Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Bringing it home, and playing for time

I’ve decided to comprehensively reduce the number of things I do ~ and this includes blogging.  (I don’t know how Prof. Mary Beard manages to post so frequently. Although she doesn’t pour out screeds the way I do ... )
  Not only am I besieged by must-do tasks, these are seeded among a whole raft of unnecessary, even redundant, concerns. Life requires a root and branch review, starting with the pointless number of hours one spends online. For the quantity of time expended, the effort produces little or nothing. It’s merely vegetating, much as one can do in front of daytime TV. It kills independent minds and imagination every bit as effectively as an unrelieved diet of endless repeats. The ‘Net, hailed as a saviour for mankind, has instead shown itself to be an agent of slavery. I’m not saying I can do without Google or Amazon ~ I can’t! But I can live without ads and puerile ‘celeb’ gossip plastered all over my monitor screen, and the perpetual pressure to buy, buy, buy. It’s like Christina Rossettis Goblin Market out there, and just as addictive. 
  So, out went a plethora of unnecessary email alerts and links.  I resigned from Academia-edu/ ~ it is no longer relevant. Other minor research-led distractions will be similarly disposed of, and possibly LinkedIn as well. I was also annoyed to find my name has been hi-jacked into Instagram. Why?! I have never possessed an account. (Perhaps it’s apposite the Californian address is ‘Hacker Way.’) Plus I’m being snowed by pleas to reinstate Facebook. A definite ‘no’ to both of these interruptions. My life’s not for playing catch-up with other people’s lives.
  At time of writing, any number of emails remain unread. I field general day-to-day ones in separate accounts – although many are binned. Too much going on, life-side, and nothing happening on the academic front. My original project thesis time allowance expired: it ran into a desert and evaporated. I’m not even certain what my contribution to Orpheus studies is. ...   
  The blog may well become sporadic. I have a liking for organisation, of a sort – only not too demanding,  e.g., feeling one must write something, because frequently one need not do so, or indeed should not write, period! Readers browse and graze among the whole, ranging back and forth; the tyranny of the calendar isn’t imposed on them, thus the writer will follow suit, as it suits the writer.   
  I still wonder why the view count zips into the hundreds all of a sudden. Between 28 October and 5 November the daily stats were trundling along with no spikes, and then –whoops! Up soars the line in the graph, and a half dozen or so becomes 115 ...
  Pleasing, but mysterious.

Daily life is slowly returning to – well, life. Having shed regular thesis demands, reading is a pleasure again ~ just in time for the dreary grey Scottish winter. Naturally, after her ophthalmic op., #2 daughter, the ‘patient,’ is now bored, and anxious to return to real life, but will have to be ~ patient! Personally, it’s restful for me; I don’t have to chase hither and yon, and / or taxi her around pro tem, so I don’t mind as long as she doesn’t. I always have stuff to be getting on with ~ even if I don’t feel like doing it. Burnout’s been one consequence of the academic marathon. Batteries need recharging; they’ve been running on low for some while. However, one’s personal rechargeable batteries hold less and less charge as the years roll, but mental and physical energies are consumed at same rate, or higher. 
  I intended to forge my leisurely way through a pile of Lindsey Davis’s M. Didius Falco novels – and one of Flavia Albia’s adventures (I finished Deadly Election last week). A number of the titles were skipped due to the necessities of research over years, which put a stop to frivolous reading. Frivolous books aren’t necessarily bad. They are light relief – and I no longer feel guilty just because they’re not solemn, closely-written tomes.
  I missed out on many of M. Didius’s exploits, so I’m slotting in various books,
published during the years I was engaged on my one-track mission elsewhere. Lindsey published The Silver Pigs in 1989, but I didn’t pick up on ancient world fictions until my Classics obsession kicked in, more than a dozen years later. So, catching up, Davis-wise. Or at least, I would be ~ if #2 daughter hadn’t nicked all the titles ...    
  I lost the thread of Robert Harris’s Cicero novels, after Lustrum. (Besides, we all know how Marcus Tullius’s doom was sealed.) Nothing, so far, has been better than Pompeii (the novel, not the 2014 film). Harris and Davis are about as far as I got in the modern fictions of ancient Rome – Greeks are my ‘thing.’ I dislike the blokey über-masculine military novels of such as Fabbri, Scarrow, et al. I can’t recall who it was among that multifarious crew who made some poor squaddie in the legions say ‘OK,’ but it was enough to put me off such writings. For good.
  For works concerning resistance to Roman expansion, they don’t come much higher than Ross Leckie’s Carthage trilogy. Yes, it’s bloody in parts, especially at Cannae, but so were the times in which the books are set.  And as for trans-genre work, e.g., combining modern fantasy, time-travel or SF with the ancient worlds of Troy, Greece or Rome, forget it.  

A month or so ago I was surfing the ‘Net late one night, idly looking up American friends long unheard-from, and discovered someone in California who, unbeknownst to me, had died from cancer at a ridiculously young age. One thing the web can do for you is enable online searches for people, so I delved and followed-up leads; US records are much better than UK’s. Finding one of her close friends, an artist in San Francisco, I dispatched an email – hoping for, but not expecting, a positive response.  However, he did reply – and has been generous enough to ship two of my late friend’s books. One a novel, the other a book of poetry. This is the sort of thing the ‘Net is useful for. My friend and I might have kept in touch, had we had online contact and I hadn’t moved countries and homes quite so frequently. She was a great letter writer – Royal Mail probably has undelivered items decaying in its Belfast ‘lost letters’ warehouse. Proper letters, written in ink on paper – remember those? I often wonder what archivists and researchers will do in future, with only intangible digital sources.
  The books will be a memento mori. No one is ever truly forgotten; ‘memory’ was one of the ancient Greek constituents of immortality. Also, as the San Francisco painter points out, she was also quite a good amateur photographer. In her many visits to Corfu (her favourite place in the whole world) she captured the natural beauty of the place. I may have one or two of these pictures; she wrote often from Corfu. 
  Now I have time, I shall excavate boxes of dusty letters and photographs, stuff from the pre-digital age. There may be a couple of photos I can scan and send, from our heydays in Paris or the Med. It’s the least I can do. People can be so kind. It restores my failing faith in human nature.

Faith in human nature took a severe dent, vis-à-vis America’s presidential election. Personally, I feel the wrong candidate won – and, as a Canadian friend says, “never has the term ‘loose cannon’ been so appropriate. How can one plan to deal with the unpredictable?” Well, the short answer to that is, we didn’t, did we? When will the political world stop relying on pollsters? They got it wrong over Brexit here, and made the same error there. We tend to forget there are still tens of millions of Democrats, but one real problem with the US’s unhappy lower middle classes is that they’re armed. Once America comes out of its stunned concussion, there could be conflict.
  ‘My’ America  exists only in imagination, garnered from movies, books and paintings – woods, open spaces, wide skies, Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (apparently inspired by “a restaurant on New York’s Greenwich Avenue where two streets meet,” – Hopper) or white clapboard houses in New England. Perhaps another image should be added now – Trump’s $1.1bn Taj Mahal casino in Atlantic City, NJ. Hailed at its opening by the Barnum-like Trump as ‘the eighth wonder of the world,’ it closed last month. The enterprise was affected by gambling competition elsewhere, (cf. Matt Rainey, for The New York Times) – the fourth casino to fold this year. I assume pop music no long blares out along the Boardwalk, and the only people to be seen are the ladies who feed the stray cats, while seagulls glide past looking for fast food discards and Atlantic breezes merrily bowl tumbleweed along the main drag. ... 
  It seems it was a typical exercise in trumpery faked-up venues? Opening and closing ventures is a speciality of Trump Entertainment. But the company didn’t pay millions of dollars owed in property taxes, and in 2014 it announced that more than $285 million in bonds could not be paid off. As illustrated on Twitter, Jul 6: “My AC casinos NEVER made money. I got rich by dumping $4.7B of LOSSES on public. Great deal! @realDonaldTrump.”
  Not a man on the side of the angels. And he will have the nuclear codes in his pocket?

I have book work to do, held over in the space between sending draft thesis to the faculty and what I originally envisaged as a month (more?) of slogging through alterations, corrections or emendations. I cant do a thing until I actually have the script and have gone through it myself. No one appears to have realised I aint got it. And if I’d known the gap was going to be so long, I would have tackled an outstanding backlog of reviews before this. One of the overdue volumes is Peter Green’s 2015 translation of Homer’s Iliad. In common with all the great modern classicists and mythologists (living or gone) Green is a master of pellucid clarity; the best wordsmith, il migliore fabbro. I wish there were more like him. He won’t be around for ever – immortality isn’t for this world but the next. However, the numerous volumes of his essays are brilliant examples, and some notable Oxbridge dons have taken up the torch. I have scant hopes for the primary and middle strata of academia: the lower the stratum, the more unreadable the output, methinks. Please, can stodgy academic writing actually be allowed to be something other than dire? There is a slight mid-Atlantic groundswell gathering momentum, but it will take a long time for the wave to break on the rocky shores of academia’s stubbornly intractable love for obscurantist prose. (Tautology alert!)
  The Writing Police should raid the citadels of obfuscation and amplify, via a megaphone, ‘Step away from the desk, please!’  (Mega– big: phōnḗ, sound or voice.)
   I live in hope – and add my little twopennorth.  

Picture credits: bilingual (2-colour) Greek amphora, ca. 525-520 BC © Mus. Fine Arts, Boston, @ http://www.mfa.org/collections/object/two-handled-jar-amphora-with-achilles-and-ajax-153408;
Deadly Election, L. Davis, https://www.amazon.co.uk;

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Cats of Malta ...

There was no post for October, and this interim one’s header’s deliberate – I promised someone on Malta I’d blog about their felines, and any mention of cats seems to vault a post to the top of the archive tree.  Even after five years, ‘Cats of Crete’ still appears high on the viewing list. (N.B: Sorry, if the Googly font’s unreadable yet again.)   
  It is estimated some 350,000 felines live on Malta and Gozo, their care provided by a thousand or so dedicated ailurophiles – usually out of their own pockets, so very few of the homeless cats appear thin.  I was cheered by the conspicuous absence of starving strays you see around ancient sites and on quaysides in Italy or Greece.  We came across very few on the streets during the scorching hot days ~ although many YouTubers obviously did! 
  Malta has various different  societies which look after strays: PAWS Malta, SASG (Stray Animal Support Group) are but two of the organisations.
  Alongside fundraisers and individual donors, veterinary practices assist with the expenses of neutering and spaying, as well as vaccinations for cat ‘flu and all the other illnesses, or injuries and
misfortunes the ferals may have.  It is a very humane idea, and it speaks to the same peculiarly Maltese generosity of character that extends to all.  The cats are cared for not by any single responsible owner or organisation but by local communities, by the sea, even in or under any kind of shelter around the big hotels. Colonies, little, large and anything in between, are found all over the islands: at the university, in parks and residential areas. Animal Care Malta a new voluntary organization (founded 30 July 2011) is trying to raise funds for taking care of the stray cats in and around Mellieha (north of Malta). “Our volunteers are feeding some 20 colonies in Mellieha (over 200 stray cats). We catch, neuter and release (CNR) them and provide them with aftercare in our shelters. The kittens in the colonies are always a big problem because they suffer a lot from eye-infections, so we take them to our shelters and keep them there until they recovered. When kittens (or adult cats) are friendly, we try to re-home them. A lot of times there are sick cats who need medical attention,  so we take them to the vet and take care of them until they recovered.”  Even so, while cats are neutered or spayed and then returned to their ‘territories,’ the CNR programme is expensive.
  Ferals and strays take up residence in the shelters, like the one in Independence Gardens, between Sliema and St Juliens.  We met with one well-known ‘cat lady’ at one tiny niche, the so-called Cat Village, which has co-existed peacefully with the hotels since 1990 but is now overshadowed by yet another looming new hotel. Roza Zammit Salinos, (email rozafreespirit@gmail.com for more details) runs the small facility for a few sociable strays, caring for this one little colony of cats in St. Juliens Bay courtesy of her old-age pension.  I promised Roza I’d post up info about the ‘Cat Village, Malta.’
As the saying goes, every little helps. ...
  I didn’t have much to donate, having been ‘pick-pocketed’ that very morning, but as #2 daughter works with cats my cousin contributed to the collection box. The site’s threatened by hotel developers, and Roza fears she’s lost the legal battle to allow the cats to stay and live in peace.  They’re territorial animals, and will likely not stick around if / when the developers build them a special house or ‘room’ in another location. For these cats it won’t be home. While the proposals elicit the usual ailurophobic online comments (the topic invariably does) if you find cats irresistible you’ll love Malta.  Also, if nothing else, it offers respite from gibbering media and the evils of a world gone entirely insane.

Aside from the unspeakable genocide and war crimes happening in Syria, here Sturgeon’s launched the prospect of yet another independence referendum. We’re going to have the hateful divisions all over again. (I wonder how much property costs in Malta ...) The world is changing ~ for better or worse I don’t know.  I suspect it will be bad. The dire effects of Brexit are now creeping in, and the result of the US presidential election won’t make our planet a safer place.
I guess the advent of winter has something to do with the wish to retreat, along with an end to the  thesis (problematical) and #2 daughter being off work for 3 months due to her sight operation, etc. It all led to a folding-in on oneself, a downsizing. The things which can be controlled, will be ~ those that can’t will be ignored, or dispensed with altogether.
  The most recent email about the thesis draft was received 25 October: since when, nothing. I don’t know how I feel about this. A mental mood is playing on a loop, like tinny telephone holding musak: ‘It sucks. You haven’t written it well enough ...’ It started with a simple idea that became very complex. My reading of the Orpheus myth’s to do with changes; in some sense, ancient society needed him. Like a character in a fifth century BC tragedy, the fertile figure of the Thracian symbolises conflict and fantasy. Unravelling the myth’s discrete strands, I examined aspects of its development at a time of change, a watershed separating an old era from a new one. But that was just the beginning.     
  Albeit, the discipline of research and writing remains.  What now?  I do need to do something, in a daily way.  I’m no good at filling time with futile activities. I have this excellent practical system now: I ought to use it.

This week, surveyors came to do a valuation on the house. I figure this property is devalued on account of its poor state of repair. Four years+ of academic research have meant no DIY, no decorators, no upkeep.  It doesn’t matter ~ I can’t not make a profit after all these years. It’s whether it’s worth the outlays and agonies of revamping, the trials of workmen in the house, the decisions to be made. I’m not a woman who bothers overmuch with housewifely concerns, ‘drapes,’ flooring or gardening. I go for ease and comfort, for a home rather than a house, per se. However, a few ideas are floating about at the back of my mind, mostly along the lines of letting in more light.  Now the clocks have gone back to GMT, Scotland’s into the long dark months.                

But Bob Dylan’s won the Nobel prize for literature: and ‘The times they are a-changin’.’

Picture credits, garnered from the ‘Net (camera batteries expired at a crucial juncture). Header, ‘Knocking at the Stray Cat Carer’s Door,' from Islands of Cats, photo © Gabriele Rutloff, The Futures Agency, Malta; ‘by the sea,’ www.pinterest.com; local fields, Dundee Courier, 28 October, 2016;   ‘The Times They Are a-Changin’,’ lyrics, 1964: Google.com, © Bob Dylan Music Co;

Friday, 30 September 2016

Malta ~ islands in the sun

It’s been a helluva month, what with the impact of various tasks for completion combined with a sudden emergency which meant everything else had to be dropped.
  Sometimes life does this to you.  It makes you realise what’s really important, though. What really matters.

Just before we departed for Malta, #2 daughter suddenly lost the sight in her left eye.  Major panic stations, a flurry of activity, tearing hither and yon, and worries that impinged on everything else.  Daughter’s consultant ophthalmic surgeon said we could fly off to the Med and he’d postpone the necessary operation until we returned, because afterwards she can’t fly for quite a long time.  We could have cancelled, but she was as desperate for some sun and warmth as I was.
  Anyway, she is home again now, and so far, so good.  To date, the op. appears to have been successful. Now it’s a matter of ‘wait and see,’ – literally. But no working, no swimming (especially not diving) and no bending or carrying.

Malta: back from the sun ... to the gloomy cold wet grey of Scotland. Enervating and exhausting heat, but some lovely times.  Bar one thing ~ my purse was stolen on a crowded bus between Sliema and St Juliens.  (The buses don’t have on-board security cameras.) Major hassles, police reports and so on, which took a couple of days.  The thief or thieves lifted €350-odd; I was devastated, but at least my credit / debit cards or passport weren’t in the purse. 
  It’ll probably be covered by travel insurance, minus an excess of £50 per claim.  And the fact that the Euro is high at present. Sod’s Law.  However, whatever one can obtain from insurance will have to be enough.  Assuming they pay out.  Insurance is proving to be a complex and long-drawn-out process, and as the company’s necessary forms didn’t download in a form my Adobe can decipher, they’re being sent by mail.
   The insurers have said not time-critical, as I logged the claim by email from our hotel. It’ll take a while to gather all the info they want, if I can ~ between here and Malta.  But I do have a crime number, and a bank statement to prove how much was drawn out.  Once assembled, all info has to be scanned into PC and submitted electronically.
  Cousin was fortunately possessed of enough cash to subvent one’s loss.  I’m not sure how much I owe her, until I work out the pre- and post-theft receipts.  It was a horrible experience, and upset me because I wasn’t expecting such.  Malta has the reputation of being a friendly and honest place.  But there are many ‘leave EU’ campaigners, and the Union’s by no means universally popular. However, Malta’s also quite rich, in that it actually produces everything it needs ~ engineering, farming, fisheries, wine etc.  It has a GDP which the UK could envy.  Where the EU is of benefit to the Maltese islands is the protection / upkeep of the ancient remains.
   The Maltese insist it’s Bulgarian and Romanian gangs carrying out these thefts ~ they blame free passage across EU borders.   An elderly couple staying in our hotel were also targets. Maltese police figures state in 2015/16 the gangs have made about 2000+ Euros p.a. for each gang ‘operative’ ~ money they also send back to the Balkans.  The police are extremely kind, and very efficient in dealing with the paper protocols of every theft, but are not enthusiasts for free movement across EU borders, esp. from eastern Europe.
   The Sliema police station is at the top of a steep side street, with Bulgarian food shops frequented by bulky muscled types who don’t shift off the narrow pavements. They glare at people who expect them to be as courteous as the Maltese men invariably are towards women. I figure relations between the police forces and the Balkan immigrants are bad, because Malta is heavily reliant on tourism and the thieves are having a negative impact. Apparently some women have had jewellery torn off their arms and necks. Moral: don’t wear jewellery, and don’t carry a lot of cash, or more than one card, and keep passports in the hotels’ room safes. Perhaps this is the way the world is now. 

Torrid sun notwithstanding, we toured around and about. Gozo is especially attractive, with the famous Azure Window rock, and a charming old-world air which must be very restful in the low season.  We crossed via the ferries which ply between the inhabited islands.
  All the land was very dry and brown ~ they’d had had no rain for months.  I’ll have to return some

time, to see the Tarxien temple site. The 2 days earmarked for Tarxien were taken up with the fall-out of the robbery ~ and it was the one site I really did want to visit. And next time we will travel thence by taxi, methinks ~ not risk public transport. We did get to the Mnajdra temple remains, Qrendi, in the harsh Mediterranean garigue of Ħaġar Qim. The Ġgantija phase was 3600-3200 BC, the early Tarxien phases were shortly after 3000 BC. One of the charms of Mnajdra is that no modern development can be seen from the location, and so the sites still feel ‘prehistoric,’ sheltered in a hollow in the landscape and looking out over the southern coast of Malta.
  Ġgantija’s Gozo UNESCO site didn’t impress, even if it is older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids.  The heritage park surrounds a huge stone structure which is, basically, falling down. It’s propped up by permanent steel scaffolding. The ancient architects didn’t provide for a stone ‘sill’ or ‘bench’ around its outer perimeter, to butt up against the walls, and thus the megalithic stones must, eventually, slide to earth under their own weight.
  I was informed the subterranean Ħal-Saflieni Hypogeum was closed for restoration.  It’s a structure dating to the Saflieni phase (3300-3000 BC) but visitors are restricted to a certain number every day because of condensation issues, breathing, etc., although there does appear to be confusion about this. (The Uffizi in Florence has similar regulations – only so many people at a time.) You would normally book online, ahead of even leaving home, as admission tickets sell out far in advance. The environmental project is the beneficiary of a €748,425 grant from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants 2009 – 2014 scheme, and seeks to ensure the stabilization of the site by the application of current technologies.
  Alas! Stonehenge et al, eat your hearts out.  Such Euro-benefits will no longer apply to UK, come the cut-off.  

Water on Malta is de-salinated, (plants originally built by the Brits) so it was better to make tea and coffee in one’s room with mineral water rather than out of the tap.  Our en suite rooms also had balconies, and very efficient air-con ~ much needed in that climate.
   We were on a B&B deal, and eating out is very cheap.  As are cigarettes: approx £3 ~ £4.50p for a pack, less than half of the price here.  (Twenties, not 19s, as in UK!)  Most Maltese smoke, but you don’t see tobacconist shops; mostly it’s dispensing machines. 

Cousin and #2 daughter both found the sunlight rather too bright; it bounces off the sea and the pale golden limestone and whitewash that constitutes most of the Maltese architecture. I could understand why my father loved Malta: it must have been really attractive in his day, too – before the wholesale advent of tourism and traffic.  The narrow steep streets were never meant for cars, and it seems many Maltese own more than one vehicle.  The population is concentrated in the towns and cities, and land is at a premium. Buildings soar up in multiple narrow storeys, like they do in Holland.    

Malta’s coastline is largely rocky, not very suitable for swimming off.  There are ancient little Roman ‘baths’ excavated in the rocks, to guard against being swept away. The Med may not have much tidal rise and fall but it can still throw surf onshore with considerable force.
  Malta has some strange and beautiful panoramic scenery.  Much of Game of Thrones was filmed here (as it seems to have been everywhere!) ~ along with Troy and other movies.    

Books read / on the go:  Nicholas Monsarrat, The Kapillan of Malta (1973):  this was marketed under Cassell’s ‘military paperbacks,’ but it isn’t military history per se. It’s a novel about a humble priest of Valletta, who, during the siege of Malta, cares for homeless, starving and terrified people sheltering in the catacombs. Stuck like the bait in some enormous fishtrap between Sicily and Tunis, the island could scarcely be reached ... When ships did manage to get through, more often than not they were bombed and sunk before they could unload, (p. 165). One such was the crippled tanker, SS Ohio. Towed in, sandwiched between two destroyers, she did eventually manage to dock in Grand Harbour. In 1942, George VI awarded the island archipelago the George Cross, for its heroism in the face of almost insuperable odds.
  The figure of the kapillan re-tells the history of the Fortress of the Middle Sea, from the earliest forerunners of 1500 BC through the historic centuries, the Knights of Malta et al, to the Pax Britannica et Melitensis of AD 1917. It is one of Monsarrat’s best works, and ranks alongside The Cruel Sea and a previous personal preference, The Time Before This.  The novel also speaks about ‘Faith, Hope and Charity,’ the three little Gloster Sea Gladiator bi-planes that bravely took on the task of defending the skies from Axis bombers.
  Long ago, when I was a wide-eyed young woman living in London, I commissioned a painting from one Peter Greenaway as a Christmas present for my late father.  It depicts an aerial dogfight over Malta during the dark days of the Second World War.  I would photograph it but, as it’s securely packed from an outing at Edinburgh’s Talbot Gallery, I’m loath to disturb it.  I’ve left it in my will to one of the military museums down south, but perhaps it should go to Malta.
  Other books: Rory Stewart’s The Prince of the Marshes and Other Occupational Hazards of a Year in Iraq (2006) – a US edition, thus American spelling.  An eye-opening narrative account of the hopelessness of the Coalition’s efforts in the post-conflict Occupation, it’s funny, humane and makes you angry-sad at the same time. The west can be astonishingly stupid, confronting and not understanding the Iraqi way of life.
  One volume on the Kindle was All the Light We Cannot See – first novel by American author Anthony Doerr, which defies description.  It won the Pulitzer prize for fiction last year, and the Andrew Carnegie medal – both deservedly so.
  En route from Amazon: from my favourite classicist, Peter Green, his book on Kenneth Grahame, Beyond the Wild Wood.  Grahame, born in Edinburgh in 1859, wrote The Wind in the Willows – a book which has never had an equal, nor any sequel.  William Horwoods attempted follow-on volumes, but they are lacking in comparison to their original. 
  I must say, I’m having a great time consuming a catholic (small ‘c’) array of reading matter untouched since the commencement of research some four years ago – and nothing to do with Orpheus!

I’d better get on with the neglected must-do domestics – starting with a supermarket order.  The house is practically empty of food due to a month of almost constant absence.  And there’s a mega-mountain of washing to be done, as well as vacuuming etc.  Plus, feline must be fetched from the cattery.  She won’t be speaking to us for at least a fortnight.  
Thesis is ‘out the window,’ pro tem.  I’ve given up worrying about it. An Edinburgh academic friend contacted me, to ask if I was alright?  She hadn’t heard from me for so long and was concerned. 
  I’m now resigned to end-game taking longer than originally planned.
  Och well, can’t be helped.  
  As Monsarrat’s autobiography says, life is a four-letter word.

Picture credits: Mnajdra temples, and offshore island of Filfla:
© Click Publications, Malta; 
prehistoric temples, excavated 1915-16, Tarxien: www.perfecta.com.mt;
Roman baths at Sliema, photo Pierre Micaleff-Grimaud,  http://www.panoramio.com;