A large donation of books for Christmas by the National Book Council
The National Book Council (NBC) has today presented an unprecedented number of books to Malta Libraries, which will be distributed to all public libraries in Malta and Gozo, as well as other libraries including libraries in elderly homes.
The books included, among many others, National Book Prize and Terramaxka winners in Maltese and English, ranging from novels, short-stories, poetry, drama, translation, literary non-fiction, general, biographical and historiographic research to age-appropriate fiction and non-fiction children’s books.
The donation’s value amounted to €100,000. This was the fourth extraordinary purchase that the NBC executed this year, which formed part of a wider spectrum of initiatives aimed at supporting publishers and sustaining them through the pandemic, which seriously affected the already struggling Maltese book industry.
Back in March, a purchase of €10,000 was made from local publishers, followed by two purchases of €20,000 in April and May. Therefore, including December’s purchase, this year the NBC has helped the local book industry’s liquidity with an injection of €150,000 in sales.
In addition to Malta Libraries, other smaller entities – including NGOs – will benefit from book donations from the NBC in 2021.
The donation was presented by Simona Cassano, NBC Executive Director, to Cheryl Falzon, National Librarian and Malta Libraries CEO.
Signing of the Education Exception Contract by the Ministry of Education, Publishers and the National Book Council
Following over a year of intense negotiations and lengthy consultations between all parties, the Ministry for Education, publishers’ representatives and the National Book Council have come together to sign the Education Exception Contract, which will for the first time regularise the reprography and digital use of Maltese books in Malta’s public schools.
The regularisation and licensing of books in the education system is an EU obligation that member states are required to adhere to, and which will be further consolidated when the Copyright Directive in the Digital Single Market comes fully into effect in summer 2021. The National Book Council has been working on the legislative framework to make sure that Malta, as an EU member state, complies with EU law and simultaneously ensures the interests and rights of its stakeholders, namely authors, illustrators and publishers. With this agreement, publishers and authors will be compensated a total of €100,000 on a yearly basis for a 10 per cent reprographic or digital use of each book published.
Negotiations on the Education Exception Contract have been brokered by the National Book Council, which will be the entity responsible for managing the process of handing the funds to the Malta Reprographic Rights Organisation, to be then distributed to publishers and authors in the scheme.
The agreement will finally regulate the irregular and illegal use of reprography and digital use of books, which incurs material damages on the book industry, in a manner that benefits all parties, including teachers and students. The National Book Council welcomes the reaching of this milestone for both the Ministry of Education – which had never before regularised the use of reprography in schools – and the book industry, as for the first time publishers and authors will be earning their rightful compensation for the use of books in schools. This agreement will apply to all of Malta’s public schools and Church schools. This agreement does not apply to private schools and the University of Malta, which are legally obliged to make separate arrangements with the book industry.
The National Book Council would like to thank the Minister of Education Justyne Caruana, whose swift action and support for the legislative reforms proposed by the National Book Council have already earned great respect from all book industry stakeholders. We see in the Minister a strong patron to the book industry and look forward to keep working with her for the benefit of the industry and the general public. We would also like to thank the Permanent Secretary Frank Fabri and the Ministry’s Finance Director Maria Galea, who have led the negotiations from the Ministry’s side to an eventual agreement with book industry representatives.
National Book Council
Meet the Author
At Meet the Author students are given the opportunity to meet their favourite Maltese authors. Schools can team up with BDL to create an event during school hours during which authors can meet students, hold a reading session, and even sign books purchased by students.
During the Meet the Author sessions students can learn more about what it actually takes to write a book, starting from the brainstorming phase, leading to the final stages and publishing. These events are highly beneficial to students, who are encouraged to develop their creative and imaginative skills while getting a first-hand account from authors who have honed these skills and developed them into books.
Meet the Author sessions also promote further curiosity among students regarding the enticing world of books, which take on a new life in the hands and words of the authors who wrote them. This helps create further interest in books and reading, while also advocating literacy among students.
Meet the Author sessions can be booked by contacting BDL’s schools’ representative Dorianne Chetcuti via email, on firstname.lastname@example.org, or on 99380351/21380351.
Remembering Joe Sultana
11 September 2018 marked a sad day for ornithology in Malta. Joe Sultana, former secretary and president of BirdLife Malta, avid environmentalist and ornithologist, passed away at the age of 78, leaving behind a plethora of papers and publications on the Maltese natural landscape and environment.
Sultana is best remembered for being an impassioned environmental activist, a vehement defender of the islands’ natural habitat as well as their heritage. The Xagħra-born writer’s love for birds shone through his published works, providing extensive studies on the avifauna of the Maltese Islands.
A collection of Sultana’s writings about his native island of Gozo was published last year. Il-Wirt Naturali t’Għawdex is an accumulation of articles highlighting Gozo’s richly diverse heritage, detailing its flora and fauna to promote the conservation and appreciation of its natural beauty. Sultana’s dedication towards the preservation of the Maltese Islands’ avian inhabitants was prevalent throughout his lifetime, and his passion has been immortalised in The History of Ornithology in Malta and The Breeding Birds of Malta , which he co-authored and published through BirdLife Malta.
Joe Sultana has been a pioneer in the study of birds on the islands, and will forever be remembered for his tireless work towards the conservation and preservation of our unique natural heritage.
Young Adult Fiction – Amazing Discounts on YA Books
There has never been a better time for young adult readers. Novels and stories catering specifically to this demographic have been on the rise for quite some time, and do not seem to be declining in popularity any time soon. Novels geared towards teenagers have taken the world by storm, and characters from young adult series have become household names. Harry Potter went from being the lonely boy living under the stairs to being on the tip of everyone’s tongue, and the Hunger Games have become a paradigm of dystopian fiction the world over. After countless years of being ignored by the literary community, young adults and teenagers can now enjoy a vast variety of books to choose from; ranging from realistic novels dealing with teenage issues to fantastical realms they can delve into whenever they please.
The Zom-B Series
by Darren Shan
Darren O’Shaughnessy, known as Darren Shan in the literary world, is one of the most morbid authors on this list. His books are mostly horror-themed, bursting at the seams with vampires, demons and zombies. His fascination with all things macabre started when he was just a teenager, discovering the joys of writing in his native Ireland. His teenage flirtation with the gruesome developed into a passion for writing, specifically young adult fiction. He penned various trilogies and sagas, including the popular Zom-B series, which follows the life (or death?) or B Smith, a human turned zombie trying to figure out life in an undead-infested London. B struggles to make sense of her surroundings as she is one of the few zombies who retained the ability to reason, and she heads on a quest to find like-minded beings in a seemingly hopeless environment. Having had to deal with some pretty awful humans throughout her short lifetime, she is now faced with new challenges, where almost nothing and no one is what it seems.
The Warrior Cats Series
by Erin Hunter
Contrary to what the name suggests, Erin Hunter is not just one author, rather a group of authors, editors and story-writers who collaborated on a series of books about feral cats upon request of HarperCollins. The Warrior Cats series was the brainchild of Vicky Holmes, whose affair with cats started as a suggestion by the book publisher. Vicky actually describes herself as being more of a dog-person, however she became enamoured with the cats in her books as soon as she realised that her characters can still convey human emotion, and live out experiences just as much as humans can. The series follows four clans of cats – Thunderclan, Windclan, Riverclan and Shadowclan – all of which follow a strict ‘warrior code’ while living in different parts of the same forest. The clans are guided by the now extinct Starclan, and are in constant turmoil over which clan dominates the forest. The books in this series touch on numerous themes, including the enduring theme of forbidden love, the psychological dilemma of nature vs nurture, and the age-old premise of warring faiths.
The Princess Diaries Series
by Meg Cabot
The Princess Diaries has become ingrained in popular culture ever since the Disney film by the same name was released in 2001. Many teenage girls could relate to the day-to-day struggles of student-turned-princess Mia Thermopolis, a factor which contributed to the popularity of the book series. Written in diary form, following Princess Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo on her daily struggles as she wraps her head around the fact that she is in fact princess of Genovia, but also as she pines for her crush, The Princess Diaries lets teenage girls live out their childhood fantasy of becoming princesses and having a problem-solving Grandmere as a fairy godmother. The Diaries were authored by Meg Cabot, who has sold over 25 million books worldwide and boasts nearly 80 publications under her belt. Her books are mostly aimed towards young adult readers, as she chronicles the day-to-day growing pains of teenage life, with all its trials in love, angst, conflict, and triumph.
The Percy Jackson Series
by Rick Riordian
Rick Riordian is an American author whose literary aspirations grew out of the bed-time stories he used to tell his son Haley, who suffered from ADHD and dyslexia. Latching onto his son’s interest in Greek mythology, Riordian created the now acclaimed character of Percy Jackson, a demigod who also suffers from the same afflictions as Haley, which plague him as he is hardwired to read Ancient Greek and have battlefield reflexes. Percy is the son of the Greek god of the sea Poseidon, and has unknown powers which he eventually discovers and develops throughout the book series. Percy is thrust into the mythological world of gods and monsters when Zeus accuses him of stealing his lightning bolt, which he then strives to recover by embarking on a journey throughout the United States, aided by his loyal companions: a satyr and the daughter of the goddess Athena. Greek mythology and fantasy intertwine in this 5-book series, as gods interfere with human lives and unleash all sorts of monsters and mischief to hinder Percy’s quests. Riordian incorporates new mythological creatures along with traditional mythic beings, bringing Ancient Greece back to life and back to the twenty first century with his creative retelling of ancient myths.
The Jacqueline Wilson Series
by Jacqueline Wilson
Jacqueline Wilson has now become synonymous with young adult and teenage literature. Her novels are some of the best-loved of their genre, and touch upon themes which are approachable and familiar to teenage readers. Adopting the guises of various characters over the years, Wilson has managed to embody various social themes which trouble young adults since time immemorial, such as, bullying, the loss of loved ones, young love, and friendships. Wilson’s most memorable and loved character is Tracy Beaker, a lively ten-year old girl who lives in a care home dubbed ‘The Dumping Ground’, abandoned by a mother whom she idolizes. Tracy has big dreams for herself and aspires to become an actress just like her mother, a dream she manages to satisfy in the book ‘Starring Tracy Beaker’. Wilson has collaborated with illustrator Nick Sharratt on most of her books, giving her novels an iconic and instantly recognisable look. Her books are a staple in young girls’ road to adulthood, and manage to ease these young readers into the ‘real’ world after having inhabited the fairy tale realms of children’s literature.
The boy from the Bastjun
published on May 12, 2019 on Times of Malta by Louis Scerri
Dom Mintoff: Mintoff, Malta, Mediterra. My Youth
The Association for Equality, Justice and Peace, in collaboration with the National Archives of Malta, 2018.
Love him or hate him, and really there is hardly any middle way, Dom Mintoff was one of the most important figures to thrust his forceful way onto Malta’s political stage in the 20th century.
His radical socialist policies were indeed most necessary to introduce much-needed and much-delayed social reforms in an extremely traditionalist society but they invariably raised the hackles of those who were comfortably well-off, in terms of power or money, or both.
But then, being a fiery character with a dynamic personality, he also had the unfortunate penchant for surrounding himself with supple-backed individuals (or rather the proclivity of getting rid of those with harder spines) which often led him into extreme positions, for few had the guts to openly oppose his ideas.
This autobiography, always keeping in mind all the usual caveats in dealing with someone explaining their life, provides an excellent insight into Mintoff’s youth and the formative influences that led to a bright mischievous boy from one of Cospicua’s poorer areas making headway in a society most conscious of class and privilege. Pre-war Cospicua was in general no depressed area and there were many examples of well-to-do lay and clerical individuals, some with notable social consciences, and whom the young boy was fortunate enough to meet and find their assistance.
Yet there was a visible gulf between the well-to-do and those who, like Mintoff, came from the depressed areas, like his poverty-ridden Bastjun area, and this must have been a great prompter in making the bright young boy ask questions about the fairness of society. The answers he got, or more often did not get, must have driven in him the urge to do something. Even before socialism became a philosophy he understood, he was incensed by the social reality he daily witnessed and helped form in him what he called his “set of moral values and sticking to them more scrupulously than [he] had to the Catholic faith”.
His upbringing in the Bastjun area is probably the essential key to explaining Mintoff’s character. It gave him, first of all, a direct knowledge of what poverty meant in terms of the grim, soul-destroying deprivation he saw all around him (even though his family was comparatively better off, with a father enjoying a stable desirable employment as a naval cook – reputedly ‘the best cook of the Royal Navy’) and to which he was most sensitive. Secondly it gave him the strong determination to succeed against all odds, precisely because and in spite of it.
The book therefore becomes Mintoff’s personal account of his journey from the deprived Bastjun area to the period when he was studying in England when Malta was enduring the Fascist bombs. It was a time when he was making every effort to return to Malta, as a published letter from the warden of Rhodes House in Oxford to the Governor in Malta, dated June 30, 1943, makes clear.
Daniel Mainwaring and Yana Mintoff, Mintoff’s grandson and daughter respectively, who edited the notes into this hefty 560-page tome, explain its genesis. They say it started being written in 1998, at a time when Mintoff had single-handedly brought down Alfred Sant’s two-year-old government, and had certainly lost a good part of his glamour with diehard Labour supporters. Eighty-two years old, he was then still in full control of his powers, as his marathon parliamentary speech amply showed.
It was perhaps the new situation, when he found himself with no official duties to carry out, that made him start penning down his memoirs, writing page upon page in a miniscule, barely discernible handwriting, a left-over from his school days, which the editors must have had a hard time to decipher to work out a consistent text.
The end result is most interesting, not least because a man who seemed to one and all as one who greatly treasured his privacy, opens up to explain in well-written prose in a most pleasant and readable style how he made it up the political ladder and became the person many admired and as many despised. As he himself writes: “I have been very reserved about my upbringing and its concomitant passions and phobias and avoided the subject as carefully as I kept to myself my next political move and its timing.”
Still, he is candid about many private aspects, like his uneasy relationship with one of his brothers, the one occasion he ended physically fighting with his adored father, his lack of regard for fine clothes, which he carried with him for the rest of his life, and so on. Reading about the youth of famous personalities helps to explain and understand the adult for, as William Wordsworth said, “the child is father of the man”.
Mintoff shows a remarkable ability to remember the past, sometimes in its minutiae. Still, one should be wary of some of the details. Fr Mark Montebello has pointed out, for example, the many erroneous factual details in Mintoff’s account of his greatest hero, Manwel Dimech, whom he calls “the loveliest Maltese rose” and to whose life and activities he devotes a good many pages. Mintoff decries Dimech’s staunch commitment to non-violence as a means to achieving his political end as pathetic, and “one entirely outside the orbit of [his] own convictions”. Does that explain some of his actions later in life?
Born on August 6, 1916, the third offspring but the first son among 11 children, Mintoff experienced in full the “squalid neighbourhood” where “life was raw, tough and cheap”. A lively child, he got into several scrapes, but his quick wit and personality often got him out of serious trouble. There he got the first practical and vital lessons in life and survival, perhaps also of brinkmanship, of which he was to prove quite a master.
Mintoff’s own short introduction to the book sets out the main themes of his book. He is quite scathing at himself: he describes himself as “living in great dread of isolation”, as being “restless and impatient inside”, aspects, he says, he would carry with him throughout his life.
It is in Cospicua that he found the courage to walk alone and to nurture the rebel inside. It is there that he grew disenchanted at the great divide between the teachings of “the great Nazarene” and “the social reality of the Maltese brand of Roman Catholicism”. For this he would have to pay a heavy price in his political life.
He rebelled against the Church in Malta because he saw in it just “a power-hungry medieval institution whose anti-Christian theology had deadened its social conscience [and which] had driven me into spiritual wilderness until I found solace in socialist humanism”.
Physically small in stature, a feature he inherited from his mother’s side, Mintoff also owns up to having eyes of different colours, something very few of his acquaintances ever seemed to have noticed throughout his life, not least because he continued to describe them as “brown” in his official records.
Mintoff paints an absorbing picture of life in the Bastjun area which he observed with wide-eyed enthusiasm and where life revolved around the Church and the Royal Navy, which fed the poorer people with welcome gaxin and ‘supplied’ most the community’s paint, tools, wood, hardware, clothing and other needs, thanks to the process popularly known as ‘shaving His Majesty’s whiskers in his sleep’. There was also a host of remarkable characters that peopled a unique stage.
And yet, for all his environment’s deprivations, Mintoff asserts that his mother “could not have chosen a lovelier place” to bring him into the world. Born into a religious family and already noted for his cleverness, Mintoff was more or less expected to join the clergy – one of his earliest achievements was being chosen to deliver the Christmas midnight sermon. And yet his experiences at the Seminary ended sourly as he started to doubt “the subsidiary dogmas”, which led him to “anti-Catholic convictions” – “the little things… that tipped the scales”. He left the Seminary at the age of 14.
It was in Cospicua that Mintoff often involved himself in naughty escapades with his fellow urchins; it was there that the fascination of the opposite sex reared its head (alas, too innocent compared to what today’s teenagers get up to) and met his first girlfriend, Lita Lucchese from Vittoriosa. Their close relationship, however, ended when Mintoff was awarded the Rhodes scholarship and had to leave the island, which he did a few weeks after war broke out on 1939. He describes why he ended up studying (rather unwillingly) civil engineering and architecture in lieu of another subject if only it had been offered. He paints an interesting picture of life at the university, which he entered in 1933 (erroneously referring to it already as “Royal”, four years before the title was assigned to it). It was a time of tension, not least the result of the language question and the Fascist threats from across the sea. It was there that he “began [his] tussle with Giorgio Borg Olivier’s fanatical followers”. For over 25 years, the rivalry between these two political giants would shape Malta’s history.
He admits that his attraction to politics did not come early because his idea was that all local politicians were hypocrites. Indeed, he says he knew more of “what was going on in faraway Manchuria than under [his] nose”. More than anything else he was disillusioned that the “Nationalist” literati “were too frightened to take to the streets and set in motion a national revolution”. Would this tendency to see violence as a possible means of solving political impasses remain in him in later times? Resort to violence was, after all, one of the notorious six points.
His open socialist leanings naturally led him to join the Labour Party, of which he soon was elected general secretary. His rebellious nature was, however, to be given “a humane polishing” and tempered following contact with Lord Mountbatten’s “charming and hardworking disposition”.
Another interesting aspect of the memoirs is the mention of many individuals who struck a close friendship with Mintoff and who we would later see featuring in Malta’s political life, some in the forefront, some in the back ranks. These include doctor and historian Pawlu Cassar, Moses Gatt, Salvu Privitera, Ġużè Debono, Pawlu Farrugia, Josie Flores and a host of others.
Mintoff’s years in Oxford were marked by the university’s buzzing academic life and also his involvement with the Labour Party, not to mention a couple of incidents that ended in fisticuffs.
Significantly, it was there that he met his future wife Moyra de Vere Bentinck, who belonged to a patrician family and was a descendant of Nell Gwynn, and whom he married in November 1947. There he was torn between his budding love and the home-sickness he felt for Malta suffering under Axis bombs. It was only in May 1943 that he managed to get a sea passage on a convoy, reaching home after a stop in Alexandria.
Here he found a people whose souls were “still viciously gripped by the mighty jaws of the Church”, while he was also viewed with suspicion by the colonial authorities who were to say that “the sooner we get rid of Mintoff the better for everyone”.
But the chronicle of his struggles is another story now fated never to be told and of which Mintoff only left a framework in which he “examined each political era in the last half of the 20th century”.
The book is written in excellent English and a most pleasant style. More than anything, this must be the result of Mintoff’s insatiable and perennial lust for reading from a very early age. As he says, he “cannot live without good books”. His passion for books was also shared by his wife, whose great love for books meant an insistence that books were only lent from the household against a receipt. Later in his life, he is said to have steadfastly eschewed television, preferring the company of books.
One of the most fascinating aspects of this book is the wealth of pictorial illustrations. Many photographs come from the never-seen Mintoff archives but there are many others just as interesting from the National Archives, the Heritage Malta collection, the Giovanni Bonello archives and several other private sources. There are indeed charming pictures of the Mintoff brood, including a sweet one of young Dom in his First Holy Communion suit sitting near his proud father, well-known and lesser-known characters, scenes of pre-war Cospicua, Mintoff’s political meetings, and so on. A veritable pictorial treasure indeed.
Another interesting detail is the mention of many traditional and folkloristic customs which are completely beyond the ken of today’s younger generations.
The Association for Justice, Equality and Peace will dedicate all the proceeds from the sale of this book to support organisations working for justice, equality, environmental conservation and peace.
The Order of St Michael and St George in Malta, 1818 – 2018
7 November – 6 December
An exhibition celebrating the association of the Order of St Michael and St George with Malta. Established in Malta and Corfù in 1818, at the height of the British Regency period, this exhibition highlights the contribution made by Maltese and British subjects employed in the Mediterranean – service that was rewarded with honours, pageant and splendor.
The exhibition will be supported by a series of public lectures on the 9th, 15th, 22nd and 29th November at 18:30hrs by Prof. Chris Grech, Dr. Theresa Vella and Prof. Edward Warrington at the Malta Postal Museum.
Il-Bebbuxija u ż-żgħar tagħha
Il-Qattusa Bebbuxija kienet se ssir omm għall-ewwel darba. Kienet qegħda tipprova ssib post tajjeb fejn tqiegħed iż-żgħar meta jitwieldu. Bdiet iddur u tfittex ma’ kullimkien. Rat postijiet differenti, taħt siġra, f’rokna tal-ġnien, ħdejn il-ħajt imma xejn ma beda joġogħbha! Telgħet bilqiegħda fuq iċ-ċint tal-ġnien ħalli tkun tista’ tara aħjar. Bdiet tħares u tħares sakemm fl-aħħar rat post li għoġobha. Reġgħet niżlet fil-ġnien ħalli taraħ sew. Kien post taħt xitla b’weraq kbar li kienu jagħmlu d-dell u kien jidher li kien post kenni.
L-għada twieldu ż-żgħar! Kienu erbat ifrieħ ħelwin ħelwin daqs naqra! Ġabrithom taħtha biex jibqgħu sħan. Għaddiet ġimgħa bil-frieħ jixorbu l-ħalib t’ommhom u bdew jikbru ġmielhom! Kienu kuluri differenti, wieħed kien bebbuxi bħal ommu, ieħor kien iswed, wieħed griż u wieħed abjad. Ġurnata minnhom għamlet ħalba xita imma l-weraq kbir kien qisu umbrella u l-frieħ ma xxarbux.
Għal bidu Bebbuxija kienet tkun kważi l-ħin kollu magħhom, kemm tmur issib xi ħaġa tal-ikel bil-lejl u terġa tiġi tiġri. Imma Issa li kienu kibru ħasbet li jekk tmur malajr matul il-ġurnata ma kien se jiġrilhom xejn. Ġurnata waħda xħin rathom reqdin telqet inkiss inkiss biex issib x’tiekol. Wara ftit il-frieħ qamu u xħin ma sabux lil ommhom hemm bdew inewħu u t-tifla li kienet toqgħod f’dik id-dar bil-ġnien fejn kienu qegħdin, semgħathom. Bdiet tfittex ħalli tara mnejn kien ġej it-tnewwiħ u fl-aħħar sabithom taħt il-weraq. Kemm kienu ħelwin!
Telqet tiġri tgħajjat “Ma, Ma ejja ħalli tara x’hawn! Sibt erbat ifrieħ tal-qtates! Irrid nerfa wieħed minnhom!”
“Le, le ara tmisshom għax ommhom tirrabja ħafna għax taħseb li se toħodhomla!” qaltilha omma imma t-tifla qabdet il-ferħ abjad u qadet tgħanqu magħha. Miskin l-ferħ tgħidx kemm beda jnewwaħ bil-biża u beda jgħajjat lil ommu. F’daqqa waħda it-tifla rat lil qattusa Bebbuxija ġejja tiġri rrabjata għaliha. Poġġiet il-ferħ f’postu u telqet tiġri mbeżżgħa l-ġewwa. Il-Bebbuxija bdiet tibża li se teħodhomla u bil-lejl ġarrithom għal ġo ġnien ieħor vicin. Sabet banju ħażin maqlub u daħlithom taħtu fejn ma jarahom ħadd u xħin l-għada t-tifla marret tittawlilhom ma sabithomx.
ta’ Martina Mallia
L-aħħar kelma li kont tuża biex tiddeskrivi ċ-ċimiterju li jinsab fi Triq il-Fjuri, f’Ħaż-Żebbuġ hija dik li għandek bżonn erba’ pari għajnejn biex tħares lejh. Dan iċ-ċimiterju kien tassew żdingat, bil-ħajt nofsu mwaqqa’ u bil-grada mimlija sadid. Minkejja kollox, kien hemm misteru kbir marbut miegħu.
Iċ-ċimiterju abbandunat ta’ Ħaż-Żebbuġ kien jintuża għad-dfin fi żmien il-Kavallieri, imma wara xi snin ġie mitluq għal kollox. Iċ-ċimiterju kien eżatt fit-tarf tar-raħal, fejn ħadd ma kien joħlom li jgħaddi la matul il-jum u wisq aktar matul il-lejl!
Kultant kien hemm xi tfal avventurużi li kienu jmorru jilagħbu l-futbol ‘l bogħod mill-karozzi u minn kulħadd. Darba Mark, wieħed mit-tfal li kien iħobb jilgħab fit-toroq tal-madwar, ta xutt kbir bil-ballun u spiċċa qabeż il-grada taċ-ċimiterju. Ħadd ma ried imur għalih. Qalb Mark mill-ewwel għamlet tikk u imsarnu niżlu f’saqajh, għax in-nies tar-raħal kienu jgħidu bosta stejjer koroh fuq il-post. Kien hemm min qal li n-nies li daħlu fiċ-ċimiterju qatt ma ħarġu.
Wara battikata sħiħa, Mark tela’ mal-grada biex imur iġib il-ballun tiegħu. Beda jimmaġina kollox x’seta’ jiġri. Ftit wara ra l-ballun fuq lapida ta’ wieħed mill-Kavallieri u beda jgħajjat li sabu. Imma malli miss il-ballun, f’hemża u f’ħakka t’għajn ħarġet id mimlija dmija u bdiet tiġbdu lejn l-art. Mark beda jwerżaq twerżiq tal-biżgħa sakemm inħanaq. L-għaraq beda jġebel minn fuq wiċċu qisu funtana ma tiqafx. Malli sħabu semgħuh sparixxew għaliex tgħidx kemm ġrew lejn ir-raħal.
L-għada r-raħal kollu tkexkex għall-aħbar tal-għejbien ta’ Mark. It-tfajjel qatt ma deher aktar u xejn ma nstema’ dwaru. Ħaġa kienet ċerta li ħadd qatt aktar ma resaq lejn iċ-ċimiterju abbandunat!
Bighi – Sptar u skola
ta’ Ronald Bugeja
L-iskola ta’ Bighi hija skola li kienet dedikata lil Abraham Gatt li kien skultur Malti magħruf. Sitta u għoxrin sena ilu bdejna s-sena skolastika 1992–93, u jiena kont wieħed mill-istudenti li, flimkien ma’ ħafna oħrajn bdejna s-sena skolastika tagħna biex nieħdu t-tagħlim fuq is-sengħa tal-elettriku. Kien hemm ukoll plumbers, bench fitters, welders u sheet metal workers, jiġifieri landiera. Hekk kif wara li għamilna l-għażla tagħna f’dik li tittratta s-sengħa li xtaqna nitgħallmu, konna ġejna magħżula biex nattendu f’din l-iskola, li fil-każ tiegħi kienet is-sengħa ta’ dawl (electrician).
Oriġinarjament, dan il-bini uniku, li jinsab fit-tarf tal-peninsula msemmija bħala l-Għolja tas-Salvatur ġol-Kalkara, ra l-bidu tiegħu fi żmien il-Kavallieri meta Fra Giovanni Bichi beda jibni dan il-palazz fis-sena 1675 skont id-disinn ta’ Lorenzo Gafà. Il-parti oriġinali ta’ dan il-palazz storiku fortunatament għadna nistgħu narawha sal-lum il-ġurnata.
Wara l-mewt ta’ Fra Giovanni Bichi, il-palazz għadda f’idejn in-neputi tiegħu li kien Fra Mario Bichi. Il-palazz kien okkupat sas-sena 1740, meta mbagħad fis-sena 1798, mal-wasla ta’ Napuljun Bonaparti, skont ma sibt fir-riċerka tiegħi, dan kien għamel żmien joqgħod f’dan il-palazz. Dan kien iż-żmien meta il-Kavallieri taħt il-Gran Mastru Ferdinand von Hompesch għaddew il-Belt Valletta u l-kumplament ta’ Malta f’idejn il-Franċiżi.
Il-bidla f’dan il-palazz waslet meta fl-aħħar Sir Alexander Ball keċċa lill-Franċiżi minn Malta fl-1800 u l-Ingliżi ħadu ’l Malta taħt idejhom bil-għajnuna ta’ ħafna Maltin li riedu jeħilsu minn taħt idejn Napuljun. Ftit wara, Lord Nelson talab biex dan il-palazz jinbidel fi sptar li kellu jservi għal dawk il-baħrin navali u dawk li jiddaħħlu Malta minn fuq ix-xwieni. Iżda dan kollu baqa’ ma seħħx! Il-palazz spiċċa biex serva bħala bini taċ-ċivil, kif ukoll ismu ġie mibdul f’Villa Bighi flok Villa Bichi kif kien oriġinarjament issemma minn Sir Alexander Ball.
Waqt dan dan il-perjodu, arkeologu Ingliż kien qed jagħmel xi xogħol ta’ skavar fuq din l-għolja viċin ħafna ta’ Villa Bighi fejn hemm sab xi fdalijiet ta’ żmien il-Feniċi. Dan kollu seħħ fis-sena 1827, sebgħa u għoxrin sena wara li l-Ingliżi kienu ħadu ’l pajjiżna taħt it-tmexxija tagħhom, fejn imbagħad wara ħafna talbiet u sforzi biex iseħħ dak li kien xtaq Lord Nelson kellu jkun l-intervent personali tar-Re Ġorġ IV biex tnieda l-proċess biex jibda jinbena l-isptar flimkien ukoll mal-ġnien li kellu jservi biex il-pazjenti li jkunu rikoverati ġo Bighi jkollhom post adattat fejn joqogħdu għall-mistrieħ.
Il-proċess tal-bini tal-isptar iddisinjat minn Saverio Scerri, perit Malti li kien iservi fir-Royal Navy f’Malta, tlesta fl-1830, kważi tliet snin wara, u dan wassal biex reġa’ nbidel l-isem ta’ dan il-bini u ngħata l-isem ta’ Royal Navy Bighi Hospital.
Dan l-isptar kien kapaċi jilqa’ madwar 200 pazjent. Hekk kif tlesta x-xogħol tal-bini beda wkoll ix-xogħol ta’ gewwa kif ukoll beda jinġieb l-apparat meħtieġ biex ikun jista’ jibda jopera bħala sptar. L-ewwel ġebla tqiegħdet mill-Ammirall Sir Pulteney Malcolm bil-kontribuzzjoni ta’ Sir George Whitmore. Flimkien magħhom kien hemm ukoll il-Gvernatur Sir Thomas Maitland. Il-proġett ħa kważi sentejn biex tlesta u fl-1832 beda joppera bħala sptar.
Maż-żmien saru iktar tibdiliet fih, kemm bħala struttura kif ukoll bħala operat. F’Malta bdew gejjin iktar infermiera u tobba u magħhom kien hemm ukoll Maltin li kienu jservu ġewwa l-isptar. Minħabba d-domanda kbira li kien hemm, kif ukoll hawn ta’ min isemmi li l-ħsieb li kellu Lord Nelson kien ġust u bżonjuż ħafna, wara li sar ħafna iktar xogħol u tibdliet minn riċerka li għamilt jien ħareġ li l-isptar kien jista’ jilqa’ madwar 700 pazjent kull sena inklużi dawk il-baħrin li kienu jidħlu Malta fuq il-bastimenti wara vjaġġi twal fuq il-baħar.
L-isptar kellu jilqa’ wkoll lill-Prinċep Alfred li jiġi t-tifel tar-Reġina Victoria. Wara vjaġġ twil fuq il-baħar il-Prinċep kien ilu iktar minn xahar li kien marad u hekk kif wasal Malta ddaħħal dritt l-isptar biex jingħata l-kura meħtieġa. Parti mill-glorja ta’ dan l-isptar kienet eżatt meta bħal leħħa ta’ berqa bdiet tiġri l-kelma li l-Prinċep fieq u ħareġ mill-isptar b’saħħtu.
F’żmien l-Ewwel Gwerra Dinjija l-Isptar ta’ Bighi kien strumentali ħafna, għalkemm Malta ma kinitx involuta militarjament fil-gwerra iżda fit-Tieni Gwerra Dinjija kien ta’ għajnuna kbira speċjament għal dawk is-suldati u l-bdoti li kienu jiġu midruba waqt xi attakk jew xi missjoni fuq Malta.
L-Isptar ta’ Bighi intlaqat darbtejn b’bombi diretti fuqu u saret ħsara kbira. L-ewwel daqqa kienet fuq in-naħa ta’ fejn hemm il-lift. Kienet parti importanti ħafna għax kienet in-naħa minn fejn l-Ingliżi kienu jtellgħu l-midrubin minn fuq il-bastimenti għal ġewwa l-isptar. Dak kien wieħed mill-attakki li sar fuqu. Dak iż-żmien kien ukoll l-istess żmien meta l-Kalkara qalgħet xita ta’ bombi f’attakki li kienu mmirati l-iktar fuq il-Kottonera, dan minħabba li Benito Mussolini beda jħejji ruħu biex iġiegħel lil Adolf Hitler jinvadi ’l Malta permezz tal-operazzjoni magħrufa bħala Operation Hercules C3. Dan qala’ diżgwid kbir bejnu u bejn il-Kmandant Rommel li kien qiegħed iwettaq offensiva fl-Eġittu. Dan minħabba l-fatt li kien hemm iktar bżonn li l-operazzjoni titbagħat l-Eġittu milli Malta. Malta kienet ossessjoni għal Mussolini, iżda mhux fuq l-aġenda ta’ Hitler. Hawn deher ċar li għal Adolf Hitler Malta ma kinitx daqshekk importanti. Dan għaliex kien jemmen li jekk jinqata’ l-kuntatt bejn Ġibiltà u l-Eġittu Malta kienet se ċċeddi waħedha! Iżda Mussolini ried b’saħħa li Malta taqa’ taħt idejh.
Bighi reġa’ ntlaqat għat-tieni darba bejn id-9 ta’ Marzu u l-20 ta’ April 1942 fejn kienu intbagħtu l-high level bombers f’formazzjoni perfetta ta’ 300 wara 300, mewġa wara mewġa. Dan kien jinkludi wkoll il-Ju 88 Stukas biex ikissru u jfarku l-madwar tal-Port il-Kbir u jħejju għall-Operazzjoni C3, operazzjoni li ġiet posposta minn Adolf Hitler innifsu biex l-Operazzjoni C3 tintbagħat l-Eġittu flok Malta peress li l-Eġittu kien hemm iktar bżonnha biex Rommel seta’ jkompli bil-missjoni militari tiegħu biex jerga’ jerbaħ l-art li t-Taljani stess kienu tilfu minn taħt idejhom.
F’dawn l-attakki ntlaqtet ukoll iktar minn darba b’bombi diretti il-knisja parrokkjali ta’ San Ġużepp fil-Kalkara. Min jaqra l-ktieb tiegħi Mill-Glorious sal-Vitorja jista’ jsir jaf aktar dwar x’ġara f’dak iż-żmien. Ta’ min ifakkar ukoll dawk il-baħrin li kienu rnexxielhom jidħlu Malta waqt Operation Pedestal fejn ġo Bighi kienu ddaħħlu ħafna mill-baħrin li kienu ġarrbu xi ġrieħi jew mardu waqt din il-missjoni.
F’din l-iskola għaddejna żmien li jġibli nostaġija kbira f’ħajti meta niftakar fi sħabi u f’dawk l-affarijiet li għaddejna minnhom f’dawk l-erba’ snin li qattajna ġewwa Bighi. Minħabba li l-binja ta’ Bighi waqfet topera bħala sptar fl-1970, jiena niftakar li f’kamra minnhom, li kienet fis-sular terran magħluqa n-naħa tax-xatba minn fejn konna nidħlu għall-iskola, kien għad fadal xi sodod tal-ħadid milli kienu jintużaw meta kien għadu sptar.
Għandi rikordji sbieħ ta’ din l-iskola li jibqgħu ttimbrati ma’ qalbi. F’dak iż-żmien l-uniformi tagħna kienet tikkonsisti minn qmis blu skur, kemm tas-sajf kif ukoll ta’ xitwa, u flok qalzett griż konna nilbsu jeans blu. Dan kien iservi ta’ protezzjoni meta konna nkunu qed naħdmu fil-workshops. L-iktar parti li konna niffrekwentaw bla dubbju kien il-ground tal-futbol – mhux tat-terf jew tat-terf sintetiku, iżda pjattaform kbira tal-konkos! Kienet kbira biżżejjed biex konna nistgħu nilagħbu il-futbol 5-a-side.
L-aħħar sena skolastika konna spiċċajna madwar ħmistax-il student f’klassi waħda li kellha l-isem ta’ E4, jiġifieri Electrical year 4. Konna sirna ħaġa waħda qisna aħwa wara tliet snin flimkien, u minħabba li n-numru kien naqas ġmielu konna sirna iktar magħqudin.
Waħda minn dawk l-affarijiet li konna nieħdu gost nagħmlu kienet meta konna ninġabru filgħodu ftit passi bogħod mill-iskola fejn hemm l-appartamenti tal-gvern. Kien hemm grocer zgħir u hemm konna inqattgħu l-ewwel ftit ħin tal-ġurnata fejn konna nixtru xi panina jew tnejn u tal-grocer kien iħawwarhielna b’naqra butir, ġobon u perżut. Konna noqogħdu hemm sakemm isir il-ħin biex nidħlu l-iskola. Wahda mit-trampi li niftakar għamilt jiena kienet dik tal-imbierek żebbuġ mimli, xi ħaġa li għadni nħobb sal-lum il-ġurnata! Ġara li darba fost l-oħrajn iddeċidejna li nixtru kwart żebbuġ mimli biex waqt il-lezzjoni tal-matematika, lezzjoni li konna nħobbu wisq, kien ikollna xi ngerrmu waqt li is-Sur Miceli kien joqgħod jipprietka l-lezzjoni. Malajr gerrimna għax f’nofs lezzjoni l-borża tiegħi, li kienet fil-but tal-qmis, infaqgħet u spiċċajt imtlejt kollni żejt. Il-klassi ġiet riħa ta’ żebbuġ u bid-dahk li daħku sħabi, l-għalliem mill-ewwel induna b’dak li kien ġara u spiċċajt għamilt lezzjoni sħiħa barra l-klassi u fuqi riħa ta’ żebbuġ taqsam! Xorta minn hawn nixtieq nirringrazzja lill-għalliem għax bis-saħħa taż-żebbuġ u ta’ dik il-lezzjoni barra mill-klassi kien ġabni konxju ta’ kemm qed nitlef ħin minn ħajti u bis-saħħa tiegħu rnexieli ngħaddi mill-eżami tal-aħħar tas-sena. Fortunatament kienet l-ewwel darba li kien irnexxieli ngħaddi mill-matematika kemm kont ili hemm! Iżda dak l-eżami li kien jgħodd kollox.
L-iktar ħaġa li ġġibli memorja ta’ dak iż-żmien hija r-rota għax biha konna mmorru lura lejn id-dar, għall-inqas dawk li kienu joqogħdu viċin. Jiena kelli x-xorti li kelli n-nannu tiegħi jgħix Bormla u b’hekk kelli viċin għall-iskola. Id-diski ta’ dawk iż-żminijiet ukoll, tant li meta nismagħhom illum il-gurnata, sitta u għoxrin sena wara, għadhom iġibuli nostaġija u tifkira, fosthom waħda partikulari li kien jisima Things can only get better minħabba li din id-diska kienet ħarġet eżatt meta konna qed nagħmlu l-eżamijiet tal-aħħar tas-sena u kulħadd beda jipprepara ruħu għad-dinja ta’ xogħol.