Last week we had planned to do a major shop in San Jose, and the cleaner, a lady in her thirties who looks mid twenties, had asked to go with us to stock up on stuff for Christmas before prices rose alarmingly for the festive and exploitative season. We would keep the meat and poultry in our freezer for her until she needed it. This being a visit to the big city she was well dressed and made up…unlike Danilo who shows his contempt for the capital by wearing his oldest working shirt and wellies.
Fine, except at the last minute I was not well enough to undertake the car journey, so off went Leo, the cleaner and Danilo while I returned to bed.
On return, Danilo was bubbling with something, but could not tell me until the following day when Leo was at the local hospital.
First, the context.
It is not unknown that Costa Rican women, seeing foreign men as rich, will try to attach themselves to them, in the hope of supporting themselves, their children and their families. Fine….there are others who just wish to enrich themselves…..and do so at an exponential rate. The laws, made with the view of protecting women and chldren in situations of domestic abuse, assist these predatory women.
Back to Danilo….
The first call was to Maria, a Nicaraguan lady, who has been a friend since we first moved to Costa Rica. She has looked after Leo many times over the years while I was visiting my mother and is a genuinely caring person.
This time she had bought in a load of dog food for us at a low price from her butcher and Leo was going to pick it up….but not without going in to have coffee, catch up with the family and swap the news.
Except that Maria took one look at the cleaner and asked ‘Who is this?’
Apparently Leo, now to be known as Lothario or Bluebeard, convinced that he is a thing of beauty and a boy forever, and full of bravado, said that this was his girlfriend.
At which point Maria said that he had a wife, and that, should he want a girlfriend, she was the first in line…all this accompanied with stroking him, cuddling him and darting evil looks at the cleaner.
Danilo was apparently in stitches. Maria protecting her ewe lamb from the ravages of a Salome…
Off they went to the Mercado Borbon to take breakfast at he caff we frequent.
Fine…the ladies took the order, and the cleaner asked for the same meal as Leo..chicken in sauce. His plate was laden, hers boasted a chicken piece so small that it must have been taken from a sparrow. The ladies asked Danilo why I was not there, but his explanations did not spare the cleaner dirty looks.
She wanted to buy chicken thighs, and, as the bulk price was better than the kilo price Leo bought her order with ours…. the chap selling them made a point of asking if Leo wanted separate bills…and looked very disapproving of the response.
Not the only reactions….we are well known at the Mercado Borbon – about the only foreigners who shop there – and I feel for the cleaner, whose treatment was humiliating .
However, should I pop my clogs before Leo I have no doubt that she would be under starter’s orders in the ‘catch an elderly Gringo’ stakes. But she would have to be wary of bumping, boring and obstruction on the part of Maria!
So now, before Leo is sent to Coventry at the Mercado Borbon, I shall have to make sure that I go with him on the next trip. Without the cleaner.
The rhyming slang for the telephone has taken on a new guise.
According to ‘The Guardian’ a device has been invented which allows a dog to call its owner. Its current form is a soft ball which when moved sends a signal to your laptop and starts off a video link. The idea is to give ‘choice’ and ‘agency’ to the dog, which will aid its ‘wellbeing’.
As if we are not under the paw enough as it is!
Research has been, to say the least, interesting, and probably suffered for being carried out on a black labrador. Nice though they are, labradors are not the Einsteins of the canine world, so perhaps a collie might have not activated the thing when rooting round in its bed, or while rubbing its backside on it. The optimistic researcher says, however, that while from a human perspective it might be seen as accidental it is possible that from a canine perspective it was determined. The dog has not yet given the answer.
You are out shopping and your mobile rings. You have a video of the dog with its paw on a pack of its favourite biscuits….no excuses for forgetting…..with a background view of the damage it did opening the cupboard door to get at said biscuits.
Or, for the machiavellian dog who feels it has been left to its own devices too long, a carefully staged sceene with one of its friends lying doggo, appearing to be at its last gasp, while the dog manipulating the device stands over it in the manner of a Great White Hunter. That’s guaranteed to get you home breaking the speed limit only to find both at the door wagging their tails.
Or you are the British Prime Minister in a face to face meeting with Monsewer Macron. At a vital moment your dog rings, holding up a placard reading ‘stuff the French poodle!’ That should stiffen the sinews and summon up the blood! You will be hanging the burghers of Calais before you can say Jack Robinson.
This is only the start….there is talk of technological inovation which will allow dogs to contact each other….
But is this not otiose?
Dogs seem to communicate with each other without any hi tech aids.
They have noses.
A bitch on heat will attract suitors from all the country round……a rotting carcass offers rolling opportunities to an infinite number of doggies…..meat cooking will bring an eager audience with noses lifted in the best tradiions of the Bisto kids..
They have ears.
They may not choose to use them, as when ignoring commands, yea pleas even, to do something contrary to their current interests, but they can hear another dog howling far off in the night and join in from a sense of solidarity, thus depriving a whole human community of its sleep, and if you want a re enactment of the charge of the Light Brigade just try opening a packet of crisps when you think they are snoozing at the other end of the garden.
They have eyes.
Like Autolycus they are snappers up of unconsidered trifles….i.e. things you left on the table while doing something else. They see intruders and rush to repel them, encouraging each other with that other capacity…….
From a bark to a whine, from a snort to a growl, they can make their views clearly known to their cohorts.
So, time wasted on inter dog communication then, but they would, I feel, be all in favour of furthering means to assert their domination of humans.
The first step is to encourage the dog to take ownership of its ‘phone…….so can we have a hi tech solution to making it waterproof as its proud owner asserts possession by peeing on it.
I could not dig; I dared not rob: Therefore I lied to please the mob. Now all my lies are proved untrue And I must face the men I slew. What tale shall serve me here among Mine angry and defrauded young?
A Dead Statesman
It relates directly to the man standing behind the current Prime Minister, but they are all capable of similar conduct and we need to open our eyes to what is done in our name but without our consent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Under that desk lies the nerve centre of the household…telephone, modem, wifi, laptop, music centre and television. It has a forest of cables…most of them left by the electricity monopoly’s workmen as they cut off what had not worked and added what they assured me would work in the future. The man who came to install the security cameras took one look and left the mess well alone, adding his independent tangle to the Gordian knot.
The young man from the family across the road came to ask if our cameras were recording – on the pretext that his chainsaw had been stolen. As we had heard his chainsaw in action that very morning we lied and said that our system did, indeed, record everything. Shortly afterwards nocturnal traffic visiting his finca became rare…
All was working well, apart from Black Tot taking refuge under the desk in thunderstorms and detaching the plugs, until we had a humdinger of a storm in which you could smell the lightning strikes and which narrowly avoided the electrocution of the chickens. Danilo did explain how they had been put in peril – as usual, something touching something it shouldn’t have touched, as perilous in humans as in electricity – but whatever it is has galvanised the buggers into laying eggs after a long period of shortage of same. Remind me to give them ECT next time they go off lay…
However, the same storm burned out the television…..despite a surge plug. Costa Rican storms laugh at surge plugs…probably regard them as targets…and this one was right on the mark.
Could it be repaired?
Repairs locally are a gamble…you pays your money and it either works or it doesn’t, which you only discover when it has been torn from the clutches of the repairer weeks after being placed with them and when money has changed hands. The exception is the Cubano, but he doesn’t repair televisions.
After much sucking of teeth, the box was dropped off at shop of the far from heavenly Twins up the road with a promise that they would ring to tell us what the prospects might be.
Well, wait for a call from the Twins and you might as well shit in your hat, so the next day Danilo bearded them in their lair, only to hear that they would have to send for a new card, that they did not know how much it would cost or if it would work and no, he could not take it back as they had stripped it down.
He told them that if they did not call with the price of the card and a prognosis they could whistle for their money and returned with the news.
Council of war.
Did we need the television? Yes, otherwise we had to view the security cameras on a mobile ‘phone. Leo’s hands are paralysed so he can’t use one…I am waiting for a cataract op on the good eye and have limited vision.
Could we wait for the Twins? On current form…no. If they came up trumps it would be like Foinavon winning the Grand National
So…buy another one and if the Twins ever repaired the original it would do as a spare. Possibly the man who installed the security cameras could link them up to that and reserve the new box for less exciting things.
Leo and Danilo set off to town accordingly and returned in triumph with a thing much larger than the old box – and at a discount to boot – but which would not hang on the wall – it had to sit on my desk. The printer had to be removed to a shelf, thus displacing any number of files which lurked there, and the box was put into place.
Fine…except how to set it up. It had to be done as the shop would only accept a return within twenty four hours and the next day was a Sunday. Not a problem for the shop, which like most Costa Rican shops worships Mammon rather than God, but a problem for us as, thanks to the absurd vehicle restrictions imposed – supposedly to stop the spread of the bug but in reality aimed at imposing fines – we could not go out on Sunday to take it back.
No problem extricating it from the box…except that Carlos had to be called to assist as it was so large. I had cleared my desk top…finding several interesting things in the process – why do I have two masks and a staple gun living in a mug commemorating the ATS, in which my mother served during the war?
It was set up and then they started on the puzzle of matching up wires unplugged when moving the old box to slots on the new box…not to speak of the wires supplied with same….
At which point the backsides under the desk started….and persisted…..
Somthing was plugged in…did it work?
Well, what was it supposed to do?
How the hell do I know? Is anything happening?
Well, as it was clear that the thing worked…even if no one knew what to do with it, we called a truce.
On Sunday I fiddled with it but came up against the need for a password wihout a clue as to how one was to make the necessary input. No cameras.
Monday, the whole gallimaufrey had a go, Danilo, Carlos, Andres…….it looked like success but then I could only use my laptop if the cable to the box was removed and still no cameras…
Call the man who installed the cameras.
Tuesday it was his posterior under the desk while his assistant beat off the dogs. Then he had Andres under the desk while he fiddled above, finally achieving a very limited view on the cameras and a total absence of communication with the laptop…his assistant was occupied with cuddling Black Tot.
On Wedenesday Andres thought he had a solution….but it was not to be.
On Thursday the man who installed the cameras returned with a magic box….both he and his assistant disappeared under the desk while Carlos stood guard above, beating off Podge and Zuniga.
Success! We had cameras and action! I could watch the highlights of the Test Match! As long as I did not want to watch the cameras at the same time….
Should the Twins ever repair the other box could he set it up on another circuit?
Well, if the Twins ever get back to you…give me a call.
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.