Bussed Up

Yesterday was a fun little day – the first day all to myself in Malta. I decided to visit the capital Valletta on the other side of the island (it’s about as far away on the island as I can get).

As it was cheap, I decided to get the bus, just €2.60. The bus brochure said the journey would take 80 minutes. However, Arriva have just taken over the management of the buses and their interpretation of the brochure is… creative. Both the bus journeys there and back were surreal – if the passengers flagging down the bus looked even slightly hesitant or unsure, he didn’t stop for them. This happened at about 1/3 of all the ‘stops’ that he should have serviced. I found out the reason for this later – at about 1/3 of the other stops, the prospective passengers would ask “Does this bus go to x”, he would say yes/no (usually no), and the bus would continue on its way, delayed by that extra bit. The routes are all new, so no-one yet knows where they go. This pushed the travelling time each way (25km) to 2 hours. Ouch. And, given the rather efficient air conditioning on the bus, bloody cold. So, four hours on a bus…. made my day a bit stressful.

Still, the time I had in Valletta was superb. It was city with a large amount of history and character. No two houses are the same, they’re all built higgledy piggledy and their styling was just fantastic. The main street of Valletta leads to the Cathedral of St. John, a small building as cathedrals go, but decorated with a staggering array of gold, marble, silver… you name it, it’s there. Well worth a visit if you’re in Valletta. I walked around pretty much all of Valletta, from the commercial centre, to a church with a huge dome (bigger than St. Pauls in London I think), to all the residential streets. It felt very safe, and oozed individuality and personality which I’ve not really experienced in a city before. I recommend Valletta. I do not recommend trying to put on your sunglasses, somehow find your head was too big for them despite having worn them for several years, and have one of the arms ping off in the middle of the street. Very strange! I went looking for new cheap sunglasses at a few places in Valletta, but most of the styles were quite feminine, so I didn’t buy them. What do you mean “it would have suited me”? Out! Now! Shoo!

Gozo with the flow

And, in the blink of an eye, my conference is over. Three intensive days which have been surprisingly interesting. Yes, I found some of the talks difficult to stay awake in, but by and large the presentations were interesting and engaging. I didn’t really think I’d say that at the beginning of the week!

To round the conference off, a dinner was held on the nearby island of Gozo (yes, an even smaller island off a small island off of Europe). To get there, we took a roller-coaster of a ferry ride that lasted about 30 minutes, with winds so strong it was difficult to maintain your balance. The wind certainly made some people look a bit more dishevelled than they’d hoped… it probably improved my appearance and elevated it above “street urchin” to “homeless beggar with a sign”.

Before the meal itself, we were given a guided tour of the Citadel in the centre of the island – a hugely important part of Gozo’s history. (More info at: http://www.gozo.gov.mt/pages.aspx?page=155). Being the highest point on the island, the views were spectacular in all directions, particularly at dusk. Whilst not looking where I was going, I of course walked into a metal railing and also stepped in some chewing gum. In some way, by taking the chewing gum with me, I can say that I helped clean a world heritage site. Ahem.

The conference dinner contained three courses, plus bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and each course was large. A large amount of a pasta starter, followed by a very very VERY delicious rack of pork ribs, and finally a dessert of gooey chocolate pudding and ice cream. There was so much, that I could only manage a small portion of the cake – very disappointing.

But having said that, it might have been a good idea I didn’t stuff myself completely full as the ferry ride back, while calmer than the ride out, still had a bit of swell and I could still feel the boat moving even after I’d gone to bed back in the hotel a few hours later… I had the bin next to the side of the bed, just in case, but thankfully it wasn’t needed.

Join me soon for another punnily titled post about what I did today, which was go to the Maltese capital, Valletta.

Flood alert!

Here’s a few titbits from Day 3 of my Malta trip:

There’s a flood along my corridor from an unknown source. It rained inside and formed a puddle, and now it’s smelling quite mouldy.
I broke one of my flip-flops today. I guess you could say I broke my flip. Or I broke my flop. I don’t know precisely which one broke.
I ate so much watermelon today, I wouldn’t be surprised if I gave birth to a watermelon in a few months time.
Red jelly is not just for kids.
One of my dinner courses today consisted of watermelon and red jelly.

And in other news, I randomly met the grandparents of someone studying meteorology at Reading, that I probably taught as a masters student year before last.

The weather has also been rubbish today – 30mph winds and not particularly warm, I had to put a top on when outside! Shocker! It turns out it is difficult to swim into the wind when waves and spray are being blown into your face by the wind. Especially when it turns out you’re in a pool and the spray is coming from waves crashing 6ft high over a wall!

Tomorrow things should calm down a bit, I hope so as I’m heading to Gozo (small island north of Malta) on a ferry and I hope the ride isn’t too rough. If my writing is sideways in tomorrow’s post, then you know I’m a bit seasick.

Conference? What conference?

Oh, THAT conference. The one I presented at today. The talk I gave seemed to go well – I’ll get proper feedback on it tomorrow, so let’s hope people were/are interested in my work. It took me a while to find the conference room – turns out I was on the wrong floor.

Here’s my thoughts at the end of today:
Chicken Nuggets aren’t just for kids
A cold front and wind made things less warm and – dare I say it – slightly nippy. It was uncomfortable without a top on! Shocking!
There’s a large spider behind my curtain. Me no likey.
I saw the most tortured acronym ever today.
The Daily Mail costs 4 times as much here in Malta than in the UK.
Dendrogram is a nice word. Dendrogram. Say it out loud. Dendrogram.
There is such a thing as too much chocolate cake, it turns out.

All in all, things are going well on the first day of the air pollution conference. My talk is out of the way, so I can relax and enjoy the next two days’ worth of conference. It’s a hard life when an hour after you give your presentation you’re swimming in the hotel pool. So far 15 talks presented, 28 to go. Then I’ll have to find something to do here in Malta! That’ll be a novelty. I’m currently thinking I might take a day trip into Valetta (the capital), I reckon I’ll make up my plans as I go along. Coming to think about it, that sounds like how I’ve done my PhD these past three years…

How do you make a Maltese cross?

Poke him in the eye.

I am now in Malta for a week to present at a conference on Air Pollution (Monday), attend the rest of the conference (until Wednesday), then relax (until Saturday). I’m starting to get a bit nervous – and it must be telling due to my latest jokes on twitter:
What did the thunderstorms say to each other before they had a fight? LET’S GET READY TO RUMBLE! (To which @foggybrume responded “Nothing, they just clapped” – nicely played sir)
I wanted to start a bandage removal company, but people kept telling me it was a rip off.

So, after a smooth journey to Gatwick, a smooth flight across France, Italy, the Tyrrhenian Sea and Sicily, a less-smooth taxi ride to my hotel, I’m now at the Ramla Bay Resort – www.ramlabayresort.com . My first impressions are as follows:
MY ROOM IS HUGE
There are plenty of cats trying to get food from you at dinner time
The ironing board I’ve been loaned by the hotel isn’t much better than the one we have at home that makes it look like you’ve ironed on a barbeque
The cheese board can be detected from Belgium
I’m getting confused by not changing the time on my laptop or phone
It’s lovely and warm
Closing the pool at 6pm seems at tad early
MY ROOM IS HUGE

So, it’s all going swimmingly. Pictures will be making their way onto facebook shortly, a link will follow. I hope to have a good nights sleep before the start of the conference tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
Edit: And here’s the link: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150799184265517.722201.677225516&l=d435528c70&type=1

Things on my bed…

As I type this post, the following things are on my bed:

Sheet and duvet (with duvet cover)
4 Pillows
A T-Shirt
3 Jumpers
1 sock
A pair of jeans
Another duvet
A pyjama top
A phone charger
A fleece throw
A dressing gown
A 4-gang extention lead
An HMV receipt
Yesterday’s Guardian crossword
A list of 3-dart checkouts
3 spoons and a knife
…and a microwave oven manual

This may need to change before bedtime.

Could do with a little bit of a clean