Christmas is Coming…



Christmas is coming,

The geese are getting fat,

Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.

If you haven’t got a penny a halfpenny will do.

If you haven’t got a halfpenny then God bless you.

Communities in the north of Costa Rica are still coming to terms with the extent of the destruction caused by Hurricane Otto and this coming Christmas promises to be bleak, despite the rescue and restoration efforts of the official bodies.

Who wants to spend Christmas in a shelter, after all?

I have been struck, though, by the volunteer action from all over the country: once permitted to enter the affected areas vans have been arriving at the farthest flung villages with not only the necessities of life – but also the things that make life brighter.

One furniture factory has gone into full production to turn out beds and sofas…basic, but serviceable and attractive, to make houses feel like a home again: a police station had a whip round to provide a wheelchair for a boy who had lost his in the floods…the examples are all too many to quote, but hats off to those involved – and to the emergency services whose plans allowed such prompt access for the volunteer effort.

The children have not been forgotten….for some of them Christmas has come early as the volunteers brought presents too – pennies and halfpennies well spent by those contributing at Red Cross centres and at some of the major chain stores who put their fleets of vehicles at the disposal of the relief effort.

Let us now hope that the government agencies coping with the aftermath…rebuilding houses, trying to compensate for crops lost…will show the same energy and generosity as was brought out by the immediate aftermath of the hurricane.

Away from the disaster areas the Christmas frenzy is now upon us with a vengeance.

The pavements of San Jose, already a hazard to shipping with the vendors of socks, rip off DVDs, remote controls and amazingly random items laid out on black plastic sheets ready for the quick getaway when the municipal police are sighted, now boast herds of fibreglass reindeer upon whose horns you are liable to become impaled while trying to avoid the embrace of the inflatable Santa on the other side of the shop entrance.

A new horror promises to manifest itself: while buying a washing machine I saw that the shop was also selling hideously lifelike and lifesize Santas who sang carols and did a sort of shuffling dance….from ghosties and ghoulies and shuffling Santas Good Lord deliver us…

Music – if so it can be called – assails you in every store. Fortunately for my sanity ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ seems to have fallen from favour, but ‘Jingle Bells’ is still going strong.

I suppose that given the popularity of reindeer, it would be.

Curiously enough, I heard ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in one of the local supermarkets last week, so there is hope of the advance of civilisation yet…despite the horror of the butcher as I described to him how to make a haggis.

Poor man: he is still recovering from my annual demand for suet which he is firmly convinced serves only to dubbin boots.

The price of tomatoes and potatoes have soared as this is the tamale season and they are essential ingredients: luckily we have laid in a store of spuds which, if the weather remains unseasonably cold, should last through the New Year after which prices should fall again.

And unseasonably cold it is too….summer should have started some two weeks ago but for the first time since moving here I have opened the old suitcase containing our woollies and put a second light blanket on the bed as the rain is heavy and persistent and the winds are strong and cold.

This has done no favours to the ewes: accustomed as they are to dropping their lambs outside, Danilo has had to go hunting to bring them in before the newborns get chilled and weak and we currently have one in the house – a twin whose mother abandoned it in the driving rain. Leo is doing his best, but it is touch and go for the little thing.

Stop press: two in the house…

It will be a quiet Christmas for us – the way we like it. Which is just as well, given Leo’s poor health.

Our celebration has been to trawl through the cookery books, now that we finally have most of them out of the boxes and onto  proper bookshelves, to decide on some new recipes to try. An Ethiopian beef stew looks promising, as does  a Cincinnati style chili involving black chocolate and Worcester sauce.

Before Christmas though, things are somewhat more eventful. There is an art fair in San Jose at the end of this week…and we are invited to a christening party on the weekend which will involve the consumption of vast quantities of chicharrones (deep fried lumps of belly pork),  deep fried murpheys and plantains together with endless cold beers accompanied by football on the box and heated political discussion in all quarters of the house.

However, given that the godfather – who will be doing the deep frying – has also invited us to a karaoke evening at his favourite bar the night before I begin to wonder whether the only sizzling at the christening party will be that  of Alka Seltzer tablets hitting the  water.

All of the above are dependent on how Leo is feeling on the day of course…so, as one says here, we shall be going ‘si Dios quiere’.

And if He doesn’t, then we can enjoy our pwn pictures,  look for another recipe and choose some music to accompany the meal, which will be different, but just as enjoyable.

Though we do not go in for them, Christmas decorations are beginning to go up on the houses.

I have it on good authority that the Santa Claus novelty loo seat cover – dumped on me by my mother and seized on by the cleaning woman – still has pride of place on a certain front door, but cannot go to see for myself as the bridge, which collapsed two years ago, is not yet repaired.

Danilo found an engineer at the site in October…and word was that it would be repaired by the end of November…but then Hurricane Otto took a hand and resources were directed elsewhere.

Don Freddy has been round to see us again….the bridge was to be repaired starting on 15th December, but Danilo has since reported that the chairman of the development committee – in charge of the works – has been admitted to hospital as an emergency case.

It is only by the existence of good hospital provision that this most orthodox of Catholic gentleman has avoided the fate of the heretical Bishop Arias in that his bowels burst while he was on the loo.

Well, that puts the bridge repair back again, I suppose….

Might put it back permanently….he’s gone to a private hospital…

They’re not likely to kill him!

No perhaps not….but he’s got the money for the bridge…




35 thoughts on “Christmas is Coming…”

  1. I am a curmudgeonly Scrooge when Christmas is foisted on us. Those who like to go to their church of choice? Fine, they may go. Those who like to have their extended families around a groaning board? Fine, have it it,people.Those who like to put all their Bing Crosby songs on shuffle? They may do that.
    But I would like the mindless, tuneless grocer-music banned. Banned,I say! Bah-humbug.

    Yes, I hear you on the brilliance of charities and “ordinary” folk doing splendid work in times of catastrophic calamity.
    I wish you and Leo a happy, safe and,hopefully, healthier Christmas.

  2. You hit on the essence of what the holiday season is all about. Of what living as a decent human being is all about. All those suffering and what can one do? May those suffering find comfort at the hands and with the hearts of those who care. People like you, Helen. ❤

    1. I wish I could do more than contribute…but as things are I can’t move far from home for very long.
      And what about yourself? And your husband? There are a lot of people – and dogs – grateful to the two of you.

      1. Same as you. We’re home for the duration, still dealing with issues. That said, we continue to do what we can. Every little bit helps make the big bits=all the cumulative ripple effect. Your loving caring heart and spreading the word (plus adopting so many) makes a big difference to those you help and those who read about it. ❤

          1. It’s a delight we share my friend. More to come. We’re up to 216. And today I just pledged for 6 more. Now to find them homes-that’s the real challenge, the money can’t get them out of the shelter. The heart of a good caring person, like yours, is the key. ❤

          2. Snap!
            It’s like a perpetual motion…i swear that there must be an alarm on the seat of my chair so as soon as the backside is put to anchor there is a call of some sort…

  3. What a great description of the aftermath of Otto and the heartfelt response of the locals! All in all, a wonderful posting, Helen. I wish you a Merry Christmas, no matter what Dios quiere, and strength for the little lambs. (Oh, how I wish you had a photo of the Santa toilet seat on the front door!) Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

    1. People have been wonderful…as they were in earlier disasters during our time here. It isn’t just that they want to go to help, they co ordinate their efforts to make the help count.
      I don’t like to tempt fate but the two lambs are holding their own so far, so we can but hope.
      That loo seat cover! I could not believe it when she put it on the door! Mark you, it could be worse. A fellow blogger wondered what would have happened had she decided to use it as a hat!
      And best wishes to you and your family for Christmas and the New Year.

  4. Fingers crossed for the lambs; rough job keeping them going, too, I’m sure. I remember visiting the home of a sheep farmer friend–actually, fiber farmer. You never knew if there would be a lamb or two in the tub when visiting the loo. The goats were funnier. Smarter than sheep. If they were nursed to health in the house, they would not stay out. Molly had no lower screens in her doors because goats knew house lay on the other side. I wonder what she did with baby alpacas?

    1. Goats are distinctly smart…we had a couple many years ago and where they couldn’t get by stealth they got by bashing down the barriers.
      The last lamb he had to bring up was Monty, now patriarch of the flock: I’m just hoping that if the two of them survive they will fix on each other rather than on Leo.

  5. If Leo’s health improves, I hope you enjoy all your pre-Christmas functions. May your stomachs survive all the deep fried food.
    My best to you both over there.
    xxx Huge Hugs xxx

    1. We’ll hope for the best! Visits to the site of the christening party are always fun…food or no food. Like a lot of Costa Rican families you find a varied bunch from judges and lawyers to taxi drivers, with small and large farmers, teachers, bartenders, in fact you name it…they are all part of the family so there is always a good conversation to be had – if far enough away from the football on the television.
      Oddly enough I have never had indigestion after one of the deep fried orgies…could it be the beer?
      Look after yourself…winter’s never a good time.

  6. . . when trying to discuss our Utopian view of Socialism we are invariably presented with the ‘human nature’ argument – you know, the ‘people are inherently selfish/lazy’ one. Humans are, in my opinion, cooperative and compassionate by nature and the response to disasters is a case in point. With the collapse of the West’s murderous regime change in Syria collapsing let’s work for a peaceful, conflict-free world. As an old parachute soldier I can but hope!

    1. Experience shows me that people are basically decent….but that scum rises to the top.
      Yes, hope at last that Obama and Saudi Arabia’s pact to destroy the stability of the Middle East may be on its way out.

  7. Many years ago, when Isobel Bird of the Parish Council of discreetly Streatley-on-Thames wrote us a letter complaining that our front garden was not up to scratch (she never bought my protestations that it was ‘wild and natural’ nor that organic would take off and the village would be grateful to me) … anyway, so incensed was I with the old bag that I invested in a 40′ lightup reindeer and plonked it on one side of the door (I should explain the house was right in the heart of the village and very visible) – she died the following year and I have carried some sort of remorse ever since. The image of the bowel bursting and the bridge repair did nothing for my enjoyment of breakfast so I am now channelling thoughts of your enviably quiet Christmas as a pacifier to my over-anxious mind!

    1. I like that. When I was in France the area was hot on Christmas decorations and a chap who had had his planning permission for velux windows turned down by the chap from the planning department who lived opposite and had installed a velux in his own house put up a huge illuminated Santa on his roof, with an arm which moved up and down, giving his neighbour the finger…in lights!

  8. Good response from the people to the weather problems.
    Good response from Leo to the lambs! Once again you will have two imitation dogs running the house! I hope Leo has the strength for two lambs.
    Christmas music has less to do with Christmas than the commercialism behind it. I use John Coltrane or classic mixture at the museum when I am in. Nice to see Danilo operating again.

  9. In this era of indifferent, skinflint governments reluctant to come to the rescue of beleaguered communities, it’s heartening to hear of so much unofficial help being given, sometimes from the most unlikely sources.

    Christmas decorations here get more and more tacky – gawdy Santas and reindeer outside people’s houses, and twinkling lights everywhere you look. The only tasteful items are the wreaths on people’s front doors.

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