A Child Could Do It

But I can’t.

Not just computer repairs…..supposedly simple things like downloading Whatsapp and making it work, or anything, really when the instructions seem to bear no relation to the reality before me.

I am convinced that to conquer these new worlds you need to have the mind of a child….together with its limited vocabulary and lack of experience of the life in general.

And now I discover that you have to have the physique of a child!

To be fair, this was an ATM, not a computer, but it is all part of the system of infantilism.

Drawing money from an ATM in Costa Rica can be an experience in itself. Mastercard or Visa may declare on their location sites that you can withdraw funds from your foreign accounts on nomatter what machine….can you hell…..

Some Costa Rican banks’ ATMs will take the cards…some will not. Some have rediculously small limits on withdrawals and disproportionatly large commision fees…others claim to have the sky as the limit…but their pie never reaches the sky in your lifetime.

Normally, they just run out of money. Especially on a Friday when the paterfamilias, having had his salary paid into his account, brings the family in from the backwoods to do the shopping for the week. Enters card and all the details..no money. Then ensues a scramble round all the ATMs to find one which will

A accept his card and

B has not already been emptied by other paterfamiliae.

But no need to despair! If all else fails local stores will take his card and cough up money over and above the price of his purchases…as long as his card comes from a Costa Rican state bank, of which there are three. Otherwise, you can sling your hook. After a spectacular private bank failure in the last century businesses will have nothing to do with non state banks…and that includes your foreign abomination.

We have private and business accounts with one of the state three…having changed from another of the state three when our local branch tried to stuff us on currency exchange. We kicked up at their head office and the exasperated lady who dealt with our problem said ‘always the same with these indians… think they can get away with anything’. Not very PC, but Costa Rica in that era was anything but PC and we were out in the sticks with a branch which recruited indigenous staff. Xenophobia is strong in Costa Rica to this day and indigenous bank staff – aka ‘indians’ – are well in the vanguard when it comes to reverse discrimination.

We had found an ATM locally which would cough up which was fine as we could rely on withdrawing money when we did the weekly shop….until it was decided to move it to another area of the supermarket…at which point it was out of action for over a week.

Finally it was installed…but it was not the same style of machine. It lacked all the usual buttons to press….and under the screen there was a handwritten note which said ‘read the instructions’

The note itself was at waist height and the instructions were below, so I had to crouch down to read them. Well, as it turned out, reading was not what was required……..they were all in pictogram form, but even my young days haunting the British Museum did not allow me to work out what they meant.

Could Danilo make head or tail of them?

No, he could not.

We sent for the manager who, equally puzzled, sent for one of the checkout packers, aged about sixteen.

The young man took the card, fiddled about a bit and we had our money.

Was the machine causing problems generally, I asked the manager.

Well, yes…thus the notice, but it is mostly older people who have problems…you see a lot of them can’t bend and all of them expect instructions to be in writing.

So why would the bank design an ATM like this one?

A shrug…..probably dreamed up by one of their young IT people…they’re all illiterate. Still, if you have problems again, don’t hesitate, call one of the packers. Most of them don’t seem to be able to read…but they can work the machine all right.

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The End of a Relationship

Dido and Aeneas it is not…no one is sailing off to pastures new, no one is committing suicide.

One party is disgruntled…the other, on reflection, decidedly gruntled. The gruntled party is me.

You know how it goes…one party makes incessant demands…the other slowly and inexorably resents same…tension builds, yet it was a mutally beneficial relationship while it lasted..but has finally ended through the intervention of a third party, as these things so often do.

Those kind enough to follow these ramblings may remember the case of the negotiable cow some years ago, when the young man who lives with a lady whose father had rented our finca tried to stiff us for one thousand dollars in claiming that a cow of great value had suffered injury thanks to our negligence in maintaining the finca..the which maintenance, according to the contract, was down to those renting the finca.

The young couple have since moved into the finca in front of our gates, turning a beautiful green space into a diddicoy encampment. Animals cannot graze so are banged up in roughly built sheds, reliant on supplies of inadequate fodder

They seem to have overcome the problem of major debts…I believe the father sold another finca to keep the Colombian wolves from the door….but still live from hand to mouth…our hand to their mouth if they can manage it.

Since I have become more limited in what I can achieve, the offer from the young man to cover Sundays – letting the sheep out in the morning and shutting them up at night – was very welcome.

But very soon he started coming to the house, at all hours, asking to buy loo rolls, coffee, sugar – as if we were a shop – though for which, to be fair, he would pay on the nail. Leo, more patient than I am, went along with this, reminding me that the young man was not very bright and that he depended on the family.

In which case, since he worked like a dog for them why were they not supplying him with loo rolls, coffee and sugar?

Still he looked after the sheep well, so I let sleeping dogs lie and the loo rolls roll.

And then the old Adam reasserted himself…or, in this case, the old Eve.

Reckoning that while we would not lend her the drippings from our collective noses she thought she could make a flank attack, using the young man.

First it was that he was trying to build an independent enterprise, buying in chickens….

All he needed was the equivalent of one hundred pounds and it would make him free of the family…

No, it would not, said Leo, while he was keeping the birds on their finca….

Then he needed to pay off the hire purchase of a commercial freezer…..a loan of six hundred pounds to be paid off over six months – without interest because he could not afford that.

Leo doubted strongly that any commercial enterprise would agree hire purchase terms with a young man without an I.D. document – don’t ask – let alone paid employment….

Then Eve upped the stakes. The young man had a hernia…soon he would not be able to work. Not only had he no I.D. Document but he had no National Insurance coverage…so no treatment from the CAJA – the national health service.

He needed one hundred pounds for a private consultation.

Leo responded that he coukd have a free consultation as the family were members of the local co operative.

He is not family.

He had been for a private consultation…the op would cost four thousand five hundred pounds.

Leo…pull the other one it has bells on…bring me the estimate from the doctor.

No estimate and Eve drew in her horns…….slightly.

Three hundred pounds to buy avocados to sell door to door…

They would go off before you had had then two days…

The young man was pissing blood…needed a private consultation.

No he did not. The CAJA would treat him as an emergency and track down who should be paying his contributions.

He was not pissing blood.

We would be denounced for not paying his natiomal security for the Sundays.

Just try it!

In that case, said Eve, he cannot help you any more.

Fine.

A neighbour has stepped in to help on Sundays and it is working well.

The young man wants his job back.

Agreed he is good with the sheep….but if he blows hot and cold at the bidding of Eve then he is no good to me.

So, no chance.

End of relationship…end of loo rolls.

You Might As Well Shit In Your Hat

No photograph would do justice to that phrase, so I will do without for fear of scandalising the congregation.

It was a statement in frequent use by my grandmother’s neighbour… a lady of firm opinions, baldly stated. I would dearly like to have her resurrected in this era of trigger warnings, PCism and all that…Saul might have slain his thousands, but she would have slain her ten thousands, snowflakes melting to left and right of her. Suffice it to say that she enjoyed the Black and White Minstrel Show on the television, went to church on Sundays and regarded all foreigners with suspicion. Rumour had it that in her younger days during the Great War she had denounced a Belgian for espionage on the grounds that he wore a wig, proving that he was a master of disguise.

She was also involved in the forced resignation of my grandfather from his post as an ARP warden in the Second World War when he crept up on her gossiping and waved his gas rattle at her. The fact that he was supposed to be a messenger during an exercise which supposed a German bombing raid in the area which resulted in, hypothetically, the gasworks being blown up together with the trolley bus depot and the hospital because he had dallied in the Rose and Crown might also have had something to do with it…but as far as he was concerned, it was the neighbour wot done it.

As children, my grandmother used to usher us indoors when an encounter with her neighbour was likely to sully our ears, but she had a carrying voice and we, straining our ears for more, were agog.

The problem was, one could not seek enlightenment….one would be accused of eavesdropping…so to this day the phrase, ‘There she stood, tits akimbo’ remains an enigma.

I can remember receiving a horrified dressing down by my mother when I saw a woman walking down the road outside and asked whom that tart might be, as she had been so apostrophised by the neighbour. I had been puzzled as to me, in the age of innocence, a tart was something to eat, made of pastry and fruit, so I vaguely thought the woman must be involved in the bakery business. I was enjoined never to use the phrase of any woman but retained an idea that women who ate fruit tarts were of ill repute but that attention should not be drawn to that fact.

Which sounds very like the respect accorded to the current generation of politicians. We know they are venal lowlife, but attention should not be drawn to that fact…because if you do you are either wearing a tinfoil hat, are a domestic terrorist or a pathetic lunatic…so, as she so often said, you can kick up all you want, but you might as well shit in your hat.