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Danny's Reading: Not About Gozo

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Gozo, Malta's smaller sister island, is a great place for those moments in life when you just need to get away from it all for a couple of days. Twenty minutes away by ferry, Gozo is quiet and tranquil - except for certain times of the year when absolutely everybody simultaneously feels the need to get away from it all, and end up finding the 'it' that they need to get away from waiting for them in the holiday apartment next door to theirs. Nevertheless, if you simply want to spend a peaceful week lying on a sunbed by a pool, reading a book and watching the sun rise and set while the world carries on 'happening' elsewhere, there are few places to do so which are as good as Gozo.

This is not an article about Gozo.

I have been married for thirteen years, to a girl I met at a disco nine years before that, back when I was seventeen and still the coolest thing since sliced bread. In all that time we've had two children ' a boy called Jake who is now five years old, and a girl named Amy who is two years younger than her brother. They're good children, although they don't seem to have come equipped with either a volume control or a pause button. At least, I haven't been able to locate it yet, and - believe me ' I've looked.

But this article isn't about my wife or kids either.

Paceville is a small town in Malta which is famous - or perhaps I should say infamous - for its nightlife. A town of pubs, clubs, bars and neon lights, all clustered together into an anthill of activity and a cacophony of music and noise. Long before I became a teacher, I worked as a chef in a restaurant in Paceville, and there was nothing better after a night of grilling fillet steaks and lemon sole than to let yourself be carried by the crowds to the nearest den of iniquity for a drink or ten as the night made way for daylight. Paceville was my second home. Actually, home was my second home, after Paceville, for a large portion of my teenage years.

And no...this is not an article about Paceville either, although it could have been. Should have been, in fact.

But the scene has been set, and you now have all the information you need, so let's jump right in...

Last weekend was my wife's parents' wedding anniversary, and they decided to celebrate it by getting away from it all and heading up to Gozo for a week. My wife, currently on summer holidays, decided that it would be nice to join them there for the day. She phoned me at work on Friday to let me know she wouldn't be home when I got in. And then she phoned me again a few hours later...

The kids were having a great time in the pool with the grandparents. In an hour or so they were going to go out for dinner. It would be a bit late by the time they were done. She had left the car at home and caught the bus up ' a forty-minute ride. And so...

Would I mind if she stayed in Gozo for the weekend?

Of course not. Go ahead, have dinner, have fun, have a Coke and a smile.

And that's how, for the first time in a very long time, I ended up with a whole weekend where the only thing I was responsible for was me. No kids, full of energy and enthusiasm, bouncing up and down on my stomach at six on a Saturday morning, laughing and giggling and gleefully screaming "Wake up, Daddy!" into both my ears simultaneously. No trying to wrestle the bedcovers away from my wife, who apparently does some weird combination of yoga and kung fu in her sleep. No picking up twelve million pieces of Lego off the living-room floor. No fish fingers and Smiley-shaped potatoes. No mess, no fuss, no bounce, no play...

Suddenly, unexpectedly, for one weekend, I could be seventeen again, partying the night away in Paceville...

After work on Friday, I got home to find a house in silence. For a couple of hours I just sat in my favourite armchair, listening to things I hadn't heard for a while - the ticking of the kitchen clock, the sound of my own breathing, and the sound of things not being accidentally broken. I sat like that until I got hungry, and then I decided to make a curry for dinner, because while my wife and children are not the biggest fans of the dish, I love it. The hotter, the better.

I made enough for four people because that's how many people I'd become used to cooking for. No problem - I ate the lot, poppadums and all. Then, stomach bulging and barely able to move, I staggered back to my favourite armchair and promptly fell asleep. I woke up Saturday morning at six.

So far, so not good. But I still had one night left.

I spent Saturday afternoon doing pretty much nothing around the house. The ticking of the kitchen clock became incredibly annoying after a while. My favourite armchair, I discovered, was no longer as comfortable as I'd always believed it to be, having spent a night asleep in it. And the house was too quiet, and I never wanted to eat curry again.

For dinner I had fish fingers and Smiley-shaped potatoes. Then I started thinking about Paceville, and the noise and the crowds, and the fact that I didn't have any clothes to wear that didn't need ironing, and about how much I hated ironing. By eight, I had ditched the idea of going to Paceville. By nine, I found myself sitting on the floor in the living-room, building a spaceship out of Lego.

I have to admit, it was a pretty good spaceship. I couldn't wait to show it to Jake.

At ten, I decided to watch a DVD. By half past, I was asleep on the armchair.

At seven o'clock the next morning, I was woken up by the kids jumping up and down on my face. Jake had already accidentally destroyed the spaceship.

Apparently, I am no longer the coolest thing since sliced bread. And, to be honest, I couldn't care less.

And that's what this article is about. I love the way my life has turned out. I love my wife and my kids, and the noise and the mess. I love the dinner-times and bath-times and the twelve million pieces of Lego. I often look back fondly at my teenage years, but I know that I can't actually go back there and, it turns out, I wouldn't really want to if I could. That was then, and this is now.

Next week, we're going to Gozo for a week to get away from it all. And I'm taking the 'it' with me.

As for Paceville...well...been there, done that. It's all yours.

Go ahead, have fun, have a Coke and a smile.

By Danny

Danny is a teacher at EC Malta English school.