In The Morning, When We Rise

I have a habit of singing – or honking – along to myself as I start making the breakfast and this song popped up from the depths just recently.

It reminded me of just how much I enjoy the early part of the day – before it really gets going, when it is all mine.

The 5.00 a.m. pills, puffers and potions having been dealt with, Leo goes back to bed and I have the house to myself for an hour or so, before the chaps arrive to start the working day.

The dogs wander in and out, too sleepy to do very much, and I make a cup of Earl Grey to take out to the table on the inner balcony to enjoy the morning. The sun has hit the hill of Grifo Alto across the valley but everything between is still in the shadow of the mountain behind the house, soft greens and greys, the yellow flowers of the guachipelin groves muted and the bright red of the poro trees softened to a dull crimson. Small birds are chirping and warbling, but no other noise intrudes.

This, of course, in the dry season. In the rainy season I look out on the top of Grifo Alto and the summits above San Antonio clearing the white cloud that fills the valleys, an occasional breeze piercing the veil to reveal cattle grazing on the slopes. Different, but still peaceful and lovely.

Looking back, our decision to move from France all those years ago has paid off. Costa Rica is by no means an earthly paradise, and its vanted eco credentials would not stand impartial enquiry, but it has been good for us.

A climate which has kept Leo alive, a national health service which has its langeurs – some indefensible – but should you have an emergency is on to the problem like a shot, and a popular attitude to government which in effect derides it and circumvents its edicts whenever possible.

I was horrified to read, both officially and from friends, about the restrictions on normal life imposed in France and the U.K during Covid…..need to fill out a form to walk the dog, limited to a few miles from your home, police pushing you off park benches, prohibited to visit your elderly relatives…what a shit show.

Here, yes, small businesses were hit by closure orders while the big boys carried on trading, but people used their commonsense about limiting contact, much as Sweden seems to have done.

The then government, of course, followed the same path of those in Europe and the U.S.A….over ordering of useless PPE through cronies with no experience of the market including the obligatory tart. Injections were made compulsory for civil servants to use up some of the incredible number of doses ordered given the size of the population…but then we had a new government, voted in by people fed up with rule by oligarchy.

It has faced obstruction by the National Assembly, where the same old gang congregate and all the institutions of government, plus the judiciary and the press, all in the hands of the oligarchs down the decades.

Still the government is making progress…slowly, but progress all the same.

I can’t say the same of the U.K. or France.

Governments mad enough to cripple their own economies – already hit by the lunacy of lockdowns – by sanctioning direct Russian fuel supplies which they end up buying anyway, paying intermediaries top dollar for something which they were previously getting cheaply.

Governments whose reaction to disapproval of their policies is oppression rather than dialogue.

Governments who aim to outlaw non electric private vehicles – never mind that most people can’t afford the electric behemoths.

Governments incapable, or unwilling, to control the banks.

I could go on, but would need another cup of tea….too early for gin. The sun is not yet over the yardarm but it has risen over the mountain. The flowering trees take on their true colours, the pasture is green and the toucans in the tree by the house are croaking into action as the warmth envelopes them.

Time to start the day.


We Have An Electric Kettle

This was the mill that was offered us, many moons ago, though considerably less moons than the period in which this photograph was taken.

By the time we saw it, the upper stories had been converted into a large and elegant house with a suntrap courtyard and enough garden beyond to keep us happy. Ideal.

It was on the edge of a small town with all amenities, set back from the busy road that ran over the bridge and looked out over a horseshoe weir on the river where swans ruled the roost, with woods beyond, but the main attraction lay in the basement of the old building…….turbines. Turbines still working and producing electricity.

There was a drawback….EDF, the state monopoly power supplier, refused to accept the electricity thus generated, but a friend with experience of such set ups said he could find a solution which would obviate the need for all the windows to be open in winter and all the lights to be left on all night.

We had had enough of EDF and its continual power cuts – usually at hours when using the oven. On first moving to France we wondered why the big seller in the DIY shops was a hob with two gas rings and two electric ones. Thanks to EDF we soon found out why. Thus the attraction of the turbines.

The owner’s husband had recently died and she wanted to move to the south of France to be nearer family…she also wanted to sell a house in the medieval centre of a town not far away which was next door to the house we were restoring there, so had made contact for the latter purpose – no chance, we knew the state of that place – and then introduced the idea of the mill.

We arranged to view, but as it fell out I could not go and Leo went alone, being warned to sound his horn on arrival so that her daughter could shut up the ferocious Beauceron guard dog.

It was a boiling hot day and when Leo arrived in the parking area above the house he forgot to make the warning honk. He saw no sign of the ferocious Beauceron either until he walked down to the courtyard garden and an enormous dark shape rose slowly from the shadows and lumbered over to inspect him. Leo kept walking and the Beauceron turned to walk alongside him, all very peaceful until Leo entered the garden to find the daughter sprawled naked on a sunbed.

She let out a screech, the Beauceron leapt forward and bit her arm, and mother emerged at the gallop to collar the dog and shout at the daughter to make herself decent. Daughter fled to the house, mother let go of the dog and Leo stood very still, watching the dog make a bee line for the sunbed and crash himself down on it, panting happily.

Drama over, the tour proceeded, the Beauceron in close attendance throughout, and Leo agreed a date to see the notaire.

Then the second drawback raised its head….the owner had already agreed to sell the mill to people from Tours…except that they had had trouble raising the readies. The owner wanted to collar their deposit as the cooling off period had long expired. She had stayed her hand while no other buyers were on the scene but as we had appeared over the horizon she wanted a solution. Rapidly.

The notaire was not so sure. Well yes, in principle, legally…but would it be wise?

At this pronouncement we were sure that the buyers from Tours were well connected…people the notaire would not like to offend by looking after his client’s interests, and we were right. A friend, ex deputy mayor of Tours, confirmed our suspicions.

So we did not get the mill…but we did get the Beauceron.

Months later, the owner turned up at our place with a car boot full of tinned dog food – and the car itself full of Beauceron.

She had, she explained, no way to take him with her. He had been her husband’s dog and – with his reputation – her family would not accept him. He had obviously taken to Leo so she had brought him to us. The alternative was to have him put down and she could not bring herself to do that. No, I thought, you’d have to pay for that and then what would you do with the dog food?

Now the cheek of the French bourgeoisie is unequalled on this earth…but looking at the poor old boy, ears back and miserable in the car, the idiocy of the British with animals is likewise unequalled. We took him.

Our first visitor christened him Jaws, and to Jaws he answered…..he was a very old boy for a Beauceron and spent his days sleeping in the sun if it was available and by a radiator if it was not. He would accept visitors in daytime, but at night he came on duty. One flap of the hand and he had you.

He slept outside our bedroom, which meant that visitors wishing to visit the loo on that floor would either have to climb the stairs to the top floor or go down the main staircase, through the kitchen and up the back stairs to the loo in the library to avoid Cerberus….. a great pity we had not bought a collection of chamber pots when visiting the vide greniers – the ’empty your attic’ sales held in most villages over the summer months. We had looked at them but the eye in the bottom had put us off, nomatter how delicate the form. We had even seen a Bourdeloue….

an item named after a famous preacher of the 17th century whose sermons were so long that ladies were in need of a pit stop, and designed to fit under voluminous garments. One has visions of maids coming and going in the aisles with these chamber pots while the preacher boomed on, oblivious….

Needless to say, the Bourdeloue was not an option in Presbyterian Scotland… got through the three hour sermon on mint imperials handed out by grannie…one mint imperial per hour.

Visitors were not too bothered by the detours on the way to the loo…..despite warnings, someone always left their bedroom window open and bats entered the house at dusk to circulate in the staircase area…so those worried by encounters of the batty kind soon learned to go to the loo before retiring.

What has brought all this to mind after all these years?

Because we have bought an electric kettle.

These items have been banned by Higher Authority ever since I have known him….they waste electricity is the reason, as people always put in too much water for the task they have in mind.

His sister bemoaned the absence of such a device when on holiday years ago, and, to his great displeasure, bought one. It rapidly appeared at the next vide grenier and nothing replaced it.

What has changed his mind?

Costa Rica’s equivalent of EDF….ICE, that’s what.

When we were first here, power cuts were frequent and long, then matters improved for a number of years only to decline again over the last two years. If Leo has to get up in the night, it is a very risky procedure without light, so it is a joint effort to get him safely into his wheelchair and then to light him to the loo and back.

They also seem to time their power cuts when I am using the oven or the microwave….and it always crashes the internet when in the midst of something.

We had already abandoned ICE’s internet service…..every time it rained it went down while the speeds would have disgraced an arthritic tortoise….and the increasing number of power cuts made it tempting to abandon their power service too.

Thus a good offer on the installation of solar panels came at the right moment. It was not viable economically, given our low usage of electricity, but well worth it to have independence.

So, finally, we have an electric kettle!

We Are All Shadoks Now.

Long ago and far away, in the year of the evenements of 1968, a an animated series took to French television…’Les Shadoks’.

It recounted the struggles of an alien race to leave their unstable planet…..for Earth….and gave a picture of these poor devils and their attempts to build a suitable rocket. Of a birdlike appearance, they were of limited intelligence…for example, their brains had only four cells and could handle only four words…should they attempt to learn a new word, one of the existing ones had to go.

Society was run by a king – of course – a sorcerer and a professor, the latter being charged with the construction of the rocket which would take the Shadoks to Earth. The said professor claimed that by extracting an element from the atmosphere, the rocket could be fuelled and, accordingly, the Shadoks were set to pump it up.

And the shadoks pumped and pumped…….a useless occupation because the professor was wrong. But still they pumped because ‘better to pump even if nothing happens than to risk something worse happening by not pumping’.

Under the aegis of authority comforting slogans abounded to account for society’s inefficiency.

‘Why do it the easy way when you can complicate things?’

‘If there is no solution, it is because there is not a problem.’

‘The worst thing for the brain is to use it to think’.

‘If you keep on trying, you will eventually succeed, so, the more you make a cobblers of it the better the chance of success.’

‘If it is hurting, it is working!’

But as there are always some troublemakers who question the way things are, the way to keep control is always to attack the same groups.

Why do the Shadoks come to mind?

Because, looking at our societies, I think they finally made it to Earth.

We have a population dumbed down by an education system which ticks boxes rather than encouraging independent thought….I sometimes wonder about the number of brain cells some idividuals and groups have available….we are encouraged to believe in the impossible – ‘the science’ rather than scientific enquiry – accept the unacceptable – paying private companies with public money to exploit the public – and demonised if we raise our heads.

Oh well, just keep pumping…..

A One Horse Dorp

A description well befitting our local town. When we were first here, elderly gentlemen were still coming into town on horseback to make their purchases, just as, when we were first in France, elderly gentlemen were coming into town on old tractors to make theirs.

But time flows by.

These days the elderly gentlemen arrive on the bus or are brought in by their families in cars, the latter giving rise to a problem.

According to the local council.

Parking never used to be a problem…..if all the kerbside spaces were in use, you double parked. The roads were wide enough to cope without traffic being blocked and you could move from shop to shop as the fancy took you, dumping your purchases in the car before moving on to your next port of call.

All very relaxed. Especially for those of us suffering not only anno domini but also avoir du pois with the resulting effect on the knees. Most shops here, like the local shops I remember from childhood, have chairs for their customers, but that is not much compensation for having to hirple over uneven pavements to reach the shop in the first place, which is the result of the council’s latest scheme to rob us.

They started off by covering the place with yellow lines to indicate the prohibition of parking but soon discovered that the fines thus obtained went to central government and not into their pockets. Central government knew…the place was crawling with traffic cops…..but the council is a bit slow on the uptake.

Then they had their eureka moment…probably inspired by the example of the capital, San Jose, governed by the same political party as our one horse dorp.

We would have delimited and numbered parking spaces, but you needed an app to access the system which was fine for those who trust in technology, but not so fine for those without any mobile ‘phone, let alone a smart ‘phone nor for those who had suffered losses due to the hacking of the national inter bank payment system.

Nevertheless, the marking out of the numbered spaces took place, only to be obliterated a week later when the national roads agency laid down a layer of asphalt over the lot.

Undeterred, the marking was undertaken again and, in response to those without smart ‘phones, little payment booths were set up on every corner, supposedly to make life easier, no , not for the user but for the council to collect its share of the booty from the un’phoned and the technically suspicious.

At the same time, the price of parking doubled, despite promises that there would be no increases for six months. To be fair, it is not expensive even now, but it does not give much confidence on future price stability.

What is the annoyed citizen to do? Complain to the council? Might as well shit in your hat, they are making money, despite paying the army of blue clad parking space inspectors who prowl the streets all day.

Reactions vary.

Park without paying, leaving a passenger in the car to keep a weather eye out and move the car swiftly at first sight of a council shitehawk.

Park in one of the three shop car parks where all depends on your relationship with the chap who minds the place. I have long paid pension contributions and the odd bottle or two to one of these gentlemen so for visits on that side of the town I am covered.

Use the private car park run by Don Julio. More expensive than the council parking, but it covers the council offices and the major bank and I would prefer to pay Don Julio than the council. He was very kind when we first moved here and I don’t forget it.

Businesses have suffered as people have started to do their shopping at the next town down the line – which has no parking regulations – not that the council is interested. One goes bust there will be another one along….

Perhaps we will have to return to the days of coming in on horseback, though no doubt in that case the council would be installing tethering posts to be paid for by the hour…………but good luck identifying the owners.

Horses don’t wear licence plates.

Rabbie Burns

Burns Night is upon us again… one here will be celebrating, apart from a Canadian who owns a kilt and can play the bagpipes. Leo is too ill to enjoy black bun, but we have haggis, though wthout the neeps, and whisky in which to toast the Immortal Memory.

Unfortunately, in moderation. And not only because the Speyside stuff is all you can get here….nothing from the islands. No Laphroaig, no Lavagulin, nor my father’s favourite, Highland Park, sweet from the peat cuttings which smoked the barley. Now, would you believe, they are marketing the stuff as Viking whisky…though I trust a glass of ‘the creature’ would not send one off on an orgy of murder and looting.

Still, one never knows……

Burns flourished in the period of the Scottish enlightenment…and grew up in the determination of the Scottish Presbyterian church that every child should go to school. He was well equipped to view his society, nomatter how his society viewed him.

Given his views on freedom and liberty, how would he react to what is happening in his beloved Scotia…where a government voted into power to gain independence from the United Kingdom hangs onto to power under UK control rather than strike out to fulfill its promises. Where in order to stay in power it aligns itself with the Greens – a party whose policies are now being inflicted on the nation.

Years ago, a good friend, a retired German vet who had been through post war imprisonment in work camps in Russia, described the Greens, then becoming a force in German politics, as terrorists, hell bent on overturning everything that made life worth living. That man was a prophet!

What he could not have foreseen was that their ideas would be adopted by governments world wide – apart from the governments producing the most pollution, that is.

We have net zero targets with governments galloping ahead to rely only on renewable energy sources without thinking for one moment whether these are as yet sufficient to maintain civilised life for the mass of people. In the meantime the suppliers of these energy forms enjoy state subsidies, paid for, of course, by the public, who are those who will suffer power outages when the renewables fail to produce.

The car is the enemy – unless it is electric powered. Let alone the cost, which will make it impossible for most people to buy one, what about the misery of those – including children – in the Democratic Republic of the Congo mining cobalt to produce lithium? Do the Greens care…or is the relief of that misery the job of charities? Save the planet…stuff the children.

The list is endless, but what concerns me currently is a recent development in Scotland whose parliament has recently passed the Gender Recognition Reform Act 1922 with the aim of permitting those wishing to change their legal gender to do so with less restrictions.

Given the blanket provisions of the act there has been public dissent, giving rise to demonstrations in support of the Act, on one of which these placards figured, behind the smirking faces of two Members of the Scottish Parliament

TERF stands for trans-exclusionary radical feminist…or, in English, women who do not think that trans woman are women.

How is it possible, in a land which used to pride itself on its respect for liberty and free speech, that its society has produced people who can think it possible to turn out with such disgraceful slogans? Where are the police, so hot on hate crimes? Where is the condemnation in the press… the Scottish Parliament? If you follow the link be prepared for some very disturbing content.

Robert Burns, unforgettably described by Mike Biles in his ‘A Bit About Britain’s High Days and Holidays’ as a chap whose brain was generally used merely as a periscope for his willie, and known to make appearances on the penitence stool at the kirk, might these days find himself cancelled should he now proclaim that ‘a man’s a man for a’ that’.

Happy Burns Night……

Here’s tae us,wha’s like us,

Gey few, an they’re a’ deid

A Guid New Year Tae Ane An’ A’

Many thanks for all the pleasure your comments have given me over the year and my wish for you all is that the coming year will bring you what you yourself wish for and that your lives are untouched by grief or worry.

Who knows how the year will turn out….

‘For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.’

So carpe diem, gather your rosebuds while you may and lang may your lums reek!

Christmas is Coming, the Rich are Getting Fat, Quick to Steal a Penny from an Old Man’s Hat.

As the title might indicate, I have not as yet acquired the Christmas spirit….but I hope that it is on its way.

As Leo has been very ill, I’ve been spared the endless stream of ‘Jingle Bells’ and other such abominations as hospitals don’t indulge. However, there are other distractions to while away the hours of waiting for test results – such as the mask ritual.

A new government has come to power with the express aim of breaking the cartels which are breaking the back of the country. While having popular support, every state institution is out to sabotage their efforts, stuffed as these institutions are with the creatures of the cartels.

In the case of the junta running the health ministry a number of high ranking officials jumped ship to international organisations at the change of government while those remaining bunkered down to make change difficult. The new health minister – young and a woman – is pushing ahead and the President has backed her by sacking the entire remaining junta – roughly on the grounds of incomptence and corruption. However, their appointees are still in place and to mark their defiance of the minister, who is not too bothered about mask wearing, masks are imposed in all state hospitals on staff, patients and visitors alike.

Thus, while we were waiting for results of tests, Leo was using an inhaler. Something you can’t do while wearing a mask. An officious nurse bustled over, commanding him to wear one and when I indicated that it would be a physical impossibility, threatened him with being thrown out if he did not comply. Given strength by the inhalation, Leo drew breath and blew her backwards bow legged with his opinion of her intelligence and his suggestions as to where she could put the test results once they arrived. He was exhausted, but it was worth it to see her depart in a huff and even more so when the assembled porters came over to pat him on the shoulder, beaming in delight.

Still, he is home now, though running up to the local hospital daily, and Christmas can begin.

Music has always been part of the celebrations……the traditional hymns and carols and the awful schmalzy stuff alike……whether your tastes run to this….

Or to this…..

Or this.

Then forget the miseryguts with their

And enjoy whatever suits your mood.

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and many more to come, with ‘Adeste Fideles’ from Notre Dame de Paris as it was in all its glory.

Sumer Is Icumen In

‘Sumer is icumen in’ is, we were told at school, the earliest non sacred song known in the U.K. If you have not grasped the lyrics, here is a link giving the original and the modern translation.

We learned it as one of the many ’round’ songs like ‘Frere Jacques’ and ‘London’s Burning’ and I think of it now that the bods at the Met office have officially declared summer in Costa Rica.

Glad to hear it.

I have had enough of large rocks descending on the roads….

enough of said roads collapsing….

enough of landslides taking out the telephone lines….

in short…


We have been organising for the heat to come. The fans are in working order and we are well supplied for cold drinks.

I have found a new recipe for lemonade with fermented lemons……..reading that it took some time to be ready I started early, and celebrated the first day without rain by trying it. I shall be making more, a lot more, so just as well that we have a glut of lemons to make both that and ordinary lemonade.

The stand at the weekly feria supplies me with fruit drinks straight from the lady’s finca. Orange, watermelon and guanabana – soursop – ready to put in the freezer for the week ahead.

There is, of course, beer. Made in Spain by a German firm, given a Czech name, exported to Costa Rica and currently on offer in the local supermarket. At that price I filled the car boot.

Roll on the cold soups – vichysoisse, the gazpachos, cold minestrone……..

Roll on the tabouleh, the melon, mint and feta, the cucumber and tuna……

Roll on the cold trout in orange juice and vermouth, the fish pate, the red snapper salad

Roll on the ham – thanks to the Italian deli on an industrial estate, found when lost – the cold chicken galantine, home made terrines, the pickles…….

Roll on the cheeses – thanks again to the Italian deli – and the puds……. burned cream, Eton mess with strawberries from Volcano Poas, fruit tarts…….

We shall sit on the balcony with a G and T looking out across the Central Valley to the mountains beyond and relax in the balmy weather, rain gear packed away at last.

Dogs shall sleep.

However, I have more than a sneaking suspicion that anticipation will be better than the reality.

Most of these delights involve cooking as part of their preparation.

And who will be doing that cooking?

In a hot kitchen in summer?

Muggins…that’s who.

November 11th…..Armistice Day.

Until in her late nineties mother used to march past the Cenotaph for the annual ceremony of remembrance whether on foot or, in later years, pushed in a wheelchair by a chum from the Brigade of Guards .

Father would never attend any such ceremony, considering it all a masquerade which glorified the deaths and wounds of those who were sent to war for interests that were not their own.

Mother wanted to march with her comrades.

Father turned his back on the whole thing.

But on some things they were agreed. Those who died in war did not ‘sacrifice’ their lives…….they were killed, wounded, potentially maimed for life both mentally and physically, in actions ordered by their governments.

Governments which do and have not given a toss for those who serve in their wars. Plenty of lip service and ceremony, but a U.K. Ministry of Defence which throws money at inept procurement projects while sending the human beings out in the field with defective equipment to take their chance. Discharged veterans without aid and support, some even on the streets.

Further, those who go to war have a strong bond of solidarity…they look after each other through thick and thin…something in civilian, in political life, in these days of identity politics we seem to have forgotten.

Can you imagine them not going to the aid of a comrade because he voted for Brexit….was of a different skin colour….approved of Trump? No, you can not. They will bring him in and argue about their differences later.

It is a lesson we can learn from those who volunteer to defend their country…though all too often they end up defending some other country’s interests.

In civilian, in political life we should stop identifying people by the labels either they or others give them.

We need to band together to defend the values which we need to have a healthy society.

Good housing, good education, real employment.

We can argue about our differences when we have won.

And on a personal note, here is something that brings back memories of mother.

The Royal Hospital Chelsea offers care and accommodation for a limited number of veterans, known as the Chelea Pensioners and recognised by their red coats and black tricorne hats.

Every year at the Royal British Legion Ceremony of Remembrance they make their entry, clapped to their place on the stand to the accompaniment of ‘The Boys of the Old Brigade’.

And every year, without fail, mother would greet their entry with a cry of ‘Creepers!’ and then have to take to her handkerchief as she remembered the ‘boys of the old brigade’ now gone.

Absent Idiot

I left the house this morning to go to my regular contact session with students learning English at the local Technical College. A group of volunteers are at the disposition of the teachers to encourage the students to practice their english and it is a lot of fun. I have learned from the students how to cook beans properly, Costa Rican style…which is the best pizza takeaway in town…how you gain admission to public universities…what is reggaeton– dance music……a real breath of fresh air. The students are well behaved, responsive and really nice young people. They do me good. I hope they benefit from it as much as do I.

We have discussed all manner of things….why a true Scot wears nothing under the kilt, who are the kings of rock, the war in the Ukraine….and have worked on the skills they will need to find success in their future careers, not just language competence, but networking and continuing professional education.

So, on a high, I returned home.

One look and I would have done well to turn on my heel….the kitchen was in chaos. Higher Authority was directing operations, every surface was covered and the cleaner was brandishing cleaning cloths and dusters.

He had found all the kitchen gadgets which I had tucked away…out of sight and hopefully out of mind. Their discovery while I was out qualified me for the apocryphal Russian translation of said phrase…absent idiot.

Higher authority has a weakness for gadgets…..but he isn’t the one using them.

Some are useful….the one I use for steaming pan haggis, for example. Apart from steaming it claims to cook and fry as well, but I already have provision for these activities so apart from haggis and Christmas pudding production it remains in its lair.

A sandwich toaster has long been abandoned to a dark corner. Such is its shape that it requires supermarket sliced bread which is as vile here as in Europe and, what’s more, the major supplier of which rejoices in the name of Bimbo. Bimbo is also the sponsor of one of the major football clubs in the country whose supporters buy and wear copies of the team’s kit, thus the sight of gentlemen of all ages, shapes and sizes strolling about in tee shirts emblazoned with the name of the firm in bold letters across their chests. It gives an anglophone pause for thought in these days of transgenderism…

The blender had been brought blinking into the light. Not only do I not make ‘smoothies’ but the cup is a real beast to clean, the designer having given it internal ribs, so it rarely emerges from obscurity.

Not too much of a problem so far….the gadgets were being dusted and replaced…but too soon to breathe easily.

He had discovered the electric saucepan. To be fair, he had bought it thinking it a slow cooker, but having a sufficiency of normal saucepans I had put it aside.

Why had I put it aside? Look, it has temperature control! Ideal for making ersatz golden syrup!

To Britishers of our age, life without a stock of golden syrup is unthinkable.

No golden syrup, no brandysnaps, steamed puddings, gingerbread or, most importantly, treacle tart.

In the days that the British Embassy had some care for its citizens, there used to be a celebration of the Queen’s birthday in the garden of the ambassador, complete with highland dancing but most importantly with a stand supplying British essential consumables. Fray Bentos steak and kidney pies, Bird’s custard powder, proper loose black tea, pork pies – and how they got those through customs is beyond me unless they used the diplomatic bag – prepared suet, Mars bars, golden syrup…….the stand was mobbed and it was handy to have been trained in how to use the elbows at church jumble sales in order to get to the front.

These days the embassy could not care less if its fellow countrymen took a running jump…they are there for trade purposes only, and, being so commercially virtuous, there are no more cakes and ale for the hoi polloi. Thus, no more golden syrup. You have to make a substitute and for this, I am informed, the electric saucepan will be ideal. It is placed on the work top, ready for action.

Then, lastly, my particular bugbear…the air fryer. I hate the thing. Chips, french fries, call them what you will, are not meant to be cooked without fat. I loathe the results. I loathe wrestling with the thing, trying to release its basket for cleaning. I loathe burning the backs of my fingers on it when turning out its contents.

We ought to have another go…I’ll look for a recipe.

And look he did.

With the result that I have wrestled with the thing and burned the backs of my fingers again.

Air fryers? Humbug!