A Hole in the Ground

Our little town has its very own hole in the ground….a hole which has appeared every year since the council granted planning permission for a housing development which involved draining the lagoon which served the higher ground above, where a road runs from the town to the coast.

Without fail, the rains come, the drains don’t drain and the road collapses, leaving producers on the coastal side of the road without means to get their cattle and veg to market as the alternative road is too dangerous to be used by anything other than a normal car.

And every year the state roadworks department appoints the same contractors to patch things up…eventually. Just in time for the next rainy season at which point the road collapses again.

But this year, things changed. The locals and the producers got together under the leadership of Don Kiki, clubbed together and remade the road entirely, sorting out a new system of drainage to avoid future collapses. Producers could get to market, buses could serve the communities along the road…road users were asked for a contribution to the costs……everyone was happy.

Except, of course, the council.

Don Kiki was solemnly warned that any accidents would lay at his door….. he was threatened with legal action… I don’t know if he smiled at that threat but I did as the council’s tame lawyer is about as effective as a chcolate tea pot and costs the rate payers a fortune in lost cases. But given to whom he is related, the council is happy to contribute to his lifestyle.

Under unacustomed pressure, the council sought to shift the blame for inaction onto the state roadworks department. Not surprisingly, given their lawyer, they lost. The constitutional court declared that yes…the roadwork bods should do something, but not before the council sorted out the drainage.

Collapse of stout party. The council, despite holding fiestas for its employees when social gatherings are strang verboten thanks to the virus and increasing said employees’ salaries in a time of austerity, has no money to sort out the drainage problem.

And this is normally where things would have rested….a legal obligation to do something negated by a previous condition while the road collapses yet again

However, this year, there is another factor to be taken into consideration.

Finally, a statewide corrupt connivance between the roadworks department and major contractors has come to light….so grave that the courts have been forced to put major actors in the contracting firms in preventive detention, rather than letting then swan about as they please or take off in their private jets.

Work deliberately done badly, to ensure a contract in the next year…inferior material used….and, of course, small, decent firms cut out of the contracting round.

The roadworks department felt that it must flex its muscles and be seen to be doing something. Its workmen put ‘road closed’ notices on each side of the new road.

Locals removed the notices.

A council employee denounced one of those doing the removal of notices.

The roadworks departmemt announced that it had to close the road as it did not meet the norms…and that it was going to install a Bailey bridge to solve the problem On the subject of when, the department remained tight lipped.

Contributors to social media were quick to point out that when it comes to dangerous bridges the roadworks department is content to put up notices to that effect…but neither closes nor repairs them.

Locals called for a show of solidarity, which was well supported, and a demand for approbation of Don Kiki’s action, supported by the Ombudsman, has been delivered to the council.

This month marks the bicentenary of liberation from Spanish rule….and locally, an attempt at liberation from old Spanish practices.

We Are Not Amused

Queen Victoria may not have said it, but I certainly did on learning that the last Test Match of the India/England series had been called off at the last minute, while those who had bought tickets for the first day were still traveling to the ground. I expect that Lancashire County Cricket Club were not amused either. Hosting a Test Match is an expensive business -, preparation money lost, on top of having to refund ticket holders.

Still, I concentrate on my own displeasure. The last match of a see saw series…the last Test match probably until next summer, unless Australia does something about its damn fool quarantine policies…and I had prepared for five days of hedonism.

Meals, both human and canine, had been planned for speed of execution….wok and slow cooker featuring largely. Wild suggestions as to making puff pastry for tarte tatin treated with contumely. Outer gate locked to repel boarders, the telephone to be off the hook until lunchtime here – end of play in Manchester – and no appointments booked before afternoon.

All set…and then the blasted Indians refused to play……. the virus, of course….

Or was it? The whole team had been out on the town in London to celebrate the opening of an Indian owned hotel chain’s latest acquisition and the head coach and a few other back up staff tested positive. None of the players.

An assistant physio later tested positive. None of the players.

Yet at midnight before the first day of the Manchester Test the players told their ruling body that they would not be willing to play, for if they caught the bug they would have to quarantine in Manchester and thus would not be available for the big money spinner for their board….the India Premer League, sbout to start shortly. The fact that the same players had partcipated in the earlier rounds when India was undergoing the ravages of the virus, before stands packed with fans with no protection whatsoever did not seem to weigh with them.

So sod the cricket lovers who wanted to see them…sod the arrangements already made…they were off.

Hell and damnation! All the things I had pushed aside reared their heads… tarte tatin….making sausages….pistolei….talking to the local association about making up the road….appealing a parking fine – .paradise lost.

But in a way, paradise regained. As I was readjusting my sights, I received an e mail from friends who used to visit us every summer when we lived in France. They braved the rigours of the last house we had in France when we had just taken it over….and made that summer special for us.

The kids took our little boat on the river at the foot of the gardens, the friends cooked a barbeque, we sat out in the late evening while Tim outplayed Owen Glendower…who boasted that he could call spirits from the vasty deep. Tim could do better…he could call owls.

We spent a magic hour while he called, and gradually indignant owls replied to his challenges, first one, and then others, until the woods on the river bank resounded with their eery cries. Sitting out there, in the dusk, as the bats whirled out of the eves, was the most magical evening I have known.

And to top it all they sent over a photograph from that year….which epitomises for me our happiness.

A new venture…everything before us…together.

Thank you, Tim and family.

Scenes From Rural Life

Last week, as we were having lunch, there was an explosion and the power went out.

Six hours later, service was resumed. It appears that the transformer up the road had gone tits up.

A few days later, another explosion…and no power. But this time the electricity board’s technicians knew where to look, so we had power again in three hours.

The young man across the road explained proudly that the outages had been caused by branches from a tree on their finca becoming entangled in the cables, bringing two of which together thus causing the transformer to tranform no more.

Why did he not cut the offending branch after the first outage?

He could not. His inamorata had sold his chainsaw to pay something to the Colombian exortion racket to whom she was in debt….the chainsaw was worth about fifty quid…she had reduced her debt by only fifteen….

Leo suggested to him that when the Colombians returned for the rest of the debt she allowed them to take her son hostage, which would rid the area of a very unpleasant youngster. Preferably permanently. He brightened at the idea, but thought she would not come up for it.

If ever there was a type to be removed from society, preferably with finger joints removed one by one, it is this teenager.

We stopped him from hanging little Zuniga…we made a complaint, but nothing happened…grandad has a lot of friends…

In the meantime our car had to go for the RITEVE…the annual roadworthiness test, ….which is becoming stricter by the year. No longer can you change your tyres with the men with a van who lurk in the parking area of the test site….

It failed on two points. The back passenger door did not open. It does, but you need to know how. And emissions.

The Japanese tin box is as old as the hills, but perfect for where we live and what we do …….so, action this day!

Alvarado sorted the door, and Minor Retana up in the town sorted the emissions…that is to say he limited the amount of diesel getting to the engine, so you had to crawl up hills and could not take a steep gradient, but the emisssions would be reduced accordingly.

RITEVE passed, and off to Minor to put the motor back to itself.

Now, before the greens start kicking up, we do not belch black smoke when on the road unlike those public service vehicles who seem to pass the RITEVE painlessly…..possibly plata vincit omnia.

The Men went to investigate the progress of the television repair with the Twins.

No it was not ready…the supplier had sent the wrong card twice….

I only learned this after the return of the Men when Danilo started by sweeping the microwave onto the trolley.

He then went out to the car and staggered in under the biggest microwave I had ever seen. A stainless steel monster from a Sci-fi film….incubating humanoids…..

The egg trays, the toaster and the coffee machine joined the microwave.

I opened the door, and found rust in the hinge.

It is secondhand, said Leo, I saw it at the Twins when we went to enquire about the television repair and thought it would be useful.

It heats water, said Danilo.

I was despatched for a potato for demonstration purposes and on the vast turntable it looked like a pimple on a round of beef.

Door closed, Danilo at the controls.

Nothing happened, except that a message shot across the screen at the top of the control panel…’door closed’. Otiose, or designed for those who do not believe the evidence of their own eyes.

Danilo pressed something invisible to me, not, given the strange titles on the control panel, that vision would have helped.

Nothing.

The Men moved to consultation mode.

I left them to it and tried to find an instruction manual on the net…in the background, noises off of the nature of

‘well it worked when he did it’

‘but what did he press?’

‘something down here…’

‘oh look, the message has changed..’

I finally tracked down the model and the mystery was explained….the whole control panel was touch sensitive, and the ‘buttons’ on the lower part of the brute had been rubbed off over the years, so if any dab at it worked it would be at hazard…you would have to mark the dab if something worked.Turning to the mad scientists to explain my findings I found them replacing the potato with a bowl of water.

Catching my expression Danilo said ‘Well, it heated water…..’

The Thing was returned to the Twins with contumely, and I now have to test all the eggs before use as I have no idea which tray is which.

TheNeighbour has been up to mischief again…but even though he did not succeed I am too angry to write about it. As yet.