When Jacob is away, the house gets sullen. The clock finds its voice. The hum of the PCs is louder. Toys are limp, the garden looks windswept and ruffled, piles of dirty plates pile in the sink.Max cannot quite remember what it was like before Jacob arrived. For sure, he had more time to think, more time to spend with Liz, just more time. Max tries to think of what he did with all the time he had. Max hears Jacob rush in downstairs, with his carer Joyce a few paces behind, in full chase. Max doesn’t have to think any more.
Max is trying to work. He is in the middle of drafting an e-business strategy for an English Language School. It is a difficult time, work is not plentiful and Max is running late. Worse, Max is experiencing writer’s block. He is spending an inappropriate amount of time reading other people’s blogs and day-dreaming.And this morning, Liz decided to get Joe, the Siggiewi handyman, to do building work on the garden. Max scrambled the Internet to look for good news. He may have found it in The Times’ snippet on the Siggiewi road. To say that the track to Siggiewi is a disgrace is an understatement. Max has lost hub caps, had a door damaged by a piece of flying rock and probably dislocated a couple of discs in his twisted spine in return for the pleasure of driving through the moon craters. Now Government appears to have a change of heart and is planning to sort out the 2.5km track from the Zebbug roundabout to Max’s home. Max remembers there was a time in his life when he didn’t worry about road surfaces, when he used to drive decent cars and didn’t drive every day in fear of his life. Max tries to remember that he returned to Malta for the ‘quality of life’. Yesterday Max met a lawyer who deals with ‘high value individuals who occasionally wish to use Malta for fiscal purposes.’ The lawyer said that he only ever fllies in his clients on private jet and preferably at night ‘so they don’t see the dump I’ve landed them in.’ Max thinks that the high value individuals could do worse than land on Malta’s most significant man-made asset.Here it is…
Monday morning under a watery sun. It’s suddenly got cold. Max is still running barefoot in his room, but his toes are curling up.Max has just made himself an early grey tea and half a toasted baguette with Mexican cheese. Max is getting a pot belly. He derives some comfort in an article in the Observer on French women’s eating habits . Max thinks that if it works for French babes, it should work for middle-aged, angsted Maltese blokes. Max is trying to finish off a piece of work, but his mind, like always, on Mondays, is elsewhere. Max has been in touch with an old friend from his London days. Colin Cumming has morphed from an IT specialist into a full-time farmer in New Zealand. In Colin’s words… “I am currently a gentleman farmer having hung up my Air Miles boots.” Max thinks he would have like to have spent his life investigating the eating habits of attractive young women around the world. Though how this would not have led to an increase in waist-line in lonely drinks in the hotel bar is another thing… Max thinks he needs to get a life.
Dinner wasn’t so bad after all…
Max tuned into BBC 6 Music and heard a guy call in to say that he had just quit work because he couldn’t be bothered any more.Today is a time for burials. Arafat’s body was buried in the usual chaos of Ramallah, and John Peel got the star treatment in Bury, St.Edmonds in Suffolk. The US are still pounding Falluja. And a six year-old in Miami was shot by police with a sten gun because he had locked himself in his principal’s room and was starting to cut himself with a shard of glass. Liz has spent the afternoon optimising pictures of Jacob on PhotoShop to get some prints for her room. Max sometimes thinks it is better to remain holed up in Siggiewi than face the outside world.
The play is fading fast from the memory banks. The space it occupied is being replaced by a mesh of panic and rational thoughts about mid-life crises and being equipped for a rainy day.The rainy day is here. All around Max, Malta seems to be rushing to a job, a business deal or a hobby. Max knows this is just a phase. He has no idea how long it will last, but he will come out of it. He always does. Max escaped his office for a couple of hours in the morning, using the ‘need to deposit a cheque’ as an excuse to get away from the racket of breakfast and Jacob resisting porridge. Max bumped into his brother, the journalist. Herman’s mobile kept on ringing. Herman is chasing a story about illegal migrants being used by Maltese building contractors as slave labour. Herman paid for the cappuccino. Max is listening to a Radio 1 special on ‘the worst songs ever’. Celine Dion has her rightful place in the hall of shame, together with Mr Blobby… Somehow, all the songs made it to Number 1 at some stage. Max always knew that the world has no taste when it comes to recognising talent.
A snapshot of Dinner
Mondays trigger all sorts of crises for Max.This particular Monday, he has to turn his back on the escape offered by theatre, and go back to facing his old demons. Where will the next piece of work come from? Will he need to relocate? Can he finish off the long-standing project or is he just too tired or bored to continue? Why does he always end up alone? Where does the money one pays on insurances actually go to? Why was he born on a Monday? Why does nothing last? Max takes a deep breath, walks around his room and tries to think of an empty beach.
Max was woken up at 5am by Jacob asking for his train set.By the time Max ventured to go downstairs at 8am, Max had worked his way through several dreams that involved Lars preparing to wear his white shirt for the last time. The first crit of Dinner surfaced in the Sunday Times, and it was not great. Nobody escaped retribution, with the exception of Irene, whom Max thinks the 70 year-old critic actually fancies. The critic said that many of Max’s lines were lost because of a lack of projection. Liz is having problems dealing with Jacob. This morning he has uprooted plants, spilled tea on Pickles the bear, followed her up a ladder as she was trying to trim an overgrown shrub, skidded, fallen, put raw black olives into his trouser pockets, blocked the exit to the house when Liz tried to go to the stationer. Liz is going to watch Max do his thing on final night. Max is going to belt it out tonight.
Yesterday, Dinner played to a full house.Max thinks he did an OK job. Sure, there was that awful moment when he slipped on the fifth step as he came in to hand Page her divorce papers. Or the split second where he got the wrong line when Page was waiting to knee him in the balls. Or the minute up to curtain call when he almost dried up. But Max is coping. He is holding his own. He will hold his own for two more nights. In the aftermath of the play, at the Castille Vaults, Max found himself speaking to a chap called Jeffrey, a dentist by day and an MP by night. Max found it hard not to be rude about Government, politics, partisanship, the proposed replacement of the Opera House by a new Parliament building, public tendering processes, Malta centre of the fucking Mediterranean. Today, Max did what he normally does on Saturdays. He played trains with Jacob. He took Jacob to Saracino for a muffin and cappuccino. He took Jacob to San Anton to look at the caged peacock and throw scorn on a system that still thinks it is acceptable to keep beautiful animals in cages. Max got home and found out that the Inland Revenue is demanding more money from him for a ‘late payment of provisional tax’. Max wonders what kind of human being becomes a Tax Inspector. Max is trying not to think of what lies beyond Dinner.
Now that George Bush is back for four more years.Now that Iraq will continue to be raped and pillaged for oil and guns and anything goes for a piece of media attention Now that NYC people feel more disenfranchised than ever, when nobody in NYC claims to know anyone who voted for GWB Now that Michael Moore has to find something else to harp about for the next four years Now that America seems to feel more safe or smug or beseiged or that terrorists have been banished to the other, outside world, on different time zones outside the border of the homeland Max thinks that now is the time for Malta to make its claim as the centre of the world, the blog spot in the centre of the Mediterranean sea in the centre of Planet Earth, small, rudderless, non-threatening, ancient, pot-holed, sentient, rotten, dry, flooded, cored. Max’s PC hard disk has died, Jacob is away at a party, Liz is wearing hipsters, the storms have abated for a night, Soma FM is mulling in the background, Arafat is in a coma, Mutu is waiting for a ban for smoking cocaine to enhance his sex life, MPs are debating whether to turn the formal Opera House into the new house for MPs, at the taxpayer’s expense. Max is preparing for the final weekend for Dinner. Max is not scared any more.
This is a country of extremes. It’s either a neurosis of heat, or languishing under the flood gates.The rains came last night at 10.30, just as a beseiged AC Milan caved in to a Ronaldinho piece of wizardry and lost 2-1 to Barcelona. Max then had to drive Frank back to his house in the Three Cities, say goodbye (Frank was leaving for Germany) and commence his journey back to Siggiewi. By the time he got to Qormi, the wheels of Polo were finding difficulty in remaining glued to the ground. Visibility was down to a couple of feet. What remained of the road was a grey river of slime and loose stones. The headlights of the car ahead vanished and reappeared like a limp Christmas tree. By the time Max got home, his hands were shaking. Max has spent the morning looking at leaks and restarting his computer. Jacob’s potty is an emergency receptacle for a leak in the bathroom. Jacob has retreated to Max’s study to watch Thomas the Tank Engine for the 400th time. Max has just found out that George W. Bush will be the US president for the next 4 years. Max thinks that the whole world appears to have sprung a leak