30 January 2010

Malta: Where Everybody Knows Your (House's) Name

In Malta and Gozo, they name their houses. I'm not sure if this is a borrowing from the UK, where many jurisdictions use house or estate names instead of numbered street addresses, or if it predates British influence. But whereas in my experience the practice normally applies to standalone structures in the UK, in Malta even townhouses and semi-detached homes are named.

Usually, the names are displayed on pretty little ceramic plaques near the front door. Many of the names reflect Malta's Catholic heritage; others reflect its popularity among second-home owners from elsewhere in Europe.

The style of the house-name plaques has also been picked up for street signs and other public signage, which has the doubly pleasant effect of making them less obtrusive and much nicer to look at.

(Stick No Bills)


("Cathedral Plaza")
(Probably a family name? "Of the" Arlekkins?)

("The Merrill")

25 January 2010

U.S. gives haggis a Burns's Night reprieve?

Tonight will be Burns's Night, an informal holiday celebrating Robert "Rabbie" Burns, Scotland's national poet and by most accounts the greatest poet ever to write in Scots. We celebrated Burns's Night a day early with some traditional haggis, neeps, and tatties, augmented by lots more non-traditional fare at an international potluck.

The haggis is very much the centerpiece of a traditional Burns Supper: the evening turns on the presentation of the haggis to a recitation of Burns's "Address to a Haggis." So it's fitting that, according to this BBC story, the US has chosen today to announce plans to reduce import restrictions on meats that prevent the importation of haggis to the US.

The article overstates its case a bit--haggis isn't actually banned in the US, you're just not allowed to import it--but it's still a neat Burns's Night treat.

A Return to Tea?

According to this article (via Fark), for a long time it has looked like Britain, like many other longstanding tea cultures (ex, Korea, Japan, China), was going to succumb to the onslaught of coffee.

But the recession has reminded many folks here in Scotland of something Nana and I have long since loved about tea: compared to coffee, it's incredibly cheap. (It's also a lot healthier, though of course it doesn't pack quite the same punch.)