I spent a good month in Gozo this summer. Thanks to the pandemic, I had not been to the island for almost two years and so I enjoyed reconnecting more, savouring every instant and taking mental snapshots as we toured every nook and cranny.
I’ve been a Luxembourg resident for 17 years now and for a long time I have depended on the internet to keep up with changes that take place in Malta.
The Gozo and Malta I left in 2004 are obviously not the same nowadays and it is clear to me that they will never revert to the islands where I have hundreds of memories.
That’s already three worlds that I witness – there’s the Gozo I grew up in and remember nostalgically, the Gozo that I imagine through the constant following on the internet and updating of news, and then there is the real Gozo that I can see with every visit.
The nostalgic islands of the 80s and 90s are no more. They are buried away under strata of change both physical and social. We are left with the memories of what was before the great bulldozer of progress swept away the last remnants of familiarity and comfort.
The internet has chronicled the pace of wanton destruction to the point that I would dread each visit to Malta having been riled up by the steady flow of negative news depicting the new wasteland of concrete and egoism.
When the gaps between nostalgia, the ether and reality continue to widen it is cause for great melancholy. Worse still is the realisation that we inhabit different “worlds” to those of our neighbours and fellow citizens.
Their worlds are populated with different standards and aspirations – probably reinforced by a personalised bubble of indoctrination on their own world in the World Wide Web.
It can reach the point when you begin to doubt your own sanity. Is the world you inhabit so different to these parallel worlds? Walking through Valletta the night before leaving I was originally pleased to see the way the city had come alive. The first impression walking through the Gate was of a bubbly return to the good old glorious days that were even before my time.
It was only when I walked through the different roads getting a taster of what the different establishments had to offer that I got a bad taste that jarred completely with any romantic idea of a Valletta nighttime revival. Loud music of the nightclub kind blared out of most of the restaurants and bars transforming the city of gentlemen into a nonsensical cacophony.
The arch on the way to Valletta known as “Bombi” proclaims in Latin that it was built for the Greater Comfort of the People. The cacophony I witnessed is a result of the race to the lowest common denominator that I also witnessed in Marsalforn on the promenade.
Pleasing people (and getting votes) has meant that this curse of the spread of restaurant tables is the norm. So, whether it is Strait Street, Republic Street, or the Marsalforn seafront you want to stroll through you will not be spared the beats worthy of the top Ibiza Nightclub.
The thing is that all these tables were full. The people seem to want this as entertainment. To paraphrase the prime minister, it will be up to the people to choose how to spend their newfound wealth.
If they want to live in a world where they can chew on their ribeye to the sound of Gigi D’Agostino then so be it. Our worlds will be bulldozed because the flock accept their destruction in exchange for a world built to their liking.
Their world includes a yacht marina in Marsascala where to moor their noisy, dirty boats which they will use on Santa Maria to choke the picturesque and quiet bays in Gozo. Their worlds are constantly fuelled by a steady stream of fake information that counters the last bastions of hope that struggle to maintain the normal worlds that we are used to.
Their worlds depend on the grace of the politician turned overlord to dish out public space like promenades or beaches for them to set up loud crass restaurants or to hog the Blue Lagoon with deckchairs leaving no space for the dreamers who turn up with a towel and flip flops.
Their worlds are made up of concrete parks, asphalt mini-highways and complete disdain of the last patches of nature that our islands might still enjoy. In their world the car is king, the rules are there to be broken with the tacit acquiescence of the ‘Prosit Ministru’ and a democratic majority is transformed into a tyranny of tasteless greed.
Their worlds seem to still have the upper hand. The more they are pleased, the more the greed machine feeds itself, and the more the few of us who inhabit different worlds are doomed to retreat into our nostalgic memories.
When that happens the Malta and Gozo that we knew and loved will only be a distant memory.