucky to have grown up in a city universally recognised as one of the most diverse on the planet. I have, over my many, many years witnessed both the positives and negatives of the cultural interactions, collaborations, conflicts and challenges faced by the culturally diverse entity that is a living city. Every where I turn there is a variation of melanin, a language spoken by a culture smaller than my city or a musical style enjoyed by more than half the planet. It truly is an enriching and enhancing time and place to be. But, in my experience, when it comes to foot-the-ball, all that goes away.

I hear the word “football” and in my head it translates into “Racist”. Now before I get accused of misrepresentation or of tarring everyone with the same brush, I want to make it clear that I am not accusing anyone. I don’t personally know anyone who has displayed racist behaviour or language with regards foot-the-ball. There are two reasons for this; one, I try not to associate with racists, and two, people know I don’t like foot-the-ball so we never talk about it.

Let me give you an example. The only times I have ever been truly terrified has been when I have been trapped with a group of football fans. Now I have been in scary situations many times, some through choice (like jumping out of a plane at 18,500 ft), others through accident or misadventure. I have been attacked by random strangers and had drunken fights. I have drunk in places and with people that should be avoided but any sane member of society. I have been caught up in a riot and experienced gunfire. I’ve even married!

But not one of those things, not even saying my wedding vows in front of all my dearest humans, filled me with the gut-wrenching, sphincter-tightening terror of being among football fans. Now I feel I should point out at this point that I am white. I don’t know why I didn’t mention that before, I like to think it’s because I know that only one or two people, other than me, will read this but I suspect it has more to do with the blinkers of privilege (a subject I may come back to at some point).

Foot-the-ball is, at it’s core, tribal. I know people would like to think otherwise. They talk of the beautiful game. They talk of the skills on display, the talent, the money, everything, anything other than the tribalism of the thing. If 2020 has shown us anything about sport, not just foot-the-ball, it’s that it needs the tribe to survive. I’m not claiming some new insight here, this is a well studied phenomena. When you put on that shirt, carry that flag, chant along, you are part of the tribe. And that’s where the racism comes in.

I said earlier how blessed I feel to have lived and grown in the random place of my birth. And if anything of myself exists beyond my physical self ending, I will be (mostly) glad that I have lived through the close of the 20th Century and the flowering of the 21st CE. As an historian, I have more than a passing interest and knowledge of the cultural development of human societies and cultures since the beginning of recorded history. Intellectually I can understand how and why racism exists. I have no reason to question critical race theory, or for those hard of understanding, the honest and unbiased acknowledgment of the historical precedents and attitudes that inform and control our lives today as a result of free-market colonial capitalism (with, in many cases, religious zealotry and bigotry) and it’s effects on cultures and communities on a global scale.

So in foot-the-ball we have the tribalism of the collected fans, whose entire mindset for at least the 90 minutes of the average game, but obviously for longer is US vs THEM, coupled with any cultural, religious, political, class bias and or prejudices held by each individual or group within that “tribe”.

For me, the crowds of a football match are not welcoming and inclusive. They are the baying mob of the Roman amphitheatre. They are the screaming hordes of Viking raiders, looting a monastery. The foot-soldier and cannon-fodder class given licence to scream at “the enemy” every weekend. Cheering a pig bladder hitting a net just as loud as a resident of Verulamium for a decapitation in gladiatorial combat.

Obviously any competition is going to attract supporters and if it becomes popular enough, the tribalism that fandom creates, and as such I cannot, will not, say that football is exclusively racist as an entertainment/sport. But, given the significance it is awarded within our culture, it is the most visible and apparently prevalent. Tribes define themselves by us & them. Tribes use the Us/Them justification for everything from cattle-raiding to hooliganism. A tribe is always looking for a target.

I’m not proud of this, but whenever I have been surrounded by football fans I have looked to make sure a member of their opponent’s tribe is visible. It’s cowardly, I know, but it was a survival technique. I have never looked like a foot-the-ball fan so I’ve always known if it kicks off, I’m a potential target for the tribe. The individual may not want conflict but the tribe is in control. The tribe is hungry and anyone not of the tribe is food.

Grow that tribalism within a series of dominant cultures that have, to a greater or lesser extent, used “different” as an excuse to abuse, denigrate, disenfranchise, exterminate and control and “the tribe” will always have a target.

You may ask where my enjoyment of rugby comes from then… I think it’s because any tribal rivalry I have witnessed has been at a national level. We, the Tribe, cheer or curse you, the player, because of the colour of your shirt, not the colour of your skin. And even if our tribe loses we still will not use your skin colour as an excuse. We will simply say that you were shit as a team. I’m not saying there isn’t racism in and around rugby, but it doesn’t become front page news that certain groups within the overall tribe turns upon itself simply because of the level of melanin in their skin.

If you are born, grow and learn in a society that has historically and traditionally used a person’s melanin levels, religious affiliation, and or country of origin as an excuse to alienate and divide communities at home, while murdering, subjugating, and stealing overseas you are at risk of being indoctrinated with the prejudices and justifications of the dominant culture.

And so for me, while Foot-the-ball should be about the “beautiful game” , it is, unfortunately, wrapped in a jingoistic, divisive, gladiatorial , nationalistic, aggressive culture that cheers on people sticking lit distress flares into their arse-cracks on a crowded street. A tribe that lauds a player for saying all children should eat not just the rich ones, and yet will boo and curse when the same player objects to an equally damaging injustice.

And so you have it. I don’t like foot-the-ball for the game, I don’t like all the shit that goes with it. I don’t like the baying of the mob. I don’t like the inequality of investment involved. I don’t like the (practically obligatory) faux-patriotism everybody is expected to display. I don’t like Us/Them mentality. I don’t like Racism and therefore, I can’t like football.

And don’t get me started on the vast waste of resources that is Golf!

Blog 1 : Essay 0

I’m sitting here trying to formulate a coherent essay for my first submission of my Classics MA and what does my brain do? That’s right, it goes walkabout…

And of course it doesn’t wander off anywhere relevant to the essay… No, the stupid thing decides to spend some time in the bizarre, swirling, ‘elfn’safety-nightmare, circus that I lovingly call “the adventure playground.”

But why do you call it that? Is the question nobody is asking…

Oh you did ask… Well in that case I will tell you… When I was young there were two types of playground that we kids could frequent… There was the official council maintained one… all safety equipment (for a given value of safe – it was the Seventies after all 🙂 ), all painted municipal blue, all surrounded by fences and all under the ever watchful eyes of “The Parkies”… All safe, clean and, for a short while, fun… especially when you could blag a yogurt or tea and biscuits from the lady parkie :)…

But the other playground… The Adventure Playground… That was something else entirely… That was a magical place… made entirely of scaffolding, old tyres, scrap cars and inner-tubes… Painted in a riot of colour… all splinters and broken arms…

Safety padding? What’s that? Exposed bolts… well yeah, I suppose someone could “have an eye out” on that but only if they’re bloody stupid 😀 … And what do you mean “What’s that?” Can’t you see it’s a twenty foot high spider web made out of old inner tubes hanging six feet off the ground… it’s for the kids to throw themselves into from that platform up there 😀 😀 … Oh yeah, we’ve got a zip wire :D… It’s over there by the climbing wall…

Like I said, a magical place!! And never a Parkie in sight!!!

And it is into my subconscious version of this wonderland that my thoughts drift at the time of writing… Well, truth to tell, pretty much any time that my mind isn’t fettered by outside stimuli… I’m not saying it’s not fun in there, nor is it not dangerous but it is the one place inside my head I’d rather be than anywhere else…

So now I’m going to tell you about a little adventure I had the other night whilst waiting for Lord Morpheus to pay me a visit… As you know, LSA and I have a four-legged flat mate that goes by the name Millie 🙂 ❤ … She has been with us for over two years now and thanks to my nocturnal wandering within my Adventure Playground (AP) I now believe I have deciphered some of her vocalisations… *

I have also come to the conclusion that cat-speak is an entirely situation based language…** Meaning, though a feline vocalisation may be written the same as another it is the situation in which the vocalisation occurs that gives it nuance and meaning… e.g : MMMmmmmrooooouuuulllllgghg will mean either “What have you done with Mouse?” If sung in the living room or “Why is my cupboard door closed?” If screamed from the kitchen…

There now follows just a few of the vocalisations heard on a fairly regular basis:

Meeeeeoooooouuurrrr MmmMMmmmmeeeeeeoooooowwoowowowww MMmmnnnneeeeeeeeooooooooouuugh = Get up!! Get Out Of Bed Now!!! – Usually heard within half a second of morning alarm going off (Other instances include; Somebody has just rolled over in bed. Somebody has just coughed in the bedroom. It’s three am and belly rubs are in order. The bipeds have just gone to bed but Mouse and Stringthing are calling and must be played with. I (Millie) have just farted in my tray and you need to remove it)

NNNNMMMmuuuuuueeeeerrrrrrggh MMMMMnnnnneeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaarrggggg MMMMmMrrrrrrrreeeeeeoooooooogggggghhhhh = Oi Red!!! The Lanky One is still here!!! Make him go to bed. I want to sleep!!!

Sometimes confused with: NNNNMMMmuuuuuueeeeerrrrrrgghuuuggh MMMMMnnnnneeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaarrgggggiiiioooorr MMMMmMrrrrrrrreeeeeeoooooooogggggghhhhhMmmmmnNNNnnnoouuuogh = Oi Red!! Get Up!! I Haven’t Had My Massage Yet!!! Get Up And Massage Me!!!***

YyYyyYYYYyyyyyyooooooooororroorrrrrrwwwwwwwllllllll MMMmmmmrrrrrrrooooooorrrrrrryyyylllll MMmmmmrrrrruuuuuummmmmmrnrnrnrrnnn Mmmmmmrrrrrooooooooyyyyylfflflll = Oi Lanky!!! Get out of that bath and come show your adoration by providing my sleeping place for the next four hours. – This can be repeated for upwards of fifteen minutes and/or at intervals of 10-20 minutes. I still haven’t worked out what the following ten minutes of the pitifully quiet Meeehor Meeehor Meeehor means but it does break my heart every time I hear it…

So there you go… These are the ones I have managed to decipher over the past two years… There are plenty more I assure you… We like to be generous and think that not all of her vocalisations are demands for attention, food or worship… We do think that some are simply the songs of her people that she has chosen to share with us at ten to four in the morning…

Well that’s it. You’ve managed to get through another one of these rollercoaster rides through my consciousness… And I now feel able to argue the relative merits of archaeology and literary research without resorting to bullet points 😀

I’ll leave you to your own adventures…

Loves Y’all

*Well of course I haven’t actually done so, I’m just anthropomorphising my cat and using this as an excuse to clear out my head in an attempt to write in 1000 words an argument that has taken better writers than I entire books…

** another language that appears to be situation based is Orang Utan (See: Unseen University Librarian)

***Another situationally dependant shout. The above is relevant only if sung outside the bedroom door. If it is heard from the kitchen it means: I want a Treat!!! give me a treat! Alright, I Might settle for a bit of extra food in my bowl bur what I really want is a treat!!

New chapter ahead

Hi there…

well that was an exciting opening wasn’t it…

I’m sitting here writing on my new tablet… no I’m not just boasting I am leading into the main point of this brief blog…

I just thought you, my loyal reader, would like to know that after a hiatus of two years I will be returning to the world of academia very soon…

and you know what that means don’t you?

Yes that’s right, more of these spam-filter evaders! Aren’t you lucky?!

And what makes it even more exciting is that I already have loads of ideas fizzing through the pile of grey matter that I laughingly call my mind…

Did you know I once thought that I should start building a mind palace to help with all the stuff I now have to know but I got lost in the foundations when I uncovered a particularly nice pot shard..

But that’s an historian for you 😂

Anyway that’s it… I’m off… bye for now…

Call that a Roman Villa?… (Gozo cont.)

When last seen, Our Hero and Lone Support Angel were enjoying a latte and pastizzi before going in search of Ninu’s Cave… Good news: We found it… Bad news: It’s closed…

So what do we do now?… Well why don’t we go find Calypso’s Cave? ooooh and they have a Roman Villa nearby… Bit of a Busman’s Holiday for Our Hero but … but… History!!

According to Homer, Odysseus was trapped on the island of Ogygia (Gozo) by Calypso until she was ordered by Zeus to release him… Now we all know that the Odyssey isn’t an entirely factual account of the events following the Trojan War ~Nicely put. Legal~ but that hasn’t stopped the tourist sector from cashing in on the events it recounts… And why not… Hell, if people were (are they still?) prepared to pay good money to follow in the footsteps of Robert Langdon (The Da Vinci Code) then why not visit the sites mentioned in the far superior Odyssey?

And so we shall… Oh Glod! who left the car parked in the only unshaded part of the street? Well done, Our Hero, now you are not only cramped and breathing diesel fumes but also being slowly cooked…

So head towards Ramla Bay and follow the signs for”It’s There!! Take that turn…  ” again the road sign is almost past the road we want… “it should be down here about half… Oh we’re here”… Soooooo… Calypso’s Cave is marked by a slight widening of the road, an ice cream van and a little shop selling jumpers… No, the cave is just beyond the shop… it must be along that path.. or should that be up these five steps to the viewing platform…

So, where is it? Oh, I get it… the cave is directly under the viewing platform… and, we can’t go in because it’s unsafe… Well, let’s just buy LSA that nice jumper she saw and then head on down to Ramla Bay for the villa…

The next mile of road leaves something to be desired to say the least… Our Hero is now cramped, hot and (despite avoiding most of the very worst pot-holes) bouncing around like a five year old on a bouncy castle… LSA appears more relaxed but that may be the bottle of water, the lack of steering wheel producing a permanent groove in her knees and not having her left foot twisted at an almost impossible angle to reach the clutch pedal… Wow, look at all this parking… Something tells me Ramla Bay is very popular…

[You mean all the kids running about, the people playing ball games, the swimmers, surfers,the huge cafe bar and the five ice cream vans isn’t a clue?]

First let us get our bearings… According to this map the villa is just beyond the public conveniences… so it must be here…


Surely that’s not it…

No, it must be further on… Maybe it’s over this dune… Or maybe this one… OK, it must be over this one… I’m just going to go back and have a look at that map again…


Nope, this is it…


Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the Roman Villa at Ramla Bay

Now, I know that my archaeology  experience is primarily armchair based but I have seen the odd one or two villas in my time… to say that this one wasn’t particularly well presented… Actually, I’m not going to complain about it… I know that Gozo doesn’t have a lot of money and that, for them, the villa probably isn’t that culturally or historically important… For all I know, it might not even be that well preserved or architecturally significant… but I do feel a little cheated…

Oh well, it’s almost siesta time so let us brave the Rocky Road to Dublin Gharb and have a rest before we head out for our evening meal… Tomorrow is another day…

It seems the hunting is tailing off… this morning Our Hero is awoken by about five shotgun blasts a minute rather than the twenty or so that so generously greeted each sunrise over the past few days… By Glod, it’s still only five am… I really want to kill somebody…

Fortify yourselves folks, gird your loins and sort out which is your best foot to put forward for today we are going for a hike up the coast… today we go in search of the Ancient Salt Pans… And so to Marsalforn… Let’s head out early so we beat the traffic (hahahahahahaha), and get most of the trek done before the heat of the day… twenty minutes later we’re at Marsalforn… are we ready for this? Yes, let’s go…

Gozitian guide books and maps being what they are we have no idea how old the salt pans really are… and, truth to tell, I don’t know if there is any way to actually find out… We do know that they were in use before the arrival of the Romans… So they probably do date back into pre-history… and are still in use today… Why are we so surprised that the hours long hike we were expecting take about half an hour? You’d think by now we would be used to how small this island actually is…

The Salt Pans is another history geek moment for Our Hero… yes castles, villas and temples are all fascinating but things like salt pans, aqueducts (and for some strange reason sewer systems) are always thrilling for me… They are the reminders of our humanity… the way I look at it, buildings reflect the relative wealth of their owners but we all need to eat, drink and crap so studying the methods and systems put in place to provide for these universal demands is a great reminder that we are all human… history from below the bottom up 🙂

Also, the salt pans are a fantastic innovation  when you think about it… and they look nice too…


Sea water and sunlight = salt

But hold on… Wasn’t that the mountain that the aliens landed on in Close Encounters?


LSA stood about ten feet away to give scale…

Oh no, you’re alright… it’s just a copy 😉

OK, even I’m getting bored with this now… I mean there are only so many ways I can say WeWentHereWeSawThat… and even the bad running joke that was the car can only go so far… Besides, most of the historical sites have been visited now… I don’t mean to sound dismissive but, truth to tell, I’m not really feeling this any more… Besides, there really not much more to say… We went back to the Citadella… We spent a few hours wandering around Victoria and the Craft Village… We climbed a hill looking at a bunch of statues about a cigarette smoking Roman soldier and some bloke carrying a log… We ate in some  delicious restaurants… We met a very cheeky ginger tom… We only just made it through security and passport control as last call for boarding was being announced for our return flight… We came home to our four legged flat mate and two friends (who proceeded to ply us with enough alcohol to render us barely coherent for the rest of the day… 🙂

I would like to thank Jackie and Mark at Ta’ Matmura Farmhouse B&B for the delicious meal they made for my B’day that we all celebrated together…

I would also like to add a recommendation to go visit Gozo… Oh and if you do go I suggest you stay at the Ta’ Matmura Farmhouse B&B… oh and tell them Our Hero and Lone Support Angel sent you…


Blimey! Has it been over a week already?

A bit cryptic that title, innit? Well, truth to tell, it’s only a working title… I really can not think of a name for this latest piece of drivel… I mean I could go with the classic “What I did on my holidays”… or maybe I could try the not very imaginative “GotoGozo”… I’ll tell you what… I’ll just carry on with this… this… whatever this is… and then if I think of a title I’ll let you know… Sound fair?… Yeah that’s what I thought… 

Actually part of the reason I’m having trouble with the title is because I had all this planned out [Well there’s a first] but due to some magical wi-fi/interweb/roaming issue the photos I was hoping to entice you with [as opposed to the unfunny, dad jokes you usually open with] aren’t available at this present time…

Oh and I had better warn you… Our feline flat mate has taken exception to my laptop being on my lap so this may take a while … and any gibberish you come across will probably be down to her[Yeah, Right!] 

{I’m sorry, did you say something?}

[Nope, yeralright.. gori’aheadwi’ya…. excOO!ooses]

{Are you pissed?}

[Not fully…hic]

{Not fu…. Oh FFS!! Go sober up… I need full fact checking, the TOMT dept, Childhood dreams and … and… }


{Hopefully not…. But yeah, just in case….}

[I’m on it!! Just let me grab{Leave that!…. I said, leave the bottle… Just… ju…Get out of here and get sober!}]

Now where was I?… Oh yeah, photos… Well, just to whet your appetite I shall give you a quick look at where I; That is Our Hero and his ever amazing Lone Support Angel, went for their holiday/major history fix a week or so ago..


Yes, that really is all the way around…

I’m not going to insult you by repeating where we visited but I will, before we go any further, encourage you to visit… 

So… where to begin… ?….?….?

The journey out was pretty much uneventful… Nice trip to the magic-flying-metal-bird park… Easy check in… Forced to go through the body scanner because I would rather keep my trousers up using a belt rather than shuffle through security with them swiftly falling around my ankles… Uneventful flight… things start to go loopy as we get to the other end…

We land at about 16:30 and make our way to baggage claim… But hold on! car hire closes at 17:00 so I’ll just run through to get that sorted while LSA grabs our suitcase… Something should have warned me when I said gave our booking details and am told I am late… I continue with the booking as LSA joins usBOOM! “What the Hell was that?” Everybody is ducking and looking out through the windows as a plume of black smoke rises not half a mile from the airport… and then we all just turn back to what we are doing… No panic, no screaming… Just back to sorting out car hire, meeting arrivals, getting coffees… “Was it a bomb? Who cares, where’s my frapacino?” Humans huh?!

“Well, thank you for the car… We’ll see you in a week.”

“No. Tomorrow. At 9:00.”

“What? But we’ve booked the car for the week.”

“Not according to this booking.”

“What? We booked it all through ^Redacted-Legal^ and it’s for the week…”

“Ahh… yeah ^Redacted^ are always doing that… First thing tomorrow call this number and they’ll rectify it for you…”

Welcome to Malta :)… Now, let’s get over to Gozo 🙂 🙂 🙂 And cue a game of hunt the roadsign… Honestly, how difficult would it be to put the directions from the roundabout on the entry rather than at the fucking exit? And while we’re at it, How about cleaning the first sign everybody coming out of the airport will see?

LSA may be regretting this holiday already… Only been here less than an hour and already Our Hero is ranting about the roads, the Maltese drivers and the FECKING CAR!!!  But it was an incredibly uncomfortable car for Our Hero to drive… Pedals too close together forcing left ankle to twist awkwardly, knees rubbing against the steering wheel even with the seat fully back… Oh Glod!!! and it’s a fucking diesel *sob*…

And it’s getting very dark on these unfamiliar roads… Whoa!!   Where did that fucking bend come from?!! Oh look, the ferry… I hope Gozo roads are better than Malta…

and from the Port to Victoria they certainly are… “So where are we going LSA?” “Gharb… or is it l’Gharb… or maybe Arb…” “So where’s that?… ” Cue lots of wrong turns and calling the B&B to find where we are staying…

And here it is…


Ladies and Gentlemen… Ta’ Matmura B&B

Let’s just fall into this comfortable bed and start all the history hunting tomorrow… 🙂

Tomorrow starts at 5am with the planets noisiest bird colony and what turns out to be about a million “hunters”… Yes, they do deserve the parenthesis because blasting birds the size of golf-balls out of the sky using a twelve bore shotgun isn’t really hunting… It’s illegal throughout Europe but the Maltese/Gozians claim exemption as part of their cultural heritage… Yeah, I’m not going there…

Now I fully understand the reasons our hosts don’t supply tea making facilities in the rooms but as LSA will corroborate, I am not good before my first cuppa and air-freshener… Wake me before the sun on the first day of my holiday and I’m one wrong word away from needing the lovely white canvas jacket with long sleeves…

Luckily for me (and probably most of down-town Gharb) we are welcomed into the dining room with a delicious breakfast and REAL TEA! Not Twinnings English Breakfast but REAL TEA 🙂

A leisurely breakfast (with fantastic scrambled eggs) later and we are ready to explore… Right, lets get to grips with this matchbox car…  I swear, I need a second knee (on a right angle to the current one) in my left leg to drive this thing… Victoria, here we come!

Oh wow, we’re here… But I can still see l’Gharb in my rear-view mirror! Oh well, lets find a parking space… A puddle filled football pitch, in the centre of town, for €1.50 all day? Don’t mind if I do…

[Are we going to get a minute by minute account of every day?]

{You’re  probably right… This should probably be more of a personal impressions piece… After all Gozo isn’t really that big (well the bit that we were in wasn’t; though one couple that were staying in the same B&B claimed they had walked around the whole island in one day) and if I do go day by day all the unlucky reader is going to get is “wentherelookedatthat wenttherelookedatthis” and even I’m not that cruel – or boring}

So let’s try this a little differently… There will still be a bit of wentheresawthis but that can’t be helped…

I will try not to sound like a snob… pull me up on it if I do… because I know that living and working where I do I’m a bit spoiled when it comes to Heritage Preservation, Interpretation and Presentation… Add to that my own expectations, privileges and historical knowledge… but I have to congratulate the Maltese/Gozitian heritage/tourism sector… when you consider the relative wealth of Gozo compared to the UK… the cultural differences…  the dominance of the Catholic Church within society and the current economic climate… they have certainly endeavoured to entice and enchant their visitors… at most of the sites at least…

If you are doing an historical tour of a place then there are obviously sites you wish to visit… I mean you don’t sit down to plan your trip and go… “Oh lets go to Wakanda and see if they’ve got some historic things just laying about”… No, you do some research… You say to yourself “Where have I always wanted to visit?” and you go from there… Well I have, for as long as I’ve known of them, wanted to visit the Ggantija Temples on Gozo… So let us go there… Or rather, let us go visit the Citadella and save the Temples for tomorrow because looking at this map, they are miles away and it will take us forever to get there… And there we go with my preconceptions… Gozo would easily fit inside the London Orbital Motorway (M25) [Indeed according to a couple of websites I’ve just visited…]

{You visited?}

[And who else pray? Five Year Old Self?]

*did someone call… because… CAT!!!*

{Great, now look what you’ve done… I’m going to have him badgering me all the way through this now…}

[I wouldn’t worry about it, he’s too busy playing with your four-legged flat mate… But yes, to answer your question, it was I that did the web-search… and according to the top three sites I checked Gozo is about the same size as the part of the City that you live in… In fact if you think about it it took you longer to go from your home to the supermarket last week than it did going from your B&B to the port on your last day… and that’s with accounting for traffic or lack thereof… Just saying]

So OK, Our Hero and LSA had miscalculated the distances they would need to cover during their trip but we had planned our days very carefully and saw no need to change those plans

Tell you what, how about a few photos while I change the music and grab a cuppa…


Just some of the phases of the Citadella


Goddesses brought from the Ggantija Temples


Lone Support Angel doing bird

Now one of the reasons we wished to visit the Citidella, beyond it’s own historical significance of course was the fact that it houses a number of small museums…

And the first one we entered was? The Archaeology one of course 🙂



How a fish would see the trap… If the fish were flying vertically through a room

The islands have a very long and sometimes quite turbulent history [Where doesn’t?] but suffers from being ignored for much of that history… Gozo in particular has never been either strategically or economically important enough for most of history’s superpowers to treat it with anything more than benevolent indifference… As a consequence, the people have pretty much just got on with life… I don’t mean to be dismissive here, but when (during most of it’s history) the entire population could and did fit inside the Citadella, the importance that population is going to represent to Classical Greece, Carthage, Rome and the Northern European Empires is negotiable…

Having said that, the different occupying groups did each leave enough of an impression on the island and it’s inhabitants to give it it’s own unique culture… and the tiny Archaeological museum reflects that perfectly… Charting the history of the islands in a small number of artefacts and unbiased interpretations… Indeed the lack of bias in the historical reporting was rather refreshing… Yes, there was a larger focus on the Christian (particularly Catholic) heritage but the superior attitude prevalent towards the Romans, or the sneeringly apologetic representation of the influence of Islam that can be observed in other nations is not in evidence here… The entire purpose of the exhibits appeared to me to convey a simple message… “These people (be they Pagans or Muslims, Roman merchants or The Knights Hospitaliers) were here, here’s some artefacts to prove it, but don’t think that that is all we are”

There are six museums* inside the Citadella… As well as a number of shops selling traditional craft-work (Silver and Lace) as well as the HUGE church and the wall walks and abandoned houses… as you may imagine, in a structure smaller than the average top flight football stadium, things are kinda on top of each other and a bit cramped… But on that first day we did three of the museums and the shops, as well as the new interactive exhibition space in the undercroft… All of them were informative and amusing for a pair of tired old history buffs like us… The weather wasn’t particularly kind to us on that first day… Just as we had found a nice table on the piazza St George the heavens opened, forcing us to move further under the umbrellas… just long enough to order our food before the rain found gap between the umbrellas… and it’s “can we have another table?”… inside and up the tightest spiral staircase ever onto the mezzanine above the bar… followed by another move (just as our food arrived) so that a party of eight wouldn’t have to sit a table set for three… “Here, have our table so now the eight of you can sit at two tables together set for five”

Lunch was followed by a siesta back at the B&B that lasted longer than anticipated… Cue day two….

Today we do what we came here for…. But first to find it… Our Hero has adapted quite well to the idiosyncrasies of Gozitian driving now and LSA has solved the puzzle of directions (namely if the road sign doesn’t direct you to turn off then just keep going straight) which works well up to a point… and parking? well that appears to be just pull in anywhere… Today it’s the twin temples at Ggantija… When we eventually find it behind the coach park we can see that quite a bit of money has been spent on the visitor centre/museum… and it is appreciated… well by us anyway… maybe not so much by the German tour groups that have got a total of twenty minutes at the site… including gift shop!!! twenty minutes? I spent that in the first room of the museum!!

I’m not sure where the originals of the famous goddess’ sculptures are held and nowhere did it say so, though I do have my suspicions… But unless there were dozens of them, each an exact replica of the rest, then I suspect both the ones we encounter today as well as the ones we saw in the Archaeology museum yesterday, are all copies… Not that I care… for copies or not they are beautiful… And judging from the facial reconstruction of one of the original temple users, so were the people that made them… But let us step outside the dimly lit, air-conditioned splendour and see the Oldest Free-Standing Structure in the World for ourselves…


Not very impressive from the back


Lone Support Angel welcomes me into the home of the Goddess’


The alters in a side chamber

Now I could go off on one here about how much I hate antiquarians… Yes, I know that they are the fore-runners of today’s archaeologists but I just can’t forgive them for their attitudes towards our physical heritage… So much has been lost to the treasure seekers of the past… But that is all I’m going to say on the subject…

I do wish though that modern archaeologists and engineers could come up with a way to ensure the Ggantija temples remain standing and safe while removing the ugly scaffolding…

I know it is needed to prevent stones that weigh up to 50 tonnes, that have stood here since before Stonehenge was even a gleam in its architects eye… But a lot of money went into building the visitors centre and the security for the temples but surely something can be done to prevent any further damage or loss beyond that which has occurred since the Governor of the island made convicts demolish most of the structure in the 19th century…

I’m not saying the scaffolding makes it look too much like a building site to fully appreciate the structure but I feel the casual visitors would not get the most of of their experience…


Another alter, this one in the younger temple



The smaller temple in all it’s glory








So now we have seen the temples… and my head is abuzz with theories and possible paintings… so let us venture forth to the windmill… via the world’s smallest gift shop…

The windmill on Gozo is the last of it’s kind… dating back to the early 18th century… Today it’s a “folk museum”… That is a museum that focuses on the lives of the general populous rather than military or religious rulers… and we love it…

We have been on Gozo for about 48 hours and we are hooked…

[Boss? Boss?! BOSS!!]


[We have a problem… Have you seen how much you’ve said so far?]

{About 2 days worth…}

[Boss, you are at nearly 3000 words…]


[So don’t you think people might be getting bored?]

{I doubt anybody’s actually doing anything more than skimming through looking at the pictures, to tell you the truth…}

[Well I just think you should be considering wrapping it up…]

{But I’m only on day two…}

[Then write a follow up…]

{Will people go for that, do you think?}

[they did with Pompeii and The Wall… I don’t see why not… I mean you’ve still got a lot to cover… the Salt pans.. The Natural history museum… The…{yes, alright… don’t tell them everything now… OK, I’ll do it…} Good idea… I’ll just let the rest of the crew know…]

He does have a pint dear reader… [Oi!] Sorry, I meant point… well that was a slip wasn’t it 😉 … So while LSA and Our Hero settle down to a pastizzi or two before going on the hunt for Ninu’s Cave, I shall bid you all farewell…

If you really want to follow our further adventures on Gozo come back in a couple of days… but for now…

Seeya xx

Oh… Before you go… How about a photo of the windmill?


Inside the reconstructed top floor


Don Quiote was nowhere in sight…


































*In no particular order:

  1. Archaeology
  2. Natural History
  3. The Old Gaol
  4. The Courts (still in use)
  5. The Folk Museum (cultural/reconstructed period)
  6. The Cathedral


Four extra feet…

This may come as a surprise to you dear reader but I am not the constantly grumpy, rage filled ranter that most people think I am. I know, it’s shocking isn’t it?! Truth be told I don’t even know where that reputation came from. Oh alright yes I do. I created it. Created it, nurtured it, revelled in it and will probably continue to do so for many years to come, revealing my true squishy inner me only to those I choose to… But only in small doses, we don’t want to confuse people after all.

One aspect of this ogre persona has been the constant and (sometimes quite vehement) aversion to animals… Not all animals of course, I’ve always had a soft spot for wolves and bears for instance… And sloths can be quite endearing when they are not covered in crap…

Actually I don’t really have a problem with animals… At least not when they are in their natural habitat.. It’s the domesticated and semi-domesticated ones that cause my cognitive dissonance… Previous victims of this spam-filter evader will remember the encounter of the bovine kind during our hero’s epic Wall adventure… and if you have had the dubious pleasure of meeting my despicable self in the world beyond the screen then you may have heard a number of “humorous” anecdotes I have recounted over the years regarding sheep, goats, cats and on one occasion swans…

But why am I rambling? [We were wondering.]

It’s this cognitive dissonance thing… You see I quite like animals but I feel bad about “owning” them… This has been brought home to me this past week… All because of this lovely specimen…



Say Hello Millie

Millie came into our home about two weeks ago… Suffice to say that Lone Support Angel and myself are very happy sharing our home with her but here is where that weird thinking comes in…

You see, Millie is a rescue cat… An eight year old rescue cat… An eight year old rescue cat that spent most of her life with one person… We are her third home since her previous “owner” passed… Her first stop along the way to us was in a home with young children and she was not happy… The second was with a foster family and while I believe she was happy there she was forced to share the space with more than one representative of more than one species and that wasn’t entirely to her taste… and so we “adopted” her… She is now in her forever home… But does she know this? How’s that for a question to keep you awake at night… Does your animal companion know that they are with you forever?

But here’s the thought that has been trying to rob me of sleep for the past week or more… Imagine you are between 45 and 50, you have spent most of your life living with a being that doesn’t speak your language… It may not be ideal but over time you have adapted (and so have they) to a greater or lesser degree… You have developed coping mechanisms and routines that allow you to function… You may even be happy (for a given value of happy)… And then your world ends… Overnight, the only life you have ever known is cruelly ripped away from you… You are forcibly removed from your home and dropped into an entirely new environment… and then it happens again… and again… So now you find yourself in an alien world, with more beings that don’t speak your language… don’t really know anything about you… They don’t really know what you like to eat (though they do the best they can)… They don’t know your habits, or your fears, your preferred way of expressing affection or your favourite toy… You are lost, probably grieving, and completely at the mercy of these aliens…

Oh they do try to make you feel welcome… They feed you, they provide hygiene facilities and they try not to overwhelm you with new smells, noises, physical contact but they cannot help it…

Now I realise I am anthropomorphising slightly here but c’mon it’s a cat… You can’t tell me that all cats are the same… They’ve all got their own personalities… They could pass for human… Well, almost… If they wanted to lower themselves to…

So maybe it’s not so strange that I’m having these thoughts… Cats get under your skin… they get into your head… They certainly inveigle their way into your heart… You have no choice but to worry about them…

Lone Support Angel has mentioned a couple of times that having Millie here is like having a flatmate rather than a pet… and I have to agree with her… Millie isn’t a lap cat… And so far she is still apprehensive around us…  Part of the problem, I think, is that we don’t know how she likes to be fussed and she doesn’t feel secure enough in her situation here to fully open up (I’m anthropomorphising again aren’t I?)… We don’t really know what she wants when she comes screaming/singing into the bedroom at 4.15 AM… Nor do we fully understand the rules of the paper ball game; are we supposed to flick it away when she fetches the scrunched-up envelope back to our feet, are we supposed to congratulate/fuss her? We’ve tried both and her responses have been ambivalent to say the least…

And another thing… Why do we infantilise our quadruped companions? I’ve found myself talking to this cat as if she’s a baby… We have started to refer to each other as Mummy and Daddy (only when we are talking to her of course, it’s not like we have gone completely gaga)… It may have something to do with her being tiny… Mind you I have heard  Entertainments Officer treat his feline (who is at least twice the size of our Millie) with the same attitude and tone of voice…

[Is this actually going anywhere, or should I get ready to ship this off on the Waffle to Lower Rambling train?)

{Erm… Ah… Er… Actually, D’ya know what… I’d check the timetable on that line…}

[So this is another of those pointless train of thought things then? You didn’t actually have a point to make? You are just wasting your readers’ precious time, making them sit through this, you do know that don’t you?]

{Why are you being so stroppy? I did start out with a vague idea but it kinda… well… it just kinda drifted away from me…}

[Did you learn nothing after seven years of university? Did you do a plan?]

{A plan? This isn’t an essay. It’s a puff piece about a cat}

[A rescue cat. A cat with her own history. A tiny bundle of emotions and demands; idiosyncrasies and tastes, that has changed your life in subtle but quite profound ways. You can’t just let it fizzle out.]



[Where did you go? Hey, you’ve left your tea… What’s going on? Did I miss something?]



[Oh, OK… I’ll Just… ah… I’ll turn the lights of then shall I?]



[Well goodnight then folks, he’s down there flicking a ball of scrunched up paper about the floor for Millie to chase. I need a drink.]



[Oh, By the way, he got his degree. He won’t mention  it but he got quite a good one. We’re all rather proud of him around here, but don’t tell him. He gets all grumpy and dismissive if people bring it up. Night then.]


From who?

What is it with the Racist Right? Why are they so obsessed with “Getting Our Country Back”? Who the hell do they think they are?

More to the point, Who do they think we are?

Throughout my entire life I have heard people go on about US and THEM. Us (The British) vs Them (Everybody else). Recently the rhetoric has become even darker; “We are being swamped” “We are being invaded” “They hate us” “They don’t fit in”…

But let us  look at this logically… Who is the Us that They don’t fit in with?

Thousands of years ago, with the flooding of Doggerland, Britain became an island. An island inhabited by a few thousand people. These, and only these, can be classed as native Britons. Alright, we’ll go so far as to say, their descendants as well 😉

But then came The Beaker People. Nobody knows exactly where they came from but it’s a pretty safe bet that they came from Continental Europe (probably somewhere around modern day Spain/Portugal). So not us.

(Please note: I am using the word ‘us’ to refer to people born on this group of islands)

After the Beaker People came the Le Tene culture… More commonly known as The Celts.

Another group of continental Europeans that enriched and enhanced our culture. For a few hundred years, these Celtic people became the dominant culture… and then The Bloody Romans arrived… and things start to get even more confusing…. Because when we say Romans, what we actually mean is various culturally distinct groups under the rule of Rome. We had people from… (Actually, to make this easier I shall use the modern equivalent countries (or region) rather than forcing you to work out where I mean)… France, Germany , Spain, North Africa, Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Belgium, Italy, Palestine, Persia (Broke my own rule there, sorry)… Pretty much anywhere that Rome had already conquered…

So, for about four hundred years or so, we were the first great flourishing of the Multi-Cultural society we have become 2000 years later…

And then Rome left… Except they didn’t… The Legions left… The politicians and the Civil Servants left… But a lot of people didn’t… People that had made their little part of these island their home stayed…Lots of ex-soldiers, ex-slaves, ex-officials… Basically, lots of people that found that they liked living here, in a vibrant and multi-cultural society, stuck around… Not forgetting that some of those staying were maybe four, five or even sixth generation descendants of the original ‘Roman’ invaders…

‘Britain’ continued…

And then came the cultural groups or tribes that most modern right wingers identify with… Most of whom were from modern Germany and The Low Countries (Holland and Belgium)… The Angles and the Saxons. Not forgetting the Jutes and the Freisans…

Oh and the Danes, the Norwegians, The Swedes and a few Finns… All wrapped up in the misnomer ‘Vikings’ (it’s a verb, not a people)…

So, by the year 1000 CE we are a combination of the descendants of (in no particular order and again I’m using the modern equivalents) Spanish, French, German, Turkish, Bulgarians, Romanians, Italians, Greeks, North-Africans, Portuguese, Irish, Palestinians, Belgians, Germans, Danish, Norwegians, Persians, Swedish, Finnish, Russians, and quite a few others… But because of the dominant cultural society, we refer to them as Anglo-Saxon… (yes, I am ignoring the Danelaw because in terms of cultural identity it was pretty much defunct by the turning of the new millennium)

And then came the fateful day in October 1066 when a bunch of former Danish ‘Vikings’ that had been living for a few hundred years in Northern France came sailing across The Channel… the Normans had arrived… In what could be argued was the last successful invasion of Britain.

You see, like the Romans before them, The Normans didn’t sweep all before them and replace all those living here with their own people, they only replaced those at the top of society… England effectively became an apartheid state… Normans in control, the rest a subject people…

And throughout all  this time people from all over the known world made their way here… fleeing persecution and war, seeking fertile land, seeking fame and fortune, seeking safety… Border control? No such thing… I mean even when we were at war with other nations we welcomed the peoples of those nations… We may not have trusted them but we didn’t turn them away… Whether they were Jews fleeing Christians, Protestants fleeing Catholics, Catholics fleeing Muslims, Muslims fleeing Christians… We held our doors open and welcomed anyone prepared to give up their entire lives in the hope of somewhere peaceful and rewarding to live…

And that is how it continued… For hundreds of years… Britain was like Ankh-Morpork in that we didn’t care if you came to ‘Invade’ us as long as you brought money… And then it all changed…

Britain went out into the world and saw that it had things we didn’t… It had money that wasn’t in our coffers… It had land and resources we weren’t exploiting… Well we weren’t going to put up with that… So we invaded, we stole, we enslaved… And all the while we were telling each other and being told by those in charge (the descendants of the Normans) that we were the best… We were the greatest… We were BRITISH!!!

But then our empire crumbled… we had to give back the lands we had invaded (some of them anyway)… We didn’t give back the wealth of course, we weren’t stupid… But all the time we were told “we are still the greatest”…

And so, after a few truly horrific wars, and with the idea of peace and the free movements of people, ideas and goods we signed up to a “Common Market” which went through a few versions to become the EU…

So now we are being asked if we want in or out… But out of what? Out of Europe? Sorry, not going to happen… we may be an island off the west coast of Europe but we are fixed in place so you can’t just tie a rope around Lands End and tow us further away…

Oh that’s right, it’s not about getting out of Europe so we can physically remove ourselves from them… It’s “get us out of Europe so we are not told what to do by them” (and of course to stop those foreigners from “coming over here”) but does anybody really think we will get back control of our country? Does anybody really think that the people who have been in charge for 950 years are suddenly going to give it all up?

We are not controlled by Europe. We are controlled by the descendants of the people that invaded in 1066… And let us remind ourselves who they were… Danes that had settled and lived in Northern France for a while and then came here…

And who were they taking power from? Descendants of invading Germanic tribes…

And who did they have power over?…. Come on, you must have seen where this is going… Oh alright, here it is again… All together now: The Descendants Of Spanish, French, German, Turkish, Bulgarians, Romanians, Italians, Greeks, North-Africans, Portuguese, Irish, Palestinians, Belgians, Germans, Danish, Norwegians, Persians, Swedish, Finnish, Russians, and quite a few others… Oh and a tiny number of people that lived here before the flooding of Doggerland (The Only True Brits!!!)

So let us get this stupid idea that we want “Out Of Europe” out of our heads… We Are EUROPEANS!!! You probably can’t get more European thus us… Europe isn’t Us vs Them… It isn’t even Us AND Them… Europe is Us and Us… They are our cousins, they are our own people… Britain/Europe… A family divided by it’s own stupidity? Arrogance? Fear?

Nope, going to go for stupidity…

I think I’ve said enough… I’m going to go now… Mmmmm, d’ya know what I fancy? A nice German beer, to wash down a lovely Greek cheese and Italian ham…

x peace x