The Glass That Cheers And, With A Bit Of Luck, Inebriates.


The rain clouds – and the accompanying ravening insects – caught us before we had finished supper outside this evening so we went indoors, applied calomine lotion to the parts every insect could  reach and settled down to chat  over  slices of goat cheese  and a glass of epine.

Both items had returned with me in my suitcases…accompanied by spices impossible to obtain here, marmite and kippers. Luckily, Aeromexico surpassed themselves and did not lose my luggage as otherwise it could probably have walked home unaided.

I remember a suitcase loaded with cheese which Iberia managed to lose for twenty four hours in the summer heat of Madrid. The gentleman driving the van which delivered it to the house handed it over with alacrity and asked me if I were sure that nothing had died inside it.

Surely, I said, the customs would never have let it pass if anything had…

You don’t think that customs are going to open anything that smells like that, do you?

Still, this time all had gone well: the goat cheese had become a little deliquescent but was not yet in attack mode and accompanied the epine with brio.

The epine itself dates from a batch made in 2005, while we lived in France: it traveled to the house in Spain when we moved and thence, a few bottles  at a time, to Costa Rica.

I think I can say that we are probably the only people in the country to possess it. Even the French embassy gets its wine from Chile….well, at the far from exalted levels at which I encounter the said embassy it does and I can’t see it serving an old fashioned country aperitif at its more glamorous receptions. Apart from anything else it would  have the guests half seas over after a sniff at it.

The recipe is simple.

To one kilo of sugar you put one litre of eau de vie and four litres of wine – red is usual but should you have a supply of white wine for which the term cats’ pee would be a compliment you can use that too. To this you add a large handful of the new pink shoots of the blackthorn – or the mirabelle plum, or wild cherry – and mix it all up to dissolve the sugar. Keep for a couple of months, strain and bottle.

After the first batch we made – from a supply of Merlot which would have removed the enamel from your teeth – we turned to the wine made by our friend and neighbour, a retired vigneron who had kept back just enough vines to make wine for himself and friends.

He had sold the commercial parcels of Cabernet Franc grape but had retained his pride and joy – the lines of Oberlin and Castel from which he made wine strong enough to knock your socks off – and decidedly palatable even if it was as well to visit him on foot as he was a hospitable soul and enjoyed sharing a bottle or two.

Given the strength of his wine as compared with the regular sort of stuff we used to up it to five litres in place of four in the recipe – and the results met with universal approval among our rural neighbours.

You will no doubt be accustomed to seeing wines made from Merlot and Cabernet Franc on the supermarket shelf, along with the Syrahs, Cabernet Sauvignons,  Chenin Blancs and Chardonnays – but you won’t see Oberlin or Castel, any more than you will see Baco or Tete de Negre though at one time these and similar varieties like Othello and Noah were common in France.

After phylloxera ravaged the French vineyards in the nineteenth century solutions were sought, and the eventual winner was the idea of grafting french vines onto phylloxera resistant american vine stocks but in the meantime hybridisation was popular, mating french varieties of vitis vinifera with american vitis riparia or vitis rupestris and the results were vines giving wine of varying quality – but with a trailing habit which made restocking a vineyard simple – and cheap. Let the trailing stems root, and, hey presto, a plant for nothing, resistant to anything.

As French wine production revived the powers that be decided that only the grafted stuff would be authorised for the production of wine to be sold commercially, so the hybrids began to disappear, surviving only as relics preserved by people who remembered them fondly.

But every dog has its day. As vineyards succumb to the effects of the pesticide and herbicide levels imposed by the authorities interest in the hybrids has been revived. They are tough as old boots, resistant to just about anything, don’t need to be sprayed with poison and with modern winemaking techniques their quality can be more than acceptable.

No doubt we will not see it, but with a bit of luck people in the future will be able to buy their Castel or Oberlin as opposed to acquiring it by stealth – and make an epine worth the name.

Tchin tchin!


Filed under Uncategorized, wine

Home again, home again, joggety jog.


It has been a busy month or so…off to England for mother’s one hundredth birthday, to Spain to check on the house, back to England and then finally, blissfully, home, to meet the latest dog to arrive on the doorstep, a little mite named Scruff.

Although my mother’s friends were organising a party for her, on the day itself she had another appointment…one with her friends of seventy five years ago….those she met following the outbreak of World War II.

The dead.

She was still marching past the Cenotaph in her early nineties, so she knew – through the grapevine – what had become of her friends in the ATS…..but after her basic training she had first served in Winchester, alongside the Royal Greenjackets and the King’s Royal Rifle Corps and so many of the men she had known (though not in the biblical sense) had perished with no further word reaching her….

Apart from the Light Bobs, she and her friends had met a young American army engineer, a history buff, while waiting for the opening of the church that had once been the chapel royal of William the Conqueror’s palace in Winchester and had signed the visitors’ book together. He had run tame in their families’ houses, a boy far from home….but he disappeared shortly after D Day.


She has his letters to this day…a young man whose frankness and charm seduced all the watchful mothers, some of whom had sons serving far away from home too…

We had booked an hotel in the centre of the city..the Royal Winchester Hotel…which mother remembered from her time there in the war: nothing could have been better. Super staff, a specially adapted room, and a peaceful garden in the heart of the town.


Somewhat better than her original billet with a maiden lady on Oliver Cromwell’s Battery whose gentility disguised an ability to use mother’s rations to feed the two of them which would not have disgraced a modern banker.

Mother and I have not been the best of friends: our prejudices do not coincide, our interests differ. As an adult I might understand her frustrations but as a child I resented her attacks on my confidence, the undermining: the armour I erected against her – and the world – only crumbling when I found unconditional love.

But she is my mother. Rancour cannot reign. So I was ready to accompany her on her pilgrimage and to respect it.

As always, humour assisted.

On a boiling hot day our train was delayed….station announcements advised passengers to carry bottles of water while traveling and not to pull the emergency cord between stations…

Mother sniffed.

She remembered traveling north from King’s Cross in London on a wartime train so packed with passengers that each supported the other…the only drink on offer came at York when jam jars of tea without milk and sweetened with golden syrup were circulated – the men offering them to the women first – a train which, when the platform gates were opened, under bombardment, people desperate to leave London had run for the train, trampling over  those overtaken in the rush…she remembered the feel of bodies beneath her feet, impelled by those behind, petrified of falling in her turn.

However, our train was a delight….staff to install mother and staff to meet her at Winchester to take her to the taxi rank, thence  to the hotel.

She started her pilgrimage that afternoon…up the hill to the remains of the castle housing the Round Table. She remembered the hall being chock a block with stored furniture so it came as a great delight to see the Table clearly…with, of course Henry VIII enthroned within.


Going downhill again I was surprised that, despite the modern shopfronts, she recognised so many buildings: the tea shop that she and her friends frequented…the butcher…the shop selling honey…the Buttercross….


The next day, that of her birthday, we started in earnest.

First to the church of St. Lawrence where the friends had signed the visitors’ book…behind the Buttercross. A tiny church, once part of the Norman palace and still the mother church of Winchester.

A fire in the 1970s had altered the church beyond mother’s recognition, but we were fortunate enough to meet one of the curates who could show mother photographs of the church as it was when she knew it and, more importantly, could draw mother out as to her experiences in the period.

A super lady.

On to the cathedral…


I had to park mother outside while I went to enquire of the staff how best to assist her.

In that time two ladies asked her if she had been abandoned…makes you wonder just what goes on in Winchester…

Once my enquiries had been sorted, the head verger took charge : he opened the cases containing the rolls of honour of the two regiments and searched for the names she gave him.

He also put a fresh paper into the handicapped loo for mother…from the sublime to the cor blimey…with the same panache and care.

A super chap.

To our surprise, as we were about to leave the cathedral  red robed vergers on duty sang ‘Happy Birthday’….which reduced mother to tears of happiness.

No wonder she loves Winchester.

On to the Greenjackets’ museum up the hill in what had been the Peninsular Barracks…now private flats.

Mother remembered returning there after church parade in the cathedral: there were various army contingents present, but the light infantry had to wait until the others were almost at the barracks before they could set out as their marching pace, one hundred and forty to the minute, would have had them overtaking the rest in moments and causing an unseemly traffic jam.

She remembered the lung draining haul up the last stretch of the hill and the bugles  of the band  blowing fit to bust from their stance on the parade ground to accompany the troops.


At the museum the big white chief – a brigadier general – came out to greet her and I was privileged to observe one of mother’s master classes in obfuscation.

He obviously thought he was dealing with a  little old lady…and she took agin him from the start…

I have always been of the view that aspiring barristers should be given the chance of an examination in chief of my mother. Getting blood from a stone would be childs’ play in comparison.

He made the mistake of asking the question exact…what did she do?

She replied that no one was ready for the girls, like her, who were volunteers.

But what did she do in Winchester?

No shoes…no uniforms..had  to dye our own blouses…

But what did you do?

Ah…now you’re asking.

Well..he had.

They didn’t know what to do with us…but they thought the invasion was coming so they sent us down to the New Forest to stop the German tanks.

So you weren’t in Winchester very long?

Oh, yes,  once they’d shown us how to blow up tanks…we came back.

And what did you do there, then?


He retired in the  face of superior force.

As I pushed mother’s wheelchair down to the hotel – via a super caff outside the museum which had the best pork pies I have ever eaten – she commented that the sort of chap exemplified by the brigadier general was what had ruined Britain…complacent, conventional…but holding power.

These were the people that she had voted against  in the post war election which saw Churchill out and Attlee in….but here they were again.

Needless to say mother had voted Leave in the referendum on  Europe…

We recovered in the hotel garden, a green oasis in the midst of the city and  at dinner mother was greeted by a group of the staff bearing a birthday cake….now that moved her: young people who did not know her had gone  to the length of making her a cake for her birthday.

It was as if she had not realised that her age brought with it any recognition.

But it was clear that the visit had brought to mind all the friends that she had lost…not being next of kin she had had no notification…just the names in the illuminated manuscripts seventy five years down the line…

And yes, on her return her friends had arranged a super party and had had the forethought to book the hairdresser for her to avoid her complaining that she could not go because her hair was untidy. They know her well.


Filed under memories, one hundredth birthday,, Uncategorized, Winchester, World War II

On the hoof again…

airport queues

Things have been somewhat eventful here lately: Leo has been diagnosed with COPD – as if he didn’t have enough medical problems to fill a doctor’s waiting room to overflowing as it is – and we have been clearing up after Saturday’s hurricane which took the tops from a fair number of trees but which left house and livestock sheds undamaged.

The last remnant of the storm appeared today: a highly indignant crab found on the balcony, menacing the poodle with its distinctly large nippers.

Crab removed with tongs to the stream, poodle comforted with biscuits and the two big dogs awarded biscuits as well, as they have decided that they were traumatised by the hurricane (which they spent tucked up on our bed) and are being needy. Black Tot has just helped herself to biscuits…nothing disturbs Black Tot, but she never misses a biscuit opportunity either.

I am cooking for the freezer, as I am off to England shortly for mother’s one hundredth birthday bash….and between arrangements for here and for there I really do not know whether I am coming, going, or been.

First of all, mother had thought to celebrate her birthday at the house in Spain – with her friends, known to me as the Naughty Nineties. Needless to  say, the logistics had been my problem.

The mere idea of transporting them to the end of the road without the assistance of sheepdogs and cattle goads is enough to give me the heebie jeebies…but to  Spain?

Ryanair, who run planes to the new airport at Castellon half an hour from the house , were helpfulness itself. I could get all the wheelchairs and zimmer frames aboard without problem….

However, getting the Naughty Nineties to Stansted airport was another matter.

National Express coaches could not take all of them on one coach…which would mean half the party lost in the loos at Victoria Coach Station while awaiting the stragglers and the process being repeated at Stansted airport….though there again the airport was helpful: staff were available to deal with people needing assistance.

The train? Forget it……crossing London on the Tube with the Naughty Nineties was out of the question.

A taxi? The only thing on offer was a stretch limousine used for hen parties….which mother turned down on the grounds of moral turpitude. Goodness only knows what you might catch…

So Plan A was abandoned…much to my relief as I could see that once in Spain I would have been doing the cooking for a group whose dietary requirements would have been stringent on the home front  – All Bran to open the bowels, hard boiled eggs to stop them up again, plenty of beans to provide musical accompaniment – while going the whole hog in the caffs…requiring Alka Selzter and Milk of Magnesia on the industrial scale once back at the house.

Further, that week would have coincided with a village fiesta where bulls run loose in the streets: you look left, look right and look left again before you leave the supermarket in case something taurine has you in its sights.

I suspect that the bookies would have their money on the Naughty Nineties and their zimmer frames but the whole thing seemed fraught with undiplomatic possibilities….

So mother is going to Winchester for her birthday, where she she served in the army in World War II: where she met David Niven: where she was taught to fire a rifle and to throw a molotov cocktail into  the turret of a German tank: where she adopted the phrase of the sergeant instructors…’take one with you’. …and where she learned the words of and actions to ‘The Spaniard who blighted my life’.

She is also…and the Guildhall have been warned…seeking the visitors book entry in which she and the girls who served with her signed their names together with that of the young American serviceman who was adopted as a brother, taken home to what hospitality their families could offer… and who disappeared off the radar after June 1944…

From the practical point of view, Winchester being as hilly as it is, I’ll order a taxi to the heights where the barracks which she knew have been perverted into luxury flats…long gone the days when Sir John Moore,  master of the light infantry once based there, inveighed against the promiscuity of crowded lodgings…but where once these conditions were imposed on the soldiery in these days the well heeled bustle to live cheek by jowl.

peninsular barracks

Thence we can visit Oliver Cromwell’s Battery to see the house in which she was billeted on an elderly lady who had an art when it came to using mother’s rations to feed both of them – pass the castle with the Round Table then out through the city, past the cathedral to the monastery of St.Cross, where bread and beer are still served to those who declare themselves as pilgrims…

By that time I’ll need both as we shall then be wending our way back to the cathedral to admire the memorial to the diver whose contribution was vital to the restoration of the building.

And what will the Naughty Nineties be doing?

Preparing a party for mother on her return.

I prefer not to think how they will blow up the balloons….







Filed under one hundredth birthday,, travelling, Uncategorized

Support Your Local Traders

puris in the rain

The Chinese export drive is going well in Costa Rica: even.our little town has two outlets for oyster sauce, soaps whose artificial scent hits you from the length of a cricket pitch and plastic kitsch which flies off the shelves.

Once  someone tells the Chinese about the selling power of ‘bondieuserie’ they will be the economic masters of the Catholic world….container loads of creche figures will wend their way across the oceans, lustrous  Sacred Hearts will leer from every wall and saints of all varieties will display their attributes – though St.Ursula’s eleven thousand virgins might pose a problem in the smaller dwelling.

Still, they are not doing too badly as it is… our local post office has been overwhelmed by stacks of packages containing flashy watches costing less than a quid – to be sold on by optimistic gentlemen for considerably more than a quid to other gentlemen who are not – so far – aware that all that glisters is not gold.

As Danilo is continually losing watches while cutting cane, my husband has laid by a stock of Chinese watches with which to replace them…and, having acquired the bug, has explored other areas of the  Chinese ‘Ali Baba’ website.

Notably seeds.

As a gardening addict he has become enthralled by the offers of ‘violet bamboo’,  ‘pink laburnum’ and other such delights.

As has our postmistress, whose office resembles Kew Gardens on speed as it is. You just hope it is an employee of the post office who emerges from the shrubbery behind the counter when you go to pick up your post.

Unfortunately, what is described online is rarely what pops up in the seed trays: something claimed to be jackfruit has the unmistakable air of a marrow while the foot long beans look for all the world like tomatoes…

To be fair, the supplier has agreed to replace anything found to be unsatisfactory…but, one asks oneself, with what? Radishes?

Small stuff passes customs without problems – the staff can’t read Chinese characters – but tools are another matter. They weigh distinctly more so customs will seize them on the grounds that they must be worth something in import tax and, having seized them send you a little note to say so, together with a demand that if it is something bought online you produce a receipt….

Clearly customs officers buy nothing online…you try working out what it is you bought from a plethora of orders and then matching it up with the inscrutable Chinese markings on the package.

In practice this demand is waived….unless you upset one of the officers….but it is wise to print up an invoice – any invoice – just in case you meet with a jobsworth.

Then off you go to collect your goodies.

First, the bus to San Jose. One hour on the bus, or an hour and a half if you are mad enough to travel on a Monday when the Gadarene swine are returning from the beaches.

A trek from the bus station down to the CAJA (Social Security) offices in the centre  where you interrogate the drivers of buses proclaiming their destination as Zapote as to whether they pass the office you need.

Costa Rican bus drivers being obliging souls they are kind enough to tell you and to offer to tell you when to alight.

After a drive across the ring road and passing the official Presidential residence you are put off the bus outside the blood donor centre – neatly placed alongside a couple of butchers’ shops – and trek round the corner to the Post Office Central Sorting Office, where your parcel awaits.

Once inside it involves three immobile queues, the transfer of money and as the whole exercise takes about a day of your time generally you don’t even try to import tools directly.

You go to a shop.

You could go to a shop in our little town…you have a choice of several…but all are expensive and some are frowned on by Danilo as being vehicles for laundering money.

His favourite is the one called officially the Agrocomercial, but known to everyone more familiarly as ‘Macho’ Cruz, this being the name of the elderly owner and founder who is behind his counter every day, clacking his false teeth in greeting and asking after friends and families.

As the cunning old blighter also tried to charge me a mark up of sixty per cent on a water pump I am wary of his geniality and prefer to go to the Maravilla where they know that I check the prices of the goods which will be delivered later by lorries bearing the ineffable inscription ‘Thanks be to God that there is the Maravilla’….

Better prices by far are available in a nationwide chain known as ‘El Rey’…the King….but that means a trip to San Jose. See above for disadvantages of same…

Until my husband had a bright idea….from the bus he had seen another outlet of El Rey, opposite the mega mall on the outskirts of the capital. It would save about twenty minutes’ drive and – most importantly – was on our side of the toll booth.

As the interior doors had arrived we needed to fit them and for this purpose required chisels.

To my certain knowledge we possess enough chisels to set up our own emporium, but the masters of the universe who had done the packing for our move had no idea in which box or bag they had packed them and after a couple of hours of swearing and bad temper it was decided to give  up and go and buy some more.

At El Rey.

If the BBC are still looking for someone to present ‘Top Gear’ then I suggest that they consider The Men and our clunking Japanese tin box of a 4×4 in the exotic surrounds of Costa Rica.

Leo was used to driving in London, where without quick reactions you could be blocking an intersection for hours until someone succumbed to road rage and killed you.: Danilo used to pick up coffee for one of the major firms in Costa Rica and has no equal on mud tracks and bridges with more gaps than slats. A sense of direction, however, was clearly not a requisite of the job and we have ended up in unexpected places more times than I care to remember.

I sit in the back and take a book.

However, we set off confidently…El Rey was opposite the mega mall on the main  road, the autopista. What could go awry?

The weather, for a start. We had just emerged from the hills when the heavens opened, visibility closing to next to nothing.

So much for spotting landmarks:  we should have to rely on memory for the right turn off…

Which is how we arrived in the forecourt of the Construplaza, a vast builders’ merchant situated some kilometres before our destination.

Why are we here?

We can ask for directions!  El Rey must be right opposite. We just can’t see it through the rain.

But this is the Construplaza!

Yes! The mega mall!

After some snarling it appeared that in all his years of driving on the autopista Danilo had never registered the existence of the mega mall- a complex covering several acres but containing nothing of interest to him – so had assumed that the term referred to the builders’ merchant – a much more alluring prospect.

And once gripped by an idea, shaking his faith in it is quite an operation.

Firm instructions having been given to continue on the autopista until sighting the mega mall we  drove off, only to enter an underpass and emerge on a country road on the other side of the road we sought.

Where the blazes are we going?

To El Rey, of course…opposite the mega mall!

Back to the autopista!

But it’s just down here….

And we turned into the car park of Pequeno Mundo –  one of a chain of vast warehouses selling everything China has thought to export, from clothes to food via garden furniture and interior design tat.

But this is Pequeno Mundo!

Same thing! Sells rubbish, doesn’t it?

One of the car park attendants approached to offer us the shelter of his umbrella to cross to the shop and kindly gave directions.

Back to the autopista! Opposite the mega mall!

Sighting the mega mall in a break in the weather we achieved the turn off, circled the roundabout and crossed under the main road…..

No sign of El Rey.

Back to the autopista! There must be a slip road..

Under the main road, round the roundabout and back to the autopista where, as we emerged from the feeder road we saw the huge structure of El Rey warehouse on the other side.

Turn off!



Which brought us to another underpass alongside a river and we emerged into a smaller shopping centre featuring several shops and something called The Outback Grill.

That’s changed hands…it used to be called Hooters.

What is Hooters?

Tarts with tits.

Well, no tarts with tits today…but no El Rey either.

An attempt to penetrate further by way of the service road ended in defeat…and still no sign of El Rey.

Back to the autopista! It must be on the other side of the river…

Returning via the underpass the navigator thought it a good idea to cut off a dog leg by driving through the mega mall car park…until realising that this required payment at which point the three point turn required would have delighted a driving instructor but reduced the drivers queuing to enter to noisy fury.

Driving off to the accompaniment of the blaring of horns we took the dog leg, circled the roundabout and ended up on the other side of the autopista in an industrial estate which was closed for the weekend.

Still no sign of El Rey.

Back to the autopista!

Shall we drive into San Jose to the El Rey there? We know where that is!

No! I’ve had enough! We’ll buy it at home!

O.K. then, ‘Macho’ Cruz it is….
















Filed under Costa Rica, shopping, Uncategorized

In a Changing world Some Things Rest Eternal


I have long left France, but news still reaches me.

Not the national stuff – there are newspapers for that – but the important, the local, stuff.

Recently the wires have been hot with the mystery of how the chemist managed:

A) to get enough dosh together to buy racehorses. Answer, the sale of suppositories

and B) whom did he bribe and with what to be able to take over the farmland on which to keep them which should have gone to the new entrant to farming who had completed all the formalities and was just awaiting the final accord. Answer not yet forthcoming, but my hounds are on the scent.

However the geegees have faded into the background for the moment as a new subject has appeared on the horizon: a variant on the old standby of the local lawyers.

They can always be relied upon to be a source of interest, from various estimates of their venality and incompetence to proof thereof as witnessed and paid for by their victims – otherwise known as clients.

Their method on taking on a new client is first to go to the window to see how much his car cost in order to formulate their eye watering demand for an initial provision, followed by a cursory read of the papers to see whether or not any local bigwig is involved in which case they will either

A) discover a conflict of interests

or – for the more machiavellian among them – B) take the case in order to obtain an outcome satisfactory to said bigwig, no matter what the cost to the unfortunate client before them.

However, this time they are at war with themselves.

Every couple of years they elect a council headed by a shop steward (Batonnier) to represent them to third parties and to maintain internal discipline – let no one charge less than the maximum….but this time they seem to have caught a tartar by the tail.

One can only imagine the man to have been a sleeper, placed there by some outside body years ago until his moment came to be elected as Batonnier and he threw off his disguise to reveal himself as someone who thought that the law should be applied to his flock of black robed vultures.

French lawyers are obliged – by a decree dating from 1991 – to undertake training to update themselves as to the state of the law. If general lawyers miss a year they can make it up the next year, but those claiming to be specialists have to do ten hours hard every year and the new Batonnier discovered that several of his colleagues – specialists – on the council not only had done nothing of the sort but clearly did not intend to do anything of the sort.

They complained that he was adopting a legalistic attitude….and then decided to cover their backs by passing a regulation, applying only to themselves,  which put off until 2017  – after the term of office of the Batonnier ends – the obligation to comply with the legal requirements of 1991…

Let us recap…lawyers decide to avoid their legal obligations by awarding themselves immunity….and complain that their Batonnier has no respect for the old Spanish customs of the local legal fraternity when he demands that the requirements of the law are observed.

Infuriated, the Batonnier removed those who in his view were no longer qualified as specialist lawyers from the appropriate part of the official list of local lawyers – where they now figure as mere generalists.

Outraged, the demoted called a meeting and demanded the resignation of the Batonnier.

But there is no known procedure for stripping a Batonnier of his office….and the gentleman in question promptly referred the demand for his resignation to the local prosecutors office to be heard by the regional Court of Appeal.

His colleagues, now decidedly humpty, have decided to ask for the case to be dismissed as they claim that they were not made aware of the proceedings and have not had time to read the papers.

The more cynical of their clients note that that has never stopped them going to court before….but then, this is different. This concerns them.

People here  frequently complain about the idleness, incompetence and general shadiness of Costa Rican lawyers…..but their French counterparts beat them into a cocked hat.

Reassuring to know that some things never change….as long as you are well away out of their clutches.













Filed under france, french lawyers, Uncategorized

A Moving Experience…


Surprises usually await me on return from trips abroad: one year a load of bullocks, another a pair of American Staffordshire pups.

This year, after – for me – an uneventful return from visiting my mother another surprise was on the books.

We were moving.

Not far…just up the hill behind our current house to the house which seems to have been in gestation forever.

It was being built by Danilo  in his spare time from looking after the finca, so progress was never going to be a sprint.

It turned out to be far from that as Danilo’s mother entered her final illness, so for several months he was able to do just the basics with the animals each day before going off to spend time with her.

She was younger than my mother, but worn out by perpetual childbirth – nineteen children – and a hard life with no mod cons and insufficient  food, despite the best efforts of her husband – who died in his fifties – and the older children as they grew up to provide.

I met her once, at a family get together: it was obvious how much she was loved and respected for her sacrifice – they all knew how often she had gone without food in order that the children should be fed; the backbreaking work of endless washing to keep the children clean to go to school in apple pie order; her determination that they would all have a better life.

Further delays were caused by our unpleasant North American neighbour. He tried every trick in the book to prevent construction from denouncing us for not applying for planning permission – a good try there as the fine for being caught is less than the fee for the application – to denouncing us for not paying Danilo’s compulsory insurance for construction work – ditto – with an attempt to obstruct our access to water as a sideline.

Whatever it is he is up to it is clear that he doesn’t like the idea of someone being able to see who visits his house and at what hour…

Still, he was duly stuffed and eventually work resumed. The basics were there, but all the finishing details remained to be done.

Which was where matters stood when I left for England.

Mother is coming up to her hundredth birthday this year but, uncharacteristically, had had a series of problems with a chest infection which was pulling her down so, as – pre Brexit – there was an incredibly cheap flight to London I took the chance to see how things were going.

She was down pin, off her feed and fed up with the miserable weather, but the application of a cattle goad to her doctor produced a course of better antibiotics and retail therapy did the rest….ill or well, mother can shop till I drop.

No sooner had we exhausted one shopping area than she was planning the next sortie…an entire summer wardrobe was purchased and once again I have to hail the staff of John Lewis for their customer service. Nothing was too much trouble to find the right fabric and style and to undertake alterations.

I took the opportunity to do my own shopping: Marmite, of course, and kippers in bulk from a superb fish shop in the town, hoping that for once Iberia would not lose my luggage in Madrid as otherwise the suitcase would probably swim home of its own volition.

Kippers managing to arrive at the same time as myself I relaxed, looking forward to a few day of cuddling the dogs and recovering from an overnight in Madrid airport.

No chance.

‘Oh, I forgot to tell you…we’re moving.’

This was, I admit, my own fault. I had waxed large before my trip on the idea that if we waited for everything to be finished we would be waiting until Doomsday but never in all my puff had I imagined that The Men would do anything about it.

They had.

Boxes galore encumbered the house….none of them marked….

Cupboards had been ransacked…provender recently bottled jostled with that of previous vintages…

Wardrobes had been attacked….kitchen appliances desecrated…

Never did I feel more in need of a sign:

‘Danger! Men at Work!’

So we moved.

Moving is always somewhat chaotic,so no surprises there…

I eventually found the soup blender and the potato peeler….the clothes hangers…

But there was one feature which defeated me…

Where were the interior doors?


Clearly there had been a hitch.

Julio -slated to produce the doors – had had a cashflow problem. His raw material supplier would not let him have any more wood until he had cleared his last bill, which he could not do as his last clients had not paid him.

His solution? As his last clients were gringos we would go with him to extract payment.

I put down my foot. Given that the gringos I see here are tighter  than a duck’s arse I could see no future in trying to extract payment in the foreseeable future unless armed with a machete and loaded for bear.

My solution was that we would pay for the wood and Julio would bill us for his work…

He has the wood…but until the finished articles appear the dogs are having a field day rushing from room to room and going to the loo involves a recce to see where The Men are working and  whence they are liable to appear without warning…

It has had decidedly deleterious effects on the morning George.






















Filed under moving house, Uncategorized

Life in a Small Country

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I live in a small country….nobody bothers much about it on the international scene with the exception of the U.S.A. when it wants a springboard for overthrowing other regimes in Central America, China when it wants non recognition of Taiwan and the exploitative Greens with their carbon exchange scam.

Its government is content to exploit its own people without bothering about those of other countries, doesn’t have an arms industry or even an army, runs an appalling fiscal deficit and bumps along from month to month and hand to mouth.

After life in two European countries trying to pretend that they are still world powers it is quite relaxing.

Had I still been living in the U.K. I would have voted to leave the E.U.: I hadn’t wanted to enter the original free trade area either and nothing since – not even the vestigial aid of European legislation to the protection of workers in the U.K. under Thatcher – has made me change my mind.

Twenty years in France reinforced my views…

The British system in which I had grown up had little in common with that of France.

We might  have had a common heritage  in the Western Church, but that was about all…

Napoleon had taken his authoritarian regime all over the continent and there its legacy stayed…keep your mouth shut, keep your head down and do as you are told.

Unless you are rich.

And this is the regime which has come to the U.K. with its accession to the  pan European regime.

The possession of money – by whatever means – gives immunity not only from the law,but from moral responsibility.

When I consider that we used to think Reginald Maudling and John Poulson as the epitome of corruption the mind boggles: today we have E.U. accounts that can never be signed off…commissioners paying their dentists with E.U. jobs…and the Common Agricultural Policy siphoning money to the big producers to the detriment of the family farms in order to subsidise the agroalimentary industry.

Next time you buy a pot of Danone yogurt seek the taste of corruption within.

The U.K.has, to the shock of its masters, voted to leave the E.U.

This is represented as a disaster.

To me, it seems like an opportunity.

A chance for the U.K.  to become a small country.

The imperial dream is long gone: could not the U.K. do without being an obedient satellite of the U.S.A., throwing the children of its young into wars which assist only foreign corporations?

Could not the U.K. revive the values of the post war settlement in order to found a future in which young people do not have to bankrupt themselves while obtaining an inferior education?

Could the U.K.not rediscover its talents without the limitation of an exterior straitjacket of rules and regulations?

And, most of all, could the U.K.not become a force for peace in the world?












Filed under Brexit, Uncategorized