Sunday, 15 July 2007

A House in St Paul's Bay: A Building That Was Never a Home

During the early 90s, I was delighted when I found out that we were going to move from our apartment in Mosta to a huge house in St Paul's Bay. It was said that the place was one of the biggest in St Paul's Bay. I had also been told that the building was over a hundred years old.

At first, we started spending the summer months there, enjoying the sea that was only a few minutes away. In the evenings, I often used to go out to meet some friends and have a great time in Bugibba. As time wore on, we finally packed our things and the chapter of our lives at Mosta came to an end.

We moved permanently to the house in September 1994. There were countless plans for the new place; we all talked about how beautiful the garden would look once it was given a proper facelift, we fantasised about spending cosy winter nights next to the fireplace, we dreamt about the wonderful furniture that would decorate the house...

The works started in 1995. The old paint was removed, my brother and I spent hours in the garden trying to restore some order and give it a new look, the old electricity system was pulled out and plans were made for new connections and outlets. Work also started on the construction of a fireplace in the living room. A shower with new tiles was added in the bathroom and it was agreed that some new rooms were going to be built on the highest floor. Everything seemed to be going according to plan.

Unfortunately, things suddenly ground to a halt. It appeared that my grandfather used to pay a certain sum of money to the Church each year as rent and when he passed away, nobody paid the rent. Instead of demanding the usual amount of money, which was a very low sum, the Church apparently requested thousands of pounds!!! In order to keep the house, my dad had to pay. The issue dragged on for a number of years. During that time, most of the projects were shelved. The walls remained without any paint, the new carpets were never taken out to decorate the place, the fireplace was never completed, the furniture present was little and fairly old, the foundations for the rooms on the top floor were laid, but the rooms remained open and exposed to the elements. Only the garden looked quite organised and a pleasant sight. At one stage, there were plans to construct a swimming pool, but - like all the other big plans related to the house - it was just another dream that never came true.

In 1997, at the age of 18, I started studying at the University of Malta. The apartment in Mosta had remained vacant and I decided to go there for two reasons. First, the place allowed me to study in peace. Second, at the time, Mosta was the only town that had a bus (Number 58) that would go directly to the university. I would sometimes visit my family on Sundays to have lunch with them, but I hardly went to the house in St Paul's Bay during the week.

As time went by, the house started looking terribly neglected. My mom tried to sweep and to keep it clean, but the place required a huge amount of work to prevent it from falling into further decay. I believe that she felt increasingly depressed about the fact that this house was supposed to be the cradle of countless happy memories, but it turned out to be a factory of nightmares. Apart from the obvious lack of progress in improving the physical conditions of the place, the issue was accompanied by numerous family problems that brought about a great deal of sadness.

To make matters worse, one of my family members was a compulsive collector. He gathered all sorts of items and started placing them all over the house. Whenever the rest of the family tried to highlight the fact that the place was not a museum, he would get into a heavy argument that never improved matters. Entire rooms were packed with various items related to his collections! He often talked about the projects he had in mind for all the things that were usually placed on the floor, but as soon as some of the objects were moved to more tidy locations, new batches appeared. I can still recall very clearly that to walk from the door of my bedroom to where I slept, I had to trod extremely carefully since the floor was littered with books, magazines, and boxes! This person can be a very kind-hearted individual, but the attitude displayed towards my desire to sleep in a clean room was unacceptably selfish.

When I returned from El Salvador, I spent some time living at the house in St Paul's Bay. Fortunately, I managed to move again to Mosta after a few months. During that period, my mom was very ill with cancer and her pain added to the horror associated with the place.

At the moment, the house is for sale. My dad wants to move out. My brother is living elsewhere. My mom passed away in March of last year. We are hoping that it will be sold by December. The place is in a dehumanising state and short of demolishing it, one would require thousands of pounds to restore it. The pictures posted here were taken a few weeks ago. They show a building that was never a home to me.


threshold said...

I suppose that you want to hide that period in your life in Pan Bendito, but I will discover the truth to your readers (ha, ha, ha...). Take care.

Annemarie said...

Hi David,
Had no idea about the extent of the situation in SPB, I admire the way you did not let this situation break you. It is now great to look at the lovely photo of you and your wife, you look relaxed and happy. I can tell that the house/flat you set up together is now a home.