Culture on the Low Road

folk-groups

With the cuts in public expenditure in France, local authorities are reducing funding for what they were pleased to describe as cultural events. While some were well worthwhile, bringing top class performers to areas which would otherwise have no chance of seeing them in the flesh, like the Nuits Romanes in Poitou Charente,  a great deal of it betrayed the belief of official, authorised and therefore paid culture vultures that people should be provided with professional dispensers of approved culture rather than being left to develop their own.

Thus a rural village where some eighty per cent of the inhabitants are over fifty finds itself lumbered with a hip hop band for the Fete de la Musique: professional ‘story tellers’ infest the St Jean midsummer festival – probably sitting in a yurt to peddle their meretricious nonsense – while the only reason that the Bernache et Marrons (new wine and chestnuts) fair does not figure half naked men in red tights swinging from scaffolding towers is because it can be decidedly nippy in November in the Loire Valley.

So, on the grounds of every cloud having a silver lining, let us rejoice that  with the need to find money to pay the salaries of all the local government employees whose jobs have been duplicated by local government reorganisation people can, with a bit of luck, get back to doing what they like by way of culture.

Walks through the commune, pumpkin fairs, local folk dance groups, bands and choirs, fireworks on July 13th, the fire brigade ball (guaranteed bacchanalia) and, in my old area at any rate, amateur theatricals.

Some months after moving to rural France, I had had a toothache which oil of cloves would not touch, so I needed the dentist. Papy, my nearest neughbour, told me that there was no need to make an appointment, just to go down to the surgery in the village and sit in the waiting room, so that was what I did.

Two gloomy gentlemen were already in occupation – for some reason the usual round of handshakes doesn’t take place in dental waiting rooms – and one informed me that the dentist was out but would be back shortly. I passed the time looking at posters of teeth.

The dentist returned. The street door banged against the wall, there was a strong smell of drink having been taken and a tall handsome man with black curly hair strode in…..his white coat liberally splashed with blood.

‘Sorry to keep you waiting, but I had a spot of bother just now…Come on Jules, let’s get these false teeth sorted!’

I think I was rooted to the chair in shock…otherwise I would have fled.

Georges, the other patient, turned to me.

‘Don’t worry, he had a problem taking a tooth out…it broke and he had to put his knee on Jean-Paul’s chest to get the leverage to get the last bit out. Bit of a shock for both of them, so they’ve just been over to the bar for a restorative.’

Don’t worry! What, I wondered would qualify as something to worry about? A broken artery, dislocated jawbone….If the tooth hadn’t been giving me such gyp I would have been away in Olympic record time for the one hundred yard dash – or whatever it is in metric. But it was so I didn’t.

Dentists have an unfair advantage. They stick needles in your gums so that your lips turn to wood and then make you keep your mouth open while they talk to you. You have no way of responding.

This dentist talked to me while finding and dealing with my problem tooth.

I was new to the commune. I was British. This was very convenient. He ran the amateur dramatic society. He was putting on a Feydeau farce. There was an English governess in it and none of his regular actresses could say ‘shocking!’ properly. So there it was. First rehearsal on Tuesday evening in the mairie annexe at eight o’ clock.

He had a copy of the play in my hand, my role marked in pencil, before I could mumble a word.

Shocking!

So here I was, my French far from fluent, with no experience of amateur dramatics since being in the chorus of ‘The Mikado’ while at school, being propelled onto the boards by a dictatorial dentist.

I studied the part…small, luckily….and the cues. I turned up at the annexe to the mairie and found I already knew some of the people there. Then the dentist arrived and things took off. He was a ball of energy and enthusiasm, a perfectionist and, inevitably, not only director but also leading man.

Like everyone else, I was pushed and pulled into place, was prompted and scolded and learned an enormous amount about staging farce.

Timing, timing and timing, keeping the action going, getting his actors to have a signature expression or tone of voice that marked them clearly for the audience, he was dedicated to getting his crew to give of their best.

It was all very convivial…there was always wine and cake at the end of the rehearsal, and I was included in the cake rota automatically which surprised me given the French suspicion of anything emerging from a British oven. I supplied treacle tart and to my relief it was asked for again.

I got to know people…my French improved dramatically…and I learned a lot about the commune as we worked.

Although amateur dramatics – like music – had always had a strong following in the area, until fairly recently these activities had been duplicated. Those who attended mass – known as ‘les grenouilles du benitier’ (literally ‘frogs in the holy water stoup’)  to those who didn’t – supported the priest’s theatre group and band and the others supported the republican groups.

In that village, the war between state and church had been such that – Clochemerle like – the public toilets had been set up next to the church on the main square……and were closed on Sundays! Respect for the church or a strong determination that believers shouldn’t be able to use the facilities?

The play was performed on the home ground first, in the salle des fetes and then toured neighbouring villages, always to packed houses and vigorous applause, two nights and a matinee a week for four weeks, the cast kept going by buckets of mulled wine backstage, dished out in an enamel mug.

It was fun, and I gladly joined up for several more years. It was always a Feydeau farce, there was always a place for a foreigner and in year two I even graduated to my own little round of applause as I entered, an accolade awarded by audiences to the regular players.

It came to an end, of course: the dentist left the area.

The lady from the chateau, whose cavities he had been assiduously attending to for some years, decided that enough was enough. She left her husband and, with the dentist in tow, moved to that Sodom and Gomorrah of the Atlantic coast, La Baule.

Shocking!

The last visit from the traveling circus took place in my time in that village…no lions or tigers,  but dancing dogs and the great attraction – the chicken that could count!

Not caring for the circuses I had not gone down to the trestles arranged in the square by the church….but I do rather regret not seeing the chicken tapping on the cards laid out on the sand.

Later, there was a new attraction – one which had nothing to do with the culture vultures.

It started with a man impersonating one of the iconic figures of French rural life..the old woman who ruled her family with a rod of iron: the show would start with this ‘lady’ roaring on stage on a solex, headscarf firmly tied under her chin, ready to wind up the audience with ‘her’ take on rural life: somewhat scatalogical and utterly hilarious.

Others copied….

These days the best known act is that of ‘Les Bodins’: much less scatalogical but reviving in its audiences memories of the old ways of rural life…set in a pastiche of a typical small farm of the not so distant past.

Here is an excerpt: you might not understand the words, but it is slapstick enough to be self explanatory given the title:

A dormouse has shat in the cheese.

High culture it is not…but neither are half naked men in red  tights.

Advertisements

Lazing on a Sunday Afternoon

IMG_2830The pressure cooker hissing gently; dogs snoring; a warm and heavy head on my feet; catching up on the Great British Bake Off – peace at last.

Bunter – on the right above – is sleeping under my worktable, snoring happily. Black Tot is sleeping on top of the washing machine, curled up on her blanket. The other dogs are sleeping in the office.

The morning had been its usual hectic self…whatever were we doing to take on two more pups!

One, Stein – on the left above – has settled down since he came to us four months ago, but the other, Bunter, remains a pup.
A huge pup.
A huge loving pup full of energy.

After breakfast on the balcony he bounded into the kitchen, ready for action.

He played with a plastic bottle, waving it like an indian club…he reduced yet another cardboard box to flat pack status…he leapt on the garden chair and bounced it round the kitchen….he found the chayote, threw them in the air and chased them round the floor.
He supervised stripping meat from the duck carcass. At least this required him to sit down.For at least one second at a time.

After twenty minutes of high octane performance he went to sleep…flat out, relaxed, snoring fit to bring down the walls of Jericho.
Relaxed as only a pup can be, happy in the knowledge that it has fulfilled its obligation to keep you entertained and on your toes.

Two loads of washing went out to make the most of the sunshine.

A young man we know had called to see if we wanted a quantity of heavy duty fencing wire. His price was very reasonable and included delivery. Tonight.
All his deliveries take place in the hours of darkness but as yet none have been followed by a visit from the police.
As he also has available several tons of asphalt, however, his delivery methods may have to change.

Friends called to collect tilapia to start their own fish production: they stayed to a lunch of St. Omer beer and home made pork pies. The latter were a bit lop sided…but then weren’t we all by the time lunch was over.

We fed the sheep, fed the ducks and chickens – and watched Bunter’s matinee performance.
Much as before: minus the chayote but plus a box of fifty packs of spaghetti which I thought I had stored out of his reach.
And we all know what thought did.

Two loads of washing came in as the sky darkened…this is the rainy season and the afternoons are almost guaranteed to be wet. Soaking wet.

Two loads of washing which were not immediately ironed….there are limits!

The rain came down heavily so it was time for a cup of tea…and time to talk, brought on by something we had noticed last night.

We had had supper early, sitting out on the balcony as the sun went down over the hills between us and the Pacific Ocean…the sky pink and grey after an afternoon of violent thunderstorms.
As the light faded, the street lights appeared, one for each house….none to the right at San Antonio – the hill had been bought by a consortium who wished to develop it, unsuccessfully. No water.
On the left, however, creeping out from the town, there were lights where there were none when we bought the finca…and more to come. There are signs of construction on all the ridges.
The council has even given planning permission for houses to be built around the spring which feeds the river below us…

In front of us, however…no street lights.

That part of the Three Valleys remains, if not pristine, then at least rural, agricultural.

And that is what had led to our chat.
Had we done the right thing…moving here…not just to Costa Rica, but here?

It had been our holiday house before moving…but when we moved we walked into the nightmare of a local fight against a well connected developer.

As it all happened just as we were moving there had been no time to consider whether or not so to do: it was a case of just getting on with it.

We have had unpleasantnesses – galore – but also much kindness and the chance to gain a full speed ahead apprenticeship into the workings of the country which might otherwise have taken several more years to achieve.
We now know where we are with a number of people locally….and they know where they are with us.

Armed with what we now know, would we come to Costa Rica again, as it were?

Yes: like a shot.

Not just for the climate and the beauty of the place, lovely though it is, but for the culture of mild anarchy which prevails…and the fact that there is always a way round things.
A winding way with many turnings…but always a way.

No country is a paradise, either for its own people or for immigrants: there are always downsides.
All depends on whether you can live with them.
After life in France in the last years before our move we certainly can.

There is a whiff of change in the air…a conflict of generations and a conflict of ideas…a possibility of political realignment on the international economic scale.

Would we come not just to Costa Rica but here, this little place, again?

Yes.

It’s a small town, the one up the road, and while we’ll never be ‘of’ the town we’ve progressed beyond the jokes at our expense to being part of the general joke scene, something I’d not come across before, where once in town your progress is one of constant greetings, involving insults, innuendo – and real kindness.

When Mantequa asks why you’re alone…is it that you’ve lost all your money and can’t afford to pay your chauffeur… it is de rigeur to ask him how come he is standing on the street corner when he is too ugly to attract any passing trade let alone that of women with money.

At which point old Rigoberto will pop his head out of the bar alongside and advise me not to talk to Mantequa

But then, senora, you were not to know that he is ‘maricon’ (homosexual).

Exit stage left at surprising speed for one of his age pursued by Mantequa threatening vengeance and both to be found in the bar together a few minutes later.

Coarse?
Yes, but when you drop in to see your lawyer after doing your shopping you’re exchanging jokes about the influence of Napoleon’s sexuality on French and – by derivation – Costa Rican law.

The town, like the country, resembles the horse from Surtees‘ ‘Mr. Facey Romford’s Hounds’, Multum in Parvo…a lot of horse in a little skin…and, like that celebrated equine, when the town or the country has one of its ‘going days’ there’s no holding it.

I saw the attempt to use riot police to disrupt a peaceful demonstration in the last presidency..and saw the city and the university turn out to put them to flight.

I saw the unknown candidate elected as president this time around…here, the people still have a voice.

And, speaking of voices, here comes the young man to deliver the fencing….the dogs awake in a cacophony of barking, the ducks protest from afar and the trees in front of the house deliver a shower of water as the birds roosting there rise in their indignation.

Not set in stone, our lazy Sunday afternoons, as is this:

And does anyone remember this one?

Down Your Way

Having been somewhat under the weather recently I have taken to resting in the afternoons and, thunderstorms permitting, listening to BBC radio via my laptop.

Thanks to the time difference the Test Match coverage is over by lunchtime, so the whole range of the iPlayer is open to me….but I’ve been disappointed much of the time by the standard of what is on offer.
Perhaps I wouldn’t be so tetchy were I on top form, but it’s because I’m not on top form that I want to listen to something stimulating and informative.

Still, given that the bumbrushers to big business now running Britain want to reduce the BBC to a muppet show I suppose I had best make the most of what there is while it lasts.

Music – the alternative to the spoken voice – is somewhat curtailed since the arrival of the pups.
They have objections to counter tenors so Purcell’s ‘Sound the Trumpet’ is out…

As is ‘No lo diro col labbro’ from ‘ Handel’s ‘Tolomeo’….

The singer’s lips may not have the courage to utter, but the pups have no such inhibitions. Heads flung back they give it laldy with both barrels.

However they have no such objections to the song derived from the above; ‘Silent Worship’….

Unfortunately I do…much though I enjoy Thomas Allen’s voice I find the lyrics syrupy, so for now on the music front it is pups 15, me love.

What has astonished me is to find re runs of programmes I remember from way back….in ‘The Navy Lark’ Sub-Lieutenant Phillips is still to be found navigating HMS Troutbridge with his unique command of ‘Left hand down a bit’ which results inevitably in an unwanted encounter between several tons of moving warship and several more tons of immovable jetty to cries of ‘Everybody down!’ from the conniving Chief Petty Officer Pertwee to be followed by the wrath of ‘Old Thunderguts’ – Captain Povey.

A period piece now – Britain still had a navy when that series went out after all – and far from ‘edgy’, it is still a delight of comic timing and shines like a jewel among the clumping ‘comedies’ of the current era – as does the superb later series of ‘Absolute Power’ with its commentary on the backstairs of the Blair years.

But, joy of joys, they are broadcasting ‘Round the Horne’ again.
This had my parents in stitches when first broadcast and listening to it now it astounds me that the scriptwriters got away with it in an era when prudery ruled the airwaves.
Especially when you consider that it was broadcast on Sunday afternoons.

Older and more aware of the sheer misery suffered by a man straitjacketed by his society’s rigidity I can still enjoy Kenneth Williams‘ in his persona as folk singer Wandering Syd Rumpo

A lesson in how what you read into something defines yourself.

‘Gardener’s Question Time’ is still going strong, though the egregious Bob Flowerdew has long replaced the gentleman who prefaced all replies to queries with the statement that ‘the answer lies in the soil’, but one old favourite not so far repeated is ‘Down Your Way’ a programme which visited towns and villages across England interviewing local residents.
While my father refused to listen to it, denouncing it as a load of claptrap from town clerks and town bores I found it interesting. In an age where we did not travel much it was an insight into how others lived and worked….and in that pre Thatcher era there were still trades and industries to be described!

‘Down Your Way’ came to mind when I was reading an item in the local on line news: a gentleman has been giving a series of reminiscences of his youth in the sixties and locates the shops bars and dance halls he knew, together with the names of the adults and children of his time….with Violetta’s help I can place most of the shops he talks about – and found too that one of the kids with whom he ran about seeking tips outside the bars is my lawyer!

This sort of thing, oral history, brings the town to life for me….in the same way that the books of George Ewart Evans – ‘Ask the Fellows who Cut the Hay’ and ‘Where Beards Wag All’ to name but two bring alive the life of the East Anglian farmhand from a century previous.
Those who wish to be superior decry what they call ‘anecdotal evidence’…but it is the very life of history.

So, what anecdotal evidence has been happening down my way recently?

Well, things are winding up for next year’s municipal elections so the current bunch of gross incompetents are counting on the short memory effect by a bout of sudden activity.

The alcalde (mayor) has been out and about drumming up grants from state institutions to pay for the obligatory study which has to be made before works can be done to repair or replace the many bridges either down or in a dangerous state during the length of his administration.
puriscal bridge
By the time he has the grants he reckons he will be back in power for another few years and the bridges can be forgotten until next time.

This is unlikely to gain him many votes among the indigenous community at Zapaton whose road exit has not been repaired since the great washout of a year ago, leaving many elderly people prisoners in their houses.
zapaton

Mark you, he may not even be put up as his party’s candidate as well founded rumour has it that among the four up for the job is one who will be in the toils of the courts in short order, so painting the podium in the park in his party’s colours may not pay off after all.
park puriscal

Still, he may yet be of service to the community…
puriscal dustcart
Following the travails of the municipal bulldozer, the municipal dustcart has been out of action for some time…perhaps the added weight of the alcalde will encourage its compaction unit to work as it should.
Well worth a try.

And we have had visitors.
IMG_2807
A pair of black bellied whistling ducks.
They have been feeding with our lot for a few days now, so I’m in hopes that they will stay.
Unlike the alcalde.

All The News That’s Fit To Print

traditional-dance-costa-rica.jpg
The Men have now accepted that the car has to pass the M.O.T. this month so are out and about ordering parts which may materialise when pigs take to the air and visiting the Cuban electrical genius to get the window opening mechanism sorted.
This latter visit may or may not have been pushed up the ‘to do’ list by my trip to town with Danilo yesterday.
Lulled into a sense of false security by the recent unseasonable days of heat and sun he had left the driver’s side window down and when the cloudburst hit us half way up the hill the mechanism failed and he was rapidly becoming soaked.
With a cry of ‘Puna!’ (polite version of ‘puta’) he reached into the back and dragged forth the plastic inner of a feed sack which he then draped over the window. Fine for protection….not so good for all round vision as at the junction he had to lift it to peer out for traffic coming down the hill towards us.

As in their absence the calls for coffee and the anxious enquiries as to the whereabouts of items last seen in their possession have decreased in frequency I have had time to
A Listen to the Test Match undisturbed
and
B Catch up on local events via the Facebook page set up by a chap who clearly finds the town hall version somewhat bland and uninformative.

So I thought I might give you a glimpse of what goes on in the area…a little bit skewed as the canton is celebrating the one hundred and forty sixth anniversary of its foundation.
Why the one hundred and forty sixth?
That’s our council for you…

So what has been going on?

Computers and suchlike equipment were seized from a house where a woman was suspected of copying child pornography for distribution in the U.S.A.

puris someone's built a house where he souldn't...Someone has built a house where he shouldn’t have, thus undermining a retaining wall just completed by the council, whose offices are in chaos as the police investigate some two and a half million colones (about two and a half thousand pounds) which grew legs and disappeared in the course of three days….and there were protests at two suspects having been named by the alcalde (mayor) as this is a small place and everyone knows them and their families.

puris busThere were further protests when the person who has managed to hijack the bus company’s radio frequency, thus obliging the drivers to switch off in order to spare their passengers impassioned diatribes of an improper nature, was described as a sexual obsessive.There were no protests at the suggestion that the same person was responsible for a bomb hoax which closed the company’s terminal in the capital.

A man in his seventies was killed when his sister in law – in her sixties – resisted what she took to be an attempt at rape by throwing him against the wardrobe.

puris a bridge over the virilla to piedras negrasA bridge has been flung over the river on the road to Piedras Negras…
puris pilgrimage to la negrita piedras negras
just in time for the annual pilgrimage in honour of La Negrita….

puris traffic accidentsThere have been the usual plethora of traffic accidents….

puris road under repair...at last
and some roads have finally started to be repaired.

puris marijuana in the parkA whopping packet of marijuana was seized from someone in the central park…..

puris drunken teenagers
While two fourteen year olds were found reeling drunk in a shop in town and attended to by the Red Cross.

The church has installed a credit card machine for donations….no more excuses there, then…

Deputies in the National Assembly came down to the celebrate the canton’s anniversary; one stating proudly that he had been down three times since being elected in May….

puris children dance group
puris gala 3
The anniversary was celebrated with rock concerts and traditional dancing….

puris the earthquake on july 24
There was an earthquake or two….

And someone lost to all sense of decency poured paint over the statue of the town’s mascot, symbol of the local farming community.
puris sapo
A cane toad.

The mind boggles.

From One Market to Another

harlemfoodlocal.com
harlemfoodlocal.com
I had come home from shopping in San Jose…and was glad to offload the two heavy canvas bags whose contents had survived the hour’s run in a hot bus.
I enjoy poking about in the two main markets, the Central and the Borbon and go to my favourite shops where by now, like the other customers, I am included in the jokes and the teasing that dart across the stalls and today, just after the election results, the discussions.

Here, Jorge, shouts the butcher in the Borbon, here’s a gringa that likes our new president!
Can’t be a gringa, then, replies Luis who sells hot peppers.
She’s not a proper gringa, bellows Jorge on the greenstuff stall. She’s from England!
Scotland, shouts Henry from the petfood stand, making what I now know to be his imitation of bagpipe music….which, curtailed as his eldritch shrieks might be, inevitably brings to mind the title of the pibroch ‘Too long in this condition’…

Things are quieter over in the Central where I buy my coffee at the Moka stand just inside the backstreet entrance.
There are better known coffee brands…particularly one which controls the airport shopping lounges and has the tourist tours pretty well sewn up…but for me the best coffee on general sale is to be found on this little stand at the quiet end of the market.
I know the men serving there by now; we enquire as to each others families…and, of course, today, we discuss the election results as with other customers I drink a coffee while waiting for my order to be to be ground and bagged.

journeytotheperfectcup.blog
journeytotheperfectcup.blog
For ‘normal’ coffee,made in the chorreador (sock) I buy Poas suave…grown on the slopes around volcano Poas north of San Jose….but as I have just been presented with a new gadget – an expresso and cappuccino maker – and have learnt how to use it without either blowing it up or scalding myself I asked for advice on the best coffee to use and returned home with a bag of Caracolillo, or Peaberry, coffee…beans which, instead of splitting into two as do normal coffee beans, remain unitary and are supposed to roast more evenly.
We shall see.

Recounting my morning over lunch, my husband said it reminded him of his days on the floor of the London Stock Exchange…when it still had a floor, and a wooden one at that.
The atmosphere was, he said, that of a real market….people you saw every day in the same place, jokes that built up, nicknames, daft pranks…before, as he gloomily added, they let women in and ruined it all.

stockexchangeHe had had no wish whatsoever to work on the Stock Exchange…or anywhere else for that matter.
He was, at that time, a student in Madrid having been sent there so as not to be under the feet of his father’s mistress and was having a whale of a time: the days in the Prado, the nights touring the bars in the company of the son of Franco’s chief of police.

But the mistress produced a baby whose imitations of the pipes put an end to the romantic idyll and, mistress and child gone, the father called his son back to the roost….he had to have someone to collect the rents on his property….thus ending the Madrid idyll as well.

Father then saw an advertisement seeking to recruit a trainee stockbroker: whoopee, with a son on the market he could gamble on shares without paying commission…and the die was cast.
Leo went to the Stock Exchange, where his employers promptly decided that ‘Leopold’ was too foreign a name and called him Paul.

It was a world to itself….no mobile ‘phones in those days. If you were on the floor and your office wanted to contact you they ‘phoned the waiter – a proper waiter – who worked on the entrance which your office used and he would flash up your number in lights on a board to alert you.

You fulfilled your clients’ orders by walking the floor and talking to the jobber who ran the book in the shares in which you were interested, playing a game of guess as to whether you were buying or selling, trying to get the best deal….you learned how to trade shares in a dead market…you learned who the dodgy dealers were and how they got away with it…you learned the nicknames – the Weasel, Mr. Round and Round…

He became very good at his job, enjoyed the challenges…but he says that what he enjoyed most was the sidelines of work…
Exploring the City in his lunch break, finding little tucked away caffs in the roof of Leadenhall Market, walking through double doors to find himself in a street between two office blocks that led to another street….and another…a complete maze.
And he enjoyed the people…not, on the whole, the Eastenders nor those who spent their time in the pub until summoned by their juniors to do a bit of work, but those who treated the place as somewhere to pass the time from more important matters, as exemplified by a friend of his who ran the smallest brokerage firm in the business but whose passion was frogs.
Word had it that if you were married to a wife like his you could understand his preferences, but be that as it may, this gentleman would collect frogspawn in his garden in Harrow and, in the season, solemnly bring in jars of the same for his colleagues to distribute around their bijou Surrey residences.

Then there were the pranksters, who would set fire to your Financial Times as you had it spread out in front of you…who would fill up their water pistols in the loos and let rip on the floor…even at the top hatted brokers in gilt edged stocks…and the elderly gentlemen who would while away quiet moments by fashioning aircraft from sheets of paper and attempting to launch them into the dome with the aid of rubber bands.
Successful attempts would see the fragile craft circling for weeks on the air currents.

Those were the days when your word was expected to be your bond…and when brokerage firms had to assume their own liabilities. Go bust and the firm was ‘hammered’.
Everyone was called to the floor and a waiter would tap with his gavel and announce that the firm of So and So was no longer trading.
It was a solemn moment, and one to give rise to second thoughts in those contemplating risky dealings.
No banks trading then on on their own behalf…no tax payers’ bailouts when they got it spectacularly wrong…no one was too big to fail.

He wasn’t around to see the Big Bang which swept away the working world he had known…he had had a final row with his father, obtained a mortgage on a wreck of a house which he restored and sold and decided that, as he could never afford to be a partner, there was no future in working all his life for others.
A series of events unrelated to work decided him…he packed it all in and set up his own business….but when he talks about that, his eyes don’t shine as they do when he talks about his days on the floor of the London Stock Exchange.

Which may explain why he always comes back laden with bargains when he does the shopping in the Borbon and the Central….

Jack Frost Roasting in an Open Fire

pinterest
pinterest
And if he isn’t already just give me the pitchfork and I’ll see to it myself.

If I hear one more blast of American secular Christmas songs when out shopping I risk bursting a gasket…

‘Let it snow’, indeed…as I step out of the shop into 35 degrees centigrade on the street.

The next rendition of Feliz Navidad by a choir of adenoidal children to the tune of ‘Jingle Bells’ will bring out the Herod in me and while that fell dirge ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ seems to be less popular these days it can still spring out and drive the unwary to drink at any moment.

Oh for a decent carol!

And with that in mind, I would like to wish you a merry Christmas, to thank you for all the comments which make the blog a pleasure to write and to hope that you will enjoy this carol from the tradition of pub singing around Sheffield and the Derbyshire Peak district…..

Sweet Chiming Christmas Bells

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.