As a tourist to Gozo in the early days, baked mid-brown with a dash of lobster, I was surprised to see the warm woollen jumpers amongst the traditional lace hanging from stalls in the market place. They seemed an unlikely purchase for the summer stroller or sun-worshipper. I was bemused and amused in equal measure.
Fast forward a few Februaries and all had become clear. Whilst the island never becomes cold in the sub-zero sense, when wrapped in grey clouds and swept with wild wet westerly winds – and this winter Gozo has borne more than its fair share – the houses here, designed to wick heat from inside out, suffer with a damp Victorian chill. In the flat, we wrapped up well with thick slippers and gilets while the toasty fire blazed in the curtained snug. And, from under a blanket which allowed a shocking rush of cold air to your back when one stood up, The Significant Other decided he needed a poncho… or better still, something similar resurrected from local heritage, a kabozza.
According to Formosa: A History of Gharb (2018) the kabozza was an Gharb special, a bulky heavy garment worn by local men in the relatively low temperatures of January and February. Although it was still worn by some in the 1950s, the practice died out amongst the village’s inhabitants over the past couple of generations. The Significant Other, however, is now pushing ahead with a one-man revival of the tradition and proudly sports his own version lovingly crocheted in Lion Brand Homespun yarn (that’s homespun in a factory in the US. I draw the line at plucking sheep). It’s a twenty-first century fusion of Gharb’s historical garment and a Jedi robe to grace any Tatooine catwalk, and he will really look quite something next New Year, although what that something is, it’s hard to know. Then again, Star Wars is packed with dubious characters – as will Gharb be: the Gozitan Jedi robe seems to be catching on across the generations. Both The Youngest and The Father-in-Law are asking for Jedi-kabozza of their own for style, warmth, and just in case George Lucas decides to pop by with a video camera for a new film set in the perfect desert-cum-spacerock landscape along the north of the island.