‘We won’t complain’
An elderly couple pause to let a woman squeeze her pushchair between the retail stand and the high black wall of hoarding panels that cordon off the roadworks on Valletta’s Republic Street.
She huffs, glaring angrily at the fencing on one of the capital city’s busiest streets, between Archbishop and St Christopher, leaving only a very narrow path for people to walk through.
The works are extensive, involving water and communications infrastructure as well as the reclamation and relaying of original tiling blocks found under the asphalt. Transport Malta said it expects to open the road again before the end of September.
But in the meantime, the inconvenience seems to have annoyed shop owners too. Notices hanging on two restaurant doors inform patrons they will be closed for business until the road construction is completed.
One venue, however, has taken a more creative approach.
“The effect these works had on our business is dramatic. We had a 50 per cent drop in customers. But these things are to be expected – if the work needs to be done, it has to be done,” the owner of Margo’s restaurant, Claude Camilleri, told The Times.
“However, if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. Our message is a positive one: we refuse to complain.”
The restaurant decided to remain open and put up a large, colourful poster to cover the dull panels opposite the place.
The poster is not an advert, and does not invite people to enter the restaurant. It depicts a young woman accompanied by a short poem written by a patron about who he thinks Margo is.
Margo’s has in the past months encouraged people to send photos of “Margo” and write a short piece to go with their picture. One of these entries was chosen and splashed on the panels.
“We have a very loyal clientele and employ 23 people, so we cannot close, because we will upset a lot of people. But it’s not nice to look out and see darkness all day,” Mr Camilleri said.
With their neighbours’ permission, he hopes they will put up more posters. But to date, they have not been told how long the work will go on for.
“Our message is a positive one. Even when things are not going right, we should be grateful for the wonderful things surrounding us.
“We want people to stop and smile, to think how lucky we are despite the difficulties we face.
“Things don’t always go as we want them to, but we have to look at the big picture and take advantage of the situation. If we complain less, we achieve more,” he added.