The weather in Malta is one of the reasons we are the best country in the world. It’s also, sometimes, one of the reasons why we would prefer to be nuzzling a triathlon runner’s underwear rather than endure one of its particular iterations.
I’m talking riħ isfel. That sordid, squalid, soul-sapping state when, regardless of the actual temperature, the weather declares all-out war on happiness. Here’s how this ugly beast makes itself known.
For those of you who have hair, riħ isfel is immediately noticeable.
You wake up and feel slightly uneasy in yourself. You plod to the bathroom and warily peer at your reflection, where your worst fears are substantiated. There, sitting upon your skull, swathing your cranium in a predatory embrace, is your hair.
Looking like a thousand mattresses have binged on tequila and vomited up all their bedsprings in a manic morass of frizz. You’d usually take a hairdryer to it, but today you wave a white flag, because hairdryers won’t do the job required. Heavy machinery and industrial chemicals won’t do it either. Riħ isfel is Maltese for “bad hair day don’t even try.”
Usually, the people you meet walking your dog chuckle kindly when your furry friend sticks his moist nose in their lap. On riħ isfel days, they greet him by mentioning his mother, and something that Trump might grab.
That’s the general forecast for the day. Moderate to heavy snappiness with 75% chance of go fuck yourself.
Those of us whose vision requires augmentation by spectacles will feel this. You exit your blissfully air conditioned car and are instantly thrust into blindness.
Where once there was a crystal clear vista, now lies a nightmare that Monet would deem unfocused. Riħ isfel sucks all the water out of the universe and deposits it into a slimy film on any glass surface. Such as your glasses.
Most days, you surround yourself with erudite sophists who provide you with fascinating insights into the universe and its workings. On riħ isfel days, culture flips you the bird and philosophy asks you to go to hell.
The only thing anyone talks about is the weather. Xi sħana, qaħba xi sħana and ħanin Alla xi sħana are the only things you’ll be hearing today. Deal with it.
The Electricity Bill
There’s always that annoying cow who’ll say “I don’t use an AC, I much prefer just leaving the windows open!” Well, Sarah, leaving the windows open today will allow the atmosphere to pour in in a damp soggy tsunami of pain.
So it’s windows closed, AC full on and electricity meter doubling up as a hamster wheel. Riħ isfel is expensive.
Yes, we live in a hot country, so insects are par for the course here. But on riħ isfel days, the fuckers take on new qualities. From playfully skittish skin ticklers, they become densely adherent kamikaze leeches.
They sluggishly circle the air above your nose, before divebombing onto your skin, where not even the most tenaciously flapped hand will remove them. Seemingly weighed down by the marshy atmosphere, they show disdain for their miserable lives and stand their pestilent ground until you are forced to turn them into a damp red and black stain on your forehead.
You may now gag.
We’ve all got one. That particular top, usually designer, that totally flatters your body shape, whose colours brings out your eyes perfectly. Most days you wear it and elicit gasps of admiration from those who are lucky enough to cast eyes upon you.
Not today. You shower and apply deodorant liberally and leave the house. Then it hits you. As your armpit bacteria go on a debauched binge, you begin to emit a smell that would be more characteristic of a skunk’s anus after a thick vindaloo.
You’re forced to return home, take off your top, shower again (preferably in concentrated sulphuric acid) and wear your cheap cotton shirt with the ketchup stain, because that’s the only clean item of clothing you’ve got left. Do yourself a favour. Burn that top.
You’ve suffered riħ isfel countless times and you bear the scars. However, the silver lining on that heavy grey cloud is that, every time a foreign friend says something like ”In Dubai, we get temperatures of up to 45 degrees”, you can smugly retort “Yes, but do you have riħ isfel?”