Too many incidents…

incident

Sadly, these last weeks have seen a spate of driving incidents which have left a number of victims on the road. Debating whether any could have been saved is a moot point.

Speaking as somebody who has also from time to time twisted the throttle wide open, or mashed that pedal to the metal, we must understand, that there is a road speed limit for a reason.

That limit, simply cannot be broken because anyone thinks it is okay to go ‘slightly over the limit’.
Everyone knows that in reality, if we must stand up and allow ourselves to be counted, it is not ‘slightly’ over the limit. The scream of bike engines early mornings on any given Sunday is impressively frightening.
We both know the power to weight ratio bikes generate, and the thrill of speed is unparalleled. But, this must be done in a safer environment than the road. So bikers say … we need a track. For tracks we need safety features, such as an on-site ambulance. Thus this will make it more expensive than simply going out for a ride. I am sure I am going to catch much flak from my statements, but eventually, as long as I am simply pointing out the truth, nobody should even consider complaining. Tracks have run-offs… Roads don’t.
One thing is sure. We simply cannot keep losing young people to a hobby or a sport … Although what I am going to say is not intended for those who lost their lives recently, we must all admit that yes, sometimes we have gone over the limit.
I personally watched three incredible accidents last year, while with my daughter…. all on the runway ring road… and I must say that the two deaths I saw were the fault of the riders who were on the other side of a single carriageway.
One of the riders was on a scooter which was absolutely flattened, and the other one slipped past a truck/bus only to find a car…
If anyone recalls, there was the other incident where the rider was nearly flattened by bricks which broke free from a truck. Pure bad luck.

It is too easy for us to blame the roads, the barriers or the government (whatever crowd is there)…. and while it may be true that those barriers are death traps. we must admit that the roads are not meant for speeding.

They are just for getting from A to B. Let’s buckle down and show more responsibility. A 60km/h limit is crippling bikers and drivers, but we have shorter roads and finally must abide by the law.

We all know that on bikes, our bodies are the chassis, as I, personally, know all too well.

 

Take absolute care, and keep safe.

Sick!

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Well, it had to happen eventually, and I am only surprised it didn’t occur earlier.

Of course I am referring to the dreaded flu’ bug which usually kicks me in the nuts around Christmas. However there are a lot of sick people around and with so many sniffles, and so, it had to grab me.

I hate it when I am thus indisposed. I can take a couple of days off work, but to be stuck inside without hope of venturing outdoors sucks big-time.

“But you love reading and watching movies and listening to music!!!” You might say.

True enough… but not when you have a high temperature. Ah well, I’ll just have to ride it out…

To go electric?

For many years now, the constant rise of the road-tax (or license as we call it here), has made me wonder many times why I put up with it?

As somebody who is not a real car fan (unless it is Formula1 racing!), I am at great pains to really work out why a 3-metre tiny car with a Euro5 emission rated engine should pay nearly three hundred euros for a road-tax, which, added to the approximately two hundred euro insurance, brings the total amount to nearly five hundred Euros.

I have no doubt that it is a deterrent so that people will no longer buy imported cars from second hand dealers, but obviously enough, fill the already rich local new-car importers with more money.

Be that as it may, a car is always good for emergencies, and seeing that the local bus service is nothing to write home about, it is indispensable. (Catching a bus from Tarxien is like fishing. You KNOW the buses are there, or will snare you at some time, but planning is nigh in impossible.

I don’t want to hear excuses on how things are better now (untrue), or how they have improved greatly (another lie). When a bus sign at a stop says that the bus will be there at 5.07, I EXPECT the bus to be there at seven minutes past the hour. Other countries can do it. Then again, this is Malta.

OK, so in substitution of a car, or the bus, what else can I do? I love cycling. The minor altercation with a Qash-Qai last year left me shaken for many months. The sight of my bedraggled bike in the corner of the garage did not inspire that much confidence to get into the saddle once again.

I repaired the damage, and although the bicycle looked pristine once again, I still had problems in addressing the not unsubstantial step of once again venturing into the roads.

The past month has seen me looking around, thus, for alternate transport. Not because I need to, but because I want to. And going electric has intrigued me for many years now. Sure, I understand that with electric, the waste is going to be generated at a different source, in effect, minimizing somewhat the carbon footprint saving. (I am already doing much of that with electricity generation and solar water heating.)

To me, however, the pure pleasure of cycling, boosted with electrical power when required is unrivaled. Let’s not go into the financial aspect. My daily commute is mercifully very short, so apart from my weekend jaunts, fuel consumption is not something I am overly worried about. I perhaps use up twenty euros of fuel every fortnight, if even that much.

It is the knowledge rather that we are moving on from burning fossil fuel at secondary source.

I have thus taken a decision that in the future months, I will build an electric vehicle. It might not take the form of a bicycle, as indeed, I have a scooter which takes me places very efficiently, but perhaps not the best option for hills.

Malta is, after all, a quite hilly country which does not lend itself exactly brilliantly to car-less commuting.

So yeah, I am researching on how to put together an electric machine for personal use. The scooter is the first step as it is light, portable, fold-able, and easily adaptable to what I have in mind.

Plans have been thought up and drawn. Let’s see how it goes.

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Busy Saturday!

Yeah, I know, Sunday today, but I thought I would pause to let some of yesterday’s many surprises sink in.

First of all we had the Amon Amarth tickets booked. My daughter, being an ardent Metal fan like myself, was over the moon, and I have to admit that I have longed to see the band live.

The fact that the show is in Italy, a few minutes away from the airport is a great bonus, as are the Ryanair flights directly to Bologna.

Following that was the excellent news that our dear friend Franco will be joining us for the show.

A meeting was thus necessary and it was to be that we watched the Juventus – Atalanta match together. An easy 3-1 win and a pleasant chat (some chat – 4 hours!), and it reminded me of how we have bonded so much over the years. A true friend indeed.

Another huge shock was seeing Rachel walk up the stairs in a daze, holding a brand new iPhone7 in her hands… Her boyfriend saw fit to buy her a new phone as the old one’s battery was barely holding up.

At night then, I had the, uh.. unexpected pleasure of having to sleep on the sofa with our two cats who were terrified of the lightning and thunder which hit the islands. I slept all crooked and a number of claw marks decorate my arms and chest. Still, they were like hot water bottles, and I love them… so what can I say really?

The wife seems to be coming down with a tummy bug, and has made the bathroom her dominion for the time being. It means no going out on Sunday, but I can take it. I love my TV room, my computers, YouTube in the background on my splendid XBOX ONE … it will provide ample rest and to continue work on my ‘movie project’ for the time being.

Have a great Sunday!

Live Long and Prosper

Spend! Spend! Spend!

Today, I am touching a subject which is to everyone’s heart. Money! (Or the lack of it!)

Granted, today we live in a consumer-centric society, and that the onus is to contribute more to the coffers of capitalism, but sometimes there are times when one has simply to stop and take stock of a situation that ultimately, threatens to run away with him.

I am of course, talking about the spending which occurs from the end of November to the end of December. Starting from the Black Friday deals all around the world, right up to the Christmas holidays and the New Year celebrations, people from all walks of life splash out on far more money than they have accumulated over the same period.

And let’s face it… some of the things on your wishlist suddenly become far more affordable than they could ever be. When is the best time to splash out if not on Black Friday? It’s true. I have fallen into the trap more than once myself. As an ardent gamer, I cannot resist really good deals. It’s inherent in all of us.

But are we really saving money? Is that gadget, service, whatever, really important to you? Will this purchase relieve you of a pressing desire or need? And most of all can we afford to buy this item instead of, say, food? Or clothing? Education even?

This goes on right through the Christmas season when it is customary for families to relax their grip on the kitty. Mothers and Fathers look on these occasions as the time of the year when it’s the ‘Time to be jolly, and forget the woes of a hard year.’

I tend to disagree. Many families splash out on expensive gifts, outings, meals with friends, using the same money they have worked so hard to put aside. While nothing illegal, it is totally illogical. You spend months slaving to save money only to splash it out on gifts which will (in my opinion) never make it past the first week of January?

This is nothing but madness. I am not adding to the mix something else entirely. People borrowing money via ‘soft loans’ on their credit cards. Money which has an insane interest on it, and where the minimum payment will not even scratch the surface.

It is quite common here in our country to talk to people who admit to having two debit cards each. Since it is laughably way to buy stuff online (you never SEE the money go out), we see families burdened with a ‘soft loan’ of around three thousand euros with little chance of paying it out completely.

So yeah, I could be called a grinch, but we are losing our ability to think clearly and realize that this constant bombardment of advertising is pushing us to limits that we will finally admit to have passed so many years back.

As an inquisitive person, I also nosed around to see what colleagues think about saving. Sadly, very little do any saving at all. And it’s not only because of the miserly pittance that passes as wages here, but also because we have lost the capability to do so.

Everybody wants a new car, a new computer, a new hair-do every week, nail technicians, gym memberships, a new mobile every year… but can we really afford them?

We are living beyond our means. WAY beyond it.

I cannot accept that. I cannot live in peace, laying my head on the pillow every night knowing that if the shit hits the fan, I cannot provide.

Sure, I spend money like everybody else, but at least, and this is thanks to a priceless lesson from a colleague at work, I first put away an amount of money from my salary for a rainy day, THEN a smaller amount for us to enjoy. After all, life is not all about work and saving. It’s about having the financial capability to make it through when the going gets tough, but also living comfortably.

And utilizing micro-management (for which an article will appear tomorrow), we are not only living better, we are also saving money easily. EASILY.

Live long and prosper.

A week’s incarceration…

It’s been nearly 9 days since I started feeling a bit iffy… I had prepared myself with loads of real Vitamin C from real fruits, been careful not get caught in rainy weather, but nothing can convince me that influenza is not brought about by viruses.

Since being unceremoniously handed an HR related role at work, I need to naturally keep in contact with a load of people, mostly operators, nearly all of them girls.

Now as can be imagined, January has seen a dreaded attack of the snuffles here in Malta. Just as luck would have it, both girls I was training 9 days ago were still waaay out of order to attend work. Needless to say, being in close proximity to them while teaching them soldering has severely hit me….

Three days of incubation, and there I was on a Sunday, wheezing like a pet snake without a hiss… the previous years have been heavy on me. Why?

It is a known fact that I suffer from Ankylosing Spondilytis, well under control with inoculations, some chemotherapy, and a lot of care and attention. The chemo in form of pills, naturally robs your body of the much needed antibodies…

Actually these antibodies are the feckin problem in my life. The bad bugs attack the good bugs, preventing them from doing the work, ie… healing.

That is where the inoculations come in…

However, I am living comfortably with this treatment, and I have not had a day of sick, related to my back, for over 15 months now…. brilliant!

Last year though I had this terrible chest infection (remember, I have no immune system, even a bruise takes ten days to fade away), where I simply could not even laugh without fainting due to loss of oxygen in my brain.

This year, fortunately, due to my pre-emptive strike of taking antibiotics and even more steroids, I have evaded this fate. My doctor said that five days inside, taking it easy, would enable me to make a good recovery. I talked him out of it, insisting that after three days I would be good enough.

So it was that yesterday I called him, and boy was he pissed at me… “Didn’t I tell you that you need five days of total rest?”

Ah well… he does know best.

But I am so bored in here… it’s incarceration in a top hotel… that’s what it feels like.

I have every conceivable gadget, huge TV, massive sound system, lovely tv room with xbox, blu-ray, computers everywhere… but I find myself wandering to the kitchen and look longingly at people simply walking in the street.

Can’t wait til I get out!

To boldly go…

   Every year in Malta, something out of the ordinary occurs, unprecedented on the scale, and possible elsewhere only because of the huge amounts of populace in a country. Mid-September is when it happens, and this mass congregation is nothing short of stupendous.

   For those attending this event, now over sixty years old and increasing in popularity year by year, it is nothing if not an extraordinary experience. Should I decide to do it once again, it would be my 25th participation.

   I am, of couse, referring to the Cycling Pilgrimage that takes place a week or so prior to the celebration of ‘Our Lady of Graces’, or ‘Tal-Grazzja’ as it is called here.

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   Thousands upon thousands of cyclists of all ages congregate at Rabat to wind down to Zabbar, a cacophony of colour, noise, mix of bikes, creeds, religions, sentiments, and of course crazy fun.

   Some eight years ago, falling badly ill, it seemed as if it was the end of not only my ‘walking life’, but pretty much everything else associated with the vertical. Until a cure, or a slowdown was available, I found it was difficult to do much, and essentially, my life as a mobile person was over. I needed to depend on others to do even the bare necessities.

   So even thinking about once again ever participating in this ride was as far removed from my mind as reaching for the moon. There… but not for the taking.

   After a year, I began to improve health-wise. I started taking to the bicycle once again. As a cycling nut, I couldn’t resist the lure of my trusty steed. I recall March being the month of my rennaisance.

   When September came, and with it the first pangs of remembrance, I decided to take a gamble and try the pilgrimage once more. I wasn’t even mentally prepared for it, less alone physically. Cycling up to Rabat leaving home at 6am was definitely off the cards. So I drove up to Zabbar in my old van, with the bike safely ensconed in it. Buses took us up to Rabat, with trucks taking the bikes.

   The pace on these things is obviously quite slow, and I started out only with the greatest fear, but as the miles sped by beneath my wheels, seeing thousands of people egging us on, my heart began to soar. I could do this. I actually began sobbing with happiness as this new found courage flowed and encouraged me onward…

   As we arrived close to our destination, the crowds swelled immeasurably, and I could recognize family, friends and colleagues on the sidelines who knew what I had been going through. Their shouts of encouragement was way more adrenaline than I needed. It spurred me on.

   I will always recall that day as my new birth. So this year, while undecided whether to attend or not, I will still probably rush down to the garage and grab my bike for this outrageous event once again…

   … to boldly go

The great PN-PL debate… and why they are not worth our time!

It looks as if this country can never get anything right, or rather, its’ politicians are hell bent for leather on self-destruction. 

The latest two skirmishes now are on the much-vaunted and much-maligned buses and their routes, and a recent leasing of a hospital by the government.

Let’s start with the bendy-buses. London Mayor Boris Johnson has been widely quoted as saying ‘he was “delighted” they were clogging up the streets of Malta‘. 

Now while I am truly disgusted and surprised at the services offered by Arriva in this country, I thought it was pretty poor form by the Mayor, who introduced these buses himself, and is now rather in a hurry to shift talk to who inherited them. As to why Mr.Johnson really needed these buses on most of London’s tortuous, winding roads, only God knows. An idiot could tell you that they were unsuitable for London except for the most far-flung routes… such as going from the centre of London Town to Zone6 areas, such as Hampton court.

As it is, Londoners rarely use buses (own experience), and use the quite efficient underground system most of the time. At the prices the bus carriers in England charge, it is hardly surprising. The equivalent of 3Euro for a bus trip from Tarxien to Marsa is the norm. And that is not a day ticket either.

Most buses are scratched, dirty, ramshackle affairs…. I recall them being called ‘bone-shakers’ by none-too-kind detractors of the system.

Now, obviously, all is laid on the step of Dr.Austin Gatt, minister of transport. Whether it is fair or not, I cannot comment, but what I do know is that in this little country of ours, a smattering of common sense could go a long way.

If the authorities had insisted that we keep the ‘Hub System’ in place, utilising central places for larger transportation of commuters at one go, this problem would never have arisen.

But the average Maltese Joe is a paragon of moaning. It is difficult for the normal person to accept change. Especially the elderly…I’ve seen more lenient donkeys and asses. So we were back to the old system. Nothing bad in itself, if only the bloody buses could keep to their schedule. How difficult can that be? Every 15 or twenty minutes, a bus HAS to leave the terminus, whether full or not.

There is no need to say that the incumbent power-hungry party in opposition, is taking full advantage of this situation, and jumping on the bandwagon. Only a day after Mr.Johnson’s now famous remark, billboards are appearing all over the island with hilarious slogans on them. According to the PL, they will wave their magic wands and ‘Stupefy’ everyone with their efficiency once in power.

An ardent PL supporter pointed out to me that once PL will be in power (a hardly surprising bet…) they will send Arriva packing. I am sure that he has a logistical plan in place…

St.Philip Hospital. Ah! The much talked over hospital lease. this week we heard on the news that following huge congestions in the new(ish) Mater Dei hospital, the government has decided to lease a private hospital that had gone out of business. In truth this hospital was being used for rehabilitation purposes already.

So when the government decided to fully lease this building, one can imagine that the opposition, once again, disagreed. I don’t know if the fact that now, two hundred beds will be used for rehabilitation, freeing the general hospital occupancy.

For those who are not from these islands, let me just point out in passing, that in our little country, we have a state of the art hospital, with free health care for everyone. I doubt many countries can offer the same as little Malta. But I digress…

So obviously, despite getting the lease for what I think is a decent price for the amount of years it will be in possession of the local health care authorities, the opposition, once more, disagrees. ( I dare say that the spokesperson for Health for the PL is not even up-to-date with the proceedings!)

And this, my friends, is the local political scene….

PN does one thing, and no matter what it is, the PL disagrees. And the PL says one thing, and the PN says it is wrong… the middle-of-the-road approach has long left the country, together with any semblence of dignity by our members of parliament.

…the same members who spend half a year on extended leave, but still getting paid from our taxes. I don’t know about you lot, but I don’t call these people my representatives…

(PS. due to my now long-standing health problems, much of my weekend mornings are spent in Mater Dei. Truthfully, I have rarely noted this congestion, and have always been treated extremely well. I have nothing but praise for the tireless hospital staff. Of course, you will find a rotten egg in any basket. I DO agree however that beds are sometimes being occupied in vain after clinical interventions, and I DO believe that the opening of St.Philip Hospital will be an added boon. Nothing’s perfect… but then, what is?)