Normal Service May Not be Resumed Shortly

hospital

Leo has been ill for the last ten days….ill enough to be taken into the local hospital for observation before returning home…only to go back for further observation…and once again returning home.

It has been a trying time. Routines overturned, projects abandoned, things left on the back burner until suddenly recalled to mind…or not, as the case might be!

Remarkable as it might seem, I have decided to put aside the minefield of the digitalisation of bills as demonstrated on the taxman’s website until I feel able to cope with something which seems to be a hybrid born of a crossword puzzle and a query as to when did I last see my father…but which would seem to indicate that I will be taxed on rental income even if the tenant doesn’t pay. I do wish that Costa Rica would stop seeking advice from the EU when it comes to tax…

Top marks to the health service,  though…apart from the secretary at the local clinic who has been her usual stupid and uncooperative self. It seems to be a feature of the Caja – the NHS of Costa Rica – that while the professional staff go the extra mile for their patients the secretaries could not give two penn’orth of cold gin whether the patient lives or dies. Probably prefer the latter as being one less to interrupt their care of their fingernails…

A series of disturbed nights has left me feeling lethargic….though the dogs have done their best to cure me of that by deciding to practice  herding the sheep, who take great exception to the idea, thus requiring my intervention. Einstein does not join in. He has other ideas. Flushed by his success in catching and eating a vulture he treks from tree to tree in search of another…

My cleaning woman has also done her best to liven me up….Sunday afternoon produced her wailing at the door having decided not to go to her only grandchild’s birthday party because her daughter in law had snubbed her. I tell you, after sorting out her in the flesh, daughter in law and son in successive telephone calls on the lines that

A…the grandson would be upset by her absence

B…she had bought the cake for the party and if she did not go what would become of it

and

C…the son would keep the two women in his life from scratching each other’s eyes out for the duration of the event

I was ready for a cup of tea and a lie down in a darkened room.

The car, of course, has joined in by catching a lurgy in its starter motor so while the Cuban electrical wizard in the town is sorting that out the car is parked on the drive, ready for a downhill start should it be needed in an emergency. Just as well it is not an automatic.

I can’t settle to solid reading just at the moment, which is a pity as I had just taken down the Putney Debates of 1647 to renew my acquaintance with Cromwell, Ireton, Rainsborough and Wildman….trying to establish a new order in a land broken and divided by civil war.

It strikes me that there is currently a civil war in the U.K. – one waged by the rich on those purposely kept poor – and a new order is urgently needed….but the development of identity politics will do nothing to assist the process.

I must admit to fantasising about a modern Cromwell entering the House of Commons and addressing individual M.P.s as drunkards, whoremasters, jugglers and cheats before launching his attack on the institution itself.

There are no good videos…so here is the text of what is supposed to have been his speech

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place,

which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government.

Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.

Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.

Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!

Nothing like WordPress for cocking up font, not to speak of hiding the categories and tags item….but nothing like the seventeenth century for robust language.

And from later in that century my current earworm is this song from ‘The Indian Queen’ sung here by Alfred Deller. Words by Dryden, music by Purcell.

 

 

 

It is rather comforting to keep up with the blogs I follow…proof were it needed that the world is still on its axis despite our local disruptions….so thank you, fellow bloggers and friends, for keeping me sane.

 

 

 

 

 

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The Performing Arts

plaza viquez

Our house in San Jose is let to a lady from Nicaragua who runs a restaurant in the front porch and erstwhile garage while harbouring an ever growing number of family members and dogs in the house itself. This has involved making alterations, but she has respected the fabric and style of the house in every respect. You could remove her alterations and the house would be just as it was.

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She rang Leo yesterday to discuss a problem.

The house next door is of the same style and date as our own…but totally bastardised inside by a trendy designer to turn it into a nest of rooms to let with a communal kitchen and bathroom

Over the years there have been a variety of tenants….

When we used the house ourselves there was the man learning the trombone….who started to practice at ten at night when he returned from work. He was finally silenced when the owner of the music school in the next street – which began classes at eight in the evening – complained that he was putting off his pupils and persuaded the owner of the house not to renew his contract.

According to the lady now occupying the house there have been, variously, a man practising karaoke in the early hours – which set her dogs barking – and a bright spark who tapped into her water pipes, not to speak of the nude sunbather on the upper floor balcony and the young lady who threw her baby’s soiled disposable nappies into ‘our’ garden on the grounds that it was an ecological crime to flush them down the loo.

Remonstrances addressed to the owner of the next door property – a big wheel in the cultural world – were met with the cry that all his tenants came from good families…which was why, we supposed, that they were living alone in bed sitters, the good families being unable to appreciate nocturnal trombone music or the hurling of nappies.

Furthermore, the karaoke artiste was complaining that the barking upset his concentration…could we not control our tenants…or, rather telling, could we not control our Nicaraguan tenants?

And there was the nub. There is a tremendous prejudice in Costa Rica against Nicaraguans.

‘They come here to sponge off the health service…they work black for little or no pay, cutting out Costa Ricans….they are a bunch of thieves…violent…drug traffickers…’, you’ve heard it all wherever prejudice rules, but it was upsetting to come across the same gravy from someone involved the world of culture, where tolerance should be the norm and is, indeed, demanded.

Our tenant came to Costa Rica with the idea that she would earn enough money to buy a house in her home town for her mother and see her secure. She went through all the immigration procedures and is fully legal here. So well has she done that she has not just her mother’s house, but another house alongside to rent out, earned by honest work and self denial.

She always thought that she would return to Nicaragua to enjoy the fruits of her labours, but with the current state of civil war there she has had to revise her views. A member of her husband’s family has been shot by thugs in the pay of the Ortega government…others in the family are short of food and petrol and though she would like to go to them to help them, there is no reliable public transport, nor any way of sending food  parcels…

Her mother, on a visit to her, is beside herself with worry about the family…but there is no way that she can go back there as things stand.

So, with a business to run and family members to look after, the last thing she needs is a problem with the owner of the house next door but, as she said, there are some things which you just can’t ignore…

There has been a shake up of occupants….the owner is now letting the rooms to members of the performing arts fraternity – so at least there is no more karaoke. However, there are other problems.

The tenants tend to enter late and have rowdy parties into the early hours…not ideal for the children in her family. Polite requests to keep the noise down are met with the response that if she doesn’t like it, she can go back to Nicaragua.

So much for tolerance from the performing arts fraternity.

Then, very nastily, they have accused her of homophobia…being an ignorant ‘Nica’.

Two of the male tenants are decidedly camp, it appears, and they have accused her of being afraid that  they will corrupt her children.

As she says, she has neither said nor thought anything of the kind, though the men concerned are wide of their mark if they think that being accused of homophobia will harm her reputation in one of the last central barrios of San Jose to maintain its traditional working class character, despite the burgeoning number of lawyers’ offices and a stained glass workshop.

Costa Rican society in general is not particularly accepting of what it regards as deviation from the norms – as witness the alarming success of the Evangelical candidate in the Presidential elections who stood on a platform of ‘family values’ – and I can safely say that it will be a long time before a transgender loo makes its appearance in that particular barrio. Even in the stained glass workshop.

But the last straw came about when one of the female tenants decided to introduce the area to performance art. Either that or she was as  gassed as a Ne’erday tinker.

escuela de chile

There is a large junior school over the road and mothers meeting their children tend to come to the restaurant for soft drinks and cakes before going home. This was the moment when the ‘artiste’ emerged from her house and began to dance in the road…nude but for tassels on each nipple and a tiny sequinned cache-sex.

She is, apparently, built on a generous scale and made quite a sight as she whirled and pranced, bawling encouragement to passers-by to join her.

The which, apparently, they did not. Reactions varied from legging it from the scene before wives heard of it and made unwelcome accusations – it is a small world in that barrio – to catcalls from taxi drivers and the lady from the greengrocers calling her a shameless hussy.

Meanwhile, as you might imagine, the restaurant was full of children asking ‘Mum, why is that lady…etc’.

I don’t know whether the said lady stopped of her own accord or whether she was persuaded to desist but my tenant is clear.

Enough is enough.

She can do what she likes in the privacy of her room…but not in the street to frighten the taxi drivers.

And no, gentlemen, I do not have a photograph.

 

 

Que se rinda tu madre

ortega

 

Nicaragua is in chaos.

Roads are blocked, fuel and food shortages are making themselves felt, while in the towns the police are shooting those who demonstrate their opposition to the regime of  President Commandante Daniel Ortega and his wife – and Vice President – Rosaria Murillo.

The thugs of Murillo’s private army, the Juventad Sandanista, have burned and sacked Monimbo, the indigenous quarter of Masaya, famed for its revolt against the dictatorship of Somoza. The old fort, turned into a tourist attraction as a centre for the sale of local crafts, has gone up in flames with the loss,  not only of stock, but of the jobs of those who worked there.

There have been similar incidents on other towns, but the attack on Monimbo, that icon of the revolution,  strikes at the heart of what the original Sandinistas fought for…an end to corruption, proper education, a chance to make better lives for themselves and their children…self respect.

A revolution which brought so much of good in its wake has been betrayed by Ortega and his wife…a tale too often repeated in the post colonial world….and now the people have had enough.

Given the censorship it is hard to follow what has been happening…Nicaraguan friends, in contact with and worried about their families, give snapshot pictures of the violence… social media sites give other glimpses…

Let me just say that I will not put up videos of a young man shot by police whose body is then kicked around by his killers..another, dying in the street despite his friends giving him the kiss of life…badly wounded young men evacuated on the back of motorbikes to be treated – not in the public hospitals and clinics, whose staff have been ordered not to treat the ‘delinquents’ – but in churches and presbyteries where the same staff do what they can with the resources at their disposal.

I have walked those streets…I recognise some of the faces…

The black and red flags of the Sandanistas are now countered by the blue and white of the national flag as the protesters march forward, only to be beaten back by live rounds and tear gas.

Priests and monks march in the front, arms raised in sign of peace…but the shots continue.

The women who set up the museums of Heroes and Martyrs to record the horrors of the Somoza regime and the incursions of the Contras march in revolt against the movement for which they fought…but the shots continue.

Today there was a meeting arranged by the Catholic Church, one  of the members of the troika which includes the government and big business, to hear the protests of the farmers and the students..the most visible of those rising in revolt.

Ortega described the protesters as delinquents…the student representative called for the resignation of Ortega and Murillo..the church moderator closed the meeting.

Where are we now? The Ortega regime is fighting for its life…the protesters are not organised…who knows if the U.S.A. will be sticking its finger in the pie…

But the people are in the streets despite all…and the cry is

‘Que se rinda tu madre…’

Nicaraguan friends explain…

Literally…let your mother surrender…

But in Spanish usage mention of the mother is for emphasis…so, if a person you dislike asks you for help you tell him to ask his mother…in other words, you need help, ask your mother…I’m  buggered if I am going to help you.

And so with ‘que se rinda tu madre’…

ln the struggle against Somoza’s forces the young poet Leonel Rugama Rugama found himself on the front line.Summoned to surrender he replied

‘Que se rinda tu madre’

Or, colloquially, get stuffed.

Needless to say, he was shot.

 

‘Britons Strike Home!’

 

Scotland_Forever!

This picture ‘Scotland Forever’, showing the Scots Greys charging at Waterloo, hung on the wall of the classroom where my mother went to school.

This was in the twenties…the nineteen twenties…when things were not quite as child centred as they are at the present.

The child was there to learn to read, to write – neatly – and do ‘sums’, all of which would befit it for life. Girls would do needlework and cookery, boys would do woodwork and gardening and great emphasis was placed on the glories of the British Empire and the obligation to be patriotic.

Methods were somewhat elementary….when learning to read a number of words were chalked on the blackboard and each child was given a word which it must recognise when called to the front of the class. In mother’s case, her word was ‘burn’  and when she hesitated a little before pointing to it the teacher took both her hands and held them briefly over the red hot coke stove which heated the classroom, saying firmly, ‘burn’.

Later in school life the girls were shown how to run a household, though her mother’s comments on a whole afternoon spent washing, starching and ironing a shirt verged on the unprintable as in that time the redoubtable housewife, ‘dirty’ jobs being completed in the morning, could have ironed the shirts of a regiment and made a victoria sponge  while the flat irons were heating on the hob.

Cookery was undertaken too….enlivened by the presence of girl called Sybil who came from a large family. When asked to bring an oven dish to make rhubarb pie she arrived with the smallest possessed by her mother…large enough to take the sticks of rhubarb whole.

Her finest moment came in the end of year examination where the task was to make bread…without a recipe, as they were supposed to have learned this by heart during the school year.

Sybil had measured and mixed, kneaded and proved and was quite happy as she placed her loaf tin in the oven of the cast iron stove.

Later, however, she whispered to her friends that things had taken a turn for the worse..She had slid aside the peephole on the oven to check progress and a ribbon of dough had emerge, oozing its way down the oven door, solidifying as it progressed.

Clearly she had overestimated the amount of yeast …what should she do?

The council of war decided on drastic action. They would remove the loaf tin, scrape off the excess and put it back in the oven in the hope that it would look fairly normal…

Which was fine until they opened the oven door and something the size of a large cushion plopped out…leaving a heavy burnt crust on all the internal surfaces of the oven.

Discovery was inevitable and the clean up took forever.

So that day they missed playtime where the girls would skip or play hopscotch while one group of  boys would link arms and run round the playground singing

‘Are you ready for the fight?

We are the Romans’

To be met by another group of boys who would reply

‘Yes, we’re ready for the fight

We are the English soldiers’

After which a pell mell would ensue until broken up by the sound of the whistle for the end of playtime.

Patriotism was not left to the playground however.

Mother remembers the preparations for an Empire Day celebration for which the children were kitted out with broad brimmed hats in red, white and blue and were marshaled onto a slope in the gardens of the local charitable hospital which, despite being run by nuns, was pardoned for its catholicism by its care for veterans of the Great War.

The idea was that the coloured hats would make up an image of the Union Jack and the children were drilled into moving in groups in order to simulate the flag waving in the breeze to suitable patriotic music

Brigade of Guards, eat your heart out!

Patriotic music, in that time, seemed to consist of ‘God Save the King’ – George V – and ‘Rule Britannia’ accompanied by ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’ and ‘Pack up your troubles in your old kitbag’….though ‘Mademoiselle from Armentieres’ , nomatter how popular with the troops, was judged to be beyond the pale in polite society.

I suppose now that the globe is no longer coloured with  the red of the British Empire patriotic fervour is somewhat diminished.

You do hear it at the last night of the Proms.. ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ from Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches…known to us in my student days as ‘Land of Bullshit and Tories’..

 

Long gone are the days when the House of Commons would rise as one to sing ‘Britons strike home’ – the classic patriotic song before the popularity of ‘Rule Britannia’ – as it did when Pitt the Younger announced that his attempts to reach a peaceful solution  with revolutionary France had failed and that war must inevitably continue.

 

 

Can you imagine for one moment the current time serving lackeys of finance rising to sing anything but  ‘Happy days are here again’ when their expenses claims are paid?

As Great Britain becomes a minor player on the world stage…enter right in support of the U.S.A….patriotic fervour seems to have been relegated to the sporting arena.

Thus the Barmy Army mangling Blake’s wonderful ‘Jerusalem’ at the start of Test matches…

But should there be  a competition for the best sporting anthem which reflects the Britain of today my vote goes to this…

‘Vindaloo’ by Fat Les.

Inclusive, happy and totally daft.

 

The Merry Month of May

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‘The month of May was come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom and to bring forth fruit, for like as herbs and trees bring forth fruit and flourish in May, in likewise every lusty heart that is is any manner a lover springeth and flourisheth in lusty deeds. For it giveth unto all lovers courage, that lusty month of May.’

Thus Sir Thomas Malory in La Morte d’Arthur…..

I woke this morning early, to the moon shining golden across the valley in front of the house and lay for a while, simply enjoying the peace and beauty of it all before starting the daily round.

There never seem to be enough hours in the day, but I doubt I would have the energy to follow the advice of Thomas Moore and steal  some hours from the night…

I rose shortly though, as the day was already on the wing and even if there is no mayblossom to be gathered I can’t afford to be a slugabed, unlike Herrick’s Corinna who had to be coaxed to join in the fun of the May day morning.

Get up, get up for shame, the Blooming Morne
Upon her wings presents the god unshorne.
                     See how Aurora throwes her faire
                     Fresh-quilted colours through the aire:
                     Get up, sweet-Slug-a-bed, and see
                     The Dew-bespangling Herbe and Tree.
Each Flower has wept, and bow’d toward the East,
Above an houre since; yet you not drest,
                     Nay! not so much as out of bed?
                     When all the Birds have Mattens seyd,
                     And sung their thankful Hymnes: ’tis sin,
                     Nay, profanation to keep in,
When as a thousand Virgins on this day,
Spring, sooner than the Lark, to fetch in May.
Rise; and put on your Foliage, and be seene
To come forth, like the Spring-time, fresh and greene;
                     And sweet as Flora. Take no care
                     For Jewels for your Gowne, or Haire:
                     Feare not; the leaves will strew
                     Gemms in abundance upon you:
Besides, the childhood of the Day has kept,
Against you come, some Orient Pearls unwept:
                     Come, and receive them while the light
                     Hangs on the Dew-locks of the night:
                     And Titan on the Eastern hill
                     Retires himselfe, or else stands still
Till you come forth. Wash, dresse, be briefe in praying:
Few Beads are best, when once we goe a Maying.
Come, my Corinna, come; and comming, marke
How each field turns a street; each street a Parke
                     Made green, and trimm’d with trees: see how
                     Devotion gives each House a Bough,
                     Or Branch: Each Porch, each doore, ere this,
                     An Arke a Tabernacle is
Made up of white-thorn neatly enterwove;
As if here were those cooler shades of love.
                     Can such delights be in the street,
                     And open fields, and we not see’t?
                     Come, we’ll abroad; and let’s obay
                     The Proclamation made for May:
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying;
But my Corinna, come, let’s goe a Maying.
There’s not a budding Boy, or Girle, this day,
But is got up, and gone to bring in May.
                     A deale of Youth, ere this, is come
                     Back, and with White-thorn laden home.
                     Some have dispatcht their Cakes and Creame,
                     Before that we have left to dreame:
And some have wept, and woo’d, and plighted Troth,
And chose their Priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
                     Many a green-gown has been given;
                     Many a kisse, both odde and even:
                     Many a glance too has been sent
                     From out the eye, Loves Firmament:
Many a jest told of the Keyes betraying
This night, and Locks pickt, yet w’are not a Maying.
Come, let us goe, while we are in our prime;
And take the harmlesse follie of the time.
                     We shall grow old apace, and die
                     Before we know our liberty.
                     Our life is short; and our dayes run
                     As fast away as do’s the Sunne:
And as a vapour, or a drop of raine
Once lost, can ne’r be found againe:
                     So when or you or I are made
                     A fable, song, or fleeting shade;
                     All love, all liking, all delight
                     Lies drown’d with us in endlesse night.
Then while time serves, and we are but decaying;
Come, my Corinna, come, let’s goe a Maying.
Carpe diem indeed…
Corinna might think herself lucky in her swain….had it been Sir John Suckling, a contemporary of Herrick, she could have been left snorting in the seven sleepers’ den until June……his idea of constancy being somewhat fluid.
Out upon it, I have lov’d
Three whole days together;
And am like to love three more,
If it prove fair weather.
Time shall moult away his wings,
Ere he shall discover
In the whole wide world again
Such a constant lover.
But the spite on’t is, no praise
Is due at all to me;
Love with me had made no stays,
Had it any been but she.
Had it any been but she,
And that very face,
There had been at least ere this
A dozen dozen in her place.
And May, let us not forget, was the month in 1660 when Charles II – aptly nicknamed the Merry Monarch – was restored to the throne.
Given his reputation for dalliance it should come as no surprise that his favourite dance was that of  Cuckolds All Awry.
Which WordPress, in an excess of puritanical zeal, will not allow to be played.
And it has cocked up the spacing.
May their IT nerds wear horns.

 

The Trees of Life go Down in Managua.

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Erikabrenner@Wordpress.com

As you may be aware, Nicaragua is undergoing social upheaval.

Thirty dead, many more injured and damage to property in the main centres of population.

The origin?

President Ortega announced that to resolve the deficit in the social security budget an increase in the contributions of both workers and employers was required, coupled with a five per cent cut in pensions.

The upshot was a howl of fury bringing people out onto the streets in protest, only to be met by young party thugs and riot police.

For many, the pensions cuts were the last straw in a process which has disenchanted them with President Ortega, his wife – and Vice President – Rosaria Murillo and the tripartite oligarchy of the Catholic church, big business and the Sandinista party which has ruled Nicaragua since 2006.

The Sandinistas – and President Ortega – are now a far cry from the movement which overthrew the dictatorship of the Samoza family in 1979. Then its black and red flags were the symbol of hope…hope for a better life for the ordinary family in a country whose assets had been stripped to the bone.

Unfortunately the first task of the new government was to beat off attacks by the right wing ‘Contras’, based in Honduras and, lamentably, Costa Rica. A guerilla war of unequal forces, which eventually came to an end in 1989, and which slowed down the hoped for advances, despite a reduction in the illiteracy rate from fifty per cent to 13 percent in just a few months, resulting in a business led government being elected in 1990 and a return to the misuse of public assets while cutting spending on education and health and trying to reverse the Sandinista land reform which gave property rights to the rural poor.

The Sandinistos lost election after election until Ortega came to an agreement with the third business led government. They would change the constitution to allow a candidate with more than 35% of the vote to be elected on the first round. In return, the incoming Sandanistas would not prosecute members of the outgoing government for corruption.

Ortega returned to power backed by the Catholic church and the business sector….and the black and red of the Sandanistas become the blue on pink of the new regime….increasingly controlled by his wife….which has become increasingly authoritarian – and corrupt.

Rosario Murillo seems to be following in the footsteps of Grace Mugabe and Winnie Mandela…though instead of the latter’s ‘Football Club’ she has the Juventad Sandinista…gangs of young thugs who attack and intimidate any opposition and who were much in evidence over the days of violence that have shaken the country.

Murillo peddles a type of New Age spiritualism with a dash of Christianity…thus the Trees of Life , based on the Klimt painting, which she had had installed all over Managua at vast expense. They consume an obscene amount of electricity for a country where rolling power cuts are the norm…they have had to be guarded by private security officers…real trees have been cut down to accommodate them…an all too accurate representation of image over action, the very thing with which even veteran Sandinistas reproach the current government.

There might be some residual respect for Ortega…but none for his wife who seems to be preparing her ascent to power with the aid of her armed thugs.

So no surprise then that the ‘trees’ were one of the first targets of the protesters…

tree of life destroyed

I found it interesting that these were not Trees of Liberty, on the model of the revolutionary American and French  societies, which you might expect from a once revolutionary party.

Too dangerous to plant a Tree of Liberty in Managua? Clearly…it might remind people of the hardships they suffered to bring about the free society of which they were now being deprived…

Not that the Trees of Liberty had had a free pass….

Revolutionary France planted them in cities, towns and villages on the model of the Boston Tree of Liberty made famous  by the reaction to the Stamp Duty Britain wished to impose on its American colonies. They were regarded as national altars, the exemplar of freedom, and attacks on them were severely punished….even to death under the guillotine.

Needless to say, with the advent of Napoleon, followed by the restoration of the Bourbons, the trees had a hard time of it. They were to be destroyed, though in more radical communes cuttings were made to keep the soul of liberty alive…

I suspect that their hold on people was more than just revolutionary fervour. Though decried by the Catholic church…and by the Puritans… the old fertility symbol, the Maypole, still attracted people…probably more for the festivities associated with its erection than for anything else…and the Tree of Liberty gave it life again in a ‘respectable’ form.

Not that it is completely forgotten, even now. Driving through the Correze many years ago  I was astonished to see maypoles in domestic gardens. Wound in tricolour stripes they bore a notice

‘Honneur a notre elu’.

A homage to the elected councillor…who, no doubt, had been obliged to wet the  whistles of his voters as the pole was installed.

Somehow I cannot see these installed in Managua….

But I can hope that the spirit of those who fought and died under the black and  red flag will triumph again to regain freedom for Nicaragua.

 

‘Armando’s All Right Then…’

carlos
No, not Armando…this is the next President of Costa Rica…

This is Julio on the ‘phone this morning, checking that I had the results of Costa Rica’s Presidential election in which one man called Alvarado, centre left candidate, beat another man called Alvarado, evangelical preacher, standing for ‘family values’, i.e. the missionary position in the dark with a person of the opposite sex, both of whom had preferably tithed to support their local preacher in the luxury to which he woshed to become accustomed.

Armando is a notorious homosexual…well, notorious in his village anyway….but as far as I was aware he stood in no added danger if the evangelical had won, pogroms not being part of his election programme.

‘Ha,’ said Julio ‘Let these demagogues get into power and you’ll have Hitler before you know it!’

Before I left for a trip to Europe which involved almond blossom in Spain,  a non functioning Mithraeum, snow, ice, non delivery of mother’s shopping – twice – catching a chest infection and suffering from hypothermia in Barcelona airport  the thirteen candidates for the Presidency in Costa Rica had been reduced to two after the first round of voting.

Against all expectation, one of the two was Fabricio Alvarado, of the wonderfully named National Restoration Party, who had profited from the declaration of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that all signatory countries must permit same sex marriage to rise in his wrath and declare his opposition to such a challenge to traditional culture. It was an imposition…it was contrary to Costa Rican customs…next thing you know it would be in vitro fertilisation and homosexuals running rampant in the streets.

fabricio

It struck a chord. Previously, despite holding open air prayer meetings all over the country, his share of the vote had been estimated at three percent. After declaring his opposition to same sex marriage it soared into the twenties and permitted him to be one of the two candidates in the run off.

Was the country mad? This was a man who made his name as a happy clappy singer in evangelical circles, who had slid under university rather than through it and whose period in the National Assembly was marked more by his absence than his presence.

And he was standing for the office of President.

He brushed aside claims of his lack of experience…..look at the mess those with experience had made, he said….God would guide him.

What was his attraction…and to whom?

Following the pattern set by the Front National in France and Trump in the U.S.A. he set himself up as the outsider…the man who represented those who felt they were ignored by those who ran the country…mostly in the coastal and frontier areas where infrastructure is poor, educational opportunity inadequate and well paid jobs non existent.

Traditional values were disregarded, undervalued by what was seen as an elite living in and around San Jose…a corrupt elite which had led the country to ruin both morally and economically.

There had already been disquiet in these areas about a new sex education module for high schools which dealt with gender identity, so Fabricio’s reaction to the decision of the Inter American Court fell on fertile ground.

He would be the man to take on the perverted politicians…guided by God and financed by the faithful.

Not only did he reach the run off, but his party acquired fourteen deputies in the new National Assembly, thirteen more than in the current one.

National Restoration was on a roll.

But the roll started to take a downhill trajectory.

The proposed cabinet of ministers were seen to be either useless or implicated in obscure financial affairs.

Fabricio accepted the aid of the least savoury part of the National Liberation Party to form his cabinet…there is acknowledged to be little that is more corrupt that the least savoury part of the PLN…so his claim of having clean hands went down the swanny in double quick time. Touch the PLN and you touch pitch.

Fabricio’s pastoral guide announced that the patron of the country…the Black Virgin…was a demon and that the Basilica which housed her shrine at Cartago was a haunt of Satan….which alienated a vast number of potential Roman Catholic voters who would otherwise have supported his views on ‘curing’ homosexuality and all the rest of the baggage…

cartago

In the televised debates he could not make a reasoned argument…

When he finally produced his manifesto it was only a shortly before  polling day and was a mess of copy and paste from the manifesto of the PLN candidate who did not make the run off.

Still, the polls and the papers had him twelve points ahead of his rival, Carlos Alvarado, of the ruling PAC party. As far as the media were concerned, Carlos had to be defeated by nomatter whom, as PAC had been undermining the power of the monopolists who make Costa Rica such an expensive country in which to live…monopolists who control the press. No way could Carlos beat Fabricio.

But he did. Sixty to forty per cent.

Costa Rica came to its senses.

There was a notion of ‘anyone but Fabricio’ just as in France there was  a notion of ‘anyone but Le Pen’, but a consensus was reached that there had to be an end to the inequalities that produced the Fabricio effect…that the better elements of the political scene had to stop squabbling and start to solve the problems that have been developing over the last twenty years.

Thus Carlos, not Fabricio.

But he faces an uphill task, like the current incumbent, President Solis, because PLN and National Restoration hold a majority block in the new National Assembly just as PLN does in the current body.

Cosdta Ricans have to take a further step…to make their representatives accountable. To force them to put country before pelf and party.

If they fail then there will be another four years of stagnation, of small gains, of deterioration of the quality of life of the majority of people.

Fabricio has left a time bomb….it needs to be defused and can only be so by popular pressure.

Still, there must be one group of people who are, whatever their views on same sex marriage, ‘curing’ homosexuals and in vitro fertilisation, very relieved that Fabricio has lost.

The diplomats of Costa Rica.

They will not be faced with explaining away a First Lady who ‘speaks in tongues’.

She is the one on the right as you see it.

Passing the port the wrong way might be overlooked…but speaking in tongues is beyond the pale……..