The taxi driver was there to meet me, printed board, even had the word Captain, I felt quite important. Car was just a short walk away, window down, no air conditioning and off we went. How far is it to St Julians I asked. ‘Depends on the traffic’ he half grunted, smiling at the same time, ‘not long’.
He was about 25, smartishly dressed with collar and tie and proper shoes (that makes me sound old), round faced and leaning toward chubbiness. He wasn’t that chatty but maybe his English wasn’t as good as he’d like. They drive on the left in Malta and from a distance, it seemed to be ordered. Driver’s driving however was more Italian than anything else and we lurched aggressively form lane to lane, inches from the vehicles around us, especially those in front. His control inputs were large and without subtlety, a G suit would have been useful, as would a 4 point seat belt. Oddly, I didn’t feel threatened and sat there trying to take in the scenery whizzing by. Lots of sandstone block, lots of them, even in the newer buildings but that was about the all the detail I could glean from my erratically moving viewpoint. The place seemed even more congested and overpopulated than London. Less threatening though.
After a while things seemed to ease a bit, the gap between us and the lorry in front had opened up to nearly a foot and I had a question. ‘Is St Julians an area within Valletta?’ I asked. A brief pause while driver eased us between two Fiats with about 5 mm to spare, ‘No’ he relied tersely, ‘it’s a different town near but far away’, a pause and then with great feeling and finality, ‘I don’t like Valletta.’
He turned his head toward me, the first time he’d taken his eyes from the road, and screwed up his face in disgust, ‘Because it’s old’. I looked ahead, noticed the white Toyota’s boot approach very rapidly towards us and felt every day of my 2 years.