No photograph would do justice to that phrase, so I will do without for fear of scandalising the congregation.
It was a statement in frequent use by my grandmother’s neighbour… a lady of firm opinions, baldly stated. I would dearly like to have her resurrected in this era of trigger warnings, PCism and all that…Saul might have slain his thousands, but she would have slain her ten thousands, snowflakes melting to left and right of her. Suffice it to say that she enjoyed the Black and White Minstrel Show on the television, went to church on Sundays and regarded all foreigners with suspicion. Rumour had it that in her younger days during the Great War she had denounced a Belgian for espionage on the grounds that he wore a wig, proving that he was a master of disguise.
She was also involved in the forced resignation of my grandfather from his post as an ARP warden in the Second World War when he crept up on her gossiping and waved his gas rattle at her. The fact that he was supposed to be a messenger during an exercise which supposed a German bombing raid in the area which resulted in, hypothetically, the gasworks being blown up together with the trolley bus depot and the hospital because he had dallied in the Rose and Crown might also have had something to do with it…but as far as he was concerned, it was the neighbour wot done it.
As children, my grandmother used to usher us indoors when an encounter with her neighbour was likely to sully our ears, but she had a carrying voice and we, straining our ears for more, were agog.
The problem was, one could not seek enlightenment….one would be accused of eavesdropping…so to this day the phrase, ‘There she stood, tits akimbo’ remains an enigma.
I can remember receiving a horrified dressing down by my mother when I saw a woman walking down the road outside and asked whom that tart might be, as she had been so apostrophised by the neighbour. I had been puzzled as to me, in the age of innocence, a tart was something to eat, made of pastry and fruit, so I vaguely thought the woman must be involved in the bakery business. I was enjoined never to use the phrase of any woman but retained an idea that women who ate fruit tarts were of ill repute but that attention should not be drawn to that fact.
Which sounds very like the respect accorded to the current generation of politicians. We know they are venal lowlife, but attention should not be drawn to that fact…because if you do you are either wearing a tinfoil hat, are a domestic terrorist or a pathetic lunatic…so, as she so often said, you can kick up all you want, but you might as well shit in your hat.
Having a temper on the volcanic side of volatile is not too good for my blood pressure and I’m not at all sure that the sight of a woman old enough to know better flapping her bingo wings as she advances on the perceived source of the problem while upbraiding it in the manner of Reginald Hill’s Dalziel would be good for anyone else’s either.
Though since leaving France, explosions have been far less frequent.
I can cope with Danilo’s urge to go left instead of right and to depart from the motorway (yes, we have one) on a side road miles before the turn off given in the directions. Scarcely a rumble.
Bureaucracy? A doddle!
The repairman who has been telling me that the strimmer will be ready tomorrow for the last three months? A shrug. Though he can’t count on that continuing once the rainy season sets in again.
The legal system? Not a problem (so far)….and as a senior citizen my papers get priority in the Constitutional Court. The sheer joy of having the local mayor told that if he didn’t repair the damage to my cafetal caused by his roadworks gang within three months he would be in the jug!
The expat bloodsucking community? Their stings have no effect.
So why the need for screens?
Because I still have a house in France and all that goes with it….tax demands, bank accounts, you name it and when the post arrives it inevitably contains something to make Krakatoa look like a side show.
While friends are very good about alerting me to changes that might affect me, I do read one or two of the national dailies online to keep up to date as well and yesterday’s news was a humdinger.
President Hollande, popularity plummeting like a lift with no cables, has decided to get out and about and meet the people. Whether they liked it or not. And they didn’t.
Whoever had that bright idea must have been trained in the Ecole Nationale d’Administration like Hollande himself.
We’ve come a long way from de Gaulle’s tours of the provinces and Hollande is no de Gaulle, even if on his first trip he was to sleep in a bed made specially to accommodate the General’s lanky frame.
You could almost hear the roars of ‘Who’s been sleeping in my bed?’ from the graveyard at Colombey-les-Deux-Eglises.
So he went to Dijon where after being greeted by trade unionists with cries of ‘What about your promises?’ (99,500 jobs having been lost in France this year) though being spared further contact by his security detail strong arming them away he announced sedately that anyone was welcome to speak to him as long, one supposes, that they don’t ask about his promises.
Having failed to cut the mustard in Dijon he returned to Paris where his government appeared to be slipping on the ice left in the streets by the inaction of the Mayor.
They have to shave another four billion euros off expenditure to keep the deficit down to only 3.7 % as there is a likelihood that the EU will finally pay attention to France’s overspending after decades of the equivalent of the Gallic shrug.
So that was the signal for the Ecology minister, Delphine Batho, to mess off to Cherbourg to inspect the windfarm in the seas off the coast, using a governmental Falcon jet and a Navy helicopter for the occasion.
Not much hope of economies there, then. Not for anything remotely ‘green’.
Which brings me to the need for screens.
The French parliament have passed a law designed to reward ‘virtuous’ users of gas and electricity by permitting variable rates of payment according to the quantities used.
Good idea, you might say and indeed this scheme already exists in a vestigial form.
But, of course, this being France, it is not so simple.
You can’t just have a series of categories which are charged at increasing rates to reflect your usage, permitting you to decide independently whether to turn off the electric fire in order to run the kettle.
Allowing such independence would be tantamount to opening the floodgates of anarchy.
No no, Big Brother will take care of it all for you. All you will have to do is pay.
There will be different categories depending on what sort of fuel you use, where you live and how many there are of you.
There will be forms to fill out.
And the utility companies will be sending round people to fill them out for you in case you decide to invite your granny and her sisters to afternoon tea and add them to your total for the purposes of the form.
Thus, one imagines replacing the 99,500 lost jobs at a stroke….
Interestingly there will not be a category for the size of your house. There is an ideal size (so far unstated but rumoured to be the size of a dog kennel for dachshunds) and all calculations will be based on that.
But I’m not there…why am I worried?
Because I leave heat on in the winter to keep the bones of the old house warm and my last winter’s bill – up some thirty percent to pay for blasted windfarms – was enough to induce the habdabs as it was.
Multiply dachshund kennels to fill its volume and I’ll be paying the four billion in economies on my own.
And it hardly increases its appeal to clients….only families large enough for mum to have been awarded the Vichy medal for producing eight children could hope to afford the proposed bills.
Perhaps I should enter into talks with the English council who are building a property to house a lady with eleven children, a horse and a husband taking flying lessons all paid for by benefits.
My house would be cheaper and the husband could fly them back to the U.K. to sign on when necessary.
Now…you’re in the tropics.
It’s warm and you want to take the family to the beach so you pack a picnic, including a cold box for the beer and soft drinks.
You find a wonderful site under the palms, the swimming is safe inshore and you settle down to enjoy yourselves; loungers, sunglasses, a glass of something cold….the only blot on the landscape being the two chaps who’ve set themselves up a bit too close for comfort, smoking and throwing the cigarette butts about.
The police arrive…..you know smoking is illegal in most public places in Costa Rica so you hope that they will tell them to stop.
They have come to tell you you can’t take beer to the beach.
You give up.
Next day you take the family to the fair and bull ring at Zapote, a suburb of San Jose.
In the arena, drunks career about waving their shirts while bewildered bulls do what comes naturally…chase the nuisances.
The Red Cross treat over one hundred idiots injured by goring or trampling….their task complicated by the the idiots’ state of inebriation.
Outside the ring the police arrest fifteen people for smoking in a public place.
Shops are open, people are going to work…but government offices lie silent, awaiting the return of their normal occupants to participate in the ceremony of taking down the creche after January 6th.
One group of people are impatient for the return to governmental work to come about.
Fuel tanker companies have been waiting for more than five months for the Environment Ministry to renew the licences for their vehicles. They have undergone inspection, have brought their fleets up to scratch…..but no licence renewals have been forthcoming and the expiry date is January 31st 2013.
They are seeking to discuss the situation with the appropriate officials…who will not be available until the creche has been dismantled.
No licence renewal, no petrol stations supplied. No transport, private or public.
They have decided that if no early discussions are possible then they will have to take action.
Not blocking the roads to inconvenience the public…but blocking off the Environment Ministry.
It will be interesting to see if the government try to deploy their unpopular riot police again when faced with tough lorry drivers as opposed to health workers……
The only question is:
Should they block the idle sloths out?
Or should they block the idle sloths in?