Gozo is a tiny place, and the uninitiated might be surprised by the vast and vigorous weather that wraps this mere drop of rock: dwarved by a giant sky, this Mediterranean island is buffeted by weather systems that sweep over fields and villages in its path.
The rain – when it falls – descends like a cascading waterfall, and caught in the celestial outpouring it would barely be a surprise if biblical frogs flooded the landscape. An indigenous ‘painted’ frog is found on the Maltese islands, and can be spotted at Gozo’s Roman pond on the remote western coastal road. Evolutionary biologists have doubtlessly traced its molecular phylogeny to other Mediterranean amphibians but I envisage a Just-So story yet to be written of the raindrops that became frogs. “As a tempestuous God rampaged across an ancient sky, their tears of rage broke into a million droplets adding power to a seething sea. But as the beauty of a speck of golden rock beneath winged feet caught the eye of that celestial being, instead their tears fell with delight and where they descended they formed a pond, Ta Sarraflu. As the sun shone a rainbow through some of theose teardrops, they became frogs shimmering with colour to remind those that came after of the joy the island can bring.” Or some such tale.
Despite occasional invigorating rain, for 300 of 365 days, the sun shines and Gozo collectively removes its cape like the man in Aesop’s wise old fable The North Wind and the Sun (I loved the version retold in glorious rich colours by author-illustrator Brian Wildsmith). It’s the wind however that we are celebrating this weekend with an International Kite and Wind Festival in Gharb – its streets decorated with overhead colour and ribbons – and at St Dimitri Chapel on its western reaches. This is the second year the event has taken place and it’s a wonderful spectacle to watch the celestial kites ducking and diving against a sea-blue sky and painting their technicolour palette on the edge of the land. Last year brought characters from Peppa Pig and Jiminy Cricket to Seahorse and Chinese Dragon, fluttering flags and an internrational parade. This year promises another magnificent competition involving twenty countries alongside the local creations of village children, a barbeque and music adding to that ‘festa’-feel.