Where are the men in underpants when you need them…..

john major
You know who I mean…the Superheroes who wear their underpants over their trousers, flying to the rescue in the nick of time.

So where were they yesterday, I should like to know, when I was clambering ungracefully in and out of stream beds in the pouring rain, feet slipping out of my shoes and mud plastering my shins.
A pair of underpants descending from the heavens would have been very welcome but, of course, when you don’t need men…even Supermen…they are tripping you, wanting cups of tea and wondering where you have put the screwdriver last seen in their possession.
When you do need them they are in the loo.

I had gone up to the building site to have a quiet think about what to do about the area below the pool….I would like to look down on flowering trees, but have to take their future height into account if not to damn myself to scooping out leaves for ever after.

The pink fleshed guava was dropping fruit wholesale, so I was filling my ancient Asda shopping bag when a car pulled in behind me.
It was the owner of the goat farm further down the valley, with his wife and family….they had called in to tell me that one of my sheep was loose on the road down towards their place…and that they had found her lamb in the ditch further up.
They had taken the lamb and put it just inside the gates to the house but they could not catch the mother.

As I went down the hill the heavens opened and the dogs rushed ahead to shelter only to come to an abrupt halt at the clump of poinsettia by the gate.
There was the lamb – a little tricoloured chap clearly just born – tucked in underneath, so I thought I’d best take him indoors first, putting an old towel in a cardboard carton to make a bed and shutting him in the office, safe from canine curiosity.

Now for mother.

It’s a long walk on a stony path and it feels distinctly longer in the rain, but I could see the ewe ahead searching along the stream edge and then had a horrible thought that perhaps she had had twins so started loooking out carefully as I walked on.
I was in luck…she did not move away as I reached her…so I made a fatal error…I did not get her on the move back up to the house immediately.
I found where she had escaped, and got down into the stream to see if there was any sign, any trace, of a lamb on the banks.
Wet, dirty, but satisfied that there was not I climbed back up to the path….to find that the ewe had disappeared.

Then followed a game of ‘now you see me now, you don’t’ as she emerged from the bamboos on the other side, perched on a heap of decaying wood, only to plunge back into the bamboos as I reached the summit, which, inevitably, crumbled under me.
Into the stream, out of the stream…in the bamboos, out of the bamboos….tantalisingly close but never quite in reach.

What I wanted to do was to drive her up the path…but getting her on to it was something else.

Then, a brainwave. What about my bra? If she let me get close again I could chuck it round her neck and haul her onto the path so I struggled out of a wet T shirt, removed the bra and struggled back into the T shirt.
Bra at the ready I stalked the ewe.
Into and out of the stream….in and out of the bamboos……and I got her!

She was off like a rocket….stage one (me) dropped off early in the flight. Stage two (bra) was discarded half way up the hill to be recovered as I plodded up in her wake.

I was worried that she would hare past the gates but found her waiting for me just inside, sniffing under the poinsettia….and luckily the other sheep started to call so she was willing to head for the pens.

I closed the gate and strawed up one of the pens I use for the hens, then went to fetch the lamb.
I put him down in sight of the ewe…and he bleated. High and strong.
The ewe turned and came to him straight away, her bleat low and reassuring and they were reunited. He got to his feet and made for the milk.

But where were The Men while all this was going on?
They had gone into town, and not finding me at the house on return had assumed I had taken shelter from the rain up at the building site.
Accordingly they had decided to get ahead with rounding up the poultry, so we must have been replicating a Whitehall farce with me entering the front door to fetch the lamb as they left by the back door to bang up the ducks.

The first job is always to recover the eggs which both hens and ducks lay under the perpetually broody yellow duck who lives above the door to the duck pen.
This involves mounting an old kitchen chair armed with a broom to shove her off the nest while she attacks with beak and claw…but this time Danilo had had a brainwave of his own.
He decided to use his sombrero to immobilise her while collecting the eggs which is why when I arrived with the lamb in my arms and followed by the ewe I was greeted by the sight of a sombrerod duck launching herself from the top of the pens intent on mayhem while The Men dived for cover.

Still, all’s well that ends well….and here is a rather bad photograph of mother and son displaying the usual ovine obstinacy in that he has his back to the camera and she is lying on the only bit of floor not covered with straw.

IMG_2496

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Filed under animals, Costa Rica

An Apology

I am fuming.

Not like a heap of manure in winter, warm and sweet…think, rather, active volcano, sulphurous and aggressive.

I follow a number of blogs…and have had trouble commenting on posts on Blogger.
Eventually it sorts itself out.

In the last week or so I have found that my comments on WordPress blogs are not appearing…I see them on the screen as accepted, but on returning to the blog posts in question find that they do not figure.

I am always ready to accept that I have pressed that which should not have been pressed, or ommited to press that which should have been pressed, but I see no such problem in my usage.

I contacted the laughingly called ‘support’of WordPress and was redirected to a forum. I formulated my problem..only to see that something called ‘admin’had closed down my thread before it had begun.

So…if you have any idea what is happening and how to sort it, please let me know.

36 Comments

Filed under Problems with Wordpress

All The News That’s Fit To Print

traditional-dance-costa-rica.jpg
The Men have now accepted that the car has to pass the M.O.T. this month so are out and about ordering parts which may materialise when pigs take to the air and visiting the Cuban electrical genius to get the window opening mechanism sorted.
This latter visit may or may not have been pushed up the ‘to do’ list by my trip to town with Danilo yesterday.
Lulled into a sense of false security by the recent unseasonable days of heat and sun he had left the driver’s side window down and when the cloudburst hit us half way up the hill the mechanism failed and he was rapidly becoming soaked.
With a cry of ‘Puna!’ (polite version of ‘puta’) he reached into the back and dragged forth the plastic inner of a feed sack which he then draped over the window. Fine for protection….not so good for all round vision as at the junction he had to lift it to peer out for traffic coming down the hill towards us.

As in their absence the calls for coffee and the anxious enquiries as to the whereabouts of items last seen in their possession have decreased in frequency I have had time to
A Listen to the Test Match undisturbed
and
B Catch up on local events via the Facebook page set up by a chap who clearly finds the town hall version somewhat bland and uninformative.

So I thought I might give you a glimpse of what goes on in the area…a little bit skewed as the canton is celebrating the one hundred and forty sixth anniversary of its foundation.
Why the one hundred and forty sixth?
That’s our council for you…

So what has been going on?

Computers and suchlike equipment were seized from a house where a woman was suspected of copying child pornography for distribution in the U.S.A.

puris someone's built a house where he souldn't...Someone has built a house where he shouldn’t have, thus undermining a retaining wall just completed by the council, whose offices are in chaos as the police investigate some two and a half million colones (about two and a half thousand pounds) which grew legs and disappeared in the course of three days….and there were protests at two suspects having been named by the alcalde (mayor) as this is a small place and everyone knows them and their families.

puris busThere were further protests when the person who has managed to hijack the bus company’s radio frequency, thus obliging the drivers to switch off in order to spare their passengers impassioned diatribes of an improper nature, was described as a sexual obsessive.There were no protests at the suggestion that the same person was responsible for a bomb hoax which closed the company’s terminal in the capital.

A man in his seventies was killed when his sister in law – in her sixties – resisted what she took to be an attempt at rape by throwing him against the wardrobe.

puris a bridge over the virilla to piedras negrasA bridge has been flung over the river on the road to Piedras Negras…
puris pilgrimage to la negrita piedras negras
just in time for the annual pilgrimage in honour of La Negrita….

puris traffic accidentsThere have been the usual plethora of traffic accidents….

puris road under repair...at last
and some roads have finally started to be repaired.

puris marijuana in the parkA whopping packet of marijuana was seized from someone in the central park…..

puris drunken teenagers
While two fourteen year olds were found reeling drunk in a shop in town and attended to by the Red Cross.

The church has installed a credit card machine for donations….no more excuses there, then…

Deputies in the National Assembly came down to the celebrate the canton’s anniversary; one stating proudly that he had been down three times since being elected in May….

puris children dance group
puris gala 3
The anniversary was celebrated with rock concerts and traditional dancing….

puris the earthquake on july 24
There was an earthquake or two….

And someone lost to all sense of decency poured paint over the statue of the town’s mascot, symbol of the local farming community.
puris sapo
A cane toad.

The mind boggles.

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Filed under cars, community, Costa Rica, culture

The Lamps Are Going Out

tower of london poppies demilked.com
On the day on which, one hundred years ago, Great Britain entered a war against the empires of Germany and
Austria-Hungary in support of the alliance between the bourgeois republic of France and the Russian Czarist empire, there are many comemmorations.
Church services….ceramic poppies tumbling from the Tower of London…lights replaced by a solitary candle in public and private buildings all over the country…radio and television programmes following the course of that war – to become known as the Great War before succeeding madness relegated it to being merely the First World War.

I do not doubt for an instant the sincerity of people comemmorating the start of that war….surprising how close it is in terms of family lost – people we never knew, but who were known and loved by those we knew and loved.

I do doubt the nature of the comemmoration itself.
The latest brand of the royal family in Belgium…French President Hollande embracing his German counterpart; choreographed public remembrance.

What has that to do with the men who entered that hell?

Men who went willingly, on a tide of nationalism..patriotism as they saw it.

Men who went reluctantly….threatened with the loss of their job and the inevitable eviction of their families from the tied cottage if they did not join up…in the later years shaken out from ‘reserved occupations’ as the war of attrition threatened to turn Germany’s way.

Not every man was an angel – a veteran of those years described to me the line of men waiting outside the other ranks’ brothels in Amiens, trousers doffed and folded over the arm to save time once admitted.

Not every man was a hero….old sweats would advise new boys to abandon the underpants soiled under the first experience of bombardments. Quartermaster sergeants became plump in the pocket…but nothing to compare with the industrialists safe at home.

Those who survived remembered their mates, both the living and the dead….because government certainly did not.
The land they returned to was not, in any sense, a land fit for heroes…a Victoria Cross might get you a job as a commissionaire – if you kept your mouth shut, your nose clean and your hand ever ready to touch the brim of your hat.

We hear a great deal of ‘sacrifice’. A weasel word which covers the nastier one …….
‘Killed’.

I worry that we are comemmorating by gesture, not by action.

These men went forward against terrible odds….fell…rescued each other under fire…assaulted and took positions that were deemed impregnable….because they were in it together.

A true comemmoration of this war would be a revival of solidarity and decency….decency which recognises that governments who deliver ‘suspects’ to torture under ‘extraordinary rendition'; governments which abandon translators for their armies to the vengeance of their enemies; governments which send their young men to war on behalf of commercial interests have to be brought to book..and only solidarity will achieve this.

That generation faced bullets and bombs from an external force: our generation faces police ‘kettling’ and false charges leading to imprisonment from a force within our society….our own government.

Blinded by gesture…by the formalities of respect…by elevating these very ordinary men to the status of demi gods – we betray them.

We have forgotten that we are in it together, as they were…

Revive that memory…..remember them, but not just their fate.

Dido’s Lament

Cherubino

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Filed under #world War I

Look, Mum! No Hands!

driverless car mouse2house.uk

driverless car
mouse2house.uk

Driverless cars are about to be tested in the U.K., it seems…and if they work what a boon that will be for those who drive from necessity rather than pleasure, though what pleasure can be obtained from driving is beyond me unless on a single track road with passing places in the Highlands – or a German autobahn.

But doubts assail me…..when in France we lived in a sort of GPS Bermuda Triangle. Visitors would get as far as the nearby town and ‘phone in for directions, which was easy enough at the Christmas period when the area was illuminated for the festive season…not just the Santa Clauses making SAS raids on walls and roofs of private houses, but real illuminations: a windmill with revolving sails…reindeer and sleigh running across the tiles of a pavillon…champagne bottle with cork bursting forth on another…sinister purple and green icicles – they had only to follow the trail to arrive at the family fastness, dourly unlit safe for the security light, guaranteed to blind the driver as the car pulled up by the well chained gates.

Not so easy in other seasons. There is a phenomenon in rural France first described to me by an estate agent who had sent me out to visit a house I could not find.
You are, he said, approaching it from the wrong side.
I followed his detailed directions and saw what he meant…you had to approach your goal on roads on which the direction signs were visible – bar an overgrown tree or two – from the side on which you were approaching…not the side in which you might, if lucky, get a glimpse of something in the rear mirror in passing.
So directions had to amended accordingly….disregarding the most direct route in favour of that with visible signs and landmarks. So instead of the reindeer and icicles it had to be ‘leave the town in the opposite direction to that which seems sensible, cross the bridge, pass a chateau with searchlights sweeping the grounds, turn left….third left at the roundabout and if you see a bar on your left you have left it too soon…’
Well, you get the idea…but will the driverless car get it?

And even if they solve the GPS problem, what about local issues?
Not, I suppose, too much of a problem in the U.K., but what about France?

When I moved to rural France, while many people had ‘normal’ cars, and farmers drove around in little white vans,there were two other contingents in evidence.

The first – and least dangerous – was that of the ‘sans permis’. This car, a sort of box on wheels with limited engine power, could be driven by those who had lost their driving licence for over enthusiastic indulgence in bars, beer and assorted additional booze. Should you have any doubt about this, the said boxes were liberally adorned with stickers advertising said bars, beer and booze, variety being provided by other stickers of a dubious nature which indicated that, in France, there were some parts of the human anatomy that beer and assorted booze could not, indeed, reach.
As far as I am aware, the ‘sans permis’ still exists….but even if it could be converted to ‘driverless’ status can you imagine the ‘driver’ trying to download instructions to it at the end of a convivial evening….a bar full of troubled clients asking the patron to set it all up for them…. and even if he succeeds being sure that they are on the wrong road halfway home as it will take them on proper roads and not the tracks they generally use to avoid the gendarmerie patrols.
I foresee doctors’ waiting rooms full of alcoholics with nervous breakdowns…
Doctor, I have lost my way….

The other contingent is, unfortunately, no longer with us.
It consisted of elderly gentlemen – the papys – who had grown up in an era when the mode of transport was the bicycle and who had transferred the learning thus acquired to the 2CV they bought in later life…the model with the suicide doors.
They also imagined that the traffic was the same as when they were riding their bicycles, so would emerge at speed from track or minor road, looking neither to right nor left and go on their way, each one a Fangio crouched over the wheel.
Local knowledge was imperative…so that you knew that M. Dixneuf was likely to emerge onto the bend at the Salle de Fetes, Papy Georges from the track by Les Planches and to watch out for that lunatic Archambault at the mill on the river – especially after lunch.

As I say, these gallant gentlemen are no longer with us, but, in France, local knowledge is still vital to your survival on the roads…and how will the driverless car cope with this?

There were..and probably still are… three systems of priority in force.
Priority to traffic coming from the right.
Priority to traffic on major roads.
A hybrid of the two.

As far as I am aware there is no notification of a change of system…you find out the hard way and I’m unable to see how the driverless car will cope with this.

How will it distinguish between a white bollard at a road junction indicating that you have right of way and a white bollard with a red stripe indicating that the combine harvester approaching from your right can flatten you at will? Especially as the said bollard is probably in the ditch following the last passage of the combine harvester.

And what about the traffic light controlled roundabout where you enter on the green light only to find yourself obliged to give way to a stream of traffic entering from the right?

Or the unsigned change from department – priority to major road – to town – priority to the right?
Perhaps there should be an app indicating towns where the mayor’s brother in law runs a repair garage…

Or places where cars are parking on the roundabout, closing other exits, in order to buy their bread from the bakery situated there…

And what about narrow bridges where, nomatter what the arrows indicate, the driver of the big van will always drive on to force the car that got there first to reverse….

And what about the technology to be used?
With all the current emphasis on ‘buy French’, from striped jerseys to red Breton bonnets via salmon pink corsets, the likelihood is that it would be supplied by Orange – the name under which France Telecom hides its shame.

In which case…it’s back to the driver, drunk or sober…and remembering always to approach objectives from the right side.

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Filed under cars, france

The Hard Sell

fulu todosautos.com.peI really must invest in sellotape…for the mouth. It would avert a multitude of problems.

Yesterday I saw a mention of a Chinese car newly imported to Costa Rica. It was small, it was economical on petrol – and it was, for Costa Rica, cheap.

Cars here are expensive…ruinously so…. given the import tax. We always had Audis in Europe….to afford one here we would need to have been politicians in the previous government, so we have a dust covered Japanese tin box called by someone with an inscrutable sense of humour a Galloper.
It has four wheels, four wheel drive for the hills and it starts. That is all I require…except for the small matter of it passing the Riteve – the M.O.T. – in August, which is advancing at a rate significently faster than that of the car itself.

The Men do not wish to know this. The Men are happy building the new house, organising planning permission to build another house on the boundary for Danilo’s sister, fencing off the cafetal for the bullocks and generally putting the world to rights.

When I wondered idly whether the small wooden wedge which keeps the automatic window opening device in working order would give the Riteve inspector the habdabs I was told not to worry about it.
So I haven’t.
I noted that the Cuban – car electrician extraordinaire – is on holiday….but apparently I was not to worry about that either.
So I didn’t.

Come August they’d better be right…..

However, I was not interested in the cheap new car for myself. I thought it would be just the thing for Danilo’s daughter, a nurse who is currently working the stand by shifts and finds herself travelling all over the area wherever clinics are short of staff.
Her husband gives her a lift on the motorbike when possible, her brothers do likewise, but she spends a lot of time either walking or waiting for buses in all weathers and has been saving for a small car, but even second, third fourth hand cars are expensive if they have all their wheels and an engine.

There were two models of the Chinese car….one tiny, the other the size of a mini, but the only technical information revealed was that one had one cylinder while the other had two.
This being at about the limit of my knowledge on cars I passed on the information to The Men at lunchtime.

Conversation changed gear rapidly…where was the dealer….what was the car like….how big was the engine?
I was shooed back to the computer to investigate further.

I found the original mention.
From that I discovered where the showroom was. On one of the busiest, most congested roads in Costa Rica.
Then I found the site put up by the events organisers who had ‘done’ the opening. There were two small and unflattering pics of the cars followed by any number of pics of predatory looking women in little black dresses being eyed by men whose gleam in the said eye would end them in hot water should their wives ever consider finding out about small economical Chinese cars.
Finally I discovered the name of the agency importing the cars. It did not have a website, only a Facebook page.
This showed artists’ impressions of the cars – the artists clearly being in their Mister Men period – and announced that the cars were economical, had air bags and could be paid for on tick.

The Men were off on the hunt. Did I want to come?
The showroom was on a road which is lined by various stores I am banned from visiting because of the traffic congestion, so the temptation was there, but on reflection I turned down the offer.
Either I would be hurried in and out by The Men on a mission or else they would drop me with promises to return and then get lost.

They departed and I took the chance to have a quiet siesta.

I had fed the sheep and cattle and chased most of the ducks into captivity by the time they returned and settled themselves on the balcony for coffee and cake.

How did it go?

Well!

The directions could not have been more clear…..on a straight – if busy – road. Opposite a commercial centre called Via Lindora.
Except that Via Lindora has no sign saying what it is….and The Men, when on this road which leads to the airport, pay no attention to their surroundings, intent as they are on reaching their destination so were unaware that it houses a number of chain restaurants and is lavishly adorned by their publicity signs.

Accordingly, The Men had stopped at the veterinary hospital to ask for directions. This took some time as the receptionist remembered them from the Alsatian’s visit last year and enquiries as to his well being had to be made and the vet who treated him called through to hear that he was fine.

They continued, and emerged at the airport end of the road.
They returned to the beginning and this time asked directions of the security guard at the builders’ merchant.

They emerged again at the airport end of the road…..

After a few more attempts they did the sensible thing and asked the man who sells football shirts by the roadside. He asked them why on earth they wanted to go to Via Lindora and they told him what they were actually looking for.
Oh…that! They’ve got a tent in front of the Porsche dealer….

They were by now on the right side of the road and after only one mishap they found the tent – a sort of arabian pavilion bearing no signs.

Not only were there no signs….there were no sales staff. The cars were in place…the small one which looked like a snail and the larger one which looked quite swish…in colours of dove grey, neon red and a blue such as was never seen on land or sea….but there was no one in sight.

This was an invitation to The Men. The doors were unlocked so they could test the seats…the bonnet was unlocked, so thay could see the engine……

Might be a bit underpowered, thought Danilo.

Couldn’t be worse than the Citroen Ami, replied Leo. And I drove from England to Spain in that over the Pyrenees…

Then a man appeared, dapper in a sober suit.
Could he help them?

Indeed he could….they asked about engine power, fuel consumption and whatnot and he gave the information they required.
The price…did it include all the taxes?
Certainly…then, confidentially, in a lowered tone, there was a special price on these cars…

A promotion?

Not exactly…they need the money to pay the taxes to get the rest of the shipment out of the customs area at the port…

Could they take a test drive?

No…the cars don’t have batteries. Otherwise they might be stolen, what with nobody being around…

But you’re around.

Oh, I don’t have anything to do with the cars….the salesman had to go off somewhere and asked me to keep an eye out.
I’m the waiter from the Inka Grill next door…

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Filed under cars, Costa Rica

Who is the enemy?

I had my mother on the ‘phone today to give me her shopping list but, once finished with that, she told me what was on her mind in respect of the civilian aircraft downed over the Ukraine.

You don’t know who or what to believe, she said.
It wasn’t the way it was in the war….though I know that there was propaganda then too: wouldn’t do to let the people know how their pre war governments had left Britain powerless…how the war effort was directed by people with connections rather than by people with brains…but here they are treating the deaths of some three hundred people as pawns in a power game. You can’t have any respect for politicians who do that.

She grew up in the aftermath of the first World War, seeing the men in the invalid carriages, some choking up their lungs after gassings – the smell of the rooms in which they were immured.
As a girl she saw wartime aces earning a living from offering rides in the biplanes which had brought death to so many and were then turned into attractions – the circuit and bump rides in areas which might provide a clientele with enough money to keep the man and aircraft paying their way.

Not much of a home for heroes.

She remembers the rise of Hitler…..she heard him on the radio from Nuremburg, with the masses singing ‘Wir fahren gegen Engeland’…and the Mosleyites in Britain.
She had knitted herself a black jersey with red and white bands at the sleeves and was surprised to be greeted as a comrade by the followers of Mosely when she went to do her mother’s shopping in Kingston market. The jersey was swiftly discarded.

She was an athlete, a sprinter and hurdler, hoping to qualify for the team for the Helsinki Olympics planned for 1940…

But along came the second World War.
She could not, as she said, have given a thought for other countries; sod Poland if you hadn’t gone in to protect Chzechoslovakia…her effort was to prevent her own from being invaded and to beat the hell out of Germany.
She joined the army…..the Auxiliary Terrioral Service…and found herself meeting David Niven at Winchester; trainee tank drivers at Castle Barnard; ghosts – and my father – at Naworth Castle and working under continual bombardment at Park Royal, Wembley, assembling radios for the use of the Resistance in France and in the Dutch East Indies.

But through it all, she said, she knew what she was fighting for. Not just the survival of the U.K. as an independent country…but the transformation of the U.K. into a country where privilege no longer ruled supreme.

She had been sent to a farm in Suffolk for a break from the bombing in London and, brought up on a farm herself, noted how the country folk lived much better than the people in the towns; but not far from the farm was an airfield housing bomber squadrons…flying Avro Lancasters.
She watched the ‘planes taking off on their night bombing raids…and watched the returns, the rows of ambulances lined up to take off the surviving crews…from those aircraft, running blood as the doors were opened, which managed to return.
The rate of attrition in Bomber Command was phenomenal…and she determined that, nomatter how misguided the strategies which had sent those young men – not only of the U.K. but also of Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa – into hell, their monument would be a better society.

She thought it was on the way to being achieved in the post war settlement….but the Thatcher and Blair years have left her wondering whether it was worth resisting Hitler at such a cost.
She might not have the fear of the Gestapo at her door in the early hours…but the policy of recent U.K. governments, brown nosing those of the U.S., has left so many others open to not only that risk, but the risk of violent death at the hands of fanatics financed by these governments…and to what end?

Certainly not that of life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness.

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Filed under politics, terrorism