Ta` Monita Beats the Idylls

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Victor Calleja

Take a small village in Norfolk, one in Madeira and a beautifully-equipped large house in Sicily. All sound enticing, all sound perfect. Even the mere names make us want to go there. Then place Ta’ Monita in perspective—competing against all the idyllic places mentioned above. Ta’ Monita wins. Hands down!

This is not a developer’s dream or a writer wined and dined enough to imagine or stretch the truth just a trifle beyond belief. This is reality as related to me by the Masons, a most charming couple who have just purchased an apartment at Ta’ Monita and think that this place in Marsascala beats Madeira, Sicily, Portugal and has many more attributes than Norfolk. For the moment, the Masons will not be permanent residents at Ta’ Monita but they hope to be there often before they retire there.

Jeremy and Nadia Mason are both academics with very scientific backgrounds. When they told me what they specialise in my heart missed more than a thousand beats. I thought professors in Molecular Biology would hardly be interesting. I imagined sitting in a room experiencing the equivalent of seeing the walls being painted then having to wait not only till the paint dried but till it flaked away. This was the imagined pain. The reality was a great surprise. These scientists are fun-loving and extremely good company.

Both worked at King’s in London for many years and enjoyed life to the fullest. Or so they thought. 12 years ago they saw many of their, senior colleagues suffer debilitating illnesses or even dying. The Masons had, like many others, planned to retire at the conventional age and then enjoy life. Then one day they looked at each other and practically in unison stated that they should change their lifestyle before the accepted age for retirement.

Life in London was great, social life very hectic and theatre land and concerts within easy reach. But they felt this was too hectic and they hardly had time to enjoy relaxing and feeling fulfilled. They wanted a quiet place where gardening would be fun, hobbies like pottery could be followed and travelling the world a possibility often and at short notice.

They bought a house in Norfolk in a rustic beautiful village with a population of just a few hundreds. This was the start of their change in lifestyle. They started going there at weekends and enjoying the quiet and the lovely garden. Nadia started pottering about not just in the garden but also doing some actual pottery.

Then five years ago Nadia retired completely from academia and Jeremy semi-retired. And they realised that one big thing was missing in their life still—sun, glorious sunshine, life-giving light most days of the year. And the search was on from Spain to Morocco via Sicily.

Malta didn’t figure in their searches as they had come here 20 years back and left rather disappointed. They saw places—away from our shores—that mesmerised them wherever they went until the gods intervened, as they are wont to do.

They were seriously considering Madeira for their idyllic home and attended an ex-pat fair which should have had Madeira as its main focus—however, there was no one to speak about it. Instead a marvellous man from Malta talked highly of the island, its new developments and its new look and they were intrigued enough to decide to venture over for another holiday: to check out the words of the estate agent from Malta.

They quickly established the truth of what he had told them. Malta now looked gorgeous and from hardly interested they became enthusiastic. The final part of the love affair with Malta was viewing an apartment at Ta’ Monita. This clinched it all. All the rest of the idylls were forgotten. And that is how Malta and Ta’ Monita won hands down. It was a tough tussle but Malta was the best place with its history, culture, hospitable and English-speaking people.

Nadia is the one who will be making the most use of the apartment for now as she misses the sunshine more than Jeremy—being Egyptian and having lived her youth there has made her very intolerant of wintry, dull, wet days.

So Norfolk will be fine for spring and summer when gardening and pottery will rule but for most of the year, for Nadia Ta’ Monita beckons. Jeremy will continue working part-time in London for now and commute often. Travel to and from Malta is easy, not just to the UK but to most other places, and internet connectivity is great. It is vital that this works well for Jeremy as he does a lot of online work and cannot have bad connectivity.

Life at Ta’ Monita is a real dream come true for the Masons. To them the views, the vistas of endless sea, the peace that reigns, the quality of the restaurants just round the corner, the abundant fish, the shops, are all bonuses to the quality of the development. They also look forward to many happy days when their children and grandchildren come to visit.

Life and its beauty and enjoyment can be missed in our madly hectic lives. To the Masons bliss came just when they planned. I left their idyll with them sitting on their terrace overlooking the limpid sea at Marsascala Bay. My reaction to their choice mirrored that of their friends: pure green jealousy. 

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