My essentials: Herman Grech’s cultural picks

No 51 | Herman Grech, 52, Times Editor, Theatre Director

Herman Grech
Herman Grech

1. Book

I got a preview of Aleks Farrugia’s upcoming book ‘Ir-Re Borg’. It’s a fantastic snapshot of the social and political realities of Malta, incorporating its many idiosyncrasies, hideousness, and quirkiness. I hadn’t read a book in Maltese in ages, and I found this to be a page-turner before it builds to an unexpected climax at the very end. This won’t be the last we’ll hear of the ‘Partit Monarkiku Malti’ that Aleks so wonderfully conceived. To be honest, I often don’t have the patience and energy to go through a book since I spend most of the day reading and editing. I normally indulge in analytical pieces, normally found in The New York Times or The Guardian.

2. Film/TV

David Bowie is a religion among the Grech siblings. I grew up indoctrinated on albums like ‘Heroes’ and ‘Hunky Dory’. I watched Bowie live, three times. I’ve listened and probably watched all interviews and out-takes with the great man through his different personas. So, when I heard all the hype about Brett Morgen’s film ‘Moonage Daydream’, I thought it was just an exercise in good marketing. Instead, I was transported into a two-hour, 15-minute mind-bender, a kaleidoscopic adventure and an intimate portrait into the mind of an unrivalled and impatient artist. This is certainly not your typical biopic, and I can understand viewers who don’t get it, but for a Bowie fan like me, it opened doors I long thought were shut.

3. Internet 

I hardly watch any TV but I do indulge on YouTube clips, whose algorithms never fail to whip up interesting content tailored to me. I always seek documentaries and I love hosts like John Oliver, who can deliver cutting, well-informed and hilarious programmes. In these days when most of us have the attention span of a fly it becomes increasingly important to produce well-edited, concise and well-researched content. I’m always searching for content about wellbeing and nutrition and, I confess… I even like recipe clips. I often find cooking the perfect antidote to unwind from my often-chaotic days at the office. And, of course, podcasts are the perfect way to deal with the traffic situation. Recently listened to an intriguing one called Fatwa.

4. Music

I can’t stop listening to Paul Simon’s classic album ‘Still Crazy After all These Years’. It’s packed with perfect melodies and lyrics and it’s got such a good vibe to it. I remember playing it on a cassette tape in my 20s until the reel got entangled in my old cassette deck. Earlier this year, I interviewed Fish, the former frontman from Marillion (I was a huge fan of his when I was younger). We really got on and we went on a night out. ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’ came on my Spotify playlist in the car and he asked me to turn the volume up. And I remember us singing loudly in the car. It felt surreal to be singing to an old favourite together with one of my favourite singers of his generation. Many beautiful moments in my life have been accompanied by a soundtrack.

5. Place

I love Italy. There’s no other country which can provide such a perfect blend of history, art, culture, landmarks, mountains, sea, countryside, passionate people, wine and food. No wonder it needed a boot to pack all that in. I might be opting for a cliché but my favourite region is Tuscany. You can drive from the lush Chianti region to the beautiful hilltop towns of Montepulciano and Montalcino and then head to Florence or Siena for the night. Sometimes we don’t realise that paradise exists, and it’s just a 90-minute flight away.