Thursday, September 3, 2009


I can't write much because of the enormous lump in my throat and my blurry tear-stained eyes, but by way of introduction let me say that Cliff was born in Mtarfa and we went to visit the hospital (now a school) where he was born when we visited Malta to see my old room-mate from school (Jackie). My old friend will be leaving Malta shortly and so had promised to light a candle for Cliff before she left, which I thought was such a lovely touching thing to do - for him - and for me. I have to say that I felt a little wobbly about the fact that she was leaving the Island, as I tended to think of her as the gatekeeper to his birthplace, but having received this email this morning, I am at peace and no longer panicking over her imminent departure.

I love you Jackie, my old friend xx

Dearest Margo,

I just came back from Mtarfa. It's about 6.30 in the evening and I thought I would get this on 'mail' straight away, so that it's as if you'd come along. And it was.

As we'd all been there before, I knew where to go and I'd found out that there's an evening mass in the hospital chapel every day, so I figured that if I timed it right, I could light a candle AND do so in the right place.

As I drove up the gate was open and a kindly lady, knitting on a bench, gestured large parking instructions at me as I was trying to park right in front of her bench. I got out and trotted round a bit (found everything but the main gate I'd just gone through, locked) and then as I came by the bench for the 3rd time (trying to look for the Parochial office), I decided to go up to the ladies there and ask in slow Mtarfa-(non)-English where the sign over their heads (local parochial office) led. Surprisingly, turned out the Lady With the Knitting, spoke rapid fire English and that the offices were by the bell tower, visible but still a good drive back.
Actually all the ladies on the bench spoke perfectly good English.

'Why do you want to know?' She asked, so I told her and the other ladies sitting out there in the evening sun, why I'd come. For a moment they were very quiet, then this lady said, 'Well then you should speak to Carmen here, Carmen takes care of the chapel'. So, most fortuitously, Carmen in her pink top stood up, fished out a key and took me back into the hospital grounds and opened the little Church for me. She gave me a candle and I lit it and I sat down on my own in that small, quiet place to say a few words inside.

I wanted to pray for Cliff and I told him this was for him but I couldn't say more. Not because of me but because of what I felt. Cliff felt 'strong'. I don't really know how to put it into words but actually the prayer came out for you.

Carmen pottered about and asked question while preparing everything for the Priest and evening Mass and she then told me that 'Vittorine' the lady with the knitting and white hair band outside, helped out in the days of the hospital. That she was probably around when Cliff came into the world. Not many people spoke English at that time, especially not in Mtarfa and she would translate between Dr's and patients.

So when I left, I went back to her and thanked her and asked if I could take a photo of the whole line up. They were so sweet and so kind and so concerned and I realized, as I drove off, that I won't be here as 'keeper' of Cliff's Place any more, but they will be. Every day (bar the truly cold or rainy ones) Vittorine is out there (literally, 'gatekeepers') kindly, cheery, smiling, caring and now they know.

They told me 'God Bless' as I waived good-bye and I'm passing that Blessing on to you.

God Bless sweetie and much love


  1. Tears are streaming down my cheeks. What a great friend and what a lovely story. Thanks for sharing.

  2. She is very precious to me :-) I think this one has made quite a few of us cry today, but good tears xxx

  3. Such a sweet and touching thing to do. Such a good friend.

    Que my tears!


  4. I know, Cliff's sister cried too.

  5. What a beautiful story. Add me to the list of weepy people.
    R and I only went to Malta once, but we had a wonderful holiday there. It was an unseasonably warm February, we were both completely broke at the time, so we booked the cheapest package hol we could, and then just made packed lunches every day and walked and walked or caught buses all over the two islands. We both loved the place and its people, and always said we would go back :(

  6. Yes, I contemplated visiting my friend there but decided to leave the islands where they are ... in my memory and my heart, unspoiled. The trip back would have hurt too much, so now I'll have to visit her in her new home of Cyprus instead. Friends like these are incredibly precious :-)