Mein Schiff sounds its horn, three long blasts, shattering the peace in the Grand Harbour and dropping me from my hammock. The last of the Harvest Moon lights up a derelict Fort Ricasoli, her orange beams dance across the black harbour water. 80s music blares as the behemoth liner leaves the port for some other touristic destination, its occupants gorging themselves into a giddy, floating all-you-can-eat orgy of consumption.
A storm is rolling in. A black patch in the night sky flashes and rumbles over the tanker lit horizon. The wind picked up and within minutes the storm reached the tip of Valletta. I climbed to the roof, stood there and watched the city-scape light up; flat roofs, church domes, satellite dishes, TV aerials, solar panels, water tanks. And tower-cranes.
As my eyes settle on a yellow tower-crane rising out of Barbara Bastions my mind drifted to the Dinner in the Sky (The out of this world dining experience). Are they open tonight? I hope so. Is that crane-raised platform a faraday cage? I hope not. Lightening charred Sausage will stink (but I hear it’s a delicacy in remote parts of Spain…)
You’ve probably heard of, perhaps even tried this “extraordinary aerial culinary experience in the heart of Malta’s capital”. A crane, perched in Herbert Ganado Gardens, lifts a trough of strapped-in diners, dangles them 40 meters up and feeds them a five course meal with wine pairing. How exciting. Just the touch of class Valletta’s skyline needed in the run up to its assuming the mantle of Europe’s Capital of Culture. From Senglea it looks like a disco-ball, casting rays of cheese all over the dance floor. How exciting.
Dinner in the Sky is a gimmick born of boredom. I get it, but I don’t, then again I haven’t tried it, and I most likely won’t. I am sure the food is good, but Herbert Ganado Gardens is nice enough from the ground, and that crane… I suspect there exists some sordid national fetish: crane objectophilia.
Cranes as far as the eye can see: evidence of a nation’s development. I wonder how many cranes actually exist on these islands? Where are they all kept? Can I get one from Lidl? Are we to be hoisted by our own crane?
For years we heard Fat-Heads bellow at mass meetings: Malta should become more European, Malta should become more like Dubai, Malta should be become more Singapore. Why? Can’t Malta become more like… Malta? Maybe this is Malta: appropriating things in a (uniquely mediocre) Maltese manner.
Always looking elsewhere to cure a decades old identity crisis, in June 2014 Prime Minister Joseph Muscat announced his government would make Malta “the next Singapore or Dubai”. Dubaification. As role models go these are curious.
Dubai is built on lashings to the backs of migrant labourers. Singapore was formed by 50 years of “benevolent” dictatorship. Might it be that all our benevolent leaders see, in these models of progress and development, are tall, shiny buildings and cranes the means to this end?
If as Noel Coward said “the higher the building the lower the morals”, then don’t we need higher buildings? I guess we are witnessing the answer to that question, via the approval of both the Town Square Project and the four towering stacks of dirty dishes in Mriehel.
”How many cranes, oh lord? How many more?”
“A lot.” a voice declares.
“True.” I thought.
We all know what happened when, under the Gonzi administration the construction industry was (ever so slightly) reigned in. Industry players kicked up a fuss - where were they going to keep all those flaccid cranes? They tend to get in the way, especially if you live in a post-nineties flat.
In solidarity with their plight the Labour Party allowed the erection of all and any Maltese cranes. What a sight! A colourful flock of cranes, towering over our island, craning their necks into every corner: progress, development.
You can’t hit the brakes on an important economic driver without a seatbelt: inertia is a bitch. Too many people make their living from construction, stalling it without a concrete alternative is plain silly. But hitching our cart only to this horse is also folly.
Does anybody know how many cranes there are?
The competent authority maintains a database of tower-cranes currently erected at places of work, examined and certified safe as required by law. Currently there are 132 tower-cranes listed in their database. The Authority has a record of 132 examination certificates: there is no legal obligation for deployers of cranes to forward these certificates to the authority. This makes determining exactly how many cranes are flying at any given moment impossible.
The Planning Authority, who one would assume, might have some interest in knowing the number of operational cranes, has no idea, Or perhaps it doesn’t give a damn. You might have better luck asking each and every local council, as they approve individual crane usage.
So if you have a crane then foist it. Foist it long and foist it hard. Construct, or don’t construct, but at least join in on this mass development. In today’s economic landscape cranes are currency. Crane Currency, a Boston based mint will begin to operate in this most crane friendly ecosystem. You can’t make this shit up.
It is amply clear that we are creaming for cranes. Let us be happy that our cranes are up. We even get to eat while hanging off one, for €135 per person or €95 if you are under 18 but over 145cm.
Hoisted by our own cranes, until dropped.