<![CDATA[Naked hero - Blog]]>Fri, 20 Nov 2015 06:16:09 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[Aspects of Gozo - Dwejra]]>Fri, 20 Nov 2015 10:09:53 GMThttp://nakedhero.weebly.com/blog/aspects-of-gozo-dwejra
No blog about Gozo would be complete without mentioning Dwejra. It's where the Azure Window is located, which is the island's most famous natural landmark. But there are other natural features to be found, such as Fungus Rock, Dwejra Bay itself, and the Inland Sea, so it's a very popular spot for tourists. The area is also littered with fossils on the raised sea bed where this snap of The Azure Window was taken. Then there's Dwejra watchtower which is the best on the island and open to visitors.

It's all well worth seeing, but for me Dwejra is about diving. There are three entry points which make for very different dives: At the Inland Sea, going through the tunnel and back. At the Coral Garden, which lies just to the left of the Blue Hole, shown in there with the Azure Window in the background. And the Blue Hole itself, which is the dive I describe in Naked Hero. It is the most popular dive around Gozo, and rightly so. If you want to see big fish then Reqqa Reef is better, but the Blue Hole has more in the way of geological drama. The hole itself is something to see - seemingly cut off from the sea. But ten meters down there is another window which links the Blue Hole to the main. And that's just for starters. With the reefs, boulders, a chimney to ascend, and plenty of fish as well, it's a magical dive and deserving of it's status.
​I hope I did it justice when I described it through Lewis's awestruck eyes.

​J. K.  
<![CDATA[Aspects of Gozo - Comino]]>Wed, 18 Nov 2015 08:37:55 GMThttp://nakedhero.weebly.com/blog/aspects-of-gozo-comino
Okay - so Comino isn't actually an aspect of Gozo. It is a separate island. But it features strongly in Naked Hero so I'm including it in this blog, having visited it again yesterday when I took these snaps.
Much of the action in the book happens at Santa Maria bay, which tends to be very quiet with only a few people around - most camping in the site directly behind it. It has a small jetty and a very small police station, which sadly has been painted a creamy colour. I much preferred pink, which was the case when I wrote the book, and how it is described there.
That's Comino's much more famous attraction - the Blue Lagoon. Mid-November at ten in the morning, it was blissfully quiet, which is how I have Lewis find it in the book, having gone there early before the ferries start arriving. On the far side is Cominotto, where a scene from Troy was filmed, and where Lewis hears about another Greek legend - the story of Achilles and his relationship with Patrolclus, which has a sort of parallel to Lewis's relationship with Gavin.
While on the island, I made that swim over to Cominotto, having first retraced the walk Lewis took to the watchtower. And there is the actual privy built into the walls, where the knights of old who manned the tower would relieve themselves, with that incredible view of the lagoon before them.

There are more pictures of Comino on my Facebook page - the 'f' icon above will take you there if you want to check them out.

J. K.

<![CDATA[Aspects of Gozo - Ramla]]>Mon, 16 Nov 2015 12:37:56 GMThttp://nakedhero.weebly.com/blog/aspects-of-gozo-ramlaPicture
Ramla is Gozo's largest and most popular beach. It can get quite busy during the peak of summer, especially at the weekend. But this morning I had it pretty much to myself. It's set in Ramla valley, and off to the right over looking the bay is Calypso's Cave.
According to legend, on his way home from Troy, Odysseus got washed ashore on an island, and some think Gozo is a likely candidate, with Ramla the beach where he ended up. The story has it that the goddess Calypso, who lived in that cave, took a fancy to Odysseus and kept him captive on the island for seven years. That’s why Gozo is also known as Calypso’s Island.
In Naked Hero, Lewis comes to Ramla and is told about the legend. It is one of several Greek legends that I draw upon, using them as a parallel to Lewis's own journey home. Like Odysseus, this Hero's journey home takes ten years, although only two weeks were spent to Gozo.
Oddly enough, I have lived on the island for ten years, and now will make my own journey home - to Brighton in December.

​J. K.  

<![CDATA[Aspects of Gozo - San Blas Bay]]>Sat, 14 Nov 2015 15:12:00 GMThttp://nakedhero.weebly.com/blog/aspects-of-gozo-san-blas-bayPicture
It's mid-November in Gozo, but there was still a dozen or so people on the beach at San Blas when I visited it today. In July there would be a lot more, so I was using a bit of licence when I wrote Naked Hero and had it deserted when Lewis went there with Gavin. 
I went there by car today, although you have to walk the final stretch, which is down a very steep hill, and an arduous climb on the way back to the small car park. Lewis and Gavin go to San Blas on foot, walking along the coastal path from Ramla, which is Gozo's most popular and largest beach. I made the same walk myself several times, although it is almost impossible now, as erosion has taken much of the path away, making it a difficult scramble for large sections of the route - doable, but far from easy. But however you get there, San Blas is well worth a visit, even if you don't have it to yourself. Ochre sand, azure sea, and a dramatic backdrop of cliffs and terraced fields. It's a very special place, for its beauty peace and tranquillity. A tonic to be there after the horror of this morning's news from Paris.
J. K.  

<![CDATA[Aspects of Gozo - Xlendi]]>Fri, 13 Nov 2015 13:25:48 GMThttp://nakedhero.weebly.com/blog/aspects-of-gozo-xlendiPicture
Xlendi is a fairly new addition to Gozo. Fifty years ago there were only a handful of houses, but with the advent of tourism it has grown into a small, quite tasteful resort. There isn't much of a beach, but is has a very nice seafront boasting plenty of restaurant. And the east side of the bay has a long paved walkway and sunbathing spots, leading to an ancient bridge which crosses a ravine and gives access to Xlendi watchtower which overlooks the salt pans. It's usually bustling during the summer, with tourists staying in hotels or holiday apartments.
Xlendi features in Naked Hero because it also has a number of dive centres, and being near to Sannat where I have him staying in the book, it is the obvious place where he learns to dive.
There are a plenty of snaps of Xlendi and the surrounding area on my facebook page. Click on the 'F' icon above to go there and find the photo album Gozo if you'd like to see them.

J. K.

<![CDATA[Aspects of Gozo - The Sanap Cliffs]]>Thu, 12 Nov 2015 14:40:37 GMThttp://nakedhero.weebly.com/blog/aspects-of-gozo-the-sanap-cliffsPicture
I don't mention the Sanap Cliffs in Naked Hero, but they are certainly worth mentioning here. While the Ta' Cenc plateau to the east of Sannat offers greater variety for walking, as a cliff/coastal walk, there is more dramatic scenes to be found heading west to Xlendi where Lewis did his diving course.
He was driven there by Gavin, which is the smart way to do it during the height of summer. But in mid-November, the weather is perfect for walking, and that's what I did today. There is a full set of snaps on my Facebook page in an album called Gozo, but here is a sample of the sort of views the walk affords.

​J. K.

<![CDATA[Aspects of Gozo - The Ta' Cenc Cliffs]]>Wed, 11 Nov 2015 13:23:23 GMThttp://nakedhero.weebly.com/blog/aspects-of-gozo-the-ta-cenc-cliffsPicture
I don't write about Lewis going to see the Ta' Cenc cliffs in Naked Hero, but he undoubtedly would have visited them at some point during his stay on Gozo. Being based in Ta' Cenc itself, it would have been an obvious thing to do.
I went there today to take a few snaps and remind myself of how splendid they are. This is perhaps my favourite view, looking east to the Sanap cliffs. Summer evenings can be very special here, with the heat of the day blissfully cooling as the sun goes down. It's then that the cliffs take on some incredible colours, adding to their natural beauty. And if there is a hint of cloud for the setting sun to play with, then that just adds to the spectacle. Perfection comes if you are there with a good friend and a bottle of wine to share.
I didn't write it, but I'm sure Lewis and Gavin would have gone there and enjoyed that special moment. 

J. K. 

<![CDATA[Aspects of Gozo - Mgarr ix-Xini]]>Tue, 10 Nov 2015 18:09:19 GMThttp://nakedhero.weebly.com/blog/aspects-of-gozo-mgarr-ix-xini
Mgarr ix-Xini is one of my favourite places on Gozo. Difficult to reach and not well known, it used the be a beach where only the locals and a few clued up tourists went. But a gem like this could never remain secret for too long, especially now that 'By the Sea' was filmed on the bay.
To be honest there isn't much of a beach - just a small pebbled area for sunbathing, and along the left side looking out to the sea, flattened rocks to lie or sit on. But the setting is spectacular. Just look at that for a view. Sheltered clear waters, a watchtower at the end, fish in abundance if you want to snorkel, including a small family of sea horses which I was lucky enough once to see when diving.
And then of course there is the alfresco restaurant which I have Lewis go to in Naked Hero. It looks pretty basic, with plain tables and chairs. But the food is so fresh and cleverly cooked with original twists. Sea food in the main, the catch of the day. It's run by a quirky couple who live in my village, and they really have got a goldmine on their hands. Lunch is the thing to do here. Have a swim first then spend a few hours with a group of friends, a variety of dishes arriving tapas style, and a few bottles of chilled wine of course.
Some evenings I like to go to this spot on the edge of the bay. Bring a portable BBQ and some lighting for when the sun goes down, and plenty of food and drink of course. It's simple, and it's magical, and it's very much Gozo. It's Mgarr ix-Xini, my local beach. Is it any wonder that this was the spot where the defensive layers of Lewis Macleod began to fall away?

<![CDATA[Aspects of Gozo - Lewis's Run]]>Mon, 09 Nov 2015 14:11:15 GMThttp://nakedhero.weebly.com/blog/my-tribute-to-gozo-lewiss-runWe are fortunate to have another glorious day here in Gozo, so I took advantage and went for a walk this morning, following the trail that I describe in Naked Hero when Lewis goes for his first run. It's a run I used to do regularly myself when I was a lot fitter than I am at present, so I know it pretty well. It's down hill on the way out, and a real sod of a climb on the way back. Walking is definitely the better way to do it.

Anyway, as I live at the edge of town, bordering the Ta' Cenc plateau, it takes only a few seconds before getting the first view. I'm cheating a bit as Lewis wouldn't have seen that first view on the way out as it would have been behind him, but he would have seen it on the way back. That's the village of Sannat where I live, with St Margaret's church taking pride of place, which tends to be the case with all Gozitan villages.

What Lewis would have seen first is the Citadel, which is in the capital Victoria, or Rabat as the locals prefer to call it. The Citadel was originally a small fortified city, and houses the island's cathedral, Santa Maria. When the population increased and villages grew on the island, the citadel was still used in times of siege. It sits right in the centre of Gozo, at the highest point, so would have been very easy to defend. Although it wasn't enough to stop 10,000 Ottoman's when they invaded the island. 

Moving along we have the village of Xewkija, with its magnificent church of St John The Baptist. Big bugger, isn't it. That happens to be third largest free standing rotunda in the world there, which is quite something for such a little island. There is an argument over the status, however, with the good people of Mosta on Malta claiming that theirs is actually the bigger of the two. Perhaps it is, but I'm giving the bronze medal to Gozo, thank you very much.

All this lies to the left on the outward run/walk. To the right is the raw wilderness of the Ta' Cenc plateau with dramatic cliffs at the end - something I'll go snap some other time, as Lewis would have seen them on the approach to the island by ferry. Beyond the plateau lies Malta across the sea, with Comino in between. That's Comino there, with its watchtower on the right. I'll come back to Comino, as Lewis spends a few days there.

Moving further on, after taking a turning you are facing an even better view of the sea. In the distance you can see the Gozo ferry (there are actually three of them) which is the island's transport link with Malta. And in the foreground is Faisal Rock. Unseen from above - off to the left of Faisal Rock is one of my favourite dive spots - The Middle Finger. It's a column that rises from maybe fifty meters deep and ends about eight meters under the surface - a real haven for sea life, so an excellent dive site. 

Further downhill and veering off to the left, the run/walk goes along Mgarr ix-Xini bay with it's own small watchtower guarding the entrance on the other side. The bay has gained some small fame recently, thanks to Angelina Jolie who made the film 'By the Sea' on it, starring alongside hubby Brad Pitt. I'll come back to Brad later as well, as he also features in the book - on Comino, where some scenes from 'Troy' were filmed.

​The run/walk reaches its turning point at Mgarr ix-Xini beach. That's the view Lewis would have got on the approach, and is it any surprise that he wanted to return, which he does later in the day for lunch at the little sea food restaurant that can just be made out at the edge of the trees.
And I will be returning there as well, because it really is as good as I describe in the book. But that's for another day, and another tribute to Gozo blog.

J. K. 
<![CDATA[Leaving Gozo]]>Sun, 08 Nov 2015 10:09:01 GMThttp://nakedhero.weebly.com/blog/leaving-gozoPicture
I suppose you have to go away to really appreciate something. I went back to Brighton for a couple of weeks, having been away for over a year. I really appreciated being back in the city that I have always considered my spiritual home. I was lucky with the weather, it being pretty good on the whole, which for late October was a bit of a result. It's now a week later, and I'm back in Gozo - the weather here is gorgeous today, blue sky, the air clear and the light sharp as a pin. While back in the UK, storm Abigail is on it's way, supposedly the worst in over a year. Yet come December 15 I will relocate back to Brighton. Out walking this morning, some questions were raging about that decision. But nothing is permanent I told myself. Gozo has been great, but I need something different now, and Brighton is where I'm most likely to find it, assuming Abigail hasn't blown it away.
But I though as I was walking that I should make a tribute of sorts. Gozo has been my base for a number of years, and of course it was the inspiration for much of Naked Hero.
I've kind of moved on from that with the first in the Polar North series - North to South, which is totally set in Brighton and the surrounding area. But having finished that book, I don't want to leap into the second in the series as yet - that can wait until I'm based in Brighton. Meantime I'm going to take some trips down memory lane, returning to my favourite haunts on the island, perhaps taking a few snaps of my own to post on this blog, and recalling the scenes in Naked Hero they inspired. All very self-indulgent... and I'm going to enjoy every minute, even if no one bothers to share them with me.  

J. K.