MALTA DIARY: Go fly a kite – another tradition and pastime that is done and dusted?
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Some five and sixty years ago I was a seven-year-old boy. Some five and sixty years ago give a boy a kite and he would be ecstatic and he would spend hours playing with it, trying to make it take off, trying to keep it floating on air, trying to make it soar high into the sky.
It’s the 31st of October 2018; give a seven-year-old boy a kite and he will stare at it and wonder; then he would lay it aside with a sniff and with a sigh of satisfaction pick up his tablet and watch Spiderman spider his way along New York’s skyscrapers vanquishing all the baddies and restoring all the goodness in the world.
Five and sixty years ago kites were all the rage in Malta – and that applied to all men and boys. The blue summer skies zigzagged with streams of air borne colours, zooming here and there, competing to see which soared highest.
There were also kite fights with skilled hand movements to manoeuvre your kite to bring down another and earn that glow of satisfaction and have gloating rights.
We made our own kites. We bought swathes of coloured tissue paper and thin bamboo rods. We made glue out of flour and water or an egg beaten in water. We made tails for our kites and gave them a string of coloured bows for style and elegance. Naturally, we had bundles of stout string.
Most were diamond shaped but the more creative scissored out an eagle-type bird or a throbbing yellow sun. The more adventurous strung together a series of boxes, skilled but not as spectacular looking as the others.
Each kite had to be bigger and better than the one before and when this was torn by a tree or by colliding with a building or was taken down, another would be made in a jiffy. Thus we spent our days.
On one occasion together with my brother Edward, and a friend, we decided to make the biggest kite ever. We went up on our roof (roofs are flat in Malta) and made elaborate plans and then set about our endeavours, cutting, pasting and surveying our task.
Sadly, it did not get off the ground. Our knowledge of aero-dynamics was rudimentary, totally disregarding weight, gravity and air currents!
All these thoughts came to mind during a recent week-end when the small and lovely village of Gharb in Gozo organised an International Kite and Wind Festival to coincide with the annual feast of San Dimitri staged alongside the legendary San Dimitri Chapel.
This legend is the charming and fascinating story of Zgugina, highly improbable of course as with all legends but nevertheless fascinating and charming. Zgugina was a very poor woman in the 14th Century and her only bundle of joy was her son. They lived in extreme poverty near the village of Gharb.
One evening dreaded and hated Moorish marauders anchored their galley and landed on the rocks, went uphill and kidnapped her son to take him into slavery. Zgugina was frantic and desolated. She lit a candle to San Dimitri and prayed fervently for her son to be returned.
Lo and behold, San Dimitri materialised during the night, rescued her son and sunk the Moorish galley. Ecstatic mother Zgugina vowed to light a candle dedicated to San Dimitri for every night during the rest of her life and later a small chapel was built there.
Down through the centuries Gozitan fishermen vowed that at night they saw the lanterns of the vanquished Moorish pirates glowing at the bottom of the sea in the area!
The week-end buzzed with activity, the aim being to revive a dying – if not entirely dead – tradition in Malta and Gozo. Hundreds of children were shown the art of making a kite and floating it – and keeping it floating as a result of swift hand movements.
There were also some amazing flying kites on display as kite groups from Germany, Brazil, Vietnam, Argentina and Japan combined with Maltese die hards to display their kites and their skills.
Thankfully, the week-end provided fine weather and a pleasant breeze and as befits such a momentous occasion, a great time was had by all.
One sad note – tissue paper has now been replaced by a thin plastic material, but then that’s progress for you.
“His mind is full of flying chicken chicks”
Describing a person whose mind dwells on fastasies and improbabilities, such as that of hatched chicken chicks immediately taking to flight.