Been on holiday. You got a problem with that?

Inside St.John's Co-Cathedral, La Valetta

Just back from a week in Malta.  Not the sort of place I’d normally choose for a holiday, but we were staying in someone else’s timeshare apartment, so it was pretty much a free holiday.  Don’t want to bore you too much with holiday stuff, as other people’s holidays tend to be terribly boring to hear about, but there are a few things I found interesting there that I nevertheless want to sear onto your brains via the medium of language.

The first was the hotel itself.  It had done a deal with the timeshare company that meant that it’s representatives had a permanent office onsite, right next to the swimming pool.  The scam they would pull was that they would accost holiday-makers in the street, telling them they’d won a prize.  All they had to do to pick it up was give them an hour of their time, which would be spent, of course, verbally pummeling them until they bought a timeshare they would later regret.

Sitting by the pool, you could see a steady traffic of timeshare salesmen, dressed in smart black trousers and nice shirt in 30 degree + heat, escorting their victims to and from the office.  They had the air of desperate men, as if they’d wandered out of a David Mamet play, their faces a strange purple, the combined result, I should imagine, of an Englishman in a climate he was never designed for and excessive alcohol consumption.  Every so often, a tourist would walk out in a huff, and the salesman would run out apologetically, begging them to come back.  It was all rather seedy, although undeniably fascinating to watch.  Malta noir.

Another thing that was interesting was St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valetta.  Normally I’m not huge on cathedrals unless they’re particularly spectacular, but this one was notable for not only containing two masterpieces by Caravaggio, but having been built for the Knights of Malta, an organisation of arch-mentalists who ruled the place from the 16th to the late 18th Century, when they were kicked out by Napoleon.  During this period, they policed the Mediterranean, fighting pirates and pesky Turks, with Malta acting as their super-special gang HQ.

St. John’s Co-Cathedral is essentially what a place of worship would look like if designed by the SAS.  There are memorial plaques in the floor for fallen knights, decorated with skulls not as a reminder of the inevitability of death, but just as a sign of how hard they were (below).  Portraits of the knights look down at you from the ceiling, with all the reservation of pissed venture scouts in a rural pub.

Most bizarre of all is the memorial of one grand-master, in which his services to the enslavement of the people of both Asia and Africa is immortalised in marble (above).  The building is still a functioning place of worship, so one has to maintain the respectful behaviour this demands whilst confronted with possibly the most hateful and inherently un-Christian object you could possibly come across.

Other things of interest in Malta are the semi-famous buses, which are old models from the US and the UK, shipped out there in the sixties and still going.  There also lots of old cars out there and still working, living rust-free in the dry heat.  A metal-flaked gold Cortina caught my eye at one point, looking particularly marvelous.

There are a number of prehistoric sites there, including the oldest free-standing structure in the world, and a museum that displays the things they dug up in these places, which are pretty amazing (below).  Unfortunately, I went to what was the probably the least interesting prehistoric site, and not only that, the bus timetable for there and back was very misleading.  Worst day of the holiday.

Anyway, those are a couple of things I saw.  And that’s it for holidays until next year, when I shall by staying in my own timeshare apartment in Hull.  Now that was one deal that definitely wasn’t a rip-off.  Still twenty-seven years left on it, but I don’t think I’ll ever get bored there.  I’ve got a spare room if anybody feels like joining me for a week or six.  Anybody?  No?  Oh well.


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