Returning to Malta after a twenty one year absence has completely shaken me from top to bottom, right to left, all sorts of infinite directions... It has probably been the most significant event in my not quite uneventful life.
I set up my first household – work, bills, mortgage, furniture, cleaning, cooking, decorating, general housekeeping – in London when I was 22 years old. When I was 26 years old, I was a single parent commuting to the University of Greenwich 1 hour 40 minutes away. That’s 3 hours and 20 minutes on the tube and the train every day. Life was challenging but I seemed to be able to meet those challenges successfully. I grew and increasingly felt that I was achieving, living, even thriving.
Watching Chris Fearne’s interview by Tim Sebastian crystallized for me the feeling of Salvador Dali and Kafkaesque surreality I have experienced since returning to Malta in 2010. It’s like there’s the normal world and then there’s Malta. Tim Sebastian cut through to the chase with his usual surgical precision. Contrary to what normally happens when a Maltese politician is interviewed, Tim Sebastian was instantly aware of the implications of what Dr Fearne was saying. His eyes did not glaze over; he did not nod his head and move on to the next question. Tim Sebastian understood the parallel dimension that is our Malta. The cotton wool is falling away from the eyes of the rest of the world, whether we like it or not.
For years I have silently, and not so silently, screamed at the nonsensical utterances of various people in high office and their brazen complacent sitting in office whilst not achieving much. They are certainly not serving the public even though it is the public that pays their salaries.
Seven years later and the basic mundane business of living still dominates our lives. Four and a half years later, we are still fighting for the right of tenants to have access to the correct utility tariff for people living in their primary residence. On the plus side, there is progress on the situation of the private rental market, although it will be a few years yet before we see any concrete improvement in the lot of the private tenant. Seven years later, I’ve had to start legal proceedings to get the state to pay me the 20 000 euro or so back payments in salary it owes me.
Much of my energy is taken up by these battles. So, of course there are opportunity costs. In the UK, all my energy went towards my family, my job, living. Here, it’s a different kettle of fish altogether. Here, you have to fight to have basic things like equal pay for equal work or the right to be the account holder of your utility bill and on the correct tariff. So many more battles I could fight but I have to draw a line somewhere.
Recently I’ve been asking myself questions like these: Am I wrong to compare my experiences of life in the UK with those in Malta? Why don’t I just nod my head to all the nonsense and try to circumvent the surreality?
Or should I maybe understand that fighting for the mundane, everyday stuff for the ordinary mortal is not that mundane after all? Should I embrace these battles as my opportunity to do something worthwhile for my family and my country? What are my children learning as they observe my efforts?