The Miracle at the Parish Church of Mosta


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The circular-shaped church at the village of Mosta in Malta has an interesting history. Its design was/is based on the Pantheon in Rome, and the church was built over an existing older parish church which was later demolished. The Church is also referred to as The Basilica of the Assumption of Our Lady or The Rotunda of Mosta or The Mosta Dome.

The most famous incident in the church’s history, a miracle according to the Maltese, happened on 09 April 1942. Read More

Home fires


After almost eighteen months of desert dwelling, MB got to make the trek home.

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MB is vaccinated


Time was, the only vaccination one thought about was that of one’s dog.

How times have changed.

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Sofia & Maria – They’re Growing up fast


Seems like only yesterday when MB wrote the story of Sofia’s birth.

Two or so years later, baby sister Maria arrived. And two years later again, four years since he started, MB now finds himself sitting down to write the next installment.

And so, the chronicles of Sofia & Maria continue.

Previous posts:

1. Baptism
2. 1st Birthday
3. Feast of St Barbara
4. Sofia is 2!
5. Sofia’s got a sister – Welcome Baby Maria
6. Sofia & Maria – Birthday Time.
7. Tooth Fairy

Recently S&M celebrated Valentine’s Day with mom & dad R&E in Doha, Qatar, where R&E reside and work. Sofie’s 4th birthday took place on 10 February just past, and as ever, artistic mom R didn’t spare any effort for either occasion. As followers can see from mom R’s pics below, these two young ladies are growing up fast for sure.

However, whilst the family thrive and prosper in Qatar, their Lebanese homeland has all but collapsed economically, particulary in the last six months, and event more particularly in recent weeks. Ominously, according to many Lebanese friends on MB, the worst may be yet to come. The currency has lost 90% of its value against the dollar in the last year (and its still sliding), the banking system has lost the confidence of the people (with very good reason), prices of food and life’s other staples have sky-rocketed, and more than 50% on the population now lives in proverty. Crime levels, understandably, are rising. People with little savings, most of the population actually, are in dire straights. In a country that was once referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Mediterranian’, chronic unemployment, and even hunger, now stalk the land.

MB had a meeting with a client earlier this week. Lebanese national Walid. Walid informed MB that in 30 years on employment (mostly in Qatar), his reasonably well-paid wife had managed to save USD 400,000.00. Each month she would religiously send home her monthly savings to her bank account in Beirut. About two years back, at the suggestion of her bank, she converted her entire dollar savings into a local Lebanese pounds account. The Lebanese pound accounts were paying double the interest rate of the dollar accounts at that time, so it seemed appealing. Two years later, his wifes USD 400k is worth USD 40k – 90% of her life savings have disappeared. He has a similar tale to tell, but MB will not tell it as it,lest he depress readers too much. Sadly, the tale of Walid & his wife is replicated through hundreds of thousands of other ‘Walids’ and other ‘wives’.

MB works with many Lebanese. Most have now given up the ghost of ever returning to their homeland to work. That possibility may now not even exist for their young children. Sadly. Comparisons with Venezuala are often mentioned.

Sofia and Maria, thankfully, have many years to go before career decisions will need to be made. Let’s hope for better times for both of them, come that time.

Thanks to mom R for the following pics:

A SHIA BOY & A SUNNI GIRL – THE COMPLICATIONS OF LOVE


In the year 632 AD, the Prophet Muhammad died and a conflict ensued related to who should succeed him as the spiritual head of Islam, or Caliph. Battles ensued during which one of the proposed Caliphs, Ali, was killed. The supporters of the alternative, Abu Baker, and killers of Ali, won the day in the end, so to speak, and so began a centuries long divide within Islam which continues to the present day. The followers of Ali formed their own sect called Shia, and the victors became the Sunni sect, which is far more numerous. Approximately 85% of Muslims today are Sunni and 15% are Shia.

It’s not always or fully appreaciated in the western world just how much the Sunni/Shia divide impacts relations, and conflicts, in the present day Arab/Muslim world, and how it provides a large degree of explanation for many of the regional protests and conflicts. Syria, Iran, Iraq, Bahrain, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon are each impacted by the divide, or schism (as it’s known), to a greater or lesser degree.

During the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland (1968 to 1998 approx), inter-religious, or ‘mixed’ marriages between Catholics (who generally wanted reunion with the Republic of Ireland to the south) and Protestants (who generally wanted to remain British) were as rare as hens teeth. Families and communities were unaccepting of such unions and the young couples had generally two choices – call it off, or emigrate to London or elsewhere, get married without informing families, inform them later and then suffer the emotional consequences.

Religious polarisation exists today throughout the Middle East, even when there is no actual military conflict at play. Whilst many from the Sunni and Shia sides of the ‘religious’ road will have many friends and work coleagues who are members of the opposite sect, the matter of mixed marriages will invariable lead to difficulties, as families react along religious and cultural lines.

Take marriage contracts for example. They are an obligatory part of all Muslim marriages, with Sunni and Shia contracts each having differences, but can contan practically anything that either party may wish to include, including amendments to the standard clauses. Many wifes insert clauses giving them automatice right to divorce if the husband takes a second wife. The standard Shia marriage contract, for example, will not allow a wife to have a divorce under any circumstances unless she receives the permission of her husband. But by inserting a simple amendment into the standard contract, a wife’s unrestricted right to divorce is guaranteed. So one might think that the insertion of various amendments can solve all thorny issues that might exist, and they do to a large degree.

However, the matter of future grandkids can raise the thorny to extremely thorny. If the marriage takes place using a Sunni marriage contract, then it automatically follows that the children will be Sunni. And vise verse for a Shia marriage contract. Culturally and religiously, older generations find it difficult, if not impossible, to accept that their children may produce grandchildren who will be from the opposite sect. And as the culture of the region also means that children, regardless of their age, will want to take parental permission before getting married, then the possibility of parents refusing to sanction a mixed marriage can cause huge distress to the child and their potential future partner. Failure to take such approval will often lead to a break-up of the relationship, and in all probability, a new search begins for each from amongst their own community sect. The ‘Northern Ireland’ option is one that is regionally taboo and rarely, if ever, used.

A non-religious civil marriage provides a possible solution. Civil marriages are mostly unrecognised within the various countries but are recognised if they took place in a foreign country. However, elderly parents again will often reject this non-religious option, due to the mere absence of religion, and as the grandchildren would be considered non-muslim if the parents were to die prematurely. And so the distress of the young couple goes on, event with this alternative possibility.

The subject matter of this post is close to the heart of MB at present. He numbers a young, modern-minded, educated, mixed Muslim couple amongst his Arab friends. They now find themselves in the dilemma described above. The coming months will see Shia boy attempt to extract some workable comprimise from his (possible) future Sunni father-in-law, who may or may not be willing to do so. Equally, his own Shia family may not agree to the marriage under the civil option, which is the preference of both boy and girl. With the refusals of the families, if that’s how the dice rolls, then that may be the end of love.

Happy St Valentine’s Day to all.

Regards to all


Irish poet/singer MB highly recommends. Lot’s of his stuff online if you care to listen. Uplifting.

Regards to all.

So long 2020, you neckless giraffe


If 2020 was a giraffe, he would have no neck.

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It’s beginning to look a lot like christmas. Or is it?


Friends of MB are beginning to pop up Christmas decorations. MB can see a small Christmas tree twinkling brightly in the dim dark nights in the apartment block across the street. A few nights back, friends of MB played Michael Buble’s Christmas Songs CD as background hum to the consumption of a nice Chianti. Not a sliver of liver nor a fava bean in sight!

It’s certainly beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

What a year of experiences. Boldly going where none have gone before. Thoughts to all who’ve struggled, and the many who continue to do so. Financially. Emotionally. Whatever.

MB won’t be home for Christmas. First time ever. Will miss it terribly. Too much logistical hassle with quarantine periods each end, and the mental hassle of spending 7 hours on a flight with a mask and the hustle and bustle of infection-controlling airports. Wondering if any fellow mask-face passenger is infected; praying not. Whilst trying to watch Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory on the inflight entertainment system. To get into the festive mood. Or listening to Shane McGowan. If Qatar Airways have him on the playlist. Doubtful.

Then there are those with real problems.

Few weeks back, MB’s phone pinged. Messenger. Old school friend. Still lives in HX land. Much of his adult life spent looking after kids football teams. Has Stage-3 colon cancer. Went to doctor to have something relatively innocuous checked out. One test later, the big C. Fuck-a-duck. MB wished him well and continues to check in with him. Here’s hoping he’ll have a merry Christmas. Hoping big time.

Time for MB to go look for a Christmas tree. Alas, no tree markets out here. No tree sellers with puffa jackets and scarfs and woolly caps and seeing their exhaled breath in the cold sharp air and asking too much before settling on a lesser sum. Maybe MB can find a small Made-In-China plastic tree, and plank it on his work desk. And another for the living room table. Here’s hoping.

The Doha weather outside is delightful, but having no fire inside is frightful. And the lights are turned way down low. On MB’s essential oils mist lamp.

Let it snow. Let it snow. Let it snow!

QUARANTINE AIN’T HALF BAD WHEN YOU’VE GOT A LARGE BAR OF FRUIT & NUT CHOCOLATE


If you’ve been listening to world media in the last year MB will forgive your assumption that quarantine is some sort of hellish black hole. However, MB can assure followers that it ain’t necessarily so.

Now it could be.

Image if you were detained in some rat-infested prison for any reasonable length of time. And the guards were busy playing days-long poker sessions. And forgot to deliver food to you and the other inmates. You would be mightily cheesed off, not to mention ravenously hungry.

And if you happen to be under home quarantine in some middle eastern country, then other risks arise. The rules state that you must confine yourself to your room, not interact with other family members or house mates; and one of said family members or housemates must be your designated contact, and only contact, to deliver food, water, etc, etc.

But what if said family members or said house mates decide to binge-watch some Netflix series? One with more than three series at least. Then you might not see them for three or four days and turn into some skeletal creature under the bed sheets. Doesn’t bear thinking about dear followers. Really. It doesn’t.

Anyway, much as MB gave followers his sure-fire 100% guaranteed corona prevention programme a few weeks back (which you can read HERE), MB now gives followers more sure-fire quarantine advice to 100% get you through those long days when sole points of contact may be too busy to keep the quarantinee in sufficient sustenance.

A large bar of fruit & nut chocolate is your only man.

Fruit and nuts for protein, vitamins and minerals. And chocolate for pure pleasure.

MB recommends JH Whittaker & Sons brand from New Zealand. Given the size of their rugby players, it must be strong stuff. MB just now looked up their site and discovered the Whittaker lads are making chocolate since 1896. Need MB say more?!

And so dear followers, that is exactly how MB got through a 2-day quarantine period earlier this week, following a corona test – required due to close contact with a positive case work colleague, and the 2-day wait for the result. MB survived on a large bar of delicious Whittaker’s Fruit & Nut chocolate and not much else. Viva Whittaker’s!

Oh. and by the way lads, the result was negative. This gives MB’s above-mentioned corona prevention programme a 100% success rate to date. The only such programme on the entire planet with such a score:

Trial participants – 1 (MB)
Participants tested – 1 (MB)
Test result – Negative
Success rate – 100%

So there you have it dear followers.

Fail to prepare, prepare to fail.

Order your Whittaker’s chocolate now!

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Lens-Artists photo challenge – negative space


Thanks to Amy for the negative space challenge. Followers can view Amy’s post HERE.

As Amy explains, negative space in a photo is empty space, so to speak, around the main subject matter, allowing more focus to the main subject, and an overall feeling of calm or tranquility to the greater photo.

MB’s gone a tad lazy in recent months. No posts. No photo challenges. No nothing. Maybe MB is suffering from Corona blues? Possibly. Inspiration and inclination have been absent. For no great reason.

For many years, not a day went by without a few hits, at least, on the HX Report. Desperate people the world over (obviously says you!) landing at MB’s HX door, having searched some obscure word or phrase. And voila, their hit gets registered on MB’s blog stats. Then, on 22 August 2020, no hit. Which hit MB hard. Like a hammer!

Not really lads. The HX blog site is just a bit of craic for the self-amusement of MB. But still, no hit on 22nd August, only a few days after the Leo birthday of MB. Made MB think a little.

Maybe MB is surrounded by negative space. In a Matrix-like reality, or alter reality. He’s not sure. But he decided he needs to get back in the game. Post a few pics. Get off his ass.

So thanks to Amy for the inspirational post. Here’s MB’s effort, from 19 December 2019 at Doha Corniche:

Sofie & Maria – Tooth Fairy!


Sofia, Maria and family recently celebrated Fathers Day, and the arrival of Maria’s first tooth! Next week, Maria will celebrate her first birthday. As followers can see in the below photos, Sofia & Maria look like most young sisters the world over, oblivious to the world around them. And thankfully, oblivious to the troubles around them at present, which are manifold in their passport homeland of Lebanon. Read More

Lens-Artist’s photo challenge – Sanctuary


Thanks to Xenia for this week’s ‘Sanctuary’ challenge. Check out her post HERE.

When MB thinks of the word ‘sanctuary’ he immediately thinks of his much-younger-then-her-years mom back in Ireland. COVID days, for the elderly in particular, were and continue to be, tough days. There was a spell some time back when MB’s moms age group were confined to their homes and needed the good deeds of others for daily necessities. Thankfully, MB’s mom received same in abundance.

Her sanctuary has been her garden and the family farm. The land is now rented out for others to farm but the green fields are still available for daily strolls. The house lawn & garden provides a flower and shrub-clad sanctuary to sit and rest, or to plant new additions acquired from a nearby garden centre.

Here’s to you Ma!

The family farmhouse where MB grew up and where mom of MB still resides. MB can’t wait to get home, sooner rather than later he hopes! This pic was taken one cold March 2019 afternoon.

Ed’s Blog From The Bog – Reblogged by HX Report


MB’s cousin RO’R is married to Tommy O’Rourke. The live in Dublin, Ireland. RO’R, like MB, is north of 50, to put some context on this reblog from Ed’s Blog.

A few short years back, very suddenly, Tommy lost his sight. Life suddenly went from the normal to the very abnormal. Previously Tommy was a huge fan of live horse racing and the game of golf. The passion obviously remained, but under very different circumstances.

Today, MB received a copy of Ed’s Blog From The Bog (from RO’R – see below) which mentions Tommy and his introduction to the world of blind golf. MB was not previously aware of the blind golf world. But what a great world to discover, particularly in these trying times. And huge well done to all those involved and who give of their time to nurture and foster this world.

Best wishes to Tommy for the future and to super caddy RO’R. Hopefully that hole-in-one near-miss on the Par 3 first might be converted some time in the near future to the real thing!

MB


 

Reblog of Ed’s Blog, where the debutaubt exploits of Tommy O’Rourke are mentioned:

http://www.irishblindgolf.eu/eds-blog.html

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – A Quiet Moment


Thanks to Patti for the Quiet Moment challenge. View Patti’s great post HERE. Read More

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge – Old & New


Thanks to Amy for this week’s ‘Old & New’ photo challenge. See Amy’s post HERE. Amy’s challenge is to capture ‘old’ and ‘new’ in a single shot. Read More

Lens-Artist’s Photo Challenge – Delicate Colours


Thanks to Ann-Christine for the ‘delicate’ challenge. A-C’s post can be viewed HERE. Read More