Oranges and Lemons…

Oranges and lemons
Say the bells of St Clement’s

You owe me five farthings
Say the bells of St Martin’s

When will you pay me?
Say the bells of Old Bailey

When I grow rich
Say the bells of Shoreditch

When will that be?
Say the bells of Stepney

I do not know
Say the great bells of Bow

Thus the words of the nursery rhyme as now known – though the original version differed somewhat.

Why does the nursery rhyme come to mind?

Because a man owes me money for my lemon crop.

He is the father in law of the young man who featured in the Negotiable Cow. Having fallen on hard times when ill he needed credit to restart his fruit and veg business and asked if he could pick our crop and pay us when it was sold in the farmers’ markets in which he trades.

I gather he asked others whom he knew to come to a similar arrangement…for yucca, for pineapple, plantains, oranges…..all he needed for his business, and people obliged. He was well liked and people trusted him.

He also asked his wife’s family to finance building the house for his daughter, on the finca across the road from us. Needless to say the house – or prefabricated shack – was built exactly opposite our gates which did not delight me. I don’t mind shacks in principle, but could do without one surrounded by rubbish right under my nose.

Well, as you can imagine, we were not paid for the lemons….not the end of the world, but the last favour we would do him. Had he paid even a quarter, that would have been fine – it is a struggle to get going again from zero – but no payment at all was another matter.

At the same time he asked Danilo to lend him his small lorry to go to market….and when Danilo next went to the petrol station he found that the owner expected him to pay for the other man’s fill up…he had said he was doing Danilo a favour by taking the lorry up there and as the owner knew it was Danilo’s lorry and knew the chap was a friend of Danilo he thought nothing of it.

This is a trusting community. Danilo can use Leo’s bank card anywhere in the town without ID as people know he works for us and knew that, until Leo had his electric scooter, he could not get into the shops himself.

In the meantime, the daughter continued her financially disastrous cattle business with the proceeds from the market business, while those who had helped her father went unpaid. Small debts individually, but a week or so ago we gathered that things had escalated.

The young man came to see us one night to ask for help. He had, he said, contracted a debt of six hundred thousand colones – some eight hundred quid – and the matter was pressing. He had to pay it or there would be consequences.

Dire consequences.

Remembering the negotiable cow, we suspected that this was yet another invention of the daughter….after all no one in their right mind would lend the young man the drippings from their nose given his financial situation. Effectively a slave on the property, he was obliged to pay for his clothes and food from the amount he was paid for part time work in the local pig farm.

We declined to assist and he took his leave.

Then, over the weekend, we had visitors. Men on foot, men on motorbikes, men in large cars, men in trucks, men looking for the father…the wife…the daughter. No one looking for the young man.

Why had they come to us?

Because the father had given our address as being his.

Remember in Costa Rica, especially in the country, addresses are somewhat fluid…we, for official purposes, are two kilometres north east of a corner shop which no longer exists. As is the finca opposite, occupied by the daughter.

Clearly father had had dealings with more than his usual suppliers, who knew where he lived, in the town centre. From the conversations with the visiting gentlemen it appeared that he had asked for short term loans, for sums not large enough to make anyone want to impose a mortgage, showing our property as evidence of solvency!

We indicated that the daughter lived opposite, but no amount of hooting and hollering raised any sign of life so we directed them to the father’s house in the centre.

I rather liked the enterprising gentleman who enquired hopefully if we would like to take out a loan…very good conditions…..a rate of only three per cent per month!

We politely declined his offer, and he took the refusal in good part, becoming confidential.

No he didn’t think we would want a loan but as he was there it was worth a chance…and if we ever changed our minds….but whatever we did, not to take out loans with the Colombians!


Yes…they advertise unsecured loans in notices on lamp posts….don’t touch them! They charge daily interest…and come round to collect it.

And if you can’t pay, what happens? It’s like your situation…you gave a loan without security.

Well, if you can’t pay the Colombians you’ll risk being beaten up and that’s just for a start….so you’ll find the money somehow.

But what will you do to get your money back?

Simple. Sell the debt to the Colombians.

We started with the best known words of ‘oranges and lemons’…but the rhyme has a coda used when the song is used for a playground game….one all too appropriate.

‘Here comes a candle to light you to bed

And here comes a chopper to chop off your head’.


27 thoughts on “Oranges and Lemons…”

    1. I am so exasperated by the new neighbours that I am past caring. They ill treat their animals, light fires using toxic materials, and, it now turns out, did not have planning permission to build th house! The local development committee is on their case…which might be just as well for them if they disappear before the Colombians come after them!

  1. I love the idea of selling the debt to the Colombians!
    He is obviously used to this. A bit worrying as they may also be visiting shortly.
    A trusting community, ‘Give not surety to a stranger’ comes to mind.
    However the shack opposite might disappear, that is good news.
    I hope they don’t use Colombian debt collectors here…

    1. I wonder if one could sell the debt the Tories ran up to the Colombians…I wouldn;t mind seeing them hot on the heels of Osbourne and Hammond….the former is held to have a more than nodding acquaintance with things Colombian as it is.
      Because it is a small community there is trust…but a reputation can be lost very quickly.

    1. There is crime in Costa Rica, as in any other country….as a tourist you are unlikely to encounter it unless you flash a wallet of notes about in dodgy bars.
      As to us…you know the saying…no good deed goes unpunished.

        1. I think he has got in over his head by continuing to finance his blasted daughter in her cattle dealing and has become desperate. Probably safer to show people our place than some others in the area…we are unlikely to drop in on him wielding a machete.
          All property is in the name of his wife, so cannot be touched to pay his debts but she might be wiser to take out a mortgage to pay off the current debts – and make sure he keeps up the payments.

  2. Ah, the sales of debt to a heavier collector…it’s a very old trick.
    rather like the idea of selling the Tories’ debt to the Colombian heavies!
    By the way, the word Tory comes from an old Irish word for “robber.”

  3. As your tale unfolded, I said to myself, “Self, when will we hear about the (cough) Debt Collection Agency personnel?” Sure enough, they arrived and they sounded somewhat reasonable, unlike the story related to me in a dive bar in Northern Thailand. I had asked if the thugs seriously hurt the guy who was behind in his payments. I was told, “Don’t be naive, if we hurt him badly, who would get work and pay off the debt?” He went on. “No, we start with the wife or father and move along, maybe even the kids. At that point they always find a way to pay the debt.” Yikes!

  4. The young man is not as dumb as it appears at first sight. ‘Borrow’ produce and money in small quantities from a lot of people and you’ll soon get a reasonable ‘stock’ together to trade; as none of the lenders is overly taxed they cannot be tempted to set the Colombians on him, surely? Unless he gets too cheeky he should therefore be safe for a while yet. Once it becomes a family business involving in- and outlaws it might get a touch hairy.

    I loved the song, I have never heard this versions before.

    1. I too loved the song and was delighted to find it on Youtube as I hadn’t heard that version for years.
      The young man is put up to it by the daughter…the borrower is her father who did, indeed, get away with it while he ‘borrowed’ stock. It seems that he has been seeking loans of money, though – small enough not to be worth registering a mortgage but large enough to be missed by the lenders…he has been borrowing from Peter to pay Paul and the Peters are now outnumbering the Pauls. If they can’t shake it out of him they may combine and give it over to the Colombians.
      I hope you are beginning to settle again after the loss of Millie.

  5. ‘Borrow a little’ sounds a big like the credit card thieves who test the waters by using it for littlie purcheses
    I’m just glad I live in the boring leafy green eastern suburbs – although there was that time of the police raid on the house next door to us when we lived in Adelaide. Use of weed for personal use was ok’d- not growing it in big pots in your back garden tho’ 😊

    1. I’ve always thought that the countryside is a hotbed of crime…not as dramatic as in the cities…but there all the same.
      I think he genuinely tried to start out again…but his wretched daughter diverted the money intio her cattle business.

  6. Goodness, what a tangled web of debt and lies and deceit. A good thing you’re worldly-wise enough not to get too embroiled in it all (except for the lemon crop). It’s a shame when someone takes advantage of a trusting community and rips them off at every opportunity.

    1. The lemon crop is no great loss…they don’t sell for much, except the sweet lemons which people use medicinally…and we only have one tree of them.
      In the relatively short time we have been here we have seen the growing disintegration of what had been a fairly stable society locally…
      This chap has been led astray by trying to bolster up his daughter’s failed cattle business and the original sympathy for him in trying to get on his feet again after an illness has turned to contempt as he has been ripping off suppliers who aren;t well off themselves.

  7. I forgot to say before that I would love to have attended that Gresham College lecture. It reminded me (again) to look up Gresham College lectures and actually go to one- they sound wonderful but I never have attended. I have some excuse at present for not doing much outside the house…. but it is certainly not one which has applied for years so far…

    1. I used to when working in the Great Wen…London had and has so many possibilities and so many meetings held in wonderful buildings that it is almost worth feigning an interest in something awful to gain access!
      I am sorry you are under the weather,,,,I am likewise at the moment which is restricting life somewhat…and isnlt that always the time that you discover something you wish to go to!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s