Begone Dull Care, Forever Be Gone From Me

This song came back to me as we sit out the progress of the bug that governments have allowed to paralyse the world. It came from the song book we used in junior school, containing all sorts of stuff which is now probably banned on the grounds of – pick and mix at your pleasure – race, gender, imperialism, disability, cultural appropriation and having a tune.

We have been at home, have had limited contact with people, have not gone out much, the height of wild excitement being a trip to the wholesale fish market – plenty of fresh, if fishy, air and wide open spaces.

Have we been bored? Are we driving each other up the wall?

As it happens, no.

Given Leo’s illnesses we are used to shutting ourselves away whenever there is a ‘flu outbreak so doing so now has not been traumatic and life has carried on much as usual. All we did was to buy another freezer to stock up on food for the dogs, even though we have had to refill it a number of times since all this started. Fifty kilos of chicken carcasses and the same of offcuts does not go far between ten dogs…nine of our own and Danilo’s dog who uses us as an hotel since she is an old lady and does not like walking home in the rain. Even the refills have been easy….we ring up the day before, fix a collection time and the chap meets us on the pavement to exchange carcasses for money. No need to go into the shop. I go to the feria each week for veg…almost open air and well regulated…and that is about it.

The downside is that regular hospital procedures have been ditched so my cataract op has been postponed – probably until the Greek calends – which has proved to be a real pain in the proverbial and promises to be more so when the summer sets in in about a month’s time…a hat and dark glasses do nothing for my comfort, let alone my appearance. Think the Mafia crossed with Jemima Puddle-duck.

Mark you, having a garden makes a difference. In the morning we can have breakfast on the porch on the sunrise side of the house……but you have to make haste as there is a pecking order as the sun rises in the sky. It does not do to keep their lordships waiting…

We like the plants…they like a warm table top

Here is a close up of one of the gingers…the emperor’s staff

And if we had had any sense we would have transferred this to the breakfast area too…

By the way, can anyone spot the fine example of Costa Rican carpentry work in the top photograph?

But life is not all isolation, books and the internet….the gossip still reaches us – by e mail, by ‘phone and by long distance shouting.

The Neighbour, he of the crisp white hat with a curly brim, has surfaced again after a long period of recovery from his five day marriage. He had not been seen in his usual watering holes even before the bug hit the country, but it appears that he has not been idle.

Having failed to interest the local car mechanic’s wife in a brief encounter for fifty thousand colones he found it best not to get out of the car on the approach road to his lane – the mechanic having cousins living the length of said road – so had to spread his net wider. As far as the next little town, in fact, to attract the mother of our local Transito policeman – public enemy number one of all those without the appropriate licence, papers or plates for their vehicle. Of which there are many.

There are advantages on both sides…she is lonely as people avoid her because of her son’s reputation, and he is persona non grata in more places then there are personae…

I knew no more than this until Saturday afternoon. The sheep were kicking up long before feeding time and as I changed into my outdoor shoes to go down to investigate someone was klaxoning at the gate.

it is quite a trek…not helped by uncooperative knees which do not care for downward slopes..this photograph is taken at about the halfway point between house and gate.

A figure in black and white waited at the gate on his motorbike…theTransito.

What the blazes did he want?

After the ritual polite exchanges he came to the point.

Did I or anyone in my household, have a motorbike?

No….only electric wheelchairs.

They are not involved, senora.

Did I have friends with motorbikes?

No…not to my knowledge.

Then why has someone on a motorbike entered your property?

I have no idea…..did you see them do so?

No, but where else can it have gone?

I pointed to the assembly of shacks over the road where my neighbours carry out their nefarious activities. Fat chance of them letting anyone in…

What about there?

Could I check that it is not on your property first?

In case the rider is going to rob me?

No, I have no jurisdiction there…that would be a matter for the investigative branch.

In which case, senor, no.

Grumpily he heaved his bike over the road and I went in to see what was up with the sheep, to find that I had an extra member of the flock….a young man who had pushed his motorbike behind the trailer full of sugar cane destined for the sheep’s afternoon tea and was tucked up in a corner away from the road.

I knew him by sight…he works at the property at the end of the valley whose owner harbours dreams of opening a tourist attraction complete with massage parlours and tarts, dreams which are on hold as the bug has decimated the tourist industry…even that sort of tourist industry.

His bike, of course, had no number plates and propably neither he nor it had the appropriate papers.

He apologised for scaring the sheep and said he had to escape the Transito as he could not afford to put things in order on his pay and needed the bike to get to work.

But what is he doing down here?

Memo and the woman sit on their balcony with binoculars…they can see both roads from there and they call the son if one of us moves. Luckily he can’t always come…..

The police motorbike started up and pulled away.

Now he’ll wait at the bridge and get one of his mates to wait at the top of the back road….

Then you’d better leave the bike here – you can lock it to the trailer – and go home on foot. Better a long walk than having the bike confiscated. Pick it up on Monday.

The which he did. The traffic policeman had indeed been waiting for him as he had predicted.

Now, I know that the regulations help to keep unroadworthy vehicles out of circulation and I know too that the gangs of kids on souped up bikes render some neighbourhoods unbearable in the evenings…but in these times of economic hardship I think the government would do better to lower the fees for papers and plates and expand driving test programmes rather then coming down hard on those who need the transport to get to work.

I wonder if The Neighbour and his inamorata are on commission….

We Do It Our Way

Tour de France riders, eat your heart out. Forget the water bottles and snacks handed out from the cars, do it the Costa Rican way…find a passing cow and help yourself! You need to know what you’re doing though, or you might risk a hefty hoof in your derailleurs which would leave you looking more jaundiced than your jersey – but at least you can be sure you’ll pass a dope test.

Not that Andrey Amador, the only Costa Rican riding in the Tour de France, will be looking for a handy cow.

A long serving Grand Tour ‘domestique’ he is riding for Team Ineos this year and Costa Rica will be keeping an eye on his prowess – something to keep minds off the blasted bug which has hit the country.

In which respect, the wheels have fallen off the campaign to contain it.

All went well in the early days. Existing hospitals were reorganised, a special hospital set up and the populace told to keep themselves to themselves to protect the vulnerable. Those presenting with symptoms were treated with the hydrochloriquine and zinc cocktail which produced excellent results save in the case of those with grave pre existing health problems. Then the WHO banned that treatment, so the hospitals turned to the use of dexametasone and steroids (anti inflamatories), oxygen therapy – including EMCO which is an extracorporean oxygenation machine – interleukin inhibitor and antibiotics -when the patient is reinfected by other pathogens. Not so effective…..but funding depends on WHO approval.

It also depends, it appears, on the numbers of cases reported.

Initially, when the cases began to spike, it was put down to the number of Nicaraguan ‘informal’ workers coming down for the fruit plantations’ picking and packing campaign. The Nicaraguan government deny there is a problem with the bug – even hold fiestas at which attendance is strongly recommended should you wish to keep in good odour with said government – and encourage their nationals to seek care in Costa Rica. Care which Costa Rica will provide nomatter the status of the person seeking it

No doubt the influx is a factor. Imagine a couple of infected people arriving and living in the squalid, hugger mugger conditions provided…or who go to visit family living in Costa Rica…

But the numbers have jumped…have high jumped….and anecdotal evidence is that when one person is tested positive, all those in their household are counted as positive also….inflate the numbers and increase the funding.

We had had confidence in our health service…and their management of the situation.

We still have confidence in the dedication of the medical staff – even if they cannot use the most effective tools.

We no longer have any confidence in the way in which government and the management of the health service are handling things.

Contracts for masks which are useless handed out to some tart running a communications business….numbers inflated to drum up funding…which ends up in whose pocket?

Good treatment banned, leaving staff to do their best with what they have….

Government ministers giving their statements all masked up…then being filmed mask free in close bikinied company on a yacht off the Pacific coast….or tucked up in de luxe hotels on the beach – mask free, of course.

Vehicle restrictions which all would accept in the cause of reducing infection, but which have turned into a money tree as traffic police impose fines for all and any infraction, hitting hardest, not the fly by nights, but the hard up guy who depends on his unlicensed motorbike to get to work to feed his family. Why it does not dawn on government that the high price of getting a licence, and for keeping a vehicle on the road hit the most needy hardest is beyond me…but Costa Rica prides itself on being eco friendly, so the poor continue to pay while the country flaunts its green credentials.

And now, having been so slow to close the borders, we are to allow tourists back in. To be fair, as a tourist, you stand little risk, unless you decide to visit the shanty towns around San Jose, the shacks housing the workers in the banana and pineapple plantations or the hospitals, but the risk to the local population of allowing tourists to enter with minimal restrictions is something else…just so that the largely foreign owned tourist trade can recoup its losses.

Tourism counts for only some eight per cent of GDP…but it has clout…and doubtless the transfer of funds from one pocket to another.

And in our little town, the reported case of one of the employees at the Walmart outlet has been made much of….whereas the absence from service of staff at the locally owned supermarket has been passed over in silence…

This virus has been presented as equivalent to the Black Death, which is nonsense. We have the means to combat it if not to utterly defeat it.

But perhaps the consequences mght be similar…..either people submit to the ukazes of their increasingly detached governments, or they strike out to free themselves of unjust restrictions in search of a better life for themselves and their families.

I fear that it will be the former…I would hope it would be the latter.

In my short time here I have seen the changes…worried about the future for my friends’ kids and grandchildren…it was an oligarchal society, but one which recognised that social justice reinforced its rule.

This virus has ripped up the underbelly of that society….but will people submit…or react?

Costa Rica was never a paradise…but it was socially stable….will our friends’ grandchildren find that they didn’t know what they had until it was gone?

And will this virus be the catalyst?