Malta 1981

The bearded stranger yelped when I did what Mum told me to do. I hadn’t realised it would hurt him.

He had been walking down the street with two friends. These two were holding hands, so Mum guessed he was on his own. Triq Id-Dejqa, which translates as Strait Street, is a pretty street in Valetta; as straight as it says, in the gridwork of Valetta’s old town. It is narrow and the first floors of the gold-stoned terraced houses are decoarted with the window-enclosed balconies. It is also known as the Gut and is where, for centuries, Maltese have welcomed the sailors from Britain’s navy and many other nations. This explains the number of bars and brothels; many fewer, Mum says, than when she started working there.

 

My Mum, looking pretty in her henna, and tight skirt, was one of those who welcomed foreigners. But now the British Navy didn’t come here any more it was tourists that she welcomed. Business was slow which was why she sent me out, a quick run there and back, to encourage the bearded stranger. I made him yelp. I may have accidentally punched his balls rather than just touched them as she asked.

 Valetta street

Valetta street