Happily Ever After

Life in The Rural Retreat with a beautiful wife, three cats, garden wildlife, a camera, a computer – and increasing amounts about running

Earlier posts can be found on Adventures of a Lone Bass Player, where this blog began life. Recent entries can be found here.


In The Lap Of The Gods

by admin - 08:14 on 23 February 2014

The Running Gods are toying with Matchgirl again. Since the small hours of this morning she's been evacuating what we suspect is half a dodgy pizza (the other half was brought back from the restaurant as a post-run treat but may now be used as evidence) so her pre-run routine is shattered and she's understandably not happy, nor confident about half marathon success.

Despite everything, she crossed her fingers and fifteen minutes ago left our flat to find the coaches which will take her and hundreds of other runners to the start at Mdina. My presence was not required. With luck I'll be able to post later today that all turned out well in the end.

Her misfortune is doubly unfair because, after shaking off the after-effects of her cold, her preparations were going smoothly. The flight from Inverness to Gatwick was without incident, as was the one from Gatwick to Malta – apart from the half-dozen VERY LOUD women in blue Portsmouth Joggers hoodies who were set on similar athletic pursuits – and we survived a taxi journey through mad Maltese traffic to reach our studio apartment at Pebbles Boutique Hotel in Sliema where we learned we'd been upgraded from the studio to an apartment with roughly the same square footage as the entire Rural Retreat and a panoramic view across the harbour.

This seemed to be a good omen; maybe the Gods were just teasing us.

So after some sun-baked, T-shirt-clad shopping for necessities (these are self-catering flats) we spent the rest of the day and evening enjoying a luxury only slightly marred by the noise of holidaying yoof, or possibly Maltese yoof, in the bar on the ground floor of our building. We slept well.

Yesterday was mostly occupied by a tour of northern Malta aboard a hop on-hop off open-top double-decker provided by Maltasightseeing (which despite its website's claims is only one of several such services). Our first stop, at Matchgirl's request, was the gardens of the presidential palace. Her feline nose must have led her there because the grounds are home to a huge number of large, contented and confident cats. I don't know whether they're encouraged or merely tolerated, but all looked very at home.

Next stop was Ta' Qali Craft Village, situated in converted wartime Nissen huts, where it's possible to shop to your heart's content if you're after glass, jewellery, furniture or tourist goods.

Our final stop was at Mdina, partly so Matchgirl could check out where her race begins today but mainly so we could see Malta's old capital, and the only town on the island that's not choked by parked and moving traffic. Only residents' vehicles are allowed inside so tourists get around on foot or in horse-drawn carriages. It deserved more time there than we had – definitely a place to revisit. A bonus was some of the best pasta I've ever had.

Back on the last bus of the day we watched more of the island go past and enjoyed the Mediterranean scenery until the last stop when two blue hoodies and VERY LOUD voices alerted us to the fact that we were once again in the presence of some Portsmouth Joggers. Fortunately our journey was almost at an end.

We should have stayed indoors last night and listened to the karaoke drift across the harbour but Matchgirl needed pre-race carb loading. We didn't know that out there was a pizza with her name on it (mine seemed fine) although we should have guessed we were in for trouble when, after being seated, we realised that lots of VERY LOUD voices were raised at a distant table where a blue hoodies convention was taking place.

Or maybe Matchgirl was cursed by the female half of the German couple at the next table who clearly thought her space had been invaded. Sliema is packed, mostly with runners, and tables were crammed together. The grumpy German spent much time staring at her, I was informed after we left. That we'd ordered and almost finished eating before her meal arrived probably didn't help.

Back at Pebbles, an early night was in order ahead of Matchgirl's early rise, pre-race breakfast and sprightly warm-up jog to catch the coach to Mdina. But the best laid plans gang aft agley, as the Bard told us.

Look back later to learn if Triumph overcame Adversity or whether The Running Gods continued to bully poor Matchgirl. My money's on her.

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