Farewell to Southampton

And in keeping with the character of that city it was both low key and somewhat alternative.

Thanks to flight times and the pretence of security which in effect traps you in airports for sufficient time to be tempted to buy the overpriced rubbish on sale airside I am used to leaving Southampton in the early hours, keeping lonely guard over my piles of luggage by the bay into which I hope that the coach for the airport will arrive. I think one can judge the nature of a coach driver by his choice of bay…those who pull in where there is a queue and those who do not.

This time, though, I was not alone. A friend had accompanied me to the bus station, our journey enlivened by a sighting of her husband returning from the casino somewhat the worse for wear as he crossed the river by the Itchen Bridge using both hands on the parapet to propel him homeward like a crab seeking the safety of its rock.

Neither were we alone. As we trundled the suitcases to the waiting area a figure emerged from the shadows. Woolly hat a la Compo, jowly beard, puffer jacket and sock lined wellies, with a bag resembling grandmother’s knitting bag writ large, he addressed us.

Would the Pullman arrive?

Supposing that he meant the National Express coach we reassured him that it would.

But there are no signs!

No…the bus station offices are closed…you look at the timetable and it will tell you when the coach arrives.

Please? I am Italian. I do not understand. I am student at university. I am going home. I need the Pullman to come or I miss my flight.

Both wondering how he would benefit from a course at a British university if he had limited English we assured him that the Pullman would indeed arrive. Just look at the queue which was gathering!

How they know? There are no signs….

The coach – or Pullman – arrived and pulled into our bay….one up for the driver.

Our Italian friend was the first in the queue as we marshalled my luggage, assisted by a couple of students going home for the Easter holiday.

He faced the driver.

Gatwick Sud?

Ticket?

Gatwick Sud?

I tried in Spanish. I have no idea what ticket is in Italian but he seemed to get the idea, produced the e mail on his phone and was allowed to board.

Once underway all went well except that at every stop he would rise and enquire

Gatwick Sud?

To which the driver, face ruddy from stress, would reply

No Sir. If you listen I will announce each stop. The bus runs through Fareham, Portsmouth Hard, where we are currently standing, then Chichester, Gatwick North and finally Gatwick South.

At which our passenger announced that he was sorry to be breaking the driver’s balls but was this stop Gatwick Sud?

I had the strong impression that if the driver had not voted to leave the European Union previously he would now be doing so at the earliest opportunity which presented itself.

So…goodbye Southampton.

It being early spring the parks had been alive with flowering trees and swathes of daffodils, while gardens enjoyed from the bus windows showed camellias, their blossoms brown edged by frost, jews mallow flopping against walls and fences, flowering currant with the buds just colouring up over jewelled clumps of primulas, and everywhere a haze of pale green buds against a hard blue spring sky.

A fine last sight to remember.

Over the years I had become fond of the place….village style high streets in the suburbs with proper shops, good public transport, a restaurant where the owner’s Staffie bitch trotted among the customers, old fashioned pubs in the old town and all the glitz of the entertainment and shopping complex at West Quay.

Certainly there had been downsides…more and more people sleeping in shop doorways….. whole blocks of city centre premises torn down to be replaced by blocks of student residences as the two universities pulled in the money from overseas students’ fees…… the deterioration of the Friday market from one with a bit of everything for everyone to huts selling New Age balls and overpriced food.

But there was still a real market down at the pretty village of Hythe, so all was not lost to the forces of destruction.

I shall miss Southampton, but my reason to go there ceased to exist when my mother died in late March…my last visit was thus to attend to her funeral.


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Here’s A How-De-Do

What?

Brexit, of course.

A million people marched through central London today to call for ‘A People’s Vote’ on the question as neither government nor Parliament are coming up with any sensible conclusions on the future of the U.K.’s relationship with the European Union after a referendum in 2016 produced a majority for the former leaving the latter.

This referendum was called to settle few hashes in the leadership struggles inside the Conservative Party. The government spent public money to urge people to Remain and gave further public money to politicians of their own party to persuade people to vote Leave.

It was, of course, a foregone conclusion that Remain would prevail…how could people vote otherwise? Membership of the E.U. was a given, just as that the sun would rise in the morning. The government was playing an internal party game at the expense of the nation….but they knew how the game would end.

Or, as one might say in relation to the giant pistons of the mighty C.P.R., they thought they did.

Yet of those who went to the polling stations, Remain had forty eight percent of the vote and Leave fifty two.

And then began the how-de-do!

The Conservative leader retired from public life in a hurry to be replaced by the home secretary, who had campaigned for Remain but announced that she would be working to leave the E.U. She called an election, where the Conservatives lost their majority and had to depend on the votes of the Democratic Unionist Party….representatives from Northern Ireland who quickly claimed their pound of flesh in terms of advantages for their policies.

The Labour party was in turmoil. Somehow the membership had overcome the power of the members of parliament and elected Jeremy Corbyn as leader, a left winger who called for policies to restore equality in society and who opposed armed intervention abroad. Labour M.P.s mounted coup after coup, but failed to shift him, taking their eye off the Brexit ball completely while they fought for power inside the party.

Not tthat the Conservatives were much better and Leavers and Remainers fought to control the party….leaving the negotiations with the E.U. to a series of ministers who were stabbed in the back by civil servants working to an agenda set by a prime minister determined to keep the U.K. within the sphere of influence of the E.U…..never mind the result of the referendum.

In effect, the country was being led by Humpty Dumpty, who explained the use of language to Alice thus…


“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone. “It means just what I choose it to mean – neither more or less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master – that’s all.”


So Leave meant Remain….and while the political parties contemplated their navels the E.U. and the U.K. prime minister cooked up the deal worse than death.

It provided for a transistion period in which the U.K. would be subject to E.U. law while being unable to participate in making decision making, would continue to pay into the E.U. budget and would be obliged to accept an agreement on the irish border which, if accepted, would cut off Northern Ireland’s trade from that of the U.K. Only then would talks on trade commence.

Man, according to Talleyrand – forerunner of so many modern politicians as being aptly described as shit in a silk stocking – was given the gift of language to conceal his thoughts. By the reaction to the withdrawal agreement, once it emerged from the undergrowth of Brussels, it appeared that the concealment had not been very effective.

The Democratic Unionists, who kept the Conservative government in power, were distinctly unchuffed. No separation from the mainland was to be contemplated….you could almost hear the sound of a piss and vinegar band playing ‘The Sash‘ in the corridors of power.


In passing I must say that it is a marker of the decline of standards in society that even Orange Lodge members no longer wear suits and a bowler when marching….though they keep the white gloves.

The agreement was presented to the House of Commons…and was rejected. Then the Attorney General was sent to Brussels to wiggle the wording….which, while for some reason describing himself as a codpiece, he did, but the wiggle did not seduce the Northern Ireland M.P.s. The wiggled codpiece was in turn rejected.

Enter the Speaker of the House of Commons.

In my time we have had as Speaker people who were, variously, a blackmailed homosexual, a tailor, a chorus girl and an expenses fiddler. They all upheld the traditions of the House, aided by the traditional costume…though the chorus girl and the expenses fiddler refused to wear the wig.

Currently, ‘as any fule kno’, we have Mr. Speaker Bercow, who more closely resembles an ink monitor at St. Custards than the custodian of parliamentary practice, while his procession through the Palace of Westminster could be characterised as’ a rough beast, its hour come at last’, slouching into the Commons to commence business for the day. I can’t call him shit in a silk stocking as he wears a lounge suit and, I trust, socks.

The Speaker’s role is to regulate the business of the House in accordance with the House’s standing orders, though Mr. Speaker Bercow seems to treat Erskine May, the authoritative guide to parliamentary practice, rather in the manner in which Little Jack Horner treated his Christmas pie…

He put in his thumb

And pulled out a plum

And said ‘What a good boy am I’.

He is unpredictable, which doesn’t make for sensible proceedings in the House which, since the government controls most of the time available for debate, makes the task of M.P.s who wish to find more acceptable solutions than that of the current agreement even more difficult.

Remember too that most options open to M.P.s are not binding on the government…and the E.U. negotiates with government, not Parliament.

If, that is, that the E.U. negotiates at all. Its pattern, proven down the years, is to issue a diktat which member states must obey.

Some member states.

Fance can run an unacceptable deficit for years…Ireland could not…nor could Portugal.

Ah, but France is special….the force behind the founding of the E.U. was to prevent further wars between France and Germany…they are the powers which count in the E.U.

Let me tell you…there is no chance of war between France and Germany.

Remember those French highways lined with trees?


The trees have been cut down. The German army can no longer march in the shade. Further…the mayor of Paris has banned diesel vehicles from the city, so no tanks driving down the Champs Elysees.

War…forget it. But France still has preferential treatment.

In dealing with the E.U. you must first recognise that it has no obligation to give up any of its advantages. You must resist any urge to engage with it. You form your own plans, refuse to accept its rulings and face it with a fait accompli. Any other way leads to ruin.

That is, if you genuinely want to leave its embrace.

Clearly, the U.K. government was quite happy to accept the caresses of the E.U. and so went along with whatever it required until meeting the roadblock of the refusal of the House of Commons to accept the agreement.

The prime minister blames Parliament for the lack of prgress with Brexit. The people are urged to blame Parliament too…thus the march through London.

Though not holding their views I am happy to see people motivated enough to travel to central London to express their opinion. My problem comes with the general lack of awareness of the realities of a parliamentary system where the government controls debate…..and with the speakers at the end of the rally.

Self seeking shits in silk stockings….Tom Watson, deputy leader of the Labour Party, ready to mount a coup of his own. Tom Watson, whose willingness to believe in a fantasist’s allegations of child abuse led to at least one innocent man’s life being ruined.

Jess Phillips…. loud mouthed opportunist and opponent of Corbyn.

Here we have two using the movement to further their own ends.

Vince Cable, leader of the Liberal Democrats, whose coalition with the Conservatives enabled draconian measures to be applied to the unemployed and the disabled seeking the support that a civilised society should provide.

Anna Soubry…too extreme for even the Conservatives and now member of a so called independent group of M.P.s which has avoided the need to declare their finances by forming themselves as a company, rather than as a political party. A company…in Parliament….it beats cock fighting.

People who sincerely believe that the U.K. should remain in the E.U. should take a look at the company they keep…the company that is using them.

Brexit is too important an issue to be used for personal advancement. Its resolution will form the future of the country.

I left the U.K. over thirty years ago…I cannot claim that I should be entitled to vote for issues that will affect the future of citizens of the country but I am deeply concerned that people are not being enabled to form a judgement based on fact…are being misinformed…are encouraged to demonise those whose opinions differ…are, in effect suborning the British values of tolerance and compromise.

You Need To Be Fit To Be Ill In Costa Rica

I had set the alarm for four in the morning….Leo had an appointment at San Juan de Dios, the main hospital in San Jose, at six and we needed to be off betimes in order to avoid the traffic jams which render the road to the capital impassable for hours in the morning rush.

I had been optimistic. Long before the alarm went off I had been roused from a deep sleep by something heavy and hairy breathing into my ear while sharp claws raked my head.

Sophie wished to go out and I had forgotten to leave the door open.

The door opened and Sophie released, followed by the other dogs who were now feeling the need to pee after being so rudely awakened I thought there was no point in disturbing Leo by going back to bed so washed and dressed, boiled eggs for the baby chicks’ breakfast and enjoyed a peaceful half hour with a book and a cup of tea. The alarm went off as planned and Leo was ready to roll by the time that Danilo arrived to feed the livestock by torchlight before setting off.

We were lucky with the traffic. The buses were picking up the workers with an early start as we headed for the capital and although we were half an hour early arriving, the streets on the approaches to San Jose were already becoming crowded with cars and commuter buses, their exhaust fumes knocking out the scent of the flowering trees which line those routes.

We had agreed with Danilo that he would drop us at the main doors…the nearest entrance to the department we wanted…and he would then go to a car park from which we could summon him once Leo was released. We rehearsed using his mobile ‘phone and all seemed well. We were organised.

I pushed Leo’s wheelchair into the Preferencial line…eye pads, plaster casts, crutches and wheelchairs…on one side of the entrance, while the mere walking wounded waited in line on the other side. The Preferencial are admitted five minutes earlier than the others to give them an advantage in the Gadarene rush to secure the chairs in the waiting areas before the late comers arrive.

The first roadside fruit seller arrived, paying off the porter who brought his load down from the market, and was soon doing a trade with his offer of eight mandarin oranges for aproximately a quid. Looking up through the branches of the roadside trees, the moon, which we had seen the morning before like a golden orb sinking over the hills into the sea, floated in the dark sky, silvering the clouds she wore as shawls about her chilly shoulders. For Costa Rica it was chilly at ground level too, and many in the queue wore those Peruvian hats with ear flaps making them look somewhat hieritic as they stood immobile in the half light.

The doors were opened and the Preferencial launched their asault. Through the general waiting area under its glass roof and off into the corridors which link the old buildings and gardens of its foundation with the various monstrosities of clinical blocks added over the years.

The department we sought was on the right as we we entered….but it was closed and a noltice announced that it had been temporarily transferred to the pharmacy building.

Fine, except that the pharmacy building was outside the hospital grounds, two blocks away, and Leo was in a wheelchair.

Others were similarly affected, but after a swift discussion it was agreed that the best thing to do was to head off down the low ceilinged corridor that led to the original part of the hospital, turn left past the laundry and out through the gates at the rear of the complex which gave onto a park used by Nicaraguan rough sleepers, then along the road to the next block

It was a spectacle worthy of treatment by Bunuel.

The halt and the lame, with wheelchairs and a flourish of crutches, surged through the hospital and out of the back gates…where we found Danilo. The car park had not yet opened and he had prevailed upon the security guard to let him park opposite the entrance to await our arrival. Just as well…the high speed hirpling through the hospital had exhausted me so Danilo was a godsend as the horde encountered the pavement which had not been repaired since the time it was built and invaded the cycle path alongside…yet another bright idea of the San Jose council to tick the boxes of eco virtue signalling while doing sweet Fanny Adams about the basics.

At the junction traffic stopped to allow us to pass…more from bewilderment than from obedience to traffic lights…and the horde moved on to the pharmacy building…an oversized garage on two levels with offices on its periphery.

Needless to say, our department was on the upper level….accessed by a ramp which needed oxygen, crampons and ice picks to assault. Those on crutches held onto the wheelchairs, rather in the manner of the infantry clinging to the stirrups of the Scots Greys at Waterloo while the helpers doubled up to push them up to the top where all concerned stopped to draw air into their lungs….and grab the seats.

The health service in Costa Rica has more ways than one of making you fit….




Is it 1789 all over again?

When in 1789 Louis XVI, King of France, was obliged to revive the old consultative body of France, the Etats Generaux, which had been in abeyance since 1614, the representatives of the three orders which were held to compose society – clergy, nobility, bourgeoisie – arrived at Versailles with their ‘cahiers de doleances´, which contained the views of those who elected them on how the country should be governed.

The current ‘monarch’ of France, the Eclipse of the Sun King Emmanuel Macron, alarmed by the possibility of his party losing heavily in the forthcoming elections to the parliament of the European Union, has in his turn decided to consult the nation, but, warned by the example of Louis XVI, has decided to do it his way…by having maires and ‘appropriate bodies’ hold meetings in which the populace can express their views and their wishes. They can even write them in books kept open in public buildings for that purpose.

What they can’t do is pop up to Paris to tell him in person.

He doesn’t like that.

Last week the people who are trying to tell him something broke into the building housing his official spokesman – the person trying to tell them something they are fed up with hearing.

He legged it before they could deliver their message.

Macron does not fancy being defenestrated from the windows of the Elysee Palace….and, unlike poor Louis, he doesn’t have the Swiss Guard to protect him. The poor bugger doesn’t even have his security guard extraordinaire behind him any more.

Monsieur Benalla would have come in useful now, with his experience of beating up protesters while dressed as a policeman but, alas, these days he is confined to confidential missions to African dictators bearing not one but two diplomatic passports…passports he said that he left in his desk when he resigned his post at the Elysee.

So Macron has to rely on the real police….where, once again, he has made a faux pas. To encourage the men on the ground to maintain the energy with which they employ tear gas, batons and something called flash ball which is capable of inflciting severe injury he has given them a pay rise.

Unfortunately he forgot the maxim of the French public service…if the man at the bottom of the heap gets a rise, his superiors get one too, to preserve the necessary distance between them.

So the Police Commissaires, Divisionnaires and other panjamdrums did not get a rise and they are not happy bunnies.

Already they have to try to maintain the morale of their forces in the suburbs of the major cities which are effectively no go areas for them. Where a gang can surround a police car and hold the doors firmly shut as they try to burn alive the three occupants, shouting ‘we want roast chicken’ the while.

There might be a knee jerk reaction from central and local government, but the no go areas remain no go for all that and the police are hung out to dry by local and national politicians if they attempt to maintain order.

But Macron’s government does not have to worry about the yobs from the suburbs or the people upon whom they prey…its members live elsewhere, well protected.

It is worrying instead about the rise of a popular movement, the ‘gilets jaunes’, named after the high vis yellow jacket one is obliged to carry in the car in France which those in the movement have adopted.

It is composed of people who work, pay their taxes and find that there is not sufficient money to go round to provide them with a decent standard of living.

Starting out as a protest against the rise in fuel tax it has become a movement demanding that Macron resign and his policies which favour the rich be overturned. Every weekend there are protest marches in Paris and the big cities….out in the sticks they blockade motorway toll booths and roundabouts.

Inevitably violent incidents have occurred…cars have been set alight, shops looted… in the wake of the marches but the police do not seem to be unduly worried by this. They are intent on ensuring that the marchers do not reach the Elysee and these wreckers make it easy for the government to accuse the demonstrators of violence.

Macron is gambling all on being able to beat the protesters into submission. The media report government spokesmen labelling them as fascists, communists, delinquents….people who wish to overthrow the state…

The police attack with – so far- impunity.

But the Commissaires, Divisionaires and associated panjandrums must be aware of something which seems to have eluded Macron.

People, generally, deplore the lawlessness which has overtaken their society.

They contrast the lack of effort to master the problem with the resources employed to silence decent people with genuine grievances.

They begin to view the police as being more focused on collecting motoring fines than on the protection of law abiding citizens.

Accordingly, they withdraw their consent from the government…just as have those who have had to suffer the lawlessness of the suburbs.

They no longer see the police as the guarantors of order…but as a government militia.

And once you see the government not as the embodiment of the people but as its overlord then revolt becomes acceptable whereas before an attack on the institutions of the republic would have been unthinkable.

Henry of Navarre’s great finance minister, Sully, noted that the great rebellions were not motivated by the wish to overthrow the government but by the impression that one had suffered long enough and it is evident that a tranche of the French population feels just that while a further tranche sympathises with them.

Already Macron’s proposed national debate is in chaos. The head of the body charged with organising it has withdrawn from the task after criticism of her 14,700 euro per month pay cheque. Not that she is resigning, of course….just refraining from workng on the project.

If you wanted a better example of one rule for the elite and another for the rest you could not have wished for better.

No one seems to know what will be done with the results….Macron gives no promises, but one suspects they will simply be trawled for spin material, while enabling the government to condemn the protesters for continuing to protest while the process is underway.

In the meantime a Monsieur Dettinger, a former professional boxer, has been arrested for laying into riot police in Paris. He gave himself up, admitted that he should not have done it, but said that after eight weekends of demonstrating where he and his wife had been teargassed each time he had just had enough of police brutality.

A fund was set up to assist with his legal fees which drove the Justice Minister to demand that the company running the crowdfunding site give up the names of all those who contributed, on the grounds that they were accomplices in his alleged crime.

How you can be an accomplice after the alleged crime has been committed is beyond me, but don’t let mere legal principles rein in a Justice Minister.

But will we have 1789 all over again? The storming of the Bastille? The heads on pikes?

I doubt it. The Paris of that period housed people of all conditions…the Paris of today has driven any but the comfortably off to the surrounding dormitory towns and you have to be made of stern stuff to take the RER into Paris in order to demonstrate.

The gang bosses of the lawless suburbs, though capable of extreme violence, are taking no part in this. Their livelihood comes from benefits, drug dealing and theft….undisturbed by a handcuffed police force. They have no interest in disturbing the status quo.

Macron’s head is safe…though we should always remember Sellar and Yeatman’s observation that uneasy lies the head which wears a throne….as far as Paris is concerned.

Ironic that the man who proclaims that the French expect something for nothing should be saved from the shipwreck of his project by the very forces which reflect just that philosophy.

But in the provinces it may be a different story….

Cooking with Soap

caravaggio-a-bacchanal-with-a-company-feasting-and-making-music

We did not go over the top for Christmas…moules mariniere for lunch was about the high spot, though haggis and black bun made their appearance for New Year.

Nor did we go to friends for New Year’s Eve..so missed out on the cauldron of boiling lard and the deep fried potatoes, plantains and crisp cubes of belly pork  which are dredged from its bubbling depths to be accompanied by salads and ice cold beer.

It was a real miss. I  love the huge gathering of family and waifs and strays like ourselves perched on chairs, benches, logs and upturned crates watching football on two huge screens while the radio blares from the house and kids and dogs run around until midnight when everyone sings the national anthem and the fireworks start up.

But there comes a time when we just can’t sit up any more, so we stayed at home with the dogs who have now decided that they don’t like fireworks since the new neighbours moved in and set them off under our noses.

Yet although food did not figure greatly over the holiday period it is always there…the running sore of the household.

And why the running sore?

Because Higher Authority, now in a wheelchair and thus less able to get out and crack the whip over the whole finca, has taken over responsibility for the menus….

And when I say taken over, yes, it is a real coup d’etat.

My idea of cooking is to see what’s in the fridge and make something with it. When the fridge is empty I go shopping and buy what looks good on the day.

No more.

Shopping is now an entirely different exercise.

Organised. Disciplined. Controlled.

There is a list.

And that list is based on whatever food is being consumed in the foreign soap operas he watches on the computer when he can’t sleep.

We have gone through several phases…..

The Latin American one, while extremely trying on the nerves from the point of view of the soaps themselves which featured women screaming fit to bust, was fine on the food front. I enjoyed that phase.

Then came the Korean phase….a fridge full of kimchi and the dogs looking nervous…..

The Caribbean soap was cut short when he discovered that unripe ackee could poison you, which was a shame as our ackee bush was by then in full production.

ackee

The Scandinavian series gave rise to a vast purchase of varying fish to be pickled and smoked, all to be found to be unsatisfactory as not matching the dream. All I can say is that Costa Rica does not have herring or salmon of its own and its version of mackerel leaves a lot to be desired on the preserving front.

‘Marseilles’, featuring Depardieu, was all right on the cooking front…..

depardieu

As was a similar series about corruption in Rome….I have recipes from an Italian friend which it was a pleasure to try again. I could buy trout to make her recipe whereby it is floured, fried in olive oil and then marinaded in orange juice and vermouth. I even found vermouth. At a price.

Currently it is Israeli…..luckily yesterday’s special gave him indigestion all night so with a bit of luck he will look for something else. If not he is in grave danger of circumcision by  secateur.

Success! We now have a soap about life in an Argentinian prison. We still have screaming women (what are they doing there?), but here comes the locro and the chimichurri! I might even be able to smuggle in a salsa verde with the tomatillos I found when briefly let off the leash…I know it is Mexican, but it’s green and I might get away with it!

There is collateral damage too. When looking for recipes for the on screen food he is led into byways….which is how I ended up making a cake with a tin of fruit salad, flour and vast amounts of sugar.

It was so sweet your teeth would fall out just looking at it, its bottom was soggy, and it burnt itself onto my good cake tin. It is said to be Australian. If so, it accounts for the current state of Australian Test cricket….they must be force feeding it to the players.

Then we have flan.

oven-baked-leche-flan

I have various recipes…one for a flan in a pastry crust made light with whipped white of egg, the traditional ones…and now another has joined the repertoire.

It involves sweetened condensed milk, and vast amounts of cream. The recipe given cooks it at too high a heat, resulting in a lightly scrambled egg with caramel, and unfortunately it was greeted with delight, which has involved making another of the buggers, this time using yet another internet recipe for making your own condensed milk….

I cooked it on a lower heat and it is now in the fridge, awaiting the verdict of Higher Authority.

I was tempted to let today’s stew…a bastard version of moroccan cuisine trawled from the internet – fall into it, but I would only be faced with making my own condensed milk all over again…

Thank goodness  that the Belgians are visiting shortly! Back to proper food and no more cooking from soaps!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The U.K. Repel Boarders Force Christmas Meeting

mersea-island-essex-1024x609

Well, ladies and gentlemen, at the end of our first year of activity I think we can say that we  been very successful in safeguarding our country’s maritime frontiers. It just goes to show what the ordinary people of Britain can do when called upon… and look at the support we have had from the community!

Yes, Mr.Chairman! The Forgetmenots Luncheon Club had a raffle, as did the Over 60s Yoga and Pilates, the Yarnbombers, the Homebrewers and the Dachshund Walkers Group. And we shouldn’t forget Mr.Patel putting up our posters in the newsagent and I think we should express our gratitude to Mr. Aziz’s taxi firm for picking up our members in the early hours from the  bus shelter after their tour of duty for which service he has refused all offers of payment.

Yes, it just goes to show what a solid community we have…despite the vicar.

What’s he been up to this time?

Well…hang on, let’s get a round in as Bob has been kind enough to let us use the back room here…

Bob! Two Teachers, one Bells, two pints, one port and lemon and a double gin and campari.

Oh, thanks, Bob! Cheese and crackers!

Nice bit of Cheddar, that! Just right!

Now, what about the vicar?

Well, you know what he’s like….apparently he told the Mothers’ Union that we were all a bunch of fascists. 0r racists, I can’t remember which but it was certainly ‘ists’…Not that they took much notice, but it’s a bit thick…we are clearly non political, just doing our best to uphold the law when the coastguard are so badly stretched.

And what’s happened to the Navy, I should like to know! When those French attacked our scallop fishermen, where were the Navy? One ship on a jolly in Norway and the other laid up! Fat load of use that would have been in the cod wars!

Well, yes, Deidre, it’s a crying shame what has become of the Navy…but that’s getting us into political waters…Bob? Another double gin and campari, please.

I forgot! I have to give Mrs. Bracegirdle’s apologies! As you know she has had a trying time lately with the police trying to confiscate her late husband’s binoculars with which she surveys the creek. Luckily she and her dachshund have been more than a match for them, but she says she doesn’t want to miss Eastenders so cannot be with us tonight.

I propose a vote of thanks to Mrs. Bracegirdle. After all, had it not been for her watchful eye we would never have captured those illegal immigrants!

All in favour raise your hands. Passed nem con. Would the funds be able to cough up for a box of chocolates for Mrs. Bracegirdle, do you think, Tom?

Wel, yes, Mr.Chairman, but I think it might be ultra vires, as not being a direct action to prevent illegal immigration…

Oh! We don’t want trouble with the law…or the vicar..

What’s that Bob?

You’ll give her a box of  chocolates? Very generous of you! Another round, please!

She likes milk chocolates…

Thank you, Deidre.

Well, Mrs.Bracegirdle did sterling work! She spotted that tender coming  up the creek on the first  of the tide..and she knew who owned it. No way would he have been coming in at that state of the tide under normal circumstances!

No…too right! He picks up his floozies from the creek wall! You wouldn’t see them getting their high heels stuck in the mud at the head of the creek on the first of the tide.

I did hear that that woman who runs the estate agents was one of his light of loves…

Probably involved in putting the illegals in unoccupied properties….

That’s a point,  Deidre…perhaps you had better tell the police.

I did, but all they did was to warn me that making allegations without foundation could land me in trouble.

Typical. Sulking because they were shown up by ordinary citizens having to do their job for them…

Bob? Another double gin and campari please.

Anyway, Mrs. Bracegirdle did the right thing: called Mr. Armstrong who came down with his cosh and kept them occupied while I called the police. Just as well I called up  our own reserves too as the poor devils were frozen and starving so we were able to get them together and ask the ‘Coffee Pot’ cafe to take them in and give them hot soup and rolls….even though they were just about to close…while the Dogs’ Refuge brought clean blankets which had just been donated….thanks, Dave, for getting Mrs. Crowe to open up their stores.

The time you’d wait for the police and ambulance they’d have perished from cold…not that the police were very pleased when they did arrive and I just hope they returned the blankets as the poor dogs need them so much in the winter.

Makes you wonder why they go through it all….the people, I mean. Pay a fortune and risk losing your life…for what?

Well, to tell the truth, I think they think that things here are better than they actually are. I mean, would you believe that there would be a food bank here? People living from hand to mouth when they are in work? These chaps want to read the papers before they put their families in hock for years…

Still, we’re here to try to stop them getting ashore…the rest is politics…

And that isn’t our concern.

But Mrs. Bracegirdle’s triumph was when she and her dachshund cornered the trafficker by the public toilets – he must have thought he could hide there and then make a getaway – until Mr. Armstrong could come over and threaten him with his cosh.

For a little dog that Atilla of hers is pretty impressive…very snappy and leaps straight for your crown jewels….the postman won’t deliver…

Well, lord high and mighty wouldn’t have known that the council had closed the toilets last year, would he? He’d use the Yacht Club conveniences, having the keys…

Yes, please, Bob, another round, but could you make one of a pints a double brandy, please? I think I’ve a cold coming on.

Did you hear the tale he told? Said he’d picked them up mid Channel as their boat was sinking and was bringing them in to safety…he’d have taken them straight to the police if we hadn’t interfered…

One of the poor devils had some English though, and he said they were picked up from a creek near Boulogne where they had been taken in a truck…

Anyway, no one who knows him would believe he’d do a good deed….look how he finangled his election as Commodore of the Yacht Club…it was poor old Jack’s turn but he  wormed his way in with his criticisms of the steward and the way the bar was run…

And now you need a mortgage to buy a drink there…Andy was chucked out for bringing in his own beer after the Autumn Cup…

To be fair he was selling it out on the balcony…

Still, there’ll have to be new elections for Commodore now…good riddance to him with his red trousers and his ‘water at the mark’!

They do say that he voted Liberal Democrat…

Now, Deirdre, no politics please  or the vicar will accuse us of being ‘ists’ again…

Any other business? No? Well that’s that then…well done everyone, have a merry Christmas and keep up the good work in the year to come!

Bob? Another round please, and a taxi for Deidre.

And may you all enjoy a merry Christmas too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Costa Rica Rural Design Exhibition. Exhibit Number One…And Only.

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Here are the judges in the local – very local – rural design exhibition.

One is clearly unimpressed…the other curious.

Personally I embodied both views, mixed with incandescent rage of an intensity rarely experienced since leaving la belle France and the crew of overpriced bodgers more politely known as ‘les artisans francais’.

It was, of course, my own fault.

The combination of a cataract and a dodgy  ankle had sent me base over apex while – rashly – clearing the piles of books on the bedside table. Books were scattered in all directions while a despairing grab at the table led to catching my hand in the flex of the bedside lamp which fell to its doom on the tiled floor.

Much untoward language used while hauling my self up and messing off for broom and dustpan to avoid any ceramic splinters being left on the floor to the hazard of passing paws. Needless to say the disaster had attracted a canine audience, though Higher Authority had the good sense to remain at a distance. A muttering woman with a broom is best left well alone…..

I went shopping for a replacement that afternoon in the local Chinese tat emporium, as being the only place in this small town likely to have a bedside lamp.

You can buy a saddle easily enough, change your car tyres or buy clumpy furniture on the never-never, but a bedside lamp is another matter.

It did indeed stock bedside lamps.

One style stood about a foot high with a gold coloured twisted stem and shade in imperial red. Too big – and too red.

Another was miniscule.

One alternative was a ceramic monstrosity in the shape of a boat. It weighed a ton and to say it was kitsch would have been an understatement, but the major factor in determining its rejection was that it reminded me of Captain Pugwash’s ship, the Black Pig, and there was no  way in which I was going to bed every night with the Pugwash theme tune running through my head.

You see what I mean? Once heard never forgotten – and for those of you who think there is a touch of Jimmy Shand in there, you are right.

.For the uninitiated, Captain Pugwash was a children’s programme on the BBC, using cardboard cut outs operated by levers and recounting the adventures – and disasters – of that most pusillanimous of pirates, Captain Pugwash, and his faithful crew who sailed the seven seas in the hopes of avoiding their dastardly enemy Cut-throat Jake, master of the Flying Dustman.

It was one of a series of programmes which would be played in my time as a ritual in student union bars to an adoring public…Noggin the Nog… Bagpuss…The Clangers, all had their day and if you take a look at The Clangers it may go some way to understanding how we turned out…

However, the kitsch boat rejected, there was one chance left….a monolithic lighthouse, obviously a product of the same tormented mind. It too weighed a ton and it too was rejected as its associations would not be conducive to slumber…

 

Ys, of course it is a spoof…but it still makes me laugh and laughter brings me back to wakefulness.

The first night without a bedside light was not a success. Trying to find the mobile ‘phone to provide light when going to the loo was  an enterprise fraught with disaster, but there seemed to be little alternative until the Chinese tat shop changed its stock.

I had reckoned, however, without The Men…Leo and Danilo.

I had had to go out and left them busily building a low fence from left over wood to keep the dogs off the garden. Fat chance, the dogs can jump and turned out to regard it rather in the light of an Irish hunter facing a double bank…a challenge to be overcome.

On my return I was told to take a look in the bedroom.

I looked.

I found the item in the rather poor photograph heading this post placed beside the bed. Between the bed and the bedside table which was no longer at the bedside as the plinth of the monstrosity was too large to fit underneath it, nor could it be turned to fit under the bed as the light was on the other side of the post

That I was not enchanted could be told from my expression.

Nor were matters improved by learning that they had had some wood left over from the fence and had come across the lamp they had intended to use in the chicken house so decided to make me a bedside lamp.

Lamp! More like a blasted lamp post….except in one respect which was to become apparent on going to bed that night.

I would have needed the arm of an orang utan to reach the bedside table…so no glass of water in case of accidents.

The light was so powerful and at such an angle that it could have been used to good effect in interrogations by the Gestapo.

And, the crowning glory, the height was such that every time I sat up in bed I hit my head on the blasted thing.

My mood by the morning was murderous.

The Men approached me rather in the manner of Agag King of the Amalekites approaching Samuel and with some reason. It was a case of light the blue touchpaper and retire to Worthing.

The dogs enjoyed jumping the fence into the garden.

The friend staying with us, who had followed the whole thing from start to finish, put things in perspective over a quiet women only coffee.

Yes, they meant well, but it just goes to show why we don’t castrate men….they would have nowhere to keep their brains.