Panama U.K.

Nombre_de_Dios

Panama has been in the news recently thanks to revelations of the activities of one of its law firms which specialises in helping rich buggers to get richer by avoiding taxes which those of us whose net worth is peanuts are forced to pay.

For Scots, Panama has another claim to fame: the collapse of the  Darien scheme of the late 1690s, a project aimed at breaking the restrictions on Scottish trade posed by he English Navigation Acts by  setting up a trading entrepot straddling the  the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.  Given the level of investment lost in its downfall Scotland was effectively bankrupt and thus  weak enough to allow the movers and shakers of the time to abandon independence  and accept the Act of Union with England in 1707.

Such a parcel of rogues in a nation.

And in the waters of Panama, off the port of  Nombre de Dios, lies the body of Sir Francis Drake..inveterate foe of Spain who attacked their silver fleets and their colonies in the Americas year after year…not forgetting his participation in the defeat of the Armada celebrated in  Newbolt’s poem:

Drake’s drum was returned to England at his death and forms another of the legends concerning heroes who will arise from sleep when their country is in peril.

Finn McCoolCadwalader, King Arthur….every country seems to have one – though typically enough the only Scottish one that comes to mind is Thomas the Rhymer. – but then the Scots, ‘secure in valour’s station’, don’t need dead heroes to stir them up….

But it appears to me that it is well time someone started to beat out that rhythm on Drake’s drum, to summon him to the rescue of his country which is fast going not to the dogs, but to the hyenas.

Britain has a referendum to decide whether or not to stay in the bosom of the European Union with  the unforeseen consequence that it will force voters to look at the state of their country as they try to decide whether to keep ahold of nurse or whether ‘Tis not too late to seek a newer world’..

Can the U.K. survive outside the E.U. is the question.

But the answer demands an examination of the U.K. as it stands.

Does the U.K.have an industrial base? Does it make anything that people wish to buy?

Decades of successive governments have willfully destroyed the industrial potential of the U.K., replacing it with a financial services sector. Do other people wish to buy these services?

Certainly.

Despots, oligarchs, exploiters of the human race are all in favour.

London is the money laundering capital of the world.

This provides rich pickings for the bum brushers of the City  of London…but nothing for the rest of the population.

In those same decades education has suffered both in availability and quality….

The National Health Service too – in the cause of letting private profit exploit public need.

Employment now means existing on precarious contracts – how can one found a family life on that? How can one buy goods beyond the bare essentials for life?

The country is in hock both financially and morally.

Slavery lives in the U.K. as official life turns a blind eye to the fate of indentured servants of wealthy Arabs who come to live in the country….

Arms are sold to countries who support groups which are a threat to the U.K…..

U.K. politicians support armed interventions which benefit only the U.S.A. companies who direct its government – and bring risk to the general population who do not benefit from the security surrounding the rich and powerful.

I have both fear and hope: fear that the generations accustomed to cowed acceptance of propaganda rather than suspicion of it will  let things stand as they are – hope that being forced to make a decision will make people look further; ask themselves if the U.K.is the country they want it to be…and, if not, what they can do to change it.

And Sir Francis Drake…arriving at Plymouth Hoe, dripping water from his suit of armour? I suspect he would take one look at the U.K. and, had he acquired  a grasp of the Glaswegian vernacular in his sojourn in the hereafter, announce that if anyone thought he could solve the problems  – drum or no drum – then  their ‘erse was oot the windae’.

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Virtue Rewarded, the Bodyguard’s Tale

The Men have a project.

The project requires heavy duty electric cable.which  is not available locally unless ordered especially and risks costing an arm and a leg.

Solution?

Buy it in San Jose.

Fortuitously, Geraldo also requires cable of the same dimensions – and his son knows where to buy it.

cocacola

In the Coca Cola market where – anxious gringos would have you believe –  babies are barbecued to order and men leap from the shadows to cut off any finger bearing a gold ring.

There is some slight foundation for this folk tale: I was shopping for veg there when a gentleman sidled up alongside and advised me not to wear my tiger eye ring as it was genuine and might attract persons less respectful than himself.

What about my wedding ring? I enquired.

What do you take us for, senora?  We are not barbarians: of course we respect a wedding ring..but that tiger eye might attract the interest of the wrong type.

How do you know it’s not a fake?

We know.

 

Normally Leo would have accompanied Danilo and Geraldo  –  he loves the Coca Cola where bargaining is the breath of life – but, recovering as he is, he could not cope with the journey and a long morning of negotiations.

He would give Danilo the money – cash speaks louder than bank cards in the Coca Cola  – and Danilo and Geraldo would pick up what was needed, taking our car for transport.

No! This would not do!

Why not?

Danilo was worried  that he might be mugged with all that money on him. I should go with them and carry the money.

And what if I were to be mugged?

No problem…Geraldo and I will protect you.

 

So it was arranged that there would be a joint expedition to San Jose: the gentlemen would buy the cable and then I would pick up bulk bones and offal for the dogs and a freezer load of wholemeal bread from our favourite baker.

We set off……to a running commentary from Geraldo on the latest scandals relating to houses that we passed ……until arriving in the centre of San Jose where Danilo had planned to use his favourite parking lot.

It was full. It always is.

He proposed pulling up in front of it until the queue disappeared and then driving round the block to enter.

I proposed driving to Coca Cola and seeking on street parking.

As it was my car I eventually prevailed against the sucking of teeth and dire warnings of roaming the streets forever….

We pulled up in front of the shop recommended by Geraldo’s son and were directed to a spot further down the road where a ‘guatchiman’ (watchman) was paid to look after the car. Distinctly cheaper than the parking lot.

The shop recommended by Geraldo’s son did not have the cable of the dimensions required.

However, as we left a gentleman approached us with an offer to sell us the cable in question. We followed him to a back street lock up whose garage door – once raised – revealed  reels of cable in all dimensions – save  that which we sought.

Not to worry , he said…I can get it for you.

Thinking that we just bet he could we beat a retreat saying that we needed it today and started combing Coca Cola for the cable we required – and its price.

Leo on form would have loved it…by the time we had checked every stall my feet hurt and my brain was scrambled but eventually we hit on the shop we needed.

Our order was measured out on the pavement , upon which a series of five metre marks were indicated by strips of yellow paint. Danilo stationed himself at one end and Geraldo at the other to see  that no hanky panky took place while the staff pulled cable from the drum. All duly approved by the committee, our cable was rolled and we turned to Geraldo’s order.

But there was a problem. Geraldo had brought money enough to pay for the cable on his son’s estimate of prices. This cable was slightly dearer.

He would come back the next day and take the cable on the bus.

Nonsense. I lent him the money which he would pay me the next day – as he did.

Duty done we headed for the central market car park where I asked Danilo pick up a sack of bones and offal, giving him the money, while I  went to draw from the cash machine at the Banco Nacional down the road and do some general shopping.

BancoNacional

No, no, no! Thus Geraldo.

He, Danilo, could not let me loose, unescorted, in San Jose!  What was he thinking of?

So it was that I found myself shadowed by a tiny man of over seventy years of age – the Costa Rican version of Cohen the Barbarian – as I entered the Art Deco edifice of the Banco Nacional. Drawing my money I was about to sort out my bag at the table provided, watched over by security guards.

No, no, no!

I must put my card and money away at the cash point…who knew who might be watching!

But there are guards…

Guards! Where will they be if you are mugged on the doorstep…?

Prisoner and escort – we must have looked like the Queen of Tonga and her lunch – headed back to the central market. Pausing to buy tomatoes from my regular supplier I found that  Geraldo had been vetting the bags prepared for sale and advised the stall holder to give me a bag of my choosing…and was given another for himself.

We met Danilo in the Central Market hauling the  huge sack of bones and offal to the car and went to buy fish and prawns.

Geraldo insisted on sifting through the prawns..something that – as they were on offer – I would not have done… and was rewarded with two fillets of fish for being so careful of my interests…

We were loaded by this time so I sent him with the bags to join Danilo at the car while I ventured into the Mercado Borbon – reputation even worse that that of Coca Cola – in search of pigs’ liver for sausages.

Three minutes’ later he was at my side…hailed by my regular butcher as my body guard and given a half kilo of sausages for his lunch…

Off in the car to  the bakery where Geraldo insisted on inspecting every loaf..and was given a chili pastry for his pains……

 

On the way home Danilo remarked that he was never given freebies..

That, said Geraldo, is because you don’t know your job.