Not the first Maltese skirmish.
I write this from beside the sea in Malta. I love Malta, we go every summer. I have written of its many treasures before. Yes, there will be ‘English pubs’ and massage parlours and all that muck you get in so many tourist destinations. But all I ever see is a fantastic hotel, a sea as warm as a bath and calm as a lake, a beautiful, limestone capital full of friendliness and Caravaggio, and delicious fish that doesn’t cost €200 a plate because it isn’t Greece.
And a Nazi.
I’ve not seen a real-life Nazi before. Racists, anti-semites, of course. But generally they have at least a veneer of respectability. Yet there is one in Malta.
A thickset man, with ‘FUCK COPS’ inked across his chest in bright red letters 20 cms tall. Every other inch of his body was tattooed in heavy gothic Wehrmacht slogans and Nazi symbols. In a hotel full to capacity he was unique in this. The consensus amongst the other guests to whom I spoke was that he was probably from one of the less enlightened Eastern European countries and had likely spent some serious time in prison. He and his equally (if less offensively) tattooed girlfriend were staying in a suite at €600 a night, so if he is a criminal then crime clearly does pay.
I didn’t speak to him, of course, because he would have killed me. But I asked the lovely deputy general manager, Salim, to have a word. Might he please at least put a t shirt on when he was walking around the kids?
Such a word was had, which simply resulted in him stalking the jetty with his shirt off, chest puffed up, like some gorilla looking for a challenge.
The next morning at the gym he mounted a machine next to me, strengthening his legs all the better to kick the shit out of some pesky immigrants.
To my great surprise I actually felt physically sick. My great grandfather was made to dig his own grave and shot into it (I seek no special sympathy here - there is not a Jew in London who doesn’t have such a story), but being in proximity to this man clearly awakened something in my DNA.
And then a switch was flicked in me, and all I felt was contempt and pity. He reminded me of the Noel Coward song, Don’t let’s be beastly to the Germans. ‘It was just those nasty Nazis who persuaded them to fight, and their Beethoven and Bach are really far worse than their bite’. What sort of pathetic shagsack gets off on flashing offensive slogans to children? And why would he think he’d get a warm response in Malta, a country which had more ordinance dropped on it by the Nazis than any other and which was awarded the George Cross for its gallantry?
I spoke to Salim. He said that this man had been very angry and aggressive when asked to cover up, had claimed such a request was an invasion of his privacy (poor baby) and had lodged a complaint with the hotel. He said he would do whatever he wanted.
I pointed out to Salim that someone of his faith was unlikely to have a constructive conversation with a Nazi. Salim agreed. He said that the couple would be leaving the same day.
As I said, I love Malta.