Costa Rica Rural Design Exhibition. Exhibit Number One…And Only.

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Here are the judges in the local – very local – rural design exhibition.

One is clearly unimpressed…the other curious.

Personally I embodied both views, mixed with incandescent rage of an intensity rarely experienced since leaving la belle France and the crew of overpriced bodgers more politely known as ‘les artisans francais’.

It was, of course, my own fault.

The combination of a cataract and a dodgy  ankle had sent me base over apex while – rashly – clearing the piles of books on the bedside table. Books were scattered in all directions while a despairing grab at the table led to catching my hand in the flex of the bedside lamp which fell to its doom on the tiled floor.

Much untoward language used while hauling my self up and messing off for broom and dustpan to avoid any ceramic splinters being left on the floor to the hazard of passing paws. Needless to say the disaster had attracted a canine audience, though Higher Authority had the good sense to remain at a distance. A muttering woman with a broom is best left well alone…..

I went shopping for a replacement that afternoon in the local Chinese tat emporium, as being the only place in this small town likely to have a bedside lamp.

You can buy a saddle easily enough, change your car tyres or buy clumpy furniture on the never-never, but a bedside lamp is another matter.

It did indeed stock bedside lamps.

One style stood about a foot high with a gold coloured twisted stem and shade in imperial red. Too big – and too red.

Another was miniscule.

One alternative was a ceramic monstrosity in the shape of a boat. It weighed a ton and to say it was kitsch would have been an understatement, but the major factor in determining its rejection was that it reminded me of Captain Pugwash’s ship, the Black Pig, and there was no  way in which I was going to bed every night with the Pugwash theme tune running through my head.

You see what I mean? Once heard never forgotten – and for those of you who think there is a touch of Jimmy Shand in there, you are right.

.For the uninitiated, Captain Pugwash was a children’s programme on the BBC, using cardboard cut outs operated by levers and recounting the adventures – and disasters – of that most pusillanimous of pirates, Captain Pugwash, and his faithful crew who sailed the seven seas in the hopes of avoiding their dastardly enemy Cut-throat Jake, master of the Flying Dustman.

It was one of a series of programmes which would be played in my time as a ritual in student union bars to an adoring public…Noggin the Nog… Bagpuss…The Clangers, all had their day and if you take a look at The Clangers it may go some way to understanding how we turned out…

However, the kitsch boat rejected, there was one chance left….a monolithic lighthouse, obviously a product of the same tormented mind. It too weighed a ton and it too was rejected as its associations would not be conducive to slumber…

 

Ys, of course it is a spoof…but it still makes me laugh and laughter brings me back to wakefulness.

The first night without a bedside light was not a success. Trying to find the mobile ‘phone to provide light when going to the loo was  an enterprise fraught with disaster, but there seemed to be little alternative until the Chinese tat shop changed its stock.

I had reckoned, however, without The Men…Leo and Danilo.

I had had to go out and left them busily building a low fence from left over wood to keep the dogs off the garden. Fat chance, the dogs can jump and turned out to regard it rather in the light of an Irish hunter facing a double bank…a challenge to be overcome.

On my return I was told to take a look in the bedroom.

I looked.

I found the item in the rather poor photograph heading this post placed beside the bed. Between the bed and the bedside table which was no longer at the bedside as the plinth of the monstrosity was too large to fit underneath it, nor could it be turned to fit under the bed as the light was on the other side of the post

That I was not enchanted could be told from my expression.

Nor were matters improved by learning that they had had some wood left over from the fence and had come across the lamp they had intended to use in the chicken house so decided to make me a bedside lamp.

Lamp! More like a blasted lamp post….except in one respect which was to become apparent on going to bed that night.

I would have needed the arm of an orang utan to reach the bedside table…so no glass of water in case of accidents.

The light was so powerful and at such an angle that it could have been used to good effect in interrogations by the Gestapo.

And, the crowning glory, the height was such that every time I sat up in bed I hit my head on the blasted thing.

My mood by the morning was murderous.

The Men approached me rather in the manner of Agag King of the Amalekites approaching Samuel and with some reason. It was a case of light the blue touchpaper and retire to Worthing.

The dogs enjoyed jumping the fence into the garden.

The friend staying with us, who had followed the whole thing from start to finish, put things in perspective over a quiet women only coffee.

Yes, they meant well, but it just goes to show why we don’t castrate men….they would have nowhere to keep their brains.

 

 

 

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Everybody Out! National Strike in Costa Rica.

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The fiscal deficit in Costa Rica has finally emerged from the closet after years of immurement. The previous government tried to take measures to resolve the problem but, having no majority in the National Assembly, could not get its legislation passed.

The new government…a sort of shabby rethink of the Ministry of All the Talents…has half a chance, as even the blowhard opponents of reform in the previous National Assembly feel the hot breath of the financiers on their backs and worry about a reduction in their personal wealth.

Accordingly measures have been proposed to impose tax on the proceeds of property rental – collapse of stout rentiers – the replacement of sales tax by Value Added Tax on both goods and services – collapse of stout lawyers and dentists – and a measure which was probably proposed by those holding crucifixes and garlic as a prophylactic – the removal of some of the privileges enjoyed by public service workers above and beyond those enjoyed by those in the private sector.

No one has suggested looking closely at the tax efficient co operative status of big firms which are co operative only in name, like Dos Pinos whose dairy products sell in Costa Rica for double the price that they command in, for example, Panama…

No one has suggested having a blitz on big firms who pay little or no tax until Hacienda – the Tax Man – gently suggests that they might like an amnesty by which they pay about twenty per cent of what is owed…..

No one has suggested having a look at the agricultural subsidies which keep the big rice producers in the pink – including the ex President who expanded the public sector enormously in order to  bolster his party’s power base – while abstracting water from the surrounding population…

Which is why most of the members of the National Assembly are in favour of the reforms as they do not touch their precious pocket books.

The public service unions, however, are distinctly unchuffed by the proposals.

They are quite attached to their bonuses for turning up to work on time, for maintaining confidentiality, for not taking a second job in their spare time, for having the government pay for professional education for which they receive a further bonus once the course is completed, receiving aid to educate their children, having their car, their mobile .phone and their food in working hours paid for from public funds and any number of other odds and ends, depending on which public body employs them.

People in general are demanding an end to institutionalised profiteering from the public purse….in particular calling for a halt to the ‘luxury pensions’ by which university professors, judges, top staff of the state banks and other institutions receive enormous monthly  sums on their retirement, regardless of whether or not they have made full payments to the appropriate pension schemes.

Oddly enough, while the government has proposed some modifications in this respect neither members of the National Assembly nor the union bosses are very interested as both groups look forward to receiving such pensions….one union boss retiring and taking his monster pension the day before calling his members out on strike.

For those accustomed to the British way of striking….Grunwick, Wapping, Orgreave,

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a national strike in Costa Rica is like a walk in the park…which generally it is, as in the capital, San Jose, the marches start at the Parque Merced

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then proceed along Avenida Secunda – the main traffic artery of the capital – past the central park, then uphill to the national park by the National Assembly which they picket assiduously while the fat cats within vote through the legislation.

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It has all been relatively peaceful…on hearing of the strike, trained as we were in France, we shot out to fill up the car, buy gas tanks and stock up on animal feed….but within days the blockades on the refineries had stopped and supplies were getting through…

The unions have blocked roads…but not for long….the President was jostled as he left the Teatro Nacional…Costa Rican Presidents don’t have  much by way of bodyguards…but the legislation has rolled inexorably through the National Assembly and will shortly be presented to the Constitutional Court.

Here, however, it might meet an obstacle more effective than the unions….

Judges and many of the staff of the Justice Ministry have the union perks…and the luxury pensions. They are not at all eager to see these go up in smoke.

Already some self righteous spokesperson has warned that if the judges are deprived of their perks they may feel obliged to accept bribes…

As a friend said…what, then is obliging them to do so at the moment and what would be the difference?

Feeling that this approach is not receiving good publicity the judges have now announced that, given the separation of powers under the constitution, the justice ministry is self governing and so can decide for itself on the terms of employment of its members…..

While I am not aware that ‘Through the Looking Glass’ is required reading for employees of the justice ministry that pronouncement could have come straight from the lips of Humpty Dumpty.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master—that’s all.”

And just in case, the presiding judge of the constitutional court has declared that as the proposed legislation involves changes to labour contracts, he is not at all sure that his court is legally able to hear arguments ….

Strikes here are completely different beasts to those in the U.K.

Until a strike is declared illegal by the courts strikers continue to be paid. When their strike is declared illegal they have three days in which to appeal, or to return to work. The norm is for them to return to work, under the cover of an agreement with their employers that they will not suffer any financial liability for going out on strike illegally. In the U.K. the union pays its members….

The police, while being unable to strike, have a great deal of sympathy with the strikers…having similar perks to defend…unlike the police in England who were paid double time to break the strikers….so violence is rare.

But there are similarities with the U.K. too…the fat cats look after their own.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Manhunt!

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Up the road towards San Jose and near the local hospital is an area known as Loma Linda, or, less pleasantly, the Precaria.

The land itself is, or was, a finca which was the property of  a governmental institution which neglected it….and gradually seasonal workers, Nicaraguans come to pick coffee, started to set up permanent homes there, undisturbed.

Gradually the shacks made of galvanised sheeting became proper houses inhabited by families. The electricity system was hacked into to provide light and power…the water system likewise. It looks like any other village in the area and the council has now started a scheme to legitimise landholding…and to collect taxes!

Being something of an Alsatia, where no writ ran and dubious characters took refuge – many thanks to Mike of A Bit About Britain for reminding me of that part of London’s history – the area has been viewed with disfavour by its neighbours for some time, a view exacerbated now that Costa Rica has changed from being a staging post for the drugs trafficked between Columbia and the U.S.A. to a full blown market in itself.

Our little town has been hit hard…drugs on sale outside the schools, not to speak of inside, where the police now mount raids with drug detection dogs. Drugs on sale outside a popular restaurant and in the central park.

And with drugs use comes crime, to get the money for the next fix, so  not only is there the regular crime of stealing anything not nailed down but also housebreaking and mugging.

Little crime kingdoms have risen and have become profitable enough for other crime kingdoms to try for a takeover.

Last month there was a shoot out in Loma Linda between the resident crooks and a gang from one of the suburbs of San Jose, the action ending suddenly with the arrival of the police.

Ah yes…the police. There have been changes.

The new police chief has sussed that the regular penal judge has a great respect for the presumption of innocence and for the level of proof necessary to disturb that presumption. In other words, the alleged criminal will be free  to leave the court without  stain on his character on a normal judicial day.

Personally I think that the Fiscalia – State Prosecutors – might have something to do with the attitude of the judge. From what I have seen of their preparation of certain cases they seem to be acting as substitute lawyers for the defence…but, however that may be, the new broom has decided that it is only worth mounting large scale action at the weekends, when a duty judge is sent down from San Jose.

These gentlemen, used to the rough and tumble of the city’s summary courts, seem to have a looser definition of the necessary level of proof…bring one of the undesirables before them and they end up in preventive detention before you can say Jack Robinson.

So, last Friday, police nabbed a well known ne’er do well as he and his female companions were boarding a bus for San Jose. They were found to be carrying a quantity of good reported as stolen.

The duty judge issued a search order, and the home at Loma Linda gave up a vast quantity of other goods reported as stolen.

Six months preventive detention, and our boy was marched off to the police cells to await transfer to the jug.

By now public feeling was running high. Social media resounded to calls of ‘Burn the Precaria’, while honest residents of same responded that it was not their fault that they had criminals as neighbours and where were the police…

Public feeling was to run a damned sight higher that night when it was learned that our boy had escaped!

He had asked to go to the loo, and once out of his cell had assaulted the officers and made a run for it…through the main entrance of the police station!

Now, our little town is a bit of a joke, even to itself, but this was too much!

A manhunt was organised.

Local police, the local detective branch, specialised police from San Jose…and even a helicopter!

The ‘phones were hot as locals alerted the police to possible sightings…

He is Barrio St. Cecilia…he is climbing in and out of gardens…

He is in Barrio Carit….running off into a cafetal…

I am in Barrio Corazon de Jesus…I have shut myself into my house and he is in my garden…

I’ve just seen him in Barro San Isidro……

He is in Charcon! No, not that Charcon, the other one….

Thank goodness for the helicopter!

Not being a very bright criminal mastermind, our boy had legged it for home in Loma Linda where one of the San Jose police was keeping an eye on the premises. Spotting him, the lady…for it was a police woman ….attempted to arrest him. He fought back, injuring her, and she later said she thought she would be obliged to use her firearm, but a – female – colleague, alerted by the noise, came to the rescue and between them they managed to overpower him.

He was taken to the local hospital to have his physical state recorded…he seemed to have various injuries related to his refusal to be arrested…and was taken thence to the cells of the local detective branch where I suspect that he will have to exercise a great deal of bladder control before he is taken off to the jug.

As he now faces charges relating to escaping detention and attacks on the police women it is likely that his preventive detention will last rather longer than six months…to the delight of all right thinking people in the area.

Lucky that they caught him before the regular judge came back to work on Monday, though…

 

 

We’ll go no more a roving so late into the night

country road night

Well, not if I have my way they won’t.

Before we bought this finca the wide verge on the top road was a well known spot for nocturnal encounters of both the romantic and the commercial kind.

Gradually, what used to be lines of cars have dwindled to a few individuals and this winter they had disappeared altogether.

However, summer is with us and traditionalists are trying to keep up old customs.

I do not care in the least what people get up to on the verge of the top road…as far as I am concerned they can have a full scale Roman orgy on the Cecil B. de Mille scale complete with female flute players and acrobats.

I also know that with the close knit nature of family life in rural Costa Rica the minute that young lovers booked themselves  into one of the twenty four hour hotels of the area their grannies would know in an instant so often the car in a back road is the only means of obtaining a little privacy.

Equally, the ladies of the night find that their clients do not wish to shell out for a room…

However, I am fed up with the orgiasts who shower their rubbish on the verge and inside my property where the dogs and the sheep can get at it.

It might make a sociological study to examine the rubbish thus deposed…from the nature of it, could you reach conclusions about the social status of the nocturnal noshers?

Fast food containers, chicken bones, plastic bags, cans of beer, mixers and soft drinks prevail…together with the ubiquitous used condoms.

I used to go  out with a strong torch and one of the Staffies, but I am getting to an age when struggling into the dressing gown, finding the shoes and harnessing up Einstein or Bunter is getting to be rather too much of a performance, not to speak of the distance down the drive and along the boundary, so I asked for advice on Facebook as to how to set up a strong searchlight as a deterrent…and had many interesting suggestions following which I asked Don Freddy if his electrician son had any ideas.

Yes, he had several, including electrifying the fence.

I rejected that as I would be sure to forget to turn the thing off and end up electrocuting myself, so he agreed to set up a light with a cable and a switch on the balcony.

How, he asked, would I know that the cars were there without some photocell thing which any passing animal would switch on.

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Because Einstein snoozes on the balcony on summer nights and he strongly objects to cars which stop in the area of the house.

Cars which pass are fine.

Cars which stop are not.

Accordingly Don Freddy’s son set up the light on a tree well inside the property…in case some bright spark should steal it.

Night one.

Einstein, roused from slumbers, barks. Going to the window I see tail lights being switched off, so switch on my floodlight.

Crumbs! Don Freddy’s son has excelled himself! You could play a Test Match under it!

The car moves off.

One more turns up later…same gravy.

Night two.

Einstein barks. The sheep, whose pen is close to the road, are also disturbed.

No sign of tail lights, but I switch on the light anyway to illuminate a lithe two legged shape inside my property legging it for the boundary fence with a solid four legged shape rapidly gaining on it.

The four legged shape wins and the night is full of noise and fury…noise from the two legged who is hooked up on the wire in fine World War I style and fury from the four legged who is endeavouring to push him bodily into it.

Monty is loose.

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No, I do not have a photograph of Monty in action – you would have to have a screw loose to  hang about when he is – but from an abandoned lamb brought up on the bottle he has become a well muscled patriarch with a fine territorial instinct and a murderous temperament.

Someone comes along the road to extricate the intruder and there is a noise as of a car pulling away from somewhere down the hill to leave the night to silence…and to Monty.

Don Freddy’s son was right…someone had tried to steal the light. Might be a frustrated orgiast, might just be one of the local druggies after something to sell to feed his habit.

I await night three.

 

Election Fever and Marriage a la Mode

CR presidential candidates

Election time in Costa Rica!

On Sunday people will be voting to send deputies to the National Assembly and electing a President.

There is plenty of choice…thirteen candidates….and no real way of knowing how people will vote on the day.  The polls show that an increasing number of those who intend to vote are not at all sure for whom to vote…..though there is a suspicion that those who intend to vote Liberation are afraid to say so, linked as that party is to institutionalised corruption, but will vote green and white, the party colours, once in the privacy of the booth.

Liberation’s candidate, despite being a front man for the Oscar Arias tendency – think mining concessions in protected areas – claims to be ‘a man of the people’. Well, given that his family let out offices to government institutions on the grand scale I suppose he is a man of the people who let out tower blocks…

The defeated Liberation candidate, an ex President who thought it wise to sit things out in Switzerland for several years after his term of office ended, obviously felt sour as he has been financing a noisy demagogue from a tiny party made up for the elections who wants to rule with a firm hand and is notable for announcing that female judges could only get advancement by giving senior male judges oral sex.

An indignant retort from senior female judges rebutted his claim but, as has been noted, only in respect of oral sex….no all embracing rebuttal has been forthcoming.

Then we have the evangelical whose wife speaks in tongues…the video on Facebook has been removed but not before it had gone viral…and a horde of more mainstream candidates.

No Screaming Lord Sutch for Costa Rica.

The local internet groups have been infested by paid ads from those wishing to represent local people in the National Assembly…an ex mayor proclaims that it is time for a native son to represent the canton, forgetting that people have far from fond memories of his mismanagement of its affairs when in power.

What has he done for the canton? Filled in the holes in the athletic track, apparently. So that’s where all our taxes went…

Another bright spark is using the slogan which brought the retiring President to power  – despite representing a rival party – in the hope that people will think it is more of the same….

And the omnipresent candidate for Liberation is promising water for all.

Water is a sore subject here. Thanks to dire mismanagement and neglect there is a water shortage, incredible as it may seem in an area alive with springs and rivers. So we have been treated to photographs of said candidate standing in front of waterfalls and crouching in front of water tanks…when asked on a ‘phone in exactly how he intended to provide water for all he said he would have to study the question with the Water Board, the very people responsible for the mess up….

But people here have other things on their minds…that public nuisance The Neighbour, he of the crisp white hat with the curly brim, has surfaced again.

He had been quiet, not to speak of invisible, for quite some time, given his problems with the various local Mr. Bigs  after losing their money in a casino, but he has emerged to public view once more…on the arm of a lady in her thirties who had consented to marry him.

To general astonishment as she is

A, half his age and

B, generally held to be in possession of her senses.

He had been seen a couple of times, driving round the Three Valleys in her company, but he had installed himself in her comfortable house on the other side of the town while waiting for the ceremony, following which, totally pie eyed and full of himself, he brought her on another tour to introduce her to those who were still on speaking terms with him.

A distinct failure of judgement on his part as she thus learned that the farms he had pointed out to her as being his were, in fact, those of the people whom they were visiting…

It is possible that the atmosphere had chilled somewhat after that, but The Neighbour, of course, had to excel himself.

A couple of days later he was eating the dinner she had prepared when he took a telephone call on his mobile from one of his barfly friends.

Yes, he bawled, he was set up for life now! It was like  having a free pass to a brothel with the food thrown in….

The food might have been thrown in, but The Neighbour was thrown out, on the spot, on his ear and his possessions thrown after him.

The marriage lasted five days.

The lady is breathing fire and loaded for bear.

Much more exciting than some bald bugger crouching in front of a water tank…!

Night of the Long Quills

The Ashes series ended early in the evening…my time. England collapsed again…even the captain going down to a bug caught by eating jelly and ice cream at his son’s birthday party.

Hang the selectors!

Hang the England – and Wales – Cricket Board who have sold the game down the river for a mess of Murdoch’s pottage!

Hang the ‘experts’ who ruin every promising young cricketer they get in their clutches by sending them to the gym to produce huge torsos on little legs and then rub every spark of originality out of their game!

Hang the sports psychiatrists and sports nutricionists!

Bring back Geoffrey Boycott! He might be in his seventies but his mind is young and his analysis is spot on.

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And with him in charge the old guard of players hanging on to their lucrative central contracts might have to earn the money they rake in or make way for the youngsters. The way things are these days those youngsters might be drawing a pension before they get their chance.

Remarkably, after venting my spleen, I went to sleep as soon as my head had touched the pillow that night. Note to self…vent spleen more often…

Only to be awoken an hour or so later by the thuds as the bulk of Stein – one of the American Staffords – hit the bedroom window.

Not fancying the entry of Stein, who weighs more than forty kilos, surrounded by shards of glass I put on my dressing gown, took up the torch and went out to investigate.

No, he was not keen to join us…he had other prey in mind.

Casting the beam of the torch upwards I saw something clinging to the  eaves…

Putain de merde! A porcupine!

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Not what you want to meet on a dark night…and you certainly don’t want your dog to meet them.

When threatened they cast their spines which have tiny barbs, making them very difficult to extract…treat your dog at once if you want to avoid infection.

Too late to do much except to put Stein in his pen to avoid problems…such a good dog, he went quietly despite the attraction of the prey.

Back to bed.

One hour later, it was Bunter, the other American Stafford, kicking up.

The blasted porcupine had moved to the far side of the house and Bunter was at full stretch to try to catch it.

Bunter in the pen likewise..though with more difficulty as he is still – and always will be –  just a huge pup. More than forty kilos of pup.

Back to bed.

More uproar. The porcupine was in the rafters over the balcony and the thugs disapproved.

Thugs locked into the house, and peace finally prevailing.

Slept, dreaming of ECB worthies hanging from lamp posts.

The morning brought counsel.

The porcupine was still ensconced in a corner of the balcony. The dogs stilled wished to have at it.

Danilo arrived and we decided to trap the animal…which is a protected species…and take it to the appropriate authorities.

Dogs calmed with boiled eggs.

Momentarily.

Danilo collects an empty dustbin and balances on the wall of the swimming pool.

I take up a long pole and disturb the porcupine…which is displeased. A volley of spines is cast while I try to  encourage it down the electricity cable to which it is clinging.

It is the size of a small dog, its paws can cling well and its tail is prehensile.

Not to speak of the spines. Volley after volley fall about Danilo who is underneath it.

Poor creature…it is terrified, chattering its teeth and grunting…

Finally he traps it…then puts the barbeque grill on top of the dustbin and ties it shut before taking it to the car.

Not a passenger with whom one would care to share the space.

We drive carefully over to the local Environment Ministry Office.The door is locked.

Danilo calls out that we are here.

A woman answers that they are not open yet.

Yes you are. It is past eight o’ clock.

But they are in a meeting.

That’s all right. We have a porcupine here…we can just let it loose in the office for them to deal with later…

The door is unlocked and a chap  comes out with a vetinary cage.

Just give me a hand, will you?

The porcupine is unwilling to leave the dustbin and thus ensues a ballet of its feet and our hands trying to dislodge it without being spiked.

Finally it is rehomed and the cage is placed alongside that of a possum which has been brought in with machete wounds and is awaiting the arrival of the vet…

Both animals, once signed off fit, will be released in the National Park, some fifty  kilometres down the road from us .  Costa Rica cares for its wildlife.

We return home.

Leo is wondering why his breakfast is late…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One Man and his Negotiable Cow

negotiable cow

I was about to assemble a spaghetti carbonara for lunch when the dogs took off en masse, barking and howling.

From the kitchen window I could see that they were heading for the front gate and assumed that it was yet another of their false alarms…they are territorial, to an extreme. No walkers, motorbikes or cars are allowed to pass without a stern warning as to the potential consequences of hanging about.

But the barking and howling persisted so I turned off the pan…muttering oaths…and went out to  find that a man leading a cow was walking up the drive, both completely unmoved by the canine frenzy.

My heart sank. This was David, the new partner of the daughter of the man who is renting our old house down the hill, together with the lower pastures, while preparing to build a  house for the daughter on land he owns opposite us.

That was over a year ago. So far an electricity post has gone up…neatly situated directly opposite our gate…and there things have stalled.

Finance is the problem. Things went wrong when the father became ill and for a long time could not carry on his business of selling fruit and veg on the markets. His wife and daughter could not take up the slack and the then partner of the daughter was unwilling to contribute his income from delivering things after dark in order to help the situation.

Further, the daughter refused to sell her herd of cattle. Since all the family land was taken up with producing fruit and veg for the markets she was obliged to rent land to run her cattle….and as she did not want to sell any the whole thing was a lose – lose situation which was a drain on the family resources even when things were going well.

As always, financial distress produced problems in relationships. The partner left, much regretted by ourselves as not only did he deliver things after dark  but he was also a wizard with animals, and the daughter took up with another chap…

David. The man leading the cow.

I have learned my Spanish on the hoof…but generally it works. It might not be pure Castillian…but it works. Having picked up Spanish here in Costa Rica it works quite well with Costa Ricans – generally.

Not with David.

He is a nice young man…he is wonderful with the daughter’s young son…but in terms of intelligence a Toc H lamp beats him hands down for illumination.

Why had he come to see us leading a cow?

Because the cow had a problem.

Thinking that I am neither a veterinary surgeon nor an animal psychiatrist I continued.

And what is the cow’s problem?

I should have remembered the first rule of advocacy…never ask a question to which you do not know the answer.

David went off at a rate of knots….from which I eventually disentangled the following…

The cow was worth one thousand dollars…

My backside.

He had bought it himself. With his own money. …

Pull the other one, it has bells on.

He, David, had worked his fingers to the bone clearing the lower pastures…

So he should as keeping them clear was part of the letting agreement.

But the cow had punctured its intestines on a tree stump hidden by the undergrowth…

The undergrowth that he had worked his fingers to a bone clearing.

They – no, he – would have to pay for a vet.

Yes, they are not generally charitable institutions.

But the cow would die anyway…

Why pay for a vet’s opinion when you are better qualified to give a prognosis?

We owned the finca….

Yes.

So we were responsible for upkeep…

Read the lease. No, as you were. Get someone to read the lease to you.

Thus we should pay him one thousand dollars for the moribund cow…

This is where my Spanish let me down. I was unable to translate  ‘Awa’ an’ bile yer heid’   in any way which would accurately describe the strength of my views.

Examination in chief revealed that the case put forward by David was not his own creation. His lady partner had coached him….it must have taken hours…

It appeared that there had been vast expenditure on Christmas presents for the child so   money was needed to pay the bills…including the rent owed to us.

Thus the lady’s bright idea.

The cow is on the pasture up here, under my eye, and appears distinctly alive.

Danilo is inspecting the lower pasture and directing David in clearing it properly.

I am hunting high and low for my copy of A.P. Herbert’s ‘Uncommon Law’ wherein the case of the negotiable cow may be found….just in case the young lady has any other bright ideas.