Andrew Borg Cardona, on why we should stop calling Malta a rock, why commuting is bliss, and why being small is really beautiful.
Living in Malta, for all the condescending arrogance of returnees and their like who insist on calling it “the rock”, as if this descriptor hadn’t been done to death and beyond years ago, has its advantages.
For instance, you can commute to your work from anywhere in thirty minutes. You can even commute from far-flung (!) Gozo on a daily basis. OK, if you’re travelling from Gozo, and only if it’s raining, rarely will you your journey take you longer than ninety minutes and that’s at peak travelling times. Otherwise, for most of us, with judicious timing (and roadworks permitting) you can get to your work from home in thirty minutes. And most of us drive to get there.
Getting to work easily isn’t necessarily an advantage, work being the scourge of man and all that, but once you drive to get there, you can also park relatively easily and cheaply, though the spoilt brats amongst us would rather park just outside the office and for free. If I were to tell a colleague in, say, London that he could park ‘the horseless’ a mere seven minutes stroll (albeit through a pretty miserable bus terminus) for the princely sum of €5 or so for a full day, in the shade (a consideration, in sunny Malta, though not so much up the Smoke) he’d think he’d died and gone to heaven.
His alternative is either to stump up the larcenous fee dreamt up by Red Ken, and then have to schlep around trying to find a car-park that doesn’t need a third mortgage (they all have second mortgages) or to strap-hang under the smelly armpit of some back-pack toting tourist, generally of Norse or similar extraction, who fails to appreciate the turning-circle required when trying to get off at Piccadilly Circus to see the clowns.
And then there’s the process of passing the time at work: my real life involves not only desk-based work but also having to put in an appearance at one of the venerable institutions underpinning democracy, which gives me a fine excuse to stop and catch up with the daily news, generally at Cafe’ Caffe on St John’s Street, though Cordina’s has been known to capture me on finer days, when people-watching is turned into an art form.
All in the interests of keeping myself au courant with the toings and froings of the people that matter, you understand, because in a small society, that’s more than somewhat important. If I have to shoot off somewhere to meet someone of great pith and moment (at least by his own definition) or to try to inculcate some knowledge into the minds of the nation’s youth (poor sods) I can do so in the knowledge that I can get there in less than twenty minutes, which is no bad thing, though sometimes (sometimes?) parking at the University in tal-Qroqq takes longer.
Luckily, I’ve found a few spots where the beadles, perhaps more engrossed in keeping smutty literature off the pristine campus or barring entry to condom machines, haven’t yet got around to clamping me. When they do, more precisely if they do, my letter of resignation from the Faculty will be winging its way to the Dean.
Many, of whom the above mentioned returnees are prime examples, bemoan the smallness of the country as if it were the very embodiment of the abyss of their discomfort. To these I say, with respect and fondness, that if they know how to live their life, it can be turned into an advantage: if for no other reason because it shaves the hour or more off the working day that their more cosmopolitan brethren waste getting there and back.