In a Changing world Some Things Rest Eternal

avocats

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Moving Experience…

IMG_20160707_182530

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?

Ah!

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Life in a Small Country

tree cr

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Of Bots and Men and the Answer to Everything

bot fly

A feature of television in my youth was the scheduling of what were known as ‘nature’ programmes at an hour when a respectable Scots family would be attacking a high tea.
You would be contemplating a slice of Lorne sausage when the screen would display an antelope meeting an unfortunate end….hyenas going about their unpleasant business would accompany a helping of salmon….even reaching for a potato scone had its risks…

I am sure that warble flies were featured too – how could the BBC resist? – but I had never in all my puff thought that I would come across the human version, the bot fly.

This delightful character captures a mosquito, lays its eggs on it and messes off. The mozzy then bites a human – or other species – and the bot fly eggs enter the wound thus caused.

The eggs then develop under the skin of the host for eight weeks before emerging to pupate.
Sounds innocent doesn’t it and, what is more, the thing exudes a sort of antibiotic which prevents the wound from becoming infected as an infected wound will kill the larva.

I have had one of these delightful visitors myself…and can assure you that it is far from innocent. The damned thing itches like hell and wriggles about like a underclad cabaret dancer seeking a hefty tip.

The local advice is to place a chunk of meat over the wound, stick it on with plaster and wait for the brute to emerge into the meat, but having apocalyptic visions of said meat rotting in situ given tropical conditions, I went to the local clinic instead.

Ah, you need Nurse Evelyn!

Nurse Evelyn seems to be the specialist in everything…
Electrocardiograms? Nurse Evelyn.
Gangrene? Nurse Evelyn.

Bot fly? Nurse Evelyn.

I was summoned to her office and indicated the affected area which was seized in a grip which would rouse envy in a banker foreclosing on a widow and gave up its larva – an unattractive, bloated sort of thing which met its end in the waters of the loo next door.

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If those lips could only speak, if those eyes could only see…

This old song, describing the sorrows of a man recalling his dead wife while standing before her portrait, was  sung by my mother’s mother when one of her daughters would play the piano after supper on Sunday visits.

She sang only a few favourites….one, whose verses I no longer remember though the tune remains, had a chorus:

‘Pull down the blind,

Don’t be unkind,

Someone’s a-looking, dear,

Pull down the blind.

‘Silver threads among the gold’ would signal the end of music for the night and was the prelude to the hunt for coats, gloves and bags, the issue of tins containing  home made cake and the sortie into the night air – I always remember it as being chill – to walk down to the bus stop, the lights of the main road visible at the end of the long lane from the house.

This came back to mind after listening to a programme on BBC Radio 2 which was part of a week when the Beeb concentrated on mental health awareness.

This might be a link: the programme was called ‘Dennis Skinner vs Dementia’

It was presented by someone called Jeremy Vine, whom I imagine to be some regular chat show host and took the form of an  interview in which Dennis Skinner described his mother’s descent into dementia, and how he came to realise that music evoked a response from a woman who no longer recognised her own family and brought her alive in herself.

Who is Dennis Skinner?

dennis skinner

He is now 84 years of age and has been Member of Parliament for the seat of Bolsover in Derbyshire since 1970 in the interest of the Labour Party.

A rarity in modern politics he has worked for a living in a hard business –  coal mining – and gained experience in local government before his first election to Parliament where he made it his business to master the procedures of the House of Commons in order to best further his aims of protecting and promoting  the rights of the weak in society.

Mark you, anyone who could understand and manipulate the rules of the compositing committees for the Annual Conferences of the National Union of Mineworkers and the Labour Party would have had no problem with the centuries’ old arcanae of the Mother of Parliaments.

Child’s play.

Known as the Beast of Bolsover he has gained a fearsome reputation for his impassioned attacks on Tory ministers;  frequently expelled from the House for his use of unparliamentary language, he is anathema to the blue rinse brigade and this was reflected in the presentation of the programme where Vine continually wailed that the listeners were not obliged to agree with one word Skinner said, nor approve of his political views…

I can’t imagine he would have found this caution necessary had the programme featured on of the Tory party Big Beasts – nomatter how objectionable their views on the deliberate impoverishment of the working class and the ruination of the NHS.

However, the meat of the programme was a description of Skinner’s attempts to communicate with a mother who no longer knew him, nor any of the other children she had slaved to bring up.

Finally he remembered from his childhood that when she was working – cooking, washing, ironing  – she was always singing! So on one visit home he took her to a quiet part of the park and began to sing one of the songs from the musicals  that she had loved…and in seconds she was singing along with him.

It did not bring about communication, or recognition, but for the length of the song it restored that woman to herself.

It is dreadful for the people who lose a loved one to dementia…but how much more dreadful for the sufferers themselves, cast adrift in a world with no compass….

Rest after toil

Port after stormy Seas

Ease after war

Death after life doth greatly please.

Spencer’s words may apply to those who retain control of their world…but where is the port for those tossed on the tempests of dementia?

It appears that memories laid down early remain the longest and revival of those memories allow those with dementia to return to the self that they were, that they knew…if only for a short while, to find port after stormy seas.

Sing songs may be fine for older people…but what of younger ones, brought up on the ‘worble worble bleep bleep boom’ of video games when their time comes to encounter dementia?

Will someone  think to revive these blasts from the past in the way that Skinner does for the groups he visits on the care homes of his constituency?

There is no history of dementia in my family: just as well.

After all, where, in Costa Rica, would there be anyone who knew the words and music to

‘The Hole in the Elephant’s Bottom’.

 

 

 

 

 

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Let joy be unconfined..well, mine anyway…

puris sapo

I can write again!

No, I had not lost the use of hand or eye: I had lost the use of my USB mouse.

I was left with the ouija board on the laptop.

Does it transmit calls from the Other Side?

No…but it might as well because every time I touch it strange things arise from nowhere: I am thinking of calling it Glendower as it  defies Hotspur’s cynicism and produces the goods…

To be fair to it, my coordination is not of the best: but I am frustrated by thinking that I am scrolling down when in fact I am bringing up advertisements….or altering the screen proportions from something only seen on optician’s test sheets to an intense view of one word. Extremely frustrating and profoundly inhibiting.

How did my predicament come about?

My ancient USB mouse had been confiscated by Higher Authority.

Higher Authority’s approach to computers could best be envisaged by imagining him shouting ‘Montjoie St. Denis!’ while hoisting the oriflamme to indicate that no quarter will be given as he prepares to give combat.

The results frequently resemble those of the French at Agincourt…

Squawks of frustration and alarm are heard from the office. Dogs slink under tables.

An infuriated figure appears, announcing that the screen has  turned purple…or that the page he was looking at has disappeared…or that EVERYTHING has disappeared….

He returns to the fray, only to emerge again with the news that his mouse won’t work.

As it is

A: made in China

and

B: its functioning depends on a batch of rechargeable batteries purchased in France in the Dark Ages which in turn rely for boosting on a temperamental machine which refuses to light up to indicate whether or not it is working

this doesn’t surprise me.

The saga of changing and charging batteries takes its course until we run out of charged batteries and the fatal announcement is made:

You’ll have to give me your USB mouse.

Which leaves the household in peace again – odd occurrences of purple screens apart – but leaves me with the ouija board.

Usually this situation lasts only until the batteries are all charged again…but this time it has lasted for all too long. Higher Authority likes my old USB mouse far better than his fiendishly clever Chinese one – easier to hold for paralysed fingers.

Why not buy another?

Because this is Costa Rica where maintaining stock is an art yet to be acquired by shopkeepers.

Discovering a void on the shelf where the item used to be you ask the young assistant if there are any more in the stock room.

Obligingly he will disappear and return to tell you, beaming the while, that they are out of stock, adding helpfully that they must have sold them all..

It says a great deal for the effect on me of the pleasant way of life in Costa Rica in general that this response does not elicit – as it would have done in France – the urge to disembowel the lad without the assistance of cutlery: but then in France he probably wouldn’t have gone to look in the stockroom either…….He might even have shrugged.

So I have had to wait until the inscrutable workings of Providence filled the shelf with the items I required.

The young lad was in attendance again, beaming.

But why did I want a USB mouse he wished to know. They were old fashioned. He understood that old people (me) didn’t keep up to date, but I should really go for a wireless mouse – much better!

I thanked him for his advice, but  declined.

Best to let sleeping mice lie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Panama U.K.

Nombre_de_Dios

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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