Trials and Tributation


When it comes to tax I’ve had dealings with the little brown envelopes of Britain’s Inland Revenue – known to its victims as the Inland Revenge – followed by the tricolour productions of the local Hotel des Impots in rural France and now, in Costa Rica, the online taradiddles of the department of Hacienda known as Tributation – which conjures up visions of subject nations paying their dues to heavily bearded Assyrian monarchs, rejoicing in names like Shalmanezer III and Tiglath Pileser the Umpteenth.

My tax affairs here are considerably simpler than they were in either Britain or France….but Tributation is equal to the challenge. While, in my experience, individual taxmen are both pleasant and helpful, those who design tax forms must have been dropped in by alien forces – and when it comes to online forms those alien forces must have originated in the Dungeon Dimensions

Two years ago we had EDDI I. It had a glitch….so you had to go to the central Tributation office to be told how to get round it.
Last year we had EDDI II. It worked perfectly.

Frustrated, the Dungeon Dimensions came back fighting.

You could declare by opening a portal on Hacienda’s website.

Yes, you could open the portal…but apart from inviting you to pay a voluntary tax on your finca – fat chance – there was no provision for declaring your firm’s liability for tax.

Off on the bus to San Jose to Tributation….only to find that since my last visit, they had nattily hidden the entrance to the office down a side road.
You only knew it was there by the presence of a man lopping the top from fresh coconuts to refresh the weary traveler with the water within.
Together with lottery ticket sellers it is an unmistakable indication of the entrance to a government office.

Once inside, I was directed to the kiosk…a bank of computers where staff guided bewildered citizens through the process.

I opened the portal..waited for ten minutes until a member of staff was free…and was told that I could not use it until I had registered our company at the office upstairs.

But it is registered…EDDI II took it with no problems.
Ah. That was EDDI! This is the new portal!

Apparently I had to produce a copy of our company registration, together with an officially stamped paper with the reference number of our electricity supply….

Back on the bus then and into the local electricity board office.

The security man on the door used to work at the bank…so we had a ten minute catch up time…
Then the chap on reception wanted to practice his English.
Then he couldn’t find us on the computer.

Amazing how they can manage to find us for the bill….

Things are, of course, complicated.
We have two meters.

One monitors the supply to our current house – our old holiday house.
It is in the name of the vendor.

We thought about changing it to our own name..but if you change it you have to give up the supply and wait to be reconnected ….yes, the mind boggles and the only reason I can think of is to make work for the staff.
Sucking of teeth of neighbours persuaded us that this was not a good option. You could be, and people have been, lost in the system for months so the meter is still in the name of a lady who lives on the other side of the Central Valley who would need to present herself at the office in order to authorise the issue of the paper.

The other meter services the new house – finally approaching completion.
This is in the name of my husband…..not our company.

One of the kindly ladies found us in the computer…and issued us with what looked like a bus ticket marked with all the details and duly enveloped in sellotape.
In my husband’s name, of course.

On Monday we shall – together – return to Tributation and attempt to pass through the portal.

Potential problems:

A. I opened the portal in my name as I had done the declarations on EDDI.

But –

My name is not on the sellotaped bus ticket.

Still –

My husband’s name is on the company registration certificate:

But –
The said certificate was issued more than thirty days ago – so we might have to belt down to the Registro Nacional and pay for a new one….

And then we might have to open a new portal in his name in order to pay our taxes.

B. Our I.D. on the company certificate is given as a British passport number….while the number on the bus ticket is that of my husband’s local I.D…..
So it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that the identity will not be recognised.

In which case, unless we can sort it out before November 30th – effectively during the week to come – we will be unable to make a declaration and thus become liable to a fine of some two million colones.

Now, while I am sure it will all be sorted out – Costa Rican officials being past masters at navigating the shoals of their own bureaucracy – it is the possibility of it not being sorted out which gives rise to sleepless nights.

And all because they made away with EDDI.


Filed under bureaucracy, Costa Rica, tax

Bring Back Gladstone

candidatesWill it be the man in the suit who buggered up my mobile ‘phone or will it be the one who looks as if he has just been ejected from Tracey Emin’s unmade bed?
The woman who knows all the facts, or the silver haired man ‘who has consented to stand’?
The man who has just hired a bulldozer to repair the road to town which has been impassable for three years – and in so doing has been threatened with legal proceedings by the Roadworks Agency who should have done the work; the woman whose main claim seems to be her extensive family connections, or the man with the clipboard?

Yes, local elections are coming up in February and the candidates are doing their best to raise the political temperature in the area from somewhere near sub zero to something approaching the blood heat of a crocodile in the dark hours before the dawn.

The seven candidates have one thing in common….no, two things: they all want to be mayor and they are all shocked to find that the populace demonstrates a certain cynicism as to their motives for so doing.

Of course, they all want the best for the local people…the cynicism of the populace lies in the determination of who, exactly, counts as ‘local people’…
Is it local people in general, or is it certain people who live locally?

In order to bring things into the open the stringers for the national press organised a meeting, live online, where the candidates could answer questions and express their views.
Needless to say we saw a great deal of the said stringers congratulating themselves on organising the event…and a lot of camera time dwelling on the backdrop with the names of the local businesses sponsoring it…but we did also see the candidates.
All seven of them.

Eventually, things began with a rendition of the national anthem sung with enthusiasm.

As it was being distributed live online only the seriously narcissistic were present to watch the event, which, given past form at council meetings might have been an advantage. (The action on the video starts at four and a half minutes and involves the intervention of the police a minute later…)

Matters proceeded with a rendition of a ghastly ditty celebrating the area and they were off!

The candidates introduced themselves, talked about their families and then answered questions which were of two types: the first being written questions submitted to the stringers and the second being questions about the area and the work of the council written by the stringers themselves.

While the answers to the first batch of questions were the usual mix of wishful thinking and back handed swipes at the outgoing regime I was delighted to find that most of the candidates answered most of the ‘general knowledge’ questions correctly…apart from the one about the number of employees the current regime owns up to which produced a fair amount of wild guesswork as while some are visible and occasionally active others seem to live in a shadow world where only their paycheck is real.

So, whoever we get, the new mayor will have some idea of what he or she will be dealing with.

The same could not be said for Myriam El Khomri, France’s new Ministre du Travail (minister for employment) who made a real ass of herself in a recent television interview.

The lack of stable employment is a serious problem in France
If you are lucky – or started work in the Dark Ages – you will have a permanent contract, a CDI.
If you started work after Personnel Departments started calling themselves Human Resources then you are more likely to have a temporary contract, a CDD.
While the latter are supposed to be only for short term specific jobs, in reality they are about all you can get these days, because they allow employers to get rid of staff without the costly rigmarole of warnings, assessments and compensation afforded the holder of a CDI, and can be renewed without having to be converted into a permanent post as long as there is a break in or change of terms of employment.

There is, of course, abuse of the system.
La Poste holds, I believe, the palm, having employed someone for twenty five years on temporary contracts by moving the unfortunate worker from one office to another….but they are not alone – notably the Pole Emploi (Labour Exchange) in the public sector, the banks in the private, so for the person on a temporary contract the matter of the renewal of contracts is most important.

Not, it seems, for the Employment Minister.

Asked how many times a temporary contract could be renewed before having to be transformed into a permanent contract she dithered and dithered..and finally admitted that she did not know.

Not that it mattered, of course. The next day she said that she had been deliberately trapped…as had other politicians before’s happened before and it will happen again, said she insouciantly.

This from someone who has never held down a proper job in her life.
From university onward she has lived from the public purse…from cronyism… flitting from one political job to another until the need to appease those of immigrant stock who still vote for the Socialist Party arose – and there she was: a woman of Moroccan origins. Ideal!
Does it matter that she has no experience in the field? No.
Does it matter that she appears incapable of acquiring any? No.

Because modern ministers are for the most part figureheads…the policy is decided elsewhere, by the global businesses who now control politicians, and all that is required is to toe the line and accept the handout on retirement from office.

We, the people, do not matter – except as a Human Resource.
And we, the people, have no power except at the changing of the guard called elections when one uniform replaces another to continue with the same policies.

The last Presidential elections in Costa Rica produced a nasty surprise for entrenched power: an outsider came to power borne on people’s resentment of corruption and cronyism.
He says he will not stand again…it has been a constant struggle to start the process of change; setbacks and ambushes at every turn…but there have been changes and people have seen that they could make their voice count and that they can do it again if need be.

I note the way in which Jeremy Corbyn has been demonised in the press; how the New Labour elite are organising to overthrow him as leader of the party…
But many people voted him into that post, people who, like Costa Ricans, had given up on politics. They voted for change once they had the chance.
Voted, like the Costa Ricans, for honesty and competence over entrenched privilege.

Enter Gladstone, monument of rectitude.

In the wake of the disastrous campaign in the Crimea his government resolved to shake up the armed forces…to make them efficient, competent and open to talent. His War Minister, Cardwell, abolished the purchase of commissions bringing fresh blood into higher command….a process gently mocked by Gilbert and Sullivan in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ in the Major General’s song:

Gladstone shook up the Civil service too…entry only by competitive examination.Goodness only knows what he would make of the tribe of ‘consultants’ leeching the public purse these days….

We need another Gladstone…but unless we combat the influence of global business’ lapdog, the media, we won’t get one.
We need to talk to each other, encourage each other, help each other to bring people back to voting again…to back candidates with whom we do not agree on all points but who are honest and willing to stand up for all the people, not just the privileged.


Filed under Costa Rica, local government, politics, misuse of power, elections, corruption

Collapse of Stout Party


Popularly supposed to be from a cartoon in the long defunct magazine ‘Punch’ the phrase describes the denouement of a scene in which a person’s confidence subsides like a pricked balloon…but I never came across it in all the long periods spent in the waiting room of the first G.P. I can remember from my childhood.

man in a golden helmet, rembrandt, 1650, oil on canvas
His house was on the corner….a gloomy hedge of laurel giving way to a gravel drive which circled a monkey puzzle tree. You knocked on the door and a maid would direct you to the waiting room off the hall where you sat under the eye of Rembrandt’s ‘Man in the Helmet’ on a chair which creaked with every movement giving rise to disapproving glances from the assembled patients all of whom seemed to be of an incredible age. Apart from the creaking chair, the silence was absolute.

Entertainment was provided by ancient copies of ‘Punch’….probably the least humorous humorous magazine known to man….piled on the table in the centre of the room.
Given the disapproving glances it was preferable to seize several copies on entering the room and pile them on your lap ready for perusal….as you inevitably had to wait for a great deal of time the idea of creaking on and off your chair for one copy at a time was unthinkable.
I cannot say that I was amused by the content, but it was better than the alternatives.
That was an age when a child found to be considering the odder qualities of its elders was considered to be badly brought up so scrutiny of the various types of hats and garments had to be both fleeting and surreptitious, while kicking the legs of the chair was probably a hanging offence.
And one look at the ‘Man in the Helmet’ was enough to put you off art for life.

So “Punch’ it was.
I learned a great deal about the evolution of costume and of transport – rival horse bus companies racing for custom intrigued me. I wonder if these cartoons gave ideas to those who were to ruin the public transport system of the British Isles in later years or whether the whole beastly idea was a product of their own perverted morality…
In particular I liked a cartoon of a stout party gesticulating wildly for the horse bus to pick him up while the conductor observes that he can see him (stout party) with the naked eye.
Yes, I know it doesn’t sound very funny, but it was the best that “Punch’ had to offer and in that time in that waiting room it offered the hope of eventual escape to a life beyond the monkey puzzle where stout parties might gesticulate – or even creak – in total freedom.

Eventually the maid would summon you to Doctor’s presence and you would replace the magazines with due respect to keeping the pile neat before being ushered through to the other side of the hall where Doctor awaited you.
He bore a great resemblance to the Man in the Helmet, which was not reassuring; a view borne out by his repeated attempts to treat earache with warm cotton wool and olive oil rather than penicillin. The idea of wasting such an expensive drug on an NHS patient was more than he could bear….the nations’s finances would have crumbled had he dished it out to the undeserving public patient, no doubt.
Still I have him to thank that, given the results of his treatment, I have never suffered from seasickness since, while others may be thankful that as it is also down to him that I am unable to balance on a bicycle, my lycra clad form has never disfigured the public highway.

All that is far in the past and on the other side of an ocean but it came forcefully to mind today as my husband emerged from the office and sat down suddenly in the chair in the kitchen.

Was he ill?
No…but he had just realised that he had escaped a peril of an altogether different kind.

Since moving here we have become friendly with a chap from the U.S.A….a ticket of leave man whose family trust pays him handsomely to stay out of the U.S.A. with a view to keeping the family escutcheon in the U.S.A. unblemished.
He has, in his time, tried as many forms of excitement as possible: drugs, drink, drugs and drink, women, warfare – you name it, he’s probably had a go at it – though he must be the only mercenary discharged for inappropriate behaviour.
What did he do, I wonder?
Escort an old lady across the road?

Still, be that as it may, he is intelligent, educated and a great talker – or was until recently.
He has always complained that the only women he meets are those who hang about in bars but has never managed to connect this with the repeated experiments in removing them from the bars and installing them in his large house: experiments usually ending in noisy recriminations and vast payments in alimony before he is off to a bar again to find the next candidate.

He broke with his method a couple of years ago….he had had some furniture made for the house and the decorative wife of the carpenter – after due investigation as to his financial affairs – abandoned her husband and moved in with him.

In the time in which they have been together he has acquired eight workers to keep his house and garden in order – all hired by her and loyal to her; his outgoings have risen to an astronomical level and his health has declined to such a state that she has complete control of both him and his bank account.
Given his history she has no difficulty in presenting him as too damaged to be rational on the times that he makes a break for it into town and his doctor is also in her pocket.

She invites people over from time to time…I think to demonstrate that she is looking after him, which, to give her her due, she does….but on the occasion we were invited to his birthday party we found that while there was a marquee on the lawn, bands and drink flowing he – the birthday boy – had been locked in the house: ‘in case he hurts himself’.
Leo had him out of there in two shakes of a lamb’s tail, but he said himself that he was past help…he no longer had the energy to free himself.
His family would do nothing to help him…they were waiting for him to die and be off their hands. This may or may not be true but as I have no means of contacting them I can’t contradict this.

We were invited to lunch last week – sitting out on the lawn, whence the roof of our new house can be seen across the valley.
She was very interested in the house…how many bedrooms, much big was it, was it bigger than our house in Spain and when lunch was over, unusually, as she normally keeps everyone under her eye, she allowed me to talk to our friend while she took Leo off into the house.
We chatted – his mind was slower, but still there – and I asked him if he wanted to come out when we went; he could stay with us and sort himself out.
No…he no longer had the energy. All he wanted was that she would just stop talking all the time and leave him in peace.

He was tired and went off to bed, so I joined the others.
She had suggested to Leo that it would be nice to visit our friend’s finca up in the mountains and we agreed – if he were well enough. We would check on Sunday to see how things were.

Sunday came, and my husband duly called.

Yes, all was arranged. Our friend would not be coming and she would call for Leo on her quad bike early in the morning as it was a long way.

What did she mean…call for him? Were we not all meant to go?

Oh no…your wife isn’t well so the two of us will go..and don’t worry: if it comes on to rain we can always stay at the house there until morning….

In the deathless phrase of ‘The News of The World’ my husband made his excuses and left….only to sink shattered onto the kitchen chair.

Danilo arrived, and was given an account of the whole thing.

Narrow escape, he said. Your friend’s family will have her out in a dose of salts once he dies, so she’s looking ahead for the next victim. Here you are: quiet guy, big house here, big house in Spain….and she reckons men can’t resist her.
I’d stay off that quad bike if I were you.

But I’m an old age pensioner!

All the better.


Filed under Costa Rica, relationships

Ode to Joy

If I were to say that I grew up in a musical family it would conjure up an erroneous vision.
No one played an instrument….and when the school obliged its pupils to learn to play one father perused the options – recorder or violin – and announced that he was against torturing cats, so the recorder it was – ghastly thing.
My fingers were all thumbs, it made an abominable sound in my hands and it was quietly agreed between the music department, my father and myself that life would be better for all of us were I to have a session in the library instead.
I suspect that this agreement came in the wake of Rhonwen’s father storming the school bearing her violin and announcing that lessons were all very well, but that in future his daughter could practice on school premises and thus avoid waking her baby sister.

In other fields further agreements were reached…..the school made a token gesture towards fitting its girls for home making (something the headmistress regarded as the ultimate failure unless undertaken in support of elderly parents) by giving classes in needlework and cookery in the first year.
I thus achieved not one but three library sessions per week (double periods at that).
An unfortunate incident involving lighting a gas oven with a taper saw me removed from the cookery room – and my parents spared the horrors of rock hard raspberry buns – while sewing the skirt I was supposed to be making to the skirt I was wearing at the time saw my time at the sewing machine cut short in drastic fashion.
And if you think you can’t sew one to the other, you should have seen the school uniform winter skirts of that era.
Built from serge so stiff it could stand up on its own, six gored and long enough to cover the knees of a giraffe we used to reckon that it was an initiative on the part of the school governors to keep the Clyde shipyards in operation.
Only the rivets were lacking.

But father loved music…and sang – when he was not smoking.
You knew when father was home as soon as you opened the door: whorls of blue smoke would engulf you in the hall, which was imbued with the odour peculiar to hand rolled tobacco – known to us as tram driver’s glove – in maize paper wrappers.
Venturing further into the house, father would either be silently smoking while reading the newspaper – articles varying from Manchester Guardian leaders to the racing page of the Daily Mirror – or be concocting something in the kitchen…and singing.

He sang just about everything except hymns.
Opera, light opera…music hall ditties, folk songs, political stuff….it is thanks to him that I have a vast ragbag of musical memories which rise unbidden to the surface, from ‘se vuol ballare’ from “The Marriage of Figaro’

Via the Red Air Force song:

‘Propellers roaring, roaring to the battle
High in the air above the clouds we speed
Our bombas are ready, machine guns rattle
Against the world’s imperialist greed.
Fly higher, and higher anf higher
Our emblem’s the Soviet star
When every propeller is roaring’ class front’
Defending the USSR’.

(For some reason this does not seem to exist on Youtube but I was delighted to hear it played as part of Moscow’s recent VE day celebrations.)

To ‘Stop your tickling, Jock’

‘Jock of Hazeldean’

And the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves from Nabucco:

And the explanations came with the music…why ‘The Mikado’ was written when it was…who was the butt of ‘HMS Pinafore’…
Why the operas of Verdi were so popular with supporters of Italy’s Risorgimento: Verdi – Viva Emmanuel (Victor Emmanuel of Savoy) Re D’Italia….his love and knowledge of history bubbling through the music.

Having a voice like the Muckle Flugger on a foggy night does not deter me from giving song in the mornings and most of my repertoire comes from my father…though I have to hold him blameless in respect of ‘The Hole in the Elephant’s Bottom’, which you can look up for yourselves if so inclined.

He was not so enthusiastic for ‘stand alone’ music…so it was due to the school music department that I grew to enjoy orchestral music: those two Welsh ladies – while sending me once more to the library during choir practice – gave us all a grounding in the history of music and its stylistic manifestations which illuminated the records they played to illustrate their lessons.
They ran a music club so that we could play records in the lunch hour…and gently allowed our emotional development to echo itself in music; always ready to explain, to offer other examples…it seemed at the time a relief from the rigours of study, but, looking back, their instruction was equally rigorous – just couched in a different fashion.

The school was conscientious in taking pupils to the theatre…to the ballet…to the Greek play at some public school whose name I have forgotten, but will never forget the thrill of hearing classical Greek spoken which enlivened my plodding attempts to learn it…and to the Proms.

Which brings me to the Ode to Joy.
My father had introduced me to Schiller….his was the remnant of a generation which looked to Germany for its culture and was brought up on German literature…and I had heard and responded to Beethoven before…but this was the first time I was to see and hear a performance at the Royal Albert Hall.

The second part of the programme was Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony which, as it progressed, took me further out of myself than I had theretofore experienced; I looked at my friends alongside – all were as involved, living it.
And then the final movement and the Ode to Joy….I can still remember how it affected me: borne up, the heart overflowing, the senses overcome.
For someone wary, withdrawn, it did indeed reveal Schiller’s ‘Joy, daughter of Elysium’.

It changed me.

I have heard it since – notably Bernstein’s concert at the fall of the Berlin Wall with its cry of ‘Freiheit’…and heard parts of it again on a programme in a series called ‘Soul Music’ on BBC radio tonight, which led me to play the whole symphony again.

And to recall the supreme irony…that the European Union, that oligarchic institution in which the people of Europe have no voice, has the damned sauce to use the ‘Ode to Joy’ as its anthem.

The words of this are supposed to read ‘meep. meep, meep’ but sound more like ‘me, me, me’.
How apt for the EU, that perversion of democracy, which quibbles while children drown.


Filed under music

Hey, Big Spender

We were having lunch when the sound of cars on the track below the house sent the dogs into a frenzy.

Normally, they take no notice….they know all the regular cars: Hugo’s SUV, Luis’ pick up, Franklin’s van and the two motor bikes which bring the Mariachi’s workmen to his finca down over the river.
These come at their appointed hours and apart from the odd grumble from the poodle pass without challenge.

But today the dogs were out in full fig: Arthur, periscope ears rotating as he gave tongue….the two pups hanging over the edge above the track presenting their less attractive profiles as they barked in baritone…Black Tot and the poodle yapping hysterically and bouncing up and down to see over the bushes.
Danilo’s dogs joined in, nothing loath: Calamardillo showing his crocodile teeth….the Hyena giving it laldy…and tiny Bigote – more hair than dog – yapping along with the best from his vantage point on the table in the porch.

The cars had stopped by the time we had left the table and gone to investigate.
Two large, shaven headed men were looking up at the canine reception committee, then a hard faced woman peered out from the lead car and seemed to call them back.
The convoy turned in the entrance to our neighbour’s corral and departed whence it had come.

Lost? Plenty of people do get lost, thinking that there is a road through the valley….

But it appeared that they were not lost…they were on a quest.

All was revealed when the young man who delivers goods after dark turned up with a further installment of wire fencing.

Had we seen the enforcers?

Well, we’d seen the men and the two cars.

Yes, the enforcers. They’re looking for The Neighbour

He of the crisp white hat with a curly brim has been remarkable by his absence of late.

Yes, he would be. he’s lying low.

The fencing unloaded, the story was recounted over a beer.

The Neighbour – while ostensibly making his living from transporting cattle – has other occupations.

He works for one of the local Mr. Bigs doing goodness only knows what which pays very well in cash
However, when the opportunity arose to do some moonlighting for another of the local Mr. Bigs in the same line of business he seized it with both hands.

Flush with this doubling of his income, The Neighbour has been extending his social horizons.
Banned from every bar in town and for several kilometres around he decided to go further afield and betook himself to one of the casinos with which San Jose is blessed.

casino san jose

This did not please the lady who has moved in with him in the hope of one day depriving him of his house by accusing him of ill treating her and thus being awarded possession of his property under the provisions of the law protecting women from domestic violence..
The hostesses in the casinos look considerably more like Shirley Bassey than she does and are even more expert at cash extraction.

Apart from the hostesses and their lack of apparel, the casinos have other attractions….free meals and snacks…and free booze.

The Neighbour’s dream.

Until it turned into a nightmare.

Flush on the attractions of the casino he appears to have ventured past the one arm bandit area into the maw of the beast – the gaming tables – and there to have laid down some four thousand dollars on one turn of the roulette wheel.

Whether it stopped on the red or on the black our informant had no idea…but he lost.

Collapse of stout party.

He could pay…but he was now skint.
And he had immediate calls on his money – because the money he had lost was not his, but money belong to Mr. Big 2 which The Neighbour had collected on his behalf.

Resourceful as ever, The Neighbour betook himself to Mr. Big 1 and negotiated a loan of four thousand dollars to tide him over.
He then paid this to Mr. Big 2 and settled down to a period of enforced domestic economy to pay off Mr. Big 1.

Enforced domestic economy had not pleased the lady resident on his premises. In return for the donation of her favours, not to speak of the washing, ironing, cleaning and cooking, she expected considerably more than a diet of rice and bananas, while his refusal to share the remaining whisky on the grounds that decent women did not drink alcohol only exacerbated matters.

She took herself off to Mr. Big 1 and revealed to him that The Neighbour was
A…working for Mr. Big 1’s rival Mr. Big 2
B…the money he had borrowed was to pay to Mr. Big 2.

Then, wisely, she retired to her daughter’s house to await results.

Mr. Big 1 was displeased. He intimated to The Neighbour that
A… he wanted his money back. Now.
B…there was no future employment for The Neighbour’s talents. Not at his address.

The Neighbour had a problem….he might not have future employment with Mr. Big 1…but if he did not cough up it was likely that he would have no future at all.

His solution?
Sell the truck he used to transport cattle.

But he has not only to find a buyer willing to pay his price…he has also to have the sale ratified by a lawyer – and they don’t work at week ends.

So until both conditions are fulfilled The Neighbour has been lying low…and Mr. Big 1’s enforcers are hunting him down.

We wait with bated breath to see if the previously resident lady will reveal to Mr. Big 2 what The Neighbour was doing with the money entrusted to him….in which case the dogs will have a lot more barking to do.


Filed under Costa Rica

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

IMG_2830The pressure cooker hissing gently; dogs snoring; a warm and heavy head on my feet; catching up on the Great British Bake Off – peace at last.

Bunter – on the right above – is sleeping under my worktable, snoring happily. Black Tot is sleeping on top of the washing machine, curled up on her blanket. The other dogs are sleeping in the office.

The morning had been its usual hectic self…whatever were we doing to take on two more pups!

One, Stein – on the left above – has settled down since he came to us four months ago, but the other, Bunter, remains a pup.
A huge pup.
A huge loving pup full of energy.

After breakfast on the balcony he bounded into the kitchen, ready for action.

He played with a plastic bottle, waving it like an indian club…he reduced yet another cardboard box to flat pack status…he leapt on the garden chair and bounced it round the kitchen….he found the chayote, threw them in the air and chased them round the floor.
He supervised stripping meat from the duck carcass. At least this required him to sit down.For at least one second at a time.

After twenty minutes of high octane performance he went to sleep…flat out, relaxed, snoring fit to bring down the walls of Jericho.
Relaxed as only a pup can be, happy in the knowledge that it has fulfilled its obligation to keep you entertained and on your toes.

Two loads of washing went out to make the most of the sunshine.

A young man we know had called to see if we wanted a quantity of heavy duty fencing wire. His price was very reasonable and included delivery. Tonight.
All his deliveries take place in the hours of darkness but as yet none have been followed by a visit from the police.
As he also has available several tons of asphalt, however, his delivery methods may have to change.

Friends called to collect tilapia to start their own fish production: they stayed to a lunch of St. Omer beer and home made pork pies. The latter were a bit lop sided…but then weren’t we all by the time lunch was over.

We fed the sheep, fed the ducks and chickens – and watched Bunter’s matinee performance.
Much as before: minus the chayote but plus a box of fifty packs of spaghetti which I thought I had stored out of his reach.
And we all know what thought did.

Two loads of washing came in as the sky darkened…this is the rainy season and the afternoons are almost guaranteed to be wet. Soaking wet.

Two loads of washing which were not immediately ironed….there are limits!

The rain came down heavily so it was time for a cup of tea…and time to talk, brought on by something we had noticed last night.

We had had supper early, sitting out on the balcony as the sun went down over the hills between us and the Pacific Ocean…the sky pink and grey after an afternoon of violent thunderstorms.
As the light faded, the street lights appeared, one for each house….none to the right at San Antonio – the hill had been bought by a consortium who wished to develop it, unsuccessfully. No water.
On the left, however, creeping out from the town, there were lights where there were none when we bought the finca…and more to come. There are signs of construction on all the ridges.
The council has even given planning permission for houses to be built around the spring which feeds the river below us…

In front of us, however…no street lights.

That part of the Three Valleys remains, if not pristine, then at least rural, agricultural.

And that is what had led to our chat.
Had we done the right thing…moving here…not just to Costa Rica, but here?

It had been our holiday house before moving…but when we moved we walked into the nightmare of a local fight against a well connected developer.

As it all happened just as we were moving there had been no time to consider whether or not so to do: it was a case of just getting on with it.

We have had unpleasantnesses – galore – but also much kindness and the chance to gain a full speed ahead apprenticeship into the workings of the country which might otherwise have taken several more years to achieve.
We now know where we are with a number of people locally….and they know where they are with us.

Armed with what we now know, would we come to Costa Rica again, as it were?

Yes: like a shot.

Not just for the climate and the beauty of the place, lovely though it is, but for the culture of mild anarchy which prevails…and the fact that there is always a way round things.
A winding way with many turnings…but always a way.

No country is a paradise, either for its own people or for immigrants: there are always downsides.
All depends on whether you can live with them.
After life in France in the last years before our move we certainly can.

There is a whiff of change in the air…a conflict of generations and a conflict of ideas…a possibility of political realignment on the international economic scale.

Would we come not just to Costa Rica but here, this little place, again?


It’s a small town, the one up the road, and while we’ll never be ‘of’ the town we’ve progressed beyond the jokes at our expense to being part of the general joke scene, something I’d not come across before, where once in town your progress is one of constant greetings, involving insults, innuendo – and real kindness.

When Mantequa asks why you’re alone…is it that you’ve lost all your money and can’t afford to pay your chauffeur… it is de rigeur to ask him how come he is standing on the street corner when he is too ugly to attract any passing trade let alone that of women with money.

At which point old Rigoberto will pop his head out of the bar alongside and advise me not to talk to Mantequa

But then, senora, you were not to know that he is ‘maricon’ (homosexual).

Exit stage left at surprising speed for one of his age pursued by Mantequa threatening vengeance and both to be found in the bar together a few minutes later.

Yes, but when you drop in to see your lawyer after doing your shopping you’re exchanging jokes about the influence of Napoleon’s sexuality on French and – by derivation – Costa Rican law.

The town, like the country, resembles the horse from Surtees‘ ‘Mr. Facey Romford’s Hounds’, Multum in Parvo…a lot of horse in a little skin…and, like that celebrated equine, when the town or the country has one of its ‘going days’ there’s no holding it.

I saw the attempt to use riot police to disrupt a peaceful demonstration in the last presidency..and saw the city and the university turn out to put them to flight.

I saw the unknown candidate elected as president this time around…here, the people still have a voice.

And, speaking of voices, here comes the young man to deliver the fencing….the dogs awake in a cacophony of barking, the ducks protest from afar and the trees in front of the house deliver a shower of water as the birds roosting there rise in their indignation.

Not set in stone, our lazy Sunday afternoons, as is this:

And does anyone remember this one?


Filed under Costa Rica, culture, immigrants, puppies

Open the Cage and Let Them Out

open the gates
Politics is in the air at the moment.

If it’s not Donald Trump in the U.S.A. then it’s Jeremy Corbyn in the U.K. …and here, in my little town, the candidates are squaring up for the local elections in February next year.

So far, only one party has announced whom its candidate for mayoral office will be: the party currently holding power.

The party whose representatives are responsible for the ever immobile bulldozer, the dustcart that collects more dust than rubbish and – latest item, remember you heard it here first – the payment of over two million colones (some four thousand dollars) to an enterprise appropriately entitled ‘El Gusano’ (The Grub) for cutting down a tree.

Be that as it may, the party faithful, all sixty three of them, assembled this weekend to elect their candidate for February.

The list had been whittled down to three….the current alcalde (mayor) – pink shirt; a gentleman who had given long service to the party both in the council and the National Assembly – blue shirt and a hair style expertly imitating a wig – and a large gentleman distinguished mainly by his striped polo shirt, resembling a navigation buoy swept inland by a tsunami.

Now, the party nationally runs the rule over those of its members who wish to stand for office.

It doesn’t like to endorse those who have previously stood for office for other parties….or those who have less then two years’ membership of the party.
No problem for the local candidates there.

It will not endorse those who contravene the requirements of its ethics committee.
No problem there either.

It will not endorse those condemned by the justice system…
Ah! A hitch!
One candidate was refused the party’s approval on these grounds.
The one with long years of service at local and national level.

It appears that this gentleman had been an agent for the then monopolistic state insurance company INS. Apart from his other activities.
As an agent for INS he had accepted payment for car insurance and had duly delivered certificates of insurance to his clients.
Unfortunately, he had forgotten to inform INS of his transactions.

It all came to light when a client, passing the head office of INS in San Jose decided to check his policy…only to discover that INS had no record of it.

The state prosecution service became involved and eventually the forgetful gentleman was hauled into court.

The Costa Rican justice system allows for a conciliation process before action proceeds, and at that process, the future candidate offered to refund the nineteen million colones (some thirty eight thousand dollars) identified as entering into his possession but not into that of INS and was given three years in which to do so, in addition to a payment to benefit the National Children’s Hospital and the obligation to do one hundred hours of community service.

Simple, you would think. Condemned by the justice system…can’t be a candidate.

But this is to underestimate the abilities of this gentleman.

Instead of appealing against the decision of his party immediately he waited until the day before the election and took his case to the national Election Tribunal who decided that, as a long serving party member and not otherwise disqualified by internal party regulations, he could proceed with his candidature while he appealed his party’s decision in an internal tribunal.
No time for the party to disqualify him again, then.

First round of voting….the navigation buoy is eliminated. Pink shirt and blue shirt tie.

Second round of voting….blue shirt wins.

Deep unhappiness among those whose candidate was not successful…..who have launched an appeal to overthrow the decision.

With a bit of luck this series of appeals will last until after the elections…or they might do a re run and elect the navigation buoy.

Needless to say, the social media are fizzing…..very good for my Spanish vocabulary, if somewhat repetitive.

I have no idea what the reaction in the U.S.A. to Trump might be…I just wonder if he reminds anyone else of a troll (Norwegian variety, not internet)….but Corbyn’s candidacy for the leadership of the Labour Party certainly seems to have enlivened political life in the U.K.

It appears from the reaction of an unholy combination of press and politicians that his election will end civilisation as we know it.
Looking at said civilisation as exemplified by the U.K., I tend to think that that is no bad thing.

There have been years of privatisation – both openly and by stealth – of public assets. Sheer daylight robbery.

Years of kow towing to the U.S.A. government- the follies of whose evil policies are plain to all.

Years of grinding the faces of the poor….no proper employment resulting in artificially induced dependency; education designed to depress, not encourage talent; inadequate housing, poor nutrition.

But what seems to worry the powers that be the most is that Corbyn would like to hear what ordinary people think, what ordinary people want….and proposes to try to put those wishes into effect.

Shock horror!



Filed under Costa Rica, elections, politics