Monthly Archives: December 2014

Another Weather Warning

sisley winter

As we sit back after Christmas Day wondering whether it had really been wise to use that recipe for sweet and sour turkey garnered from the internet we see pictures of the wild weather outside our windows….in our case high winds that nearly lifted the roof from the new house; in the case of Britain, snow making roads impassable, airports closed – and no ferries on the Dover to Calais route.
Continent isolated again.

A new year lies ahead of us, but amongst all the worries about Russia’s economy, the U.K. fiddling its economic figures and whether the labrador presented to President Hollande by some misguided French Canadians will fulfil the promise of its official photograph – where it shows the whites of its eyes in no uncertain manner – and provide yet another juicy way for a French President to die in office, there is one certainty.

We will have weather.

Just as well…whatever would the British find to talk about otherwise?
The U.K. fiddling its economic figures?

You might know the old rhyme about the months of the year:

January brings the snow,
Makes our feet and fingers glow.
February brings the rain,
Thaws the frozen lake again.
March brings breezes sharp and shrill,
Shakes the dancing daffodil.
April brings the primrose sweet,
Scatters daisies at our feet.
May brings flocks of pretty lambs,
Skipping by their fleecy dams.
June brings tulips, lillies, roses,
Fills the children’s hands with posies.
Hot July brings cooling showers,
Apricots and gillyflowers.
August brings the sheaves of corn,
Then the harvest home is borne.
Warm September brings the fruit,
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.
Brown October brings the pheasant,
Then to gather nuts is pleasant.
Dull November brings the blast,
Then the leaves go whirling past.
Chill December brings the sleet,
Blazing fire and Christmas treat.

That version is not exactly how I remember it, but it’s as near as damnit.

This, however, is a much more accurate depiction of my memories of the weather in England in my youth:

I shall go out now and knock down a few coconuts to put in the fridge for a cold drink this evening.
Feel free to hurl whatever you wish…leftover sprouts or vituperation as the inclination takes you.

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Filed under Costa Rica, nostalgia, weather, winter

Windmills in the Head

Georges Michel. Windmills at Montmartre

Georges Michel. Windmills at Montmartre

They formed part our historic landscape in all their manifestations and together with water mills fed us and clothed us before we turned to other means to our ends, careless of the balance between pollution and production.
Now that we are reaping the consequences of our lack, first of knowledge and then, unpardonably, of care we are looking back to natural sources of energy: sun, water and wind.

And what do we end up with? These monstrosities.
wind turbines

Flying over Spain white rows of the things mark the line of every hilltop…beautiful Lake Nicaragua is desecrated by them…
Wherever they are placed they are aesthetic crimes.

But we can become accustomed to aesthetic crimes….we quite like old mill buildings once it is not our generation feeding the maw of the looms and we can browse arty crafty boutiques run by crafty arty people before stopping for a sustainable if not sustaining lunch.
In time we will be accustomed to wind turbines too.

But why should we be? They are inefficient, their unpredictable output requiring power plants to be on permanent stand by…..and they are a scam in which the taxpayer is scalped to produce private profit.

As may be plain, I am agin them.

They were making their appearance as I was leaving France…and locally a group of farmers seeking to install these horrors on their land were threatening people living in the lotissement downhill of the proposed site with consequences should they protest. Those wind turbines were going in!
Luckily, the lotissement dwellers took umbrage at the bullying.
Now that the French have discovered commuting, the traditional village power brokers don’t have it all their own way any more…..people moving out to live in the country hold down decent, responsible jobs…they don’t have land in the commune…it’s more difficult to threaten them.’
They banded together and all these years down the line they have finally won. Those wind turbines will not be going in.

The resistance to the installation of wind turbines is growing. Especially after the hike in the price of electricity paid by the consumer in order to subsidise them….fifteen percent on your bill in these days of straightened circumstances tends to get your dander up, after all and if that doesn’t rouse the somnolent dander it is guaranteed to spring to life on learning that the very people on the local council voting for wind turbines to be installed are those owning the land where the said installation will take place and for the which installation they will be handsomely paid.

Decentralisation of power, for which France has so often been congratulated, is nothing more than an enlargement of the trough so that more snouts can find fulfilment at the expense of the taxpayer – that rara avis who has less than the tax efficient three children, hasn’t enough money to be able to hide it in investing in fictitious resorts out in the Dom Toms or in three legged racehourses at Chantilly and is not able to reduce his liability by having several publicly funded posts the income from which is counted separately when arriving at his liability to tax.

Decentralisation of power has meant that people making decisions are very close to the action….and that requires an advanced appreciation of ethics – something not necessarily conferred on maires together with the tricolour sash of office.
Usually their activities are greeted with the Gallic shrug of resignation….
What do you expect? Of course he’s going to feather his nest….

Sometimes it goes wrong.
In February 2010 a violent storm hit the Atlantic coast of France. At La Faute sur Mer, in the Vendee, the sea wall gave way and 29 people – mostly elderly – died, drowned in their houses.
Stones were inevitably turned….it appeared that the maire and his deputy had actively pursued development in an area which was known to be prone to flooding.
That the deputy’s son in law was the estate agent pushing the sales.
That it was stipulated that the houses had to be on one floor only…where flood risk regulations demand two floors so that people have a chance to escape the flood waters even if taken by surprise….

After the usual kerfuffles – it was argued that it was the fault of the purchasers for purchasing where they did but that time honoured chestnut did not wash this time…the case came to court and the maire has been sentenced to be jugged for four years. He is horrified, and is, of course, appealing the judgement.

But that he came to court at all marks a change from the virtual immunity of elected officials from prosecution and it is this which is worrying the lobbying organisation representing the promoters of wind turbine installation in France…France Energie Eolienne….which has written to all the Deputies in the National Assembly to warn them of the terrible consequences if the law which governs the behaviour of elected officials is not changed.

It appears that consumer groups have been advising those who resist the installation of wind turbines on how to bring their maire to book….shock, horror, outrage on the part of FEE.
If this goes on, maires will be too frightened of being taken to court to permit more installations.
Something must be done!

Their answer is to relax the law which governs the actions of elected snouts in troughs….so that maires will not be inhibited from setting up wind turbine installations on the farms of their grandmother’s cousin once removed…or even on their own.
Considering what the snouts have managed to do while the current law is in force relaxing it looks to me like a recipe for rampant corruption…

But there is always hope.

Hope that their action in lobbying to free maires from the fear of prosecution might bring about two desirable objectives.

To take a closer look at what passes for local government in France, a closer look at the magouilles, large and small, which favour the staus quo and those with status.

And to take a much closer look at the wind turbine industry…its efficiency, its value for money.
Never mind the eco publicity on recycled loo paper….follow the loot.

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Filed under ecology, france, landscape, local government, Wind power

Meet and Greet

puris busI travel into the capital, San Jose, fairly regularly….if not on the trek to government offices or courts then just to go shopping…and it all starts at the local bus station.

The bus company have invested in modern, less gas guzzling coaches and I loathe them.

Not only is the leg room minimal but they are also stuffy, leaving me miserable and bunged up at the end of the hour and a half run. It used to be just one hour…but the traffic congestion is such these days that the jams begin as soon as you come down from the hills onto the autopista where traffic from the coast joins that from this side of the Central Valley.

And, worse, the first step into the new coaches is a long way from the ground.
Grannies now have to be heaved up by a combination of the inspector at ground level and the driver from within with much giggling and innuendo and extracted on arrival by a reception committee of security guards. If grannies wish to leave the bus at unmanned halts the driver calls to people waiting there to assist, and, this being Costa Rica, they do.
With the old buses I could swing up with no problem…now it’s more of a heave. Should the day come when the heave has no effect I shall either:

A. Take a chainsaw to the avoirdupois or

B..Send for a team from the Royal Navy Field Gun Competition ….

The Navy never could march….(ducking howitzer shells from those with naval connections)…..Come on, Pompey!

Once arrived in San Jose I start the walk from the terminus….first exchanging greetings with the lady who sells newspapers at the entrance.
Heading uphill into the centre I am still surprised by the number of people with whom I am on exchange of greetings terms.
I asked the chap at the fish stand how on earth he could remember me with thousands of people passing every day.

None of them are gringos…

He has a point. Most of the American expats regard the area of the city where the bus terminal is situated as being an place where babies are barbecued to order and men with machetes leap from the shadows to chop off your ring laden fingers.
As I tell them – well, the few that speak to me – they seem to be confusing it with Paris.

With one man – the wheelchair bound beggar opposite the Banco Nacional – I am on snarling rather than greeting terms.
Having seen him legging it for his bus one evening, chair under arm, he is off my giving list and will remain so as he apostrophised me as a ‘puta de gringa’ when I passed his pitch without offering a contribution.
I told him that had I been a ‘puta’ of whatever skin colour, I should not be walking but could have afforded a taxi.
He was neither persuaded nor impressed.

And then comes the street seller who greets my approach with a happy smile and an enquiry as to how things are going.

He has not seen me for a while….?

I explain that I had been in Spain for a month…

Ah! That’s why you’ve put on weight! Now, how many pairs do you want?

This gentleman is my supplier of reading glasses…the cheap ones that I can leave lying about for emergencies to avoid having to look about for the proper ones.
I first met him when we had not long been in Costa Rica and he offered us glasses at 1,500 colones a pair (about £1.50). My husband – veteran of the floor of the London Stock Exchange – fixed him with a look and replied that the very same glasses were being sold outside the hospital San Juan de Dios for 1,000 colones a pair.

Did he swear? Was he unpleasant?
No, he laughed and said that we could not blame him for trying…we were gringos after all…and lowered his price.

Since then my trade goes to him, rather than the other offshoots of the glasses empire which are situated outside the hospital, the cathedral and the HQ of the Caja – the health service.
SJ cathedral I settled on two pairs – having left a couple of pairs in Spain for future emergencies – and checked the strength I required against the back of a packet of dried plantain chips which seems to be the standard test material although the outlet in front of the cathedral uses a Bible.

Having a document case with me I was having trouble getting at the purse in my handbag and my supplier whistled up the young lad who sells eucalyptus sweets further down the road.

Hold the bag; can’t put that down in the street… and no she doesn’t want any of your sweets, she’s put on weight!

Let no one say that customer service is dead!

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Filed under Costa Rica, expat, shopping, travel