Today was a cold, hurricane-force, wet day in Malta. I sat most of the morning decked in treble sweater layers at my laptop. There are no useful solutions to providing ambient room temperatures here. I tried to ignore the rattling, crashes and bangs as hassiras (cane blinds) and flower pots were destroyed by the wind.
Having got to 2pm in a deep chill, I had had enough. There was only one way to keep warm, and that was busy housewifery. Web 2.0 zero work is fun, but not without central heating. Baking, ironing , cleaning and hacking logs proved more suitable activities to generate some feeling in my toes and fingers. For once, having been forced into manual labour and away from cerebral work, I began to see more merit in the housekeeping than mere heat generation.
All these tasks are things from my childhood and I took a trip down memory lane as I went about them. I remember dark winter afternoons returning home from school to find a welcoming waft of dinner to greet me in the hall as I dumped soggy mittens and welly boots. For just about the first time in his six years, my son found the same welcome. I felt a warm sense of duty fufilled as he chirpily asked what it was that smelled so good for supper.
Earlier, as I waded through some tough ironing of heavy-duty, linen table runners and napkins, left crumpled since Xmas, I remembered my mother’s fastidiousness at having crisp, fresh laundered sheets. The time spent ironing turned out to be therapeutic and productive.
Log chopping was my dad’s affair, but today it was mine. I had to do it outside the front door, in the alleyway, on tarmac, as I’d have broken my brittle limestone patio otherwise. The narrow venue had good acoustics and soon I had most of my little old lady neighbours craning their necks out of barely-open doors to see what the hullabaloo was all about. Reassured, they gesticulated at the leaden skies, smiled, and retreated.
Later, the gas delivery men bashed on all our doors to see whose empty bottle was left out. We all popped our heads out again, laughed, found the owner, ‘Griet (short for Margariet), who had been out back in the garden saving blown away washing, smiled again and bid eachother goodbye till fairer weather. So I got to see the neighbours too. What a camio of village life both incidents made on a cold, damp day. Scenes that could easily have been played out a million times over the past 50 years in Maltese village life.
All in all, my abandonment of the computer screen to seek some warmth had proved a valuable part of my day, if not in monetary terms. I felt heartened to have rekindled good thoughts about my past on a day that felt so despairing. I feel more energised to return to my client work.
And how appropriate as the new years starts. The mythical King of ancient Rome, Janus, who was placed at the start of the calender (hence January) was depicted with two faces: one facing backward to past events; the other forwards to the future. Sometimes, spending time recalling the best of your past can put the present into context. Finding the odd, small daily task that links us to our past can be a reassuring crutch in these uncertain times.