A piece by Marisa Micallef Leyson in the competition caught my eye last week. She was having a good old moan about how difficult it is for kids (her word, not mine, though I'd use the same one) to get into university here.

I did something of a double-take at this, since in my real life I teach a course that is more than slightly well populated and I have to correct their exam papers, too, which is great fun when June rolls around. I have to say that the bar doesn't seem to have been set all that high for the specimens that have to endure my pedagogical skills or lack thereof, because in a sad number of cases, the absolute drivel that is churned out in the exam has to be read to be believed.

And before some wise guy says "garbage in, garbage out", let me point out that the drivel whereof I write is not in the content of what the poor lad or ladette is trying to put across but in the very means being used, the language. Quite a few of these people can't string a simple sentence together and I've invited them to do it in Maltese, too.

So I couldn't really see about what it was on which La M Leyson was going, until I read on to find out that, in essence, she was peeved because of cases about which she'd heard where Maltese, more properly the lack of an A level (or whatever it is they're called) therein, had prevented otherwise deserving students from getting in to my (and her) old Alma Mater. She was also pretty disgusted that there's some silly rule about having to get all your As in one fell swoop, which strikes me, too, as being pretty silly.

From being about to put fingers to keyboard to mock Ms M L, I've rather come around to her way of thinking, though this is mainly in connection with the "heavy" courses where getting all the As neatly lined up in a row is concerned. Isn't it about time the university big wigs got their act together and took a good long look at what is perceived as their elitism?

And I'm also rather as one with Marisa (I can call her that, we're old friends) on the Maltese thing. This insular concentration on getting a result in what is, at the end of the day, a less than earth-shatteringly useful language really has to be re-visited. There was a great big hullabaloo a couple of years ago when it was not deemed to be a sine qua non for budding legal eagles to have a Maltese A level, and I was pretty bemused by it all at the time.

Why it should be so all-fired important for science-based courses is even more beyond me and when I keep getting this sneaking feeling that all this focus on Maltese has pretty much created a generation of people who can't speak or write English to save their lives, I can't help wondering whether we haven't got our priorities in a twist.

And don't rely on me that the Maltese can't communicate in English any more: ask the people who are trying to recruit for jobs where a good command of English, even if only spoken, is essential. And have a read of quite a few columns in the English-language press: only last Sunday, a moderately well-educated columnist used "thread" where she clearly meant "tread", and it wasn't just once, either.

From on high

So there we have it: the only architect in Malta of any merit (at least, so it seems, if you go by the way he is lauded by some people) is extremely disappointed that it is being proposed that the Old Opera House site is to be turned into an open-air performance space.

This, of course, means that oodles and oodles of your cash and mine won't be thrown at the place in order to turn it into yet another derivative, self-referencing, repetitive cliché, which in and of itself is a very good reason to go the way that is being proposed.

I - and the idea wasn't mine alone - had proposed years ago that the site should be made into a Memorial Garden for all who died in war, which could also be used as a performance and exhibition space. I am sure it is not beyond the skills of an architect with talent, who is not averse to thinking outside the box, to put together a restoration plan that caters for all of this.

The idea has now been taken on board by the people who matter, our Honourable members of the House with Prime and Ministerial responsibility and it is to be hoped that they won't mess it up.

There's no reason why they should, of course, although people just love to say they do that little thing all the time.


Things are happening fast down South Street way, and for people who keep more than an occasional eye on the industrial relations scene, the architecture is changing so quickly that we're going to have to commission some architect or other to come up with a new structure.

While on the subject of the unions, bless'em, could the people who write on the subject refrain from using the plural when saying that disarray rules? The UHM and every other union except the General Workers' Union are not in disarray. It is the General Workers' Union that is, in disarray, that is, for all the frantic papering-over of the cracks that is going on all the time.

I'd love to be a fly on the wall in Mr Tony Zarb's and Mr Gejtu Mercieca's office, while they churn out the headlines for l-Orizzont to print. The one last Wednesday, after the port and transport workers' section executive committee and the section secretary resigned virtually en bloc was a peach: these gentlemen (and, having worked with many of them over the years, I use the word in its full context) resigned, according to l-Orizzont, in order to damage the General Workers' Union.

Yes, and Mr Emanuel Micallef was elbowed out because he was damaging the union and Ms Josephine Attard Sultana was given the same treatment for the same reason.

What a sorry state of affairs. What used to be the strongest union in the country is imploding even more quickly than a dwarf planet in the Galaxy Alfsantian and do you know why this is?

Well, I don't, but from where I'm sitting looks like it's because someone, somewhere, wants the moderates out of the way, so that industrial unrest will be fomented. Who the someone is and where he is sitting is a question to which I am morally convinced I have the answer, but unlike Doctor Alfred Sant, I don't think that simply being morally convinced gives me the right to make assertions that are not fully backed up by facts.

No doubt, I will now be listed among those who make fascist-style attacks on the General Workers' Union. I will survive.

(Editor's note: This segment was written before the resignation of Mr Karmenu Vella and the executive of the media and services section of the GWU.)

Nosh news

I have little to report this week on the face-stuffing front, since we went to places about which I've written before and I don't want to be repetitive.

We did go to one new place, not a million miles from Chez Beck, where you get fed excellent stuff by a learned peasant in shorts and a vest, but it isn't open to the public, so I can't really write about it. And, anyway, the hand that chucks the meat also wields the blue pencil, so I have to be very, very nice, as well as duly (and genuinely) appreciative.

Also not a million miles from home is Corinthia's Pizza Pasta and Enough summer eatery, where the pizza is excellent and the service more so, with a smile even. Such a nice change, and you can also smoke there, so Dr Joe Mifsud might want to have his next press conference there, lest the Health Department does an Al Capone on him.

And I'm pleased to report that the people from Two and Half Lemon wrote to me to disassociate themselves totally from that pathetic e-mail I reported on last week and, even more pleasing, is the fact that they've taken note of some of my moans and are doing something about it.

I am under no illusion that it is the fact that I moaned that did it, of course, but it is encouraging that efforts are made to improve, which means I will be back there to have what was always a very good steak.

And for a good pizza, we'll be going back too to Il-Pitch, the diner at the Marsascala Waterpolo Club, which was pdg last Wednesday.

Don't forget the percussion show this evening at Verdala: tickets might still be available at St James.


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