Sliema is a town on the northern coast of Malta and is known for its connections with the British era. The residents mainly speak English and a considerable number of streets have names associated with the British, such as Norfolk Street, Amery Street, Windsor Terrace, Graham Street, Milner Street and Fort Cambridge. You might even spot a red telephone box sitting at a busy traffic island somewhere in the backstreets.
It’s the town where I grew up meeting cousins, eating ice cream from the gelateria and riding my tricycle along the seafront - I’ve played several concerts in the area and have close relatives and friends living in houses and apartments dotted along the coast. I’ve fished out every fish and spider-crab from the rockpools there with a net to keep in my own personal bucket-aquarium for the afternoon before the water would reach boiling point and I’d have to throw them all back in. I’ve dived for the intricate shells of long-lost sea urchins with my big brother and chased cat fish while cautiously being watched by eels.
It’s where I first worked in a Kiwi-run cafe, making cappuccinos and toasties in order to save up for my move to the Netherlands to pursue music and to fund a rock climbing trip to Sicily with friends during the time that I was working there.
It’s the stretch of coast I longed for most as a child leading a double life - one situated on the outskirts of the black forest somewhere deep in southern Germany and the other on this sunny Catholic island in the middle of the Mediterranean I knew truly to be home.
Now that I haven’t lived there for some years once again, I still find myself dreaming of those vivid sunsets and the gentle ripples of glass-like waves lapping against the rocky coastline, swelling and hissing through hairline cracks in the jagged limestone. I envision the dotted lights of busy urban nightlife across the bay - traffic never seizing to a halt especially in the peak of summer as crowds of foreign students huddle onto buses to get to the pinnacle of Maltese nightlife at the very end of the promenade to drink buckets of vodka redbull; the town of Paceville.
Although I resent the traffic, as well as the loud throngs of drunken youths and nowadays, the scourging increase in cranes ruining the skyline, I still feel a lightness in my being each time I come back and catch a familiar sight or scent that takes me back to my childhood or simply launches me into the present moment.
It’s a wonderful feeling - the moment I realise I don’t need to be anywhere else in the world. That I do in fact, belong somewhere too sometimes. Then I feel a little sad that I haven’t sat down and stared at the sea in quite some time and it feels slightly strange to do so. Wrong, even - that I should be spending my time doing something more productive.
Then I see that;
the empty horizon is a relief. The sea; an immense production in itself - a factory of movement and containing the necessary ingredients for life and living.
The sailing boat drifting into view is a reminder of its ever changing nature. Despite thinking and knowing one to be firmly anchored in one spot, one will constantly drift to and from a place of stability and order.
I learn that nothing is truly stationary.
As houses will continue to be knocked down, old traditions will continue to be lost and forgotten. Languages. Bloodlines. Youth. Aging. Everything. We shed our skin. The world also sheds its skin. Sheds its generations. For better and for worse. We continue on. We sail. We appreciate the succulents and the little front gardens - the old man sitting with his bamboo fan on the porch with his peak-cap and a glass of tea at his feet.
Do not lose sight of the gardens or the old man sitting on his doorstep with the lace curtain behind him hanging on the inner glass door. Do not forget the yellow canary whistling in his cage competing with the boasting cicadas sitting on cacti.
Do not dismiss the importance of a quiet spot beneath an orange tree to sit and dream.
Don’t lose yourself in the babble. Don’t be eager to ‘grow up’, as my mother would tell me.
Don’t lose yourself, in trying to become something, or someone bigger than you actually are.
Do not stretch your skin so far that it hangs so loosely over your delicate skeleton.