Friday, 3 February 2012

Round and round the bend

What with all the talk of cri­ses and Buddhist pos­­sible, pro­­bable or palpable coups, we tend to forget all the rest of the news. Francesco Schettino, with his nefarious deeds, has been sidelined and our personal worries and plans are all shelved as we talk, discuss and dissect our national situation.

It is, in fact, slightly odd to talk of roundabouts. I get the feeling that everyone will say who cares about what role roundabouts have. All this is very true and wise men would definitely tell me to talk of something more palatable to our mood: talk of Franco Debono’s reading, Lawrence Gonzi’s laments or Austin Gatt’s plans to drive us safely into another PN victory would be safer ground to traverse.

But I’ll stick to roundabouts. I have no idea what has happened in the political field up to the time this is published. You might be reading this in full electoral mode or you might be living in a land of arcadia where Dr Debono rules and does not rile, rant and act the ever-errant party stalwart. Because, in his own words, he is a very dedicated party stalwart. Not sure what Buddha says about parties and toppling of governments but I have a slight feeling he wouldn’t be too happy with what Dr Debono did, and is doing, to the nation these last few weeks.

I did take a roundabout way to get to my point but that is what roundabouts are for, after all. To take you to a point by going round and round in circles and that is exactly what I seem to be doing. But my point is this. Actually, no, I need something from Dr Debono. He should do something about roundabouts and their uselessness. He seems the only one to be saying things and these things are actioned. I mean Dr Debono said: Let there be two ministries out of justice and home affairs and, pronto, two ministers are conjured up by the Prime Magician.

He says Arriva need to run on time and out goes Dr Gatt, the bulldozer, and Dr Gonzi sends said Dr Gatt to doze off while he, said Prime Minister, magics a task force to run the bus service efficiently. At least, it seems efficient because no one talks much about it.

We have more exciting fare to topple the government with. Pronto, pronto all he wants Dr Debono gets. Except a ministry or a Buddhist monkdom.

Maybe that is what we should do: get Dr Gonzi and Joseph Muscat to get their intellect together – not sure if that would even come close to Dr Debono’s – and cobble together a unified government under Dr Debono. His mission: get the roundabouts out of the way or he resigns. Would give him a few more gripes to throw at his party leaders.

Anyway, off with the heads of silly politicos. Let’s stick to roundabouts. Yes, roundabouts. Let me prove my case. There are quite a few of these massive, terrible, earth-shattering, car-battering roundabouts. That is a fact no one can deny. Or am I so obsessed that I see them sprouting in all shapes and odd sizes all over the place?
Proceed slowly and take in the utter madness of these roundabouts. Ok, so get to the one – slowly because we are approaching a major roundabout – in Gżira next to what we used to call the gas tank. Now, as you approach it from St Julians on the way to Valletta, look to your left. There, most oddly, is a sign saying: “Please observe roundabout rules”.

Now this surely deserves more attention than silly ministries and other mystifyingly boring mysteries Dr Debono rants about. So, if here I am exhorted – I just love the word “please” inserted there – to obey the roundabout rules, does it mean the rest of the roundabouts in Malta can be totally and legally disregarded?

Bear with me a few more seconds. Yes, I know the traffic is slow and the roads are bad and the driving is atrocious. But, don’t worry, we will get to the end one day. So, as you meander round to the roundabout you say, ok, like the ever silly citizen I am, I shall do what I am told to do. And if you do that and obey the rules of roundabouts here you could be stuck till Dr Debono opts to topple Dr Muscat’s new government of all shades and shapes.

Assuming Dr Muscat will accept a fellow school chum who outshone him in form two grades. Or, maybe, Dr Muscat’s secret weapon of mass Nationalist Party destruction are his report sheets.

Back to the roundabout, where we were stuck for quite a while. Unless you get out of the roundabout in an unbuddhist manic panic and break the most fundamental rule of roundabouts – give way to your right – then you stand no chance of getting home or listening to your favourite parliamentary programme on time. If you are an unbeliever, next time you use that roundabout check out if you really obey the rules.
Roundabouts drive me batty. And I try hard to not drive at all – as my old battered self in my old hardened car are not fit for roads, potholed or not. These lead us all into temptation of having rampant road rage. I have managed to write about roundabouts and, in my straightforward, stable way, avoided all thoughts and words about the unmentionable crisis.

May you have an enjoyable crisis, which, as Buddha I’m sure would say, was as unnecessary as Malta’s silly roundabouts.

This article first appeared in The Times on February 3, 2012

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