The Geese and the Common

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
But leaves the greater villain loose
Who steals the common from the goose.

The law demands that we atone
When we take things we do not own
But leaves the lords and ladies fine
Who take things that are yours and mine.

The poor and wretched don’t escape
If they conspire the law to break;
This must be so but they endure
Those who conspire to make the law.

The law locks up the man or woman
Who steals the goose from off the common
And geese will still a common lack
Until they go and steal it back.

Written in respect of the enclosures which from the sixteenth century onward, but most prominently in the eighteenth cenury, deprived villagers of their grazing rights in favour of the local landowner.

“Laws! We know what they are, and what they are worth! Spider webs for the rich and powerful, steel chains for the weak and poor, fishing nets in the hands of the government.”

Thus Proudhon in the nineteenth century.

Let us now turn to the contemporary.

Since the banking debacle of 2008 when those who had played wily beguiled were bailed out with public money the people in general have suffered ‘austerity’…cuts to those public services that made a civilised life possible.

Further, thanks to the draconian governmental response to Covid, we have seen national economies tanked, national debt inflated beyond belief and basic liberties abrogated, without a dissenting voice either in politics or on the mass media.

Now we have war in the Ukraine, with governments damaging the interests of their own industries and people by their sanctions on Russian oil and gas, while inflation, born of policies aimed at boosting the stock markets at all costs, roars ahead.

And their solution to their own incompetence and cupidity? Work more years, tighten your belts and keep your traps shut.

WheGood Queen Bess wanted to get her point across, she would ‘tune the pulpits’…..have sermons delivered to the faithful, which in that era meant everyone who did not want to be regarded as a closet Catholic or Anabaptist. Not much use trying that these days…not enough parish clergy for one thing and sermons superseded by ‘messy church’.

These days governments have ‘nudge’ units at their disposal, to push people into the desired behaviour – desired, that is, by governments – and given the long term dumbing down of education and the monopoly ownership of the press this has been a very successful process resulting in people accepting restrictions which pervert family and social life for fear of social pressure – and of the police, who have hardly covered themselves in glory.

In H.G. Wells ‘Time Machine’ we meet the Eloi, gentle beings who swan along on the surface of life, and the Morlocks, who capture and eat them. Do the Eloi gather together to repel the Morlocks? No…they are totally inapable of defending themselves and accept the situation as ‘how things are’, just as the majority of people now see their stability, their ability to plan for the future of themselves and their children, their access to health services, decent housing and education going down the tubes….and do nothing.

But what can one do against the power of the state? It has the ability to bankrupt you, make you homeless, imprison you, take away your children….and if you poke your head over the barricade it can and will do all it can to chop it off ‘pour encourager les autres’. And don’t count on your friends and neighbours to support you either – you risk being a pariah.

Two things are possible….but they are long term.

We need to get away from the established political parties who have become nothing more than enablers for wealthy lobbyists. We all know, at our local level, people who are both honest and competent. We might not agree with them on everything, but we can trust them not to sell us down the river on party orders. We need to enourage them to stand for office, to work to get them elected and to crowd fund to make it possible to meet the financial hurdles imposed by legislation.

The other possibility has been demonstrated to me here.

A road subject to subsidence has been ‘repaired’ year after year by corrupt contractors. The council could not give a toss about the problems of those affected. Finally a local man, Don Kiki, took measures into his own hands and and gathered a group of supporters who with their own labour remodelled the road completely so that even after two years of exceptionally heavy rainfall the road is passable so that kids can get to school and farmers to market.

This year, a bridge on the main road to the capital was declared dangerous and was replaced by a Bailey bridge. But somehow the making good of the access on both sides was not included in the contract by the roadworks department. A local gentleman took the initiative and with the help of neighbours and money collected via local internet media has not only made good the access, but has a team of volunteers repairing any problems that arise day by day.

Local action not only gets things done, it makes for local solidarity too, which in turn throws up people able to truly represent the ordinary person’s concerns.

As I say…long term measures. I just hope we have the time, otherwise life will become nasty, brutish and short for the Eloi while the Morlocks feed.

Start hissing and flapping your wings. You have more power than you realise.

The Road Trip

Perhaps the old ways were best….

Our Japanese tin box, our mode of transport for many years, has been showing increasing signs of wishing to give up the ghost just lately thus incurring hefty repair bills.

We had been hoping to wait to replace it once Leo had obtained his certificate of disability, which gives rise to tax relief on the purchase and maintenance of a car, but his application has stalled in the works thanks to

A. Covid

B. Working from home due to Covid.

C. Not working at home thanks to Covid.

D. Government institutions’ websites being hacked for ransome.

E. Government unable, even if willing, to cough up.

F. Government institutions more bothered about starting a witch hunt among their IT personnel than sorting out the problems of the end user.

Had we had the disability certificate we might just have been able to afford a second hand hybrid …as it was, we could only afford second hand diesel or petrol.

Accordingly, the internet sales sites were consulted. The car had to be relatively economical – given the recent price hikes at the pumps – not too high off the ground to allow Leo to access it without gymnastics, while the boot had to be large enough to take the electric wheelchair.

That cut the candidates down to a very few options….and then the fun began.

There were two cars in a town on the other side of the Central Valley…one owned by an elderly lady, the other by a garage.

Telephoned the elderly lady to arrange to view.

All was organised and the team set up for the morrow….Leo, Danilo – to drive – and Alvarado, the local mechanic and car nut, to deal with the inspection and to obtain directions by Whatsapp.

For what follows I have the testimony of Leo and Danilo……Alvarado wisely stayed mum.

They set off at 7.00 am, heading for the lady’s town – a two hour drive away – but did not ‘phone for exact directions until 8.00 am, as she had requested. She replied, and then told them that the car was actually in a suburb of the capital….a suburb on the far side of it, and gave directions via Whatsapp.

Fine, except that by now they were en route for her original rendez-vous and much swearing ensued while they changed direction.

Guided by Alvarado at the Whatsapp they entered the capital and then Danilo baulked at driving through a notorious no go area….one where the population hook their property to the electrical supply system without the aid of official technicians who are too frightened to go in there and without the need to pay as no one is prepared to go in to cut off the supply.

Danilo….They’ll have the wheels off the car!

Alvarado…..Well, don’t stop!

Danilo…..Not even at the lights? That’s where they lurk….and we’re carrying money!

Leo………I have the cosh. Just drive.

They emerged safely, though, as Alvarado remarked, that was probably because the inhabitants were sleeping off their lucubrations of the night and did not emerge from their lairs until the pavements were aired.

They arrived at the destination in a respectable suburb to find a locked garage and no elderly lady.

More swearing.

One hour later she arrived, complaining at having to drive from her home to show the car, but unlocked the garage and let Alvarado loose.

Apparently there were a few dents in the bodywork, but all looked sound enough, so he prepared to take it for a drive.

Elderly lady……….How do I know you won’t just drive off in it?

Alvarado….Hop in,Senora!

The ill assorted pair drove off, to return some fifteen minutes later with the elderly lady white as a sheet. He had driven her through the no go area to pay her out for the delays.

He thought the car was a bargain at the price and Leo asked the lady…now fanning herself….to call her lawyer to arrange the transfer.

Nothing so simple in Costa Rica as to simply note change of ownership at the National Registry…no fear. As with all transactions a lawyer has to have his sticky palm crossed with silver.

Her lawyer’s office was in a suburb to the south of the city but he would not be available for another hour as he had to drive there from his home out in the country.

More swearing.

The lawyer’s secretary was in the office, however, and provided the group with coffee and cakes while they waited. And waited.

Half an hour late, the lawyer arrived and got down to business.

Had they the funds to pay?

Leo showed him the envelopes conatining the money. The lawyer gathered them toward him and Danilo gathered them back.

The appropriate document was drawn up, but there was, it appeared, a slight problem.

The elderly lady had taken out a bank loan and given the car as security, but, not to worry, she could sort it out with the bank once she had the purchase price in her hand and then the car would probably be available at the end of the month.

Alvarado….How do we know, Senora, that you won’t just run off with the money?

Danilo………Why did you not tell us about the loan?

Leo………We are leaving.

The which they did, to the sound of the elderly lady complaining that they had been wasting her time.

This beng somewhere near mid day they stopped at a caff for lunch and decided that, as they were out, they might as well see the other car, and so it was that they finally arrived home in the late afternoon with Alvarado driving it. The garage had been organised, even to having their tame lawyer come to their own offices, the car was fine and the price had been haggled down.

Just another transaction in Costa Rica, where surprises abound and everything takes at least twice as long as you expect. But you do get coffee and cake.

Gizzards To The Lot Of It!

Today is Sunday. In theory we are undisturbed apart from Carlos coming to let out, and later close up, the sheep.

In practice it is nothing of the sort. Leo has resumed buying day old chicks for meat production and as, from a wheelchair, he cannot supervise them out in the poultry house in the rainy season he has had a cage erected on the balcony in order to follow their progress. For cage imagine something the size of a police holding cell, roofed against the rain and surrounded by plastic sheeting to keep the wind from the chicks, who bask under a shaded lamp.

The dogs also follow their progress…noses pressed against the wires of the cage, squeaks and bellows of frustration that they cannot get at them until they forget about it a few minutes later.

At feeding time the dogs have to be shut in the house as otherwise they would be in the cage as fast as you could say ‘Jack Robinson’, demonstrating nature red in tooth and claw.

The chickens, however, remain unmoved, eating, drinking – prodigiously – and sleeping under their lamp, oblivious to the outside world.

Not only chickens inhabit the balcony….he is also supervising the pregnant rabbits whose vast hutches spread across one of the windows, giving us unprecedented access to bunnyvision in the evenings – the munching, hopping and scrabbling considerably better than any local TV offering.

Add to that the potting shed corner. Being the rainy season, all the pots, vast deposits of different soil types, ashes and orchid mixes have been translated to the balcony, on the side protected from the rain, giving great enjoyment to Mr. Darcy – small French bulldog – who burrows into the lot like a demented badger, spreading contents far and wide and treading the lot into the house on his little paws.

Thus on Sundays I have the joy of feeding the chicks and cutting fodder for the rabbits to add to the general round….so after lunch I look forward to a couple of hours of peace.

The rain has started, bucketing down. We are up in the clouds, a white world stretching out from the balcony with the shadows of the canna india and palms wafting in and out of view. I have closed the doors to the balcony and preparing to stretch out with a book when there is a hullabaloo from the dogs, all pawing at the front doors.

Muttering curses I go to investigate, only to find what I first supposed to be the Costa Rican version of Grendel’s mother….a dripping figure, hair plastered to its head, bearing two unpleasant looking knives. An aroma of pig seeps into the house.

It is the young man from across the road….

I open the doors and the aroma of pig intensifies.

He has, it appears, arranged with Leo to kill the cockerels.

What, today?

Yes, today.

Though living in Latin climes for many years, the British restraint inculcated in youth still holds strong. Instead of howling abuse and slamming the door I usher him onto the balcony and summon Leo who can give me his explanations later when I deliver a curtain lecture….for the moment, let him sort it out.

He does so…a killing zone is set up on the outer balcony…in the rain. This does not seem to bother the young man in the slightest. He probably thinks that the rain will wash his clothes thus saving on washing powder. I wonder if the rain will lessen the aroma of pig, but doubt it…..with his unintelligible speech – and the aroma – he reminds me of Edwin Pott, Lord Emsworth’s pigman, but without the latter’s level of sophistication.

Cutting boards and plastic bags set out, I close the doors and leave the two men to it.

The dogs range themselves on the chest in the bedroom for a good look at the unexpected spectacle and I return to the book. Apart from the odd bloodcurdling canine scream of joy as one after another of the cockerels are killed, all is peace.

Until Leo opens the doors to demand smaller freezer bags.

Someone has blundered.

The dogs are off the chest like the Light Brigade, heading for the killing zone.

The young man holds three plucked birds to his bosom as the pack deploy around him while I hope to hell that the rain has washed the aroma of pig from his tee shirt…..

Leo has seized the bowl with the innards….

Napoleon makes a dive for the intestines, dragging them over the tiles to be devoured under the rabbit hutches.The activity makes the rabbits nervous…so hoping for no miscarriages….

Aunty and Scruffy take the wings..the remnants .later to be discovered in the bed…

Mr. Darcy seizes a head, only to be cornered in the shower by Podge…

Black Tot takes another head to her lair under the sink…

Plush has the third which, on reflection, he discards and is later discovered when I tread on it in the loo when going to bed…

Order restored, the chickens luckily having acquired no offensive aromas, freezer topped up, when Leo, beaming, tells me that he has found a Mexican recipe for chicken gizzards with squash…..

At the end of my tether, all I can think to say is ‘Gizzards to the lot of it!’ and go to bed.

Fnd Plush’s discarded head.

In the early hours, nipping out for a pee without putting on the light, discover that Napoleon has disgorged the intestines…..

Clear up and wash feet in the shower…..tread on remnants of yet another head….

All Systems Stop.

The bridge over the Quebrada Honda

We live up in the hills, some forty odd kilometres from the capital. The main road is a two lane double yellow line affair, so getting caught behind a heavy goods vehicle on the way home can add several minutes to the journey time. On the descent from the hills the road crosses a river..the Quebrada Honda….via a single lane bridge which was installed some seventy years ago and which has recently been closed as the various coats of paint applied to it over the years have done nothing to repair the underlying structure which has finally been recognised as dangerous.

Bus passengers have been aware of this risk for years, from observation of their driver crossing himself before crossing the bridge.

There are not many main roads in Costa Rica outside the conurbations, so the authorities’ bland statement that those wishing to reach the capital should use alternative routes was greeted with a less than cordial reception.

Given the lack of local employment people in this area are forced to go to the capital and its suburbs to find work….the morning and evening rush hours resemble the London North Circular at its worst as cars, motorcycles and buses jam the roads, so how was this mass of humanity to be assisted?

The bus company running from the capital to the coast on this road just stopped all operations, leaving those on the other side of our little town without any public transport whatsoever. That was until the local battleaxe, with the power of the church behind her, made forceful representations which restored service from the town to the coast.

But from the town to the capital?

No problem. The company running that service announced that they would run buses to the bridge, the passengers would then dismount and walk over to the other side where another bus would collect them for the onward journey.

Fine, except for two minor details.

Firstly the two ends were not co ordinated, which led to queues of half a kilometre waiting for a bus to arrive.

Secondly, the company charged two fares…….one to the bridge and another for the onward journey which amounted to more than the original fare for the complete journey.

Enter the battleaxe once more and the fares were revised……though the queues remained. An enterprising gentleman set up a business selling snacks and drinks until denounced to the authorities for having no licence to do so.

For Costa Rica, things moved swiftly. It was decided to install a Bailey bridge with a pedestrian walkway alongside while works were undertaken and a contract was awarded with a limit of twenty days to complete the project with an immediate start.

Except that the waterboard said that they did not have the necessary machinery to dis and remantle the waterpipe under the bridge. A thing about the size of a drainpipe. Par for the course for their local office. The mayor of the neighbouring canton invoked the powers of his office and contacted the national boss of the waterboard. Pipe dis and remantled in short order. Pity the same dismantling could not be applied to the local boss.

The walkway was quickly installed, and open to pedestrians and motorcycles – though it was necessary to remind riders to dismount rather than roaring through on full throttle. So some of the traffic was catered for.

Cars and lorries, however, had no such luck.

Deliveries were disrupted as lorries had to go from the capital to the coast on the laughingly called motorway – a two lane road with heavy tolls – then turn back on the old main road to reach the town.

Cars – and those lorries who thought they could get away with it – were left with the alternative routes.

Despite paying taxes which go to road maintenance, country roads are best approached with caution at the best of times, and this was not the best of times. To be fair, the neighbouring council started upgrading immeditely, while ours, of course, did not as the machinery needed was, as always, under repair.

The choice of alternate routes was stark. There was a paved road to the capital which meandered through the mountains, though ‘paved’ did not exclude potholes resembling archeological sites and yet another dodgy bridge…..apart from adding an hour at least to the journey.

There was a road just before the bridge on the town side which led up into the hills by the windfarm which disfigures the landscape and then down into the capital’s suburbs which offers wonderful views of the valley below, except you would be too busy trying to keep the car on the track to notice them.

Closer to home is the road which meanders cross country…one branch leading north to the motorway and the other east to the capital. It is a dirt road and whichever branch you take it involves crossing a rickety bridge bearing a notice prohibiting its use! Safer to drive through the river beneath it – at least, it is before the rains start if your car does not have a snorkel.

A further option is to drive through the indigenous reservation. The road is good through the village, and not too bad for a dirt road afterwards, if you can see where you are going for dust.

However, members of that community have got the hump at the road being used and have taken to laying heavy branches across it to impede traffic.

Don Freddy, caught by one such branch, announced that it was a pity that the conquistadores had not done a more thorough job, which, while it might be politically incorrect, sums up the general view of the matter.

So, as we were not obliged to go to work, how did the bridge closure affect us?

Badly, as Higher Authority had six hospital appointments in the space of the twenty days!

The Japanese tin box did not appreciate jolting over the dirt roads, and its engine has fallen apart, necessitating a trip to the garage – or in our case the local mechanic who is zillions of colones cheaper and a whole time zone faster. We hope to keep it going until Leo is officially declared handicapped – process bogged down for months because of Covid excuses – at which point we get a tax exemption on buying another car, so fingers crossed that he can do the job.

Still, the twenty days are up…the pedestrian walkway has been removed….our troubles – car permitting – are at an end.

If you believe that you will believe anything. This is Costa Rica.

The bridge has been installed, certainly….but the ramps are insufficient to support the weight of buses and lorries. Apparently ramps were not mentioned in the contract….

Now, the roads department has recently been involved in a large scale corruption scandal, so voices were immediately raised questioning whether this omission was down to incompetence…or something else. How long would we have to wait until there was a resolution?

Another week…another month….?

Much to everyone’s surprise, machinery is in action at the bridge today…the twentieth day….building up the ramps. I suspect that the mayor of the neighbouring canton hs got things moving again…but no one seems to know for sure.

Now all we have to do is to wait for a proper replacement bridge to be built……..considering it took three years to replace the one between us and the town I won’t be holding my breath.

Peek a Boo I Can’t See You

I was brought up, in the family as at school, to question and to seek sources when forming an opinon.

Relatively easy in those days where librarians could advise further reading and the interlibrary loan service would provide the book you needed within one week – long before AI held sway. And it was the book itself, not a propagandised bastardisation of the author’s work which met with governmental approval.

And we did have proper governments….not the bought handmaidens of international business…..and a diverse press to stimulate debate.

There was, as always, a strong spirit of conformism. You tended to do what your family did, or what was deemed acceptable in your stratum of society, but mavericks were just that, mavericks, not demonised as threats to the established order.

I remember people being not very interested in politics, but decidedly interested in the world around them. Hard not to be in the Cold War period aligning one block of powers against another, but luckily with leaders who had undergone wars and knew that they did not want them repeated, whatever the sabre rattling for domestic consumption.

Fast forward to today.

Increasingly on the social media I come across people who say that they no longer listen to the news, have no interest in current affairs or politics…’it is all so depressing’. They cannot cope with it all.

Forgive me – or not – , but I think it is their duty to cope with it.

Hobbes claimed that a sovereign with absolute power gave true protection to the subjects who had given up their liberties to obtain it, and criticism was unjustified.

“he that complaineth of injury from his sovereign complaineth that whereof he himself is the author, and therefore ought not to accuse any man but himself, no nor himself of injury because to do injury to one’s self is impossible.’

Very much the French understanding of the social contract by which the government – the state – embodies the will of the people…and God help the person who decides that it does not.

For Hobbes the state of nature preceeding such a surrender is the negation of civiliation…thus the quote the life would have been ‘nasty, brutish and short’.

Locke had another view of the social contract. To preserve his liberty both in person and possession, the individual surrendered to the power of the state…but only insofar as the state protected both. Should the state overstep the mark then the citizen had the right to oppose it…to revolt.

But do we have Hobbes and Locke to guide us these days…or even J.S. Mills?

No. We have Twitter, Facebook, and a press with one voice, dependent on government subsidies to survive.

So, for those with their heads in the sand, never mind your own demise, think of the lives of your children and grandchildren…and side with Locke.

.

The Immortal Memory

Ca the yowes…for those unacquainted with the Doric….https://lyricstranslate.com/en/robert-burns-ca-yowes-lyrics.html

Robert Burns, poet of the human condition, whose life and works are celebrated tonight by Scots all over the world.

A man of his times, whose message is timeless.

A Scot, who speaks still to the world.

From the sheer fun of ‘ The De’il’s Away Wi’ The Exciseman’, written for a gathering of his fellow customes officers,

to the lyricism of ‘Flow Gently Sweet Afton’

his song of independence , ‘Scots Wa Hae’ – which, in faster time would still make a better anthem than that blasted dirge ‘Flower of Scotland’. No wonder we lose everything…..

and his song of brotherhood ‘ A Man’s a Man for A’ That’ as sung at the opening of the Scottish Parliament…and those bastards should be ashamed of themselves all these years on at their betrayal of their country…yet another parcel of rogues in a nation.

With typical Scots pawky humour that was the tune played to summon defaulters – military miscreants – to their punishment in the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders regiment.

He has inspired many over the centuries…..

Abraham Lincoln, who was given his poems as a young man…’From Shakespeare I learnt the sonnets, from the Bible, the scriptures, but it was from that man that I learnt humanity.’

Maya Angelou, who was given his poems as a child …..’He was the first white man I read who seemed to understand that a human being is a human being, that we are more alike than unlike”.

And when we link arms for Auld Lang Syne, whether it be with the lass from ‘Coming Through the Rye’ or Holy Willie we live out his dream, that whomsoever we might be we are capable of a belief in the goodness of each other and our collective ability to make a better world.

Happy New Year

A Happy New Year to you all…..and may it be considerably better than 2021!

But it won’t be if we don’t take heed of the changes in our society.

We have seen governments taking on arbitrary powers to combat Covid…..and being reluctant to give them up.

We have seen private companies…Facebook, Youtube and Twitter……deciding what we can and cannot say and can or cannot read.

We have seen the rise of ‘hate crime’, where it is sufficient for someone to feel offended for Plod to appear on your doorstep.

We have seen respected academics sacked for holding unpopular views.

We have seen police giving more attention to controlling the public than protecting them from crime.

We have seen the rich get richer and the poor poorer, the latter stigmatised as lazy and workshy while those attributes should be realistically assigned to the former.

We have sick societies, so, in 2022, prepare to get up and stand up for your rights

Hello, Hello, Who’s Your Lady Friend?

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 Dog and Bone

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.

Just think……

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…….

The voice.

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.

And just to finish…or to finish you off

Hugo sings Hallelujah