A Leap of Faith
Well I’m writing this at 7-30 am in the morning here in Gozo, its 6-30 am in Mold-Wales were I started 36 hours ago. When I left the UK it was hail and snow, and I just don’t like the cold weather, but the cold weather doesn’t like me so it’s mutual, that’s the big reason I needed to move it was literally killing me(COPD). I arrived at midnight after an uneventful journey on the budget airline Ryanair and waited 8 hours at the Hertz check in desk to collect my car at 8am (it was then that the girl on check-in said they would have come and to meet me 24/7 if I’d asked) Oh well bugger! So on Thursday morning I collected the car and I headed off to the Gozo ferry and the short trip across the Bahar Mediterran (that’s how they spell it here) on my way to Gozo. (I’m missing out much of the detail stuff to get to the point) the leap of faith.
I found my apartment quite by accident 2 months ago on my quick 1 week visit to Malta to check it out, I’d never visited Malta before but was intrigued by its history (and weather). Malta was very busy lots to do, but a little too “touristy” for me. After spending a couple of days driving around the island (believe me you can drive around the island easily in 2 days, we aren’t talking big here) I decided to take the car on the ferry to Gozo. Now if Malta is small (with a population around 400k) Gozo is positively tiny (population 30k ish). The island is around 15 miles long and 8 miles wide and is steeped in history, the world’s oldest structure the Ggantija Temples can be found on the island. So here I am driving around, trying to lose myself as I like to do, and I came across this beautiful village on the north of the island, population around 1200, although that will rise and fall according to the birth and death rate (I suspect the birth rate will exceed the death rate, again, more on THAT later). I decided to stop for a coffee in a quaint little coffee shop, the village was deserted, and it was a case of spot the person. I walked onto the balcony and the lady looking after the place said hello (with a very obvious English London accent).
I ordered coffee and croissant, the special of the day, 2 euros and sat in the sunshine to relax and enjoy this is February folks, (eat your heart out Wales). I started talking to Wendy and she asked what I was doing in Gozo, I explained that I was looking for somewhere to live, without another word she picked up her cell phone, actually mobile phone, I lived too long in Texas (everyone over in Texas agrees I did-puzzled) anyway she rang Betty. “Hello Betty” she said “I have a young man here looking for an apartment”, now either Wendy was short sighted or she was just trying to flatter me, but at 65 I’d hardly describe myself as a young man! Nevertheless my ego was suitably stroked and I met Betty outside the magnificent church (more on that in later).
Drama a bus in village View from my roof
She promptly marched off past the church towards a farm, and what looked to me as a really old, but well maintained building (actually as I found out later it wasn’t an old building, it was just that here on Gozo everyone kept their building in the traditional style, good for them) . Getting inside was a surprise, first of all the stairs to my 1st floor apartment (in Texas it would be the second floor, the ground floor would be the first floor), talk about two nations divided by a common language. The lobby and stairs were white marble and had a little sand on the floor, Betty said “Gozo had a sand storm from the Sahara that week”, THE SAHARA! (Well North Africa is just a few miles away). In the lobby were a couple of cages one with a budgie the other with some other exotic wild bird (I used to have a Budgie called Benny, don’t worry I won’t go into that in detail). So Betty strides up the stairs and by this time I’m exhausted by her brisk pace, I’m too much of a gentleman to estimate her age (ha-ha) but let’s put it this way she’s probably at least 10 years older than me.
So I get a very quick zip around the apartment, 3 bedrooms, 3 balconies a kitchen and all the bits you need to start afresh a 10 minutes maximum, (slow down Betty). We popped down the stairs (Betty popped, I wheezed), we stopped half way up the road to the church so I could get my breath. “Are you OK John” asked Betty “Oh I have a breathing problem only a little asthma and just need to catch my breath” I said. “I have asthma as well” said Betty. Well you could have fooled me, after I caught my breath and we continued on our way (only about 500 yards) Betty quickly told me a little about the apartment, “a lady who has lived downstairs for many years is English, and the rent is….” (Well I may let the cat out of the bag at some stage, I don’t need thousands of cheapskates like me invading my island paradise).
I said goodbye to Betty and told her I’d let her know my decision ASAP she didn’t have internet or email but gave me her local telephone number (I didn’t think there were people off the grid nowadays). Now OK if the apartment and the village was that good surely it was a no brainer, but unfortunately the UK had made the decision to have a referendum as to whether or not they wanted to stay inside of the European Union, and I really wasn’t sure where that would leave expats like me. I went back on the ferry to Malta thinking Gozo is more my “cup of tea”. Nevertheless the next day I set off again in my trusty little hire care (and we are talking little) and continued to explore Malta. I got back to the hotel exhausted, this really wasn’t intended to be a holiday just a fact finding week and it was hard work. I lay in the hotel that evening considering my trip so far and thinking….. Gozo really did suit my nature and Karma more than Malta, so I got up bright and early the next day and off we went (me and my now good friend, the Vauxhall Corsa) for another trip to Gozo. I drove around the whole perimeter had lunch in the village of Xlendi overlooking that special blue of the Mediterranean and enjoyed their catch of the day “sea bass” and what a lunch it was.
Sea Bass at Xlendi View from my table
I called in at the apartment on my way back to the ferry, no-one was there but I left a note in the letter box explaining who I was and leaving my email address (I made no mention of being a crazy Brit it might have given the wrong impression). After what was a fairly uneventful journey back to the UK I arrived and sat down in my small 1 bedroomed apartment in the cold in Mold Flintshire and considered what I should do. What the hell it was freezing here in February and I was sitting outside in the sun having lunch a few days ago, “am I crazy or what”? Then an email arrived, it was from the English lady downstairs from the apartment she explained more about my new home, but to be honest I was already sold after a quick 10 minute viewing (Betty was such a pushy salesperson-NOT). So what if the UK left Europe, so what! I’ve taken far greater chances in my life, only a couple of years before I was thinking of moving with my girls (Tasha and Munchie) to Ecuador, South America and the health care there isn’t anywhere near as good as the Maltese archipelago. Malta has the fifth best healthcare in the world according to W.H.O. (better than the UK and the US) besides Malta having once been part of the British Empire have strong links with blighty, yes we used to have an Empire before the US stuck here nose in the trough, (but that needs to be the subject of another blog). Talk about going back in time to how England use to be, here in Malta even the phone boxes and post boxes are red and the electrical system is the same as the UK, driving is on the left side, which is the right side (or correct side) as far as I’m concerned, am I making any sense here, I know I’m a crazy. So that was it I made my Leap of Faith, I threw caution to the wind (not for the first time in my life) and sent an email to my go between (who I’d never even met) and said I wanted the apartment.
A Gozitan phone box The restaurant in Xlendi
Now when I lived in Texas, my pet name (well I was treated like a pet) was The Crazy Brit. Point of order! I like to share a few thoughts here, firstly, I may have been crazy but strangely enough since I left Texas people have commented how I’d changed for the better, sure I went through one helluva time when I got back and I certainly experienced the money grabbing consumer society while I was there (I’m not sure I want to talk about that, but we shall see) but I was changing, I was getting back to the old me. Hey the Yanks had kept me comatose for 10 years (and that is definitely the subject of another blog). Secondly, you really couldn’t find two completely opposite places than Texas or Dallas and Gozo.
I think I’ve found my peace and tranquility and so far with the people I’ve met my other hope is harmony. Peace, Harmony and Tranquility. I used to wear a silver ring with those 3 words on it, but that’s gone the same way as all of my other stuff, and currently resides somewhere in Texas.
So what about my apartment in Gozo? Well I arrived yesterday, Betty brought me the keys while I finished a coffee with Wendy and she walked to the apartment (I drove, I really need to get more exercise and I will). She left me alone to explore and it was then that I realized I’d really fallen on my feet. While the building looks old on the outside the inside is fitted out with the latest fixtures and fittings, a brand new IKEA kitchen, Italian tiled floors and exposed stone walls with artwork painted directly on them, picture are hung in all of the rooms and there’s lots of homely little nick knack’ around. The roof is all mine, I could fit two of my previous flats in Wales up there, and I overlook the countryside on one side and the village on the other. I have a fully equipped kitchen with everything from a teapot (very important for the Crazy Brit) to a garlic press and a corkscrew (also important for the Crazy Brit).
But it didn’t have any dish washing soap (washing up liquid), shock horror, so last night I jumped in the car and headed off to find a shop, I passed the local village shop almost immediately but decided to have a little look around. I saw several ‘quaint’ little restaurants and was finally tempted by a little place which had an open air eating area La Stanza. The waitress asked if I’d like to sit inside as it was a little chilly this evening. “Chilly” I said. “Last night I walked home in hail and snow”, I was fine sitting just where I was, eating my fresh catch of the day, sea bass, well why give up on a good thing, but I’ve found that some people do (and that IS the subject of another blog). Talk about a leap of faith, I arrived with 3 suitcases in which I’d packed 65 years of my life.
One of my favorite comedians George Carlin talked about STUFF in a very funny stand- up comedy routine, and that also helped me break away from hanging onto my stuff, so it all worked out for the best. You know we all need to do this sometimes in our lives, take a leap of faith, it’s certainly better than being pushed.
Peace and good Karma to you all, it’s now 9-15am I need to get out in the sunshine, Yee ha! (Whoops that’s the bit of Texan that’s still inside me coming out, not long now and it’ll be gone, wow 10 years gone just like that).
As I’ve been told over here that, I “talka very mucha witha ze queenz English” actually I thought I had a tinge of scouse, but mum’s the word. TTFN.
John Chalkley aka The Crazy Brit