For 21 years I had visited Malta as a tourist with my family. Coming home every year as a tourist was magnificent – you saw the best of Malta. Your family made such a fuss that you had visited. My daughter Jess was beloved – she was the first great grandchild on both sides. My paternal grandmother, Ariad – a lifelong Manchester United football fan – deliberately served her with 7 Up floats in a Manchester United glass. Each time Jessica – an Arsenal football club supporter - poured it out of this glass and into another glass. My maternal grandmother, Nanna Carrie, cooked for us and my aunt Joan hosted us. Sitting on the balcony of my aunt’s Tigne seafront flat, with the magnificent Valletta across the water, we’d put the world to rights until the early hours of the morning. My aunts, uncles, cousins – their hospitality was the stuff of legend. We were cossetted and loved.
I never thought that I would want to return to Malta. Yes, occasionally there were moments when I wondered whether we would be better off in Malta. But I loved our life in the UK. In the UK - especially London - you are anonymous, and so freer to be yourself, to become yourself. But as my three surviving grandparents passed away, I found myself wishing I had been there in their last years, learning yet more of the old Malta and their lives then. In the meantime my father had a series of illnesses. My wonderful uncle Limps and my beloved aunt Joan passed away after illness.
My aunt Joan was such an influence in my life. She took great interest in all her nieces and nephews but maybe I got the brunt of the attention because I was the eldest niece. She was the one who taught me how to read – something I will forever be grateful to her for. She would insist that I spend every June with her so that I could revise for the exams. She taught me how to structure an essay and would get me to complete pages of Maths. I did this grudgingly then, resentful that I was doing all this ‘work’ while she had her siesta. How much I took her for granted. How inconsolable I was when she left us.
It was when my aunt had a serious setback with her illness that I felt sure I should be in Malta. I wanted to be able to visit her in hospital, to help her in any way possible. Sadly we did not make it in time. My aunt passed away on the 16th December 2008 when our youngest was 11 months old. In the above photo, our youngest is 2 and a half years old.
September 24th, 2010 – is the day we finally arrived in Malta. It was Eric’s 44th birthday. On Monday, 27th September, 2010, I started my teaching job and our eldest son had his first day in Grade 1. We stayed with my parents initially and then ten days later signed a rental agreement on a flat in Sliema.
My father – my life loving father, never still, always unable to stay indoors – visited us at least once a day for coffee and a chat. Every Sunday, in the summer, we would take him to Mellieħa with my brother and his family. I am so grateful that at least, we had this time with him before he passed away in October 2012.
So the above is the answer to the question – Why did you leave the UK to come and live in Malta? Of course, we also had other reasons for moving to Malta but my sense of the mortality of my remaining family was the catalyst.
Others reasons for the move were the Scottish weather – two kids under the age of 5 and rainy weekends are not compatible. Also the more laid back, relaxed way of life.
Looking at that photo, I marvel at how young (and slim!) I look. Life throws many curveballs at people – that’s life of course. At the age of 43 I had had my fair share. Each time I bounced back, stronger and more confident than before. Was it youth? Was it the fact that each time I could see that the light at the end of the tunnel was not impossibly far away?
Setting up our lives in Malta was an eye opener, to say the least. The troubles we have had are on record in other blogs. Seven years later and still there is trouble with basics. Although I have been put on the correct point of the Civil Service Salary Scale and some arrears have been paid, I still have not been paid my first 3 years’ arrears. It’s a constant war of attrition – the state doing its best to make sure you get tired for asking for what is yours by right. After reams and reams of correspondence with Arms, Ministers, the Prime Minister, the Office of the Ombudsman, the NAO, the European Parliament, the European Commission – still tenants are being discriminated against by Arms.
Stories of tenant distress all over social media – I recognize the authenticity of these from miles away, because I lived these stories too. At the same time you get some people who clearly haven’t lived these stories, condemning, judging people with these stories, deriding them as lazy scroungers... Two and a half years later, my tenant support group numbers more than 2 000 tenants. Every day I get a story, every day I’m asked for advice. Every day I feel that I could help so much more if only the state was behind us, helping us and understanding its responsibility towards us.
In conclusion, I think the reason for my decreased well being, my constant state of anxiety and stress, is that I cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel. There is far too much to be put right, to make things fair in Malta. So where does that leave me? Because I have slowly come to the horrific realization that I will only have peace of mind, catharsis even, when the Maltese state addresses these problems.
You know what they say – hope is the last to die. They also say that hope is cruel. I so wish that one day soon I will wake up to finally see light at the end of the tunnel.