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.

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Here they come again…

 

The local elections are upon us…..February 7th is D Day and all the candidates are out trying to secure the confidence of the electorate. If confidence is the right word.

Cars flying party flags are to be seen in the streets…vast posters of the features of the candidates leer from hoardings – though those promoting one candidate in a neighbouring canton have been attacked by an aesthete who has carefully removed said candidate’s head from each one…..

There are not just party candidates…there are independents too.

In the capital the man who stood as presidential candidate for his party and then withdrew in mysterious circumstances has not been dismayed at being banned from standing for the party again for some years. No, far from it. His podgy features beam from posters funded by his personal election committee and only the least charitable of persons could give credence to the rumour that he has to get his hands on the town hall funds  in order to pay off the Mexican syndicate which funded his presidential run….

Just as in the U.K., the candidates are chary of trying door to door canvassing…too many people have pit bulls and those that don’t have machetes.

Wild promises are being made by our local heroes: more employment…roads  to be repaired…the erratic public water supply to be improved… which is generally translated as meaning

‘When I get into power the council will make jobs for my family and friends: sons of friends will be employed to carry out the necessary preliminary studies for road repairs which will take all the years of my mandate with no perceptible improvement in the situation and the only improvement in the water supply will be me, my family and friends pissing on the population from a great height.’

So, recognising that enthusing the voters is a lost cause the candidates have resorted to the tried and tested method of carrot and stick as exemplified in another neighbouring canton where those on low incomes applying for grants to build a house are given to understand that the outcome of their application will depend on the way they cast their  vote…

And don’t talk to me about the secrecy of the ballot….

I lived in a French village where the maire knew exactly which forty four people had voted Front National and thus also knew which car tyres to let down on the night of the election…and if France can  do it Costa Rica will not be far behind.

The social media are busy…publicity, of course, but plenty of accusations of dirty work at the crossroads too – some backed by proof, others solely relying on innuendo – which are inevitably subject to comments expressing shock that the person concerned has been so lost to all sense of decency that they could even contemplate publishing such material in the period before an election….the said comments usually being followed by others pointing out the family relationship shared by the person making the comment and the person commented upon in the initial post.

You will note that I have given examples only from neighbouring cantons….

In our own dear canton, of course, all the candidates are as pure as the driven slush…

 

Bring Back Gladstone

candidatesWill it be the man in the suit who buggered up my mobile ‘phone or will it be the one who looks as if he has just been ejected from Tracey Emin’s unmade bed?
The woman who knows all the facts, or the silver haired man ‘who has consented to stand’?
The man who has just hired a bulldozer to repair the road to town which has been impassable for three years – and in so doing has been threatened with legal proceedings by the Roadworks Agency who should have done the work; the woman whose main claim seems to be her extensive family connections, or the man with the clipboard?

Yes, local elections are coming up in February and the candidates are doing their best to raise the political temperature in the area from somewhere near sub zero to something approaching the blood heat of a crocodile in the dark hours before the dawn.

The seven candidates have one thing in common….no, two things: they all want to be mayor and they are all shocked to find that the populace demonstrates a certain cynicism as to their motives for so doing.

Of course, they all want the best for the local people…the cynicism of the populace lies in the determination of who, exactly, counts as ‘local people’…
Is it local people in general, or is it certain people who live locally?

In order to bring things into the open the stringers for the national press organised a meeting, live online, where the candidates could answer questions and express their views.
Needless to say we saw a great deal of the said stringers congratulating themselves on organising the event…and a lot of camera time dwelling on the backdrop with the names of the local businesses sponsoring it…but we did also see the candidates.
All seven of them.

Eventually, things began with a rendition of the national anthem sung with enthusiasm.

As it was being distributed live online only the seriously narcissistic were present to watch the event, which, given past form at council meetings might have been an advantage. (The action on the video starts at four and a half minutes and involves the intervention of the police a minute later…)

Matters proceeded with a rendition of a ghastly ditty celebrating the area and they were off!

The candidates introduced themselves, talked about their families and then answered questions which were of two types: the first being written questions submitted to the stringers and the second being questions about the area and the work of the council written by the stringers themselves.

While the answers to the first batch of questions were the usual mix of wishful thinking and back handed swipes at the outgoing regime I was delighted to find that most of the candidates answered most of the ‘general knowledge’ questions correctly…apart from the one about the number of employees the current regime owns up to which produced a fair amount of wild guesswork as while some are visible and occasionally active others seem to live in a shadow world where only their paycheck is real.

So, whoever we get, the new mayor will have some idea of what he or she will be dealing with.

The same could not be said for Myriam El Khomri, France’s new Ministre du Travail (minister for employment) who made a real ass of herself in a recent television interview.

The lack of stable employment is a serious problem in France
If you are lucky – or started work in the Dark Ages – you will have a permanent contract, a CDI.
If you started work after Personnel Departments started calling themselves Human Resources then you are more likely to have a temporary contract, a CDD.
While the latter are supposed to be only for short term specific jobs, in reality they are about all you can get these days, because they allow employers to get rid of staff without the costly rigmarole of warnings, assessments and compensation afforded the holder of a CDI, and can be renewed without having to be converted into a permanent post as long as there is a break in or change of terms of employment.

There is, of course, abuse of the system.
La Poste holds, I believe, the palm, having employed someone for twenty five years on temporary contracts by moving the unfortunate worker from one office to another….but they are not alone – notably the Pole Emploi (Labour Exchange) in the public sector, the banks in the private, so for the person on a temporary contract the matter of the renewal of contracts is most important.

Not, it seems, for the Employment Minister.

Asked how many times a temporary contract could be renewed before having to be transformed into a permanent contract she dithered and dithered..and finally admitted that she did not know.

Not that it mattered, of course. The next day she said that she had been deliberately trapped…as had other politicians before her..it’s happened before and it will happen again, said she insouciantly.

This from someone who has never held down a proper job in her life.
From university onward she has lived from the public purse…from cronyism… flitting from one political job to another until the need to appease those of immigrant stock who still vote for the Socialist Party arose – and there she was: a woman of Moroccan origins. Ideal!
Does it matter that she has no experience in the field? No.
Does it matter that she appears incapable of acquiring any? No.

Because modern ministers are for the most part figureheads…the policy is decided elsewhere, by the global businesses who now control politicians, and all that is required is to toe the line and accept the handout on retirement from office.

We, the people, do not matter – except as a Human Resource.
And we, the people, have no power except at the changing of the guard called elections when one uniform replaces another to continue with the same policies.

The last Presidential elections in Costa Rica produced a nasty surprise for entrenched power: an outsider came to power borne on people’s resentment of corruption and cronyism.
He says he will not stand again…it has been a constant struggle to start the process of change; setbacks and ambushes at every turn…but there have been changes and people have seen that they could make their voice count and that they can do it again if need be.

I note the way in which Jeremy Corbyn has been demonised in the press; how the New Labour elite are organising to overthrow him as leader of the party…
But many people voted him into that post, people who, like Costa Ricans, had given up on politics. They voted for change once they had the chance.
Voted, like the Costa Ricans, for honesty and competence over entrenched privilege.

Enter Gladstone, monument of rectitude.

In the wake of the disastrous campaign in the Crimea his government resolved to shake up the armed forces…to make them efficient, competent and open to talent. His War Minister, Cardwell, abolished the purchase of commissions bringing fresh blood into higher command….a process gently mocked by Gilbert and Sullivan in ‘The Pirates of Penzance’ in the Major General’s song:

Gladstone shook up the Civil service too…entry only by competitive examination.Goodness only knows what he would make of the tribe of ‘consultants’ leeching the public purse these days….

We need another Gladstone…but unless we combat the influence of global business’ lapdog, the media, we won’t get one.
We need to talk to each other, encourage each other, help each other to bring people back to voting again…to back candidates with whom we do not agree on all points but who are honest and willing to stand up for all the people, not just the privileged.

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.
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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.

Head in the Clouds

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This the view from the balcony this evening…..somewhat subfusc, you might think; not at all your idea of Costa Rica.

But this is the rainy season, and we are up in the clouds.

We have been in and out of San Jose all week for hospital and legal appointments – with a bit of light relief at a meeting of a writers’ group – and with impeccable timing just as we have alighted from the bus the heavens have opened, the Central American version of Thor has made a nuisance of himself and by the time we have reached the car we are like two drookit hens – and just about as voluble.

The road – the back road – to the house has become a river: two vast piles of hoggin dumped by the council in a gesture designed to mollify local residents sit just where they were a week ago as the council bulldozer has gone down with the lurgy yet again.
By the time the machine recovers from its latest malady various enterprising persons will have half inched the hoggin for their own purposes and the ritual dance will begin again.

Residents apply to the council for road repairs.
Council, sucking its collective teeth, declines to make extraordinary provision.
Residents – in greater number – apply again.
Council, relying on an old favourite of an excuse, announce that the bulldozer is out of action – again.

Now, each time the bulldozer is out of action it apparently costs forty million colones ($80,000) to have it repaired, and it breaks down every time it is put into service.
Thus, announces the council’s lawyer, it is best not to use the thing at all.

Residents, rising in their wrath, point out certain irregularities in council proceedings and payments to councillors.

The council produce the bulldozer.
It breaks down.

The dance resumes.
As a participant, you feel rather like Mr. Pastry dancing The Lancers…

There is something that you just don’t seem able to grasp…

Still, given the power of blackmail, things might improve.

The council has been showing its less attractive profile just lately.

One of its members took exception to the Peruvian couple who regularly play their pan pipes in the corner of the park by the taxi stand.
We remain in ignorance as to the origin of the incident – perhaps he had asked for and been refused a performance of the Magic Flute, who knows?…but the taxi drivers assembled in their shelter nearby saw him grab the Peruvian lady by the arm and in turn be felled by a well placed kick from her husband.
He was carted off to hospital with a broken leg.

Then the council’s lawyer published a letter on the council’s Facebook page announcing that those who wanted the installation of a Walmart in the town were thinking not with their heads – but with their livers.
This apparently curled a number of said livers and the lawyer has retreated under heavy pressure which centred on his relationship with a member of the family running the local supermarket monopoly.

And to cap it all it has been discovered that:
A…one of the councillors hasn’t attended a single meeting since her appointment:
B…said lady denies ever being a councillor
and
C…the witch hunt is up for who it is that has been pocketing her allowances.

The bulldozer might yet make a miraculous recovery.

We have had to leave the puppies rather longer than is desirable in terms of their socialising routine…..
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But they have clearly made their own arrangements and who are we to quibble..

The older dogs are doing a good job on the pair, working on the principle that if older dogs can’t do that there ‘ere, then neither can two upstart puppies

Yet some fine tuning remains to be achieved….
They happily accept collars and leads…but insist on carrying the leads themselves…
But they follow the terms of employment in the collier brigs sailing out of the Tyne as recorded by Hervey Benham, maritime historian of the East coast of England

Duff out
Dumpling home
Poop in the cabin foul weather.

One Man And His Doghouse

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Some tourists come to Costa Rica for the thrills of white water rafting, zip lining through the tree tops, or even surfing…but locals have their own quiet way of having a thrill.

We had ours yesterday. We crossed the bridge connecting us with the direct road into town for the first time for months.

Readers of the previous post might wonder whether the council had had a change of heart and decided to make the repairs.

Fat chance.

What had happened was that one of those disgruntled by the meeting had taken it upon himself to hire a bulldozer last Sunday and blocked the stream with the remnants of the bridge and all the rocks it could scoop up – a four inch pipe embedded in the rubble to carry the water through.
A few passes on either side to lay earth on the top and lo and behold – a bridge!

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Note the natty yellow tape to prevent you from falling off it into the stream:
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What, you might ask?
No obligatory preliminary study of soil stability?
No obligatory anti seismic construction plans passed by the College of Engineers?

The Isambard Kingdom Brunel of the three valleys is unrepentant.

The hell with the lot of them.

Danilo brought us the news on Monday and we were keen to set out for the bridge but he shook his head.

Let it settle a bit first…see if anything happens.

Apart from Don Antonio, having drink taken, falling into the stream despite the existance of the yellow tape nothing of consequence had happened so Danilo allowed us to use it today.

He stopped on the other side to point out that it would never last….this is the dry season and very dry it is too. Not much water in the stream.

Ah, just wait until we get the rains! One cloudburst and the whole thing will be blown apart by the pressure of water!

Having seen two bridges lower down the valley disappear in this fashion his pessimism is probably justified so we’ll make the most of it while it lasts as this way into town is a lot easier on the car than the precipitous back road we have been taking recently.

There had been changes in our absence.

Where Dona Martha’s stable had stood there was now a tatty tin structure and a compound containing motorbikes and quad bikes in all states of disrepair.
Apparently one of her husband’s sons by a previous marriage had returned to live in the town and persuaded his father to let him use the land for his repair business.

I preferred the stable and I suspect Dona Martha did too as she had a certain tight lipped look about her…

A house on stilts had been built on the top of the hill at the junction with the main road. As the hill is over 800 metres above sea level I can only assume that the owner of the house has been listening to too many of Danilo’s jeremiads on the subject of the rainy season…or that he knows something we don’t.

Business done – buying paint in quantity before the half price offer ended – we returned by the same route but two thirds of the way down to the bridge our eyes were caught by something new to the scene.

If you roll up to the photograph at the head of the page you might well spot it too…

Can you see it?

A red band in the middle of the photograph.

We hadn’t realised that it could be seen from there….it was part of the frontage of our new house.

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It has been a long time a-building as Danilo is doing it himself – while running the finca and driving us about. He has taken on his son recently – good with welding and electronics – and is accompanied by his many dogs.
Under normal circumstances the floors would have gone down before any painting took place…but the offer was too good to resist and, once bought, The Men wanted to try it out.

The back of the house is not so vivid…
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And it has not yet been settled – three falls, three submissions or one knock out to decide the winner – whether the grassy area under the roof will be a conventional tiled terrace or a covered garden….

But the views are stunning:

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Even the one from the kitchen window:IMG_2714

So roll on the day when we move up the hill.

Still, we’re not there yet, so we drove on down to where we live now….the one time holiday house which is now bursting at the seams….where I was delighted to see this:
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Flowers on the trunk of the guanabana tree by the back door, which, if the rains keep off, may produce these:
guanabana
Massive green fruits with a white flesh…wonderful for drinks and ice cream – and held to be effective against cancer.

Not, as far as I know, effective against anything but good to eat with mayonnaise are these peach palm fruits which we bought ready cooked from a stall in town to form part of supper.
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Oh and why the vivid frontage of the new house?
Because it is directly in the line of sight of the house of the unpleasant North American who has done his best to prevent us from building, from threatening to cut off the water to denouncing us to the council – not applying for planning permission – and the social security authorities – not paying our workers’ national insurance.
Thwarted on all fronts he can now have the pleasure of sitting on his front porch and getting an eyeful of the Red Infuriator.

That’ll learn him.

All the Fun of the Fair

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This magnificent Friesian stallion was, for me, the star of the show at the town’s agricultural fair, where local and not so local breeders showed the prime of their stock with the aim of attracting clients.

There were also Falabellas:

falabella

Water buffalo:

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And something whose origins are said to be Indian…but I need to do some research:
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There were publicity stands…there was a canteen:

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And gentlemen practising their dressage for the parade of horses later in the day with the hope of a winner’s ribbon:

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An English County Show it was not…but it was a great day out…we even met a man who had the only herd of Blonde d’Aquitaine cattle in Costa Rica…he had encountered the breed while working in Canada and, despite all the administrative problems, had his herd installed locally.
The Blonde d’Aquitaine is a good beef breed…and can only be better in Costa Rica than on its native soil given that here it will be grass fed all the year round…no pellets.

No wonder the beef here is a revelation after France…fed correctly, hung in cold storage…
At its best it can approach Scots beef…and that is saying something.

There were plenty of the crosses between African and European beasts too…
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All part of the programme of improving the breeds…like seeing the agricultural revolution of the eighteenth century before your eyes in the twenty first…

And, as with all agricultural shows, there was food and music in over abundance.

A good time was had by all.

As if this was not enough there was more fun on Tuesday evening.

The bridge which links us to the main road into town collapsed before Christmas. This means that those few of us who live on the ‘tail’ of the district have to take the back road – unpaved, twisty and three kilometres vertical – to get into town.

All very well at this time of year, but the rainy season will arrive in a month or so and then things will not be so funny. The road will turn into a river during the rainstorms, vast ruts and channels will be gouged out and it is quite possible that the narrow stretch above our finca will collapse into the stream below.
In a stout four wheel drive we will get through – if the narrow stretch doesn’t collapse – but no way will our neighbour’s wife be able to pass in her ordinary car in order to get to work in the local college. Nor will the men working on an orange plantation down the valley be able to get to work…or, come to that, the man who looks after the goats on the farm below ours.

When the bridge collapsed the alcalde (mayor) came down to take a look.
From that day to this the council have resolutely refused to do more.

Set up a project to repair it?
What, are you mad?
National law (underlying message – new government, not the ruling party here) demands that before any infrastructure project is undertaken a proper study must be made to ensure stability of said project.
Years of motorways disappearing downhill and bridges falling into rivers have shown the necessity of having a study made, but, just as in the European Union, ‘studies’ have turned into a very lucrative business indeed.

So the council have said that they cannot afford to pay for a ‘study’ for which they have been quoted (probably by someone not unknown to members of the council) a vast sum.
No ‘study’, no project.

While this has been going on the development committee of the district has been busy. They have been talking to the development agency and to the roads department. They have had promises of aid and locals are prepared to pay towards materials and provide labour.

But only the council can order a ‘study’. And it’s not going to.
Thus the meeting at the town hall.

Not only did the disgruntled of our district attend, so did the disgruntled of two other districts, resulting in a turn out that required more chairs to be provided.

The video below shows an excerpt from the meeting…the interesting bit, but for those who don’t have Spanish here is a quick guide to the highlights:

As the video opens with the council sitting behind what looks like recycled kitchen units, the bald bugger doing all the bawling and arm waving is the council’s lawyer, whose incompetence leading to repeated defeats in court probably accounts for some of the council’s financial problems which he prayed in aid in his attempt to justify the refusal to stir their stumps and do their job.

The man in the pink shirt on his left as you see it – the one who looks as if he tried to tidy up his hair with an electric razor while hungover – is the alcalde.

The man in the mauve shirt on his left is the local deputy (same party as the council).

It gets more exciting at about 4.54 when a man in a blue shirt rises to his feet to refute the claims of bald bugger, haircut man and the deputy.

The police intervene at 5.37 onwards.

The man in the blue shirt, bouncing back, asks the audience to vote to allow him to continue at about 7.29. Hands raised (including mine).

After that it is more bawling, arm waving and shouting.

Democracy in action.