New Leaves


I was one of the few Maltese babies born in what was at the time a hospital mostly used by the British Forces in Malta – hence named after King George V – in 1959.

By the time 1978 had rolled around, much water had flowed under the bridge, and the hospital had had a name change; it was now named after Sir Paul Boffa, a Maltese politician.

It had also undergone a change of purpose; it was now a hospital for people who had cancer. And it was where my sister died.

Recently, I had occasion to visit it again, because one of my children needed to have a wart seen to.

Of course, I don’t remember what the place looked like, more than half a century ago, but I remember clearly how the oncology wards felt, looked, and smelled. They were sombre, bleak, gloomy rooms that smelt of creosote, then used as a disinfectant, and death.

The atmosphere at the Outpatient Department was totally different. The patients there knew that they were being treated for a minor glitch in their routine; a blip in their medical files that cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen would put right, perhaps gradually, but definitely and completely.

The place is bright and airy, with glass partitions, walls painted in bright colours, with original paintings of local scenes by Maltese artists hanging on them. A coffee machine in the corridor perfumes the air and does brisk business. No more yesterday’s tacky plywood sheets, with paint peeling off, and pebbled glass.

This was a Saturday, so most of the patients were school-age children with their parents. Little did it occur to them that that the place could ever have been any different. But you could tell the adults knew from the occasional snippets of conversations caught here and there. Years later, some are still bitter; others appear to have come to terms with their loss.

By a similar quirk, the post-secondary institute my daughter attends is the same one her father attended, years ago, when it was a secondary technical school. The place has been spruced up and undergone a change of purpose; hundreds of students read different courses there now.

Shifts, moves, displacements and changes are inevitable. People, times, and circumstances change, and we must learn to adapt ourselves without losing our goals and our individuality.

We cannot, must not, allow setbacks to thwart us.


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