St Paul’s Island

st paul's isl

Just off the coast of Bugibba you can see the tiny St Paul’s island, notable  for the statue of the great man which stands on its highest point.

Believe it or not, the island was inhabited in the not too distant past, when a farmer lived in what is now a ruined farmhouse right next to the statue.  He packed his bags and moved off the island in the 1930’s, and nobody has had the inclination to make it a home since then.  Not surprising, as a life being buffeted by wind and the hard-scrabble terrain make it a less than idyllic spot in which to live.

However you can visit the island, and we popped over there with the Seahorse cruise company.   They do a boat tour which also goes around the coasts of Xemxija and Selmun, and gives you a different perspective on the familiar (to me at least) sights of St Paul’s and Bugibba.  The best views of Malta are generally from the coast looking out to sea, or the other way around, rather than from within the sometimes claustrophobic inland towns.

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Top Ten Weird Things that Only Happen in Malta

This is a list of weird things which only seem to happen in Malta.  Okay, I’m sure some of them are not exactly unique to the island, but I can honestly say that in all my travels I have only ever seen these particular events here in Malta.

carcade election malta

CC image courtesy of Groundhopping Merseburg on flickr

1. Carcade after elections:  The notion of a serene and modest acceptance of electoral victory is not a popular one on the island of Malta, where local battles reach white-hot intensity.  Instead, the phenomenon of the ‘carcade’ has evolved, whereby the supporters of the winning side pile into their cars, bedecked in the colours and symbols of their political party, and drive up and down the streets of the town blaring horns and yelling at passers-by.  Meanwhile the losers gnash their teeth and stay indoors for the day.

2. Running up a greasy pole:  Gostra is the name given to this entertaining tradition, whereby enthusiastic volunteers try to sprint up a 65 foot greasy pole in order to capture the flag at the end of it.  Not an easy feat, as you may well imagine, but fortunately the flagpole is angled out over the sea rather than off the side of a building, ensuring that the unsuccessful participants generally suffer no worse a fate than a dunking.

3. Burning doors:  Sometimes I wonder if I exaggerate in my mind the amount of times that I’ve seen news reports of people’s front doors being set alight.  I don’t know why it happens – although safe to assume that a pretty nasty dispute of some sort is to blame – but I’ve never heard of such a thing happening anywhere else.

4. Spring bird hunting:  Somewhat controversially, Malta has refused to buckle to EU demands to stop shooting at breeding migratory birds in springtime.  Even a referendum in April 2015 ended with a narrow victory for the hunters, (celebrated with vociferous khaki carcades – naturally), much to the dismay of environmentalists across Europe.

malta easter statue christ

CC image courtesy of Kurjuz on flickr

5. Running with statue of Christ at Easter:  Just about every feast and religious holiday features hardy volunteers carrying statues of saints through the village streets.  Easter Sunday takes things up a notch, as the bearers of the Risen Christ end the procession with a full pelt sprint back to the Church.

6. Giant elaborate nativity scenes:  Another religious tradition, this time involving the creation of massive and elaborate dioramas with the nativity scene at the centre, which are known as ‘presepju’.

7. Village festas:  A local Maltese festa brings the village out in force, banda club bands blasting out tunes while the local firework club lights up the sky in an attempt to make the neighbouring village green with envy.  Fuelled by the desire to out-do their local rivals, festas just keep getting bigger and louder every year.

courtesy: john haslam

CC image courtesy: of john haslam on flickr

8. Cat food on the street:  There are a lot of cats in Malta.  They pretty much have free run of the island, which is not great if you suffer from ailurophobia (yes, of course I had to google that) but has the not inconsiderate consolation of keeping the local population of rats and mice at bay.  But the precious felines don’t have to rely on rodent prey for sustenance, as locals will dump piles of cat food on the streets at random locations to keep the cat population thriving.

9. Bottles of water outside houses:  One of the down-sides of having cats (and occasional dogs) roaming the streets at will is the waste products after they have had their fill of available cat food.  For some reason Maltese people believe that the reflections of glass bottles of water in the sun dissuade the animals from making a mess outside their front doors, which is why you will see these bottles positioned in front of houses in the more traditional back streets.

Courtesy: Darren Barefoot

CC image courtesy of Darren Barefoot on flickr

10. Fireworks without the fire:  While lolling on the beach in summer time, your reverie may be abruptly disturbed by a deafening explosion.  Don’t worry, it’s not a ground to air missile or an errant hand grenade, it’s just the (quite unpopular) tradition of the ‘petard’, the incredibly noisy rocket fired off during festa time in Malta.  While to the casual observer this may seem a bewildering pointless and annoying tradition, it has its adherents, and despite various attempts to get them banned it seems that the petards will keep on frightening sunbathers for the foreseeable future.

Twistees: Malta’s Favourite Snack

Malta loves Twistees, the iconic crispy type snack doing it’s best to fly the flag for Malta versus the Doritos, Walkers and Pringles of this world.

The packaging has a rather Olde Worlde appearance, at least if the 1980’s qualify as Olde Worlde.

twistees malta


So what do Twistees actually taste like?

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How to get a TEFL Qualification in Malta

In order to teach English in Malta, you’ve got to have a certificate from a recognised school stating that you’ve completed an EFL course of at least 60 hours in length.   So why not kill two birds with one stone, and come out here to get your qualification before (hopefully) starting work in a school

And doing the course over here gives you an instant contact with the school where you take it.

The following schools offer courses of 60 hours (induction courses) and are all recognised by the Maltese department of education at time of writing:

  • ACE English
  • Chamber College
  • EASY School of Languages
  • EC Malta
  • EF Malta
  • ELA Malta
  • Inlingua Malta
  • Maltalingua
  • NSTS
  • Skylark School of English

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Bus Strike for Thursday.

bus strike thursday

So the bus drivers union has called a bus strike for Thursday (tomorrow) from 08.00 to 11.00 and from 16.00 to 19.00.

Targeting people who have to work, basically.

So who exactly is in the right here?  You won’t find a newspaper journalist who’s actually investigated the facts of the matter.

Here’s what they are saying (as I understand it):

Bus Company:  “The drivers agreed to work X hours per month, for which we will pay them Y.  As some drivers worked less than X hours, their pay is reduced so they get less than Y.”

Bus Workers Union:  “The company agreed to pay the drivers Y per month.  They did not pay Y, and so the strike has been called.”

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