I inadvertently affect a trembling slouch of the lower lip as I mutter, Bogart style, that I am determined to find my Gozonian Peregrine. The bone-shaking suspension of an hour-long bus ride helps where method acting fails.

As it happens, Cocky rooster is as close to a Falcon as I am to Lauren Bacall, but without faith where would we be?

My first port of call on arriving to Valletta is Tourist Info. where I am given directions to a second-hand emporium called Labyrinth, which, as its name implies, is confusing to locate, as it has two distinct entrances on parallel streets, neither of which appear to correspond with my map. However I also recall spending two hours looking for the National Museum, not an insubstantial building, in Budapest, which turned out to be less than 50 metres from the centre of the ever decreasing circle I was making, so perhaps my map-reading skills are not to be trusted. In any case it turned out to be a bit of a turkey when it came to Ladybirds.

But every cloud ... and in my determination to find the place, I unearthed some rather more promising outlets.

Bookshop one appeared less than promising, a smallish new books retailer. I prepared myself for the worst - a possible Disney title. Wrong. There were piles of Ladybirds going at remaindered prices. OK, they were all mint condition but, behind the 90s titles, there were 80s titles, and behind those were a stack of vintage 70s, including Story of Artists, Learnabouts, How it works and KW titles. I even unearthed a signed copy of the Planet of Death before my knuckles scraped the plasterwork and I licked up my tongue off the floor.

Do you think they might have some Malti language ones? I asked my weary husband and baggage handler. I doubt it he replied in his charmingly cynical Glaswegian language which tends to adopt a lot of funny 'f' sounds, After all you're talking about a country with a population the size of Edinburgh, which like Edinburgh is bilingual* with English.

We trotted around a bit, me with low expectations and he shoulders. I never did find the other second-hand shop, but managed to stumble on a street of little bookshops. In one I managed to find the Invisible Man from the original series and, in another, a selection of Maltese and American editions, all at reasonable prices.

Unfortunately they also included some Disney ones... Still, Dumbo could make a fun April Fool for a precocious 4 year-old as the prodigy stutters uncomprehendingly with the first sentence to the troubled puzzlement of its unaware parents, who assume from the cover that the book is in English...

*Scottish Joke

Main page