Monthly Archives: May 2014

After the Ball was Over….the European Elections

 

Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National

Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National

 

Hello, Clement! Quiet evening, thank goodness.

Do you mean the European election results last night…..or the ruckus you had in here this afternoon?

Oh, that….! You think you’ve seen everything when you run a bar, but this beat the band! What can I get you?

Zizi tells me that you’ve managed to get something from Antoine….

Yes, I was lucky. He had a client who let him down….there you are……what do you think?

A good drop….you had a bit of luck getting his grolleau gris now it’s become fashionable!

Well, yes…fashionable…but the fashionable bastard from the fashionable Paris bistro who ordered it couldn’t pay up front and Antoine doesn’t do tick; well not to Parisians anyway…

Ah well, his loss our gain…..it’s getting to be something when you can’t get hold of decent wine because some blasted journalist comes down here on his holidays and puts his ‘friends’ in the know…

Well, as it turned out it was lucky for me…that’s a nice drop he makes.

So it is! Hang on…here’s Victor! The gendarmes let you out did they?

Hello, Victor! Glass of Antoine’s?

On the house I hope…all the custom I brought you today!

Custom! Don’t talk to me about custom! After his gorillas carted you lot off that obnoxious pest Malfrat was here sinking it as if there was no tomorrow!
Mark you, I gave him that stuff you offloaded onto me…your- what was it – biodynamite stuff that you were going to sell to the English…

Serve him right…enough to kill an ox, that stuff, even the English wouldn’t drink it….I don’t suppose he paid you….

Pay! He’s a gendarme! Don’t make me laugh!

Well,  all that will change once we get into power! No more swilling for Malfrat…and he can keep a civil tongue in  his head while he’s about it….I haven’t been called names like that since my time in the army!

Oh, no, Victor, please! That’s how it started this afternoon!

What do you mean…’when we get into power’….didn’t see your name on a ballot paper!

Of course you didn’t, Clement! I’m not standing for office at my age, and anyway I don’t want my tyres let down…let alone be forced to go to Belgium with all those foreigners…….No, our party, the Front National! And our lovely leader, Marine Le Pen, next President of France!

Oh, come on, Victor! Your lot only did so well because people couldn’t be bothered to go out to vote…come the real elections in 2017  it’ll be a different story! No one’s going to vote for a party that blames everything on immigrants!

Ho! Don’t you be so sure! That’s what Theo said this afternoon; typical know all communist that he is – always knows best. Well, as I said to him then and I say to you now, just you wait! People didn’t turn out this time because they know there’s nothing you can do about the European Union…the parliament members are just so much whitewash for the crooks and madmen running the place on our money…but the Presidential is the real one and all the people who are sick and tired of being taxed to the hilt to keep a bunch of freeloaders in foie gras will be out in force! Then you’ll see…which is what I said to Theo, but he wouldn’t have it.

That’s as may be, Victor, but you didn’t have to push his wheelchair outside and set it off down the hill…

Oh, he didn’t come to any harm…and it’s hardly a hill, just a slope down  to the Place d’Armes….and there’s no point trying to argue with him, he’s always right!

Well it’s hardly an advertisement for your party, is it…pushing old cripples down hills if they disagree with you! What about the rest of your party’s policies?

Unbeatable, mon pote! And a surefire election winner among them! Out of the Euro…just think about it! We’ll be able to use the francs we’ve been hiding in the mattresses all these years!

You haven’t still got francs in your mattress! Not even you, Victor….

Yes…I couldn’t work out a way of converting them all into euros at the changeover without the taxman getting wind of it or someone denouncing me and, anyway, I was sure the euro couldn’t last…and now I’ll be able to use them again! That’ll get the people out to vote, you see if it doesn’t!

But what about the racism…all the anti immigrant stuff…people won’t stand for that, you know…

What’s racist about saying that you can’t come to France and expect a free hand out? And you can’t say we’re prejudiced…if we pull out of the European Union all those English can go back where they came from too unless they can afford to pay their way…not just the Arabs and Africans from the colonies…

Bit much, that, Victor…having a go at the English because they wouldn’t buy your wine….

Look at them! Come over here, buy places you wouldn’t keep a respectable pig in and think they own the joint! Even stand for local councils! No more of that, I can tell you….France for the French!

But that’s absurd….and trying to get out of being called racist by lumping the English with Arabs just won’t wash!

See, I give you a reasoned argument and you come back with rubbish! Just like Theo when he came back this afternoon with his mates from the old peoples’ home. Mob handed they were…I told them it just showed the weakness of their arguments if they had to resort to violence…

Violence! Old boys in their eighties!

In their eighties they might be, Clement, and so’s Victor after all, but most of them were on the railways when we still had steam trains and they can handle themselves! It all started peaceably enough, having a go at Victor over a few glasses, but then he took offence when  Jerome called him a capitalist lackey and things got out of hand…

Capitalist lackey…better that than a lackey of Moscow and so I told him!

So you did, Victor, so you did…..and then Lionel whacked you in the shins with his crutch and you grabbed Jean-Michel’s zimmer frame and laid about you until you got it caught up in the coat rack and they were on to you! Pity the national rugby coach couldn’t have seen them…they’d do better in the scrum than the current lot…

And which spoil sport called the gendarmerie, I’d like to know! I was just getting my second wind when they burst in and trapped me behind the door! Nearly put the false teeth through the back of my neck! And as for being manhandled down to the paddy waggon…! No respect, that’s what! You’d think we were a bunch of Arabs in the Paris suburbs…though they’d never have dared come the old acid with them as there’d have been hell to pay! Half the bleeding hearts who live well away from the suburbs writing to the newspapers and looking disapproving on the television…

I tell you, come the revolution – I mean when we get into power –  there’ll be changes!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under elections, Europe, france, immigrants, politics

And When Did You Last See Your Father?

W. Yeames... historyonthenet.com

W. Yeames…
historyonthenet.com

Those of a certain age will be familiar with the picture above. This nineteenth century painting by Yeames shows an imagined scene from the aftermath of the English Civil Wars of the seventeenth century.
His house captured by the Parliament forces (Right but Repulsive) the son of a king’s man, a Cavalier (Wrong but Wromantic) is questioned as to the whereabouts of his father in the presence of the sobbing females of the family.

This image came to mind today in receipt of one of those ‘know your customer’ forms from a brokerage firm. As they are about to be taken over I imagine that this is because the new owners want to have spotlessly clean noses in the eyes of what are laughingly known as financial regulators – the whitewash merchants of the house of cards that masquerade as financial institutions.

Leo hasn’t dealt through these brokers for some time and was quite surprised to find that his remaining holdings there had any value at all, but there was enough to make it worth cashing in so that was what he decided to do.

Except that he could not.
Not until he had filled out and returned the form together with proof of his identity.
It might be his money, but he couldn’t have it.

So, moaning at the expense of having to have his passport certified, he started to look at the form itself.
Which is where ‘And when did you last see your father?’ comes in.

After questions as to one’s name and address, and for some mad reason telephone numbers….for goodness’ sake, when do brokers ever ‘phone their clients…the form got into its stride.

Occupation….where the line for ‘Other’ proved tempting.
Lion tamer? Saggar maker’s bottom knocker? Arslikhan yoga specialist?

If you were retired, what was the name of your previous employer – and probably when did you last see him….
And what, were you to be one of the few not employed on a zero hours contract, was your gross annual income…..
Why they should think that income is derived exclusively from employment is beyond me…..the lack of correlation between politicians’ salaries and their actual income being a case in point.

The form is eating up the miles now…

What, it seeks to know, is the intended purpose of the account.
They are brokers…what do they think that their clients want to do!
They want to buy and sell traded stock, not to use the expertise of the firm to set up a whelk stall – as clearly they would be incompetent to do so, nor arrange a piss up in a brewery – ditto.

It then turns to what it laughingly calls your ‘wealth’.
It wants to know how much you have, which in Leo’s view is for him to know and for others to refrain from finding out.
It also wants to know how many years and months it took you to fill up your piggy bank…and where.
Leo is not minded to turn the pig upside down to check the origin of the coins within and the level of its Plimsoll Line is no business of his broker.

The form gets heavy.
It wants to know how much of the contents of your piggy bank comes from employment….and who employed you…and for how long…
Up a gum tree there…Leo classes himself as unemployable by reason of sanity.

Have you made any pennies from trading activities?
White slaving? Fitting out an East Indiaman?
No…..they mean the stock market, though this is nowhere clearly stated.
What types of investments have been traded?
Well, there were rubber plantation stocks when there were still rubber plantations…
Average size of investments?
Whatever cash was going spare in the back pocket.
Describe the expertise that enables you to profit from such activity.
Doing the opposite of anything recommended by The Financial Times.

The form is breathing heavily by now…
Has any of your wealth been derived from inheritance?
Chance would be a fine thing….
And if so how did the deceased get his claws on it?
Unfortunately no one had thought to interrogate the grandfather on the source of his wealth, probably fearing a sharp retort and clip round the ear for impudence.

Has any of your wealth derived from selling assets?
A list of properties bought and sold over the years would require a mini Domesday Book and if anyone thinks Leo can remember at this date all the buying and selling prices then they are in for a severe disappointment.

The most tempting section is the last…has any of your wealth been derived from a different source to those listed previously?
This is where all the drug dealers, bankers specialising in derivatives and other criminals must be breathing a sigh of relief.
At last they can unburden their souls…at last they can declare all!

So I imagine that that part of the form will remain forever blank.

The wide range of the questions is in itself questionable. The firm may be concerned for the origin of the monies supporting the trading activities of its clients…but has no business putting its snout into the totality of its clients’ affairs.
But if the client wishes to extract his money, the form must be filled out.

Under Common Law, in the period from the Middle Ages until the eighteenth century, the law took a dim view of those who refused to plead either guilty or not guilty and would have them carted off to a cell where they would be stretched out on the floor and have heavy stones placed upon their chests until they either decided to plead or died.
It was known, and aptly so, as the ‘peine forte et dure’….but there were those who preferred to die in this way to avoid being found guilty and having their estates confiscated, which would have left their families destitute.

This form is another demand that you should plead…but as yet the penalty for not so doing is financial rather than physical. You lose your dosh.
But give the regulators a few more years and I wouldn’t mind betting that they’ll be putting out contracts for heavy stones…

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Filed under Financial regulators, money laundering

A Glass Half Empty Day

building works 003I’m a sort of optimistic pessimist…if the glass is half empty then there’s room for a top up….but there are days which leave me in no mood even to pick up the glass in the first place.

Yesterday was one of those…..on the face of it a fine day for being up on the building site, deciding where to build the corral and chicken housing and planting more trees and shrubs.
The work had, despite the early start to the rainy season, been going very well so what was there to spoil the mood?

A prat, that’s what.

There is a big reorganisation of water rights and usage going on in this area after the mess made by The Neighbour when the developer was trying to get permission for housing further down the valley.
It has taken ages…meetings, checking title deeds, visits to government offices, more meetings, gentle persuasion exerted on the man who thought his neighbours should pay him for permitting the new main pipe to run through his finca, appointments with a taxation tribunal to arrange who should in fact pay what to whom, and finally, more checking of title deeds, but we seem to be in sight of the objective…water for everyone (except The Neighbour) at an agreed usage.

Being a glass half empty person, it occurred to me that long before this process ended we would need to begin building and as part of The Neighbour’s reorganisation had seen the water removed from our cafetal where we wanted to build we had to get a secure supply there to enable work to start, rather than waiting until the big reorganisation was completed.

There is a convenient spring on the finca next up the mountain…and until the Neighbour started messing about the pipes had run over that finca and through our own so we thought we would ask the owner, a North American, if we could come to some arrangement by which we could use that water and reinstate the pipes.
We had only met him once before….when he stopped us on the road to tell us that unless we paid him for the telegraph posts which carried the ‘phone line over his land he would sell them to someone else and leave us without a ‘phone.
ICE – the electricity board – did not take his attempt at blackmail kindly; especially as the posts were theirs…

So it was no surprise that he refused downright to help us out in the matter of water – even though there was a partial right of way and customary use over the whole line had been established for more than forty years.
So we told him that we would seek a concession to take water from the spring from the Environment Ministry and re establish the right of way for the pipes.

His response came a few days later when his North American neighbour came by for a coffee and got straight down to business.

We did not want to apply for a concession.

Yes, we did.

No, we certainly did not. X (the owner) doesn’t want anyone on his property.

He won’t have anyone on his property. Once the line is laid there’s no need for anyone to go there. No one did before when the pipes were there.

You don’t understand. X doesn’t want anyone on his property. You don’t want to go ahead with this.

But we do.

No you don’t. Y won’t like it. You don’t want to upset Y.

Who the blazes is Y?

You don’t know Y?.

We had never heard of Y, but enquiry showed him to be another North American, living a high life and popularly supposed to be involved in the drugs trade. He did not come to call and was found hanged in his garage some months later….

So we went ahead and – after much dirty work at the crossroads – obtained our concession. The re establishment of the right of way is taking longer, but the Environment Ministry inspector said that if we took the water pipe from the source down the bed of the stream that runs from it then we were on state property – the state owns all watercourses – and so not trespassing on the North American’s finca.
It meant going about three times as far with the pipes…but if it got the work started…fine.

And so the foundations went down and the walls went up.

Then we had a call from the owner of the finca. He wanted to see us to talk about the water. He would come to the building site.

He duly arrived. He was chatty, admired the site and the house and then said

I’m cutting off your water.

We have a concession.

No you don’t. My lawyer has seen the Ministry lawyers…there were irregularities in your application. Its not worth the paper it’s written on. I’m getting a concession…that will be the only one…and I’m cutting off your water. This week.

It was suggested that he leave before Danilo’s dog Rowley took a dislike to him and after saying how disappointed he was in our lack of willingness to discuss the matter he left.

So what now?

We know we have a legal right to the water…..but what do we do if his workmen rip out our pipes?
Replace them of course and sue him for the damage but it all takes up time better spent on building.

Do we believe the ‘irregularities’?
No, but as he has a lawyer whose list of contacts compensates for his ignorance of the law it is well to check with the Ministry.
More time wasted…but I believe in belt and braces.

Nothing we can’t cope with.

But what I find so depressing is that someone could set up a meeting at the building site….appear to enter into our enthusiasm for the project and then pull the ‘cutting off your water’ stunt, designed to ruin everything we were working to achieve.
He has to have a strange sort of mentality to find that satisfying.

Don Freddy dropped by at the house later on and we were discussing it with him.
He repeated what we had already heard about X’s none too savoury way of life…..taxi drivers talk….and provided a possible key to explain the behaviour.

You building up there, on the road to his house, must bother him….you’ll be able to see who comes and goes.

But we’re not interested!

That’s not a risk he wants to take.

Don Freddy might have a point.

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Filed under Costa Rica, dispute settlement, expat

Si se puede! Si se pudo!

Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera President of Costa Rica

Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera President of Costa Rica

Yesterday, the eighth of May, Luis Guillermo Solis Rivera was installed as President of Costa Rica.
‘Si se puede’ – a chant of football fans in Costa Rica – became the slogan of the candidate that rose from nowhere to challenge and overthrow the then ruling party…’you can do it’ and the national stadium, where the official transfer of powers took place, resounded to the counterpart…’si se pudo’ – ‘and you have’… as the President elect entered the arena with his companion and his family.
As always in Costa Rica the ceremony was low key and had its unrehearsed moments….which is one of the reasons I like the country so much….as well as the usual youth choirs and orchestras and the singing of the national anthem.
The Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Jose was miffed that he had not been asked to officiate and conservative opinion was outraged that the new tourism minister was accompanied by his male partner…the times are indeed a’ changing.

And they need to.

Solis sees the task of governing Costa Rica as being the equivalent of taking over a farm that has been abandoned for years…fertile soil supporting parasitic plants….
He has to rebuild not only the institutions of the country, but also public confidence in those institutions and he faces an uphill task.

People expect changes…and have short memories….

The party that lost the elections have the greatest number of deputies in the National Assembly…

Institutions left to their own devices for years resent the arrival of new brooms….

The outgoing government installed supporters in key positions before leaving office…..

It’s not going to be easy.

I’ve always been interested in politics – the buggers are spending my money after all – and know just how regularly good intentions get bogged down by the sheer immobility of the government machine, let alone outside interference…but I hope that this Costa Rican spring brings forth the summer of good governance that the people here deserve.

And I can’t resist putting up another photograph from the handover of powers yesterday…. the new president and his old dad….a shoemaker.
It’s a good omen…historically it was the shoemakers who fought for civil and workplace rights in Costa Rica so it is – dare I say – fitting that it is one of their sons, descended from the Chinese and Jamaican labourers brought in to build the railways and cut the sugar cane, who is today President of Costa Rica.

Father and son... photograph from La Nacion

Father and son…
photograph from La Nacion

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Filed under Costa Rica, politics

Today Has Given Me The Bird

muscovy ducklingsThey look so innocent, don’t they, this group of Muscovy ducklings snuggled up in their nest, but getting them there was far from a jolly jaunt.

Mother duck had decided to lay her clutch of eggs in the woodpile by the top pond so had to be protected from the rain by laying a tarpaulin over her and her eggs. She would emerge once a day, puffed up and ready for aggro, to bully all the other ducks off their food and then would return to her bijou residence, rolling the eggs under her to give an even heat to all parts.

Yesterday we noticed that she had hatched a chick or two…but raking her from her nest revealed more eggs unhatched, so we left her in peace until today, when we meant to capture the chicks in a bucket and take them – with mother following – to an enclosed pen to keep them save from snakes and other predators.

But the best laid plans, as we know, gang aft agley.
Going up with the bucket at six o’clock this morning…no sign of mother or of ducklings, through three unhatched eggs lay abandoned in the nest.

No sign of them on the top pond.
No sign of them under the orange trees where the scent of the blossom hung heavy in the moist air.
No sign further down the slope past the bananas…nor among the mango trees…
Nor in the papyrus where the vile curses consequent upon slipping on the greasy slope would have raised the dead…
Not even in the clump of bamboo.

Mother duck had decided to take her babies on the long march to the tilapia ponds below, where she and six assorted ducklings were disporting themselves among the water plants which cover the surface to protect the young fish from the attention of herons.
Beautiful birds, herons….but decidedly in the Billy Bunter school where it comes to fish.

A pretty sight…but from experience with baby ducks disaster would not be long in coming. These babies tire easily and are too small to clamber out of the water up sheer sides without the help which mother cannot give.
Cold and tired, they drown.
When we lived in France a river ran through the garden and, year after year, we would spot tiny yellow dots on the water from our windows or the balcony and have to go rushing down with landing nets to try to rescue them from the current before they were swept away.
No current in the tilapia ponds, just the slow surge of water through the network of pipes, but the babies had to be brought to land.

The person who had dug the ponds had had no idea that one might need to remove ducklings from same, so the pond they were occupying was too wide to enable access to the middle – where, of course, as soon as danger threatened, mother had taken her babies.
One at each side our arms would not reach, though mother certainly reached our outstretched hands with her beak, leaving several small intensely purple bite marks as souvenirs.
We went one side, she went the other, the babies bouncing through the leaves in her wake.

Monty the lamb, fascinated by the activity, stopped eating the palms and attempted a flank attack which ended in mother attacking all parties with beak and claw and Monty having to be hauled from the water and confined to barracks.
His plaintive bleats accompanied the rest of proceedings, backed at a distance by the matriarch of the flock with her fog horn bellow that made one think more of the Muckle Flugga than Santiago de Puriscal.

What to do?
We needed a greater reach.
Higher Authority went off and returned with a remnant of galvanised roofing sheet which was laid out springboard fashion over the pond with about half its length on the ground alongside and propped on two poles crossed under it for support.
Higher Authority went to the opposite side where he crouched, wicket keeper fashion, ready to gather the ducklings who would be fleeing Scylla only to fall into the clutches of Charybdis.
I lay down on the roofing sheet and edged forward: the poles came apart, avoirdupois had its way and I fell in.
The ducklings rose in a wave of yellow fluff and were neatly caught by Higher Authority who headed off for the pen with injunctions to me to hurry up and follow.

Feeling like and probably resembling Grendel’s mother and with similar thoughts in mind, I did so and was rewarded by the sight of mother and babies happily tucked up in the warm, safe from harm.

I was heading for the shower when the barking of dogs announced a visitor.

You have to hand it to the man from ICE ( the electricity board whose acronym accurately describes its speed of action).
Faced with a sopping householder he did not turn a hair.
He greeted me politely and informed me that he was part of the team doing the study for the power installation for the new house up on the hill.
He had something to tell me.

There would be a delay in the works.

How so?

Well, they had thought to use the wooden post already in place on the roadside.

And now you can’t?

No. It’s been hollowed out by woodpeckers….

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