John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Thursday 17 September 2015

[Wednesday 16 September 2015]

06:00–10:25 Manchester–Malta

Premier Inn (Manchester Airport, Runger Lane South)
06:00–10:25 Manchester–Malta
4* Preluna Hotel & Spa - 124 Tower Road, Sliema SLM 1605, Malta.
Contact number: 00356 21334001
DAY 1: UK to Malta D
Fly to Malta from your chosen UK departure airport. You will be met on arrival and taken to the 4-star Preluna Hotel on Sliema’s seafront.

The alarm clock sounded a little before 2.45am.… We were packed and down at reception checking out by ca.3.45am. The shuttle minibus arrived, and we got on with one other, a woman. A man got on when we stopped at the Premier Inn, Runger Lane North; then we went the seemingly long, round about route to Terminal 1. Luggage check-in was accomplished after only a short wait for the customer in front of us, thanks to “speedy boarding”. For the same reason, we didn’t have to wait in a queue for the security check, though the scanner beeped when I walked through it, and the female official scanned the palms and dorsa of both hands.… On the boarding-gate side of the maze of duty-free shops,… Janet was away… when boarding at Gate 12A started. It was 5.20am, boarding was supposed to be done by 5.30am, and the sign said it was up to 10 minutes’ walk from that central point to the gates. Anyway, we arrived in time. There was a longish queue at one desk but we went to the adjacent empty one marked “speedy boarding”. Nevertheless, a short way down the glass corridor, everyone, “speedy” or not, halted for several minutes before the two lines merged and we went down flights of steps to the tarmac. There were two ladders, front and rear. Most people were boarding up the front one, but one or two including ourselves went up the rear one. Our seats were about midway along the aircraft. Around the scheduled take-off time we started taxiing, and took off ca.6.10am. Ca.7am the “fasten seat belts” sign was turned on because of turbulence, but it had seemingly ceased just before the sign came on. The captain said, though, that it was unpredictable, and indeed there was a little turbulence a short while after that. The flight was some 3¼ hours.… I read part of the first chapter (as the translator G. A. Williamson divided it) of Josephus’ The Jewish War. We had to board shuttle buses to the terminal. It was very warm. Baggage claim was fairly quick. Janet spotted someone with a Mercury Holidays sign, who checked us on a list and gave us an envelope with information including a more detailed itinerary.

She told us that we should meet their representative Jon tomorrow at 9.15am. Indeed, the envelope was printed, with manuscript additions (shown here within ‘single quotes’): “Your Representative’s name is ‘Jon’ and he will be calling to see you at the hotel Reception on ‘Friday 18th September’ at ‘9:15 hrs in the TV lounge’. Please ensure that you attend this meeting as you will be required to re-confirm flight details.” Then she passed us on to the driver, whom we followed out a short distance to where a minibus was parked. One of the first things I noticed was that we drove on the left. (This hadn’t occurred to me when we boarded the vehicle on the left side.) It wasn’t long before we were in Sliema, but I guess there aren’t any long distances to locations in Malta. Janet and I were the only ones for the Preluna Hotel; there was a handful of others for two other hotels before we got to ours, and one guy remained on the minibus after we got off. It was now only ca.11.30am local time, and the reception clerk told us that check-in wasn’t before 2pm. He got us to complete a registration form, though, and sign another form for the safe key, then after we visited a lounge to open the cases and the adjacent loos to change, we left the cases in a secure room and went out. We found a nearby canopied open-air bar/restaurant “Mason’s Café” on the sea-side of the road. I had rabbit with garlic, with salad and chips, and a half-bottle of densely red, dry and tannin-rich, fruity Maltese red wine. Just after 2pm we received our key-cards at reception, and retrieved our cases. Despite air-conditioning and a ceiling fan, Janet was wilting with the heat and lay down. Attempts by phone and in person back down at reception to get someone to come and show us how to work the combination safe were initially without result, but eventually someone came. It required something to be done to it before it could be operated, so even if I’d had written instructions I wouldn’t have been able to do it.… Janet hadn’t wanted to go out before we could stow our valuables in the safe. Now that that was accomplished we went for a short walk in the hot sunshine before returning to enquire where the nearest supermarket was. That was some way up the adjacent side-street: “Scotts Ltd.” We got supplies of pop and water there (“17:02:14” on the till receipt), went back to the hotel by a rather round-about route, passing a sign in a bar that promised “Erdinger Weissbier”, deposited our purchases in the hotel room, then went to that bar. The server didn’t recognise the word “Weissbier”, though, so I pointed out the sign to her. They didn’t have any, so I had a pint of Irish beer that was on draught and Janet had a Diet Coke. Towards dinner time we went back to our room. We were outside the first-floor restaurant at 6.15pm, a little before it opened. We sat near the far end, which had a panoramic window overlooking the sea. This evening, dinner was Italian-themed. I was still a bit full from lunch-time, but I don’t think I’d have enjoyed the escalopes of veal with sliced oranges and balsamic vinegar (which I tried) even if I had been hungry. Before that, I had a mixture of salad bits, and afterwards I cut some bread and dipped it in oil. I had a 0.5ℓ carafe of house red wine for €5 as well. We went back to the room.… I [browsed the internet using the hotel Wi-Fi and]… found that according to tradition the Romans’ chief man Publius, converted through Paul (as we learn from the Acts of the Apostles), became the first Bishop of Malta, and is venerated as St. Publius (San Publju). Janet… updated her journal. We were in bed not long after 9pm. The problem was, it was still hot, with only three remedies — 1. use the air-conditioning; 2. use the ceiling fan; 3. open the window — but, 1. the air conditioning made quite a noisy whirring sound; 2. the fan made a regular, intermittent machine-sound; 3. there was the loud sound of a motor from some sort of plant with the window open. We had the just the ceiling fan on, turned low.

[Friday 18 September 2015]

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