It would appear that the devoted flock has not exactly taken the archbishop’s exhortations to celebrate religious feasts with “a true Christian spirit and dignity” to heart – at least, not if the opening of the festa season this past weekend is anything to go by.

For those who, like myself, aren’t exactly au fait with the calendar of religious feasts I offer an explanation: the inhabitants of Valletta’s suburb were yesterday indulging in a certain measure of glee and merriment in commemoration of the fact that their patron saint had, a couple of 1000 years earlier (give or take) reportedly become Malta’s first convert to Catholicism.

A fact that also led him to be crowned patron – another couple of thousand years later, give or take – of all those internet trolls whose only pleasure in life seems to be that of writing FIRST after any given internet post. The upper case is obligatory for an extra measure of douchebaggery.

But I digress. So yesterday, the streets of the capital’s suburb were choc bloc with revellers who were displaying a tad more spirit than the Archdiocese of Malta had in mind when calling for dignified festivities. How do I know this, you might well ask given that I’m hardly the type to be found bouncing merrily along to the village band.

The explanation is simple: since at the moment drivers can’t use the Marsa route to get into Valletta, the only way in remains the suburb that was originally built precisely for the purpose.

Which means that at approximately noon I found myself navigating St Anne Street, which was looking decidedly unsuburban thanks to a number of ghetto blasters (and I use the word ‘ghetto’ advisedly) that had been set up in the bars that line the main road. The conflicting noises emanating from the speakers were more reminiscent of what today passes for R’n’B than of uplifting praise to Malta first Catholic.

My mission was a relatively simple one, or so you’d think: make it in time for lunch in Valletta without winding up at the police station for inadvertently running over some drunken lout.

However, the quest soon took on all the characteristics of a Grand Theft Auto game, with the difference being that instead of ladies of the night the main road leading to our capital city was populated by semi-comatose, wasted revellers who insisted on doing their utmost to get run over. I have to say that if I happened to be a less than alert driver, their utmost would have succeeded.

If you think I’m exaggerating, I’m not. Anyone who drove into Valletta at that hour will have seen the zombie-like gangs in green tee-shirts lining the kerb and the central strip. Hanging out in the middle of the road, in a couple of cases. Or looking into drivers’ eyes and just walking into the pathway of oncoming cars. If it weren’t for the green tee-shirts and the occasional chant I’d have said that this was some weird mass suicide attempt.

Throughout all this there was zilch police presence in the area, which is a famed gathering point for those who feel that the best way to honour their religion is by puking their guts out on the side of the road.

In all fairness, this was probably due to the fact that the majority of the boys in blue were later deployed in peace-keeping relations at every blessed corner and roundabout between Ta’ Qali and Valletta, following the latter’s football triumph against B’kara (and I write this absolutely without any hint of bias, of course).

Whatever the reason, the intention is not to blame this on the police. Or on the archbishop, for the matter. Who would have thought that 21st century adults are incapable of celebrating a religious feast without a measure of self-control, without transforming what to all intents and purposes is a small hamlet into a bleeding war-zone? Tourists who happened to be driving through at the time looked on with horrified and worried fascination and who can blame them?

St Publius is probably rolling in his grave.

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