Christmas is Coming…

 

festival-of-light

Christmas is coming,

The geese are getting fat,

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.

If you haven’t got a penny a halfpenny will do.

If you haven’t got a halfpenny then God bless you.

Communities in the north of Costa Rica are still coming to terms with the extent of the destruction caused by Hurricane Otto and this coming Christmas promises to be bleak, despite the rescue and restoration efforts of the official bodies.

Who wants to spend Christmas in a shelter, after all?

I have been struck, though, by the volunteer action from all over the country: once permitted to enter the affected areas vans have been arriving at the farthest flung villages with not only the necessities of life – but also the things that make life brighter.

One furniture factory has gone into full production to turn out beds and sofas…basic, but serviceable and attractive, to make houses feel like a home again: a police station had a whip round to provide a wheelchair for a boy who had lost his in the floods…the examples are all too many to quote, but hats off to those involved – and to the emergency services whose plans allowed such prompt access for the volunteer effort.

The children have not been forgotten….for some of them Christmas has come early as the volunteers brought presents too – pennies and halfpennies well spent by those contributing at Red Cross centres and at some of the major chain stores who put their fleets of vehicles at the disposal of the relief effort.

Let us now hope that the government agencies coping with the aftermath…rebuilding houses, trying to compensate for crops lost…will show the same energy and generosity as was brought out by the immediate aftermath of the hurricane.

Away from the disaster areas the Christmas frenzy is now upon us with a vengeance.

The pavements of San Jose, already a hazard to shipping with the vendors of socks, rip off DVDs, remote controls and amazingly random items laid out on black plastic sheets ready for the quick getaway when the municipal police are sighted, now boast herds of fibreglass reindeer upon whose horns you are liable to become impaled while trying to avoid the embrace of the inflatable Santa on the other side of the shop entrance.

A new horror promises to manifest itself: while buying a washing machine I saw that the shop was also selling hideously lifelike and lifesize Santas who sang carols and did a sort of shuffling dance….from ghosties and ghoulies and shuffling Santas Good Lord deliver us…

Music – if so it can be called – assails you in every store. Fortunately for my sanity ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ seems to have fallen from favour, but ‘Jingle Bells’ is still going strong.

I suppose that given the popularity of reindeer, it would be.

Curiously enough, I heard ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in one of the local supermarkets last week, so there is hope of the advance of civilisation yet…despite the horror of the butcher as I described to him how to make a haggis.

Poor man: he is still recovering from my annual demand for suet which he is firmly convinced serves only to dubbin boots.

The price of tomatoes and potatoes have soared as this is the tamale season and they are essential ingredients: luckily we have laid in a store of spuds which, if the weather remains unseasonably cold, should last through the New Year after which prices should fall again.

And unseasonably cold it is too….summer should have started some two weeks ago but for the first time since moving here I have opened the old suitcase containing our woollies and put a second light blanket on the bed as the rain is heavy and persistent and the winds are strong and cold.

This has done no favours to the ewes: accustomed as they are to dropping their lambs outside, Danilo has had to go hunting to bring them in before the newborns get chilled and weak and we currently have one in the house – a twin whose mother abandoned it in the driving rain. Leo is doing his best, but it is touch and go for the little thing.

Stop press: two in the house…

It will be a quiet Christmas for us – the way we like it. Which is just as well, given Leo’s poor health.

Our celebration has been to trawl through the cookery books, now that we finally have most of them out of the boxes and onto  proper bookshelves, to decide on some new recipes to try. An Ethiopian beef stew looks promising, as does  a Cincinnati style chili involving black chocolate and Worcester sauce.

Before Christmas though, things are somewhat more eventful. There is an art fair in San Jose at the end of this week…and we are invited to a christening party on the weekend which will involve the consumption of vast quantities of chicharrones (deep fried lumps of belly pork),  deep fried murpheys and plantains together with endless cold beers accompanied by football on the box and heated political discussion in all quarters of the house.

However, given that the godfather – who will be doing the deep frying – has also invited us to a karaoke evening at his favourite bar the night before I begin to wonder whether the only sizzling at the christening party will be that  of Alka Seltzer tablets hitting the  water.

All of the above are dependent on how Leo is feeling on the day of course…so, as one says here, we shall be going ‘si Dios quiere’.

And if He doesn’t, then we can enjoy our pwn pictures,  look for another recipe and choose some music to accompany the meal, which will be different, but just as enjoyable.

Though we do not go in for them, Christmas decorations are beginning to go up on the houses.

I have it on good authority that the Santa Claus novelty loo seat cover – dumped on me by my mother and seized on by the cleaning woman – still has pride of place on a certain front door, but cannot go to see for myself as the bridge, which collapsed two years ago, is not yet repaired.

Danilo found an engineer at the site in October…and word was that it would be repaired by the end of November…but then Hurricane Otto took a hand and resources were directed elsewhere.

Don Freddy has been round to see us again….the bridge was to be repaired starting on 15th December, but Danilo has since reported that the chairman of the development committee – in charge of the works – has been admitted to hospital as an emergency case.

It is only by the existence of good hospital provision that this most orthodox of Catholic gentleman has avoided the fate of the heretical Bishop Arias in that his bowels burst while he was on the loo.

Well, that puts the bridge repair back again, I suppose….

Might put it back permanently….he’s gone to a private hospital…

They’re not likely to kill him!

No perhaps not….but he’s got the money for the bridge…

 

 

 

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Filed under Costa Rica, shopping, Uncategorized

Boules to All That

boules-de-fort-2

I was in the queue at Pali – the most downmarket of the local supermarkets – and indicated to a woman carrying only a pot of yogurt to pass ahead of me. Inevitably, the customer first in line at the checkout then had a meltdown with her credit card which I greeted with a mutter of

‘Putain de merde!’

Old habits die hard.

The woman with the yogurt turned to me smiling…

‘You’re French!’

No and neither was she…but she had lived in France for many years, as had we: her husband had worked there as a plastic surgeon and on retirement they had returned to Costa Rica. They lived in San Jose but had come down to prepare their finca for the family gathering over Christmas and New Year.

We exchanged telephone numbers…we talked, we met again…we cooked together.

It was good to share memories of a country we had both lived in at the same time – though in different spheres: hers was Paris, mine La France Profonde.

But one thing we agreed upon…France is not as she is depicted in the tourist literature, nor as in the outpourings of the ‘living the dream’ brigade.

She can be a lot better than that – and a lot worse.

Slower way of life….try that when Madame Untel is elbowing her way past you at the charcuterie counter…

The wonderful fresh bread…stale in an hour…

Romantic villages….with dodgy drains…

The cultural life…wet tee shirt night at the local discotheque…

The cinq a sept …zut alors!

The other thing we agreed upon was that once adopted by a friendly neighbour doors opened wide on the real life of France, from helping out at the Secours Populaire or Catholique to joining the Troisieme Age (not for the faint hearted) on their outings; supporting the local organisations’ fund raising with their couscous or paella evenings; joining the historical society…the sewing bee…the cycling club…because there you would meet the people who really kept France on the rails with their sense of civic responsibility – and their sense of fun!

For me that was exemplified by the game of boules.

I used to know when spring had arrived, as the faint click of metal on metal could be heard from Jules’ yard as I passed while walking the dogs.

They were nothing loth to renew acquaintance with his old Breton spaniel and I was nothing loth to join Jules, his wife and a couple of neighbours in a few rounds of boules followed by a few rounds of drinks in his hospitable kitchen.

Playing and drinking were two separate activities, and probably as well while I was undergoing my apprenticeship in the fine art of boules on a dusty surface where you had to know where the dips were – only to find they had changed by the next time as the Breton spaniel had taken a dust bath on the piste.

It was not competitive, just a way to pass the early evening before locking up the barns for the night and settling down to supper and the television and that was the way I liked it.

As more British moved into the area, more learned the game and it seemed to take them two ways.

Some, like me, just liked the excuse for a natter with the neighbours while others became extremely competitive indeed and started running – British only and by invitation only – competitions…even building boules courts alongside their houses with much use of the spirit level to ensure British fair play.

They also called it petanque. Some of them even wore panama hats and white trousers on competition evenings. Some of them used to practice, too, which I thought completely unBritish.

So there was a sort of divide between the ‘casuals’ – boules – and the ‘professionals’ – petanque.

Then a chap with a holiday home, who enjoyed playing boules with his neighbour, had an idea of furthering integration with a ‘boules day’.

His idea was to invite his British friends while his neighbours invited their French friends, get scratch Anglo-French teams together on the day and have a jolly with a picnic.

All went swimmingly. Too swimmingly. The event began to outgrow his neighbour’s yard, and by the week before the due date, his neighbour approached the maire about using the salle de fetes, which had a huge car park, the idea being to mark it out for boules.

The maire was delighted and signed himself and friends up for the event.

The organiser was getting short of British. The casuals were all about signed up, including one lady with a zimmer frame, but the professionals were holding back…..it was all a bit, well…casual….and it wasn’t petanque.

The maire, a very nice old boy who must have descended from a long line of corkscrews so Machiavellian was his conduct of the commune’s affairs, had the answer.

As this was a sort of community event, a step towards integration, the commune would put on the wine for the picnic. Free. The press would be invited.

As he had divined, no professional ever spawned can refuse free drink and publicity.

The ranks of the British were reinforced overnight.

The maire had also offered the salle de fetes’ trestle tables and benches for the picnic and had persuaded the farmer with the field behind the car park to move his cattle off in time for the cow pats to dry out before the day, so that the picnic could be al fresco, rather than in the stifling air of the salle, which bore no small resemblance to the Black Hole of Calcutta during wedding receptions in the summer.

The organiser, by now relegated to sub organiser behind the maire, bethought him of food.

Since the French – well, the maire – had been so generous with the wine, perhaps the British should make sure that the picnic buffet tables were well replenished in the food line.

He and his wife undertook basic salads and levied contribution on the British participants for the rest.

I’d volunteered to help his wife with the salads, and as we transported the mounds of lettuce, cucumber and tomato, not to speak of beetroot, spring onions and radish, to the buffet area, it was clear that the tournament was going great guns.

The French and the British were mingling and playing amicably and, more surprisingly, so were the casuals and the professionals, but this could have been because the maire had decided that communication on a dry throat is never a good idea and had opened the casks early on in proceedings.

The British picnic contributions were arriving, and it was interesting to link contribution with contributor.

Some had been incredibly generous, plates of ham and charcuterie, cold roast chickens, huge bowls of mixed salads, cheeses…some had even sacrificed their emergency food parcels – pork pies and cooked, cold, British sausages! There were commercial and homemade chutneys and even bottles of salad cream with which to astonish the French.

Trifles, summer puddings, fruit salads, treacle tarts, chocolate mousses – we had to ask if we could use the fridge in the salle to keep them from spoiling.

Others, all straw hat and garden party dress, would deposit their offering of a small bowl of pasta salad – where the pasta element had beaten the other ingredients by a country mile – in pride of place in the centre of the buffet, smiling sweetly at those working behind the tables before turning sharply to the wine cask area and the serious business of the day, tracking down the press photographer.

The tournament had been a great success…I have no idea whch team won, if indeed any did…but then came the moment of truth as the crowd approached the buffet.

How would the French get on with the British idea of a picnic?

We had filled bottles from the casks and distributed them around the tables, but now it was every man for himself.

The maire plunged in and, reassured, his flock followed…..

The sausages and salad cream were the great successes….one lady had to go home to round up some more of the latter.

Chutneys intrigued, especially with pork pies, while the puddings roused the maire to send out for supplies of the local dessert wine straight from the cellars of one of the players.

Clearly, a success, and so it has proved down the years.

I moved away a long time ago, but friends in the area say it is still going strong although with more and more difficulty getting generous donations from the British element, it has for a few years’ now been a mechoui – a spit roast lamb – affair with a professional caterer and a small admission fee.

Still, it was a super idea, founded on the amiable idea of having a few friends round for a quiet game and a few drinks.

And that, to me, was boules.

I was wrong. There was a lot more to it than that.

In August, Madeleine’s cousin used to hold open house on Sundays for those who had not gone off for the holidays.

The wine was cooling in a bucket in the well, we would all bring something to eat and the afternoon would pass with a game of boules, gossiping in the shade or a quiet nap, depending on circumstances.

However, occasionally the mood would take the cousin to be up and doing and he had the entree everywhere…nowhere was a closed door to him, or not for long…he knew who held the keys.

I had been playing boules with the chaps when the cousin came upon us.

‘Let’s show her a real game!’

I thought he was going to take a part himself and up the standard, but it was nothing of the sort.

He disappeared into the house, then emerged, beaming,.

‘Everyone in the cars!’

We headed for the silent, baking town and into the alleys of the medieval quarter, where we drew up before an ancient building with an iron grill in the wooden door.

He shouted, the door was opened, and we found ourselves in a large, cool club room, where a number of elderly gentlemen were having a quiet drink.

There was a lot of joshing around, to the effect of what was he doing, bringing women in here….this was a men’s club…was nothing sacred?….but we were supplied with cold, dry white wine all the same and the cousin explained.

He had brought his friends to show the foreigner – me – how a proper game of boules was played.

La boule de fort.

boule-de-fort

His friend the club president issued us with slippers and flung open double doors to reveal what a vast room, seven metres wide by twenty long, he said, with a concave floor – he called it a gutter – running its length.

He presented me with something heavy that resembled a squashed pear…not round, one side was less so than the other, which was weighted down by a lead plug on the bottom. A metal ring, adjustable, encircled the thing and it weighed a ton.

No mere boule this, but a boule de fort.

The idea of the game was similar to that of all games of boules….to get nearest the jack, but when some of the gentlemen demonstrated, it was apparent that this was a far more sophisticated game.

The slippers were to protect the gutter in which the game was played, and the teams had two sorts of players….the first would select their spot and gently roll the boule as near as they could to the jack.

The second were the artillery..they would roll the boules down at speed to clear opponents’ boules from the track. The noise was unbelievable.

I could see that it would take a lot longer to learn this game than that as practised in Jules’ yard on a spring evening.

Back in the club room, the president explained that these clubs were, like the old ‘amicales’, the refuge of men and very precious too in the days when unless you could afford to marry, you didn’t, so respectable bachelors needed a place to foregather and talk dirty.

The vocabulary could be a bit ‘special’ – nothing these days when filth spews from every television set – but mostly double entendres and very daring in their day, of which the one which has lasted longest is the invitation to ‘partager une fillette’ – to share a young lady.

Before anyone gets all PC, it would be as well to know that a ‘fillette’ is a half bottle of wine, and I’ve shared a few fillettes in my time without any moral damage to either party.

The most important duty of the president was to choose the wine to fill the fillettes…..and make sure he got a good price so that the members paid about half the price of the same stuff in a regular bar.

However, as always, the best was saved for last.

The president explained that after a game, a player who had made no score at all was obliged to pay a forfeit.

.Yes, a round of drinks, the losing team would pay that, but for the man with no points to his name, a special forfeit was in store.

He had to  ’embrasser Fanny’ – to kiss Fanny.

What? I thought this was a men’s club…for respectable bachelors! Where was this woman tucked away?

With a sly smile, the president moved to a cupboard on the wall, which opened out rather like a tryptich to reveal a painting of the luxuriant bare backside of a woman.

fanny_le_rituel

This was Fanny!

I wonder what the panama hat and petanque brigade would have made of her…..and whether the ‘living the dreamers’ would ever have discovered her.

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Filed under france, french popular culture, Uncategorized

Buyer Beware in Paradise

costa-rica

During the last stages of the U.S. Presidential elections there was an ad in one of the expat newspapers: a photograph of Trump alongside ‘President Trump! Time to move to Costa Rica!’ followed by a photograph of Clinton with the same message.

Clearly, the estate agents were hoping that, whichever way it went, they would be the winners as either the offended or the deplorables flooded south in search of property to buy or rent in that earthly paradise, Costa Rica.

Long ago, in a small Norfolk market town, I passed a ladies’ outfitters which was having a sale.Pride of place was occupied by a salmon pink corset, designed to cover the body from neck to knee, stiffened with whalebone and held together by leather straps and steel buckles worthy of a straitjacket. Attached delicately to the (suppressed) bosom of same was the discreet notice:

Unrepeatable offer.

Advertisements for Costa Rican property for sale remind me of that notice.

Everything is  a wonderful – unrepeatable – offer: an opportunity not to be missed: act now or lose it!

Currently, in our small town, there is a house for sale. A two bedroom contemporary build, on a small lot.

For only 600,000 U.S. dollars.

It has lovely views – as long as you don’t look down, as on the large lot below one of the retired money launderers has built himself a massive spread which features galvanised sheeting on the grand scale.

Not a fan of galvanised sheeting?

Then there is another wonderful ‘opportunity’. It has a house on some sixteen acres of land, so no unaesthetic neighbour problem, but it has been down to teak for the last twenty years. The teak has been cut and sold, so the owner has made a mint, but as teak exhausts the land a future buyer faces years to bring the soil back to production…while the ‘house’ proves to be a lightly built shack adjoining the original workshop for the plantation.

Again, only 600,000 U.S. dollars.

Something a little more upmarket?

There are developments in the area….posh(ish) ones. These are large tracts of land bought by philanthropists who feel unable to keep the beauty of the property to themselves and so divide it up and, in the goodness of their hearts, offer these lots to others. At a price.

Not only will they sell you the lot, they will build you a house on it where you can live among like minded people neatly isolated from the local population. At a price.

We don’t have any tower blocks, but they are creeping out from the capital year by year.

It completely beats me why you would want to come to Costa Rica with all its astounding landscapes and live in a block of flats.

The views? They could be spectacular from the higher levels – until someone else builds another tower block alongside. Which they do. Frequently.

But there is one phenomenon which interests me particularly.

Over the last few months there has been a plethora of offers of property in and around a village on the Pacific Coast…a village beloved of surfers due to the length of its wave.

Houses, restaurants, small farms…you name it, you can buy it. At a price.

But why the sudden rush of ‘opportunity’?

It could, perhaps be linked to the release from prison of the gentleman who originally bought up the village, lock stock and barrel. One of the generation of men whose suitcases contained bundles of bank notes as opposed to their smalls.

In his long unavoidable absence squatters moved in on his various properties, aided by lawyers and local politicians: surf addicts bought, in turn, from these gentlemen….no one remembered the original owner except the villagers for whose children he had built a school….

But he did not forget his village.

Having served his time – you can guess the charges – he has returned and is intent on recovering what he regards as his.

So to a number of people it seems a good moment to unload properties become problematical onto unsuspecting newcomers. At a price.

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Offended of Kensal Rise Trumps Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

kenal-rise

What the blazes am I to do for a newspaper after Brexit and Trump?

Costa Rican ones very between po faced publicity for the party which lost the last election and photographs of the sheets covering victims of murder and traffic accidents – not forgetting the obligatory girl not quite showing her all while striking a pose which would puzzle an Olympic gymnast and the imprisonment of Cuba Dave for promoting sex tourism in Costa Rica contrary to the Human Trafficking Law of 2013.

Personally I do not think that he is singlehandedly responsible for the (mostly) North American men in muscle shirts frequenting what are euphemistically known as ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ in Gringo Gulch in San Jose, but it would be tactless to close these establishments as otherwise well connected Costa Rican gentlemen not wearing muscle shirts would have nowhere to go in the evenings.

warum-der-bekannteste-sextourist-der-welt-in-costa-rica-im-gefaengnis-landete-body-image-1473949928

I still occasionally read my old local rag from France….well kent faces beam from the group photographs of the class of  1958 about to set off for a day trip into the unknown some fifty kilometres away, or it might feature shifty looking maires inaugurating something built or repaired by their brothers in law. As one of them once said to me….

As long as the name is different they can’t say it’s favouritism…’

I’ve given up on Le Figaro and Liberation….the former is obsessed with finding the right wing candidate capable of defeating Marine Le Pen of the Front National and the latter obsessed with working out how the Socialist Party is ever going to survive having Francois Hollande as President of France.

Most of my French friends are more worried about how France itself will survive the presidency of Francois Hollande…..the only penguin known to advance on thin ice bearing his own flamethrower…

U.S. newspapers? The New York Times has a good cookery section but otherwise the national level spectrum seems to be obsessed with bemoaning the sheer damned cheek of those who voted for Trump when told by those who know that they should not.

There may be exceptions, but I am not well enough acquainted with the sector to have discovered them.

So, back to the U.K. newspapers….

Growing up there were always newspapers in the house …I even had my own copy of ‘The Children’s Newspaper’ delivered to the house alongside my father’s (then) ‘Manchester Guardian’  – for information – and ‘The Daily Mail’ – for the horse racing tips, but which afforded me the pleasure of the strip cartoon ‘Flook’

flook

I had become fond of strip cartoons when visiting my mother’s mother who had stackpiled copies of ‘Chick’s Own’ where ‘big’ words were hyphenated,  from the 1920s and issued them to visiting children when the weather was too wet to sit in the garden.

I can still see – and smell – the formal room with the horse hair filled leather sofas, from whose slippery surfaces the comics would slip to the ground and have to be restored to pristine order before adult disapproval was manifested.

I know that ‘The Daily Mirror’ entered my grandmother’s house  – probably down to grandfather’s influence – as I remember not only ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ but also the later strip cartoon of ‘The Perishers’ whose annual highlight was the holiday by the seaside where the crabs inhabiting a rock pool had built a whole religion around the appearance of ‘the eyeballs in the sky’ as Boot the dog peered into the depths.

eyeballs-in-the-sky

Religious dissidents, or those who attempted to forward a scientific explanation for the eyeballs in the sky, were silenced by the high priest with the threat of ‘a cakehole full of claw’….

As time went by I began to read the newspapers…the ‘Manchester Guardian’ became ‘The Guardian’…’the Daily Worker’ became ‘The Morning Star’…’The Socialist Worker’ made a brief appearance…and I took ‘The Times for the Law Reports.

At that time, though each newspaper had its policy preferences, they did manage to report news. The reaction to such would appear in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ column, whence the generic term for choleric supporters of old fashioned moeurs – ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ – a town popularly supposed to be peopled by half pay colonels of the Indian Army and their memsahibs,  sniffing the wind for the least hint of subversion of established morality.

But things have changed.

In return for electoral support, governments have allowed foreign ownership of the national press…and as that foreign ownership has acquired global power, the politicians make their first kow-tow not to the people who were mad enough to elect them but to the press barons upon whose organs (to use the phrase beloved of ‘Private Eye’) they rely to maintain them in power.

Power has shifted from the politicians – the political parties – to the press, whose interest is that of maintaining their proprietors’ power.

News? Properly reported?

Forget it.

The readership is plied with tarts, tits and totty in the manner of a modern Eatanswill in the press aimed at the lower orders – in moral, rather than economic terms – and with flattery, foodery and fart arsery for those who believe themselves to be superior to the masses.

Thus ‘The Guardian’, made independent by ownership by a trust, stood out.

It was never a newspaper of the left despite the years in the 60s where it displayed a conscience; it was always a newspaper of the soi disant enlightened bourgeoisie who kept their hand on their halfpennies while giving lip service to moral causes.

But it was all there was…so it was the first newspaper I turned to for news and opinion.

Until opinion overtook news, just as had happened in the organs of the press barons.

The Brexit campaign brought out ‘The Guardian’s version of Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells…but now the disgusted were not the readers but the columnists….those who were busy ‘gentrifying’ the suburbs of London like Kensal Rise where Edwardian terraced houses became desirable residences – once they had been stripped of their character – and where the local shops had been taken over by ‘organic’ butchers and high priced coffee shops.

These columnists were disgusted that it was possible to think of an alternative to membership of the European Union…those who opposed them must be part of the Great Unwashed…the very people whose interests they and their type had ignored for more than a generation: the people whose children had suffered a diminution in educational provision: the  people whose trade unions had been broken: the people who could no longer rely on a job which paid well enough to bring up a family in stable conditions.

News? Properly reported?

Forget it.

So tell me: where do now I go for news…real news?

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I Cannot Hear You

high-court-judges

A phrase arising to the lips of judges who are improperly addressed, or who are addressed by advocates improperly dressed..or, horror of horrors… a combination of both.

A High Court judge  – his Lordship – does not relish being addressed as ‘Your Honour’ and certainly not if the person so addressing them is not in  appropriate court dress – or in a variant of court dress which, while possibly fashionable, has not been blessed by the custom of  ages.

Quaint, you might think…but it is an attitude not confined to the courts.

Brexit and the  American Presidential election have made it clear that those not observing the norms cannot be heard…well, at least, not with respect for their views.

When at school, we were taught that we must make – and appreciate on the part of our opponent – a reasoned argument.

Fine…we were taught logic, we appreciated the breadth of the English language and we could cite backing for our views. We knew how to debate within the norms.

Work taught me that people could make a case without those refinements, from their experience, from their own vocabulary – and from their sense of justice.

It was the job of the professional to put that case into the Procrustean bed of the law, to allow it to be heard with a chance of success.

The Procrustean bed seems to have expanded in recent years, to include political expression – as reflected in the media.

I should here declare an interest.

Had I been eligible, I would have voted for the U.K. to leave the European Union.

Thus, according to the ‘bien pensant’ media I am an ignorant racist.

It is not acceptable to say that you do not conform to the comfortable ‘bien pensant’ way of thought:  the way of thought of those who live a life divorced from need, from insecurity, from hope destroyed, who have no empathy with those whose experience tells them that the current system has nothing to offer them or their children.

The lesson from Brexit and from the downfall of Clinton is that we should learn to listen to each other, to take each others’ concerns seriously, even if those concerns are couched in a language or in a fashion which appears to us to be improperly dressed.

But I’m not holding my breath.

 

Addendum…somewhat foul mouthed, but heartfelt.

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Cometh The Midnight Hour, Cometh The Neighbour

bcr

The Neighbour, he of the crisp white hat with the curly brim, has been very quiet for a while following his excursion into the world of casino gambling using someone else’s money.

However, things have been changing in our little corner of the world…violent crime has entered the area – usually on a motorbike and armed with a gun.

We were used to the normal sort of crime….the regular burglary of the jewellery store followed by the inflated insurance claim; the settling of accounts between the rival Chinese (money) laundry gangs and anything involving local council contracts, but things have changed.

In the past year the post office has been raided, as has one of the bank branches;  small shops have been targeted too, as have the more notorious money lenders  of the area who suffer the double whammy of losing their cars as well, because the raiders can’t load safes onto the back of their motorbikes.

Where are the police? Well, you might well ask.

They claim that they are busy dealing with the rampant drug trade and, to give them their due, they are trying to do just that. It doesn’t help that once they arrest someone the local judge lets the bugger loose on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Given the level of competence of the local prosecutors (the Fiscalia)  it is perfectly possible that the case presented to the court does not, indeed, show sufficient evidence to arrest a dog in possession of a bone, let alone a dealer with a house full of crack cocaine in packs ready to sell and vast amounts of unaccounted for cash.

We have had recent experience of their expertise – a case in the long hangover from the fight against the developer – where their idlenesses were content to copy almost word for word the documents supplied by the defendant’s lawyer and on this basis recommend to the local court to reject our case – the which it did with alacrity.

We appealed and a judge from San Jose came out to determine whether our appeal should be allowed.

She listened to the recording of the original trial and summoned all the parties. – though by this time the prosecutor had become bored and had messed off.

Her decision was that the submissions of the local prosecutors’ office had no foundation in fact and, furthermore, their treatment of the case was not only illegal but also contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, so we could indeed lodge an appeal.

Unfortunately, the police do not have the same liberty as ourselves and are stuck with whatever garbage the prosecutors produce for the delectation of the local judge….probably, in the case of the chap with the houseful of crack cocaine, that he just happened to be passing at the time and stopped to see what the police were up to…

The more cynical among you may be wondering whether it is indeed incompetence…or something else.

I could not possibly say. Nor even indicate  my views by a nod and a wink.

But the crime wave – and the drug trade – go on unabated.

Thus The Neighbour.

We heard about his reappearance  yesterday when Don Freddy came over to tell us that the bridge between us and civilisation was to be rebuilt, some two years after it was carried away in heavy rains.

In the meantime we have been taking the back road up to town – as have the  cattle lorries from our side of the stream which have managed to damage an already doubtful drainage system now on the verge of collapse.

The good news had been given to the barrio’s development committee – of which Don Freddy is a member – at the monthly meeting, which had been attended by The Neighbour, nattily attired in sparkling white trousers, highly polished western boots, a black shirt and, of course, the crisp white hat with the curly brim which he retained during proceedings.

Unkind supposition had it that he could not take it off as he had not been able to afford to have his hair dyed recently….

Delicate enquiry as to the whys and wherefores of his return from hibernation revealed that he had come forward in order to perform a public service.

Given the crime wave, he declared, no one was safe in their own homes.

As a man whose past history included waving his revolver on peoples’ doorsteps it was felt that he could speak from experience…

The police, he declaimed, were useless.

Not much argument there, then…

He had , however, the solution.

He usually had.

The committee must appreciate that he had, shall we say, a certain reputation.

It did indeed so appreciate: visions of roads being blocked by his lorry, people being attacked with machetes and certain missing goods rose to its collective mind.

It was time to use that reputation to good effect. As a security guard for the inhabitants of the barrio. He would, he declared, be willing to give up his nights to patrol the area, armed with his revolver, to deter criminals…in return for a small honorarium.

But, said the committee, it did not have the power to engage a security guard, let alone the funds to pay for one.

Not a problem.

A.There was no need to enter his offer in the minutes and

B. As the bridge was about to be built they could go a bit light on the cement and pay him that way…in cash.

Don XXX, slated to be in charge of the works ( and the cement) protested.

What was the problem, asked The Neighbour. Surely Don XXX  didn’t mind giving up some of his own prospective pickings to further the public weal….

But we all know that that revolver isn’t licenced, said Dona Mery. Suppose you shoot someone…

Simple. If it wasn’t licenced it couldn’t be traced to him….

The committee asked for time to consider his kind offer and the official meeting broke up.

I asked Don Freddy why they didn’t report his unlicenced firearm to the police.

No point, said Don Freddy. He has friends in the Fiscalia…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Costa Rica, legal systems, police, Uncategorized, violent crime

‘Johnny Cope’ in the Morning

As the witness of  many a man of the Highland regiments would attest, there is nothing like a rendering of ‘Johnny Cope’ by a pipe and drum band to wrest you from your  slumbers.

Shakespeare might have proclaimed that Macbeth does murder sleep but he has been overtaken by the times…for the murder of sleep ‘Johnny Cope’ is your man.

Needless to say, Youtube does not have a full rendering of the initial drumroll which, as Terry Pratchett says of the initial chord in folk dancing, is there to enable people to get away in time…

Mark you, I can run General Cope  a close second.

I caterwaul in the mornings as I go about my business.’Nessun dorma’ has nothing on it.

Not in the bathroom – the toothpaste gets in the way – but once I hit the kitchen the air is rendered hideous by my renderings of whatever musical number has taken my matutinal fancy. If you can imagine a coyote singing, you have the idea.

I am not particularly aware of my repertoire, but recently Leo presented me with a playlist: he had noted what he could recognise over the period of a week and I was quite surprised by the diversity of my unmusical offerings.

Oh! oh! Antonio’ keeps company with ‘Bonnie Strathyre’….

The Black Watch are hymned:

while Mozart is murdered.

‘La Claire Fontaine’

accompanies ‘Le temps de Cerises’

while ‘Le Reve Passe’

competes with ‘Oh du wunderschoner deutscher Rhein’ – and how someone whose conscious knowledge of German stops at ‘Achtung minen!’ can remember this lot is beyond me.

‘My mother bids me bind my hair’

follows ‘It was pleasant and delightful’

and ‘Stormy weather, boys’ here sung by that delightful old gentleman, Bob Roberts, who kept the legend of the Thames barges alive for so many years.

Ireland features…

while ‘dauntless Red Hugh’ was my father’s nickname among those who dared…

And I suppose it is my father I have to thank for putting music in my soul.

He sang from morn till night…unless immersed in study of the form for a five horse accumulator on the flat …everything from opera to folk with a great deal along the byways between….but he had a voice…a lovely tenor.

Though he used to joke that he must have been singing ‘I dreamt I dwelt in marble halls’ – that harbinger of ill luck – when betting on the horses…

The main thing I remember, though, is father coming downstairs, freshly shaven, ready to take mother out for the evening, singing

Given the staid sort of outing that was habitual I asked him why he sang it

‘Hope springs  eternal’ said father.

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Filed under music, song, Uncategorized