I spent 10 years of my life in Marsascala. While I grew up in the UK, I always say that I really grew up in that town.
For several years, I lived in an apartment overlooking the water. Every morning, the church bells would ring so loudly that it felt like they were in the room with me. I would walk down to ‘the bay’, as we called it, and stop for a coffee in any cafe that had someone I knew sat outside. Because that’s the kind of place Marsascala is.
When I look back over my time there, it’s bittersweet, but at the heart of everything was that bay. During that 10 years, I spent countless evenings sitting at various points along it. I remember eating dubiously cooked chicken and salty sausages on a portable barbecue while listening to reggae out of a tinny mobile phone speaker. I remember sharing wine in plastic cups, perched on impossibly uncomfortable bits of rock.
The craggy shores of ‘the bay’ is where we went to swim, to jump, to snorkel, and to sunbathe and to generally look around and remember how lucky we were. It cost us nothing just to rock up with a towel and some water, but we were rewarded with peace and a stunning view. I cannot count the number of sunsets I’ve marveled at while being sat at various points around that bay.
Then in the winter, I would always head down to watch the enormous waves rolling in and crashing over the railings of the promenade. A particularly blustery day would draw small groups of people, nervously clutching their camera phones as they tried to get a good shot while dodging tendrils of spray.
Whenever I wanted time to myself, the bay is where I always headed. With headphones in, I would seek out a small space, tucked away from the sight of the road, and sit, staring at the water and mulling my thoughts. It was also a place where heart-to-hearts and late-night chats took place. I know many relationships that have started and ended along those shores.
I am not ashamed to say that several times that bay has listened to my problems and been there when I have reached low points. At these times, there was nowhere else I would rather be than sat by the sea watching the ripples on the water, the light of a lone diver, or just the reflection of the moon.
Watching the fishing boats coming in and out before displaying their wares on the harbour was a fine morning pastime. As was being judged by the eyes of the brightly coloured Luzzus as you stumbled home after one wine too many.
It was always interesting to watch the parade of people passing by, peacocking in their finest outfits, especially on a Saturday night or Sunday morning. It’s a place where children played and ran, where scooters and rollerblades were tested out, and where joggers struggled on despite the often blistering heat.
I also recall seeing photos of old Marsascala hanging on the wall of one cafe. We would always marvel at how it had changed, but the consensus was that enough was enough, and it should remain as it is today.
The people of Marsascala don’t want a luxury yacht marina for 700 yachts. They want a central point for their community. Somewhere to meet friends, relax, people, watch, sit and eat crepes, and watch the world go by. They want a beautiful stretch of rocky coast that will allow them to continue making memories like the ones I have described. They also want that for their children.
Perhaps I would have taken my daughter there one day. To let her ride her bike along the front, to make new friends, and to let her admire the view. But if this marina goes ahead, this is very unlikely.
What interest does the average person have in a 700-berth yacht marina? I don’t want to snorkel in human excrement and pollution from millionaires’ boats. I don’t want to eat and drink in overpriced restaurants catering only to the elite. Nor do I want to have my view of the bay and ocean, interrupted by the masts of money laundering and those who have profited from God knows what.
The island is full of these places. Sliema, Gzira, St Julians, Vittoriosa and Senglea. There is no need for any more.
These plans will irreversibly damage one of the most precious parts of Malta. That bay is the heart of Marsascala, as are the small businesses that line it.
If this project goes ahead, they will all be pushed out, as will the locals and the families that have visited there for years. Memories like mine and countless others will be forgotten and no more will be made, except for by those who can afford to pay for them.
But this is one of the hallmarks of this government. Discount prosecco socialists who care only for their pockets and those of their band of merry thieves. They want to project an image of grandeur and wealth, while the reality, tucked away in the backstreets of a small fishing town, is much different.
A reality where people are struggling to afford to rent poorly constructed washrooms and garages. A reality where corruption is crippling the country and robbing the public purse. And a reality where ex-pats are leaving in droves, sick of clouds of concrete dust, drilling, and Paris prices.
Day-by-day, brick-by-brick, Malta is losing most of what once made it special. Its people are disillusioned or brainwashed, and the government simply doesn’t care. The plan for Marsascala is another nail in Malta’s coffin. But more than that, it would signal the destruction of many memories, many future memories, and an entire community.