Monday, 20 February 2012

The Blessing of the Animals in Rabat, Malta

Once a year the animals are brought to the church of St Augustine, in Rabat on the feast of St Anthony,
to be blessed.  They don't go into the church, instead they line the streets around the church, and the saint is brought to them.  Originally the blessing was for farm animals, but now it it mainly domestic animals that benefit from the blessing - although we did catch sight of a small black goat.  This year it was on the 15th January.

We knew we were nearing the right area of Rabat when we saw this diminutive pony being driven along.

Then we saw donkeys "parked" at the side of the roads with their carts spruced up, this one is sporting the Maltese flag.

this is how deserted the approach to the church was when we arrived - it soon filled up with hundreds of locals, most bearing, or being borne by, animals.

This brother and sister were in charge of two baby rabbits, nestled in fresh straw in a basket.

We were allowed into the church to see the effigy of the saint being prepared for his journey through the streets.

Outside, the band began to arrive - we were impressed by the sensible notion of wheeling the big drum along!

the priests appeared outside the church with the large, red flag.

Even the "search and rescue" dogs were brought along to be blessed.

This little girl, too young to be in control of a live animal, brought her stuffed dog along, her brother supervised the small bird in its cage.

Dad was allowed to support the basket for the photo - the rabbits weren't really interested.

This older couple brought their family pet, complete with new outfit.

The saint emerged from the church.  He is made from wood, and his base is a lightweight plastic, but you wouldn't know it to look at it.  It has an aged appearance.

We followed the procession around the block.  The poor carriers stopped periodically and set down the saint to rest their shoulders.  The musicians played throughout.  It was an interesting morning.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Valentine's day card

There's still time to make a Valentine's Day card if you've forgotten, or not had chance to make or buy one yet!

I made this one with a sheet of A4 white card, trimmed to a 5" square and an A5 piece of red paper.  I used an embossing board to create the red hearts, and a small heart punch to give me some hearts for decoration, but it would look equally good without them.

Rub your red paper with a tumble drier sheet, or a candle to make the embossing easier, then place it over your chosen embossing design and carefully emboss with a round ended tool.

remove it from the board and turn it over, this is the side that will show on your card.

carefully trim around the design - I use small scissors, but I have a friend who always uses large ones, and another who uses a craft knife - use whichever tool you feel most comfortable with!

Stick the embossed hearts to the front of your card.  I added a couple of phrases printed out from the computer "My Love" and "My Heart", and then wrote "4 U" with a broad felt tip in red.

I trimmed a quarter of an inch from the front of the card, then stuck five red punched hearts down the right hand side of the back of the card.

The finished card.  When it's closed you see only the scalloped edges of the punched hearts, which match the scallops around the embossed hearts, but you could skip this step entirely to save time.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Accidents will happen, our wonderful emergency services

I've just returned from Malta - it was hard to force myself to stay there, in the sunshine, for four whole weeks whilst my friends and family stayed shivering in the UK, but I managed it.

Friday the thirteenth passed uneventfully ... I'm not superstitious, touch wood, so hardly noticed its passing.

A few days later we got on a bus.  One of the side ceiling panels immediately in front of us had been unlocked, and was swinging from its hinges.  As the bus travelled along, it continued to move.  Suddenly it fell on to the heads of the six passengers below it.  The bus driver heard the commotion and pulled up as soon as he could.

He walked to where we were, picked up the panel and carried it to the front of the bus.  No word of apology.  Nothing.  

A gaping hole glared down at passengers still gazing in disbelief.

Fortunately nobody sustained any serious injury, although a couple did receive hospital attention.

On our return to the hotel, we discovered one of the two elevators out of service.  It transpired that it had fallen from the sixth floor down to the basement whilst carrying six passengers.  None of them needed hospital treatment, but they were very shaken.

One of the worst aspects was that on opening the lift, they were told that they had overloaded the capacity of the elevator - which is supposed to take eight people.  Two of the passengers were elderly ladies of shortish stature.  Again, no apology was forthcoming - it seems to be a Maltese trait in the service industries.

The aspect of this incident that I find most satisfying is the presence of mind of one of the passengers, who, not knowing what to do, dialled 999 on her mobile phone.  The unflappable emergency services operator in the UK proceeded to calm down the distracted passenger, phoned the Bella Vista Hotel in Qawra, Malta, and advised them that there was an emergency to attend to.

Ten out of ten to the emergency services.  Nought out of ten to the Bella Vista staff.