A mix of breathless innocence, village mentality, and Italian T.V. influence.
These, I think, are what I remember most when I think back to my childhood. A time of wide-eyed excitement and mysterious rules and customs I did not understand – a time when Maltese neighbours and communities were perhaps much closer. And yet, a time when I also yearned to know more, to look out across my tiny insulated world made up of school and nanna’s kitchen, and discover new horizons.
So much nostalgia. So many beautiful yet faded memories. Some of which, perhaps, only those who were children during the 80s and 90s in Malta will ever be able to understand. Do you remember:
The Sagħtar Magazine
This was such an interesting and colourful publication. I used to love perusing the comics section when we were handed this at the beginning of each month, not to mention the jokes section, which was my favourite during primary school. My tastes changed when I moved into the secondary forms. Then, I used to look forward to the famous middle-page posters depicting boy bands and cute celebrities. Sadly, Sagħtar is no longer being published, as the final issue was distributed in December 2015. Truly the end of an era.
Malta’s favourite naughty hedgehog, an ambassador of environmental protection and a staunch advocate against littering. He was surely a staple in all 80s and 90s children’s diet. I was fascinated by the appearance of a Maltese cartoon at the time, as it was something totally new for Maltese T.V., and even got so far as to join Club Xummiemu who sent me a birthday card every year. Although Xummiemu has not been sending me any cards for a while, I’ve heard that he’s still active in the Green department, though perhaps not as popular as he was in the past.
Bim Bum Bam
This was part of my everyday routine. I’d come back home, eat lunch, start my homework, and then watch two straight hours of unmitigated Japanese cartoons interspersed with (at the time) Paolo Bonolis’ charming role-plays and the acerbic humour of Uan, the pink fluffy puppet. Bim Bum Bam was discontinued in 2002, and yet, I admit that I always feel as though there’s something I should be doing at 4pm, something I should be watching… even though I know it’s no longer there. And no – Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network do not even come close.
Swapping Panini stickers
This was a big thing in my time. Children would congregate before school, during break, and after lessons to show off their new stickers and trade for the rare ones. There were sticker books and stickers related to Japanese cartoons, others related to Walt Disney movies or music icons, others still concerning favourite football teams, etc. Today, swapping Panini stickers is an oldie, and yet, there are still some who meet up at the well-loved Panini-store in Valletta, mostly to swap old collectors’ football stickers, or even just to reminisce about the past.
Playing with the neighbours’ children on the pavement, or, if our mothers had their way, on the parapett
Today, sadly, children don’t really mingle to play relaxed outside school hours, that is unless they meet for private lessons or are actually part of a sport or organised group activity. If they do meet up, they do so to play on their computers or game consoles. They’ll never know that feeling of unbridled freedom felt while playing pass-you or Chinese whispers among the neighbours’ gardens. They’ll never know what it’s like to ride on a bike, the thrill of getting off the curb and into the street while there were no adults watching. Perhaps some parents actually prefer having their children inside as it’s safer, is it?
These are some of the things I myself miss when I look back upon my childhood in Malta. That feeling of bright-eyed wonder, when everything was new and fun to experience, which will never fully come back.