Less than a hundred metres still to go on Triq il-Lanca beneath the St. Gregory Bastion – go clear and I’d have rounded Valletta’s extremest seaward point, skirting a full circle around the Valletta fortifications surrounding Upper Fort St.Elmo.
But I was forced to turn back.
I’d have been straight out of my mind pushing on forward and rushing the gauntlet with the monster waves crashing in all around me – shooting up seventy foot columns of spray against the fort’s perimeter walls and flooding the puny rock I was perching upon.
The gale had got worse. Much worse. Stark clear fact that’s for sure.
And yet when I was standing there at 5 p.m. yesterday I had no idea it had got so bad and that the Gregale was right then venting the worst of its three day rage and lashing Valletta’s coast with up to seventy mile per hour sweeping gusts of fury
Even though I was soaked all the way up to my thighs, even though a rapid fire volley of incoming waves kept pounding the shore line shy under twenty feet away from where I was sheltering from the brunt of the storm, I still kept on hoping in my heart that I’d clear the fort completely and take my pictures from right beneath the St. Gregory Curtain.
That’s the problem with taking pictures using a tiny mirrorless camera equipped with only a standard 35mm lens – it sure get’s addictive. The tiny lens opens up one hell of a front line viewpoint and goads you to move in fast and get into the thick of it right up close to the action.
At no point through the one hour I shot my pictures could I say that I felt scared about my safety.
But yes I did feel thrilled through it all. I only stopped taking pictures since there was practically no light left after 5 p.m. and because I felt I had the shots I had set out for in the first place though it’s very true to say that you can never take enough pictures of a storm such as this one – each moment in time is so different from any other preceding or successive instant. Trigger the shutter once and you get this:
And not even a minute later, with the next onslaught, the church is almost gone, wiped out of view by the sixty or seventy foot shower of spray whipped up by the sheer impact of surging waves against solid rock:
The last time I had taken pictures beneath the French curtain leading on to Fort St Elmo was one a half years ago – 14 June 2015. The day I discovered I had melanoma.
I was taking pictures that day too and about at the same time as I was out in yesterday’s storm.
Through all of yesterday’s shoot this thought kept recurring – I was still here doing the things I loved doing the most in spite of the cancer. Last year it was a storm in my soul and now the storm was all around me. I had survived long enough to witness this terrible force of nature wreaking its violence against Fort St. Elmo.
Friends and family can never understand the extent of cancer’s impact on a man’s soul. Not unless any one of them have been through cancer themselves.
What use is it to try and explain to them the always lurking fear of the cancer rearing up it’s head again one future day whenever it wills and in a place of its own choosing?
What use to attempt showing how hard it sometimes is to live in the constant shadow of the long term threat of recurrence or metastasis?
Sure most of the times are great and there’s not one moment I don’t feel thankful for being alive and surviving cancer and moving on even to the extent of being right up there with Fort St.Elmo through the worst of a Gregale storm.
Many days I can’t take too much company. The kids at school – and I do thank God for them – take up most of the place for any company I can stand having in my life.
But after school’s done I need to get away from most people – cycle into the hills of Sicily, or bicycle trek across Italy at a night on a journey to Mostar and Medjugorje, or walk straight into a December storm only three kilometres away from home.
Every day I need lots of time alone with my thoughts. Clear away of adult others. This daily solitude, however I choose to spend it, helps me no end to keep on moving forward day after day.
The Gregale storm has now receded and Fort St.Elmo is once again at rest.
I shall walk there again tonight. Say hello.
Thank her for the spectacular struggle she put up against the tempest.
And thank God I’m doing this still. Right up to now.
All Text and Photographs Copyright(c) David Bugeja 2016 All rights reserved