Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Taking a Tumble in the Streets of Valletta

June 18, 2007

Only two photos today. There was only going to be one, but after I saw what my ankle looked like tonight, I figured I'd better go for two. But more on that later.

Today was sort of an odd, calm day, except for that tumble (but more on that later, hehehe). I took some clothes to the laundry that Mrs. Galea recommended. They weighed them (they charge by weight) and will bring them to the Asti, hopefully tomorrow. Mrs. Galea will pay them, then I will pay her. After that, I went to the Air Malta office to check on the London hotel query, but a response hadn't arrived yet, so the woman at the computer put it through again and told me I could call the "Flyaway" number in the afternoon and get the response.

Well, my main goal of the morning after that was to put in some time at Caffé Café, and catch up on email I didn't get to on Saturday (as well as new stuff), post the Saturday-Sunday two-day blog, drink tea, etc. I didn't have a photo of Caffé Café for that post, but now I do. And here it is, my new home away from home while I'm still in Valletta.

As far as I know this is the only place in the country--at least it's the only one I've seen (and I've seen a lot of Malta)--that has free wifi for customers. Really wonderful. And a pot of tea is only about 50 Maltese cents. So, next time you're in Valletta, you must stop in to Caffé Café and have a muffin and a pot of tea, and tell them that you learned about the place from me!

And I did get to Caffé Café and work on email and the Travel Log and looking for places to stay in England, in case the Air Malta query came back negative. But first, before I got to Caffé Café, while I was passing along the west side of St John's Co-Cathedral, I looked over to check the plaque that names the plaza/square right across from St John's there, because--like many street and plaza signs in Valletta--the name is given in English and Maltí both, and I wanted to see the Maltí for "Plaza" again because, at breakfat, another guest at the Asti and I had been talking about languages and words.

And being the klutz that I am, while looking at the plaza sign (the word, by the way, is pjazza), I took a tumble.

Now those of you who know me well have probably been wondering when I was going to do something seriously klutzy. And I probably hadn't mentioned that a couple of times, going up the stairs on the ship and at the Europa, I had tripped and fallen already, but I was going up and fell up with no real consequences to speak off. And I think I probably didn't mention that on the day of the Great Rain, I slipped and fell on slick pavement in Sliema--yes, in my Big Boy shoes which are usually so gripping--because the rain hadn't entirely stopped, and I had my backpack on my back and a couple of small bags of groceries in my hands--but I only went down on one knee, didn't break any of my groceries, and didn't hurt myself to speak of.

But today--

Well, in some places in Valletta, the rain run-off grates are large-ish flat squares, more or less flush with the street surface. But in other places, the rain grates are small and are about 3 inches below the level of the street or walkway. And that's what I stepped into, right foot. And I went down on both hands and, I think, both knees. Fortunately my backpack, with my laptop inside, was fully on my back and not hooked over one shoulder as I often carry it. And three kindly souls rushed right to me to help me up and ask if I was all right. I was able to put weight on my foot, though the pain when the ankle twisted wasn't piddly. I assured the two women who lingered to keep an eye on me that I would be all right, that I could walk on it, so they went on and I went on. Of course as time passed, especially as I sat still at Caffé Café, the more or less stationary ankle begin to feel a little worse, and it was harder to walk on when I left Caffé Café and went next-door to Hollywood Grocery to buy some lunch items. I had to gimp it like an old dude (which I keep telling some of you I am). The benches at the cathedral were full, so I went back to the Asti to eat there and to roll down my sock and take a look at the swelling. It wasn't discolored at that time, but it was swollen and not at all excited to go up and down stairs. So I had my lunch in my room at the Asti, finishing up Appointment with Death (a fun story but not terribly well-written) and resting a bit before I went back out again. I needed of course to get to the pay phone to call the Air Malta number (no dice--the hotel had no openings) and then to go back to Caffé Café and finish up email and try to find another place to stay. Gimping along.

Anyway, after an attempt to make a booking with Otel.com (which it kept refusing, telling me there was something wrong with my credit card--so I better not find a billing from Otel.com on my statement!), I finally ended up with a room at the place where I'm due on June 27th anyway. So I will be in London, not in Bath or Bristol (or even Hay-on-Wye), beginning this Thursday, somewhere near Hyde Park. For London the price is reasonable, and Susan says she has checked the hotel out on the Internet and liked what she saw--and the original booking was made through my travel agent, so let's hope it's a two-thumbs up kind of place. My home away from home in London for a while. And since I will already be there, not arriving there from somewhere else, or moving from one hotel to another, when Susan arrives on the 27th, I will be able to just go to the airport to meet her, baggage-less, meaning two of us to deal with only one person's luggage. Cool, no? Because we have to leave the airport by train and then switch to the Underground (or the Tube, as they call it) to get to the hotel. Susan checked taxi rates for a drive of the length involved--around 100 pounds, or $200. Yep, for one ride.

Oh, you're thinking, but didn't he promise us another photograph? Well, yes, I did: the ankle photograph. This is how it looks about 11 hours or so after the fall, and believe it or not, it's feeling better now. But be warned: it's not pretty.

I think walking on it today helped.

If things work out, I will probably visit one last time with the French college students Arnaud and Remi tomorrow evening. Arnaud emailed and said they would like to get together again before I leave. Maybe I won't be gimping quite so badly by then!

By the way, for those of you who like organ-based, slightly progressive rock music from the late '60s and early '70s, you can hardly do better than treat yourself to "Be Free" by Argent. Argent's big hits (later in the '70s) were "Hold Your Head Up" and "God Gave Rock 'n' Roll to You" (I think that's the title), and they were all right, but nowhere nearly as marvelous as "Be Free", which makes me happy as soon as the first organ notes start up. Rod Argent, the band's namesake, was also the organist and one of the two songwriters for the Zombies in the '60s. Their biggest songs were "She's Not There", "Tell Her No" and "Time of the Season". "Be Free" is just as good as those three songs. Dig it! (as we used to say.)


Sheila Ryan said...

. . . I probably hadn't mentioned that a couple of times, going up the stairs on the ship and at the Europa, I had tripped and fallen already . . .

Best take care. You fall down one time too many and they put you in the Old Folks' Home. Just ask Vera.

DrTee said...

I didn't know you fell a lot. I'm famous around here for falling. When people haven't heard from me for a few days, their first thought is, "Oh, I hope she hasn't fallen again."

That ankle looks bad, Renner. I assume you are icing it?

If it still smarts when you have to walk a lot, you might pick up a cane somewhere. If you wait till you get to London, go to Boots pharmacy (They're everywhere and I LOVE THEM). You might try to find some arnica gel to rub on that bruising. But you need the arnica NOW, not later.

Just a warning about the tube with luggage. There are a lot of stairs at most tube stations, and heavy luggage makes it difficult to manage crowds and steps. You might consider taking the train into London (I'm assuming you're talking Gatwick rather than Heathrow because you can get the tube straight out of Heathrow). So take the Gatwick Express from the airport to Victoria, then maybe get a taxi to the lodging.

DrTee said...

Oh, and are you sure that place isn't "Coffe cafe" Looks like an "o" to me.

Sheila Ryan said...

Well, Renner, you know and I know that we both like Argent (especially "Be Free"-era Argent).

It's interesting that the very onset of "Be Free" makes you happy. My response to "Be Free" is more complicated (probably further confirmation of what a fruitcake I am). I find it both exhilarating and sinister (as I found U2's early anthems -- though not in the same way; those sounded to me like hymns for late twentieth-century Nuremberg rallies). Between the organ that propels "Be Free" and the singer's repeated queries ("you didn't believe me, did you then?"), "Be Free" sounds to my ears like something of a rebuke. Somewhat creepy (like "Every Breath You Take", that perennial -- and perennially perplexing -- wedding reception favorite).

"Remember that I told you to be free."

What can that mean? I told you to be free.

And then there is the song's ecstatic quality, the sources of which elude me. But the falsetto "aaaaa" that follows "Remember that I told you to be free" hints at the cry of a person plunging from a great height.

"Feel the wind come rushing by."

DrTee said...

Argent. That album with the black cover and a big red thing on it was one of the few albums I bought more than one copy of. Loved 'em.

And of course that brings up the Zombies....

DrTee said...

... and that led me to look up Colin (sigh)Blunstone, who I see is appearing in London March 7 and 8, 2008 WITH "the original remaining Zombies"--I could be there then! I was planning to tack on a few days in London before or after my Italy trip.

Cooper Renner said...

I saw Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone performing on one of those nostalgia things onn PBS, and it was fairly sad. Rod can still play with the best of them but Colin's voice is going (or gone?).

I don't deny the sinister possibilities of "Be Free" at all, Sheila, but you have to remember that I pay very little attention to lyrics. It's all sound to me.

Gatwick, yes. Train to Victoria Station, then probably the Tube to Paddington Station. I will have the big backpack on my back, and a little Everlast bag in my hand: laptop and paperback in it.

Cooper Renner said...

I know what you mean about "caffe", but the owner calls the place Caffe Cafe, so I'm assuming he knows!