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:

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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.

Windmills in the Head

Georges Michel. Windmills at Montmartre
Georges Michel. Windmills at Montmartre
They formed part our historic landscape in all their manifestations and together with water mills fed us and clothed us before we turned to other means to our ends, careless of the balance between pollution and production.
Now that we are reaping the consequences of our lack, first of knowledge and then, unpardonably, of care we are looking back to natural sources of energy: sun, water and wind.

And what do we end up with? These monstrosities.
wind turbines

Flying over Spain white rows of the things mark the line of every hilltop…beautiful Lake Nicaragua is desecrated by them…
Wherever they are placed they are aesthetic crimes.

But we can become accustomed to aesthetic crimes….we quite like old mill buildings once it is not our generation feeding the maw of the looms and we can browse arty crafty boutiques run by crafty arty people before stopping for a sustainable if not sustaining lunch.
In time we will be accustomed to wind turbines too.

But why should we be? They are inefficient, their unpredictable output requiring power plants to be on permanent stand by…..and they are a scam in which the taxpayer is scalped to produce private profit.

As may be plain, I am agin them.

They were making their appearance as I was leaving France…and locally a group of farmers seeking to install these horrors on their land were threatening people living in the lotissement downhill of the proposed site with consequences should they protest. Those wind turbines were going in!
Luckily, the lotissement dwellers took umbrage at the bullying.
Now that the French have discovered commuting, the traditional village power brokers don’t have it all their own way any more…..people moving out to live in the country hold down decent, responsible jobs…they don’t have land in the commune…it’s more difficult to threaten them.’
They banded together and all these years down the line they have finally won. Those wind turbines will not be going in.

The resistance to the installation of wind turbines is growing. Especially after the hike in the price of electricity paid by the consumer in order to subsidise them….fifteen percent on your bill in these days of straightened circumstances tends to get your dander up, after all and if that doesn’t rouse the somnolent dander it is guaranteed to spring to life on learning that the very people on the local council voting for wind turbines to be installed are those owning the land where the said installation will take place and for the which installation they will be handsomely paid.

Decentralisation of power, for which France has so often been congratulated, is nothing more than an enlargement of the trough so that more snouts can find fulfilment at the expense of the taxpayer – that rara avis who has less than the tax efficient three children, hasn’t enough money to be able to hide it in investing in fictitious resorts out in the Dom Toms or in three legged racehourses at Chantilly and is not able to reduce his liability by having several publicly funded posts the income from which is counted separately when arriving at his liability to tax.

Decentralisation of power has meant that people making decisions are very close to the action….and that requires an advanced appreciation of ethics – something not necessarily conferred on maires together with the tricolour sash of office.
Usually their activities are greeted with the Gallic shrug of resignation….
What do you expect? Of course he’s going to feather his nest….

Sometimes it goes wrong.
In February 2010 a violent storm hit the Atlantic coast of France. At La Faute sur Mer, in the Vendee, the sea wall gave way and 29 people – mostly elderly – died, drowned in their houses.
Stones were inevitably turned….it appeared that the maire and his deputy had actively pursued development in an area which was known to be prone to flooding.
That the deputy’s son in law was the estate agent pushing the sales.
That it was stipulated that the houses had to be on one floor only…where flood risk regulations demand two floors so that people have a chance to escape the flood waters even if taken by surprise….

After the usual kerfuffles – it was argued that it was the fault of the purchasers for purchasing where they did but that time honoured chestnut did not wash this time…the case came to court and the maire has been sentenced to be jugged for four years. He is horrified, and is, of course, appealing the judgement.

But that he came to court at all marks a change from the virtual immunity of elected officials from prosecution and it is this which is worrying the lobbying organisation representing the promoters of wind turbine installation in France…France Energie Eolienne….which has written to all the Deputies in the National Assembly to warn them of the terrible consequences if the law which governs the behaviour of elected officials is not changed.

It appears that consumer groups have been advising those who resist the installation of wind turbines on how to bring their maire to book….shock, horror, outrage on the part of FEE.
If this goes on, maires will be too frightened of being taken to court to permit more installations.
Something must be done!

Their answer is to relax the law which governs the actions of elected snouts in troughs….so that maires will not be inhibited from setting up wind turbine installations on the farms of their grandmother’s cousin once removed…or even on their own.
Considering what the snouts have managed to do while the current law is in force relaxing it looks to me like a recipe for rampant corruption…

But there is always hope.

Hope that their action in lobbying to free maires from the fear of prosecution might bring about two desirable objectives.

To take a closer look at what passes for local government in France, a closer look at the magouilles, large and small, which favour the staus quo and those with status.

And to take a much closer look at the wind turbine industry…its efficiency, its value for money.
Never mind the eco publicity on recycled loo paper….follow the loot.

Where Are Whelks When You Need Them……?

lucia-sector-barrio-chino-lunes_LNCIMA20130917_0148_5 It is the rainy season here….it comes every year….it is not a one off event.
This photograph from the Costa Rican newspaper ‘La Nacion’ shows a flooded street in San Jose, the nation’s capital.
Tut, you might think. Isn’t it about time the council got round to doing something about this?
Upgrading?

Well, the council had got round to upgrading the street in question…the whole area was disrupted for months recently while they messed around with the old Paseo des los Estudiantes to turn it into – Barrio Chino.

ww. skyscrapercity.com
ww. skyscrapercity.com
Most of the old shops are gone, forced out by high rents and shortage of customers thanks to lack of access.
Pardonable while works were underway…unpardonable when cars were banned even from loading and unloading.
My favourite pawn shop is feeling the pinch….the shops either side have gone already.

And what do we have in its place?
Tawdry shops offering prime junk from the factories of China…knick knacks, decorations for Christmas – yes, already – and restaurants where the menu is only in Chinese script and the dose of monosodium glutamate is enough to turn you dizzy.

China Town as in London’s Soho it is not.

But I digress.
When upgrading, the street was laid with patterns of differing coloured paving…most attractive..but underneath the paving there was something missing.

Drains. Proper ones. Fit to cope with the annual rainy season.

When I was growing up drains were only mentioned in connection with houses – as in were the drains working properly – or with London’s Great Stink of 1858. It was taken for granted that towns had drains and that those drains worked.

Clearly when planning Barrio Chino great attention was paid to street furniture…but not much to drains. The council insist that they exist…they might as well not.

The council official responsible for drains – existent or not – states that it is all the fault of:

A. Cars driving too fast through rainwater on Avenida 4 thus sending ripples of water into Barrio Chino.
Good try sir!

and/or

B. A drainage outlet from a neighbouring barrio, blocking the drainage of Barrio Chino.
I know that medieval Europe had the habit of hanging animals found to be guilty of causing human death and begin to wonder if we shall see council officials solemnly stringing up drain pipes from the neighbouring barrio at the junction of Barrio Chino with Avenida 4 in a sort of municipal auto da fe.

They would not have been able to do this until just recently, as at all interjunctions high domes had been built in the centre, buses and trucks tilting sideways to negotiate them, faces peering in alarmed fashion from the windows.
The domes have since been removed.
Presumably someone who matters had bust his car’s suspension on one of them.

But help is at hand!

A Study will be made…another pernicious habit picked up from the European Union no doubt….and a solution will be found for the summer of 2014.
It has not been stated whether this will be part of the summer beginning in December 2013 and running until May 2014 or the summer beginning in December 2014 in which case those making the study will have had the advantage of being prepared by taking a look at the rainy season of 2014 falling between the two.
Just don’t drive too fast along Avenida 4 next year or you’ll drown the experts and the whole thing will have to begin again.

The results of the study will no doubt be some solace to those who frequent the Parque Central across from the Cathedral where large rats…flushed out from the flooded drains which are their normal habitat…have moved uphill and are enjoying al fresco lunches on the food waste thrown out by local restaurants.
If the Muni doesn’t do something soon they’ll acquire squatters’ rights.

In the meantime the school near my house in San Jose is facing foreclosure.
Yes, you did read that correctly. A school is facing foreclosure for not paying its municipal taxes for the last goodness knows how long and the Muni is getting tough.

Why hasn’t it paid its municipal taxes?
Because the San Jose Board of Education – body responsible – hasn’t coughed up.
Its administration budget seems to have disappeared down the plughole…probably single handedly responsible for flooding Barrio Chino.

Who appoints the San Jose Board of Education?

The Muni. The San Jose council.

We are coming up to Presidential elections next year. The mayor of San Jose…who has now stood down in order to concentrate on his campaign…is a candidate.

I suggest that, as a preliminary to the elections, all potential candidates are asked to undertake a fitness for purpose task.

There are two methods known to me, but the first, organising a piss up in a brewery, is out. Brewing is a state monopoly.

This leaves the second.

Running a whelk stall.

But there are no whelks in Costa Rica.

So no doubt the mayor will be elected President…all for the lack of a whelk.