It’s well over thirty degrees today, a Gozo temperature in an Oxfordshire June, and we are pining for the cool of Xlendi bay, a Rangers pizza and an evening stroll home through the streets of Gharb to a cicada backdrop as bats swoop beyond our balcony.
2020 has laid waste to the best laid plans of mouse and man, lady and Lafferty: in March we left Gharb for the UK as COVID-19 engulfed Northern Italy never imagining that within a week or two the world would be paralysed by an invisible threat rolling its deadly statistics across all of Europe and far beyond, nor that we would be banished for several months.
The Parents came back to the UK on one of the final aeroplanes to leave Malta for the UK, breathing a sigh of relief to be heading home, but The Significant Other and I have watched with sadness as April, May, and now June roll past without the glint of the waves below the shapely curves of the cliffs, a swim over the underwater secrets at Mgarr ix-Xini or an afternoon where coloured doors frame turquoise water at Dahlet Qorrot. We would, this week, have had a full house as all four children arrived to snorkel at Marsalforn, banana boat at Hondoq and slake their appetites at the BBQ. It was not to be.
Keeping an eye of the Times of Malta’s headlines and catching up with Gozitan friends by video-call, we’re relieved however to hear thar the Gozitan population remained almost entirely safe from the rampaging virus, although locked down for many weeks, a better outcome than the 1814 death toll in Gozo when approximately 100 people died from the plague. Two hundred years later, there’s still something to be said for a small island nation reached only by boat. And back in the Oxfordshire garage The Significant Other’s boat* is edging ever closer to completion, perhaps a silver lining in these Lost Months.
And, whilst The Significant Others sands and epoxies himself into a dust storm the envy of any inhospitable desert, we watch and wait as Malta’s containment stage in this global coronavirus challenge moves towards a new ‘normal’. Our fingers are tightly crossed for an autumnal return to this golden island (and that’s mighty difficult to do, he tells me, when you’re woodworking with power tools.)
*For those of you who have followed this journey since the beginning, you’ll recall that it was this DIY boat project that triggered this entire wonderful adventure.