Have you visited the Picasso Exhibition in Valletta?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that unless you have actually been to the place you are writing about, you cannot write a good review, give suggestions, or try to ‘teach’ people anything about it. Seems like common sense right? Well, actually it is 🙂 

I love travelling. That is kind of obvious to anyone who knows me or who follows my articles or blog-posts. However, that being said, and travelling apart, first and foremost it is important to know and appreciate the beautiful and significant places within your own country, before venturing farther away. Which is why I also love to just explore all the many architectural and historical, not to mention natural wonders in Malta, the island I live in. 

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A few weeks ago, me and my boyfriend decided to grab the bus to Valletta, Malta’s capital city, instead of using the car as usual, and make a kind of adventure out of our excursion. I take the bus almost every day coming back from work, but my boyfriend never does, so venturing to Valletta in this way with him was fun as I felt as though I was seeing everything for the first time with his eyes somehow. It was a very special date, as we went somewhere quiet exceptional – to view the Pablo Picasso’s sketches which are being exhibited in Valletta right now.

Following Antonio Banderas’ work-related visit to our islands while he was working on the set for the forthcoming National Geographic Season 2 of the T.V series ‘Genius’, and portraying the great artist Pablo Picasso, a large number of the Spanish painter’s actual paintings are currently on exhibit in our shores. More specifically, the exhibition is taking place at the Grandmaster’s Palace, in Saint George Square Valletta. It opened its doors on the 7th of April and will be available to the general public until the 30th of June.

This exhibition is part of a major international project titled ‘Picasso-Méditerranée’, an initiative from Musée National Picasso in Paris held between Spring 2017 and Spring 2019. In fact, not only will more than 100 of Picasso’s works be on exhibit, but so will a number of the artworks pertaining to the Spanish artist Joan Miró – the painter, sculptor and ceramicist born in Barcelona. The exhibition, entitled ‘Picasso and Miró: The Flesh and the Spirit’, aims at bringing the public closer to the perception of two artistic creators who shook the foundation of traditional art.

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The exhibition consists of a selection of 100 etchings from the Collection Suite Vollard which belongs to Fundación Mapfre and 40 paintings by Miro belonging to the Espacio Miró exhibition in Madrid. Fundación Mapfre is bringing this exhibition to Malta in collaboration with the Office of the President of Malta and Fondazzjoni Patrimonju Malti (FPM).

The two artists’ work was paired together because of the similarities that run through their style and creative process. This is the first exhibition of Picasso and Miro in Malta and perhaps of any modern painter of this stature. Pablo Picasso and Joan Miro are two of the 20th century’s most influential artists. While the first founded cubism, the second was active in the emergence of surrealism.

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Following the exhibition, we roamed around Valletta and finally found a cute British pub and restaurant where to have lunch. A couple of beers were the perfect foil for such a day!

If you want to read more about Picasso and Miro’s exhibition, take a look at the article which I subsequently wrote for LivingInMalta magazine, here. Some of the info I wrote in this blogpost in fact comes from my article itself, but I urge you to visit the magazine for the whole thing.

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Runner

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A moment
frozen
crystallized in time
one of a multitude

Icy eyes
what have you seen?
Blue and cold
lost passions, hidden possibilities

A face 
you were smooth
once
before the withering storm

We are all blank canvasses
waiting for life to fill us
waiting to die

The rain falls
carrying with it
all those moments
all those memories

Lost 
once our eyes close
Gone
without an echo

Who are you?
Did anyone ever really know?

© M. A.
29.05.2018

The Travelling Couple

Many years ago I heard someone say that travelling can either make or break a couple. This phrase has never gone out of my head, and I truly can vouch that, for me at least, it has been very true.

Travelling does not only amount to jumping on a plane and grabbing some transport to click your camera at a few sites choked with tourists. It means planning. It means coordination. It means dedication and it also means taking into account the other person you are travelling with, especially when making decisions and prioritizing certain things over others. In other words, travelling with someone, be it a partner or not, is a metaphor for life with them. Can you move in tandem and pull the coach together as a team, or does one of you always need to hold the reins? Do you both share in the decisions together, or does one traveler bully the other into doing only what s/he wants?

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I have gone abroad with a number of boyfriends throughout my life, and I’ve learnt a lot in all of these experiences. Travelling with someone seems to bring out certain traits which actually DO make or break a relationship, because when something like that is revealed, you start thinking about whether you really want to continue spending time with someone who for example, leaves everything up to you instead of enthusiastically pitching in and making planning part of the adventure, or else someone who is so placid as to actually make everything seem boring and colorless. And yes, these things do tend to come out during a trip with someone.

My current partner and I have been together for more than 5 and a half years now, and I can truly say that one of the things which made me realized we were meant for each other was our total coordination and the fun we had while planning a trip, as well as, of course, the way we actually pulled the trip off. This was only one of the factors of course, but it was an important one, as it showed both of us how well we could work together, not just to plan a trip, but to plan our life together long-term as well.

There are people who prefer to travel solo, be they single or not, and I respect and even admire these people as they really know what they want and have a great sense of adventure. I myself traveled alone many times (my first trip abroad in fact was a solo venture, as I went to Belgium for three weeks while attending a university course sponsored by the European Commission) and I found it liberating and relaxing too. However, once I had found my perfect match, I started to prefer travelling with him, as the experience was so much fun when we were together. However of course that is just me PLUS it does not mean I never travel by myself (I usually have to for work-reasons anyways) or will never do so in future either. After all, an adventure is an adventure!

Growing Up

What is fate? If you spend years of your life trying to avoid something, only to have it thrust at you randomly at a turning in the road, does that mean that it was destined in your ‘stars’, or does it simply mean that you suffer from bad luck? Should you struggle, tearing yourself apart in order to escape at all costs, or should you cease swimming against the current, and simply accept it? Would that be defeated resignation, or merely another way of growing up?

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Generally we can control most things about our life – our achievements, our relationships, our careers, yet when it comes to certain things like health, colleagues, coincidental disasters, of just bad luck, there is actually nothing we can do. We can react yes, but as far as running away from those things we cannot change, this is simply not possible. I guess that is what growing up means. We have to simply buck up, and face those challenges which life throws at us, even though all we might feel like doing is just turning away and go grab a drink.

Perhaps it is actually these challenges which forge our character, aiding us to evolve into more capable individuals, able not only to pull through when under pressure, but to actually appreciate the things we have, and the people around us, all the more.

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After all, how can you ever become a better version of yourself, if your life is always easy? How can you learn to manage and survive using your own abilities, if you always find everything ready on a silver platter? How can you trust yourself to be able to overcome ever tougher decisions and issues next time they come up (because at some point, they will), if you don’t already know you can be a survivor, without needing anyone’s help or using anyone as a crutch to lean on?

People may get older, but not all of them grow up. Some remain selfish little children forever, sulking, having tantrums, and playing copycat instead of learning how to simply be themselves, without any need for social approval or metaphorical pattings on the back. After all, in the game of life, it is only we who can decide whether we have won or lost and no one else. We are our own spectators, and the only approval which matters, is ours.

 

Not a Boring Post

Yesterday I was talking to my new colleague about an ex-colleague, who had once been her boss (she became her boss after leaving my office). At the time when this person still worked with me (a couple of years ago now), she wasn’t my boss though. Thank all the gods. Thing is, she was one of the most self-centered, obnoxious, hypocritical people on earth. Her low-self esteem, which she transformed into emotional bullying, did not help either. I spent 3 years working in the same office with her, and I must admit it was one of the most stressful times of my life.

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While talking with my new colleague, I vented a bit and told her stuff I had never told anyone except my partner about the way this person used to try and manipulate people. Not to mention all the ‘stories’ she used to tell me pertaining to her sexual and dating escapades, which only served to fuel my antagony towards her. Now let me be clear, I am very open minded and never judged any of her actions – the thing is, when you are in a professional setting, you just shouldn’t talk about certain things with colleagues! Period! This really made me uncomfortable with her, especially since she used to get into graphical details – very PERSONAL details, which I really didn’t need or want to know!

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When I described this one-sided relationship to my new colleague (because I for sure NEVER shared such intimate stuff with her in return), she was astonished. ‘No wonder you couldn’t stand working with her any more! I don’t even tell such personal details to my closest friends, let alone talk about them at work!’ That was her reply, and I was glad to see that I was not the only one thinking like that.

Yes some colleagues are also friends, but there is still a line which must never be crossed.

By the way, NO she particularly wasn’t a friend – in fact professionally, she was actually a fraud. She never did any work, came to the office late and left early, and even tried to get ME to do her work while taking all the credit. And THAT is where I got really fed up, told her to fuck off, and refused to work, talk, or interact with her in any way. I had been fed up with her for a long time, but I am not the kind of person to fight at the drop of a hat, so I try to reign myself in and calm down… HOWEVER when I realize that a person is hopeless and can only be of detriment to me, I tend to categorize her in my mind as a ‘waste of time’, and just move on. And when that line is drawn, I never go back, and good riddance (it’s the kind of thing which happened with most of my exes).

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The line was not drawn when she told me more than I (or anyone would have) felt comfortable with, but since she was a work-mate, it was drawn in relation to her work attitude. Having her moaning and groaning about her ex, and her one-night stands every bloody day for three years, did not help either lol. For me, personal and intimate stuff, particularly that pertaining to relationships, is PERSONAL. Meaning that since for me, it is special and magical, I do not share it with anyone and everyone who comes along – and this is why THIS blog is not a romantic one by the way. I rarely, if ever, mention my soul mate and partner, not because he is not always there, present in my life and a priority – of course he is, BUT because, in fact, my life with him is MINE and I do not feel comfortable sharing it on a blog. There is plenty much else I can write about anyways, so I don’t need to resort to that. 

Not to mention that I don’t want to be repetitive or boring (which so many blogs unfortunately, become after a while).

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Anyway, moral of the story – if there’s a colleague who’s bothering you, don’t wait for three years to set her in her place and show her that you want your relationship in the work place to be strictly professional. And this, of course, does not only apply to work colleagues!

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Minimalism and why it doesn’t work

I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts about ‘Minimalism’ lately, and they’ve been jarring my nerves for a while. Ever since I was a little girl, I was taught to only buy what I indeed needed, and to recycle or give away things which I did not need any more. This, after all, is mere common sense. Yet these days, plain common sense is so rare, that people seem to need to gird it in newer fancy words, and make a fuss over it, in order to distinguish themselves.

Minimalism is a trend which has been slowly infecting our Maltese shores, among others, during the last few years. The precepts of Minimalism embrace the aim of achieving freedom through the voiding of materialistic trappings which are accumulated in relation to a capitalistic-minded society. Originally, the onset of Minimalist per se originated as a term describing visual arts in the post-war Western world of the 1960s and 1070s.

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Personally, as I said, I understand the concept in moderation, however putting an unneeded emphasis on it, not to mention trying to adhere to its more extremist tenets, only ends in showing up that the Minimalist agenda is not only unpractical, but actually going against its own targets. While, of course there’s nothing inherently wrong with owning material possessions, equating one’s own personal value with how much money is in one’s bank account, what car one drives, or what mobile phone one uses, is obviously self-deceiving. This however, is not the issue which is actually tackled by Minimalists, whose main tenet endorses having no more than 100 possessions in total. One could for example, still own and brag about only a few costly items, while having less than 100 ‘things’. So, in actuality, having a few items does not necessarily mean disassociation from the idea of material gratification. Attaching meaning solely to ‘things’ rather than people, personal experiences, or emotions, is the seeming crux of the Minimalist credo, and yet, having chucked all but a few of one’s possessions in the bin, does one really end up forsaking the company of his/her pc, or the fascination of an XBOX (if one keeps one of course), for human contact? Not likely.

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Others maintain that Minimalism targets excess, that it leads to better prioritisation, and that it ultimately leads one to spend less. It advocates discipline and de-cluttering, yet its oppressive regime and illusion of control sees one stressfully trying to get by without certain commodities, which, instead of leading to some kind of transcendental ‘freedom’, actually ends, in many cases, by causing an even bigger backlash of ‘materialism’. Minimalism is anxiety-inducing in that one ends up feeling a failure if one cannot conform to it. Optimising the use of minimal products can lead one to over-technologize one’s lifestyle in a bid to use tools or IT systems which do more with less, leading to the conclusion that Minimalism is a movement targeted towards those who are well-off, and not towards the majority, since it also actually results in more money being spent. Once you chuck something you are keeping in case you might needed it in the bin, you cannot get it back – meaning that you’d have to re-buy the item when you actually do need it. Again, this goes against the aim of ‘spending less’ targeted by Minimalism.

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Yes ultra-capitalism is a sickness. We are not our things. Yet, if the other end of the spectrum offers only extreme austerity promoting a Spartan repressive lifestyle, this is just as detrimental. In the end, human beings need to express themselves, they need to optimize their own style, and feel free to overindulge in moments of tension, in order to be fully at peace with themselves. 

Minimalistic decor can have a therapeutic effect, especially if one suffers from OCD-related problems, however there is an invigorating liberation in a spontaneous carefree use of space. Feeling comfortable and at home in one’s own personal space definitely leads not only to creativity and freedom of expression, but also to a more inspiring and eclectic outlook. Wealth is not how many things you have, or how expensive they were, it is the ability to have options and to be able to fulfill them.

If you want to give more worth to important things, try creating certain tools instead of using mass-marketed ones. Try to jazz up or individualize your space instead of latching onto an easy conformity. Re-use and re-cycle instead of chucking out ‘outdated’ stuff you haven’t looked at in a while. Don’t limit yourself or your options. Instead, embrace a more positive and DIY attitude.

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Clutter and chaos is not something to strive for. On the other hand, living in a wasteland is not conductive to an energetic outlook either. In the end, extremes are not beneficial to anyone. There is nothing as healthy as balance.

A slightly different version of my article was published in the online magazine LivingInMalta.

Outsider

I don’t know how old I was, when I first became  aware of the bubble.

Crouched in a hollow darkness, I always felt as if I was enclosed in a sphere of shadows. A liquid-like transparent force creating a barrier between me and the rest of the world. In slow motion, I moved within it, out of sync with every one else. Almost matching… almost, but not quite.

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Maybe it was the terror, that harsh violent presence which made me stutter and hesitate, which first created the circular protective barrier. Or maybe it was the cruel indifferent light reflecting off everyone else which first brought it into being. For sure, my awareness of it only strengthened it. My shield. My cage.

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For a time, I believed it had gone. Disappeared with a pop. Finished. For a time, I thought I was here, un-veiled, un-masked, just like everybody else.

Of course, I was wrong.

My bubble is still here. It is dark, dank, comforting. Like an old musty blanket I can clutch around me and slap over my eyes whenever I see something which should not be. I am still here, in a way. But really, I am not. Because I do not want to be. I am not with you. I am not with anyone. And no one is with me. No one looks at me. No one wants to.

In the end, the bubble does not make that much of a difference after all.

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My Secret Fear

Are you afraid of old age?

Ever since I can remember, it was not the thought of death which really terrified me, but of actually growing old. The thought of not having complete control of my body, and not being able to function in a self-sufficient manner, has always been a nightmare. I hate depending on others and being a burden, and the knowledge and certainty that someday, this time will arrive (if I do not die young that is), has always terrified me.

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When I was nineteen, my grandfather, who was a writer, a poet, and a very intelligent man and whom I loved very much – had a stroke. He ended up in a wheel-chair, was not able to move the left side of his body at all, suffered from incontinence, and had to be lugged about, washed, cleaned, and taken care of by his two middle aged children and their spouses in order to survive. Day and night. Every day. For years. He begged us to let him end it. Twice, my mother found he had dragged his wheelchair to the window and was trying, ineffectually, to jump. Since assisted suicide is illegal in Malta, and since we didn’t want to let him go, we aborted his attempts. He suffered immensely for two years. And then, he had another stroke. A worse one, which caused him to actually forget who we were. I don’t even want to go into the agony I felt when my grandpa, who had been so independent, witty, and wise, who had survived the war and taught me to love books, reading and knowledge – didn’t even know who I was.

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Anyways, after four and a half years of terrible pain, my grandpa died. I know that for him, this was a relief.

My grandma, his wife, is currently over 80 years old. She suffers from severe arthritis, can hardly walk, is almost deaf, and blind from one eye due to a botched cataract operation. She is lonely and misses my grandpa a lot. All she does is cry, swallow her pills (she has many of those), and pray. I love my grandma, but I know she is waiting for death. And that terrifies me.

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It terrifies me because when I look at her, I see myself, as I will be, in some fifty or so years. It seems far away now… but time is short and flies quickly… and someday, that part of my life will arrive…

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It does not bear thinking about…

 

Reality vs Fake Airs- Why Write?

I’m not the kind of girl who likes to boast. I don’t play the passive-aggressive card. I don’t like playing the victim in order to get pats on the back. I don’t like putting myself down in public, in order to receive commiserating compliments. I got past all that immature stuff at approximately the age of 15.

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It does not mean that I am emotionless or that I don’t have feelings. On the contrary, it means that I only share what I find worth sharing. Moreover, I only share it with a limited number of people I am close to, and definitely not with social media at large. I’m not that desperate yet.

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Perhaps it could be that I don’t have the unmitigated urge to display all my insecurities and naggy rages because I have, I admit, always been kind of an introvert. Yes, I communicate and share my experiences through writing, but still I  pay attention to get only as personal as I’m comfortable with. Especially if I’m writing something which, I know, many people are going to read. How many intimate sentimental poems have I written? How many embittered and angry short stories, reflecting my moods and my past, have I penned? How many irritated rants about my disgust and dissatisfaction with the human condition at large have I scribbled? No one knows the answer to this question except myself. Mainly because no one has read them – or if they did, it was only one or two people at the most. This is because, when my heart bleeds and my fingernails gauge half-moons of frustration on my palms, I write – I cannot help it – it is the way I vent what I feel and the way I tick. However, just because I write something, actually showing it to someone is something else entirely. 

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I write for myself. I write because I cannot stop. I write because it helps me come to term with reality – ironic as that sounds.

Whether something is floating on a current of social media out there or not, is irrelevant.

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I guess it all depends on whether you prioritize yourself as an individual most, or whether you are more focused on how you appear to others. For me, my internal personal life has always been more important than the way others perceive me, how ‘popular’ I am or what a ‘good’ impression others have of me. In the end, I prefer having some friends who care for me for who I really am, than many acquaintances who might hang out with me for any fake ‘persona’ I might project. At least I know that those who love me, love me. In all my silly, eccentric, weird singularity.

Quoting one of (in my opinion) the greatest fantasy writers of all time:

“My immagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world and exiles me from it.”
Ursula K. Le Guin

Scan Malta – SERIOUSLY, THIS is your Policy?

Like many other Maltese, I find myself constrained to buying my various IT stuff and gadgets from the 5/6 limited outlets present in Malta, and that’s fine (I prefer to get my stuff from abroad most of the time anyways). The problem arises when said outlets have totally CRAPPY policies which actually go against Maltese law.

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This morning a random courier called me on my personal mobile to ask about a delivery to be done at my working place. I knew nothing of this delivery, had not requested the material myself, and did not have anything to do with it since my work has nothing to do with requisitions or procurement. What I wanted to know was how on earth a delivery guy got hold of my personal mobile number to make this call, since it was obvious that he knew I worked here and so someone had obviously leaked it. What’s more, the number was combined with the name of the person who HAD made the requisition, who was definitely not me, and who claimed not to have given anyone my mobile number, since she did not even know it herself. So, why were Scan Computers Malta using my personal details in relation to material ordered by the Ministry I work for??

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I asked the guy at reception to notify me when the courier got here, in order for me to ask him how he had gotten hold of my mobile number without me having given it out. When he arrived, he showed me his timesheet which basically was a list of places where he had to deliver stuff. He called the Scan store and told me to call them myself since they were the ones who could tell me more about the purchase order.

Long story short, when I called Scan it transpired that since once months ago I had personally purchased something and then had it delivered by courier to my place of work, they had then combined the mobile number with the address and saved it, and me, as being the person and number responsible for ALL PURCHASES consigned to this address… SERIOUSLY? So had I been living in a block of flats and another tenant made an order to be delivered to those premises, they would have called me too??? What if the minister had purchased something, would I have been responsible of that as well?? As far as I know, client records everywhere are client-based, that is based on your name + mobile number, not ADDRESS-based!! What about DATA PROTECTION?? Is it legal to give my personal mobile number (which has nothing to do with the ministry but is totally my own) to all and sundry??

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Needless to say, I gave the Scan-person a piece of my mind. She replied that this was their policy and that no one had complained before, which I find VERY hard to believe. Apparently however THIS time round they had encountered someone who DID know Data Protection law, since actually that is my job, so unlike any blandly ignorant Cettina on the street, I DID know my rights as a Maltese citizen, and I DO know that divulging personal data without a person’s knowledge and consent is ILLEGAL.

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I got Scan to delete my stuff from their records and gave them reception’s contact number instead, however the fact remains that their policy is against the law.

If you gave your data to Scan, beware of how they use it. It’s not as safe as you may think.

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