I woke up at eight this morning, wandered into the kitchen and made myself a cup of coffee. While waiting for the kettle to boil, I put together a plate of fresh Gozo cheese and tomatoes, and a handful of basil crackers. I sat on the terrace crunching away happily, and when the plate was empty I alternated between sips of coffee and drags on a cigarette until there were no more sips to sip or drags to drag.
Having dealt with an empty stomach, a nicotine craving and caffeine withdrawal in one fell swoop - who says that men can't multitask? - I then spent a couple of hours lying on a sunbed and losing myself in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Eventually, it got too hot to concentrate on a forty-six-year-old murder, so I bookmarked my page, and jumped into the pool, where I splashed around for a bit, did a couple of handstands in the shallow end, and floated around lazily while clinging to a plastic beach ball.
And now, it'll soon be time for lunch. I'm thinking either a chicken salad, or pork steaks in a balsamic reduction with roast vegetables. It'll probably be the former, because the only thing I'm in the mood to reduce at the moment is the peeling, slicing and dicing of vegetables. I can always have the pork tomorrow, after a couple more chapters of my book, and another dip in the pool.
Or maybe the day after that. Or the next.
Or even the one after that.
I have taken a week off work, and I'm spending it in a bungalow at a small resort on Gozo, Malta's sister island. There are about thirty people staying here, and most of them are tourists who disappear early in the morning to explore the island, and don't show up again until late in the evening, which means that my wife, my children and I pretty much have the place to ourselves all day. Peace, quiet, tranquility and serenity. Hmm... I might not bother to cook anything after all. Maybe I'll just have a nap for lunch...
There is, quite honestly, no better feeling in the world. Unless, of course, you happen to be a hydrophobic, insomniac, non-smoking, coffee-hating, lactose-intolerant, illiterate, workaholic vegetarian. Which I'm not.
We come to this place once - or sometimes twice - a year. The children love it because they get to spend all day running around a pool with a bunch of other kids, chasing each other and splashing around and completely ignoring the large green sign by the pool-side that reads 'Silence is Golden'. By seven thirty, they're out cold. And my wife and I love it because, as every parent of two-to-five-year-old children knows, the greatest gift of all time is a break from having to keep your child entertained for every single second of every single day. And, of course, the fact that by seven thirty, they're out cold, which is normally around the time that the chilled white wine and the cheese and crackers come out, to be enjoyed as the sun burns orange as the horizon tucks it out of sight for the night. And yes, of course - mellow jazz on the iPod.
Our fellow guests are human, or at least give a very good impression of being so, which is a bit of a relief, because in a small isolated resort which consists solely of a ring of twenty bungalows around a solitary swimming-pool, when the neighbours suck it brings the whole neighbourhood down. A few years ago, we were cursed by the presence of a group of holiday-makers - two mothers, two fathers, a grandmother and what seemed like thirty-eight kids - to whom the words 'peace and quiet' and 'common courtesy' were just as alien as other words like 'manners' and 'socially-acceptable vocabulary'. When they eventually left to go back to the seventh circle of Hell where they presumably belonged, the calm and serenity that fell over the resort was similar to what Heaven must have felt like when Lucifer and his homeboys were booted out.
But visitors of this ilk are few and far between. This time around, there's a large group of English, Americans and Germans who are all here for a wedding. They seem intent on having a good time for the few days they're here, judging by the eighteen cases of beer I saw them carrying into their bungalows when they arrived, and the complete lack of anything remotely edible. The wedding was last night, and so far I've seen neither hide nor hair of them. Then there's a group of Spaniards, who enjoy spending hours in the pool batting a large inflatable beach-ball towards each other, trying to keep it in the air while counting to twenty-one (their record) in Spanish. And then there's a French couple who arrived yesterday with their two children. The husband arrived hours after his wife and kids, having somehow got hopelessly lost on his way here. We know this because he approached us last night with a disgruntled Gozitan taxi driver in tow, halfway through our cheese, crackers, chilled white wine and mellow jazz, to make sure he was in the right place. The taxi driver tried to help out in his incredibly basic English - "This is France...You speak France?" - adding one of those lovely choice details to our holiday that make the story worth telling in years to come.
And then there's us. We're here for the week, and today's our third day, which is how long it's been since I've worn anything except for a pair of swimming trunks. I can literally feel my batteries recharging as I type. There is no better feeling in the world...
...except for one tiny flaw. There's no Internet connection out here, and this article is overdue. Which means that as soon as it's done, which it will be in a couple more lines, I'm going to have to put on a T-shirt, head down to the car, and drive around a bit looking for a wifi hotspot somewhere.
No problem. I need to buy some more wine, cheese and crackers anyway. And possibly some balsamic vinegar. Either way, by the time you finish reading this, I'll be back by the pool, cheering on the Spaniards. Or finishing off The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. Or maybe, if I can take the strain, having a nap.
We come to this place once or twice a year. I've already reserved a bungalow for a week in September. Peace, quiet, tranquility and serenity...and fresh Gozo cheese. It doesn't get much better than this.
Danny is a teacher at EC Malta English school.