When does Dating become a Relationship?

There’s a thin line between what we call dating someone and actually being in a relationship with them.

The word ‘dating’ denotes that the link between two people is still tenuous, that their acquaintance is just starting, and that there are still no strings attached, no expectations, and no deep emotions at play. On the other hand, a relationship between a couple is the complete opposite, since it usually means that said couple are emotionally attached to each other, to the exclusion of all other possible partners.

Therefore, while people who are still dating are still sounding each other out and keeping their options open, those in a relationship have already settled to try to make things work with that special person they’ve fallen in love with, and with whom they want to share their experiences and everyday joys and sorrows.

The tricky part, however, is to actually understand where the dating phase ends, and where the relationship begins. Some never get to the relationship nor even want to, preferring instead to casually date different people in a relaxed manner without any ties. However, for most of us, dating does eventually evolve into a relationship.

relationship

When I was younger, one of my biggest problems was in actually understanding when someone stopped being my date and actually became my boyfriend. I’m sure many of my boyfriends at the time had the exact same difficulty. So, the question arises: how do we finally become certain that the other person considers us their partner, and not just their date?

When the other person refers to you as their girlfriend/boyfriend – This is the easy way out. Simply wait for the other person you’re going out with to introduce you as such, and that’s it. Thing is, what if the other person in the couple is also waiting for you to clinch the deal? Would that mean that both of you would wait forever? Better not risk it!

girlfriend

When someone else refers to you as the other person’s partner, and you see their reaction – This one is pretty clear. There you are at a bottle party, and someone asks your date his girlfriend’s name. What does he do? Does he just reply calmly and in so doing affirm your role as his girlfriend? Does he hesitate? Or does he staunchly reply that you’re not his girlfriend but just a friend, and that your name is Tiffany? Hmm…

keep-calm

Meeting the parents – Some people believe that when a partner invites you to meet their family, that means that they’re offering you a way into it. Personally, I disagree with this theory. How do you know whether he’s so laid back as to take all his friends, colleagues and acquaintances to the family BBQ? Maybe all the family members do this. Again, if at said BBQ opportunities number 1 and number 2 mentioned above crop up, you will then be clearer as to where you stand.

mistake

Asking you whether you’re dating other people – Here, the other person will be making it clear that they actually care if you do, that is unless they’re asking you to assuage their conscience because they’re actually dating someone else as well. In this case, better come clear and demand an exclusive relationship if you want one, or an open relationship if you prefer that.

niky

Telling you they’re in love with you – And there you have it! If you say it back, you’re in a relationship! If not, things might get a little bit confused or complicated, but this still wouldn’t mean that they wouldn’t be progressing towards one, if you want it, that is.

love

N.B This article was written by moi and was originally published in the online magazine EVE to be found here.

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Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – Movie Review

Genre – Teen/Comedy
Length – 1hr 43mins
Released in – 1986
My Overall Grading – 3 Stars

Life moves pretty fast; if you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it!’

Each and every movie has one main aim – to make the viewer feel something. There is always one single encompassing idea, perspective, or state of mind towards which the plot-line itself takes you, even though most of the time, this is sold to the audience subconsciously, in that it underlies the film’s story-line or characterization, rather than being wholly apparent as one concrete whole.

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) was written expressly for Matthew Broderick and is a pretty easy movie to summerize. Basically: a charming teen decides to flunk school because he has a test, and convinces his best friend and his girlfriend to spend the day with him roaming the town instead.

Pretty simple right? You’d think that’s all there was to it. Well… yes and no.

I was always fascinated by the kind of character Ferris, that is Matthew Broderick, portrays. This is the kind of character who has, it seems, been blessed by the ancient gods with such good fortune, that anything and everything he does turns out well. No matter how many rules he breaks, how many people he manipulates, how many blatant self-serving lies he tells (always with a charming smile and a rakish attitude of course), he never gets to face the music. And believe me, these people exist. It’s just unfortunate that I am not one of them.

Apart from the amusing foibles our characters go through, and the hilarious contribution to the cast given by the uniquely endowed Jeffrey Jones (his face is the epitome of all asshole-ish headmasters), one cannot but note the rest of the amazing cast. Most of the main actors seem in fact to actually represent my favorite iconic 80s movies. Apart from Broderick himself (Wargames, Ladyhawke), there’s Mia Sara (Legend) who plays his love interest, Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing) as his older sister, Alan Ruck (Bad Boys) is his bestie, Ben Stein (Ghostbusters II, The Wonder Years, MacGyver) as his teacher, the aforementioned Jeffrey Jones (Beetlejuice) is his headmaster, Lyman Ward (A Nightmare on Elm Street) plays the role of his father, and even Charlie Sheen makes a short appearance. Could any other cast have been more perfect for an 80s movie?

Apart from that, it tickles me no end to know that the interior hallway scenes for Ferris’ school were filmed at Maine North High School – the same place where John Hughes’ iconic movie The Breakfast Club was also filmed. This school also features in 16 Candles and Pretty In Pink!

So what happens when Ferris fakes sick to escape taking his test? What doesn’t happen! Amidst fancy brunches, romantic smooches, coming-of-age battles, wild joyrides, street parades, dips in the pool, and amusing tirades, we find ourselves asking – how many hours are there in a day? How does the errant trio manage to do all that stuff in such a short time? And this brings us to the crux idea of the movie.

Life is short. Enjoy it!!!

Conclusion: This movie was fun… BUT it wasn’t memorable, in that there were no deep characters, underlying issues or actual emotional scenes or feelings between characters. It’s a very light-hearted film, perfect if you just want to relax with a no-brainer and a couple of easy laughs.

In Love with the 80s

If you had the choice of re-living your childhood and teenage years, and could choose the particular decade during which to enjoy them… would you? And which decade would you choose?

Baccombed wild hair, puffy tulle skirts, pink scrunchies, men wearing heavy make-up, others stroking screeching guitars as though they were lovers, skintight leather trousers, shoulder-padded blazers, bubblegum and legwarmers. No it’s not a drag-queen’s parade – it’s the 80s!

Ever since I can remember, I have always been in love with the 80s. The movies, the video games, the music, the pop-culture, the anime, the clothes (especially the Madonna phase)…. Taking into account that I was born in the mid-80s, and therefore don’t remember a thing about actually living during this decade, since I was a toddler at the time, this kind of retro-nostalgia might not be understandable to others. After all, why yearn for slower services, archaic I.T, and vanilla sitcoms right? Still, when I look at the ingenious convoluted plots of 80s movies, as opposed to the boring recurring tropes featuring semi-nude women, sex scenes, car chases and gratuitous violence… without a shred of innovation or creativity, presented to viewers today, it is no wonder I end up re-watching old 80s, and sometimes 90s films over and over again.

And what to say about the music? David Bowie, Queen, Siouxie and the Banshees, Black Sabbath, Def Leppard, Madonna, Guns n Roses, Van Halen, AC/DC, Twisted Sister, Whitesnake, Kiss, Scorpions, Eurythmics… need I go on? Who do we have now? Justin Bieber? Miley Cyrus? Kanye West? Oh please…

I don’t doubt that there are great and talented artists out there. But does today’s entertainment culture give them prominence as it should? I’ll leave you to answer that yourselves shall I?

Two days ago, I finished reading Cline’s amazing book ‘Ready Player One’. And it was a blast. The movie? I liked it and watched it twice… before I had actually read the novel. Now? Let’s say I think I’ll be considering the movie and the novel as two separate entities, rather than one. Yes, the movie does derive from the book, BUT apart from holding to the mostly-right cliche that ‘The book is always better than the movie’, I have to say that the characters, plot-lines, adventures and contents of the movie vs book itself are vastly different. And yes, the book is much better. Especially if you are a sucker for the 80s like me. And a movie-geek. And love video games. And are an otaku. And a geek. And a nerd.

I think you’ve realized by now that even though I finished reading the book more than 48 hours ago, I am still MASSIVELY HYPED UP about it.

Time to listen to some good 80s music and re-watch ‘Back to the Future’ or ‘Bladerunner’!

Where are the best areas for expats to live in Malta?

I am always glad to hear other people’s opinions about something which is close to me, or part of my everyday life. When we see and experience something every day for years, it becomes common place. For us, that is. It is always kind of refreshing to realize that what is normal for you, may be strange, new and/or seem different to other people.

When it comes to Malta, the island in the Mediterranean where I was born and bred, this is especially true. I have never lived anywhere else, the traditions, mentality, heritage, and geography of this tiny island are in my blood, and it always tickles me to no end when I see people from other countries or backgrounds land on these shores, look around them in wonder (or depreciation, depends who you ask), and start clicking madly on their cameras, or writing about it on their blogs. I am always curious to see and ponder these reactions, and maybe this is why some time ago I opted to become a member of a number of Facebook groups consisting mostly of expats living here, or people who are thinking about relocating to Malta.

The candid ideas, thoughts, issues and questions of someone who has never lived here before, or who has lived here for some time while having a different natal country, are very interesting and at times, quite educational. One also realizes that most queries, concerns and problems are shared and natural to ask before relocating to another country.

One of the most common issues tackled on these forums regards the best and/or worse areas to live in.

Although the Maltese archipelago is relatively a small one, it still offers a huge number of choices when it comes to residential opportunities. First and foremost, when choosing a place to live on the island, one must consider one’s wants and needs. If, for example, one wants to live near his or her place of work, that is quite understandable, and here the size of our island comes into play, since as Malta is not so large, almost everywhere can be said to be located within a stone’s throw of every other location. Traffic, of course, must always be taken into account, especially if one works in a central location such as Sliema or Valletta.

Working requirements aside, one must also consider whether s/he considers being close to the beach a priority, or whether s/he would prefer to be located in the city center. For people who wish to be near the sea, I would personally recommend finding a home either in the South, that is within such towns as Marsascala or Marsaxlokk, or else in the far North, that is in such towns as Mellieha, Qawra, or Bugibba. While accommodation can be cheaper in the South, one must also keep in mind that living in for example Mellieha has its advantages if one is interested in frequent trips to Malta’s sister island, Gozo, since this town is closer to the ferry than, say, Marsaxlokk. Again, the atmosphere of the North and South is quite different, in that the North offers opportunities to enjoy not only a multitude of beaches, but also a number of unspoilt countryside walks, however on the downside, since tourists tend to gravitate towards places such as Bugibba or Qawra, which offer a number of cheap hotels and services, relocating to the South would bring one closer to the original Maltese traditional way of life.

Those who prefer life in the city, such as students, business men or plain city gals and guys, tend to look for accommodation in places such as Sliema, Saint Julians or Valletta. Take it from me, this is a no-no. First of all, because flats and homes in general in these two cities are quite expensive, despite being mostly on the small-ish size, and secondly because, due to the onset of so many tourists and expats, daily amenities and convenience stores tend to be much more expensive than those one finds in other parts of the island. My suggestion would be to find more reasonably priced accommodation in towns such as Msida, Mosta, or Naxxar, which though not at the exact hub of Maltese high-life, are definitely more affordable. They are also quite close to the center.

One must also not forget the many ex-pats who relocate to our islands in order to enjoy a quite retirement. The tiny island of Gozo is perfect for those searching for peace and quiet. Its unspoilt panoramas, clear sandy beaches, and picturesque countryside offer a view into an older and more traditional way of life. Unfortunately however, Gozo is not such an attractive place for those looking for work, entertainment or new opportunities, as even the locals themselves struggle to find these, and often have to commute to Malta for work on a daily basis.

Should one wish to combine the bustle and hustle of a lively city, togather with historical heritage and Maltese tradition, I would suggest going to live in the Harbour area, most particularly in one of the ‘three cities’, that is, Bormla (Cospicua), Birgu (Vittoriosa) or Isla (Senglea). Apart from offering unparalleled seaviews, the Harbour area is also the showcase for some magnificent architecture. It is also a center of industry, and is quite close to the capital city of Valletta. 

Note: Part of this article, written by yours truly, was also published on the Expat online magazine LivingInMalta. The direct link can be found here.

Black Water – Music EP Review

Giving voice to what most of us think and feel, singer and artist Chellcy Reitsma, at 42, is surely wiser than most. Born in California and now living in Malta, Chellcy’s easy smile and vibrant persona belie a passionate spirit which needs to be heard.

This need for communication is perfectly expressed through her strong deep voice, which, backed by the haunting sound of the harmonica keening a sad lullaby, forms the backbone of her latest EP Black Water, released by Railway Studios last October.

Chellcy Reitsma. Photo: Federico Peltretti

Chellcy Reitsma. Photo: Federico Peltretti

Containing four tracks, including the song which lends the EP its name, as well as an original poem the artist wrote herself, this EP is one of an escalating set of steps in the singer’s career, which began when she was very young.

Ascribing her love to music and dance to her family’s influence, Chellcy first stared out as a visual artist and a dancer, and only later evolved as a singer, releasing Blue her first single, in 2016. A mixture of jazz and blues, Blue, gave way to her second single The Three of Us released by Beehive Studios a year later.

Chellcy is currently producing and managing artistic, cultural and educational events and projects. Black Water was released as a single last June and, as the singer herself describes, its main themes of personal empowerment, strength and determination pervade throughout all the tracks which make up the EP itself.

Can you describe your past career as an artist? 

In the past I devoted my entire life to visual ars and dancing. When it comes to visual arts, I took large mural commissions both in California and in Chicago, sold my paintings and drawings to collectors and held large exhibitions at fine galleries in northern and central California and Chicago.

I am still active in my artistic career, even more so now that I had to retire from dancing due to health reasons. I started focusing on dancing as a career in 2004 in Chicago and opened a dance company called Fringe Benefits directly after graduating.

This focused on contemporary dance fused with Egyptian dance styles, folkloric styles, Spanish and flamenco fusions of all three genres, and Samba. I toured around Europe and North America teaching dance and choreography, and performing dances both solo and with bands at dance conferences, festivals, cultural events, and educational events.

I opened a second branch of my dance company in Malta in 2008. In 2012, I closed my company in Chicago when I relocated full-time to Malta as it became too cumbersome to manage both, and in 2016, my assistant took over the dance company in Malta since I had to retire from dancing due to physical injuries.

Why did you relocate to Malta? 

I first started coming here intermittently as of December 2005 as a dance instructor and performer. Then I decided to move here because I fell in love with Malta, and started the long migration process in 2009. In 2011 I met the man who is now my husband, who is Maltese, and whom I married in 2013. 

What are you working on at the moment?

I am working on a music project with composer Tom Borg from the band Hunting Cain, as well as developing a large visual art exhibition with Finnish artist Merja Brinon, which will be showing at Spazu Kreattiv in 2019 in Malta and in 2020 in Spain and Finland.

I will be travelling to Finland later in the year to work with Brinon in developing our artistic collaborations, concepts, and location scouting.

The track Black Water seems to paint the image of someone looking at the past. Is there a hidden message?

The EP and the song itself were inspired by my move from Chicago to Malta – letting go of the past and moving on from relationships that ended. There is a lot of sadness in these songs, but also hope and resolution. The whole EP is about moving forward, taking control of your life and overcoming your fears.

Note: This interview was done by me and officially published on The Sunday Times of Malta on the 6th of January 2019

Wake up and smell the Coffee!!

Man is a strange mammal. He thrives on competition, glorifies in destruction, and flourishes through selective memory. Because yes – we love lying to ourselves don’t we? Or let us rather say that the individual has an intrinsic predominant love for himself, which leads him to remember (consciously or subconsciously) whatever suits him most.

Simply put – we love to love ourselves, which is why in most cases we end up remembering experiences and events which happened to us in a way which shows us in the best possible light… to ourselves that is. We are never wrong, or if we are, we were justified. We never make mistakes, but if we do, they are understandable in that particular situation/s, and anyone who doesn’t understand is at fault himself. Etc. Etc.

The same goes when it comes to the way we perceive the world around us. Because obviously, man does’nt lie to himself about his own person ONLY. We see our own image by reflecting on who we want to be, or who we think we are, not on whom we seem to be, whom others think we are, or who our behavior makes us out to be.

Similarly, we view the world (and other people) either the way we want to see it/them (for one reason or another), or the way we are AFRAID to see it/them. For example, a man may think his wife loves him because she had said ‘I do’ five years before, not wanting to admit how their relationship has changed, that she now prefers to spend her time with other people rather than with him, that there have been changes in their intimacy, etc. The sole fact that she rarely smiles at him any more, a simply factor which other members of the family may have noticed, could escape him completely. Not because he is blind or stupid, but because he simply REFUSES to see it.

Another example could be the way we perceive political parties. Or football teams for that matter. ‘Our own’ political party (or team) can do no wrong. If they make a mistake… well, everyone is human right? On the other hand, the opposite political party (or team, group, whatever) is evil through and through. They use up tax money paid by honest hard working people to line their own pockets, to the exclusion of anything else. This can be seen by the fact that there is traffic, the roads are bad, there is rubbish in the streets, etc. That is all. Obviously, the man who only sees what he wants to see, or what he fears to see, fails to see the whole picture. He fails to see the evolution in the educational system, the improvement of the health sector, the cleaning of historical sites, the development of new laws and regulations which give new rights to minorities, etc. He only sees what is wrong, because that is what he expects to see. That is how the human mind works.

One of my favorite 90s movies is Kevin Bacon’s ‘He Said, She said’, which portrays this mental self-conditioning perfectly. If you haven’t watched the movie, believe me, you should.

Basically the premise of the film shows us the relationship between two people from both their different perspectives. The first half of the film reveals to us how the two met and started dating, from the guy’s point of view. The second half of the film shows us the exact same story-line BUT this time from the woman’s perspective. You’d think the second half would be boring, since we see exactly what we had already seen before. Wrong. There are details of the love-story which are the same but the backstory, most of the events, etc, are almost totally different. How is this possible?

It is, because people never tell themselves the whole truth. They never even SEE the whole truth. Maybe they are afraid too. When one of two friends fights and comes to you for guidance, what do you do? In Malta in this case the adage tells you to: ‘isma l-qanpiena l-ohra‘, which roughly translates to ‘listen to the other bell’, meaning that you need to ask the other person his own side of the story.

This is because most of the time, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

What brought this on, you might ask? Nothing in particular. It’s just that sometimes, the sheer lengths people go to, to deny a particular fact or an obvious conclusion, is simply astounding.

… andddd I just realized that I’ve written a ton… hehe and I’m still sipping my first cup of coffee. This is what happens when you wake up early with your head churning with too many thoughts. Off to start my day now. Hopefully with a lighter mind.

Ta

Merry Mondays

Mondays are usually days of woe, where instead of appreciating a bright new day most people (me included) moan and groan about a number of things. We moan about having to wake up early to go back to work after the weekend. We groan about having to head back to our usual daily routine. We grumble about the morning traffic. We mumble about all the irritating, yet needful things we need to do, not to mention all those little tasks we still have pending from last week.

In other words, EVERYONE hates Mondays.

So, instead of moaning and groaning as usual, today I have decided to focus on the GOOD things I have to look forward to this week. This does not mean that there aren’t going to be tough days and things which I am NOT looking forward to at all… but I’d rather look on the bright side this morning, so, here are some things which I AM happily thinking about and looking forward to today, yes even though it is MONDAY lol:

  • The weather – today is dark, cloudy and rainy. My favorite weather. And yes it is cold and slows things down, but I love it. So there!
  • Mushroom soup – I cooked a big pot of my favorite soup yesterday, and it will be just perfect for this weather too!
  • Resolutions – As of today I will start going for a 30 – 40 minute walk everyday. In the rain you say? Well, YES! Believe it or not I enjoy it… I even sing ‘Singing in the Rain’ under my breath sometimes hehe
  • Pampering – My hairdressing salon has relocated to a 5-star hotel (with the same prices). I always love going there because I feel really pampered and I can’t wait to take a look at their new place
  • Chef’s life – Looking forward to baking a couple of new ‘experimental’ recipes this week. Love baking. It relaxes me for some reason.
  • Friendship – Will be celebrating a good friend’s birthday in a few days and can’t wait to meet up and share gossip with some of my oldest buddies. We always have such a laugh because unlike many others, they totally get my twisted sense of humor hehe
  • Love – Have also decided to take my other half to a trendy men’s store and buy him a serious tailored suit as a treat… which will be lots of fun because I have this soft spot for men in double breasted suits, not to mention three-piece suits, pinstriped get-ups etc, so I will be tickled pink while I get him to try all the suits I want, before choosing one to my liking… mmmm TASTY lol

In the end, there are no ‘little things’ and ‘big things’, there are things which make you happy, and things you have to go through even if they don’t. So, make every happy and special moment count… even if it’s a Monday! 🙂

2018 Wrap-up!

I must admit, this year has been a real roller-coaster, with dizzy ups and crushing downs.

Cramming it all into a blogpost is impossible to say the least, so I won’t even try. Many things are personal too, meaning that I do not feel that a public blogpost is the place to share them.

What I have just realized, is that although it was a very tough year, I am infinitely grateful for it.

First of all because getting through all that, has left me a stronger and more resolute person than I was before. I know who I am, I know what I want, and I also know what is worth spending time on in this short and evanescent life, and what is not.

Secondly, I am grateful for my soulmate, who has stood by me, helped me, and showed me his love and devotion through thick and thin. Especially since, he himself, like me, was going through (and still is) a number of health issues as well, so we both helped each other and continue to do so. This, of course, could not but deepen and strengthen our relationship even more.

Thirdly – after facing chronic pain, the inability to walk, and also acute episodes of depression and anxiety, I am more aware of what people with unavoidable conditions have to suffer… at least in part. I am also more appreciative and grateful for life in general. For being able to enjoy it. And for now being able to experience each and every moment free of pain. To be fair, I still have relapses, my muscles are not healthy yet and I cannot do certain physical activities, however this should be temporary and even if it was not, compared to my past problems, it is a breath of fresh air for sure.

And last, but not the least, through illness, pain, financial issues, and material tribulations, I am very happy to say that this year I still managed to visit a total of six different countries! Travel is one of my passions, and being able to take a break and explore some of the most beautiful places in Europe sure kept me going throughout it all! During 2018, I traveled to Tuscany, France, Sicily, Ireland (these last two are two of my favorite places to visit and in fact I already have been there multiple times), the Czech Republic and Germany. There are big plans fermenting for 2019 too!

To conclude, life is not perfect, I am not perfect, and the world is not perfect, BUT prioritizing what is really important for us and appreciating every single thing we take for granted, is more important than we give credit for. I look forward to 2019 being a better year, mostly because I know that I will be facing it as a better and stronger person with clear goals, firm priorities and a bright smile 🙂

Where does Father Christmas come from?

He is round. He is jolly. He is dressed in red and has a long, white beard.

Christmas is a time of joy and celebration and one of its most famous icons is the toy-making, present-giver Father Christmas, or Santa Claus. Ho-ho-ing away cheerily, he drives his sleigh through the skies to bring toys to good children, all over the world. He clambers down their chimneys and eats offerings of cookies and milk, before leaving the presents in the prepared socks.

Or so the story goes.

santa-clause

But where did Santa Claus really come from?

This mythical figure exists in several other countries and is called by many different names. Papa Noel in Spain, Saxta Baba in Azerbaijan, Dyado Koleda in Bulgaria, Babbo Natale in Italy, and Daidí na Nollagin Ireland, to name but a few.

In England, the earliest personification of Father Christmas does not present him as a giver of toys or as a lover of children. An old Carol addresses him as ‘Nowell’ and ‘Sir Christmas’, the personification of the season who encourages people to eat, drink and make merry and who has nothing at all to do with toys and presents.

The specific depiction of Father Christmas as a merry old man emerged in the early 17th century, when the rise of Puritanism led to an increase in the condemnation of all excess – including eating, drinking and feasting. In 1866, Thomas Nast, a cartoon artist, made a montage entitled ‘Santa Clause his Works’, and for the first time, established ‘Santa’ as a maker of toys. At the time, Father Christmas, began to emerge as a kind, jolly old gentleman, giving to the poor and the needy.

Eventually, he was associated with Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra. The legend surrounding Saint Nicholas, or in Dutch, Sinter Klaas (who became Santa Claus to the Americans) states that he was a shy man who wanted to give money to the poor without being seen. Once, he tried throwing money from a roof, and the money accidentally landed in a sock which a girl had left to dry by the fireplace. This is where the tradition of leaving a sock for Father Xmas to fill came from and why he is said to come down from the chimney.

However, we need to go further back in time than that. Father Xmas was originally part of an old English midwinter festival and he was usually dressed in green, a sign of the returning spring. He was, literally, the personification of the season and he was known as ‘Old Man Winter’.

santa-claus

The Ghost of Christmas Present in Charles Dicken’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ (1843) is based on Old Man Winter. He is described as a large man with a red beard and a fur-lined green cloak. Images of Santa Claus dressed in red only started to appear on Christmas greeting cards late in Victorian times.

The Oxford Dictionary of English Folklore entry on Father Christmas considers him to be a pre-Reformation and medieval Yule-tide visitor, who is entirely separate from St Nicholas and Sinter Klaas, only being combined with his legend (and thus becoming associated with giving presents to children) in the 1870s.

In truth, the origins of Santa Claus can be traced back to the 600s, when the Saxons who invaded and settled in Britain had the custom of giving human characteristics to the weather elements, welcoming the characters of King or Lord Frost, Lord Snow, etc. to their homes in the hope that the elements would look kindly on them. Actors dressed in cloaks and ivy would represent the season and feast amidst the revellers.

santa-claus-1600

The Vikings also brought with them legends of their god Odin, who was the father of all the other Norse gods. He is said to have worn a disguise during the feast of Yule (that is, the Winter solstice which takes place on 21st December, the longest night of the year). He mingled with his subjects dressed in a hooded cloak, giving him the chance to listen to his people and see if they were happy or not. He was portrayed as a sage with a long white beard.

Even further back than the occupation of Britain by the Saxons, there was the pagan Celtic worship of the Winter Holly King, who prevailed during the winter months and who provided for and protected his people during the coldest months of the year.

Be he Father Christmas, Sinter Klaast, Saint Nicholas, Odin, or the Holly King, what’s for sure is that the legend of Old Man Winter has prevailed throughout the ages, not only as the personification of Winter, but as a way of bringing families and friends closer together in a time when, although the weather is harsh and life is tough, everyone still goes on feasting and making merry with loved ones.

santa-claus

N.B This article was written by me and originally published on Eve magazine.

The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart

“ I love you crookedly because my heart’s been unhinged from birth. The doctors gave me strict instructions not to fall in love: my fragile clockwork heart would never survive. But when you gave me a dose of love so powerful – far beyond my wildest dreams – that I felt able to confront anything for you, I decided to put my life in your hands.” 
― Mathias Malzieu, La Mécanique du cœur

‘The Boy with the Cuckoo-Clock Heart’, a metaphorical, sweet, and disturbing little book translated into English from French, is a Tim Burtonesque fable of the rarest kind. I purchased the book at the well-known historical bookshop Shakespeare and Co in Paris. Attracted by Benjamin Lacombe’s art on the cover (check some of it out here) I couldn’t not give it a go, and boy am I happy that I did!

Our story begins on a cold dark wintry night (of course it does), when an unkown woman gives birth to a very pale baby, delivered by ‘Dr Madeline’ also known as ‘the witch’ in a gothic house set on top of King Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. Because yes, this dark gothic tale is set in 19th century Scotland (and we even bump into Jack the Ripper at one point)! The baby is sickly, his heart is weak, and our steampunkish doctor decides to link the hardly-beating heart with a cuckoo-clock set right into the boy’s chest.

Three rules must always be kept:
1. Never touch the hands of the heart-clock
2. Keep your temper under control
3 Whatever else you do, never ever fall in love

Needless to say that during the course of his life, Jack breaks all three rules.

By the way, did I mention there is also an animated version of the book? And it is AMAZING. Yes, this is what happens when the author, Mathias Malzieu, is the leading singer of a French rock band – Dionysus. They created the music for the animated movie themselves of course. You can find some clips on Youtube (both in the original French version and translated to English). 

Oh yes, this book was a real discovery. Thank you Paris. Thank you Shakespeare and Co. Thank you Benjamin Lacombe. And most of all thank you so much Mathias Malzieu!

P.S If you loved Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s ‘The Little Prince’, this book is right up your street.

Personal rating – 5 on 5 Stars!