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10 Nutters do Malta
September 2001 - and it's time for a holiday. Nick and friends take a week's break in Malta.
None of us, apart from Gavin, have been to Malta - this will be a new experience. Gavin spent his last years at school there - around five years ago. He's keen to see how things have changed.
We're all keen to have a break from our day jobs.
Tuesday 25th September
A direct train takes me from Milton Keynes to Gatwick, on a wet autumn afternoon. The train arrives at Gatwick at 17:00 and 10 minutes later I meet up with the rest of the Nutters. We check in and find a bar to relax and talk and drink.
are our hosts for the week. They have a A320 to fly us to Malta.
Who are JMC? They're result of Club 18-30 merging with Caledonian Airways, apparently.
We are welcomed by the heat, and a tatty visa form to complete. We collect our baggage and clear customs quickly. The luggage is bundled onto a box van - and we board a coach. We're with 50 other odd souls on our way to Bugibba. A chirpy JMC rep talks to us as the coach makes its way to Bugibba.
I do not like being chirped at at 1 o'clock in the morning.
The coach is regularly over-taken on the inside. It merrily drives though a set of red traffic lights. This is our first taste of Maltese driving!
We have booked accommodation for the ten of us. Six in one apartment, Four in another. We find the six bed apartment (D3) - twin rooms, one of which has an en-suite, bathroom, and large kitchen / lounge that overlooks the pool.
We check out the second apartment (A7). This is a more humble affair. One twin bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. The beds are narrow 2' 6" affairs. A special mention of the stoical souls that occupied the inferior accommodation: Maky, Bernie, Dave and myself, (Nick, your webmaster, editor, and tormenter of Jack.)
My immediate reaction to the cramped accommodation was "bugger this - let's find a proper hotel room tomorrow!"
The aforementioned stoical souls and Jennifer look for beer. We walk towards the sea front, 400 metres away, and find a 24 hour bar to reflect, drink, drink some more, tuck into some gateaux, drink some more, then welcome the dawn.
We wander down to the sea front. The beach is bizarre. There's no sand, just a weird eroded limestone shelf meeting clear blue seawater. Most odd.
Our group meanders back to the apartments - for an hour's sleep.
Wednesday 26th September
Organising cars and swimming at Sliema Point
The JMC rep wants the fresh batch of holiday makers to attend a presentation of what's been organised for them. We Nutters have no intention of participating in package holidays. We may be mad, but we're not sad. We do have some self-respect.
We decide to hire some cars. The rep is happy that our party will be independent. He recommends the local Avis car rental garage.
There are two cars available - a 5 door with air con, and a smaller 3 door without air con.
Bernie and I are driven to the Avis forecourt by a boy racer. Our second taste of Maltese driving.
I relish the idea of driving in this country with its mad, dangerous road users. It's like driving in London, only more so: everybody is alert, and anything goes. There remains the strong British influence. Drive on the left, familiar road signs, zebra crossings and other road markings.
The roads are well worn, and have a slippery sheen. Any moderate acceleration or braking is met with a delightful squeal from the tyres. Revving the engine, dropping the clutch, whilst turning a tight corner gives an exhilarating screech.
Bernie, Dave and the Jennies adopt the air con car: Nick, Gavin, Maky, and Rick take the other.
Jack and Andy alternate between the two. Their choice:
Rick's two way radios prove to be useful. We can keep in touch should we get split up from each other. This happens with my driving!
We drive a long the coast. After ten minutes we park up close to a rock beach near a dilapidated pier. The beach has man made pools carved from the bed rock - with clear sea water breaking over. Railing and ladders are mostly eroded or absent. Safety is a bit optional in Malta.
The Jennies buy snorkels and flippers.
Everyone enjoys a swim. The stronger ones swim across to the remains of the pier.
We return to our hotel for a siesta - some of us didn't have much sleep last night!
Gavin recommends a restaurant in St Julian's. This is a pizza place "Papparazzi" that overlooks Spinola bay.
I suggest starters - expecting garlic bread nibbles. Where I lead, others follow. We get served wonderful cheese soaked bread that would have done for the main course. Excessive! The main course pizza were equally generous.
We never ordered starters for the rest of the holiday. Food in Malta is generous. (Makes up for the bloody long wait.)
Winston Apartments Bar
Thursday 27th September
A routine forms
We fall in to a pattern of meeting up each morning for breakfast at the larger apartment. Jennifer does a good job keeping the fridge stocked.
A cup of tea, food, a chat, and a dip in the pool is a very pleasant way to start the day.
We enjoy the pool in the hotel complex. The pool is surrounded with sun-loungers, populated with "family units." The other holidaymakers look on amid mutterings of:
"Why have those two women got seven men?
They were probably apprehensive about potential drunken rowdiness, and disturbed nights. No, they would have no problems from the Nutters.
Maky camps it up a bit - just to wind up the tourists. Every time he gets into the pool, he screams like a girl.
Bernie and I planned to rise early so we could re-organise the cars. Our appointment at Avis is for 8:30. After a leisurely breakfast we get there at 10:00. We are late. It doesn't matter: we're in Malta.
We upgrade the 3 door car to a 5 door. Still no air con. Dave and Maky are added to the list of "named drivers".
The extra drivers are a useful backup, although I'm happy to drive - I enjoy the madness.
We return to Bugibba for a session in the hotel bar. Our conversations deteriorate from PGP keys to RFC's for tele-orgasmics, and beyond.
We retire to our rooms. Tonight it's the turn of one of my electronic appliances to disturb us. My radio chooses to wake us up with fading short-wave strains of "Land of Hope and Glory" emanating from my locked suitcase. Spooky.
Friday 28th September
Golden Bay and Mdina
We find a bay with sand, not rock! There's a sandy beach, with people reading Die Welt. We create out own territory with loungers and brollies.
The water is really clear. There's lots of fishes to be seen when snorkelling. The beach shelves gently - making for safe swimming.
Rick and Gavin jet ski. Rick returns shaking. "They're fast. 50 mph."
Andy looses himself in an internet cafe.
Land Rover fanatics
Dave has arranged a meeting with a couple of fellow Land Rover fanatics. We will meet them at Mdina, where there's an open air bar.
Leo and David arrive. They're easily spotted in their light coloured Landies. Beers are bought and we pass a couple of pleasant hours talking about things technical.
Both Leo and David work in IT. David works at GFI. He and I chat about Microsoft Windows, and new developments. This is much to the disgust of the others who are Linux lovers. David and I know where the money is when it comes to serious computing.
We say our goodbyes - and enter the Silent City.
Yet more old buildings prompted Jack to comment "this sucks". He liked
Saturday 29th September
We spend the morning relaxing at the hotel pool. I experiment with the snorkel mask - damned weird breathing air under water!
Cominotto Blue Lagoon
Jennifer has organised us: we have the material to make lots of sandwiches, and lots of bottled water.
The larger island of Comino is a 122 metre swim away. Most of the Nutters accomplish this feat.
The small beach has white sand and is saturated with sunbathers.
I take it easy. Sod swimming. I'm happy to be a food dispatcher - making sandwiches on request. I explore the island with Jack. The eroded cliffs are spectacular.
Jenny and Bernie play HF radios at 14:00.
The boat returns at 16:00 to pick us up. We and all the other beach babes leave - all is deserted. What must the place be like in summer?
Dave Bernie and I decide it's time to fill up with petrol. We search Bugibba - no luck. Beginning to panic, we drive to St Julian's where we eventually find a petrol station. Of course, there's another garage next to it!
Ten Lira fills the cars - the fuel is paid for first by inserting bank notes in to a machine. Different.
A respectable Chinese restaurant is found in Bugibba's tourist street. We retire early at 21:30, only to continue talking on the balconies till midnight. The weather is very warm and humid.
Sunday 30th September
Storm, cliffs and prickly pears
The weather breaks in the early hours. Lightening, thunder and heavy rain. It
even drowns out the street noise.
The Maltese government is intending to encourage a better class of tourist. They don't want their island to be the poor man's Ibiza.
Hmmmm...we're getting to know the "Club Med" ditties too...We must pay a visit to Danny DeVito's cabaret bar some time.
The Holiday Makers From Hell
Are they Italian? Glaswegian? From the North East? 8 noisy bastards are lined up on the next balcony until 04:00 - Arrrgghh!! We do not sleep.
Monday 1st October
Gozo, Boat and Imax
We visit the Imax theatre in St
Julian's. We see Into the
Deep a film about starfishes and shoals. Really a test
piece, and aimed at school kids. Although
brilliantly shot, it's not a film I'd recommend. The 3D effect in some shots is really
Somehow we loose the apartment key - an excuse to have some more beer. A new set of keys is provided - cost one Lira. (The locals call the Lira the pound. This could be confusing.)
Tuesday 2nd October
We had a quiet night! Our noisy friends have gone.
Pack and Checkout
A leisurely start - we pack our luggage and store our bags in a games room ready for the
Splash and Fun
At the airport - a waiting game. Boarding at 22:40. At 22:40 local time we learn that's the boarding time in GMT - so we have another hour to wait. Then another 1/2 hour delay because of some arbitrary reason...
Now if we knew about the delay sooner we would have have had a more leisurely look around the duty free shops - instead of waiting at the exit gate...
Wednesday 3rd October
The plane lands at 02:40. That's half an hour quicker than the scheduled journey time.
We travel while the airline industry suffers. Headlines report that Swissair, Sabina, are having a bad time. No night flights from Heathrow.
Sun, swimming and squealing tyres
Malta has lots of sun and good food. There's a strong British influence, mixed with Arabic. A friendly country.
After reading though this diary, I see we didn't do anything really extreme. Just a relaxing holiday with some friends.
Several months on, a friend comments: "So Malta's a bit of a dive then? Your web pages make the place appear real crap!"
"No, It was a really good holiday!" I retort.
On re-reading these pages I see there is the odd, rare disparaging comment. May be I am too critical. I certainly don't want to sound like some travel brochure.
We had a really good holiday! Really!
One of our many drunken arguments centred on Web Design, or more specifically, HTML creation. Some Nutters happily use a text editor, others put up with FrontPage. The important issue being that the web page should be viewable by all browsers, the bane in any web developer's life.
I, the professional Windows Developer kept quiet. I love Bill Gates: he would never let me down. "I don't do errors."
Upon my return home, having put together these "Malta Nutters" pages, I idly ran them through the HTML validator. Errors streamed out!
My arrogance and smugness is now acknowledged.
All images © N G Hubbard October 2001