Monthly Archives: April 2013

If it wasn’t for the European Union and President Obama this would be Paradise.

travel-to-costa-rica.com


The European Union has been poking its nose into Caribbean and Central America for some time now.
It has built itself offices in Barbados: top of the range 4x4s are parked outside the best restaurants in Nicaragua, and it has been advising Costa Rica on:

A. A grand plan to zone the Gran Area Metropolitana – the capital and its major suburbs.
Result? Vast amount of money spent and no plan forthcoming.
Just what might be expected of the EU.

And

B ….more successfully…how to raise taxes.
Also what might be expected of the EU.

The Costa Rican government are eager to follow the advise of the experts on how the twisting of balls will miraculously result in blood gushing from stones and tried eagerly to bring in VAT – that most iniquitous tax – until the Constitutional Court stopped their gallop on the grounds of technical failures in the passage of the appropriate law.

As an alternative, the government brought in a luxury tax…thus making it even more difficult for poorer people to vary their diet.
Since when has an aubergine been a luxury?
Answer…when you buy it in a supermarket catering to the high end trade which obeys the law.
If you buy it from the chap on the market he has as little interest in collecting the tax as you have in paying it.
Olive oil is also a luxury…but the chap on the market doesn’t sell that, so people are stuck with palm oil and its by products.

Another bright idea from the EU was to give local authorities a sound tax base from the rates on property, and experts were seconded to help in this laudable effort.
What seems to have resulted is that ‘technicians’ have clicked on to Google Earth, have calculated the extent of your roof space and whopped on a tax according to their measurements.
Up to you to argue the toss…and if you haven’t argued by the due date there’s no appeal.
Except you didn’t know what would be charged until you went to argue…..and our local authority has discovered a black hole in its finances following the departure of the last mayor.

The Man from the Ministry would be in attendance at the Municipalidad (local government offices) on Tuesdays and Fridays running up to the deadline and Violetta suggested I go with her for support in case of problems.
We went on a Tuesday. The Muni was shut for a conference.
We went again on the Friday. The Muni was open, so we entered and took our place in the queue.

Now the Muni is housed in a traditional colonial style building with offices round a central courtyard, wide eaves giving shelter from the sun. The door of the appropriate office was open and customer number one was being dealt with.
We were third and fourth in the queue and sat on the chairs provided. As time passed, more people arrived, the supply of chairs ran dry and staff brought out benches.
People began chatting. People produced their papers, comparing same. Problems were perceived.
A member of the local tax staff was raked out of her lair and the perceived problems were explained. At length.

There were members of vast families with incredibly confused documents thanks to the habit of chopping a bit off a holding to give to a son or daughter to build a house and not remembering to get it registered properly….there were cadastral plans which resembled blobs on flypaper….there were people whose property was held in a company who had not supplied themselves with a power of attorney….

The member of staff took a deep breath and began to send people to the appropriate places to get their documents sorted…a vast file took off for the Post Office where copies of powers of attorney could be obtained…others were busy on their mobiles summoning family members whose signatures would be needed and a few were sent in search of their lawyers.

She inspected the remnant. My documents were passed as being adequate, as were those of Violetta and number two in the queue.

Chatting resumed.
I don’t mind waiting in Costa Rica….the chatting is good for my Spanish and the knowledge I pick up of all the infinitesimal trivia which make up the bricks of daily life is invaluable.

The first customer came out and number two rose to enter the office as the Man from the Ministry came out at the charge, heading for the exit.
Given the sheaf of papers clutched by the first customer I wondered whether he had decided to make a permanent bolt for freedom, but the local lady explained that he had gone for a coffee.

After half an hour people were wondering loudly if he had gone to pick the coffee rather than just drink it and when, a little while later, he was seen entering the courtyard, number two shot into the office, ready for action.
But he had headed instead for the loos on the other side of the building.
After some little time Don Hugo went over and kicked the door.
The Man from the Ministry emerged and, drawing breath like a diver about to plunge into the depths, entered the office.

This interview went smoothly and then Violetta and I entered together, neatly blocking his attempt to escape round the corner of his desk.
Resigned, he started the process.

It appeared that the Ministry has designated the base value of land in the canton according to criteria which seemed as much of a blank to him as to us…but since ours were at rock bottom we were not complaining.
So, given that, he moved on to the nature of the property itself.

He pulled up a map showing the contour lines which in both our cases evidently passed muster as hilly…

On to the next…the house itself. He pulled up Google Earth. Our houses appeared as faint blurs. Google Earth had clearly not been doing much updating lately.
Collapse of EU system.

Well, Senoras, said he, let’s just say traditional build, traditional materials….tax as last year and no declarations of value for another three years.

We agreed, signed and left at a smart trot. Mission accomplished.

Another lesson the Costa Rican government has learned from the EU is to cover a rip off by claiming that something which is going to cost you an arm and a leg is for your own security.

So now we are faced with changing our car’s number plate in order to have a ‘secure’ one.
One with a sort of watermarked map on it…one that can’t be duplicated for nefarious purposes. Supposedly.
One that costs an arm and a leg.

Our household operates on a sort of division of labour basis.
If it’s fiscal or legal it’s mine.
If it’s the car it’s his.

So my husband was OIC of Operation Replace Numberplates.

There are two ways of doing this.

A. You go to the National Registry special office in the suburbs of the capital bearing your documents, proof of payment for arm and leg at a bank and your numberplates.
You queue.
Once your papers pass the desk you wait an hour until the new numberplates are handed over.

The Men were going to the San Jose house…not too far from the offices…so I suggested that this would be the best solution.

No, it appeared that it would not. It involved wasting time waiting in the National Registry when much more exciting activities could be undertaken.

So it would be

B. You go to the local post office armed with your documents, proof of payment for arm and leg at a bank and your numberplates.
Once your papers pass the desk you wait six working days for the return of your plates…and in the interim cannot take the car on the road.

Danilo had to change the plates on his motorbike, so The Men decided to make a joint trip to the Post Office.

All went swimmingly…..

Except that the six days had lengthened to twelve….
Except that there would now be two weekends to add on…and the public holiday on May Day and, to add insult to injury, the day on which the President of the U.S.A. arrived in the country for a visit whose purpose eludes me would be a non working day for civil servants in the San Jose area – mostly because they would be unable to get into work for all the security cordons in the centre where offices for four blocks round his destinations will be off limits to their normal occupants.

Given that May Day is a Wednesday and Obama arrives on Friday a fair number won’t see much point in going into work on Thursday…so don’t hold your breath for the twelve working days either…Costa Rican civil servants can make a French ‘pont’ with the best of them.

Normally there would be no great problem.
We can drive up the back road into town…park the car behind the football pitch – a no go zone for the traffic police – and walk up the hill to go shopping or get the bus into the capital.

But there is a complication.
A friend from South Africa is arriving at the airport on what will be working day thirteen.

Fingers crossed!

57 Comments

Filed under Costa Rica, tax

And Now a Word from Our Sponsors

en.wikipedia.org


One of the most rewarding things about blogging is the dialogue….the people kind enough to comment…reading their own blogs…it does make for a sort of community with varying stages of engagement.

A blog I came across quite early on was Bloggertropolis and I’ve been a fan ever since.

It’s shrewd, funny and sometimes completely off the planet, with a stable of commentators always worth reading: if you haven’t come across it, do give it a try.

And if you read the current post, you will find that the blogger’s wife is setting up in business for herself…working from home as a highly skilled bookkeeper.

We all know that start ups are hard….

So if you, or your friends, or a business you know are in need of a U.K. bookkeeper, please visit the website

Brighter Bookkeeping

and consider using their services.

Word of mouth works wonders….so please spread the news.

33 Comments

Filed under Bookkeeping, working from home

Hit the Road

teletica.com


Unless you can afford to travel by light aircraft, getting from place to place in Costa Rica involves driving.
There are commuter trains running between the capital and its feeder towns it is true but the wonderful rail lines running from coast to coast are a thing of the past…..
They were allowed to fall into disuse about the same time as a minister was developing a road haulage business….

Thus you travel by car or by bus…on the roads.

And the roads can be something else.
There are a lot of rivers in Costa Rica – crossed by bridges which only seem to be inspected when they fall into said rivers, with or without buses on them at the time.

There is a bridge – or overpass – on the main road north from the capital with a sort of expanding plate to allow for the expansion and contraction of materials.
Just mention ‘la platina’ and the reply will be…not again! The thing is always falling apart and one suspects that there are a lot of road ministry officials crossing their fingers that it won’t do so on the day of the arrival of President Obama.

Unkind voices also suggest that given the weight of the armoured car he uses to protect himself when travelling there is a distinct chance that the repair to the vast two lane pothole between la platina and the airport will give way with unpleasant consequences for intergovernmental relations and unexpected opportunities for Joe Biden.

Given the mountainous nature of the country, road travel can be slow….but the government has come up with solutions.
Toll roads built by foreign companies.

There is one already, running from the capital to the Pacific coast.
Operated by a Spanish firm, it has not been a resounding success.

Yes, you can drive to the coast in an hour and a half as opposed to about four by using the old road….though you have to watch out if you are a contrarian….should you wish to drive from the coast to the capital at the start of the holiday period you will find that the traffic police have dedicated both lanes to getting people from the capital to the coast – so you will be on the old road, like it or not.
And yes, you did read both lanes…there are but two.
With lots of toll booths.
The other thing you have to watch out for is falling boulders as the firm’s engineers weren’t too hot on soil consolidation…..either that or money needed for engineering works engineered itself somewhere else.

Fired by this example, the government have now decided on another toll road, from the capital west to San Ramon – a large town by local standards and, more importantly, inhabited by coffee barons who have a perceived need to get to the capital more swiftly than by travelling on the overloaded Interamericana highway where you always seem to be behind a truck crawling uphill and puffing out enough black fumes to furnish a London Particular.

Wonderful…the plebs can use it too after all….so why was Laura Chinchilla, the President rated the worst in Central America for the second year running, greeted by people demonstrating against the road when she gave the annual address at the commemoration of Juan Santamaria, the soldier who died defeating the American led invaders at the second Battle of Rivas in 1856?

A little background might help.

Recent governments have been embroiled in financial scandals, dodgy dealings and practices so reminiscent of the European Union that one wonders, rather on the lines of the limerick detailing the exploits of the young gay gentleman of Khartoum, who did what and with which and to whom when it came to learning how to fiddle the public purse.
Presidents have appeared in the dock with the regularity of clockwork automatons on the Dad’s Army town hall clock….only to be sentenced to house arrest pending their appeal….
Presidents have encouraged open cast mining projects which pollute the watercourses and destroy the habitat of rare birds while angling for carbon credits…

But this government takes the prize for unpopularity.

Whopping tax increases…while the tax minister forgets to declare the value of his property.
A law gagging whistleblowers to avoid any unfortunate recurrence of publicity about the absentmindedness of ministers.
The fiasco of the road along the river frontier with Nicaragua….seemingly with two committees running it; the official one with technicians and the real one run by….. the President’s relatives.
The sheer waste of public money.
And the threat to Costa Ricas’s tradition of peaceful protest.

Costa Ricans do protest quite a bit….if it’s not taxi drivers it’s one or other of the main unions, or old age pensioners, or animal welfare campaigners blocking the streets of San Jose….but it all happens peacefully.

Until recently, when the government tried strong arm tactics against a small group of protesters asking for more support for rural hospitals.
Turning out the riot police for a small band of health workers was a bad move….and the government was forced to back pedal.

All sorts of simmering discontent came to the fore after this.
The never ending corruption and incompetence of government was no longer going to be able to count on the acquiescence of a traditionally laid back population…you might be able to tax Costa Ricans, but you can’t silence them.

Then came the announcement that a Brazilian company had been chosen to build and operate the new toll road.
A company already in trouble with contracts in Ecuador and Bolivia.
A company which had until very recently employed the minister responsible for awarding the contract as a consultant – during which time he had ‘forgotten’ to pay his social security contributions.
And the tolls were going to be expensive.
Too expensive for the plebs.

People decided to demonstrate…peacefully…when the President gave the traditional address on Juan Santamaria day. They assembled with banners and marched towards the square in the centre of Alajuela…the hero’s home town… only to find that the police had blocked access to all except the children’s bands and invited politicians.
Not even the parents of the children performing could get through.

Another strand of traditional Costa Rican values had been attacked….even if they are only pretending, Costa Rican Presidents are expected to mix with the people on a footing of equality and to have Chinchilla surrounded by bodyguards, the police holding the people at bay, was too much.
Insults were hurled…and not a few rocks.
The President left hurriedly.

Negotiations are now under way – negotiations refused previously…
Police are raiding the offices of the ministry awarding the contract….
The Ombudsman (woman in this case) is ready to step in….
The President – hailed as ‘favoured daughter of Mary’ by an over enthusiastic bishop at her election – has asked the Roman Catholic Church to act as mediator….

But it is worrying….a government that thinks it doesn’t have to listen to its citizens can only be compelled to do so by citizens throwing rocks.
Translate this to Europe…with well armed police forces trained to control crowds what will it take to compel a European government to listen to its citizens?

32 Comments

Filed under Costa Rica, dispute settlement, political protest, public protests

New Life

lambs 007
Born just a few hours before…..mother and brother doing well too.

40 Comments

Filed under animals, Costa Rica

A Glass Half Empty


Hello Jean Marc! Where’ve you been hiding yourself recently? What do you fancy?

Oh, a glass of Claude’s rose would go down well….no more of Albert’s white these days I suppose?

No…what with having to pull out so many of his vines thanks to getting esca supplies are a bit limited, even for us and it seems Victor bought a whole barrique off him.

Victor! Spending money!

Well, no…more like a swap, I think. Young Laurent is clearing the vines and a few other jobs in return….but I shouldn’t be telling you that, you being a taxman and all!

Not my problem anyway….and when have I ever shopped anyone? I believe in letting people alone…and I just wish they’d feel the same about me.

Well, you can’t say that the tax offices are exactly bursting at the seams with happy people dropping in to say ‘Bonjour’ can you!

No….usually you only see them a week before their tax returns are due when they all come rolling in wanting us to fill out the forms for them.
Not that I mind. I like to see the oldies and have a chat..makes a change from staring at a screen all day.
No, it’s just that since it all came out about our beloved Budget Minister having secret Swiss and Singapore bank accounts life’s not worth living for us at the tax office.
You go out for lunch and some clown’s asking you if you want to pay in euros or Swiss francs….and I’ve lost count of the people who’ve come up to me in the street and started on about politicians…as if I can do anything about it!

You’re not the only one with problems on that score.
Clement was in last night and he said Plouc’s office was full of worried clients, wondering just where their respected notaire had stuffed the money they’ve been hiding from you lot….and Madame d’Enculade was on the ‘phone all day…gibbering away.

Well, she generally is after eleven in the morning at the best of times…

Anyway, Clement put two and two together.
You know her husband is always going to Singapore on business trips?

Yes, to get away from his wife and enjoy a bit of more congenial company I always thought – after all what business can a guy with a fur coat firm do in Singapore except run up expenses to claim against tax?

Plouc’s business, that’s what. Clement reckons he’s a courrier for Plouc and his mate at the Credit Agricole and that’s why his wife was having fits. Worried about her fur coat days coming to an end…

I wouldn’t think she has much to worry about…Plouc’ll be the next deputy come the elections so no one’s going to touch his little activities, are they now!
Look at what happened to the taxman who fell foul of our minister when he was just a deputy!
He’d done an inspection of a big prune co op and found they’d been fiddling the books for years, so slapped them with a huge amount of back tax.
They go bleating to the deputy who arranges with his mate, the then Budget Minister, to let them off the hook while the poor bugger of a taxman is told to sling his.
He had his doubts about the deputy, even then some twenty years ago, but when he started looking into his affairs he was disciplined…no promotion and no work. Sitting there twiddling his thumbs waiting for retirement.
I tell you, Plouc has nothing to worry about!

Yes, I suppose you’re right….
Look at the way Dubas, the Senator here, carried on for years.
Whopping loans from Credit Agricole based on a few securities he was allowed to keep in his own safe deposit box at the bank then one fine day he walks in and takes them out. And the bank says nothing.

And when there was a change of government and they went after him look what happened!

Yes, the local court let him off and poor Alain the bank manager got it in the neck! What could he do about it…he ‘phoned the regional office and they told him to let Dubas do as he pleased….

Now that’s a bastard whose affairs I’d love to look into….but fat chance. He’s untouchable round here. Knows where the bodies are buried.

Probably ordered the burials from what I hear.
No, I see what you mean. Plouc’s safe and so are his clients.
Still, aren’t the politicians going to have to declare what they’ve got?

For what that’s worth! Did you hear Sarko’s prime minister on the box?

Yes, he said he had a house he bought twenty years ago, a bit in the bank and two old bangers…

Which, given his huge estate north of Paris, is a bit like Louis XIV claiming Versailles as a garden shed and his golden coach as a wheelbarrow – and you notice he didn’t mention the shares he has in his consultancy business.
No, they’ll find a way to fiddle it….just the way Plouc’s been advising his clients for years to avoid tax on their property.

How does he do that?

Easy peasy. You put the property into an SCI – a property company held by you and your family. Then, just like the banks with their sub prime mortgages you start chopping it up. One person has the usufruit….the right to use the property for their lifetime…and you – the bigwig – have the nu propriete…..that is the title to it.
So you don’t have any value in it…but when your front man dies you don’t have to pay inheritance tax because it was yours all along. Just need to be a bit careful who has the usufruit, but apart from that it’s foolproof.

Oh. So is that how Hollandouille fiddled his wealth tax when he stood for President?

No. He just used the criteria of a different tax by which he would come in under the figure to pay it.

But didn’t anyone notice?

Of course they did….but remember what happened to the taxman with the prunes.
You don’t want to spend the rest of your working life in an windowless office with no computer and nothing to do, do you!

So what about all this tax evasion…foreign bank accounts and whatnot?

And how are we going to find out about them, tell me that! They’re hardly likely to own up!
No, I’ll tell you what will happen.
We’ll be instructed to look at all the retired English. They have pensions and a lot of them have them paid into their bank accounts in England.
Most of them don’t have much French and don’t know how to read their tax forms so don’t know they are supposed to declare any bank accounts held outside France.

Well, so has everyone who lives in France, whether they’re French or foreign.

Yes, but most of us have no reason to have a foreign bank account where these English do. So they’re easy meat.
They do their tax return and say what their income is and whatever and then if it looks as if their pension is paid abroad we’ll spring on them and ask them what account it’s paid into.
If they can’t explain it away except by having an account abroad we’ll fine them 1,500 Euros and ask them to justify everything for the last ten years.

That’s a bit rotten, isn’t it! After all, they’re declaring their income.

Well, that’s how it will be. You know how this country is run.
You let the small guys work on the black to keep them quiet: you let the big guys pay their banks and lawyers to hide their money and you wallop the people in the middle.
This way we’ll make any number of investigations, rake in the fines and the government will say its strategy of tax evasion is working while the big boys carry on as usual.

For goodness’ sake! We need another revolution!

And I need another drink…..yes, another one of Claude’s will be fine….

31 Comments

Filed under culture, france, tax

Marmite!

greatbritishmag.co.uk


We were expecting friends for dinner…..the dining room table had been cleared of papers, tablets, bills and blood pressure monitors….the kitchen harboured plates, cutlery, glasses and serving dishes…the pud had been made, starters likewise, packets of mixed nuts and maize crisps were ready to have their foil seals violated by the knife…

And then came The Intervention.

I am not always sure if the internet is a blessing or a curse.
I use it to check out stuff…but don’t have a lot of confidence in it…I use it for telephoning family and friends through Skype…and, of course use the e mail and blogging functions.

My husband uses it to encourage his enthusiasms.

We have undergone a number of these enthusiasms in our time, notably kitchen gadgets…but just lately watches which don’t work but which seem to cost a fortune if the customs catches them in transit have been in favour…taking over from bitter almond kernels, seeds from India which arrive in matchboxes and sprout into alarming monstrosities, and, of course, socks.

But, revenons a nos moutons….
I was just sorting out the veg and the main course when suddenly my big saucepan was confiscated.
He had found the lees of the banana wine which I had planned to dump on the compost heap and had…thanks to the internet…decided to make Marmite.

Previously we could buy Marmite at the Queen’s birthday party at the British Embassy…but the new very PC ambassador doesn’t want to continue the tradition….

So we are dependent on visitors for supplies. Unless we want to fly to Miami and I am blowed if, even for Marmite, I will enter the hell that is an American airport with its bullying staff and thieving baggage handlers….not to speak of paranoid immigration officers and customs officials intent on confiscating the ingredients of my picnic.
I have been sorely tempted to thrust a liquorice stick into an orange and mark it BOMB in felt tip pen….but they have no sense of humour and would inevitably take it amiss.

The Belgian visitors are exemplary…not only do we get Belgian smoked fish, the best chocolate in the world and cheese that would knock your socks off but they ransack the English Shop for Stilton, pork pies and, of course, Marmite.
But no Belgian visitors are due for another year and the supplies brought by our last visitor from London will run out before the next batch arrive from Europe.
Though I shall ask the visitor coming from South Africa if Marmite is available in Cape Town….

So, passing the number of jars in review, husband had grown alarmed and had consulted the internet.
Which had supplied the answer.
Yeast….the wine lees.
And my saucepan.

Chef assumes the controls.

An area of the work surface is cleared….carrots, onions and celery commandeered from my prep area, chopped and put on to boil….

I find a smaller saucepan, pick out more veg, and find a corner of the stove to blanch them….

Where’s the funnel? I want to pour off the bit of wine on the top.

Pause for rummagings in the cupboard under the sink as things best left undisturbed emerge blinking into the light.

Why do you keep the souffle dishes in here?

Further pause while souffle dishes are removed to the cupboard where I keep my dry goods.
I seize the moment to drain my veg and run the cold water over them.
Tap turned off.

Don’t get water in my yeast!

Veg rescued and removed to be tied up in chive ribbons before going into the fridge.
Wine poured off and drunk.

Why don’t you leave the wine on the lees longer…this is much better….
Smaller saucepan seized, put on the stove and the lees poured into it.

Just give it a stir from time to time…don’t want it sticking.

Technical details attended to he retires to the balcony.

I now have two saucepans in use and two gas rings. I have dinner to prepare. One involving a few pots and pans.
And I mustn’t forget to stir the lees which look a bit like the estuary of the Amazon on a windy day.
Or let the assorted veg boil dry….

The clock is ticking.

Chef returns.

Where’s the colander?

More rummaging in the cupboard under the sink.

Why do you keep this conical strainer in here?

Pause while the chinois is removed to the cupboard where I keep the spices.

The colander is placed over the saucepan containing the lees and the veg water poured into it.

I thought you didn’t want water in the yeast….

This is stock.

I rescue the pan, put the veg aside for the dogs, and put on water to skin my tomatoes.

All is returning to normal….tomatoes skinned, garlic cloves ready to go, chicken cut into portions, butter in the freezer for the sauce….

Table laid, I retire to the shower.

A head round the door.

Aren’t you stirring the yeast?

I reply that as the shower operates on water, not stock, I had thought it unwise to bring the saucepan in with me.

Do I have to do everything? Why is it that I’m the one who has to worry about when we run out of Marmite……

Chef retires to stir the yeast.

Cleaned up, dressed and aproned (I am a true muckworm when it comes to splashes and stains) I return to the kitchen.
Chef retires to the shower.

Progress is made. I am up with the clock.

Where are my socks?

I had, unforgivably, moved them to a drawer in the new wardrobe without leaving a trail of arrows pointing there from their previous abode.

The estuary of the Amazon now looks as if the tide is going out….

Duly socked…if only…Chef emerges.

Are you stirring it?

Our friends arrive….the mud of the Amazon is removed from the heat and an enjoyable evening begins.

It is while I am turning in circles wondering where my conical strainer had gone…ah yes, of course, in with the spices…. that I hear Chef informing our friends that he had spent the afternoon making Marmite.
Being Costa Rican, they are not familiar with this nectar of the gods so he comes in to take an opened jar and a couple of spoons to give samples.

As I whisk the butter into the strained sauce I hear the voice of Eduardo….

And you spent all afternoon making this?
Whatever for?

48 Comments

Filed under Costa Rica, cultural differences, Food

The Price of a Haircut

minnewyork.com


As a young man, my husband was in the sort of way of business where a good suit, polished shoes and neat hair were regarded as essential (by his employers, at any rate).

He thus made frequent visits to a local barber’s shop, where more often than not he would be attended to by an even younger Greek Cypriot chap, not long over and working in his uncle’s business.
They chatted in the desultory way you do when someone else has clippers and scissors near vital parts of your head and when the chap started his own shop my husband followed him there.

The business prospered until, still a young man, he could fulfill his dream.
He sold the shop and returned to Cyprus to build a house for himself and his family, investing the proceeds to ensure he would never have to work again.
He sent a letter with photographs from time to time….he was living a happy life in the sun while my husband, having returned to the ministrations of uncle, was still elbowing his way on and off the Tube to the City.

Then a few years later the chap was back in the uncle’s shop, plying his sharp implements.

The Turks had invaded northern Cyprus…he had lost his property…lost his dream… and had been forced to come back to London to start all over again, living in a little flat on a busy road.
His children had to learn English, start new schools…his wife worked as a cleaner part time, and him?
He worked for uncle.

But only for a couple of years.
He saved his money, took a loan from uncle and started his own business again, building it up into a chain of shops.

My husband did not see him so frequently then as, having started his own business, he could avoid haircuts unless about to go fifteen rounds with the bank manager, whose complete ignorance of the field of business involved did not hold him back from telling my husband how to run it.
My husband’s uncles did not have the same philanthropic streak as that of the barber, unfortunately.
However, when he called at the main shop this man would always cut his hair…as an old client…and they chatted as they used to do years before, keeping in touch off and on when my husband moved away from London.

Then he did it again.
It took him longer as he wanted to be sure he would have enough to retire properly, but he once again sold his business and returned to Cyprus.

He built his house, he invested his money, his wife and children had a good life and he could relax.

The odd letter with photographs would arrive over the years showing the happy picture of a well deserved early retirement, though none since we moved to Costa Rica.

But today we had an e mail from an old friend of my husband….with news of the barber.

His money is, of course, in a Cypriot bank.
Almost sixty per cent of it has in effect been confiscated….thirty seven and half percent under one legal scam and another twenty two percent under another.
And the remaining forty percent?
He can have a few Euros at a time….can’t transfer it abroad….his dream of security for his family shattered yet again.

He’s no longer a young man yet if he has retained anything of his indomitable character he will be be trying once again to pick up the pieces….

But why the blazes should he have to?

42 Comments

Filed under Cyprus, Economics, encounters, immigrants