Christmas is coming,
The geese are getting fat,
Please put a penny in the old man’s hat.
If you haven’t got a penny a halfpenny will do.
If you haven’t got a halfpenny then God bless you.
Communities in the north of Costa Rica are still coming to terms with the extent of the destruction caused by Hurricane Otto and this coming Christmas promises to be bleak, despite the rescue and restoration efforts of the official bodies.
Who wants to spend Christmas in a shelter, after all?
I have been struck, though, by the volunteer action from all over the country: once permitted to enter the affected areas vans have been arriving at the farthest flung villages with not only the necessities of life – but also the things that make life brighter.
One furniture factory has gone into full production to turn out beds and sofas…basic, but serviceable and attractive, to make houses feel like a home again: a police station had a whip round to provide a wheelchair for a boy who had lost his in the floods…the examples are all too many to quote, but hats off to those involved – and to the emergency services whose plans allowed such prompt access for the volunteer effort.
The children have not been forgotten….for some of them Christmas has come early as the volunteers brought presents too – pennies and halfpennies well spent by those contributing at Red Cross centres and at some of the major chain stores who put their fleets of vehicles at the disposal of the relief effort.
Let us now hope that the government agencies coping with the aftermath…rebuilding houses, trying to compensate for crops lost…will show the same energy and generosity as was brought out by the immediate aftermath of the hurricane.
Away from the disaster areas the Christmas frenzy is now upon us with a vengeance.
The pavements of San Jose, already a hazard to shipping with the vendors of socks, rip off DVDs, remote controls and amazingly random items laid out on black plastic sheets ready for the quick getaway when the municipal police are sighted, now boast herds of fibreglass reindeer upon whose horns you are liable to become impaled while trying to avoid the embrace of the inflatable Santa on the other side of the shop entrance.
A new horror promises to manifest itself: while buying a washing machine I saw that the shop was also selling hideously lifelike and lifesize Santas who sang carols and did a sort of shuffling dance….from ghosties and ghoulies and shuffling Santas Good Lord deliver us…
Music – if so it can be called – assails you in every store. Fortunately for my sanity ‘The Little Drummer Boy’ seems to have fallen from favour, but ‘Jingle Bells’ is still going strong.
I suppose that given the popularity of reindeer, it would be.
Curiously enough, I heard ‘Auld Lang Syne’ in one of the local supermarkets last week, so there is hope of the advance of civilisation yet…despite the horror of the butcher as I described to him how to make a haggis.
Poor man: he is still recovering from my annual demand for suet which he is firmly convinced serves only to dubbin boots.
The price of tomatoes and potatoes have soared as this is the tamale season and they are essential ingredients: luckily we have laid in a store of spuds which, if the weather remains unseasonably cold, should last through the New Year after which prices should fall again.
And unseasonably cold it is too….summer should have started some two weeks ago but for the first time since moving here I have opened the old suitcase containing our woollies and put a second light blanket on the bed as the rain is heavy and persistent and the winds are strong and cold.
This has done no favours to the ewes: accustomed as they are to dropping their lambs outside, Danilo has had to go hunting to bring them in before the newborns get chilled and weak and we currently have one in the house – a twin whose mother abandoned it in the driving rain. Leo is doing his best, but it is touch and go for the little thing.
Stop press: two in the house…
It will be a quiet Christmas for us – the way we like it. Which is just as well, given Leo’s poor health.
Our celebration has been to trawl through the cookery books, now that we finally have most of them out of the boxes and onto proper bookshelves, to decide on some new recipes to try. An Ethiopian beef stew looks promising, as does a Cincinnati style chili involving black chocolate and Worcester sauce.
Before Christmas though, things are somewhat more eventful. There is an art fair in San Jose at the end of this week…and we are invited to a christening party on the weekend which will involve the consumption of vast quantities of chicharrones (deep fried lumps of belly pork), deep fried murpheys and plantains together with endless cold beers accompanied by football on the box and heated political discussion in all quarters of the house.
However, given that the godfather – who will be doing the deep frying – has also invited us to a karaoke evening at his favourite bar the night before I begin to wonder whether the only sizzling at the christening party will be that of Alka Seltzer tablets hitting the water.
All of the above are dependent on how Leo is feeling on the day of course…so, as one says here, we shall be going ‘si Dios quiere’.
And if He doesn’t, then we can enjoy our pwn pictures, look for another recipe and choose some music to accompany the meal, which will be different, but just as enjoyable.
Though we do not go in for them, Christmas decorations are beginning to go up on the houses.
I have it on good authority that the Santa Claus novelty loo seat cover – dumped on me by my mother and seized on by the cleaning woman – still has pride of place on a certain front door, but cannot go to see for myself as the bridge, which collapsed two years ago, is not yet repaired.
Danilo found an engineer at the site in October…and word was that it would be repaired by the end of November…but then Hurricane Otto took a hand and resources were directed elsewhere.
Don Freddy has been round to see us again….the bridge was to be repaired starting on 15th December, but Danilo has since reported that the chairman of the development committee – in charge of the works – has been admitted to hospital as an emergency case.
It is only by the existence of good hospital provision that this most orthodox of Catholic gentleman has avoided the fate of the heretical Bishop Arias in that his bowels burst while he was on the loo.
Well, that puts the bridge repair back again, I suppose….
Might put it back permanently….he’s gone to a private hospital…
They’re not likely to kill him!
No perhaps not….but he’s got the money for the bridge…