From the roof of the hotel my wife and I were staying at in Malta there were panoramic views over Sliema Creek to Manoel Island and beyond. We could just see Lazzaretto Creek adjoining Marsamxett Harbour. Grand Harbour, where enormous cruise ships dock, was hidden from view by the peninsula upon which Valetta, the capital city stands. According to particular light settings, the ancient limestone buildings rising above the ramparts form a beautiful silhouette featuring the domed Carmelite Church and the spire of St. Paul’s Anglican Cathedral. St. John’s Catholic Cathedral was hidden from view by other buildings and trees.
From this vantage point high above the waterfront the two of us on several occasions sunbathed beside the rooftop swimming pool. This eagle’s roost was never crowded by sun seekers, and there were times when we had it virtually to ourselves. There the cooling wind would gently dry our sun-blessed bodies after swimming in the crystal clear water. Refreshments were to hand by way of a kiosk and an obliging waitress. Our favourite snack was toasted sandwiches flavoured with various fillings. We would retire to this nest after visiting places of interest such as the attractions of Valetta, walking beside St. Thomas Bay, a bus ride to St. Julian’s or a sightseeing tour of Malta.
Under a parasol we could relax and reminisce, just chat or be silent, perhaps read from our Kindles or snooze. It was even possible to phone by mobile to people at home or send text messages for almost instant communication. Above, the sky was mostly blue; only for the last two days of our holiday was there any significant cloud, but one morning there was a heavy downpour that made access to our hotel impossible for a short while.
From this vantage point of the roof I loved watching activities on Sliema Creek. Visiting yachts would moor right in front of our hotel. Ferries and Captain Morgan’s sightseeing boats shuffled to and fro doing harbour trips and round the Island day cruises. Rod fishermen would try their luck at the quay, patiently waiting for bites, hopeful for a reward, but there was not one that I saw who caught a fish.
Before sunset locals would gather in groups beside the water for chin-wagging - families with children, old men, young people, all wanting to exchange news or present points of view. Courting couples with no inhibition would closely embrace and kiss, as if on their own. A continuous stream of cars and buses hurtled along the coastal road. Nearby there were numerous pavement cafes and packed restaurants, most blurting out loud music making conversation difficult. Health fanatics could be seen running or walking swiftly along pavements while trying to ovoid those who were not in a hurry.
Yes, observing Sliema from the rooftop gave me a different perspective and an understanding of what is valuable to the Maltese. They highly value speaking to one another; they love communicating and expressing opinions just as the ancient Greeks, Plato and Socrates. They have something that is missing from my neck of the woods, apart from conversations when locals bump into one another, that’s when we are not in our cars or when we choose not to ignore those whom we meet on the street.
Please God make me more gregarious; teach me to shout and to gesticulate as do the Maltese and make me more tolerant and communicative with my neighbours, but let me be courteous and caring when in a queue, never to push in as they do.
St. Paul’s Cathedral, Valetta
Carmelite Church, Valetta