The Malta Independent 8 March 2021, Monday

Marie Benoit's Diary: A life filled with words

Marie Benoît Tuesday, 12 January 2021, 10:59 Last update: about 3 months ago

SERGIO GRECH is the author of four biographies and editor of the popular series of books Bejn Storja u Miti. He has also edited works by Pawlu Mizzi and Dr Albert Ganado. In the year 2008, he published the novel Il-Lejl tal-Irgulija which Professor Charles Briffa described as a cultural novel. Sergio has produced hundreds of radio programmes on Radju Malta and Campus FM. In the past, he was also active in Ghaqda Letterarja Maltija and Poezijaplus. He works as an assistant head of school with the Education Department. Sergio was the first Executive Director of the National Book Council. He feels lucky to wear so many hats.

"I remember that during my undergraduate university course Professor Godfrey Wettinger had delivered to us a couple of lectures about how the Black Death had affected Europe and the rest of the world. In fact, it was one of the worst pandemics ever in human history that had claimed the life of millions of people. Definitely, that was a scary and sad scenario but still, as is commonly held, the past is a distant land. I never in my whole life imagined that a silent invisible virus could lock us in our respective homes, isolate us from the rest of the world and even claim the lives of the eldest of the community or those who were seriously ill.


When the local authorities decided to close down schools, I thought that the Covid issue would be over soon after the Easter holidays but time proved me wrong.

Covid brought radical changes in our household. My kids shifted to online learning and that proved to be quite a challenging experience. 

As an Assistant Head of School, I needed to learn more about the Microsoft Teams app which suddenly was presented to educators as a means of salvation and the way forward. Furthermore, on a regular basis, I continued to support my staff with issues they wished to discuss with me and answering parents' queries through our school Facebook page, Teams chats, emails and so on, kept me busy. It became evident that the teachers' work load had heftly increased during the non-official lockdown.

On the homefront one of my new duties was to take care of deliveries when they reached our doorstep and clean them as suggested by the Health authorities.  It became more and more obvious that prices were gradually going up from one delivery to the next.

I tried to support my children as much as possible. We invested heavily in our bonding relationship. We did a lot of jigsaw puzzles. I read stories to them. Weather permitting, we daily spent some time playing on the roof. It was not easy for us all to adapt to the new scenario but we did our best to surmount the issue. I noticed that my children kept mentioning their friends' names in their role playing sessions. A daily family appointment was watching I Soliti Ignoti the 'game show' presented by Amadeus on Rai I and we tried our luck in trying to guess the profession of those participating. We also celebrated my son's birthday in May during the pandemic. Grandparents joined us thanks to Whatsapp to sing Happy Birthday  when he cut his cake. Meanwhile all plans for a summer vacation had to be scrapped. Digesting that reality was far from easy.

Personally I tried to follow the news as much as possible to enable me to form the right picture.  I soon discovered that some news agencies were contributing to the increase in the levels of anxiety of their viewers rather than being a good and reliable source of information. So there were moments when I preferred to stop following the news.  News bulletins dedicated big chunks of time to the issue of death and this trebled anxiety. As an antidote to all this negativity, I followed Vittorio Sgarbi's frequent vlogs. His position at times was erratic or perhaps too controversial, but there were instances when he nailed it with solid argumentations.

I invested more time in reading, buying more books, taking advantage of offers made by the main local publishing houses which more often than not were giving good discounts.

It is evident that the local book trade is being given a hard time by the pandemic.

On a personal level, I continued to work on more book projects. In fact three books were published during the pandemic. I edited Mid-Dinja Ckejkna Tieghi by Paul Mizzi. The book consists of articles that were originally published in Il-Hajja f'Ghawdex. The novelty of the book lies in the fact that the author focused on simple people that lived in the St George Parish area in Victoria, Gozo. I also edited Trevor Zahra's Bejn Storja u Miti. The book consists of twenty different contributions that focus on various aspects that deal with Trevor Zahra. The third book that I published this year was the autobiography Hajja Mhux tas-Soltu written by Dr Albert Ganado and edited by Dr Austin Sammut and yours truly. I also contributed academic papers to Arkivju and Melita Historica and was asked to deliver a webinar by Malta Historical Society.

The pandemic is not yet over. When Marie asked me to contribute to this page, I was in quarantine as there was a positive case in my daughter's class.

I am sure this experience won't be a one off as predictions are not that good for the coming months. Hopefully, the vaccine will start the process of healing but I don't believe that things will change overnight even if we all wish otherwise. "  






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