Let Gin Be Unconfined

After a few rough months we were finally lifting our heads again…we had had a visitor, life was returning to normal…and then you all know what happened – Corona virus. So now, as we are both elderly and Leo is more than vulnerable, we are supposed to stay on the property, have no visitors, wash our hands to an extent which would alarm Lady Macbeth – well, you know the drill. Distinctly frustrating, but at least we are not shut up in a small flat in this baking weather.

And, once the sun is over the yardarm we can enjoy a gin and tonic and look out over the valley below.

Makes me think of the First World War song to the tune of ‘in and out the window’…

Breaking out of barracks’, not to speak of ‘parading all unbuttoned’….giving rise to fourteen days in barracks…’as we have done before.’ ‘Yes, and we can do it, yes and we can do it, yes and we can do it, as we have done before.’

No doubt that we can…we have been living in each other’s pockets 24/7 for many years as Leo has been too ill to work since in his forties and so far homicide has not been on the menu.

Thanks to having lived in France, at the first sign of problems we stocked up on essentials so were not taken by surprise by the Presidential address to the nation which sent the entirety of said nation out in search of rice, beans and toilet rolls.

Why toilet rolls? I suppose in this digital age there are less newspapers available to be cut into squares and placed on a hook in the loo. As children visiting an appallingly pious aunt – who was as tight as a duck’s arse, watertight – we used to be intrigued by the newspapers spread on the floor by her cleaner after mopping same – excerpts from ‘The News of the World’ – a scandal rag whose reporters always ‘made an excuse and left’ when in tight moral corners. Even the aunt did not use Bronco or Izal…disinfected glossy paper rolls which left more liquid on your hands than on their surface, so time in the loo could be well spent trying to match one square of the NOTW with the follow up of the reportage.

As my father – who detested this sister – said, where did the newspaper come from? The cleaner hardly brought it in herself. Furtive equiry at the newsagent revealed that she had it delivered – ‘for the staff’. As if ‘the staff’ would have had time to breath under the supervision of Aunt Ellen, let alone read a newspaper…

As things are quiet on the confirmed cases front in this area I did go out to the feria – the farmers’ market – on Saturday morning. All very well organised with one entry point, then down the ramp where a large lady in an overall squirted soap on your hands and directed you to the basin provided with running water. Another overalled lady then gave you one paper towel to dry your hands before releasing you into the market area. The number of stand holders was down – including the lady from whom I buy tomatoes – no kissing or hugging – and the clients were few.

It appeared that, as usual, I had missed the action. It all went off on the Friday evening.

As this weekend marks the end of the month, people have been paid. Having been paid they want to shop, thus lines of cars blocking the roads as the supermarkets limit access – and a crowd headed for the feria.

The local news service is usually at the feria, to promote it, but this time they produced film of people pressing to enter, and the aisles, if not crowded, at least somewhat busy with people not keeping a distance. The commentary criticised the organisers of the feria, emphasising the risk of contamination and the clip went out that evening.

The response was immediate. Someone associated with the feria announced that the maker of the film should be lynched for endangering the livelihoods of the stall holders, with which there was much agreement, among remarks that the news service was, as usual, trying to kick up a fuss to attract viewers.

The frontman for the news service – someone whom I find bombastic, to say the least – claimed that his work was essential and unbiased and that he would take those who proposed to lynch him to court.

He will be out of luck there….the courts are shut for all non urgent matters. I expect that his case may be put back until manana…and manana…and manana…

I find it interesting, however, that the film clip appears to have been removed, to be replaced by still pictures of the feria with the headline ‘The feria cares about your safety’…

As he cares about his, I suspect.

There has been a positive angle to the campaign to limit the spread of the virus…a curfew on use of the roads at night – 8.00 pm to 5.00 am on the weekends and 10.00pm to 5.00 am on weeknights. If you are not travelling to and fro your place of work, then you are not to be on the road. People in the centre are rejoicing, because the gangs of youths on unsilenced motorbikes no longer strut their stuff or, should they do so, a call brings the police down on them very rapidly. The silence in the evenings is most appreciated, it seems.

On Saturday night the dogs alerted me to traffic on the road…it sounded like three unsilenced motorbikes followed by a jallopy, to judge by the engine sounds, all going like the clappers up the steep hill to town. Collecting the dogs from the gate I saw that this assortment was being pursued by the local police dog van, complete with flashing lights, barking from within and, as the driver waved in passing, the siren. I think they were having fun.

This curfew, and the closure of the parks, is felt to be very unfair on the drug dealers….they’ll probably be asking for a rescue package shortly.

Any type of ‘flu is potentially fatal for Leo, so, over the years, with every ‘flu epidemic, we have become accustomed to shutting ourelves away. When in France I used to put a notice on the gate asking people to call on the telephone rather than entering if we were not expecting them, and this worked well.

I was telling a friend here that I must do the same and he said that I must be joking…one look at our pack of dogs belting to the gate would have anyone in their right mind legging it. So I did not put up a notice.

Yesterday I was washing the dogs. This needs careful preparation if one is to avoid having to hook dogs out from under beds, thus revealing more than I want to know about the fluff levels and have wet dogs dry themselves in our bedding after their ordeal. First close external doors – quietly so as not to alert them. Then close the gates to the swimming pool, as they can escape by running round its wall. Collect the gear on the table on the balcony. Close doors to the bedrooms. Entice dogs onto the balcony with a treat for Scruffy, who will be followed by all the others to ensure they don’t miss out. Close door to the house. Then grab first dog, pin against balustrade with knees and get to work…

I thought that they were kicking up more than usual…and as I cleared down the mess and let them out I saw that they had reason to do so.

Standing in my garage, sheltering from a shower, were two of the local God botherers.

There are notices everywhere telling people to stay at home, not to go visiting and there were these two, bold as brass, having opened the gate and walked all the way up the drive. To make matters worse, they knew that Leo was in poor health and at risk…but still they came.

Keeping them at a distance I asked what they wanted…oh, they had come to enquire about Leo’ s health…all with eyeballs rolling to the sky and the usual pious utterances…and while they were about it, could I give them the money to buy a gas cylinder?

Life in Costa Rica has softened me…when living in France they would have received a barrage of abuse and possibly a whack from a shovel in the posterior resgions. I contented myself with declining to assist them and shepherding them to the gates.

Once on the other side one of the ladies assured me, with a sugary smile, that Costa Rica would be safe.

Why is that, Senora?

The Virgen de los Angeles has flown over the country, giving it her protection.

The Virgen de los Angeles is the patron of Costa Rica…

and she has indeed flown from the national basilica in Cartago to cover the entire country, but not, you will be relieved to hear, under her own steam. The image was carried in a police force plane…it flew over us at about half past six in the morning last week.

The tempation was too severe.

A pity she did not drop you off a gas cylinder when she was passing.

Notices go up tomorrow…but for now – time for a tisue restorer.

Summer is icumen in…

Summer is indeed upon us: we might lack the cuckoo in these tropical climes but we certainly have the full range of farmyard animals referred to in the lyrics about us.

And, especially, we have Monty.

monty-in-the-garden-005

From this little thing, rejected by his mother, he has now, some two years later, turned into this:

IMG_20160123_143151

Very much the patriarch with his family about him.

He took his time making the transition.

For a long time he hung about near the house doing guard sheep duties:

monty on guard

But more and more he was drawn to the flock whence he came until he finally decided to take up residence and dominate them rather than us.

He has taken on the typical attitude of a ram…if it is in the way, butt it, if it isn’t butt it anyway… but still and always cuddles up to Leo, mild as milk.

Clearly, he does not forget who saved him.

Climate change is with us: the pastures are drying out early in the unseasonable heat, so thank goodness that we laid a lot of ground down to cameroun – a nutritious fodder grass – a few years ago¬† to supplement the grazing which means that the ewes maintain vigour and can support their lambs, unlike Monty’s mother who had arrived half starved.

We were supposed to be at the altitude limit for coconuts to fruit…but this year, not content with fruiting, they have started to germinate:

IMG_20160121_140822

Goodness only knows what changes we will see in the future…but, for the moment, as this song from the late fifties says:

 

 

 

 

Where are the men in underpants when you need them…..

john major
You know who I mean…the Superheroes who wear their underpants over their trousers, flying to the rescue in the nick of time.

So where were they yesterday, I should like to know, when I was clambering ungracefully in and out of stream beds in the pouring rain, feet slipping out of my shoes and mud plastering my shins.
A pair of underpants descending from the heavens would have been very welcome but, of course, when you don’t need men…even Supermen…they are tripping you, wanting cups of tea and wondering where you have put the screwdriver last seen in their possession.
When you do need them they are in the loo.

I had gone up to the building site to have a quiet think about what to do about the area below the pool….I would like to look down on flowering trees, but have to take their future height into account if not to damn myself to scooping out leaves for ever after.

The pink fleshed guava was dropping fruit wholesale, so I was filling my ancient Asda shopping bag when a car pulled in behind me.
It was the owner of the goat farm further down the valley, with his wife and family….they had called in to tell me that one of my sheep was loose on the road down towards their place…and that they had found her lamb in the ditch further up.
They had taken the lamb and put it just inside the gates to the house but they could not catch the mother.

As I went down the hill the heavens opened and the dogs rushed ahead to shelter only to come to an abrupt halt at the clump of poinsettia by the gate.
There was the lamb – a little tricoloured chap clearly just born – tucked in underneath, so I thought I’d best take him indoors first, putting an old towel in a cardboard carton to make a bed and shutting him in the office, safe from canine curiosity.

Now for mother.

It’s a long walk on a stony path and it feels distinctly longer in the rain, but I could see the ewe ahead searching along the stream edge and then had a horrible thought that perhaps she had had twins so started loooking out carefully as I walked on.
I was in luck…she did not move away as I reached her…so I made a fatal error…I did not get her on the move back up to the house immediately.
I found where she had escaped, and got down into the stream to see if there was any sign, any trace, of a lamb on the banks.
Wet, dirty, but satisfied that there was not I climbed back up to the path….to find that the ewe had disappeared.

Then followed a game of ‘now you see me now, you don’t’ as she emerged from the bamboos on the other side, perched on a heap of decaying wood, only to plunge back into the bamboos as I reached the summit, which, inevitably, crumbled under me.
Into the stream, out of the stream…in the bamboos, out of the bamboos….tantalisingly close but never quite in reach.

What I wanted to do was to drive her up the path…but getting her on to it was something else.

Then, a brainwave. What about my bra? If she let me get close again I could chuck it round her neck and haul her onto the path so I struggled out of a wet T shirt, removed the bra and struggled back into the T shirt.
Bra at the ready I stalked the ewe.
Into and out of the stream….in and out of the bamboos……and I got her!

She was off like a rocket….stage one (me) dropped off early in the flight. Stage two (bra) was discarded half way up the hill to be recovered as I plodded up in her wake.

I was worried that she would hare past the gates but found her waiting for me just inside, sniffing under the poinsettia….and luckily the other sheep started to call so she was willing to head for the pens.

I closed the gate and strawed up one of the pens I use for the hens, then went to fetch the lamb.
I put him down in sight of the ewe…and he bleated. High and strong.
The ewe turned and came to him straight away, her bleat low and reassuring and they were reunited. He got to his feet and made for the milk.

But where were The Men while all this was going on?
They had gone into town, and not finding me at the house on return had assumed I had taken shelter from the rain up at the building site.
Accordingly they had decided to get ahead with rounding up the poultry, so we must have been replicating a Whitehall farce with me entering the front door to fetch the lamb as they left by the back door to bang up the ducks.

The first job is always to recover the eggs which both hens and ducks lay under the perpetually broody yellow duck who lives above the door to the duck pen.
This involves mounting an old kitchen chair armed with a broom to shove her off the nest while she attacks with beak and claw…but this time Danilo had had a brainwave of his own.
He decided to use his sombrero to immobilise her while collecting the eggs which is why when I arrived with the lamb in my arms and followed by the ewe I was greeted by the sight of a sombrerod duck launching herself from the top of the pens intent on mayhem while The Men dived for cover.

Still, all’s well that ends well….and here is a rather bad photograph of mother and son displaying the usual ovine obstinacy in that he has his back to the camera and she is lying on the only bit of floor not covered with straw.

IMG_2496

The ‘Phone Call

powerisastateofmind.blogspot
powerisastateofmind.blogspot

Friday morning for me in Costa Rica, Friday afternoon for my mother in England.
Time to call her for her shopping list.

She used to have a shopper, but when she retired and handed over to a younger woman mother could not get along with things.
Items would not be bought…didn’t have any….the sell by dates could be as close as the next day….oh, it’ll be all right…or some cheaper alternative would be provided…that’s the brand my kids prefer…

So now I call her on Skype, she gives me her shopping list and I go on line to Tesco and make the order which will be delivered to the door a week later.
Thus she doesn’t have to carry anything heavy and doesn’t have to go out at all if the weather is inclement.

So, the nine o’clock coffee out of the way I wind up Skype.

The ringing tone is answered promptly and my heart sinks as a suspicious voice asks

Who is it?

Glory be, mother’s friend Adolpha, over eighty and hard of hearing, has collared the ‘phone.

I tell her it is me and I’m calling to get mother’s Tesco list.

Fatal error. I hear her saying to mother

There’s some woman here from Tesco trying to sell you something.

As I am about to bellow a correction down the ‘phone in the hope that mother can hear it at the other side of the room, Luzmilla – Friday is cleaning day – comes in from the balcony shooing a dog before her. Volubly.

At the other side of the world Adolpha adds

Some foreign woman.

Seeing I am on Skype and assuming that I am talking to my mother Luzmilla shrieks a greeting into the laptop.

Sounds hysterical!

I suppose they have to meet targets, says mother’s voice.

Plenty of English people would like those jobs replies Adolpha, herself from Austria. It’s a disgrace and she doesn’t even speak English!
Now look here, whoever you are….

At this point I manage to get her to understand that it is me on the line…

Well why didn’t you say so!
Here, it’s your daughter.

We get down to brass tacks and mother is just wondering whether to change her brand of tea bags when Monty the lamb, unable to find Leo and in need of milk, nudges me sharply on the arm and bleats loudly.

What on earth was that?

Monty.

That doesn’t sound like a lamb….too loud.

Luzmilla, who fed Monty on her lap when he was tiny and adores him, tells me she will heat the milk while I’m on the ‘phone and as Monty bleats again as he sees the fridge door opening she replies with a bleat of her own.

More like a camel…No, I think I’ll stick to the same ones…Now, meat…

We set off again while Monty is fed and Luzmilla moves off into the bedrooms, her progress marked by the banging of the broom against the skirting boards.

Then the insect sets off. I don’t know where it is, I don’t know what it is though I imagine it to be some sort of over endowed cricket but it makes a noise like a dentist’s drill and can be heard over a wide area.

Now what’s going on….I’ve lost my train of thought…
An insect? No insect makes a noise like that…Danilo must be working somewhere…

Lamb chops – but loin chops, make sure they are loin chops – decided upon, the merits of gammon come under the spotlight as opposed to pork….and then the dogs bark furiously as Danilo’s son arrives on his motorbike with the day’s supply of fresh milk for Monty, to be received by Luzmilla with much shouting at the dogs to be quiet.

It’s a madhouse…whatever is going on? The milkman on a motorbike…still I suppose it’s better than mine – a new man I think, comes creeping around late in the morning, when he thinks I can’t get to the door fast enough to complain about the Gold Top! If that’s from Jersey cows I’m a Chinaman.

I think they must water it down, says Adolpha in the background and she and mother discuss the likelihood of this, oblivious to the seconds ticking away on Skype, their conversation ending in
You can’t trust any of them these days.

Mother decides on the gammon.

We have run through most of her list with a slight pause at Evian water as she was sent Buxton water in error last time and does not want a goitre at her age and then she thinks she will have a packet of breakfast cereal….

Puffed wheat, I think…
And then the guinea fowl strike up, legging it past the back door…

I know what that is. That’s those awful birds you had in France who kept trying to drown themselves….
Whatever possessed you to get some more….and don’t let them send me organic puffed wheat.
Tasted like cardboard and a tiny packet for the price….
Yes, that’s the lot….

We say our goodbyes and as I shut down the call I hear Adolpha’s voice in the background

They said it was organic, but how could it be? It came in a cellophane packet….what’s organic about cellophane?

Meet Monty

Monty
Monty

Monty was born three weeks ago, but his mother rejected him. So, instead of being outside with this lot:

Four baby lambs, two three weeks old, two a fortnight old.
Four baby lambs, two three weeks old, two a fortnight old.

Monty is living in the house….and spending more time in the garden as he grows increasingly independent.

His mother and another ewe gave birth to twins on the same day – and both mothers rejected the males; butting them away quite roughly, so we took them into the house.
One little chap was just too weak to make it, and we thought we had lost Monty too on the second morning. We looked into his box expecting the worst…but a little grizzled head was lifted slightly, and Monty battled on.

Leo spent endless time getting him to take milk – he had no idea of sucking, so Leo rehydrated him first with water around his mouth, then rubbing milk into his lips until his mouth opened…and then coaxing him to take milk from the bottle.
And why Leo?
Because when he was a little boy of seven, his sister was born and his job was – when he had done his homework, finished his rows of weeding in the garden and washed up after supper – to get the baby girl to take a bottle before rocking her to sleep in her pram. No easy task, from what he remembers!
He reckoned that if he could get his sister to take a bottle, Monty would be no problem…and so, after a day of patient coaxing, it proved to be.

Monty slept and drank, slept and drank….and then began to take an interest in his surroundings. He tried to latch onto the Alsatian – who fled to the sofa and then, as Monty became capable of reaching the sofa himself, would take one look at the approaching lamb and head for the hills…

The Alsatian, legging it
The Alsatian, legging it

So Monty is making do with Leo….

Leo and the Lamb
Leo and the Lamb

We bought the sheep last year – with a view to mutton – and they were a distinctly mixed lot.
Monty’s colouring is predominantly that of the Barbados Blackbelly breed – apart from the white tip on his tail – but you can see from the photograph of the other four that they are a decidedly diverse little bunch!
We certainly won’t be winning any prizes for best in breed, but they are easy to keep, out on the pasture in the early morning to get the grass while it is wet with dew, then up to the shelter in the heat of the day to chew the cud and vociferously demand extra rations of sugar cane and banana stems – vastago – chopped small.
Taking a bucket of bananas in to them needs a talent for swift movement, otherwise their sharp little hoofs have your feet pinned to the ground in seconds while they jostle for the contents.

And Monty?
The aim is to wean him and reintroduce him to the others…he accompanies Leo into the shelter to cut cane and, while not exactly accepted, is not attacked either, so the next step will be to go out on the pasture with him for increasing lengths of time.

That’s the aim…..but I wouldn’t be altogether surprised to find that we have to get another sofa for a sheep….because these two won’t be too pleased

Fifi and Tot
Fifi and Tot

if Monty takes over their bed….

Bed? Whose bed?
Bed? Whose bed?

Christmas is Coming….

christmas tree hopital de ninosAnd San Jose abounds in fibre glass reindeer and inflatable santas to add to the perils of the streets.
The lights have been switched on at the tree outside the Hopital de Ninos and the municipality has declared war on unauthorised street vendors.

It seems to have worried the municipality that the street vendors have encroached on the muni’s prerogative by hiring out sites to each other, the contract assured by a few heavies, as opposed to the muni’s system of licensing street sellers and sending the police to chase the others who just nip round the corner and come back when the police have given up.

My money is not on the muni.

Christmas music has taken over in the supermarkets….and the decorations are going up in the three valleys.
And very nice they are too though they cannot – could not – rival those of the area where I used to live in France; I reckon that it could have been seen from space over the Christmas period though unknown to the world and to GPS at all other times.

One item catches my eye each time I pass.
A Santa Claus, all white beard and whisker on the red oval background.
I know things about that santa which cannot be revealed to its proud owner.

Some time back I was visiting my mother before Christmas as part of those ‘let’s see if the house in France has been taken over by squatters’ trips.
She was sorting out her Christmas card and present list and held out to me in some annoyance the item which now adorns a door in the three valleys.

Hilda won it in a raffle for the blind and passed it on to me! What does she think I’m going to do with it!

Well if you don’t want it….

I certainly don’t!

Then it will come in handy for wrapping up this bottle of port I’m taking back.

And so it did.
The port emerged from the suitcase unscathed – as I had not passed through U.S.A. airports with their Fagin trained baggage handlers – and I laid the wrapper aside for disposal.

The next day the woman who mucks us out each week came for her regular session which has The Men heading for the hills and the dogs lying low under the balcony while mops are flourished and dusters deployed.
She saw the wrapper and asked if she could have it.
Of course she could.

After all, what was I going to do with a festive loo seat cover?

But I still feel vaguely guilty as I pass the house…..

Needless to say, The Neighbour (some of whose history is available on the page just under the header) has decided to contribute to the Christmas spirit.
He has let it be known that in his view we are responsible for the ruination of local solidarity – that is, his reign of terror – and that he expects every Costa Rican to do their duty and ostracise us until we move out.

And if any Costa Rican does not then he will take measures to encourage them: he will kill off their cattle, poison their dogs and take a machete to anyone he encounters when there are no witnesses.

Clearly a conviction politician.

We don’t know everyone on our road….though we know a lot of people after the mess made of the water distribution by the people behind The Neighbour….

We are not universally liked by those we do know….the ‘soy pobre’s (I’m poor) who think we should give them plantains rather than sell them.
As I’ve said to a number of them…they have plenty of land to plant their own plantains, to sow beans and maize….and if they can’t be bothered, that’s their problem.
I’m not a charity for the idle.

The Neighbour is, I think, at his last throw of the dice.
Thanks to new laws and the courts his power as a sort of witchdoctor is in sad decline….people have seen that he can be taken on.

So now he goes for the race card…..and he will have some success.

But I think I can live with being ostracised by idiots….I’ve had that all my life.

Chinchilla Goes A-Hunting

Chinchilla-Comunicacion-CORTESIA-CASA-PRESIDENCIAL_LNCIMA20131104_0006_57Laura Chinchilla, President of Costa Rica, is on a tour of Europe to attend a meeting of the OECD and drum up investment and tourism for her country.
I’m never happy when Costa Rican politicians visit Europe….they inevitably return starry eyed with new ideas on how to separate the citizen from the said citizen’s money following the example of those masters of financial meltdown, the European Union.
Last time it was VAT…what will it be this time?
The ecotax on heavy goods vehicles currently going down with all hands in Brittany?

Paris was the first stop….
Usual meetings with the President of the Senate….and even with the reclusive Hollandouille, President of the French Republic where the usual platitudes as to investment were exchanged – the French want to flog a tramway to San Jose – and the possibility of opening Costa Rican waters to ships of the French fleet was discussed.

The Costa Rican Legislative Assembly need have no fear of approving this measure as every time the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle attempts to leave port either the propellor falls off or they run out of nibbles in the wardroom so there’s not much chance of pom-pom hatted matelots performing the cancan in the streets of Limon any time soon.

President Chinchilla then went to the real seat of power…the offices of MEDEF, the bosses union, to have more meaningful discussions on inward investment in Costa Rica.
While not privy to the session I imagine that MEDEF would have been interested to know to how the facilitation of the social dialogue works in Costa Rica: as we are now belatedly discovering, in France it works by shovelling bank notes to the tune of several million Euros into the hands of union leaders on a regular basis.
I am sure that President Chinchilla was able to tell them how the social dialogue is facilitated in Costa Rica.

Before moving on to the Vatican, President Chinchilla wound up her visit by giving a speech at the UNESCO offices in Paris where she drew attention to Costa Rica’s strongdemocratic traditions in a region more noted for the despoliation of the people by oligarchal regimes…and to Costa Rica’s respect for the environment…for the natural world.

notre dame de paris wikipedia.commons.orgFrom that point of view it was perhaps infelicitous that on the Sunday the President had attended a mass at Notre Dame de Paris…in the company of government colleagues travelling with her and embassy staff.

She’s a Roman Catholic…so why not? She was welcomed by the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal Vingt-Trois, and she heard mass.
Where’s the problem?

In the light of her declarations at UNESCO the problem was that the mass in question was that of St.Hubert.
The patron saint of the hunting fraternity.

les=photos=de=dd=over-blog
les=photos=de=dd=over-blog
If you are not familiar with them, the music of the ‘trompes de chasse’ is based on the calls necessary to direct the mounted hunt…la chasse a courre…. and all over France, in towns as well as in the countryside, you will find the feast day of St. Hubert celebrated by groups of players of trompes de chasse outside and inside churches…from tiny chapels in the forests to the mighty Notre Dame of Paris itself.

Let me leave you with an example of the music that President of Costa Rica may have heard:

A Winter’s Tale from Costa Rica

insidecostarica.com
insidecostarica.com
No Florizel or Perdita, no statues coming to life…just a quiet winter’s evening in the country.

It has been raining since mid afternoon….cloudbursts to start with, filling the streams with the roaring dangerous waters…then thunderstorms…and now steady rain which will end sometime after we have gone to bed.

The sheep don’t go out when it rains…..the cattle have come up to the corral to eat the cameroon – fodder grass – that Danilo has put through the cutter…the horses are with them.

In the house all is peaceful after the dramas of the morning when the PC wouldn’t work and we had to contact Hewlett Packard’s helpline in Mexico to go through the troubleshooting process and finally to relaunch the Windows programme.
I was helped by a delightful man who realised very rapidly that he didn’t have to go through the script – and who did the whole thing in English for which I was most grateful as I find computerese bad enough in my own language and impossible in anyone else’s.

Luzmilla has cleaned the house from top to bottom – dogs fleeing to the chicken houses and men making themselves scarce….
Danilo has gone home.

The last batch of the Christmas puddings are steaming…

The straight-from-the-cow milk, full of cream, has been scalded and is cooling before adding the yoghurt starter…

I made a pizza for supper…but the red wine we tried with it was a disaster. Tannic wasn’t the word for it….

We checked the front label. Three years old.
Then we checked the back label…..where the wine’s ‘sweet tannins’ were vaunted…’nuff said!

So tomorrow I’ll be making a stew….a recipe from one of Leo’s aunts.
We haven’t eaten this for a while…but a bottle of sweetly tannic wine makes a good excuse….

Caramelise sliced onions…set aside.
Brown beef. Return onions to the pan with garlic, thyme and bay leaves.
Cover the meat with a half and half mix of wine and beef stock.
Add juniper berries.
Dollop in equal amounts of jam and mustard.
Cook until beef is tender and thicken the sauce with cornflour.

To be served with ‘stumf’…
Onions caramelised, thinly sliced potato laid on the top…water to barely cover and cooked gently until the potatoes are cooked and the water has evaporated.
Mash.

It’s a potato dish Leo loves…you can substitute carrot or cabbage for the onion…and ideal for a rainy night with a hefty stew.

Shortly I must take the dogs out before bed….they would normally take themselves but we have recently been given a new addition – the Pernicious Poodle Puppy – who doesn’t yet know her way around and so needs to be accompanied…and then I’m off to bed myself.

But over a cup of mate tea I have time to realise how tranquil things are…how much I have unwound….and how, if I am ever to write the book about my life and times in France, I will have to gird up the loins and put time aside to do it.

I have had two attempts…one, to use old blog posts and the other to write from scratch.
Now Perpetua has suggested an essay format and that seems a good idea.

So today I looked out my notes…and tried to start up Scrivener. Of that, least said the better. Back to the notes.

But I would be grateful if anyone has any suggestions for a format….something which would confine my soapboxing to reasonable limits but which is not yet another of the ‘how I hung up my high heels and tamed the septic tank’ sagas.

I listened to a last song before venturing out into the rain…and blessed my good fortune that the winter here is mild.
No cold winter howling o’er moorland and mountain as in ‘The Road and the Miles to Dundee’.

The Wanderer’s Return

thisamericangirl.com

Before we go any further…..these are calves…agreed? Small, appealing manageable creatures….

My return has not been a resounding success.

It was not a good idea to leave Spain with mother on Sunday, travel all day, settle her in, cook a meal, pack and leave at 2.00 am on Monday for the airport.

London Heathrow Terminal 4 was not a good idea either.
Very few service staff in the forecourse and an insistence that the clients use ‘print it yourself’ check in slips.
By the time I had fathomed where to slide in my passport and which way up and had discovered that to swipe a bank card you need to move it in and out of a slot I was in an ill humour…the situation not improved by the multiplicity of staff within the tape bound snake toward the actual check in who seemed to want to see the already swiped passport, and ask damnfool questions about where exactly I was resident.

Once past security the shopping area was fine if you’re a fool who likes to be parted from your money but otherwise distinctly useless….and again overstaffed with ladies in mauve who were quite capable of telling you where to find expensive rubbish and not so hot on telling you where to find the decidedly scarce destination indicators.

It had not been a good idea not to bring sandwiches.
The Caviar House and Prunier stand was just setting up for the day, their staff wearing those absurb black hats that these days denote catering staff whose management has ideas above the quality of their product.
Dining Street resembled a cross between a dilapidated Wimpy and something left over from the Olympics publicity team.
And as for Costa and the poncily named Apostrophe…forget it. One look at the stuff being loaded onto the shelves and the hungriest would renounce eating something that looked as though it had been flung together by primary school children inadequately trained in finger painting.

Not to speak of the prices.
You could easily slim if you had to live in the post security area of Terminal 4.

The flight was fine…if you like being in the middle seat with no way to turn on your reading light when every last idiot in a window seat has pulled down their window blind in order to watch crap on the laughingly called entertainment system.
No other seat with a working reading light available.

Breaking my glasses and losing the important lens was not too hot either.
I had to spend four hours on the connecting flight staring at the map that shows how slowly the plane is approaching the destination and then crowning disaster, picked up the wrong case at the baggage claim.

It was the same colour, it had the same purple through baggage tag….but it was not mine.
A working pair of glasses might have avoided that…

The airline were on the ‘phone as I hit the front door.

I returned, and discovered how easy it would be to blow up the airport.

The airline office is behind the check in desks. Without a question, without control, I toddled in to hand in the bag and to retrieve my own.
Yes, there are security cameras, but there is nothing whatsoever to stop you from dropping into the loo, depositing a bomb in the waste bin and toddling on your merry way again.
Oddly enough, the other party had not claimed the missing case….mine had been discovered forlornly on the caroussel….so goodness only knows what that was about.

I returned home. I had supper. I went to bed.
As I switched on the light there was a noise as if of a herd of elephants bellowing.
Underneath my window.

What the blazes is that?

Ah.

That reply, so small in itself but so pregnant with meaning.

You remember I told you I’d bought some calves?

Yes, I did remember the project being mentioned.

Well, that’s them.

After a night of bellowing and banging about below, morning brought enlightenment.
cattle 005

Five seven month old Brahma crosses, weighing some 200 kilos apiece, testicles still very much attached and missing their mothers.

So far one has escaped via the stream, chased the new neighbour’s horse, charged through his corral upsetting the fire over which he was cooking his mid day soup and returned via the drive taking with him a stand of ornamental gingers.

The new neighbour, far from complaining, helped in the recapture.
It brightened up his day apparently as he is currently living in a horsebox having been thrown out by his wife for losing the contents of his lorry while boozing instead of coming straight home from the feria…and lunch at ours was better than lunch at his.

The Men are busy strengthening the pen….and the sheep are adjusting to the new normality.
cattle 004

I’m not sure that I am though perhaps it is as well that I have returned as apparently the neighbour has opened negotiations with a view to moving into our currently unused pig pen as providing better shelter in the rainy season…..