The Hard Sell

fulu todosautos.com.peI really must invest in sellotape…for the mouth. It would avert a multitude of problems.

Yesterday I saw a mention of a Chinese car newly imported to Costa Rica. It was small, it was economical on petrol – and it was, for Costa Rica, cheap.

Cars here are expensive…ruinously so…. given the import tax. We always had Audis in Europe….to afford one here we would need to have been politicians in the previous government, so we have a dust covered Japanese tin box called by someone with an inscrutable sense of humour a Galloper.
It has four wheels, four wheel drive for the hills and it starts. That is all I require…except for the small matter of it passing the Riteve – the M.O.T. – in August, which is advancing at a rate significently faster than that of the car itself.

The Men do not wish to know this. The Men are happy building the new house, organising planning permission to build another house on the boundary for Danilo’s sister, fencing off the cafetal for the bullocks and generally putting the world to rights.

When I wondered idly whether the small wooden wedge which keeps the automatic window opening device in working order would give the Riteve inspector the habdabs I was told not to worry about it.
So I haven’t.
I noted that the Cuban – car electrician extraordinaire – is on holiday….but apparently I was not to worry about that either.
So I didn’t.

Come August they’d better be right…..

However, I was not interested in the cheap new car for myself. I thought it would be just the thing for Danilo’s daughter, a nurse who is currently working the stand by shifts and finds herself travelling all over the area wherever clinics are short of staff.
Her husband gives her a lift on the motorbike when possible, her brothers do likewise, but she spends a lot of time either walking or waiting for buses in all weathers and has been saving for a small car, but even second, third fourth hand cars are expensive if they have all their wheels and an engine.

There were two models of the Chinese car….one tiny, the other the size of a mini, but the only technical information revealed was that one had one cylinder while the other had two.
This being at about the limit of my knowledge on cars I passed on the information to The Men at lunchtime.

Conversation changed gear rapidly…where was the dealer….what was the car like….how big was the engine?
I was shooed back to the computer to investigate further.

I found the original mention.
From that I discovered where the showroom was. On one of the busiest, most congested roads in Costa Rica.
Then I found the site put up by the events organisers who had ‘done’ the opening. There were two small and unflattering pics of the cars followed by any number of pics of predatory looking women in little black dresses being eyed by men whose gleam in the said eye would end them in hot water should their wives ever consider finding out about small economical Chinese cars.
Finally I discovered the name of the agency importing the cars. It did not have a website, only a Facebook page.
This showed artists’ impressions of the cars – the artists clearly being in their Mister Men period – and announced that the cars were economical, had air bags and could be paid for on tick.

The Men were off on the hunt. Did I want to come?
The showroom was on a road which is lined by various stores I am banned from visiting because of the traffic congestion, so the temptation was there, but on reflection I turned down the offer.
Either I would be hurried in and out by The Men on a mission or else they would drop me with promises to return and then get lost.

They departed and I took the chance to have a quiet siesta.

I had fed the sheep and cattle and chased most of the ducks into captivity by the time they returned and settled themselves on the balcony for coffee and cake.

How did it go?

Well!

The directions could not have been more clear…..on a straight – if busy – road. Opposite a commercial centre called Via Lindora.
Except that Via Lindora has no sign saying what it is….and The Men, when on this road which leads to the airport, pay no attention to their surroundings, intent as they are on reaching their destination so were unaware that it houses a number of chain restaurants and is lavishly adorned by their publicity signs.

Accordingly, The Men had stopped at the veterinary hospital to ask for directions. This took some time as the receptionist remembered them from the Alsatian’s visit last year and enquiries as to his well being had to be made and the vet who treated him called through to hear that he was fine.

They continued, and emerged at the airport end of the road.
They returned to the beginning and this time asked directions of the security guard at the builders’ merchant.

They emerged again at the airport end of the road…..

After a few more attempts they did the sensible thing and asked the man who sells football shirts by the roadside. He asked them why on earth they wanted to go to Via Lindora and they told him what they were actually looking for.
Oh…that! They’ve got a tent in front of the Porsche dealer….

They were by now on the right side of the road and after only one mishap they found the tent – a sort of arabian pavilion bearing no signs.

Not only were there no signs….there were no sales staff. The cars were in place…the small one which looked like a snail and the larger one which looked quite swish…in colours of dove grey, neon red and a blue such as was never seen on land or sea….but there was no one in sight.

This was an invitation to The Men. The doors were unlocked so they could test the seats…the bonnet was unlocked, so thay could see the engine……

Might be a bit underpowered, thought Danilo.

Couldn’t be worse than the Citroen Ami, replied Leo. And I drove from England to Spain in that over the Pyrenees…

Then a man appeared, dapper in a sober suit.
Could he help them?

Indeed he could….they asked about engine power, fuel consumption and whatnot and he gave the information they required.
The price…did it include all the taxes?
Certainly…then, confidentially, in a lowered tone, there was a special price on these cars…

A promotion?

Not exactly…they need the money to pay the taxes to get the rest of the shipment out of the customs area at the port…

Could they take a test drive?

No…the cars don’t have batteries. Otherwise they might be stolen, what with nobody being around…

But you’re around.

Oh, I don’t have anything to do with the cars….the salesman had to go off somewhere and asked me to keep an eye out.
I’m the waiter from the Inka Grill next door…

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Who is the enemy?

I had my mother on the ‘phone today to give me her shopping list but, once finished with that, she told me what was on her mind in respect of the civilian aircraft downed over the Ukraine.

You don’t know who or what to believe, she said.
It wasn’t the way it was in the war….though I know that there was propaganda then too: wouldn’t do to let the people know how their pre war governments had left Britain powerless…how the war effort was directed by people with connections rather than by people with brains…but here they are treating the deaths of some three hundred people as pawns in a power game. You can’t have any respect for politicians who do that.

She grew up in the aftermath of the first World War, seeing the men in the invalid carriages, some choking up their lungs after gassings – the smell of the rooms in which they were immured.
As a girl she saw wartime aces earning a living from offering rides in the biplanes which had brought death to so many and were then turned into attractions – the circuit and bump rides in areas which might provide a clientele with enough money to keep the man and aircraft paying their way.

Not much of a home for heroes.

She remembers the rise of Hitler…..she heard him on the radio from Nuremburg, with the masses singing ‘Wir fahren gegen Engeland’…and the Mosleyites in Britain.
She had knitted herself a black jersey with red and white bands at the sleeves and was surprised to be greeted as a comrade by the followers of Mosely when she went to do her mother’s shopping in Kingston market. The jersey was swiftly discarded.

She was an athlete, a sprinter and hurdler, hoping to qualify for the team for the Helsinki Olympics planned for 1940…

But along came the second World War.
She could not, as she said, have given a thought for other countries; sod Poland if you hadn’t gone in to protect Chzechoslovakia…her effort was to prevent her own from being invaded and to beat the hell out of Germany.
She joined the army…..the Auxiliary Terrioral Service…and found herself meeting David Niven at Winchester; trainee tank drivers at Castle Barnard; ghosts – and my father – at Naworth Castle and working under continual bombardment at Park Royal, Wembley, assembling radios for the use of the Resistance in France and in the Dutch East Indies.

But through it all, she said, she knew what she was fighting for. Not just the survival of the U.K. as an independent country…but the transformation of the U.K. into a country where privilege no longer ruled supreme.

She had been sent to a farm in Suffolk for a break from the bombing in London and, brought up on a farm herself, noted how the country folk lived much better than the people in the towns; but not far from the farm was an airfield housing bomber squadrons…flying Avro Lancasters.
She watched the ‘planes taking off on their night bombing raids…and watched the returns, the rows of ambulances lined up to take off the surviving crews…from those aircraft, running blood as the doors were opened, which managed to return.
The rate of attrition in Bomber Command was phenomenal…and she determined that, nomatter how misguided the strategies which had sent those young men – not only of the U.K. but also of Canada, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa – into hell, their monument would be a better society.

She thought it was on the way to being achieved in the post war settlement….but the Thatcher and Blair years have left her wondering whether it was worth resisting Hitler at such a cost.
She might not have the fear of the Gestapo at her door in the early hours…but the policy of recent U.K. governments, brown nosing those of the U.S., has left so many others open to not only that risk, but the risk of violent death at the hands of fanatics financed by these governments…and to what end?

Certainly not that of life, liberty and the pursuit of
happiness.

Bennie Hill and the Bold Gendarmes

We’ve had a plethora of visits just lately….from neighbours dropping in for coffee  to friends coming for dinner via the Man from the Water Board, the CID (or the OIJ as they are known here) and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

The Man from the Water Board came to inspect the great water reorganisation project and succeeded in arousing the fury of The Neighbour (cut off from said project) to the extent that he has been busy turning off the stopcocks all over the Three Valleys  in order that pressure higher up the system will burst the pipes…

Let no one say that he lacks a knowledge of physics and roll on the date of the penal court hearing for non respect of the law….though it is rumoured that the man with the tilapia farm is not prepared to wait that long to see The Neighbour get his comeuppance.

I don’t mind the Jehovah’s Witnesses….they feel called to spread the Gospel – which is considerably more than the local Catholic priests get round to doing – are perfectly polite, not at all pushy and we revel in common stupefaction that I can read aloud the Spanish language verses of the Bible  which they present to me.

All I can say is that with the shades of my Scots Presbyterian headmistress hanging over me I am prepared to give it a try in any language….Miss Dickie’s views on reading the Bible were trenchant and had distinct staying power.

Further, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have the approval of Monty the lamb, who has decidedly territorial instincts allied to a fleet turn of foot, an acrobatic capacitywhich would put Olympic champion ice dancers on their mettle and a good line  in charging and butting.

The Witnesses pet him and he behaves…like  a lamb.

The CID (OIJ)  – two young men imbued with a great deal of legal theory and sociological claptrap – came as part of an investigation into The Neighbour’s recent activities, hydrological and other.

Apparently the Fiscalia (Prosecutor’s office) can’t (or more likely won’t) investigate any complaints about The Neighbour while he is awaiting his appearance in the superior penal court for crimes of omission and commission.

Undaunted, people have taken their complaints instead to the OIJ who are not altogether pleased by this, occupied as they currently are by a major fraud on  ‘movement of cattle’ dockets in the local branch of the Agriculture Ministry involving the husband of a mayor; a public employee whose dispute settlement procedure involves a claw hammer and a link to an Anmerican run paedophile pornography business flagged up by the FBI.

I suspect that the boss decided that sending these two tyros out on the track of The Neighbour would get them

A. Onto the ground

and

B. Out of his hair.

They refused to get out of their car until the Alsatian was persuaded to have his siesta inside the house and then sat down with us in the porch, brandishing clipboards, forms and biros…..

Was this our complaint?

Yes it was.

Did we want them to go ahead with it?

Yes we did.

Were we sure that the whole thing did not arise from our failure to understand Costa Rican culture? After all we came from a North American background, did we not, where everyone kept themselves to themselves whereas Costa Ricans were continually in and out of each other’s houses, the relationship between neighbours being most important….

No we were not North American. Scribble, scribble on the form.

Costa Rican culture was very like that of France, where the relationship with nearest neighbour,  ‘le grand voisin’, was extremely important. Scribble, scribble….

Further, we were not aware that Costa Ricans and more exactly The Neighbour expressed their relationship with their neighbours by trying to hire someone to bump them off, even if done incompetently.

No, it was not normal, they agreed, but how did we know about it? Since we were still alive, as it were.

Because the young man concerned had been to see us to assure us that if we were bumped off it would not have been by him, as

A. He had no desire to go to prison

B. He was not at all convinced that The Neighbour’s revolver was untraceable as claimed

and

C. He had made enquiries and six hundred dollars was well under the rate for the job.

Scribble, scribble…….

And then Monty appeared.

The gallant duo rose to their feet as one, clutching clipboards and pens to their persons and they and Monty performed a Benny Hill chase round and round the coffee table, Monty becoming more excited at each turn and finally leaping into the air in his version of a triple Salchow and ambushing them on their side of the table at which point the pair fled to their car and shut themselves in.

Disapppointed, Monty peered through the window and they shrank away. They drove away, seen off at the gates by Monty who had by then taken a dislike to the car which was depriving him of his playmates and was keen to make his feelings known.

Why, I wonder, did I find the words and music of The Bold Gendarmes running through my head…..