Panama U.K.

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Panama has been in the news recently thanks to revelations of the activities of one of its law firms which specialises in helping rich buggers to get richer by avoiding taxes which those of us whose net worth is peanuts are forced to pay.

For Scots, Panama has another claim to fame: the collapse of the  Darien scheme of the late 1690s, a project aimed at breaking the restrictions on Scottish trade posed by he English Navigation Acts by  setting up a trading entrepot straddling the  the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  Given the level of investment lost in its downfall Scotland was effectively bankrupt and thus  weak enough to allow the movers and shakers of the time to abandon independence  and accept the Act of Union with England in 1707.

Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.

And in the waters of Panama, off the port of  Nombre de Dios, lies the body of Sir Francis Drake..inveterate foe of Spain who attacked their silver fleets and their colonies in the Americas year after year…not forgetting his participation in the defeat of the Armada celebrated in  Newbolt’s poem:

Drake’s drum was returned to England at his death and forms another of the legends concerning heroes who will arise from sleep when their country is in peril.

Finn McCoolCadwalader, King Arthur….every country seems to have one – though typically enough the only Scottish one that comes to mind is Thomas the Rhymer. – but then the Scots, ‘secure in valour’s station’, don’t need dead heroes to stir them up….

But it appears to me that it is well time someone started to beat out that rhythm on Drake’s drum, to summon him to the rescue of his country which is fast going not to the dogs, but to the hyenas.

Britain has a referendum to decide whether or not to stay in the bosom of the European Union with  the unforeseen consequence that it will force voters to look at the state of their country as they try to decide whether to keep ahold of nurse or whether ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world’..

Can the U.K. survive outside the E.U. is the question.

But the answer demands an examination of the U.K. as it stands.

Does the U.K.have an industrial base? Does it make anything that people wish to buy?

Decades of successive governments have willfully destroyed the industrial potential of the U.K., replacing it with a financial services sector. Do other people wish to buy these services?

Certainly.

Despots, oligarchs, exploiters of the human race are all in favour.

London is the money laundering capital of the world.

This provides rich pickings for the bum brushers of the City  of London…but nothing for the rest of the population.

In those same decades education has suffered both in availability and quality….

The National Health Service too – in the cause of letting private profit exploit public need.

Employment now means existing on precarious contracts – how can one found a family life on that? How can one buy goods beyond the bare essentials for life?

The country is in hock both financially and morally.

Slavery lives in the U.K. as official life turns a blind eye to the fate of indentured servants of wealthy Arabs who come to live in the country….

Arms are sold to countries who support groups which are a threat to the U.K…..

U.K. politicians support armed interventions which benefit only the U.S.A. companies who direct its government – and bring risk to the general population who do not benefit from the security surrounding the rich and powerful.

I have both fear and hope: fear that the generations accustomed to cowed acceptance of propaganda rather than suspicion of it will  let things stand as they are – hope that being forced to make a decision will make people look further; ask themselves if the U.K.is the country they want it to be…and, if not, what they can do to change it.

And Sir Francis Drake…arriving at Plymouth Hoe, dripping water from his suit of armour? I suspect he would take one look at the U.K. and, had he acquired  a grasp of the Glaswegian vernacular in his sojourn in the hereafter, announce that if anyone thought he could solve the problems  – drum or no drum – then  their ‘erse was oot the windae’.

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Virtue Rewarded, the Bodyguard’s Tale

The Men have a project.

The project requires heavy duty electric cable.which  is not available locally unless ordered especially and risks costing an arm and a leg.

Solution?

Buy it in San Jose.

Fortuitously, Geraldo also requires cable of the same dimensions – and his son knows where to buy it.

cocacola

In the Coca Cola market where – anxious gringos would have you believe –  babies are barbecued to order and men leap from the shadows to cut off any finger bearing a gold ring.

There is some slight foundation for this folk tale: I was shopping for veg there when a gentleman sidled up alongside and advised me not to wear my tiger eye ring as it was genuine and might attract persons less respectful than himself.

What about my wedding ring? I enquired.

What do you take us for, senora?  We are not barbarians: of course we respect a wedding ring..but that tiger eye might attract the interest of the wrong type.

How do you know it’s not a fake?

We know.

 

Normally Leo would have accompanied Danilo and Geraldo  –  he loves the Coca Cola where bargaining is the breath of life – but, recovering as he is, he could not cope with the journey and a long morning of negotiations.

He would give Danilo the money – cash speaks louder than bank cards in the Coca Cola  – and Danilo and Geraldo would pick up what was needed, taking our car for transport.

No! This would not do!

Why not?

Danilo was worried  that he might be mugged with all that money on him. I should go with them and carry the money.

And what if I were to be mugged?

No problem…Geraldo and I will protect you.

 

So it was arranged that there would be a joint expedition to San Jose: the gentlemen would buy the cable and then I would pick up bulk bones and offal for the dogs and a freezer load of wholemeal bread from our favourite baker.

We set off……to a running commentary from Geraldo on the latest scandals relating to houses that we passed ……until arriving in the centre of San Jose where Danilo had planned to use his favourite parking lot.

It was full. It always is.

He proposed pulling up in front of it until the queue disappeared and then driving round the block to enter.

I proposed driving to Coca Cola and seeking on street parking.

As it was my car I eventually prevailed against the sucking of teeth and dire warnings of roaming the streets forever….

We pulled up in front of the shop recommended by Geraldo’s son and were directed to a spot further down the road where a ‘guatchiman’ (watchman) was paid to look after the car. Distinctly cheaper than the parking lot.

The shop recommended by Geraldo’s son did not have the cable of the dimensions required.

However, as we left a gentleman approached us with an offer to sell us the cable in question. We followed him to a back street lock up whose garage door – once raised – revealed  reels of cable in all dimensions – save  that which we sought.

Not to worry , he said…I can get it for you.

Thinking that we just bet he could we beat a retreat saying that we needed it today and started combing Coca Cola for the cable we required – and its price.

Leo on form would have loved it…by the time we had checked every stall my feet hurt and my brain was scrambled but eventually we hit on the shop we needed.

Our order was measured out on the pavement , upon which a series of five metre marks were indicated by strips of yellow paint. Danilo stationed himself at one end and Geraldo at the other to see  that no hanky panky took place while the staff pulled cable from the drum. All duly approved by the committee, our cable was rolled and we turned to Geraldo’s order.

But there was a problem. Geraldo had brought money enough to pay for the cable on his son’s estimate of prices. This cable was slightly dearer.

He would come back the next day and take the cable on the bus.

Nonsense. I lent him the money which he would pay me the next day – as he did.

Duty done we headed for the central market car park where I asked Danilo pick up a sack of bones and offal, giving him the money, while I  went to draw from the cash machine at the Banco Nacional down the road and do some general shopping.

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No, no, no! Thus Geraldo.

He, Danilo, could not let me loose, unescorted, in San Jose!  What was he thinking of?

So it was that I found myself shadowed by a tiny man of over seventy years of age – the Costa Rican version of Cohen the Barbarian – as I entered the Art Deco edifice of the Banco Nacional. Drawing my money I was about to sort out my bag at the table provided, watched over by security guards.

No, no, no!

I must put my card and money away at the cash point…who knew who might be watching!

But there are guards…

Guards! Where will they be if you are mugged on the doorstep…?

Prisoner and escort – we must have looked like the Queen of Tonga and her lunch – headed back to the central market. Pausing to buy tomatoes from my regular supplier I found that  Geraldo had been vetting the bags prepared for sale and advised the stall holder to give me a bag of my choosing…and was given another for himself.

We met Danilo in the Central Market hauling the  huge sack of bones and offal to the car and went to buy fish and prawns.

Geraldo insisted on sifting through the prawns..something that – as they were on offer – I would not have done… and was rewarded with two fillets of fish for being so careful of my interests…

We were loaded by this time so I sent him with the bags to join Danilo at the car while I ventured into the Mercado Borbon – reputation even worse that that of Coca Cola – in search of pigs’ liver for sausages.

Three minutes’ later he was at my side…hailed by my regular butcher as my body guard and given a half kilo of sausages for his lunch…

Off in the car to  the bakery where Geraldo insisted on inspecting every loaf..and was given a chili pastry for his pains……

 

On the way home Danilo remarked that he was never given freebies..

That, said Geraldo, is because you don’t know your job.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Costa Rica, shopping, Uncategorized

Muggers’ Day

flowersThe even tenor of my morning was disturbed by an unwelcome piece of information.

The next day would be Mothers’ Day in the U.K. and, as I had been totally unaware of the hazard, I had not ordered flowers to be delivered to my aged parent.

Panic! Forget to order those blasted flowers and you might as well order a guillotine in kit form and make an end of yourself, otherwise you are in for a bloom by bloom description of the flowers delivered to her friends by their dutiful offspring spread over several ‘phone calls.

Mark you, given the incompetence and downright arrogance of firms these days the guillotine kit would probably arrive with the screws for the blade missing and an instruction to buy your own rope.

Only a few online flower suppliers were still offering delivery on the day so I thought it would be quick work to find something she would like….but we all know what thought did…

Most of what was said to be available proved to be no longer available…and the minutes were ticking down to the delivery deadline – Costa Rica being six hours behind the U.K.

Finally I found a bouquet which I thought would be to her taste. I went through the rigmarole of ordering….and just as I was to confirm found that the delivery date was for the day following Der Tag.

Much bad language followed as I tried to unravel the mysteries of a system which said it could deliver this bouquet on one date and then changed it for another date…but finally I discovered that it could indeed deliver on Mothers’ Day – if I was willing to pay ten quid more! Not so much Mothers’ Day as Muggers Day.

The blazes with that! I just had time to ring her local florist and appeal for mercy.

Mother is getting freesias tonight when the florist’s son gets back from football.

Online transactions are becoming part of our life: for my husband the perusal of Chinese mail order lists happily occupy him as witness the shower of  canine nail clippers, hair scissors, collars, leads, files, watches and mouse traps which have descended upon us in recent weeks.

I have to say that all have been top quality, have a no questions asked return policy – if you can read Chinese addresses – cost bugger all and are despatched post free.

By the look of the local Post Office half the town is similarly engaged in doing its bit to support the Chinese economy in its hour of need and so far the Costa Rican customs have not been holding items to ransom in their lair in the outskirts of San Jose.

Whether this will hold good for the tazer he seems to have ordered remains to be seen …and no, I don’t know how he managed to order it either…

Back up for the mouse traps perhaps…?

Or perhaps he was prescient.

We have been trying to rationalise our various bank accounts online….but banks have developed beyond the Chinese model of trying to please the customer.

The current bank model is, unless the customer is a drug trafficking human rights abuser introduced by Tony Blair (for a consideration), to treat said customer as a drug trafficking human rights abuser not introduced by Tony Blair.

You want to transfer some of your money?  Prove who you are! Prove that the bank to which you wish to to transfer the funds exists!

As proof of the latter seems to consist of producing said bank’s letterhead  the John Bull printing set must be making record sales in Nigeria…

Mark you, since one of the banks concerned is owned by Richard Branson, Britain’s prototype for Donald Trump,  perhaps they have grounds for concern…

Things are no better at the other end.

We’re sending back this money unless you can prove how you came by it! How they expect us to recall where the odd five grand came from is beyond me – it’s just sitting there, where it’s been sitting for the last few years…

So far a collection of old conveyances and actes de vente have provided sufficient cover but at some point some bright spark might notice that the same conveyance has covered a number of transactions…

Add to all this that reaction to mention of the Costa Rican currency – the colon – varies from crude remarks to blank incomprehension in banking circles and you can see that our rationalisation programme is on a hiding to nothing.

Still, the human touch still exists.

On Monday I shall be going in to my local bank branch to pick up my new bank card.

I had gone in to do this on Friday and waited for half an hour while increasingly frantic staff hunted for it high and low. Eventually, after consulting the computer and calls to Head Office, it was suggested that I go home and that they would call me  when they had a solution.

I had been home half an hour when the call came.

They had my card after all.

It had fallen down the back of the filing cabinet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Emergency Ward 10

san juan de dios

 

My husband returned from hospital today.

He was taken ill on Sunday last….he has a foul nasty now -after years of diagnosis, misdiagnosis  and stabs in the dark – known as CANOMAD and has had attacks from time to time over the last thirty years.

While it might sound like a variant of rabies the easiest way to describe it is that if he catches a ‘flu’ bug, instead of his antibodies attacking the bug his antibodies attack him, destroying the nerve sheaths and rendering him paralysed.

It starts in his lips, progresses via his tongue and throat and if not treated in time would paralyse his lungs….so we have to live near a hospital that can treat him with immunoglobulin – the only treatment known to medical science – which costs an arm and a leg.

Thus at three thirty on Sunday morning we were belting along in a CAJA (Costa Rican national health service) ambulance which swooped down the switchback curves of the road to the capital at a speed far in excess of that proposed for the conditions  – which was fine until we hit- in every sense – the intermediate town.

With a view to winning the elections the outgoing mayor had installed speed bumps on the main road through  the town centre.

‘Bump’ is not an adequate description…think Big Dipper.

Our driver had not passed that way since the bumps were installed so we hit them at a speed which achieved a fair semblance of lift off, Leo flying into the air from his stretcher and descending with an audible thump while I picked myself off the floor and extended my vocabulary by listening to the driver’s commentary.

I wish I had written it down….certain phrases had an almost biblical intensity, with use of the ‘selah’  at key intervals.

Unloaded at the Emergency department, into a scene which Cecil B de Mille would envy…patients, family of same en masse, Red Cross staff trying to reclaim their wheelchairs and stretchers, cleaners wielding mops, catering staff in hairnets distributing coffee while nurses, doctors and medical students produced organisation from chaos.

Luckily my husband is an inpatient at the hospital, so his dossier was available, diagnosis made and treatment ordered – as soon as there was a bed available in the Emergency department – no good looking further as the hospital was full to bursting point.

Bed finding was the speciality of a senior female doctor who bore a great resemblance to Granny Giles – without the hat.

grandma giles

She stalked the wards and corridors in search of prey…and pounced.

A gentleman in his sixties, safely esconced in a bed, was complaining loudly that no one would bring him a coffee.

Granny Giles studied his file and summoned a porter.

Get this gentleman back in his own clothes, give him a coffee and send him home by ambulance. If his lungs are strong enough to bellow like that he can bellow at home….

So Leo’s treatment commenced…

On Monday he was transferred to another ward….and I discovered the visiting system….

First, you have to obtain a visiting card. This card resembles a zoo entrance ticket in that it firmly forbids feeding the inmates.

Then you have to turn up at visiting hours: for anyone who remembers the NHS of the fifties and sixties this springs no surprises.

But this hospital has its own way of running things. There is a check point where staff make sure that no illicit pork scrachings, booze or sticky sweets are being smuggled in – and the queue runs outside the hospital and round two blocks.

Unless you are a pensioner. In which case you wait on specially reserved seats and are let through first to many cracks about age before beauty and give the young ladies priority to have the  time to titivate themselves…

Thank goodness for Danilo who held the fort while I took the bus to the capital…a three hour round trip apart from the visiting. Alone, trying to close up the sheep in the dark, I would have been pushed to the limits.

Still, daily life went  on regardless so late in the week I ‘phoned my mother to get her shopping list which would go online to Tesco and in due course be delivered to her door.

After close consideration of the merits of gammon as opposed to a beef joint business was concluded and mother got down to the events of the week.

Mother in Southampton, when on form, can give Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells a fair  run for its money and she was loaded for bear.

Sport mad, she cannot watch cricket as she will not pay for Sky but she was up to date with the news.

What’s all this about the West Indian Under 19 team running about naked?

Mind boggling gently I seek further particulars.

Well, they’re not wearing anything and the umpires are letting them!

How do you know…you can’t watch the match on the box.

They’re talking about it on Test Match Special….they’re running out men wearing no clothes.

Who is doing the running out?

Someone naked. His name begins with M but I can’t remember it…

A  cup of tea later I attempt to unravel the mystery.

It appears that the West Indies Under 19 team’s bowler ran out an opposing batsman in a way which was within the Laws of cricket but which was deemed unsporting.

The thing is called a Mankad– after the first chap to try it in the modern era.

What mother is thinking of is a Mankini…..

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I agree that players wearing mankinis might well encourage audiences…but what I would like to know is how mother discovered the mankini…

 

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As they Revel in the Joys of Renovation

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It’s not always as much fun as this – clambering about in a roofless wreck dating from the fourteenth century; a stone spiral staircase in the remains of the tower and an unsuspected vaulted cellar below, discovered when the termite specialist from the town hall fell through the floor into its entrance.

‘What bad luck,’ said the neighbour. ‘Fill that in quick before the archaeologists find out about it.’

My husband is a serial house renovator, beginning in the evenings after work  in London as a young man when his haggard looks on arrival at the Stock Exchange in the mornings prompted his then boss to counsel him not to be out on the tiles every night. Stifling the urge to respond that actually he had been under the joists he remained quiet and just smiled mysteriously when colleagues asked him how he managed to pull the birds so successfully.

He continued in France…..but there was an obstacle to progress.

The artisan francais.

In that time and in that place the artisan francais was the bodger supreme and the client did as the bodger told him as he, the bodger, was, after all, the artisan while the client was only the client.

You wanted a damp course installed for the new kitchen? Fat chance.

A. The bodger didn’t know what it was

and

B. The bodger didn’t intend to find out.

Instead, should you be rash enough to go away for a week the bodger would promptly dry line your kitchen instead thus putting out all your measurements for the units.

What with that and the habit of mixing up a barrow load of cement just before lunch and dumping what remained unused in the shrubbery it was clear that the artisan francais was not the answer to prayer.

Then a friend in the village – a Turk married to a French woman – put us on to a friend of his, another Turk running his own building business.

We had struck gold.

His estimates were reasonable and accurate; he knew what he was doing and he had an eye and a feeling for old buildings.

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He and his main men – the mighty Osman and the monosyllabic Ramazan – supplemented by the young men straight from Turkey, undertook the heavyweight stuff; removal of walls, replacement of roofs, replacement of rotten beams with RSJs, laying floors, making arches and doorways….our part was the follow up work; pointing, painting, puttying and grouting. Uncomfortable though they were, given the endless metres of tiling I had to grout the bogging pads certainly saved me from an attack of grouter’s knee – something which sounds as if it should have been celebrated by Rambling Syd Rumpo:

There were arts to learn…an RSJ does not look at ease alongside ancient beams: the answer is to enclose it in a plasterboard case, then mix up a gunge of glue and plaster which is slapped on with a liberal hand, combed to imitate wood grain and anointed while wet with walnut stain.

Sounds naff…looks good and certainly fooled every expert.

To restore limestone mouldings perished by the weather you could buy a powder called ‘Patrimoine’  – but it wouldn’t last unless you first applied Bondex to the site to be restored. And at that period you had to bring your Bondex from England.

Bringing old wrecks back to life was a joy.

Some we lived in, some we rented out, others we sold on straight away, but each was a pleasure.

When you can find this old lady, windows broken, water running down the walls,

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and restore her dignity

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You feel that all the work was worthwhile.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer is icumen in…

Summer is indeed upon us: we might lack the cuckoo in these tropical climes but we certainly have the full range of farmyard animals referred to in the lyrics about us.

And, especially, we have Monty.

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From this little thing, rejected by his mother, he has now, some two years later, turned into this:

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Very much the patriarch with his family about him.

He took his time making the transition.

For a long time he hung about near the house doing guard sheep duties:

monty on guard

But more and more he was drawn to the flock whence he came until he finally decided to take up residence and dominate them rather than us.

He has taken on the typical attitude of a ram…if it is in the way, butt it, if it isn’t butt it anyway… but still and always cuddles up to Leo, mild as milk.

Clearly, he does not forget who saved him.

Climate change is with us: the pastures are drying out early in the unseasonable heat, so thank goodness that we laid a lot of ground down to cameroun – a nutritious fodder grass – a few years ago  to supplement the grazing which means that the ewes maintain vigour and can support their lambs, unlike Monty’s mother who had arrived half starved.

We were supposed to be at the altitude limit for coconuts to fruit…but this year, not content with fruiting, they have started to germinate:

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Goodness only knows what changes we will see in the future…but, for the moment, as this song from the late fifties says:

 

 

 

 

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Here they come again…

 

The local elections are upon us…..February 7th is D Day and all the candidates are out trying to secure the confidence of the electorate. If confidence is the right word.

Cars flying party flags are to be seen in the streets…vast posters of the features of the candidates leer from hoardings – though those promoting one candidate in a neighbouring canton have been attacked by an aesthete who has carefully removed said candidate’s head from each one…..

There are not just party candidates…there are independents too.

In the capital the man who stood as presidential candidate for his party and then withdrew in mysterious circumstances has not been dismayed at being banned from standing for the party again for some years. No, far from it. His podgy features beam from posters funded by his personal election committee and only the least charitable of persons could give credence to the rumour that he has to get his hands on the town hall funds  in order to pay off the Mexican syndicate which funded his presidential run….

Just as in the U.K., the candidates are chary of trying door to door canvassing…too many people have pit bulls and those that don’t have machetes.

Wild promises are being made by our local heroes: more employment…roads  to be repaired…the erratic public water supply to be improved… which is generally translated as meaning

‘When I get into power the council will make jobs for my family and friends: sons of friends will be employed to carry out the necessary preliminary studies for road repairs which will take all the years of my mandate with no perceptible improvement in the situation and the only improvement in the water supply will be me, my family and friends pissing on the population from a great height.’

So, recognising that enthusing the voters is a lost cause the candidates have resorted to the tried and tested method of carrot and stick as exemplified in another neighbouring canton where those on low incomes applying for grants to build a house are given to understand that the outcome of their application will depend on the way they cast their  vote…

And don’t talk to me about the secrecy of the ballot….

I lived in a French village where the maire knew exactly which forty four people had voted Front National and thus also knew which car tyres to let down on the night of the election…and if France can  do it Costa Rica will not be far behind.

The social media are busy…publicity, of course, but plenty of accusations of dirty work at the crossroads too – some backed by proof, others solely relying on innuendo – which are inevitably subject to comments expressing shock that the person concerned has been so lost to all sense of decency that they could even contemplate publishing such material in the period before an election….the said comments usually being followed by others pointing out the family relationship shared by the person making the comment and the person commented upon in the initial post.

You will note that I have given examples only from neighbouring cantons….

In our own dear canton, of course, all the candidates are as pure as the driven slush…

 

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