The journey back from Luqa airport to our home in Birkirkara after a glorious three week holiday in the green and lush Scottish landscape was the dreaded down to earth bang I thought it would be. The stark glare of a noonday July sun on the dense conglomeration of built up Malta was relentless in making sure that I came down to earth as quickly as possible. Hardly a speck of green alleviated the beige and dusty scenery as we made our way home.
For three weeks, I went cold turkey on the angst of living in Malta in 2019. I felt myself healing as the holiday progressed. How to sustain those feelings, I ask myself? How to do my bit and yet keep myself well and productive?
This was also the holiday in which Eric, the kids and I climbed three Scottish mountains: the highest mountain in the UK - Ben Nevis, Cairngorm and - on the last day of our holiday - Ben Vorlich. The kids blithely climbed the mountains with not so much as a murmur of protest. Eric, of course, is a veteran munro bagger. I, on the other hand, was the laggard. From a Physics perspective - and to justify my (poorer) performance, I suppose - I was the one who converted most chemical energy to gravitational potential energy as I pulled my weight upwards a height of 1350 m for Ben Nevis, circa 700 m for Cairngorm and circa 900 m for Ben Vorlich. (Hmmm – an idea to be developed further for a Physics assessment question.)
So, out of all of us, the biggest achievement was mine because I started from a lower base. (Education officials, if you’re reading this – please note what I’ve done here. All of us completed the same task and reached the same outcome but my achievement was greater because I started from a lower base. Maybe you should be more sophisticated with your development of Maltese assessment policy and revise your understanding of what constitutes true ‘assessment is for learning’.)
I apologise for the constant tangents to this blog. It kind of makes my point that whenever I am in Malta I am constantly bombarded by thoughts of unease and malaise at the state of Maltese administrative policy on whichever issue.
Anyhow, to go back to my mountain climbing. As I placed one weary foot followed by another weary foot upward, I diverted myself from the discomfort by building castles in the sky. This whilst literally reaching for the sky.
Throughout my life, I have always dreamed big. Moving to London at the age of 22? No problem. Training to be a teacher when I was a single parent in London? No problem. Moving to Scotland from London? Again no problem.
The seemingly insurmountable problems only began on moving to Malta. But then again, I have to learn to recognise and be encouraged by the small victories I’ve had over the last few years. Of course, I want complete victories. But I have to learn that this will take time and sustained effort against the Maltese war of attrition.
So, back to the castle building. In the last throes of a busy scholastic year, I put the issue of the Maltese government ignoring the NCPE judgement in my favour on the back burner. As I climbed further up the mountain, I explored different options. Firstly, I decided that there was no chance of hell freezing over that I would allow the Maltese government to get away with ignoring the NCPE judgement. Next, I began exploring how I would go about achieving this aim. Successive administrations have banked on the fact that most plaintiffs against the Maltese state will not consider taking the Maltese state to court. The reason is that the financial cost for doing this usually exceeds the sums due. That, plus the prohibitive length of time it would take to come to judgement.
So, if I solve the problem of how I would fund my legal action against the Maltese state and if I accept that it will take a long time, then this would clear the way forward. After all, the NCPE judgement carries a lot of weight in a court of law so my victory is more or less assured. Plus, of course, this is an EU freedom of movement issue and a rule of law issue, so I can update the European Commission and the Council of Europe on the progress made. Plus, long term I will also sue the Maltese government for costs and compensation.
I don’t quite know how to make myself any clearer on this crucial point. Yes, I want my money back. From the state if you will. But actually what drives me forward is that I cannot possibly contemplate allowing the Maltese state to get away with its behaviour. There have been several people over the years who have told me to ‘stop navel gazing’ and ‘to look at the wider picture’ and ‘to work for the good of the country and not my own personal interest’. These people completely miss the point. For decades successive administrations have ridden roughshod over the grievances of thousands of individuals. For decades they have got away with this because few people challenge this behaviour. However, recently a coalition of ngos and local councils successfully appealed the disgraceful db Pembroke project. There have also been other ngos and coalitions recently applying the brakes on a seemingly unstoppable Executive through different legal actions.
My theory is that if people out there see that the Maltese state is not unassailable, the flood gates will open and there will be a deluge of people understanding the power we have when we act as a collective. I do not believe for one minute that tinkering with the PN PL toxic duopoly will achieve this. The key is the people learning that we don’t have to be craven and fearful. That there are other more dignified options in making sure that the politicians understand that they are our public servants.
To build a castle in the sky is defined by the free dictionary as ‘to create dreams, hopes, or plans that are impossible, unrealistic or have very little chance of succeeding’. Like I said, I like to dream big. My recent success at climbing three mountains in as many weeks is a good boost to my confidence in my ability to reach my goals. More importantly, that Scottish three week holiday has taught me a thing or two about perspective and sustainability of effort. The perspective of looking down below from the top of a mountain with my family beside me is simply a beautiful feeling. One to be replicated again and again in more ways than one. I promise.