// October 2008
Coming back from Luton airport the other week, Theresa switched on the radio – as is her wont – to Radio 2 where, to a certain degree of horror on my part, we found ourselves catching the last half of Russell Brand’s radio show.
It was, naturally, the now infamous one with Jonathan Ross and the prank calls to Andrew Sachs. And at the time I thought (as I usually do of most of their material to be frank) that it was juvenile, puerile and that the whole thing was a bad bad idea.
Frankly I was embarrassed listening to it and felt really rather bad for Andrew Sachs.
But I can’t help but feel that the events unfolding over the last week were somewhat of an overreaction. Needless to say, the Daily Hate Mail led the charge, gleeful as ever to have a stick to beat the BBC, and Jonathan Ross, with. And it succeeded in whipping up the complaints from a mere couple after the show aired (which I’m genuinely surprised by – I would have expected more) up into the tens of thousands.
And I feel a little bit uncomfortable about that. If it hadn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t been for all of this it might have had the chance to peter out with dignified apologies and no carping and sanctimonious speeches and editorials, no villagers wielding torches and so on.
Sachs was owed an apology, now received (although why it should be our business to know this I have no idea – Ross at least tried to personally deliver his apology and gift privately) and I do think they should be rapped over the knuckles over the whole thing. But I absolutely hate seeing the BBC got at by the mosquitos of the tabloid press like this as if they are the arbiters of what is right and wrong.
I mean… the vacuous and borderline immoral shite that the free presses peddle is beyond belief and yet they get away with it time after time without censure.
Ultimately the only person out of this who has come out of it with any dignity is Sachs himself who, it is telling, was only after an apology.
His granddaughter on the other hand… I must say I’ve rather taken against. Anyone who uses the word “justice” to mean “I got my revenge” is as far as I’m concerned easily as bad as the Middle Englanders whose outcry inflated this whole affair.
Although seeing the Mail take up arms alongside a self confessed Satanic Slut has been deeply amusing.
I’m pleased Brand resigned in a way, though. Not so much because I can’t stand his work (and I really can’t) but because he has done the right thing.
And I hope that a good many politicians take note.
To be fair, this wasn’t this year’s big gay holiday. This wasn’t, incidentally, due to having a pratfalling aunt in tow, but basically it was always intended to be a more restful and sedate affair when compared with – say – a trip to Gran Can, and from our point of view we were mainly only window-shopping when it came to the males.
That said, though, Theresa was most insistent we went out and had a rip-roaring time without her on a couple of evenings and so, inevitably, we decided to opt for a bit of faggery.
Now, it’s true to say that as a small island Malta isn’t really going to have much of a gay scene; indeed our brief investigations into the possibilities turned up only two options in the area near to us, viz and to whit one bar and one club.
The club – “Klozet” – was an interesting place. You could tell the clubbing options were limited since different styles of gay were all mashed together (if you’ll excuse the expression) in one room. Indiepooves, twinkypooves, bearpooves and coffin-dodgers all abounded in the shiny environs, none of them looking entirely like they belonged but certainly making the most of a bad job.
Still, I often find myself most at home in places I don’t really belong so oddly enough I rather enjoyed it to an extent. Well, I did once the copious consumption of JD and coke had numbed the senses to the style of music on offer. For some reason the resident DJ seemed to consider “stuff that sounds like Gloria Estefan or Beyonce” to be the only criteria for a set, which did tend to pall after a while.
Well, okay. It palled after the first song. But I was enjoying myself anyway and the drinks were cheap so I didn’t care.
The best prospect though was Adams’s Bar, which we visited twice. Barely bigger than a handbag, it was a snug place to be sure, but it was a friendly place with a much better selection of music (although admittedly on one night it degenerated from non-stop ABBA to non-stop Madonna – who I’ve decided is a total waste of skin – but you can’t have everything).
Our first visit there coincided with what was apparently Malta’s ever Pub Quiz. The gentleman in charge of this innovation seemed to be struggling with this a bit: apparently the concept was completely alien to the area, but it was reassuring to see that certain decisions Rob and I made in regard to the Griffin one are adopted by others too. And it was very good, so I hope it takes off.
(Indeed, whilst we didn’t take part since they were halfway through when we arrived, afterwards the host came over and asked if we knew anything about quizzes. I was able to chuckle and admit I was hosting my 91st the next week.)
Adam’s Bar is attached to a hostel of the same name and if you happen to be a big ole mox visiting the island I think you would do well to drop in. It was a matter of some regret, actually, that we didn’t spend a few more nights in there propping up the bar.
Chris rather fell in love with the former-go-go-dancing barman, in fact, so I think he feels the same way.
Now, during our stay in Malta we found ourselves opting to stay in the Imperial Hotel in Sliema, a decision which we came to rue somewhat, if truth be told.
Admittedly it all looked suitably regal in the foyer and landings – all (slightly faded) Mediterranean glamour – but this didn’t extend to the rooms which were apparently decorated in a particular style known as “random furniture and dodgy workmanship-chic.”
Still, it was at least warm and dry and the reception and bar staffs were wonderful: helpful, knowledgeable and friendly.
By comparison though, we were clearly an imposition on the breakfast staff. Theirs was an exercise in surly abruptness you’d object to in most places but since the buffet was self-service all they really had to do was clear plates and keep the food coming. Every morning, though, we’d have to find a clear table, scavenge random cutlery and plates from other tables and then be barged into and flapped at by the help.
Various other niggles abounded too with regards to towels, poolside service, and internet access which I won’t bore you with here, but suffice it say that despite costing about the same as your average IBIS it definitely lacked the attention to detail. I think it’s fair to say that if you’re going to stay on Malta you will pay through the nose for really good accommodation.
That said, the very cute lad I fancied on reception did make my last day by sighing and looking terribly disappointed when I ordered the taxi.
I’m under no illusions about my attractiveness here, though. I think it was because our party comprised the only males under forty the place had seen in decades.
Seriously, I think the three of us brought the average age down by about thirty years.
Aside from the beauty of the island and weather, Malta also has a rich history to explore. And so, spurred on by Theresa (to whom “chivvying along” is a way of life), we went out to see how much of it we could find.
What we found were, on the whole, rocks.
Now, to be fair to Hagar Qim, it’s more a case of lousy timing on our part that it’s such a crushing disappointment. Years ago this temple complex was apparently filled with relics and statues and you could wander all round it. Currently, however, it’s a building site, two accessible chambers and an abundance of builder’s sand.
This is due to the building of a visitors centre to house all the relics and so on, but, at present, for â‚¬7 a head, the sight of what effectively amounts to ancient and modern rubble isn’t really worth a two-hour round trip. And it wasn’t just our group that thought this, either.
Similarly the Roman Domus outside Mdina was ever so slightly underwhelming. A room detailing Roman occupancy of the island was followed immediately by a room containing a couple of mosaics in various states of repair. And then you came to a balcony overlooking… a field of rocks. No attempt was made to even contextualize said rocks, mind you – there was no “that bit over there we think may have been the privy” for example – they were just there.
Fishbourne it wasn’t.
Thankfully it wasn’t all quite so apathetic. Aside from a smattering of cathedrals (of which more later) St. Paul’s Catacombs at Mdina were a particular highlight. I mean, I like graveyards and churches and mausoleums etc so I naturally leapt at the chance to hand over money and see a few new graves.
And very impressive and well-preserved they were too. They were a little cramped admittedly, but lets face it the intended occupants weren’t going to need much in the way of free space. So yes, all very catacomby and atmospheric.
Except… well… there was a guide in the form of an audio handset available, and – as much as I enjoyed it – I’m not sure that it didn’t take the edge off things a bit.
In it, a lady whose voice was somewhat reminiscent of Fenella Fielding spoke in a bustily sultry manner as the character of a Roman ghost called “Valeria”. And I’m afraid that after an hour of barely suppressed giggles, when she finally breathed “I will whisper my final words in your ear: farewell!” I found myself yelping and running for the exit gasping for air.
I loved it so much I want to go again. (Assuming I can take an inhaler next time.)
It’s interesting, I think, how different nationalities’ males age differently. When I was in Berlin, for example, I found it quite striking how many of the German boys (for which I also include young men) were amazingly chiseled and smooth of skin, and yet from observational evidence it seemed as if their destinies would involve a sudden transformation into pink leather the second they hit 35.
Now, other Rob, with whom I do the Griffin Quiz, mused prior to the holiday that he’d heard Maltese Boys were hot and I remember assuring him I would verify whether or not this was true.
But actually that kind of became rather tricky. Malta’s primary industry is that of tourism, which kind of made it difficult to tell whether the guys we were (hopefully) subtly eyeing up were Maltese, foreign tourists, or foreigners who’d settled in for a bit. So basically anyone of a vaguely Mediterranean bent got lumped together into one, really.
But yes, within that category there was a certain amount of hotness it must be said.
One thing, though, to hark back to my earlier point, was that even if you did sit and decide on some alleged Maltese Boy who you thought was fit, there was always the ever present spectre of the Maltese Man to take the edge off your enjoyment. There were, on the whole, a great number of older Maltans who had a clear enjoyment of food and beer and a definite aversion to hair removal.
I generally thought I’d be too scared to get off with a guy in case I accidentally pulled a ripcord and had to watch as he suddenly inflated and sprouted new fur.
It’s a crass generalisation of course (and us Brits don’t exactly age well a lot of the time) but the observational evidence was certainly in support of the theory.
Now, if you’re going to eat out in Malta there’s one thing you really should expect to find above all others: Pizzerias. We went our entire stay trying – often vainly – to avoid the bloody things in fact. The bulk of restaurants you can find are, essentially, Italian.
That said, this is perhaps not entirely surprising given the following factors:
- Malta’s proximity to Sicily;
- The general lack of experimentation displayed by most British holidaymakers; and
- Malta’s sole contribution to culinary innovation being Rabbit Stew.
Now, don’t get me wrong: I like Pizza, and I like Pasta, but a week of it would probably have me trying to stove my head in with a Tiramisu. But with a little careful digging it?’s not actually difficult to find some excellent eateries covering a variety of disciplines.
Our favourite finds were as follows, so if you ever go over there I’d recommend a look-see:
Barracuda in Sliema: a very civilised place serving small yet filling main courses, delicious deserts and hangover-inducing coffees. It was so good we went twice and the swordfish is very highly recommended.
Zest in St. Julian’s: offers a mouthwatering and hearty East-meets-West Fusion menu and will forever be remembered as the place which introduced us to the local liquers, particularly one made from Prickly Pear (bottles of which returned with us).
Kitchen in Sliema: not only served gorgeous pre-prandial cocktails, had an amazing award-winning menu – I even had a vegetarian option it looked so good – but also the staff were gorgeous which is always a boon. (The waiter was probably the most beautiful boy I’ve ever seen, and the women were stunning too.)
And finally, The Blue Room in Valetta provided us with what is simply the best Chinese food we have collectively ever tasted. (This was no typical Chinese restaurant with cliched decor, either, everything was supremely stylish.) Downside is that it’s probably ruined all future Chinese meals for us by setting such a standard, but hey.
There were others, I must say, but these were by far the best.
One other point, I suppose I should make though, is that outside eating is to be discouraged. Even in October the tables are beset with flies and for some reason the Maltese have a major aversion to actually taking steps to combat this. Most odd…
As one or two of you may know, I have returned from a most welcome break in Malta, a journey undertaken with not only a certain amount of relief after a hellish time at work, but also with the flatmate, mutual friend Mikey and – wait for it – my mad Aunt.
We were definitely an odd group, it must be said. (In fairness, Terry seemed to do quite well out of it; some people seemed convinced the three of us were her paid escorts.)
And a good time, it must be said, was definitely had by all. Malta’ s a lovely little island and even in October the sun was constant, which for me resulted in massive sunburn on the first day and the rapid purchase of a baseball cap. Thankfully this quickly settled down and I’ve actually managed a quite reasonable tan.
A couple of days were spent lying by the pool, ploughing through books (I can heartily recommend Julian Clary’s Murder Most Fab and Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader, by the way), but otherwise we did a lot of walking, jumping on the disarmingly charming buses, and marvelling at the general psychosis which seems to affect the Maltese when put behind the wheel of a car.
I mean… really. They make London drivers look like law-abiding citizens.
Anyway, I’ll do a few posts over the next few days detailing the high and lowlights of our trip in the somewhat misguided notion that you may find it of interest and take yourselves off there sometime.
But ultimately, if you can cope with armies of almost pensionable tourists swarming around you (and indeed we think one or two of them had died weeks previously) then Malta certainly comes highly recommended.
I fully intend to return.
What a marvellous invention this is. There are, I think, fewer greater pleasures to be found in life than emerging from your pit of a grey weekday morning and making a cup of tea at the same time you usually find yourself hoofing it for the bus in the pouring rain.
Of course, the downside is that I’ve spent the day trapped in a cold house waiting for the plumbers to arrive at some unspecified time in the morning to fix the heating. But hey.
The arrived an hour ago which somewhat stretches my understanding of the word “morning” but who am I to judge?
Happy National Customer Service Week, by the way…
A friend of mine on Facebook pointed me in the direction of this article by Mark Steel entitled “Quick These Bankers Need Rescuing” and I have to say I think it’s one of the best articles I’ve read in a while. (I’ve always liked Mark Steel – he’s very sharp.)
The opening paragraph sums up my current feelings on the banking crisis quite well:
The next move, presumably, will be to nationalise the country’s gambling debts. To revive confidence amongst blokes in betting offices, the Government will hand over ?Ç¬£300bn to cover the money they’ve lost. Then a leading gambler will be quoted as saying: “This package goes some way towards restoring calm. The last week has been horrendous. One of my friends lost a ton on an 8-1 shot he’d been assured was a banker by a minicab driver.”
The thing that’s currently galling me is the Prime Minister’s decision to up the guaranteed savings limit from ?Ç¬£35,000 to ?Ç¬£50,000. Which, given that the ordinary man and woman in the street was probably well covered by the previous level, means that what he’s doing is bailing out the people with lots of savings – precisely the people who have been benefiting from the dodgy banking practices they knew were shameful anyway.
So frankly I think I’m well justified in thinking “fuck ‘em”.