Monthly Archives: November 2016

Buyer Beware in Paradise

costa-rica

During the last stages of the U.S. Presidential elections there was an ad in one of the expat newspapers: a photograph of Trump alongside ‘President Trump! Time to move to Costa Rica!’ followed by a photograph of Clinton with the same message.

Clearly, the estate agents were hoping that, whichever way it went, they would be the winners as either the offended or the deplorables flooded south in search of property to buy or rent in that earthly paradise, Costa Rica.

Long ago, in a small Norfolk market town, I passed a ladies’ outfitters which was having a sale.Pride of place was occupied by a salmon pink corset, designed to cover the body from neck to knee, stiffened with whalebone and held together by leather straps and steel buckles worthy of a straitjacket. Attached delicately to the (suppressed) bosom of same was the discreet notice:

Unrepeatable offer.

Advertisements for Costa Rican property for sale remind me of that notice.

Everything is  a wonderful – unrepeatable – offer: an opportunity not to be missed: act now or lose it!

Currently, in our small town, there is a house for sale. A two bedroom contemporary build, on a small lot.

For only 600,000 U.S. dollars.

It has lovely views – as long as you don’t look down, as on the large lot below one of the retired money launderers has built himself a massive spread which features galvanised sheeting on the grand scale.

Not a fan of galvanised sheeting?

Then there is another wonderful ‘opportunity’. It has a house on some sixteen acres of land, so no unaesthetic neighbour problem, but it has been down to teak for the last twenty years. The teak has been cut and sold, so the owner has made a mint, but as teak exhausts the land a future buyer faces years to bring the soil back to production…while the ‘house’ proves to be a lightly built shack adjoining the original workshop for the plantation.

Again, only 600,000 U.S. dollars.

Something a little more upmarket?

There are developments in the area….posh(ish) ones. These are large tracts of land bought by philanthropists who feel unable to keep the beauty of the property to themselves and so divide it up and, in the goodness of their hearts, offer these lots to others. At a price.

Not only will they sell you the lot, they will build you a house on it where you can live among like minded people neatly isolated from the local population. At a price.

We don’t have any tower blocks, but they are creeping out from the capital year by year.

It completely beats me why you would want to come to Costa Rica with all its astounding landscapes and live in a block of flats.

The views? They could be spectacular from the higher levels – until someone else builds another tower block alongside. Which they do. Frequently.

But there is one phenomenon which interests me particularly.

Over the last few months there has been a plethora of offers of property in and around a village on the Pacific Coast…a village beloved of surfers due to the length of its wave.

Houses, restaurants, small farms…you name it, you can buy it. At a price.

But why the sudden rush of ‘opportunity’?

It could, perhaps be linked to the release from prison of the gentleman who originally bought up the village, lock stock and barrel. One of the generation of men whose suitcases contained bundles of bank notes as opposed to their smalls.

In his long unavoidable absence squatters moved in on his various properties, aided by lawyers and local politicians: surf addicts bought, in turn, from these gentlemen….no one remembered the original owner except the villagers for whose children he had built a school….

But he did not forget his village.

Having served his time – you can guess the charges – he has returned and is intent on recovering what he regards as his.

So to a number of people it seems a good moment to unload properties become problematical onto unsuspecting newcomers. At a price.

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Filed under Costa Rica, property sales, Uncategorized

Offended of Kensal Rise Trumps Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

kenal-rise

What the blazes am I to do for a newspaper after Brexit and Trump?

Costa Rican ones very between po faced publicity for the party which lost the last election and photographs of the sheets covering victims of murder and traffic accidents – not forgetting the obligatory girl not quite showing her all while striking a pose which would puzzle an Olympic gymnast and the imprisonment of Cuba Dave for promoting sex tourism in Costa Rica contrary to the Human Trafficking Law of 2013.

Personally I do not think that he is singlehandedly responsible for the (mostly) North American men in muscle shirts frequenting what are euphemistically known as ‘gentlemen’s clubs’ in Gringo Gulch in San Jose, but it would be tactless to close these establishments as otherwise well connected Costa Rican gentlemen not wearing muscle shirts would have nowhere to go in the evenings.

warum-der-bekannteste-sextourist-der-welt-in-costa-rica-im-gefaengnis-landete-body-image-1473949928

I still occasionally read my old local rag from France….well kent faces beam from the group photographs of the class of  1958 about to set off for a day trip into the unknown some fifty kilometres away, or it might feature shifty looking maires inaugurating something built or repaired by their brothers in law. As one of them once said to me….

As long as the name is different they can’t say it’s favouritism…’

I’ve given up on Le Figaro and Liberation….the former is obsessed with finding the right wing candidate capable of defeating Marine Le Pen of the Front National and the latter obsessed with working out how the Socialist Party is ever going to survive having Francois Hollande as President of France.

Most of my French friends are more worried about how France itself will survive the presidency of Francois Hollande…..the only penguin known to advance on thin ice bearing his own flamethrower…

U.S. newspapers? The New York Times has a good cookery section but otherwise the national level spectrum seems to be obsessed with bemoaning the sheer damned cheek of those who voted for Trump when told by those who know that they should not.

There may be exceptions, but I am not well enough acquainted with the sector to have discovered them.

So, back to the U.K. newspapers….

Growing up there were always newspapers in the house …I even had my own copy of ‘The Children’s Newspaper’ delivered to the house alongside my father’s (then) ‘Manchester Guardian’  – for information – and ‘The Daily Mail’ – for the horse racing tips, but which afforded me the pleasure of the strip cartoon ‘Flook’

flook

I had become fond of strip cartoons when visiting my mother’s mother who had stackpiled copies of ‘Chick’s Own’ where ‘big’ words were hyphenated,  from the 1920s and issued them to visiting children when the weather was too wet to sit in the garden.

I can still see – and smell – the formal room with the horse hair filled leather sofas, from whose slippery surfaces the comics would slip to the ground and have to be restored to pristine order before adult disapproval was manifested.

I know that ‘The Daily Mirror’ entered my grandmother’s house  – probably down to grandfather’s influence – as I remember not only ‘Pip, Squeak and Wilfred’ but also the later strip cartoon of ‘The Perishers’ whose annual highlight was the holiday by the seaside where the crabs inhabiting a rock pool had built a whole religion around the appearance of ‘the eyeballs in the sky’ as Boot the dog peered into the depths.

eyeballs-in-the-sky

Religious dissidents, or those who attempted to forward a scientific explanation for the eyeballs in the sky, were silenced by the high priest with the threat of ‘a cakehole full of claw’….

As time went by I began to read the newspapers…the ‘Manchester Guardian’ became ‘The Guardian’…’the Daily Worker’ became ‘The Morning Star’…’The Socialist Worker’ made a brief appearance…and I took ‘The Times for the Law Reports.

At that time, though each newspaper had its policy preferences, they did manage to report news. The reaction to such would appear in the ‘Letters to the Editor’ column, whence the generic term for choleric supporters of old fashioned moeurs – ‘Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’ – a town popularly supposed to be peopled by half pay colonels of the Indian Army and their memsahibs,  sniffing the wind for the least hint of subversion of established morality.

But things have changed.

In return for electoral support, governments have allowed foreign ownership of the national press…and as that foreign ownership has acquired global power, the politicians make their first kow-tow not to the people who were mad enough to elect them but to the press barons upon whose organs (to use the phrase beloved of ‘Private Eye’) they rely to maintain them in power.

Power has shifted from the politicians – the political parties – to the press, whose interest is that of maintaining their proprietors’ power.

News? Properly reported?

Forget it.

The readership is plied with tarts, tits and totty in the manner of a modern Eatanswill in the press aimed at the lower orders – in moral, rather than economic terms – and with flattery, foodery and fart arsery for those who believe themselves to be superior to the masses.

Thus ‘The Guardian’, made independent by ownership by a trust, stood out.

It was never a newspaper of the left despite the years in the 60s where it displayed a conscience; it was always a newspaper of the soi disant enlightened bourgeoisie who kept their hand on their halfpennies while giving lip service to moral causes.

But it was all there was…so it was the first newspaper I turned to for news and opinion.

Until opinion overtook news, just as had happened in the organs of the press barons.

The Brexit campaign brought out ‘The Guardian’s version of Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells…but now the disgusted were not the readers but the columnists….those who were busy ‘gentrifying’ the suburbs of London like Kensal Rise where Edwardian terraced houses became desirable residences – once they had been stripped of their character – and where the local shops had been taken over by ‘organic’ butchers and high priced coffee shops.

These columnists were disgusted that it was possible to think of an alternative to membership of the European Union…those who opposed them must be part of the Great Unwashed…the very people whose interests they and their type had ignored for more than a generation: the people whose children had suffered a diminution in educational provision: the  people whose trade unions had been broken: the people who could no longer rely on a job which paid well enough to bring up a family in stable conditions.

News? Properly reported?

Forget it.

So tell me: where do now I go for news…real news?

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Filed under Brexit, news reporting,, Uncategorized

I Cannot Hear You

high-court-judges

A phrase arising to the lips of judges who are improperly addressed, or who are addressed by advocates improperly dressed..or, horror of horrors… a combination of both.

A High Court judge  – his Lordship – does not relish being addressed as ‘Your Honour’ and certainly not if the person so addressing them is not in  appropriate court dress – or in a variant of court dress which, while possibly fashionable, has not been blessed by the custom of  ages.

Quaint, you might think…but it is an attitude not confined to the courts.

Brexit and the  American Presidential election have made it clear that those not observing the norms cannot be heard…well, at least, not with respect for their views.

When at school, we were taught that we must make – and appreciate on the part of our opponent – a reasoned argument.

Fine…we were taught logic, we appreciated the breadth of the English language and we could cite backing for our views. We knew how to debate within the norms.

Work taught me that people could make a case without those refinements, from their experience, from their own vocabulary – and from their sense of justice.

It was the job of the professional to put that case into the Procrustean bed of the law, to allow it to be heard with a chance of success.

The Procrustean bed seems to have expanded in recent years, to include political expression – as reflected in the media.

I should here declare an interest.

Had I been eligible, I would have voted for the U.K. to leave the European Union.

Thus, according to the ‘bien pensant’ media I am an ignorant racist.

It is not acceptable to say that you do not conform to the comfortable ‘bien pensant’ way of thought:  the way of thought of those who live a life divorced from need, from insecurity, from hope destroyed, who have no empathy with those whose experience tells them that the current system has nothing to offer them or their children.

The lesson from Brexit and from the downfall of Clinton is that we should learn to listen to each other, to take each others’ concerns seriously, even if those concerns are couched in a language or in a fashion which appears to us to be improperly dressed.

But I’m not holding my breath.

 

Addendum…somewhat foul mouthed, but heartfelt.

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Cometh The Midnight Hour, Cometh The Neighbour

bcr

The Neighbour, he of the crisp white hat with the curly brim, has been very quiet for a while following his excursion into the world of casino gambling using someone else’s money.

However, things have been changing in our little corner of the world…violent crime has entered the area – usually on a motorbike and armed with a gun.

We were used to the normal sort of crime….the regular burglary of the jewellery store followed by the inflated insurance claim; the settling of accounts between the rival Chinese (money) laundry gangs and anything involving local council contracts, but things have changed.

In the past year the post office has been raided, as has one of the bank branches;  small shops have been targeted too, as have the more notorious money lenders  of the area who suffer the double whammy of losing their cars as well, because the raiders can’t load safes onto the back of their motorbikes.

Where are the police? Well, you might well ask.

They claim that they are busy dealing with the rampant drug trade and, to give them their due, they are trying to do just that. It doesn’t help that once they arrest someone the local judge lets the bugger loose on the grounds of insufficient evidence.

Given the level of competence of the local prosecutors (the Fiscalia)  it is perfectly possible that the case presented to the court does not, indeed, show sufficient evidence to arrest a dog in possession of a bone, let alone a dealer with a house full of crack cocaine in packs ready to sell and vast amounts of unaccounted for cash.

We have had recent experience of their expertise – a case in the long hangover from the fight against the developer – where their idlenesses were content to copy almost word for word the documents supplied by the defendant’s lawyer and on this basis recommend to the local court to reject our case – the which it did with alacrity.

We appealed and a judge from San Jose came out to determine whether our appeal should be allowed.

She listened to the recording of the original trial and summoned all the parties. – though by this time the prosecutor had become bored and had messed off.

Her decision was that the submissions of the local prosecutors’ office had no foundation in fact and, furthermore, their treatment of the case was not only illegal but also contrary to the provisions of the Constitution, so we could indeed lodge an appeal.

Unfortunately, the police do not have the same liberty as ourselves and are stuck with whatever garbage the prosecutors produce for the delectation of the local judge….probably, in the case of the chap with the houseful of crack cocaine, that he just happened to be passing at the time and stopped to see what the police were up to…

The more cynical among you may be wondering whether it is indeed incompetence…or something else.

I could not possibly say. Nor even indicate  my views by a nod and a wink.

But the crime wave – and the drug trade – go on unabated.

Thus The Neighbour.

We heard about his reappearance  yesterday when Don Freddy came over to tell us that the bridge between us and civilisation was to be rebuilt, some two years after it was carried away in heavy rains.

In the meantime we have been taking the back road up to town – as have the  cattle lorries from our side of the stream which have managed to damage an already doubtful drainage system now on the verge of collapse.

The good news had been given to the barrio’s development committee – of which Don Freddy is a member – at the monthly meeting, which had been attended by The Neighbour, nattily attired in sparkling white trousers, highly polished western boots, a black shirt and, of course, the crisp white hat with the curly brim which he retained during proceedings.

Unkind supposition had it that he could not take it off as he had not been able to afford to have his hair dyed recently….

Delicate enquiry as to the whys and wherefores of his return from hibernation revealed that he had come forward in order to perform a public service.

Given the crime wave, he declared, no one was safe in their own homes.

As a man whose past history included waving his revolver on peoples’ doorsteps it was felt that he could speak from experience…

The police, he declaimed, were useless.

Not much argument there, then…

He had , however, the solution.

He usually had.

The committee must appreciate that he had, shall we say, a certain reputation.

It did indeed so appreciate: visions of roads being blocked by his lorry, people being attacked with machetes and certain missing goods rose to its collective mind.

It was time to use that reputation to good effect. As a security guard for the inhabitants of the barrio. He would, he declared, be willing to give up his nights to patrol the area, armed with his revolver, to deter criminals…in return for a small honorarium.

But, said the committee, it did not have the power to engage a security guard, let alone the funds to pay for one.

Not a problem.

A.There was no need to enter his offer in the minutes and

B. As the bridge was about to be built they could go a bit light on the cement and pay him that way…in cash.

Don XXX, slated to be in charge of the works ( and the cement) protested.

What was the problem, asked The Neighbour. Surely Don XXX  didn’t mind giving up some of his own prospective pickings to further the public weal….

But we all know that that revolver isn’t licenced, said Dona Mery. Suppose you shoot someone…

Simple. If it wasn’t licenced it couldn’t be traced to him….

The committee asked for time to consider his kind offer and the official meeting broke up.

I asked Don Freddy why they didn’t report his unlicenced firearm to the police.

No point, said Don Freddy. He has friends in the Fiscalia…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Costa Rica, legal systems, police, Uncategorized, violent crime