Manhunt!

helicoptor

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…

 

 

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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.

boycott

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!

porcupine

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feet of Cement

cementazo

An earthquake of 6.5 shook the country recently.

We had had an early night as we had a crack of dawn start for a hosital appointment the next day but had hardly settled down before the dogs started yodelling. We thought they must have heard the coyotes who have been roaming the mountain behind us for a couple of weeks now but then they fell quiet as the house began to sway back and forth. It was like lying on a jelly.

It lasted a few minutes only and we had no damage. Friends have told us that the danger comes when the action is percussive and we did experience one of those in the original house down below…it was like a hammer drill doing its worst, but luckily, as the epicentre was only ten kilometres away, it was deep, at seventy five kilometres down, unlike the latest one whose epicentre was off the Pacific coast, and only ten kilometres down.

Still, it took the country’s mind off its problems for a moment.

Problems, you ask? In the land of Pura Vida where the people are amongst the happiest on earth according to some survey which is no doubt selling something?

I don’t know where they find these people as most of my friends are usually moaning….perhaps they  interview politicians.

Others interviewing politicians at the moment are the police. It is fairly normal for previous presidents to be investigated by the police, but only after a discreet passage of time when the proceeds have been salted away, so what has occurred to upset the applecart?

Cement…that is what.

No, not cement as in disposing of bodies while road building – the time it takes this country to get a road built the body would have disintegrated enough not to need burial anywhere – but cement as imported from China.

A happy duopoly controls cement sales in Costa Rica. It has no doubt paid well for its position over the years so was far from pleased when it looked as if the President was encouraging the import of cement from China with the aim of lowering prices.

Intolerable! Have his guts for garters!

So the duopoly set the hounds of the press on the job…or at least those parts of the press where it had influence….and finally they dredged up  one of the bosses of the Customs department who said that he had an e mail from the Deputy Finance Minister telling him that the ‘Big Chief’ – supposedly the President – wanted any shipments of Chinese cement to get through Customs without the usual old Spanish practices so that it would still be fit to use when released.

Shock horror!

Then the hounds went further. They discovered that one of the state banks had made a huge loan to the importer – with the cement as security –  the major part of which loan had ended up in his private coffers, while no cement ever arrived in Costa Rica.

And this is where things started to  go wrong.

Aiming at the President, the duopoly accidentally put one of their own in the frame.

The Chief Prosecutor.

This man, a stalwart of the old regime in Costa Rica, was an expert in delaying and burying unwanted dossiers and had been found with his fingers in the bank’s affairs, dividing the investigation into a myriad of mini investigations which would run into the sand, leaving those responsible at the bank to live a quiet life in the offices which had been refurbished recently at vast expense from the bank’s money…..i.e. public funds.

He was suspended and a young lady was appointed as interim Chief Prosecutor.

She seems to hold the view that prosecutors should prosecute and to that end has put the would be importer and the bank officials into preventive detention while she investigates.

Further, she has unearthed links between a magistrate, the Deputy Finance Minister and several politicians which she believes may give rise to prosecutions for the traffic of influence and has, with the consent of the courts, proceeded to seize their offices, computers and cars in search of evidence.

Mark you, this being Costa Rica, where the sublime usually descends to the gor blimey, the cars of the police seizing the gear of the Deputy Finance Minister were nicked for parking offences by the Municipal Police in San Jose.

She has also had a look at the mosaic of dossiers prepared by the Chief Prosecutor over the years in other sensitive matters, the upshot of which is that said Chief Prosecutor has decided to retire and a recent President is being summoned to explain how a mining company managed to get a permit to mine in a conservation area.

The country is reeling.

Action on corruption! Whatever next!

It does not come at a good moment for the politicians. Any of them. Because the Presidential elections are coming up in February and corruption is a major beef for the electorate.

Normally the level of enthusiasm of Costa Ricans for elections equals the energy of a crocodile in the early hours of a chilly morning, but this case has roused people to resemble crocodiles at midday, ready to wolf down anything in their path.

And what is in their path?

Politicians.

I can bet that the man who put up this poster is not going to vote for the PLN.

PLN elections

He seems to have strong feelings on the subject.

Historically the PLN held a firm grip on the vote as they were the party of the President who abolished the army and set up the CAJA – the NHS of Costa Rica. People were grateful and remained so for years.

Further, under the same recent President who is now being summoned to explain the mining licence, the civil service was expanded beyond anything that was necessary in order to form a client vote of those who benefited from the excellent wages, perks and pensions  – and their extended families.

Occasionally the PUSC, sort of Christian Democrats, would get a look in to keep them sweet, but basically the PLN had it all their own way, including in  local government.

The last elections brought a change….the people elected an almost unknown candidate, a university professor, who stood on a platform of opportunity for all, not the few.

Thus the enmity of the cement duopoly who regard such views as heresy.

He has had a hard fight. No majority in the National Assembly, ministries stuffed with partisans of the outgoing party….but the ship is slowly turning round. People are discontented with the slow pace of change but with the cement case there is a chance that they will see that change is possible…if they will back those who work for it.

Locally, too, politics is in the news.

This town is built on ground that is unstable…underground water courses run all over the place, let alone fault lines,  so holes tend to appear in the roads without warning. Ideally the council would use a study done by the University of Costa Rica which showed how to channel  and drain the area, but, of course, that would cost money and the council never seems to have any of that for infrastructure problems despite having a dedicated budget for same.

So the holes tend to be there for a long time.

puris holes in road

 

Exasperated by the inaction of the council a group of businessmen got together, hired an engineer and the necessary equipment and did the job themselves in the course of one night when they could reckon to be undisturbed by council workers or police who tend not to venture out after dark.

The alcalde – mayor – outraged by this demonstration of citizen power announced that the work was shoddy and would collapse within a week. Furthermore it would all have to come up anyway as the council was about to start a programme of repairs!

Several weeks later the holes remain mended and the council has managed to repair one road…the one leading to the fiesta ground which has been done in time for the annual high jinks surrounding the celebration of the town’s patron saint’s day.

Clearly it is not for nothing that the alcalde is a member of the PUSC.

I have been a trifle unfair to the police here.

They have a new boss. He is a local lad who has worked in other areas for years before being drafted back to his home town.

He wishes to clean up the place, but is a realistic gentleman.

No point rounding up the drug dealers and the wild young men who make the roads dangerous by doing wheelies, etc on onlicensed motorbikes during the week, as the resident judge for criminal affairs has a great respect for the presumption of innocence and tends to release anyone  daft enough to be caught by the previous police chief.

No…save the effort for the weekends, when a duty judge comes down from San Jose and jugs the lot!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holes in the road.

Ichabod….The glory will be departing from the markets of San Jose

borbon veg

When I was first blogging about Costa Rica and about its capital, San Jose, in particular, a blogging friend advised  me to make the most of that grubby, shambolic place while I could. Soon, she said, it would all be pavement cafes and carriage trips round the sights.

She was right. The carriage rides have not yet arrived – the horses would have to wear gas masks such is the level of pollution from buses and cars which have presumably passed the annual M.O.T. test  – but pavement cafes are beginning to be with us as are, of course, cycle paths. Two are planned but only one is as yet in use. In an exercise in fatuity it runs down the middle of a pedestrianised boulevard where the lycra clad unco’ guid can enjoy themselves by making those on foot hop out of the way…two wheels good, two feet bad.

We have gastronomic festivals, self conscious fusion cuisine…food trucks…and bars where black shirted men with buns perform solemn rites over coffee machines. I would not say that these high priests exact a tithe, but  couple of coffees can soon make a hole in the shopping money.

Art deco and art noveau buildings have been tarted up…a stunning new museum of jade has been opened….the streets are clean….the homeless have been shifted from the centre….but still the tourists do not come.

Not surprisingly…for years the guidebooks have been directing tourists to the beaches, the rain forests and the ruinously expensive eco lodges run by exploitative hippies…not to speak of yoga retreats ditto.

Visitors are advised to eschew San Jose…unless they are men in search of paid female company in which case they are directed to hotels which call themselves gentlemen’s clubs and to the casinos and bars of Gringo Gulch where practitioners of the art of wallet extraction lurk in search of their prey.

Otherwise the tourists visit San Jose only to get the first bus out to their destination…so something, it seems, must be done to keep some of their money for the capital.

First bright idea…move the artisans’ market from its perfect spot under the National Museum in the centre of the city  to a concrete box several blocks away in an street which has nothing to attract any tourist whatsoever, unless they are admirers of the concrete brutalist style of architecture which inspired the building housing the offices of the CAJA – the national health service – which looms over the surrounding area.

caja

So far this has not worked as the President is firmly in favour of the market remaining where it is, instead of being replaced by further parking for a bloated ‘charitable foundation’ alongside. He does not have the law on his side…but he has prestige. However the mayor of San Jose can wait…the presidential elections are coming and the next incumbent may favour the bloated ‘foundation’.

So, in the meantime, attention has turned to the other markets…the Central…the Borbon and Coca Cola.

The Central has a bit of everything, from flowers to fish via meat, cheese, spices, medicinal herbs and caffs galore….

mercado centrsl

The Borbon has butchers and fishmongers, but its main role is selling wholesale and retail veg and fruit….

Mercado-Borbon-suelo-fertil_LNCIMA20170611_0022_1 borbon 8

Coca Cola specialises in hardware and electrical supplies…though, of course, having greengrocers and suchlike….. and it is one of the busiest bus stations in San Jose, whence the tourists fresh from the airport leg it to the beaches of the Pacific coast.

coca-cola-bus-station

While the Central is regarded with favour by all, the other two have a dubious reputation…pickpockets at every turn and babies barbecued to order.

Absolute nonsense, of course. I would not frequent either at night…but I could say the same of many other areas in many other cities.

The only time my purse was stolen was in a Chinese owned supermarket by the Central. It was returned to me by the ‘regulars’ who sell sunglasses, watches and TV remote controls on the benches nearby.

‘Sorry, senora…not one of ours…a bloody African! We saw him lift it and we stopped him. Not having these illegal immigrants giving us a bad name.

Did you report it to the police?

Are you joking! As if they could give a damn…too busy chasing poor buggers selling veg without a licence!

I just wonder if, with the new vision for the markets, these gentlemen will be driven off as have all but the most intrepid of the street traders …if so, a great part of the pleasure of shopping will have gone with them.

street traders

These are working markets….the idea of the Borbon offering organic veg and ‘gourmet’ items is enough to make the blood run cold.

And who will be paying for the ‘improvements’?

Guess.

What will happen to my hairdresser…

Mercado Borbón, San José, Costa Rica.

Who does me a cut for two thousand colones which equals that for which the Italian artist of Kensal Rise charges me thirty seven quid. She has been here for years, since the hotel which housed her salon closed down, as has the gentleman on the right, at whose stall I buy my ginger and garlic.

And what about our favourite caff?

IMG_20170517_120551

It will be struggle for them to keep going if their rent goes up.

Mercado de la Coca Cola, San José Costa Rica.

And what of Coca Cola?

The idea is to put a roof over the area between the bus station and the market, with smart caffs lining the area….to attract the tourists before they mess off to the coast.

Have they no idea?

How better to trap the fumes than by throwing a roof over the whole area….

And haven’t they noticed? The whole place is full of caffs…offering comida tipica – local food. Or isn’t that good enough for tourists…

Furthermore, the streets linking the markets are to be lined with trees.

Tree lined streets are one of the pleasures of the public and residential areas of San Jose…but the streets between the markets have such narrow pavements that the sellers of illicit DVDs hardly have room to set out their wares…

It isn’t gentrification…were it to be artists and ‘creatives’ would have been given space to spread themselves, as they have in barrios in the east of the city. Where they tread developers follow and the original inhabitants are driven out to the suburbs.

I do ask myself who subsidises these creative leeches on society…but that is another question for another day.

Why am I so upset by the proposed changes?

Because while the man who sells vinyl discs is lauded and will figure on the tourist trail  the men who run the goods between the lorries and the stalls, the stallholders themselves, risk being priced out of the place…

As a tourist I prefer to see the markets which local people use…as an example there is a tourist market in Masaya in Nicaragua…very sanitised and tranquil.

masaya old market

Also in Masaya is the local market just up the street…where you can find all you wish and more for half the price under its corrugated iron roofs.

In the former, if you want a hammock, you can choose one which they have for sale…in the latter, if you don’t see just what you want a runner will take you to the hammock makers’ street down by the lake.

I know which market I prefer and it is not one where the only traders to be found are the ones who can afford the organic produce certification process.

I prefer one where the man at the veg stall tells you that you can see he doesn’t use chemicals by the bugs in his lettuces.