Saturday 24 August 2019

That was the weekend that was


Pictured above: The story as reported in The Mirror

We had a very bad storm last weekend, I’m sure you’ve heard. Unless, that is, you were out binge drinking on Saturday, got paralytically drunk and had a particularly bad hangover which meant you only surfaced again on Monday morning – in which case you missed the whole thing.

In fact, I wonder what someone waking up on Monday morning would have made of their newsfeed. Runaway cows? Fish successfully attempting a prison break from the fish farms? Old, ancient trees ripped out at the roots as if they were mere twigs? Demolished seaside kiosks? They could have been forgiven for thinking they were still hallucinating from too much alcohol or that someone had slipped them a psychedelic drug.

There were drivers screeching to a halt on the side of the road to become impromptu fishermen as they risked their lives to catch the quivering fish, and promptly put them up for sale (never let it be said that we do not know how to make a quick buck). It was like that scene from the film Magnolia when frogs start dropping out of the sky, only this time it was sea bream which seemed to be trying to reach the shore to escape from their cruel masters. The scene was so bizarre that it made international news, and caused a predicable debate: was this just an adventure or a national embarrassment? Were people so hard up that they would do anything for a meal or was this simply another display of how out of control we get at the thought of getting something for free? The great organic bin frenzy of October 2018 comes to mind.

Watching those men wading into the roughs sea to catch the fish with their bare hands gave new meaning to that erstwhile slogan, ‘hungry and fancy a takeaway?’ even though the health department eventually issued a warning that the fish might not be safe for consumption.

Speaking of takeaways, Saturday night was a time when the howling winds were only matched by some of the howlers we saw on social media as some cheeky people were still unbelievably expecting their food to be delivered, despite the obviously severe storm battering our doors and rattling our windows. I know we have lost a lot of our empathy in this “me first” society, but surely they could have scrounged around their pantry and whipped up something to eat rather than expect a poor drenched deliveryman to ride his bike in that weather to bring them what probably ended up being a soggy pizza.

There was also indignation that the power was out and Internet was down in some areas – but seriously, were people not aware of what was happening out there? Mother nature was very, very angry and was not really bothered that we were inconvenienced as she tore out wires and cables.

For the first time in its 34 year history the Malta Marathon was cancelled; news which was at first met with disbelief, but then ended up being the right call as many of us spent a sleepless night listening to what sounded like a hurricane and Sunday morning dawned to Force ten winds and sheer havoc. In the midst of all this, presumably unaware or uncaring of the risks, one man picked up his surfboard and headed to Ghadira to ride the waves, despite the dire warnings. “Balls like coconuts” one person commented with awe.

But perhaps the biggest (unintentional) joke came on Sunday when the Prime Minister decided it would be a good idea to use the storm as an excuse of why a tunnel was needed. Erm, except for one little detail – the Gozo ferry kept working throughout the stormy weekend and there were no delays. I think it is ridiculous to try and justify a million-Euro tunnel because of this kind of storm which happens once a year at the most (and rarely as bad as the one we had last weekend). After all, when there is extreme weather in other countries even schools and offices are closed down to avoid risks so if ferry crossings are (very rarely) suspended it would not be any different to when other countries are snowed in.

As a side note, I find it a little odd that Muscat has been grasping at every opportunity to justify the tunnel, which seems to indicate to me that the support for this White Elephant is flagging – if it ever existed in the first place, because we only have the Government’s word for it, and at the moment that doesn’t mean much. In fact, am I the only one who has been noticing a grasping at straws attitude about this blessed tunnel? A few weeks ago Muscat said there would be free public transport through the tunnel (even though when asked most people have said they would not use buses even if they were free, because the main issue is lack of reliability). A few days later he came up with another suggestion: a switch to all electric cars in Gozo. While this might cut down on pollution it will not solve the traffic or parking problem one bit and it seems to be another lame attempt at greenwashing, when everything else around us, including the planned tunnel, indicates the opposite.

Just when we thought it was all over, on Wednesday night we had a short but intense freezing hailstorm, further surprising us because all of this is uncharacteristic for late February. The UK, meanwhile, has been basking in unusual warm temperatures. Someone, up there, is definitely trying to tell us something, if only we would listen.

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