Mr. Magouille.

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A French friend sent me an e mail today.

‘Read the paper! Open a good bottle!’

So I turned up the local rag on line and found the item to which he referred:

L’ex maire de ‘St. Supplice’ definitivement condamne’.

Not, unfortunately, to the guillotine, but to a disqualification from holding public office for three years and a fine of seven thousand five hundred euros, in respect of an illegal use of his powers while maire of his commune.

As it was by then lunchtime I did indeed open a good bottle in celebration.

I had known this man…I bought my first house in France from him.

Well, not exactly from him as he was then disqualified from any financial dealings and everything was in the name of his wife.

The notaire, well oiled in the after lunch appointment to finalise the sale, had been discursive.

The gentleman had been involved in property speculations in the Var and had gone spectacularly bust. I was left with the distinct impression that while going spectacularly bust might have been marginally acceptable, doing so in the department of the Var…in the south of France…put the man beyond the pale.
Rural France, la France Profonde, may not be fond of Paris….but it is definitely agin the south of France.

He – or his wife – had bought a chateau in dire need of repair….the last owners, three maiden ladies known as the ‘six fesses’ – three bare arses – due to their parsimony, had finally given up the struggle to maintain life in the one room which was not dripping with damp and the property speculator had struck.

He had a plan.

By selling off the peripheral properties ( thus my house purchase) he had enough money to finance the initial repairs: he managed to make enough of the chateau habitable to be accepted by social services as a foster parent….and as the money rolled in the chateau was fully repaired – to be fair, he and his wife did a great job with the children they fostered – and he was regarded as a respectable citizen.
Not by me…I had had the benefit of the notaire’s indiscretions.

So much so that, with support from right thinking persons, he became maire of St. Supplice.

But the old Adam of property speculation was strong within him….

As so often in France, the local council owns a number of buildings in the commune.

In St. Supplice, it owned the building used for years as the Post Office…and when La Poste, in its eternal quest to reduce services and increase prices, decided to close down its office the council, with the maire at its head, put the building up for sale.

A value was determined by Les Domaines – a government agency which handles public property – and the game was on.

An offer was received from a Belgian resident of the commune.
The offer was rejected, although over the valuation arrived at by Les Domaines.

The maire authorised the demolition of some of the outbuildings of the Post Office.

An offer was received from a company owned by the son of the maire, whose capital depended on a loan to said company from the old dad.
This offer was under the valuation arrived at by Les Domaines.
It was accepted.

The Belgian gentleman protested.
The maire – on behalf of the council – replied that as the outbuildings had been demolished the value had been reduced and the offer accepted reflected the reality of the situation.

You have to realise, when dealing with anything in France that you have to follow the advice of the White Queen to Alice and practise believing six impossible things before breakfast….otherwise madness lies.

So while you might think that the reduction in value made the Belgian’s offer even more attractive, shifting the goalposts – or the outhouses – allowed the council to assume that it would have to accept a lower offer.
An offer made by the son of the maire.

The Belgian, not having been brought up on Alice, was not impressed.
He sued the council.

And, in particular, the maire.

The maire’s lawyer claimed that the maire had been badly advised.

The court was not impressed. The maire was disqualified from public office for three years and fines seven thousand five hundred euros.

The Belgian claimed consequential loss….the court refused to accept his plea.

The maire appealed.

The regional Court of appeal threw it out.

He appealed again.

The Cour de Cassation (Supreme Court in this instance) threw it out.

Collapse of stout party.

But having had a nap to recover from the good bottle which had been opened I turned the matter over in my mind again.

Yes, the maire had been disqualified for three years…dating from 2013. He’ll be free to stand again from March next year.
Agreed, he has had to cough up seven thousand five hundred euros…but – given that he (or his son) has bought the old Post Office for a song – that is chicken feed.

The Belgian, on the other hand, has been deprived of the power to buy the property.

The commune has been deprived of the extra amount which the Belgian was willing to pay for it.

Another triumph of the French justice system.

That wine begins to taste sour.

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Filed under corruption, france, misuse of power

Cold Turkey

Mother was a very good cook…in the English tradition.

Her roasts were superb….her Yorkshire puddings rose like fairy castles…..her suet dumplings were light as feathers….and, recognising the innate viciousness of cabbage, she boiled it to death, its spirit haunting the house for an hour before lunch.

She could – and did – make strudel pastry; pulling gently at the ball of dough until it covered the sheet laid out on the dining room table.

Her boiled and baked puddings – spotted dick, jam roly poly, Sussex pond pudding, black cap, Saxon pudding, Bakewell tart – were a sheer delight.

Her cakes equalled those of her mother…her pastry was a dream, from shortcrust, sugar crust, to choux and hot water paste….

And then she discovered convenience foods.

Paradise lost.

It all started with a frozen turkey.

Normally we had had a goose from the farm…but the farm had been sold and mother had been seduced by the promises of the Irish milkman – the curse of Cromwell upon him – that the frozen turkey which he would deliver would be a revelation.

It was.

He delivered it on Christmas Eve in the afternoon – his round, you understand, having taken longer to complete thanks to the kindness of customers wishing to share the Christmas spirit whose aroma was thick about him.
By my reckoning that turkey had been on his milk float for at least ten hours but it showed no sign of defrosting…. on pulling off its coverings it resembled the glass mountain of the fairy tales of Andrew Lang – not just in its glossy appearance, but in its size.

In that period beef brisket joints were referred to as ‘oven buster’ as they tended to break loose from their ties and resume their original shape when cooked.
This was an oven buster of a different kind.
It was massive.

Father was out.
Luckily, as he had been decidedly sceptical about the delights promised by the milkman.

Mother and I looked at each other, at the turkey and at the oven.

Six hours to go until midnight when, by our calculations, the beast should enter the oven.
At all costs a meeting between father and the glass mountain was to be avoided.

We put the beast in the sink in the back kitchen and turned on the tap.
The water, while lapping the draining board, only came up to the turkey’s plimsoll line……this would never do.

The dog, arriving to investigate the turkey wrappings, gave us the inspiration.
Out in the shed we had the tin bath which we used for washing him…it was big enough to cover him once he had been wrestled to a sitting position, so it must be big enough for the turkey.

No sooner said than done.

Out to the shed, grab bath.
Drag bath into the back kitchen
Dog legs it to sanctuary under my bed.
Wash out bath with jugs of water and tip out into sink (turkey having been removed previously to glower from the groaning draining board.
Dump turkey in bath.
Fill bath with jugs of water.

Make cup of tea. Eye turkey.

By turning the thing every half hour we finally managed to extract the plastic bag containing the neck and giblets at a quarter to twelve: the oven was lit, goose pan found and the turkey dumped inside. It filled the oven completely, its parson’s nose touching the door.

Father returned in the early hours of Christmas Day having taken it upon himself to travel to the other side of London with friend to visit said friend’s cousins whom father had not met for years.
Doubtless drink had been taken at some point in his peregrinations.

We knew father had returned because – in an attempt not to raise the household – he entered via the door to the back kitchen and fell over the bath.

Somehow we escaped food poisoning that Christmas, and mother was on a roll.

Vesta dehydrated chow mien made its appearance.

Betty Crocker cake mixes leered from the cupboard.

And then she discovered frozen fish.

And tinned condensed soups.

And how to combine the two.

Supper time would be heralded by the a new aroma: that of a lump of indeterminate fish baked in the oven in a mix of milk and condensed mushroom soup.

Forget Proust and his blasted tisane de tilleul…..for years afterwards the whiff of cooked mushroom would bring back those days when food turned to ashes……

So when moving to France, shopping in the commercial sector of my local town – Chiottes la Gare – would often bring back those days….as there was a large factory on the edge of the sector turning fresh button mushrooms into canned sliced suede and on ‘cooking’ days the air was thick with the smell.

Mushrooms were relatively big business in the area, which was rich in the limestone caves ideal for the temperatures required in mushroom cultivation and the roads around were busy with lorries carrying mushrooms for processing and mushroom compost for improving the soil…..so much so in fact that the smell of mushrooms being cooked began to be identified with the town rather than with mother’s latter day cooking epiphany.

But alas….veni, vidi, vale….the mushroom factory is no more.

The parent company – Bonduelle – has shut it down leaving its one hundred and thirty eight employees out of work.

One hundred and thirty eight people – and the families who depend on their earnings – thrown on the heap.

A hard blow for a town which has just lost another major employer.

Jobs were initially offered at a plant in the neighbouring department – quite a commute, and no public transport, but people were willing to take it on. Anything is better than no job in modern day France because there aren’t any other jobs, search how you like.

But the jobs have not materialised, so the one hundred and thirty eight will have to fall back on the generous provision for those made unemployed.

Except it isn’t going to be generous.

The plant was owned by an agricultural co operative – France Champignon – before Bonduelle took a fifty three percent share in the co op and proudly placed a Bonduelle sign on the wall of the factory.

Now, the France Champignon sign is back because Bonduelle claims it is not responsible for the fate of France Champignon (despite its fifty three per cent holding).

What Bonduelle actually means that while compensation for sacked workers is generous in the industrial sector – Bonduelle – it is laughable in the agricultural sector – France Champignon.
Thus the changing of the sign.

A company which can swallow a fine of thirty million euros imposed by the European Union for rigging the mushroom market without blinking is content to fall back on a shabby device to cut compensation for employees sacked through no fault of their own and at the moment that is is refusing negotiations, its publicity air balloon sails over the factory: always a budget for publicity.

But where are the protests? Where the unions filling the streets with their members? Where are the politicians in their tricolour sashes, marching to support their townsmen and women?

Noticeably absent.

There is only a minor union presence in France Champignon/Bonduelle. The mighty CGT doesn’t deign to offer support, local politicians shrug their shoulders.
That’s just the way it is these days.

And the way it is these days goes some way to explaining why ordinary people turn their backs on the traditional power bases in France – venal unions who only represent eight per cent of French workers and couldn’t give two penn’orth of cold gin for the rest: equally venal politicians combining as many elected posts as possible to touch the allowances and pensions which go with them…..is it any wonder people listen to the message of the Front National?

As people in England listened to that of UKIP.

Both parties present themselves as alternatives to the current major parties while in fact they have the same structure, the same fault lines.

But when you feel that the life you knew is going down the drain you don’t look too closely to see whether your lifeline is fraying.

You grab and hope.

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Filed under Food, france

The kindness of a fellow passenger in averting deep vein thrombosis on the flight to Madrid

I was at San Jose airport departures when I first saw him.
As I filled out forms at the entrance to the Iberia check in desk he appeared, asking the attendant if he could keep an eye on his bags while he went to the counter to pay his exit tax.
The attendant said that he could not….according to security regulations he had to keep his bags with him at all times. Unattended bags ran a risk of being hoovered up by the airport police and taken to a bourne from which no suitcase was known to return.
There was a brief altercation, but by that time I had moved on to the desk where my suitcase was whisked away with assurances that it would be sent through on my connecting flight while I – the paying passenger – would have to get the boarding card for my connection on arrival at Madrid.
Could they not ticket me through?
No.
But you can do it for the suitcase.
The Senora is not a suitcase.
Unarguable, really.

Past security – where the abandonment of the idea of passengers removing their shoes may be due to the cost of providing staff with gas masks – and off into the airport proper.
Expensive shops selling tat for tourists, even more expensive food and drink outlets and a cubicle offering massages which gathers hopeful looks from passing male passengers before their wives follow the direction of their gaze and urge them past the danger zone.

Boarding the ‘plane by groups…..
Welcome to our Platinum, Diamond and other assorted rocks customers who are welcome to board together with priority passengers….
So the freeloaders line up with the harassed parents with toddlers and pushchairs, while there is a Gadarene rush to the loos on the part of the rest of the passengers.

The even tenor of proceedings in the Ladies is disturbed by an elderly man in a pork pie hat who bursts in calling for his wife….their group is boarding!

His wife, to judge from her response, has other priorities….my Spanish vocabulary is extended, particularly when he rushes from cubicle to cubicle imploring her in the name of various saints and the Virgin to emerge, which incites other ladies to make known their views on elderly gentleman in general and elderly gentlemen in pork pie hats in the Ladies loo in particular.
He is ejected by an attendant: his wife surges majestically from her cubicle and begins to adjust her make up.

By the time I return to the waiting area my group is being called, and as I sit down to wait for the queue to reduce the man I had noticed at the check in line appears, trundling his trolley in the direction of the loos.

Duly boarded, my carry on bag shoved into the overhead locker, I occupy my aisle seat.
Other groups board; the window seat remains unoccupied.
A couple board with cats in carry on cages and sit in the centre seats.
A French man behind me starts to sneeze, claiming an allergy but does not, as he hopes, get an upgrade; just an exchange with a non allergic person further up the ‘plane.
The cats miaow.
A child wails.
Still no window seat passenger.

The stewards are closing the lockers when he appears….the man from the check in.
The window seat passenger.

He starts shifting all the bags in the lockers to make room for his as I stand to let him get to his seat.

Blast.

And a blast he was all the ten hours to Madrid.

If he wasn’t raking out his ears he was clearing his nose.
When he’d finished on that he started hawking into his handkerchief.
The man was an otorhinolaryngologist’s dream.
Or nightmare.

Then, by way of variation, he needed to visit the loo.
Three times before the meal was served.

I asked him if he would prefer the aisle seat.
No, he would not. He had paid for a window seat (on a night flight) and a window seat he would have.

After the meal service was cleared away the plane was prepared for the night. My companion visited the loo again and it looked as if he might settle down.
But there was yet one more shot in his overhead locker.
He got up to retrieve one of his bags..
He sat down again and, delving within, produced a plastic container and with the aid of the contents thereof he removed his contact lenses and cleaned both them and his eyes.
Then he put the whole lot away again.

As a kindly – and very handsome – steward had given me an additional bottle of wine with the meal I was ready for a nap…..but fat chance with the perpetual bowel motion machine inboard of me.
He was in and out of his seat like a dog at a fair…..interspersed with the ear nose and throat routine…..and the reversal of the contact lens procedure just as breakfast was served.

All he seemed to miss out on was colonic irrigation.

So it was that I was not in the best of tempers when landing at Madrid in search of my onward ticket to London, but Iberia, accustomed to the old Spanish practices of their network, have a counter as you disembark from international flights where such matters can be sorted, so, duly ticketed, I made the trip on the shuttle to the other part of the airport and found my connection to Heathrow in good time.

I could even catch up on my sleep as the coach from Heathrow to Southampton was caught in a traffic jam on the M25 for over two hours……which also gave me time to wonder whether I had been wise to turn down Iberia’s offer of an upgrade to Business class for five hundred euros on top of my regular fare.

What would I have gained?
Space, certainly, and a chance to nap, but five hundred euros just for that and a glass of fizz?

I don’t think so.

Not until I’m totally decrepit.

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Filed under travel

One Man And His Doghouse

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Some tourists come to Costa Rica for the thrills of white water rafting, zip lining through the tree tops, or even surfing…but locals have their own quiet way of having a thrill.

We had ours yesterday. We crossed the bridge connecting us with the direct road into town for the first time for months.

Readers of the previous post might wonder whether the council had had a change of heart and decided to make the repairs.

Fat chance.

What had happened was that one of those disgruntled by the meeting had taken it upon himself to hire a bulldozer last Sunday and blocked the stream with the remnants of the bridge and all the rocks it could scoop up – a four inch pipe embedded in the rubble to carry the water through.
A few passes on either side to lay earth on the top and lo and behold – a bridge!

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Note the natty yellow tape to prevent you from falling off it into the stream:
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What, you might ask?
No obligatory preliminary study of soil stability?
No obligatory anti seismic construction plans passed by the College of Engineers?

The Isambard Kingdom Brunel of the three valleys is unrepentant.

The hell with the lot of them.

Danilo brought us the news on Monday and we were keen to set out for the bridge but he shook his head.

Let it settle a bit first…see if anything happens.

Apart from Don Antonio, having drink taken, falling into the stream despite the existance of the yellow tape nothing of consequence had happened so Danilo allowed us to use it today.

He stopped on the other side to point out that it would never last….this is the dry season and very dry it is too. Not much water in the stream.

Ah, just wait until we get the rains! One cloudburst and the whole thing will be blown apart by the pressure of water!

Having seen two bridges lower down the valley disappear in this fashion his pessimism is probably justified so we’ll make the most of it while it lasts as this way into town is a lot easier on the car than the precipitous back road we have been taking recently.

There had been changes in our absence.

Where Dona Martha’s stable had stood there was now a tatty tin structure and a compound containing motorbikes and quad bikes in all states of disrepair.
Apparently one of her husband’s sons by a previous marriage had returned to live in the town and persuaded his father to let him use the land for his repair business.

I preferred the stable and I suspect Dona Martha did too as she had a certain tight lipped look about her…

A house on stilts had been built on the top of the hill at the junction with the main road. As the hill is over 800 metres above sea level I can only assume that the owner of the house has been listening to too many of Danilo’s jeremiads on the subject of the rainy season…or that he knows something we don’t.

Business done – buying paint in quantity before the half price offer ended – we returned by the same route but two thirds of the way down to the bridge our eyes were caught by something new to the scene.

If you roll up to the photograph at the head of the page you might well spot it too…

Can you see it?

A red band in the middle of the photograph.

We hadn’t realised that it could be seen from there….it was part of the frontage of our new house.

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It has been a long time a-building as Danilo is doing it himself – while running the finca and driving us about. He has taken on his son recently – good with welding and electronics – and is accompanied by his many dogs.
Under normal circumstances the floors would have gone down before any painting took place…but the offer was too good to resist and, once bought, The Men wanted to try it out.

The back of the house is not so vivid…
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And it has not yet been settled – three falls, three submissions or one knock out to decide the winner – whether the grassy area under the roof will be a conventional tiled terrace or a covered garden….

But the views are stunning:

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Even the one from the kitchen window:IMG_2714

So roll on the day when we move up the hill.

Still, we’re not there yet, so we drove on down to where we live now….the one time holiday house which is now bursting at the seams….where I was delighted to see this:
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Flowers on the trunk of the guanabana tree by the back door, which, if the rains keep off, may produce these:
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Massive green fruits with a white flesh…wonderful for drinks and ice cream – and held to be effective against cancer.

Not, as far as I know, effective against anything but good to eat with mayonnaise are these peach palm fruits which we bought ready cooked from a stall in town to form part of supper.
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Oh and why the vivid frontage of the new house?
Because it is directly in the line of sight of the house of the unpleasant North American who has done his best to prevent us from building, from threatening to cut off the water to denouncing us to the council – not applying for planning permission – and the social security authorities – not paying our workers’ national insurance.
Thwarted on all fronts he can now have the pleasure of sitting on his front porch and getting an eyeful of the Red Infuriator.

That’ll learn him.

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Filed under Costa Rica, landscape, local government

All the Fun of the Fair

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This magnificent Friesian stallion was, for me, the star of the show at the town’s agricultural fair, where local and not so local breeders showed the prime of their stock with the aim of attracting clients.

There were also Falabellas:

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Water buffalo:

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And something whose origins are said to be Indian…but I need to do some research:
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There were publicity stands…there was a canteen:

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And gentlemen practising their dressage for the parade of horses later in the day with the hope of a winner’s ribbon:

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An English County Show it was not…but it was a great day out…we even met a man who had the only herd of Blonde d’Aquitaine cattle in Costa Rica…he had encountered the breed while working in Canada and, despite all the administrative problems, had his herd installed locally.
The Blonde d’Aquitaine is a good beef breed…and can only be better in Costa Rica than on its native soil given that here it will be grass fed all the year round…no pellets.

No wonder the beef here is a revelation after France…fed correctly, hung in cold storage…
At its best it can approach Scots beef…and that is saying something.

There were plenty of the crosses between African and European beasts too…
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All part of the programme of improving the breeds…like seeing the agricultural revolution of the eighteenth century before your eyes in the twenty first…

And, as with all agricultural shows, there was food and music in over abundance.

A good time was had by all.

As if this was not enough there was more fun on Tuesday evening.

The bridge which links us to the main road into town collapsed before Christmas. This means that those few of us who live on the ‘tail’ of the district have to take the back road – unpaved, twisty and three kilometres vertical – to get into town.

All very well at this time of year, but the rainy season will arrive in a month or so and then things will not be so funny. The road will turn into a river during the rainstorms, vast ruts and channels will be gouged out and it is quite possible that the narrow stretch above our finca will collapse into the stream below.
In a stout four wheel drive we will get through – if the narrow stretch doesn’t collapse – but no way will our neighbour’s wife be able to pass in her ordinary car in order to get to work in the local college. Nor will the men working on an orange plantation down the valley be able to get to work…or, come to that, the man who looks after the goats on the farm below ours.

When the bridge collapsed the alcalde (mayor) came down to take a look.
From that day to this the council have resolutely refused to do more.

Set up a project to repair it?
What, are you mad?
National law (underlying message – new government, not the ruling party here) demands that before any infrastructure project is undertaken a proper study must be made to ensure stability of said project.
Years of motorways disappearing downhill and bridges falling into rivers have shown the necessity of having a study made, but, just as in the European Union, ‘studies’ have turned into a very lucrative business indeed.

So the council have said that they cannot afford to pay for a ‘study’ for which they have been quoted (probably by someone not unknown to members of the council) a vast sum.
No ‘study’, no project.

While this has been going on the development committee of the district has been busy. They have been talking to the development agency and to the roads department. They have had promises of aid and locals are prepared to pay towards materials and provide labour.

But only the council can order a ‘study’. And it’s not going to.
Thus the meeting at the town hall.

Not only did the disgruntled of our district attend, so did the disgruntled of two other districts, resulting in a turn out that required more chairs to be provided.

The video below shows an excerpt from the meeting…the interesting bit, but for those who don’t have Spanish here is a quick guide to the highlights:

As the video opens with the council sitting behind what looks like recycled kitchen units, the bald bugger doing all the bawling and arm waving is the council’s lawyer, whose incompetence leading to repeated defeats in court probably accounts for some of the council’s financial problems which he prayed in aid in his attempt to justify the refusal to stir their stumps and do their job.

The man in the pink shirt on his left as you see it – the one who looks as if he tried to tidy up his hair with an electric razor while hungover – is the alcalde.

The man in the mauve shirt on his left is the local deputy (same party as the council).

It gets more exciting at about 4.54 when a man in a blue shirt rises to his feet to refute the claims of bald bugger, haircut man and the deputy.

The police intervene at 5.37 onwards.

The man in the blue shirt, bouncing back, asks the audience to vote to allow him to continue at about 7.29. Hands raised (including mine).

After that it is more bawling, arm waving and shouting.

Democracy in action.

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Filed under Costa Rica, local government

Walmart People

walmart By now, shoppers in my local town should have had the pleasure of encountering something like this while buying their rice and beans in the aisles of a spanking new Walmart supermarket…..but the local council has, no doubt in the interests of health and safety, so far managed to keep the threat at bay.

Financial health and safety, that is.

The financial health and safety of certain important local people.

Walmart, for its purchasing power and the treatment of its workforce, is akin to a dirty word in certain circles….I remember being told by a ‘concerned’ North American expat not to shop in the down market Pali chain, as that was part of the evil Walmart empire – not that I took a great deal of notice.
Supermarket chains exploit as a part of their business plan, but if I need a bar of soap I’m going to buy it in a supermarket rather than drive up to the local indigenous people’s reservation to buy a suspiciously neon coloured bar of equally dubious provenance and be royally ripped off in the process.

I can’t say I am fond of Walmart here in Costa Rica….we once visited its store on the way to San Jose in search of a television.
The search lasted only as long as our arrival in the electrical goods area, where the prices were such as to blow us backwards bow legged. Still, as we were there, we decided to take a look round before we departed in search of cats’ whiskers and crystals and among the overpriced and flavourless cheeses, depressed looking tomatillos and frozen farmed salmon from Chile my husband found potatoes.
Not just potatoes…but potatoes on promotion.

Danilo was despatched to find trolleys; potatoes were sorted by Higher Authority, bagged by me and stacked in the trolleys by Danilo. An impressive production line which drew spectators wondering whatever we were going to do with that lot. Unlike France no one pointed out that potatoes on promotion were for everyone….
Grand Fleet
In line astern like the Grand Fleet we made for the checkout, where bag after bag was hefted onto the counter. I unloaded, Higher Authority counted the bags and Danilo loaded at the other end.

With a sigh of relief the checkout assistant presented the bill.

Higher Authority questioned it. The potatoes had not been billed at the promotion price.

But’s that what it says on the till.

It’s not what is says on the veg section.

Then, turning to me as the assistant rang for a supervisor, Quick…get back there and don’t let anyone move that price ticket!

We had been trained on French supermarket practice where the first reaction of management, once a price had been challenged, was to remove the price ticket from the offending item.
I legged it for the veg section and stood guard.

After a while an assistant appeared, reaching for the ticket. I interposed my person. The assistant departed.

After some muttering with his colleagues, he made a flank attack, trying to take the ticket from behind my back while sidling alongside me.
I put my hand on it.
He retired.

A smart young lady appeared. A supervisor. With a lovely smile she explained that she needed the ticket in order to verify the price and sort out the problem.
I agreed that she would need the ticket but explained that it would only be available in the presence of my husband and whoever was dealing with the problem.
Then she regretted that she could do nothing about a refund.
I returned her smile and said that she should then find someone who could.
She returned whence she came.

The manager of the veg section manifested himself to explain that he would need to take the ticket.
Was he the person arranging the refund?
No, he was not.
Then no ticket.

Eventually the enemy fleet bore down on me….a large gentleman in a suit, three well built ladies in office dress and the till assistant with my husband in tow, letting the side down in tee shirt and gardening trousers.
I took possession of the price ticket and we all moved off to an office behind the tills, passing Danilo standing guard over the trolleys containing the contentious tubers.
The price was checked against some infernal IT system and was agreed to be correct.
A refund slip was issued.
We were escorted by the large gentleman and his assistant ladies to another office where details were entered in a book and money was forthcoming. Apologies were made for the problem.

We gathered Danilo and trolleys and departed, never, so far, to darken the doors of Walmart again.

So why am I so keen to see a Walmart in my local town?

Because apart from offering more choice to consumers it would provided competition for the existing supermarket, controlled by a local family and, more importantly, would offer further employment opportunities.
Not short term contracts to avoid paying social security, but long term jobs.
The town needs long term jobs.

Agriculture, once the staple, has declined. Nothing has taken its place. Successive town councils – all of the same political stripe – have turned their backs on development of industry, solemnly invoking the quality of the environment while allowing large scale housing development which has destroyed the rain forest and led to water shortages.
The place has stagnated…to the advantage of the local bigwigs.

The bus station is crowded in the early mornings with hordes of people going off to work in San Jose, having taken the feeder buses from their villages in the early hours.
These people are transported by the locally owned bus company, which certainly does not want to see employment on its doorstep…just think of the decline in revenues…
But the people it transports would dearly love to be able to work locally and avoid a one and a half hour journey morning and night.

The coming of Walmart alone would not solve the problem…but it would be a breach in the wall and as such has been opposed by the council, for whom pleasing the local movers and shakers is more important than the welfare of the mass of the people.

Not opposed openly, of course….but opposed effectively.

The local small claims court moved into town from the outskirts….into a building owned by a local bigwig.
The vacant plot was eyed by Walmart for installing one of its big Pali stores, but it was beaten to the post by another purchaser.
The wife of one of the owners of the local supermarket.
The plot still lies empty.

Walmart, undeterred, took a closer look at the area and decided that, given the catchment area of the town, it was worth installing a proper Walmart.
They bought a large plot which had once housed the teachers’ insurance agency.
They applied for planning permission and jumped through all the required hoops.
All was ready to go ahead when, at the last minute the town’s engineer (laughingly so called) announced that work must stop as Walmart had not applied for a demolition order.
Walmart had not applied for a demolition order as there was only a remnant of wall to demolish. Some three metres of it.

I know the town engineer, I know his false smile as he tries to bugger you up.
He knows mine as I thank him effusively before setting off for the Constitutional Court where I have defeated him and his council twice.

The council which employs him was stupid, arrogant and ignorant enough to think that it could take on Walmart.
Walmart have taken them to court for not respecting planning procedures.
Walmart has won.
Walmart has just been awarded compensation for loss of predicted earnings, currently running at £125,000 and rising daily.

Add this to the matter of the large amount of money which went missing under the aegis of the last mayor and it wouldn’t take a Nostradamus to predict that there will be trouble at t’molina.

Shortly.

Because those responsible will not be paying from their own pockets…local taxes will rise, yet again.
We will see how the tribal loyalty which has seen this political party elected time after time will resist the wallop in the wallet come the next elections.

We’ve just had a visit from the new President – not of the same party as the council.
He has announced help to make the area build a profile in eco tourism but, more importantly, has set up a road building and repair project and has directed the Apprenticeship Institution to set up courses in IT to enable local kids to fill the jobs which are available on this side of San Jose.

None of the proposed projects involves the council, which can’t get its mitts on a peso of the proposed budget.

A breach in the wall…and those of us who remember the destruction of the Berlin Wall know what that can mean.
Our small town is not East Germany, but its denial of opportunity to its people is East Germany in miniature.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l46GNducsPk

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Filed under community, corruption, Costa Rica, politics

Emerging from Hibernation

Afghanistan cricket team
Yes, I know that it is summer here…a summer which has come roaring in with searing heat and high winds, drying off the pasture and presaging no good for the months to come.
Still, summer or no, I have been hibernating.
Under the weather myself before Christmas, husband since after a spectacular fall resulting in large hole in leg, ten stitches and daily dressings at the clinic.
Then my dear Alsatian died, attacked by a galloping form of cancer, followed days afterwards by his ancient friend the Costa Rican King Charles Corgi….it might have been old age, but I fancy it was more like a broken heart.

Still, visitors arrived to rouse me from my torpor and the door to the hibernation cave is sealed up. Life, changed though it is, goes on, though no tail thumps the floor waiting for the breakfast egg.

I am following Scotland’s ‘progress’ in the World Cup….the One Day Cricket World Cup, that is.
Somewhere, distantly, I hear Adullamite beating his breast and crying ‘Ichabod‘ at this example of the decline of Scots values, but follow it I do.

As always with Scotland’s teams in whatever form of sport they suffer from an excess of sportsmanship.
They like to make opposing teams feel at ease by giving them vast leads and then fail gallantly to overtake them.

I consider that this is all down to the example offered by that flower of medieval chivalry the Good Sir James Douglas, companion in arms of the Bruce in the Wars of Independence who, charged with taking the (by now dead – yes, I know, but we are speaking about Scots here) Bruce’s heart on Crusade to the Holy Land,
A…hung about a bit before doing anything about it – Scottish team captains demonstrate the same tendency…
B…went on Crusade to Spain instead….Scottish football fans know the way by heart…
C…disobeyed orders and found himself cut off at which point he hurled the heart in its container ahead of him and followed it to certain death, bellowing ‘Lead on brave heart as thou was wont to do’ – a practice followed, though with less poetic language, by Scots rugby players and with the same result. Marmelised.

Add to that disadvantage the obligation on national teams to sing that dirge ‘Flower of Scotland': and you begin to understand the obstacles to success under which they labour.

What was wrong with ‘Scots Wa Hae’, I should like to know,

Or, come to that, ‘Blue Bonnets’ which, despite having the lyrics written by Sir Walter Scott, manages to stir up the memories of the Border reivers, whose motto was ‘nothing too hot or too heavy’…that is, nothing too hot or too heavy to steal from their English neighbours.

Now that should inspire a bit of gumption!

‘The Ball of Kirriemuire’, as will be evident to anyone rash enough to look it up on Youtube, while well in the running in the enthusiasm stakes is more suitable to a victory celebration and is thus but rarely heard.

So far in the World Cup Scotland have been defeated by New Zealand – though they can comfort themselves with the thought that there is a great deal of Scottish blood in New Zealanders, not only from historic migration but also from ears bitten in encounters on the rugby field with the All Blacks.
I suppose that the Scottish cricket team should thank their lucky stars that the match was heralded by a Maori playing a didgeridoo rather than by several All Blacks performing a haka.

It’s enough to make you want to lie down in a darkened room with a cup of tea.

Unfortunately, Scotland have also been beaten by England.
For which there is but one appropriate musical reference…the piobaireachd ‘Too Long in this Condition’…. which while you’ll need the stamina of an ox to see it through to the end, does give time to smother all the untoward language which you might – if a Scot – wish to use on such an occasion.

After these performances Scotland can look forward to meeting Sri Lanka….prepare the mourning garments and the jet jewellery: Bangladesh….whose Asian players will perform the best?…and Afghanistan.

Scotland versus Afghanistan.
Given the current disparity between the teams the result can only be a re run of ‘Carry On up the Khyber’

And I have a horrible feeling that it will not be Scotland carrying on in the competition.

.

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Filed under cricket, folk song