This article appears in today’s Malta Independent on Sunday.
We’ve all seen the strange photos this Christmas. It surely was impressive seeing the Valletta streets laden with hailstones. You get down to Malta for a bit of the milder weather and to get a break from the inches of snow that drown your car and delay the commuting to work and what do you get? Hailstones in Republic street that’s what. If you were to listen to the shopowners you’d believe that there were more hailstones than shoppers doing the rounds. It has been the Christmas of austerity – at least if you listen to the vendors and sellers of wares on the streets. The restaurateurs seem to be of the same opinion – we are spending less and less as the credit crunch hit home.
Well. Either that or we have become wise when it comes to spending the odd euro or two. It seems that more and more Maltese are warming to the idea of shopping online and beating the ridiculous import mark-ups. Clothes-, cd-, dvd- and video game lovers all got to enjoy the lucky dip thanks to the free postage offers over the Christmas period. Those retailers who enjoyed their moments of relative monopoly in the past have had their comeuppance finally and nobody would be seen getting ripped off buying a high priced dvd series from your local retailer. Finally. Now we will see whether the consumer is really king.
One field in which the consumer does not really have much say is the provision of internet bandwidth. At the end of the day if one or other of the suppliers of internet has some technical hitch we are all relegated onto the primitive waysides of the information highway. I have noticed that internet speed is relatively slow in SmartMalta and would not like to have to depend on this sort of service for anything longer than a short holiday. Same goes for phone calls and phone costs. Back in Luxembourg we have joined most of mainland Europe where calls from landlines are practically free – I even have a new package when I can call free 24/7 to all of Europe. Will we catch up on that too or will we depend on Skype for a little longer?
They’ve been waved in our face for some time now. Probably the most topical issue during the holiday season apart from the unexpected surge in the number of immigrants landing must have been the shootings that occurred. We all love a controversial topic and before you knew it we had the Abolitionist vs Libertarian discussion all over again. It is strange how we still have cowboy style arguments in this country of ours but then again all it takes is a wait in a queue at your local take away to realise that there are all sorts of people out there…little wonder that some of them still like their guns.
Bang Bang. They don’t stop. They do not respect the Christmas ceasefire… even if it were for a simple Hannukah celebration. The Israelis have been pounding the Gaza strip with missiles for a week now. This is in retaliation for the Hammas inspired missiles that were shot into Israeli villages. The battles are as old as the books of the believers. Our generations will be cursed like many before them to witness more of the struggles and the strife. I tend to agree with the criticism that our government has received from some quarters – where did all this empathy with the Middle Eastern Question begin? What makes it more important than any other? Sometimes I wonder whether we have hung on to the De Marco complex for a bit too long.
Throughout my three week stay in Malta this time round I noticed that I tend to use pay-per-use car parks more often than I would before I left the country. Force of habit I guess. You cannot help but compare car parks and their efficiency. Being a Paceville resident I have pumped quite a few euros into the Portomaso ticket machines and I must let my little rant loose at whoever is responsible for the design and running of the car park in question. Can someone please explain what was the big deal of having all the levels doubled by naming them “Upper” and “Lower”? Worse still why are the parking areas not lettered throughout from A to Z instead of having one whole floor with one letter? And…. where oh where is the exit?
Normal car parks (and believe me I have seen quite a few) have numbered parking slots, lettered rows and coloured levels. Portomaso car park is designed to confuse and baffle and to make you spend at least fifteen minutes looking for your car. Also why do we find it so difficult in this country to put up proper signage?
The Mater Dei complex was a breath of fresh air in these logistical nightmares. Anything from parking your car to finding the room for visiting your next of kin becomes a piece of cake given the proper signs and directions. It really is not that hard and makes the payment for the service all the more worthwhile.
Airports and Flights
This is the last of a trilogy of articles written on the island during my Christmas holidays. Tomorrow I will be on a plane flying back to Luxembourg. Connections are just as atrocious as ever. I will fly to Luxembourg via Munich and Saarbrucken. In case you were wondering the Munich to Luxembourg flight is around one hour. Saarbrucken is a little useless stop on the way designed to frustrate travellers like myself eager to get to their warm centrally heated home away from the cold, hail and snow outside.
It’s been a great stay, I’ve eaten some fantastic food (Al Mare in Valletta stands out as a particular favourite) and I’ve really slacked on the blogging while relaxing. It’s back to the old routine… just as predicted… Happy New Year everyone!
Jacques is back blogging on https://jaccuse.wordpress.com. Don’t forget to add a visit to j’accuse for this year’s office routine.