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.

Farewell, Fornicating Cane Toads

The swimming pool seems to be a sort of love hotel for cane toads…you can hear them croaking endearments until the early hours of the morning, probably lolling on lilos and sipping cocktails adorned with paper parasols, before doing what one goes to a love hotel to do….but cometh the morning, cometh nemesis – me – armed with a dustpan, ploughing through the water to trap those still entwined and to evict them over the side with no more compunction than that shown by a caribbean pirate.

I loathe the things. They pop up everywhere, even in the house if the doors have been left open late into the evening, leaving their slimy calling cards to mark their passage, but they are incredibly toxic to the dogs. The slime they give off if attacked goes to the nervous system, the heart and the gastrointestinal tract and can kill a small dog very quickly if not treated.

Our dogs vary in their reaction to cane toads…most like to hunt them out and wait for me to dispose of them. Bunter likes to kill them ,so I have to be sure that I always have milk and lemons on hand,,,the milk to rub on his gums and round his mouth and lemon juice to round off the treatment. Fine if I am here, but it has happened that he has caught one while I was out and needed milk poured into his stomach – not so easy with a forty kilo dog who is becoming comatose.

Thus you can imagine with what delight I empty the pool and flush future generations of cane toads down the tubes…

Genocide?

Damn right.

But the pool has been emptied for the last time.

Leo cannot use it any more…the steps are too much for him…so it is being covered over to provide an extension of the balcony for plants which do not need to have shelter from the weather. In theory this leaves space on the existing balcony for patio furniture but as Leo is of the opinion that hammocks make him seasick and that any soft furnishings just encourage the dogs to use them as bedding I suspect that the extension will be just that…an extension of plants….

So far, no covering has been envisaged, but let one cherished plant be upset and I guarantee that before the sun sets on the next day we will have enough awnings set to rival the Sydney Opera House.

I shall miss the pool…but not the cane toads.

I Will Be Whiter Than The Whitewash On The Wall

British soldiers of the Great War had a number of songs, from sentimental to downright crude, and one of them ran as follows
‘Wash me in the water where you wash the colonel’s daughter
And I will be whiter than the whitewash on the wall.’
There is a version of this on Youtube…part of ‘Oh What a Lovely War ….if you don’t know the tune.

There must be a lot of that bathwater sloshing about at the moment as the most surprising people are not only rivalling the whitewash on the wall but surpassing it in brilliance.

To start locally, the police have cracked a loan shark ring, arrresting four people who are suspected of extortion, kidnapping, threats and violence in the course of their activities. Cars, houses and property have been made over by those unable to repay their debts.
While pursuing their enquiries, the police have raided the offices of some local lawyers – what a surprise! – and confiscated files, computers and vehicles. One imagines that these lawyers made the necessary legal transfers of property from debtors to lenders….one would not like to imagine any further involvement, after all.

I know one of the lawyers, a charming man who was involved – on the other side -in the water wars.

I know of one of the others, who managed to charge The Neighbour over eight million colones – some nine thousand pounds sterling – to obtain a concession to use water from the spring on the mountain. Having read his application I am of the view that he could have invented all the lies it contained on his own without legal assistance so can only imagine that the lawyer concerned has some special talent known only to the cognoscenti.

I don’t know the third – not surprisingly when the town, as all small towns in Costa Rica, positively pullulates with lawyers, outnumbering even the dentists.

However, all three have access to the colonel’s daughter’s bathwater and will, no doubt, emerge from their ordeal sparkling clean.

On the national level, top officials at the national tourist board have been selling state land to foreign investors to build hotels….land destined to provide farmland for poor families…despite orders from the President’s office to do nothing of the sort….while at the National Assembly deputies have been busy having the police chase off medical students who want to help out in hard pressed hospitals while meeting with top level drug traffickers in the building itself.

Slosh the bathwater! It will all wash off…

You will all have examples…but let me take Britain.

Here is a man who does not have access to the bathwater…..because he has not done that with which he was charged. Alex Salmond, once First Minister of Scotland, was charged with a number of sexual offences and found not guilty of all but one, where a verdict of not proven was brought in, by a mainly female jury. He might be NSIT – not safe in taxis – but he is not guilty as charged. Notwithstanding this, the current First Minister continually refers to the women involved – one at least of whom has clearly perjured herself – as ‘victims’, The press, obedient as ever to a bung from the Scottish government, echoes her stance. No bathwater for Alex.

None either for the man who recorded the conduct of the trial on his blog, clearly stating the defence case, Craig Murray. The mainstream press – well bunged – concentrated on the case for the prosecution.He has been charged with contempt of court as, despite not naming the women the court – three judges sitting without a jury – found that it might be possible to work out their identities from the content of his blog. He faces imprisonment and has been obliged to remove that part of his blog which dealt with Salmond’s defence. No bathwater for Craig.

However, it is lapping the gills of the British minister who swore that, during the Covid crisis when hospitals were ordered to clear out all who could be cleared out to release staff and beds, no one was sent to a care home before being tested for the bug. He lied, he is shown to have lied, and yet the water level is still high. It dropped a little when he was found to have shares in his sister’s firm which was one of the many totally inexperienced operations to have obtained contracts for protective clothing, but not enough to uncover his unmentionables.

Liars, cheats and thieves in high places, all washed gleaming bright.

We need to empty the bath…to pull the plug, but as the old mouse pointed out in Aesop’s fable of the Mice in Council, it is one thing to propose…quite another to execute.

Archibald ‘Bell the Cat’ Douglas, Earl of Angus had a solution. He seized the then king’s favourites and hanged them from a bridge.

But he was the Earl of Angus and a power in the land. We are ordinary, powerless people, so what do we do?

Vote them out?

Fat chance. While you have a party political system you have these obscenities wished upon you as your representatives to serve interests which are none of your own.

Protest in the streets?

They put up two fingers and ignore you.

Denounce them in the press?

Forget it….the press is always in league with the politicians.

Instead, remember the IRA. Atrocities committed against members of the public – whether by the IRA or by MI5 – did nothing to bring about peace in Northern Ireland. Even a bazooka launched on Downing Street had no effect – even though it was delightful to see ministers for once in the line of fire. But once they attacked the City of London, that capital of money laundering, peace talks became positive and urgent.

Violence will be repressed…but hackers could bring the system which supports the well washed to its knees. Then we all need to protect the hackers. As the people of Glasgow protected asylum seekers whom they saw as their own.

Pura Vida!

Totally fed up with the basket case to which the corrupt leadership of the Scottish National Party has reduced my country…resigned to not seeing independence in my lifetime…appalled by the whole pack and boiling of them, I thank my lucky stars we live in Costa Rica, mismanaged though it is. That purchase on a whim, all those years ago, has turned out to have been a good call, despite walking into a local water war at the start of it all.

Mark you, the Costa Rica in which we live is not that of the tourist posters, specialising as they do in lunatics in helmets and water wings rafting down fast flowing rivers, other lunatics in helmets screaming down zip lines to the horror of the local wildlife, and thin women in bikinis prancing in the ocean. None of that round here, thank goodness.

We have a National Park…..the Cangrega….

Closed, needless to say, thanks to the bug, but a super place to visit if keen on nature in general and hiking in particular, but as it is off the beaten tourist track it does not attract many visitors even when open.

That might change as it is approachable by the old main road from the capital to the coast, deserted for years in favour of the laughingly named motorway – two lanes most of the way – which replaced it, but this year there has been a publicity campaign, pointing out the tedium of the endless jams on the motorway compared with the pleasures of running through the countryside and enjoying the little cafes and wayside stalls which mark its path. Judgng by the volume of traffic in town on the weekends, it seems to be working and a friend with a cafe on the route is delighted with the uptick in custom.

This is the view that comes free with the meal…..

This is the working Costa Rica, not the tourist traps of the coast, where family farms were the backbone of the country’s economy long before United Fruit started its plantations. While ox carts hauled coffee beans over tracks that existed before the arrival of the Conquistadors to reach the Pacific coast whence they were shipped to Europe, farmers produced for the local market and this area was famed for its beans – that staple of the Central American diet.

The farmers started to exploit the lands between the capital and the coast in the early nineteenth century, and as the population grew there was felt to be a need to supply its spiritual welfare. The Roman Catholic Church, under a couple of energetic archbishops, began evangelising the rural areas, providing priests and building chapels, a process which continued into the early years of the twentieth century.

It was a community effort. Someone would donate the land, others materials or means of transport, others would give their own time to work on the project.

Given the country’s links with England, through the coffee trade and through the cultural influence of the then British empire, many churches were buit in what is known as the Victorian style….adapted to the materials and skills of the builders…and there is a cluster of these churches in this area, well worth a side trip when heading for a beach holiday, or a day trip from the capital – take a picnic and enjoy a part of old Costa Rica.

Starting from the busy town of Cuidad Colon in moments you are out into the country, wending your way to El Rodeo

Still maintained and in good order.

On to Picagres with its tower…

And Piedras Negras…

Then Llano Grande with its twin towers and metal plates

Jaris….supplanted by a modern church….and in need of TLC when I last looked…

There a a couple of other churches in that style, but more difficult to fit into a round trip…Corralar

And dear little Balsilla with all of eight benches for worshippers.

I had to discover these places for myself…the tourist guides are not interested in these monuments to faith and solidarity out on the old gravel roads….but then, the tourist guides assume that Costa Rica has no culture save that of hedonism on one hand and much trumpeted ecologism on the other, with a passing – obligatory – bow to indigenous customs and handicrafts.

A friend who is a talented artist cannot fnd a gallery to show his work because he is not

A indigenous

B a recovered drug addict living in the streets

C an abused child or

D has no art world contacts

because people buy the story, not the art.

Just as people buy the idea of ‘green’ Costa Rica, the false animal refuges, the ‘spiritual’ scams of the exploitative hippies and the ‘pura vida’ of the tourist traps.

So why did we buy ‘on a whim’? Because we had the good fortune to have stayed with a family who loved their country, loathed the tourist industry and let us loose to explore.

But that resource is not open, in general. People come on tours…see the sights…swallow the publicity and see what they expect to see, as in all countries.

So, you can come to Costa Rica…no vaccines, no tests, just an insurance in case you have health problems…but when you are there, or in any other country you visit, don’t rely on the tourist professionals…ask local people what to visit and you will get some great surprises.

Like this great group..Malpais

Un-American Teeth

I first encountered American teeth when at school.

An American girl joined our class in the second term…she had no uniform, had no idea of the syllabus we were following, but made the best of it that she could.

We had been warned beforehand…her family were in the U.K. on a transfer from the father’s firm…she should have been going to a private school but arrangements had fallen through…..and we were to be kind and helpful for the brief time with which she would be with us.

Fine.

But…the teeth.She had what I knew later to be braces…some sort of metal cage round her teeth…a phenomenom completely unknown to us.

With true British reticence, no one commented on this or posed questions…

I was not in the circle who invited her to the house…father, having discovered for which firm her father worked, was not entranced…but I did cop the odd invitation to her family’s place, through her father’s commercial contact with one of my uncles.

The parents were very hospitable, making sure we were all at our ease…clearly, very nice, kind people…as we made our best efforts not to be surprised by a mould in which salad was encased in lime jelly – a far cry from the Sunday salad of beetroot, cucumber and lettuse to which we were accustomed – and the hot dogs served with sauerkraut and mustard…to me, a real treat!

But again…The teeth!

All the children had braces while the parents had perfectly even white teeth which made us suspect that they were false, so perfect were they.

My first encounter with American teeth was not of long duration. Harold Wilson’s Labour Party came to power and our classmate’s father’s firm was withdrawn from the U.K. tout de suite as it was assumed that communism had taken control of the country.

This view seemed to be shared by the more antiquated elements of the British army as their later aborted coup would show, but for the majority of people his promises of using technology to bring the country out if its traditional Tory torpor were nothing if not welcome.

Those American teeth struck us because we, profiting from the post war settlement, had had the privilege of being supplied with free dental treatment from an early age….

Unfortunately, this meant that we had the services of the school dental service.

Lined up to accept their attentions the accepted view was that, while the Americans and the Russians had captured all the rocket scientists, the British had captured the Gestapo operatives and were letting them loose on the nation’s chldren.

I was most upset because, though I dutifully brushed the teeth and was not fond of sweet stuff, I always seemed to have fillings whose treatment was administered without anaesthetic using a drill activated by the dentist’s foot.

This came to an end when one of the torturers assured me that what he was about to do would not hurt….. I was a fairly stoic child, but the pain nearly lifted me from the chair and, seizing my opportunity, I bit the bugger.

Not that that freed me from dentists….every six months off to a surgery hidden behind a belt of trees and a shrubbery. ‘Deadens the screams’ said father. Nowhere near so bad…though I can still recall the smell of that rubber mask for anaesthesia….

Then came a period when I kept on growing wisdom teeth….one would come through, another right behind it…by which time a wave of young handsome Australian dentists had hit the U.K.. Mine was a dab hand with the x ray machine…perish the thought of precautions…and kept showing me the next tooth on the rack with great delight. Any fear of dentists evaporated with this chap as he talked cricket non stop as he worked and was both deft and caring.

Having to repair a mess on my front teeth he showed me his colour chart by which he would match the repair strip to the existing tooth – and did a great job which has lasted to this day. British teeth, it seemed, came in all shades, from ivory to milky coffee….but never brilliant white.

Following the wave of Australian dentists came the wave of American Mormons…..we were used to the Jehoveh’s Witnesses, but this was a new plague. Pairs of young men in white bri nylon shirts with satchels over their shoulder, bearing name tags which identified them as Elder something or other…

Well if they were elders, what were the younger ones like, one asked.

And all with American teeth! It was alarming…..all brilliantly white and even…uncanny! You would catch yourself looking at the teeth as they gave their spiel, wondering if they had all been supplied with false teeth before venturing into the wilds of Europe or whether anything like that could really be natural…

Gradually, though, American teeth began to take over the U.K. White even teeth, you were informed, would give people confidence in you.

Yes, well, up to a point, Lord Copper. As far as I was concerned, if you formed your views of someone on the state of their teeth then you were a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Teeth are there to reduce food to a state fit for digestion, they are not cosmetic. To me the whole thing stank of dentists keen to bolster the incomes which had made them notorious as lovers of fast cars and fast women….but people fell for it. Off they went to have their gnashers straightened and bleached, kids had their teeth caged….while those who could not afford the nonsense practised smiling like Good Queen Bess – a sort of grimace which did not show the teeth at all for fear of revealing their state. A belly laugh became a thing of the past.

Many years later, moving to Costa Rica, I soon noticed that the country was infested with lawyers and dentists. While in the smarter areas the dentists just had normal shop signs, in poorer areas their presence was indicated by huge depictions of teeth with vast roots. Let not the inability to read deprive you of dental services.

The country was also marked by American teeth. No one who is anyone lacks American teeth. Especially lawyers. Vast expanses of perfectly even, brilliantly white teeth. Very boring…no character, no inkling that under that perfect smile a gat toothed Wife of Bath might be lurking….

But it matters….

While we were quite fresh to the place, a developer was trying to abstract water to get permission to build a pile of houses nearby and we were involved in the succeeding water wars which went on for some time. As foreigners, we came in for a fair bit of calumny which has taken years to die down and while it was at its height I was chatting to a woman in the supermarket.

All went swimmingly until she asked where I lived and said in hushed tones that Senora X – wife of developer – had told her that there was a really obnoxious gringo living nearby who did nothing but cause trouble.

Well, that was either us or our unpleasant North American neighbour, the one who tried to stop us building out new house.

So I told her that there were two gringos in the area, which one did Senora X mean, did she think?

The one with yellow teeth.

‘Like this?’ And I bared my fangs in a most unElizabethan smile.

Ah Maun Dree Ma Ain Weird

Because, as one says in Scotland, ‘Whit’s fur ye’ll no go by ye’ so you are obliged, in the best Calvinist tradition, to submit to your fate.

Which in my case has meant various health problems which have rendered me less than that which I was…no longer up and about from dawn to dusk, forced to lie down, tired for what would once have seemed nothing.

Clearly, it is nothing in comparison with Leo. He is reliant on a wheelchair, struggles to breathe at times, and is easily exhausted….but he keeps buggering on and so shall I.

I am just not used to it.

We have taken on a part time worker to fill the gaps…and he has been a treasure. He has green fingers, is a skilled painter and decorator and the dogs love him.

Thus, for the first time today, he and Danilo wash the dogs. All ten of them.

I had my own system…shut the bedroom doors, assemble the shampoo on the balcony, get the hose set up, coax the thugs into place with biscuits and shut the doors to the house. Then the fun began. Trap first dog against the balustrade with the knees, soak dog, shampoo dog, rinse dog, release dog…repeat until complete.

Carlos and Danilo have another method.

The hose is set up under the orange tree in front of the house and the dogs are transported, one by one, to meet their fate.My contribution is, once again, to shut the bedroom doors and stand by at the front door to prevent re entry by wet, shocked, traumatised dogs intent on shaking off the whole experience in the house.

The two big boys, Einstein and Bunter, are no problem. They love being washed and once it is clear that no more water is forthcoming leg it down to the sheep shed to roll in the bedding there….

Podge is caught in a moment of distraction….chewing the centre out of a cushion to make a nest under the baleful eye of Black Tot, who had been keeping that cushion for herself….and is whisked off for summary judgement by hosepipe. Black Tot removes the remains of the cushion into a a safer place under my desk and sits on it. I sweep up.

Two black pointy ears and an indignant face appear at the door. Podge is displeased.

The others follow….no problem with most, except for Scruffy, the little mum, who hides under the sink and has to be pushed out with a broom, and Napoleon, who has to be taken in a rugby tackle as he scoots across the room….but the group outside the front door is growing, damp and despairing. What feels like scores of reproachful eyes are fixed upon me.

Traitor…..abandoner of animals…..Cruella Deville…..

I take refuge in the kitchen area…only to find two cold wet noses pressed against my leg and two wet bodies jumping up. Auntie and little Zuniga have made it into the house!

But the front door is still shut…..

They have used their…or Auntie’s…. initiative and have crossed the garden, descended to the pasture, ducked under the wire and emerged by the swimming pool, upon whose narrow wall they have made their way to the small balcony and thus to the large and into the house! Damp tails wagging…very pleased with themselves.

Perusal of the swimming pool reveals that the big boys have followed them…but only as far as the wall of the pool…..they do not trust themselves on the wall itself and sit, mournful, under the jocote tree, well adorned with the straw from the sheep shed.

Eventually I relent and let in the remainder of the tribe……apart from Podge and Napoleon the rest have managed to adorn themselves with mud and other substances obtained while rolling in the garden post wash……so next time, it is back to the balcony…but it will be someone else’s knees trapping each dog against the balustrade.

And I find that very hard to accept.

Still….the brain is still working, the memory too and, according to privileged observers, the voice is far from stilled…..so the lum is reeking yet!

Being Seriously Bullied By The Canal & River Trust Ltd to Cruise More during a Pandemic, from Neighbourhood to Neighbourhood…

Messing about in boats is great…but messing about those who live aboard us something else….the post that follows is, I think, self explanatory. One man’s exasperated end of tether response to a threat to ruin his life.

The Diesel-Electric Elephant Company.

The Canal & River Trust Ltd tell me that I may have “trouble renewing my boat licence” because I haven’t cruised enough in the period May 2020 to December 2020… Trouble from them that is.

In seven months of restrictions because of You Know What I’ve cruised nearly seventy miles over a twelve mile range (between three local service areas/my support bubbly-group marina chandlery). Had they but been polite enough to wait out the full year they would have had their silly, self-declared, unilaterally decided, wholly arbitrary minimum and much more, this in spite of the &etc, but no, they insist that their “spotters” have only clocked me less than 3 kilometres distant in that whole period and it’s threat threat threat. This would be the “spotters” who have either been on furlough (to save C&RT money) or who have been on reduced rounds because the pandemic legal restrictions meant…

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Nae Haggis the Nicht?

Burns Night, the twenty fifth of January, is upon us again and Scots at home and abroad will be gathering to toast the Immortal Memory of the Ayrshire poet whom Scots have elevated as the exemplar of the national virtues…..the love of freedom, of equality and amity.

We don’t always live up to the ideals, but Burns Night, like Hogmanay is the reminder that we could do better!

So all over the world, Scots foregather to celebrate in song, poetry and whisky while awaiting the piper to lead in the national dish, that epitome of hamely fare…the haggis, accompanied by its neeps and tatties.

Haggis On A Silver Plater

Apostrophised as ‘Great Chieftain o’ the puddin’- race’, it is ritually disembowelled by the master of ceremonies and divided among the faithful, who fall to with a will.

A word of warning. If you do not know what goes to make up a haggis, do not ask. Should you do so you run the risk of being subject to a very old Scots joke involving King James IV, a miller and the Scots dialect of the time, known as ‘Wha’s intilt?’

Furthermore, if of a delicate disposition it is best you remain in ignorance.

I wrote ‘ all over the world’, but, post Brexit, the haggis can no longer penetrate the defenses of Stalag Europe – unless tinned.

France, as usual, is at the bottom of this dastardly deed.

So keen to punish the U.K. for its departure from the E.U.’s protectionist bosom that it forgets its history in respect of the Scots.

We used to have reciprocal rights of citizenship from the reign of Francois I until 1903 when the French revoked it…..we were their fifth column in their wars against Emgland….are they grateful? Non!

All that is in the past, one might say, but, anecdotally, in my time in France being a Scot gave one kudos….we were the auld alliance. How much that survives among younger French I have no idea but it is clear that it survives not at all in the mind of President Macron and his clique of macronies.

We are an obsolecence.

.So what is a Scot in France to do?

Make it yourself? Need access to sheep, goodness only knows how many regulations, inspections and forms unless ignore all of above and bugger on regardless until denounced.

Buy the French versions? Tripoux d’Auvergne? Pieds et paquets? The dreaded andouillette?

I don’t think so.

Remember the later verses of the ode to the haggis…

Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi sneering, scornfu view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

Seems to sum up President Macron in one…who would not appreciate the song that should be the national anthem in the place if the dirge that is Flower of Scotland.

Rip Off Costa Rica

Many and various are the rip offs in this country…mostly institutionalised and designed to rob the average citizen to the advantage of the government. Nothing new there….

However, there is another type of rip off which really annoys me…

Foreign goods from non Spanish language countries being sold in Costa Rica require an additional label which describes the contents and, of course, its dubious nutritional value.

Fine.

Heaven forfend that the native population should buy a food item in ignorance of its nature. Despite the fact that to import any foodstuff into Costa Rica requires bureaucracy beyond belief, it is still a good idea that the housewife knows what she is buying.

Not fine, however….

At the application of labels institution…wherever that is…and by whom or by what machine it is done, why is it that the additional label inevitably covers the instructions for use?

Not only that…but the label is particularly adhesive…..

You can try softening it in water…no chance.

Then you try to scrape it off using a knife or your nails…..delicate work and likely to take away the underlying label, the one with the with the instructions, at the same time.

Eventually you either give up altogether or, if of a persistent temperament, try to decipher as much as you can,and then either abandon all hope or open the jar anyway and make the best fist of it that you can.

We do not buy much by way of jars and cans, but Leo had spotted a jar of Jamaican curry mix which he fancied trying, so into the basket it went and, in due course, was exhumed from same to enliven some chicken which I planned to use for lunch.

Then followed the ritual of softening and scraping until I could just about work out that you did not use the whole jar, though quite how much remained concealed….that you browned the chicken and then added the sauce….and by the fact that that was the last line visible indicated to me that you added no water.

Chicken browned, about a third of the jar’s contents added, stirred, covered and, after a bit of thought, cooked on low heat.

On the table, rice served and finally the chcken curry….the sauce thick about the meat.

I thought it would enliven the chicken…..it certainly enlivened us!

Ye Gods and little fishes! It all but lifted Leo out of his wheelchair!

After a mad rush for dry bread to subdue the blaze and a mango to calm things down Leo said

‘I think we’ll look for a jar where the sticker covers the front label next time….We might not know what it is, but at least we will know how to cook it.’