Every month I correspond with the accounts department of this newspaper, and thanks to this exchange of e-mails, month in, month out, for more than a decade now, I’ve kept in touch with reliable, dependable Roberta. Aside from the boring invoicing, we get to brief each other about the little ups and downs of our lives.
This winter, my e-mails have had their fair share of lamentation on the weather – the never-ending cold spells have made me miserable indeed. In our mail last month – the week after that hurricane storm – she told me by way of encouragement that “when we speak again it will be spring”.
Ah, Roberta, I am not so sure! Spring is next week and I am typing this while embracing my hot water bottle. This has been the most wretched of winters. Arctic outside, icy inside; biting chill silently but cruelly creeping under my skin, and making my bones rattle and my body shiver.
I shouldn’t shiver really; while googling ‘how to keep warm’ I came across a report by the Wilderness Medical Centre in Utah, US, which says that trembling because of the cold won’t make you feel warmer. They also suggest that hot toddies are not as efficient either. Spoilsports! They clearly never conducted their research in a Maltese house.
All winter we’ve been trying to figure out how to make the house warmer – our gas heaters went on in November and we practically haven’t switched them off, except whenever there’s a newsflash of a fire caused by a gas heater malfunction, and we mutter, “erm, um, we really should switch them off for a bit”.
We have been wearing layers upon layers and walking around the house like beefy Michelin men – if we had to do a Joe Cocker stint, it would take us three days and three nights to get to the stage when we’ll only have the hat on, and by then we’ll be suffering from a serious case of hypothermia.
We’ve rolled up towels under the old doors as draft stoppers, but the wind finds other cracks to come through. We’ve been spending more time upstairs, because it is said that hot air rises, but I think we need to get a ladder and camp by the skylight. We have a stock of blankets in every corner of the house to wrap up in at every chance, which means when the doorbell rings, people are greeted by fleece tepees.
I know we are the leaving the EU. But I think we should be friends
We’ve been practically inventing excuses to put the oven on and then eating whatever is cooked to pile on layers of fat… and yet the cold just does not go away.
Is this what Maltese winters are going to be like from now on? And how come the stepson, texting from the usually damp, dull, frigid Brussels, was telling us that it was sunny and actually almost unbearably hot there?
The weather has gone truly topsy-turvy, and all the while, leaders around the world pussyfoot and hum and haw and talk about a million other things.
Thank goodness then that the young generation are on it and that on Friday, 16-year-old Greta Thunberg and thousands of other students from over 70 countries – including glory be, Maltese ones – stopped their lessons, held special assemblies, stood with homemade banners and went on a lesson’s strike to demand politicians to urgently act on climate change.
If the winters of future years are going to be anything like this year’s we really will need to start considering installing a national central heating system. It’s either that or this time next year Roberta will be getting my e-mails from my deckchair in a Brussels park.
Speaking of Brussels reminds me of that other thing as miserable as the weather this year – Brexit. The confusion and the mess keeps growing by the second. Prime Minister Theresa May may have lost her voice, but others keep finding it and speaking out.
The other day, the BBC interviewed a priest in a pub and he gave the most passionate of arguments I’ve ever heard. “The first referendum was based on lies, people are now realising that they’ve been taken in, which is why we need a second referendum,” he said emphatically. I could just imagine him on the Sunday pulpit waving the EU flag urging everyone to Remain. (If only we had brave priests like him speak out on television against government political corruption).
His argument was based on the chaos he’s seeing in the community – factories closing down, jobs lost, poverty on the increase and relationships breaking down. The latter is shockingly true. Stats show that rows over Brexit have ended 1.6 million relationships across the UK since the EU referendum in 2016. The UK’s largest family law organisation, Resolution, said that lawyers were constantly coming across a number of families who are splitting up “[couples] fell out in a big way because one voted for Remain and one for Leave”.
The mayhem has seeped into all strata. I’d catch my daughter every now and again chuckling while reading The Beano comic, at puns and jokes about Brexit. There’s no doubt about it – Brexit is clearly affecting children too.
Last week, Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, received a handwritten letter from a six-year-old girl called Sophie.
“Dear Mr Tusk,” she wrote, “I live in Britain. I know we are the leaving the EU. But I think we should be friends. Please, may I have a signed photo of you for my Europe Book. From Sophie, aged 6.”
She ended her letter by telling him that she had drawn the squiggly little unicorn at the bottom of the page. “I have drawn you a unicorn,” she wrote.
Ancient myths tell us that unicorns grant wishes to those pure of heart. Sophie’s unicorn is probably the only hope in this Brexit mess.
This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece
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