Literature, Quotes

Eyes too full

Granta 135 - Spring 2016

“Aristotle thought there were only two colours. You’d wonder if he had eyes in his head. But maybe his eyes were too full of what was going on in his head. Like the rest of us. Not looking enough. No one has ever looked enough.”

A Visit to the Zoo – Colm Tóibín


How many sugar packets to this set?

I can’t find any information on how many sugar packets make up this interesting set. So far I have six. The brand is Mr Sugar and the company name on the side is Gesco Group International. The website given brings up a “Webpage unavailable” message.

Any sucrologist out there who can give me any further information?

Gesco Group International


Qolla Safra: GC5CJB4

The magrelinha does the finding, I do the posing!

The magrelinha does the finding, I do the posing!

Qolla Safra – the Q in Qolla rises from deep within the throat and is then spat out, together with the loose rubble of an O, double L and A.

Qolla Safra – a formation of yellow earth that emerges from the dry soil and scattered stones that surround it.

Qolla Safra – also known, in a cold and anonymous manner that belies the raw nature of its constituent elements, as GC5CJB4.

Qolla Safra – one of the fifty or so geocaches that lie within the boundaries of a seriously undulating landscape that protrudes in a rude but beautiful manner from the central Mediterranean.

Last year, on the 30th May according to the records, Qolla Safra became our first attempt at geocaching. That we were newbies to the activity is borne out by the fact that we set off from our accommodation in Marsalforn without any equipment that would help us locate the cache. All we had were the words Qolla Safra and an assumption (false, as it turned out and to which I claim full ownership) that it had to be at the top of that formation. I have been losing my head for heights with the passing of the years yet, driven by the desire to be baptised in this outdoor activity, I made a serious effort to scramble onwards and upwards as we followed the steep and twisting path. To her credit, my wife and fellow eager geocaching newbie seemed less daunted by the route we were taking. Eventually we did reach the peak and, once there, all worries of having to make an equally crumbly and sharp descent were exchanged for the exhilaration felt at the uninterrupted view that encircled us. We stood and stared to our eyes’ delight.

With that trophy in our cupboard of experiences, we set about the serious business we had come here for. The area at the top might have been restricted but the cracks and crevices were many. Heads down and knees bent, our fingers led the exploration of all the possible cubby holes, some protected by jagged edges or shrubs. We crawled over this hill like two demented termites, driven on by my idea that the cache had to be up there. Looking back now I wonder what people gazing at the Qolla Safra must have made of the bizarre scene we were spontaneously acting out on that elevated stage. The more we looked and the more we failed at finding it, the more determined we became; though the hiding places were multiple, they weren’t infinite, so we laboured on. Eventually, with tiredness and frustration setting in as the sun slowly started its own setting procedures, we held an emergency summit. The unanimous decision was to soak in some more of that vista and then call it quits.

Back at base camp that evening, I consulted the Qolla Safra geocache description and map and, to my humiliation, discovered that I had missed the obvious – there was no need to ascend the hill because the cache was on the lower reaches. Disappointed, I still logged this first attempt but had to put it down as a DNF (Did Not Find). Who would have thought that “first” can be a synonym for failure?

But time has healing powers, as does fortitude. It took us a year to revisit Gozo but in less than a quarter-of-an-hour we were signing the Qolla Safra’s logbook. It was the magrelinha who ferreted it out, her keen eye having observed a collection of stones which appeared to be more than just a random assortment of broken rock. One year on and we were celebrating the geocache which introduced us to this interesting, at times physically demanding, activity.

Qolla Safra – proudly added to the favourites list by!


Shadows in Penumbra – Lillian Siberras

Has anyone read this book?

If yes, what are your thoughts about it?

Thanks for any feedback you can give me.

Diary, Travel

Brasil, belatedly. The final one.

Already half-a-year has (nearly) elapsed since the magrelinha and I landed on the hot tarmac of Natal airport’s runway. I haven’t written anything yet about my experiences there so, with the guilty conscience of a debtor being 6-months in arrears, I am going to make weekly repayments through this series of blog posts – Brasil, belatedly.

Here’s hoping your new year celebration was an enjoyable one. We spent the eve having dinner in our hotel room while watching the partying and countdown on television, then viewing part of the fireworks display in the distance from our terrace. Of course we could have chosen to be present in person but shoulder to shoulder crowds smelling of alcohol is not the ambiance we seek out.

The real bang was the first of January, when we set out on a walking tour of (a very small part of) the city. We combined this with a hobby of ours – geocaching. This is basically a modern day type of treasure hunting, using the phone’s GPS to locate hidden containers. These come in various sizes but as a minimum they must have a log book inside. The idea of the activity is to find the cache (which can be ingeniously hidden), sign the log book and replace it. Anyway, we ended up walking 22 kilometres,  finding 3 caches of the six we attempted. This is the route we took…


and here we are geocaching…

(You can watch a short video about the activity by clicking on this link:

The first day of the year was also the first time I tasted “caldo de cana”. It’s the juice of the sugar cane, ever so simple to make. Take a 60cm piece of sugar cane…


put it through a roller, the silver contraption in the background…


and here is the result…


The only addition is ice, turning it into an absolutely refreshingly delicious, all natural drink. What still amazes me is how something that looks so solid can in fact contain so much liquid.

Saturday afternoon we were flying back to Natal for the final few days of this Brazilian stay.


So, this is also the final “greetings to all ” ending because we’ll be back on the pebble in the Mediterranean on Friday.


The “Brasil, belatedly” series. Click for: parts 1 to 11


Diary, Travel

Brasil, belatedly. Brasilia, lately.

Already half-a-year has (nearly) elapsed since the magrelinha and I landed on the hot tarmac of Natal airport’s runway. I haven’t written anything yet about my experiences there so, with the guilty conscience of a debtor being 6-months in arrears, I am going to make weekly repayments through this series of blog posts – Brasil, belatedly.



Do you know the term “snail mail”? It refers to correspondence which arrives in an envelope or as a postcard. This is to contrast it with the speediness of emails. Well, had I sent this missive the traditional way, you’d have noticed from the stamp on the envelope that it was from Brazil. Looking more closely at the postmark, you’d have also realized that this time it’s not from Natal, but from Brasilia, which is the capital city of Brazil. You might think I’m stating the obvious but there are still many who instinctively say Rio when asked for the country’s capital. Within hours of Christmas Day expiring, we embarked on a 2 hours 30 minutes flight to spend a week in this fascinating place which, until 1960, was just a set of coordinates marking a remote spot in the vastness that makes this country. Even though over half-a-century has gone by, the architecture of the time – a lot of it by the famed Oscar Niemeyer – is still considered modern by today’s standards. We spent a splendid Sunday visiting some of these iconic structures: parliament house, metropolitan cathedral, national library, museum of art. This is really Sandra’s cup of tea but I, too, was thrilled to be inside places I had only admired in books or on the internet.

Probably the timing of our break was, unintentionally, the ideal moment to be in Brasilia. With it being the holiday season, many of the locals migrate to the beach resorts, Natal being especially popular this year. This population drought results in barren expanses of tarmac that form the multi-lane avenues mirroring the four cardinal compass points. For a city of 2.5 million people, we have been left wondering where everyone who decided to remain is hiding. Come Monday we will discover whether blood cells still flow through the city’s veins if the cars return to populate their natural habitat.

The “Brasil, belatedly” series. Click for: parts 1 to 10