Costa Rica Rural Design Exhibition. Exhibit Number One…And Only.

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Here are the judges in the local – very local – rural design exhibition.

One is clearly unimpressed…the other curious.

Personally I embodied both views, mixed with incandescent rage of an intensity rarely experienced since leaving la belle France and the crew of overpriced bodgers more politely known as ‘les artisans francais’.

It was, of course, my own fault.

The combination of a cataract and a dodgy  ankle had sent me base over apex while – rashly – clearing the piles of books on the bedside table. Books were scattered in all directions while a despairing grab at the table led to catching my hand in the flex of the bedside lamp which fell to its doom on the tiled floor.

Much untoward language used while hauling my self up and messing off for broom and dustpan to avoid any ceramic splinters being left on the floor to the hazard of passing paws. Needless to say the disaster had attracted a canine audience, though Higher Authority had the good sense to remain at a distance. A muttering woman with a broom is best left well alone…..

I went shopping for a replacement that afternoon in the local Chinese tat emporium, as being the only place in this small town likely to have a bedside lamp.

You can buy a saddle easily enough, change your car tyres or buy clumpy furniture on the never-never, but a bedside lamp is another matter.

It did indeed stock bedside lamps.

One style stood about a foot high with a gold coloured twisted stem and shade in imperial red. Too big – and too red.

Another was miniscule.

One alternative was a ceramic monstrosity in the shape of a boat. It weighed a ton and to say it was kitsch would have been an understatement, but the major factor in determining its rejection was that it reminded me of Captain Pugwash’s ship, the Black Pig, and there was no  way in which I was going to bed every night with the Pugwash theme tune running through my head.

You see what I mean? Once heard never forgotten – and for those of you who think there is a touch of Jimmy Shand in there, you are right.

.For the uninitiated, Captain Pugwash was a children’s programme on the BBC, using cardboard cut outs operated by levers and recounting the adventures – and disasters – of that most pusillanimous of pirates, Captain Pugwash, and his faithful crew who sailed the seven seas in the hopes of avoiding their dastardly enemy Cut-throat Jake, master of the Flying Dustman.

It was one of a series of programmes which would be played in my time as a ritual in student union bars to an adoring public…Noggin the Nog… Bagpuss…The Clangers, all had their day and if you take a look at The Clangers it may go some way to understanding how we turned out…

However, the kitsch boat rejected, there was one chance left….a monolithic lighthouse, obviously a product of the same tormented mind. It too weighed a ton and it too was rejected as its associations would not be conducive to slumber…

 

Ys, of course it is a spoof…but it still makes me laugh and laughter brings me back to wakefulness.

The first night without a bedside light was not a success. Trying to find the mobile ‘phone to provide light when going to the loo was  an enterprise fraught with disaster, but there seemed to be little alternative until the Chinese tat shop changed its stock.

I had reckoned, however, without The Men…Leo and Danilo.

I had had to go out and left them busily building a low fence from left over wood to keep the dogs off the garden. Fat chance, the dogs can jump and turned out to regard it rather in the light of an Irish hunter facing a double bank…a challenge to be overcome.

On my return I was told to take a look in the bedroom.

I looked.

I found the item in the rather poor photograph heading this post placed beside the bed. Between the bed and the bedside table which was no longer at the bedside as the plinth of the monstrosity was too large to fit underneath it, nor could it be turned to fit under the bed as the light was on the other side of the post

That I was not enchanted could be told from my expression.

Nor were matters improved by learning that they had had some wood left over from the fence and had come across the lamp they had intended to use in the chicken house so decided to make me a bedside lamp.

Lamp! More like a blasted lamp post….except in one respect which was to become apparent on going to bed that night.

I would have needed the arm of an orang utan to reach the bedside table…so no glass of water in case of accidents.

The light was so powerful and at such an angle that it could have been used to good effect in interrogations by the Gestapo.

And, the crowning glory, the height was such that every time I sat up in bed I hit my head on the blasted thing.

My mood by the morning was murderous.

The Men approached me rather in the manner of Agag King of the Amalekites approaching Samuel and with some reason. It was a case of light the blue touchpaper and retire to Worthing.

The dogs enjoyed jumping the fence into the garden.

The friend staying with us, who had followed the whole thing from start to finish, put things in perspective over a quiet women only coffee.

Yes, they meant well, but it just goes to show why we don’t castrate men….they would have nowhere to keep their brains.

 

 

 

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I Don’t Like Cricket… I Love It….

cricket ground

While I can’t say that I recommend the rest of the lyrics of 10cc’s ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ that one line sums up my feeling for the game….and for the expression of that feeling, running from expertise to sheer tomfoolery, of those who also love it.

For those whose picture of England is coloured by John Major’s 1990s description of long shadows on county grounds, warm beer…..dog lovers….and Orwell’s old maids bicycling to Holy Communion through the mists of an autumn morning, may I present another more contemporary image of the cricket lover, made by a gentleman named Kim Thonger who contributed his mite to ‘The Guardian’s over by over coverage of the First Test between India and England.

“I’m sitting outside Waitrose with the dog, listening to TMS through my hearing aid while SWMBO potters inside. When Stokes got Kohli I leapt into the air and now there’s a clutch of senior citizens eyeing me very strangely. I think one of them has called an ambulance for me.”

For the furriners among us, a glossary.

Waitrose. A supermarket chain which caters to those who consider Marks and Spencer ready meals to be downmarket.

TMS. Test Match Special, the ball by ball commentary on international cricket matches provided by BBC radio, staffed by people whose names are often given the suffix ‘ers’ – thus, Phil Tufnell, ‘Tuffers’, Henry Blofeld, ‘Blowers’, Jonathan Agnew, ‘Aggers’. The latter might have been called Johnners had that not been the soubriquet of a much loved and now deceased commentator called Brian Johnston, himself the originator of the ‘ers’.

Let it here be noted that Mr. Thonger has a dachshund, called, inevitably, Dakkers.

SWMBO. She Who Must Be Obeyed, from the white goddess/queen in Rider Haggard’s She’. Here,  as played by Ursula Andress – an actress whose name is often misspelled for some reason.

SWMBO is an alternative way for men to refer to their wives – though not, it seems, to their significant others  – and may derive from John Mortimer’s barrister character Horace Rumpole who, in respect of his wife Hilda, remarks gloomily that murder and matrimony both carry a mandatory life sentence.

hilda Rumpole

Stokes is a much tattooed chap who plays for England, except that he will be missing the next match as he will be on trial for alleged assault outside a nightclub. Perhaps he should have considered that the downside of tattoos is that they make one easily identifiable by the police.

‘Got’ here refers to the fact that he bowled, as opposed to allegedly assaulting,

Kohli, India’s captain, whose talent as a batsman almost matches his ego and who, in this context, had been making too many runs to please Stokes and his team mates.

I am aware that the glossary raises as many supplementary questions as it proposes answers, but that it the nature of the beast.

Just try getting your heads round examples offered by cricket lovers for everyday phrases as titles for dark thrillers….

A Tickle To Leg…There Was A Noise…First Slip…Chin Music…The Corridor of Uncertainty…It Reared Sharply Off A Length…The Wrong’Un….Deep Cover…The Man Who Was Mankaded…Whispering Death…

You’ll need more than a glossary for that lot…

So what is it that makes people…me included…sit up all night to hear a radio commentary on Test matches in Australia, New Zealand or Sri Lanka? We have not been able to watch cricket on TV unless forking out for a Sky subscription since the ECB sold the nation’s heritage for a bowl of baingan bharta. in 2006.

Glossary…ECB, England and Wales Cricket Board, not to be be confused with the European Central Bank even though both are staffed by people living in a fantasy world where you generate money in order to fritter it on mad schemes.

It is because we can see in our mind’s eye that which once we saw with the two others…the grace of a batsman who uses the bowler’s speed or spin against him…the art of the slow bowler spinning his webs to deceive….the thrill of a great fast bowler…

If you can bear the slow start, do take a look at this video of David Gower…a slight man, he uses the speed of the ball to send it to the boundary, seemingly effortlessly and with supreme elegance.

 

And just look at the peerless Larwood…perfect balance and speed

The matches, the players, the history, the enthusiasts….the ups and the downs….and, this year there is something special to celebrate.

The Scottish cricket team beat the English in a One Day International…it is 1314 all over again!

Things That Go Bump – Or Splash – In The Night

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There have been a couple of nocturnal surprises this week.

The whistling duck colony which has adopted our metal roof as a night time roost is not one of them…

 

They arrived some while ago, attracted by the dubious delights of the lagoon at the pig farm across the river and took up residence on the roof rather like the Hobbits entering the house of Beorn

First one pair, then another, until the whole colony was installed.

The main problem was that they seemed to be late night revelers,  returning from their lucubrations in the early hours and landing on the roof with a boom that reverberated through the house, followed by dancing Strip the Willow in hobnail boots prior to finally settling down.

Oddly enough, none of this activity interests the dogs. Guaranteed to give tongue at porcupines, nocturnal prowlers and cars which stop on the top road they completely ignore the bangs and crashes overhead. Perhaps, typical dog, they think that as they cannot catch them it is best to ignore their existence…

We have grown accustomed to it now, so that their activities no longer count as a surprise. Shock and awe, perhaps, but surprise…no.

Leo wakes in the early hours. Unable to sleep he gets dressed and we sally forth for a cup of tea…which is where we came across this week’s first surprise.

Danilo is a dog magnet….there must be at least twelve up in his family compound…..and two of them like to come to work with him. The old dog, Calamardo, has decided that since Danilo comes every day except Sunday he will rest his paws by living with the sheep full time, emerging for his morning biscuits and his evening meal.

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Ancient he might be, semi blind and half deaf, but he has a wonderful sense of smell – and of direction. The young man who tried to extract money from us for his cow saw fit to enter the byre one evening last week and came out faster than he went in, emerging with a severe bite on his hand. For some reason he did not come up to the house to complain…

The other come-to-work dog is Donna.

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She had been abandoned and was taken on by Danilo…knowing Donna I doubt he had much choice as she knows a mug when she sees one and has no intention of being abandoned again.

Danilo’s wife does not like dogs in the house so when Danilo goes off in the evenings Donna comes here to wait for him. If it is late, she settles herself on the porch – commandeering a cardboard box as sleeping quarters. If early enough for the front door to be open she toddles into the kitchen, eats any available leftovers and settles herself down for the night. We have learned from experience to leave a box out for her…after having potatoes scattered all over the floor when she took a fancy to the box in which we were keeping them.

This week we emerged from the bedroom in the early hours, switched on the light, patted the dogs and headed for the stove to make the tea….to be greeted  by the sight of a beaming Donna lying on her version of a water bed.

Our milk comes in plastic sachets of 900 centlitres – this is the land of  the plastic bag – which we buy in boxes of twelve. Her ladyship, obviously preferring the milk box to the one left out for her, had discovered something even better…the sachets themselves, upon which she was reclining blissfully.

Luckily she had broken none of them so it was just a job of picking them up and putting them out of her reach. At that hour of the morning I had no enthusiasm for clearing up a canine Cleopatra’s bath.

Had  I but known it that would have been child’s play compared with what awaited me later in the week.

Three thirty a. m. Leo is awake and calls me to help him get dressed.

I sit up, put my feet to the ground expecting to meet my slippers but instead find  water. A squawk from the other side of the bed indicates that Leo has had the same experience.

Bedside light on reveals the bedroom awash.

Shuffling through it to avoid making waves I lift boxes…sodden at the base…into the bath for future investigation….and no, the water is not coming from the bathroom.

Open door to the house to find the dogs marooned on the sofa and the floor likewise awash….luckily no more boxes to be affected.

Water, water everywhere….but, as proved when trying to fill the kettle, not a drop to drink. The tank has run dry.

A moment’s thought allows me to thank my lucky stars that I had not topped up the five hundred litre tank the night before, then sploshing about to turn off all the stopcocks except that to the kitchen taps and opening the front door which has the effect of pulling some of the water out into the porch and onto the garden.

Off to the pump control to pull some water into the tank…sufficient for immediate needs – tea. The loos had one flush left in each, so no need to worry about that for a while.

Back to make tea, and organise Leo as far as the kitchen where he could drink it in peace while waiting for his blood pressure to settle.

Mobilise mopping up gear…but where to start? It is a tribute to Danilo’s building skills that the floor is level, so the water had not collected into a sump anywhere, though a sump would have been easier to deal with.

Sweep water through front door…..the slight slope on the porch sending it out into the garden.

Lay the dog towels down and make the rounds squeezing them into buckets. Empty buckets.

Sweep water out through front door.

Squeeze out towels into buckets. Empty buckets.

Drink tea and curse.

Dogs descend to offer sympathy and wet paws.

Start the sweep and squeeze routine again….drink tea and curse…continue ad infinitum ad nauseam.

The sun rises behind San Antonio Arriba and the mopping and slopping continues until areas round likely leak points are cleared of standing water and can be dried off so that Leo can see if he can find the origin of the Noah’s Fludde that has engulfed us.

First time lucky….the guest loo is the guilty party, though neither of us can see exactly how it has wreaked its havoc, so it will wait until Danilo’s arrival – as long as we remember to turn off the stop cock…which we go back to do…

The floors are remarkably clean…a few long lost items have floated out from under Leo’s desk…all is now well with the world.

The world might be fine, but I am out on my feet. Ideally I would return to bed and pull the bedclothes over my head but no such luck…there is just time to cook breakfast before the arrival of Danilo and the beginning of the routines of the day.

It is, as always, a great life if you don’t weaken!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Normal Service May Not be Resumed Shortly

hospital

Leo has been ill for the last ten days….ill enough to be taken into the local hospital for observation before returning home…only to go back for further observation…and once again returning home.

It has been a trying time. Routines overturned, projects abandoned, things left on the back burner until suddenly recalled to mind…or not, as the case might be!

Remarkable as it might seem, I have decided to put aside the minefield of the digitalisation of bills as demonstrated on the taxman’s website until I feel able to cope with something which seems to be a hybrid born of a crossword puzzle and a query as to when did I last see my father…but which would seem to indicate that I will be taxed on rental income even if the tenant doesn’t pay. I do wish that Costa Rica would stop seeking advice from the EU when it comes to tax…

Top marks to the health service,  though…apart from the secretary at the local clinic who has been her usual stupid and uncooperative self. It seems to be a feature of the Caja – the NHS of Costa Rica – that while the professional staff go the extra mile for their patients the secretaries could not give two penn’orth of cold gin whether the patient lives or dies. Probably prefer the latter as being one less to interrupt their care of their fingernails…

A series of disturbed nights has left me feeling lethargic….though the dogs have done their best to cure me of that by deciding to practice  herding the sheep, who take great exception to the idea, thus requiring my intervention. Einstein does not join in. He has other ideas. Flushed by his success in catching and eating a vulture he treks from tree to tree in search of another…

My cleaning woman has also done her best to liven me up….Sunday afternoon produced her wailing at the door having decided not to go to her only grandchild’s birthday party because her daughter in law had snubbed her. I tell you, after sorting out her in the flesh, daughter in law and son in successive telephone calls on the lines that

A…the grandson would be upset by her absence

B…she had bought the cake for the party and if she did not go what would become of it

and

C…the son would keep the two women in his life from scratching each other’s eyes out for the duration of the event

I was ready for a cup of tea and a lie down in a darkened room.

The car, of course, has joined in by catching a lurgy in its starter motor so while the Cuban electrical wizard in the town is sorting that out the car is parked on the drive, ready for a downhill start should it be needed in an emergency. Just as well it is not an automatic.

I can’t settle to solid reading just at the moment, which is a pity as I had just taken down the Putney Debates of 1647 to renew my acquaintance with Cromwell, Ireton, Rainsborough and Wildman….trying to establish a new order in a land broken and divided by civil war.

It strikes me that there is currently a civil war in the U.K. – one waged by the rich on those purposely kept poor – and a new order is urgently needed….but the development of identity politics will do nothing to assist the process.

I must admit to fantasising about a modern Cromwell entering the House of Commons and addressing individual M.P.s as drunkards, whoremasters, jugglers and cheats before launching his attack on the institution itself.

There are no good videos…so here is the text of what is supposed to have been his speech

It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place,

which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice.

Ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government.

Ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

Is there a single virtue now remaining amongst you? Is there one vice you do not possess?

Ye have no more religion than my horse. Gold is your God. Which of you have not bartered your conscience for bribes? Is there a man amongst you that has the least care for the good of the Commonwealth?

Ye sordid prostitutes have you not defiled this sacred place, and turned the Lord’s temple into a den of thieves, by your immoral principles and wicked practices?

Ye are grown intolerably odious to the whole nation. You were deputed here by the people to get grievances redressed, are yourselves become the greatest grievance.

Your country therefore calls upon me to cleanse this Augean stable, by putting a final period to your iniquitous proceedings in this House; and which by God’s help, and the strength he has given me, I am now come to do.

I command ye therefore, upon the peril of your lives, to depart immediately out of this place.

Go, get you out! Make haste! Ye venal slaves be gone! So! Take away that shining bauble there, and lock up the doors.

In the name of God, go!

Nothing like WordPress for cocking up font, not to speak of hiding the categories and tags item….but nothing like the seventeenth century for robust language.

And from later in that century my current earworm is this song from ‘The Indian Queen’ sung here by Alfred Deller. Words by Dryden, music by Purcell.

 

 

 

It is rather comforting to keep up with the blogs I follow…proof were it needed that the world is still on its axis despite our local disruptions….so thank you, fellow bloggers and friends, for keeping me sane.

 

 

 

 

 

The Performing Arts

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Our house in San Jose is let to a lady from Nicaragua who runs a restaurant in the front porch and erstwhile garage while harbouring an ever growing number of family members and dogs in the house itself. This has involved making alterations, but she has respected the fabric and style of the house in every respect. You could remove her alterations and the house would be just as it was.

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She rang Leo yesterday to discuss a problem.

The house next door is of the same style and date as our own…but totally bastardised inside by a trendy designer to turn it into a nest of rooms to let with a communal kitchen and bathroom

Over the years there have been a variety of tenants….

When we used the house ourselves there was the man learning the trombone….who started to practice at ten at night when he returned from work. He was finally silenced when the owner of the music school in the next street – which began classes at eight in the evening – complained that he was putting off his pupils and persuaded the owner of the house not to renew his contract.

According to the lady now occupying the house there have been, variously, a man practising karaoke in the early hours – which set her dogs barking – and a bright spark who tapped into her water pipes, not to speak of the nude sunbather on the upper floor balcony and the young lady who threw her baby’s soiled disposable nappies into ‘our’ garden on the grounds that it was an ecological crime to flush them down the loo.

Remonstrances addressed to the owner of the next door property – a big wheel in the cultural world – were met with the cry that all his tenants came from good families…which was why, we supposed, that they were living alone in bed sitters, the good families being unable to appreciate nocturnal trombone music or the hurling of nappies.

Furthermore, the karaoke artiste was complaining that the barking upset his concentration…could we not control our tenants…or, rather telling, could we not control our Nicaraguan tenants?

And there was the nub. There is a tremendous prejudice in Costa Rica against Nicaraguans.

‘They come here to sponge off the health service…they work black for little or no pay, cutting out Costa Ricans….they are a bunch of thieves…violent…drug traffickers…’, you’ve heard it all wherever prejudice rules, but it was upsetting to come across the same gravy from someone involved the world of culture, where tolerance should be the norm and is, indeed, demanded.

Our tenant came to Costa Rica with the idea that she would earn enough money to buy a house in her home town for her mother and see her secure. She went through all the immigration procedures and is fully legal here. So well has she done that she has not just her mother’s house, but another house alongside to rent out, earned by honest work and self denial.

She always thought that she would return to Nicaragua to enjoy the fruits of her labours, but with the current state of civil war there she has had to revise her views. A member of her husband’s family has been shot by thugs in the pay of the Ortega government…others in the family are short of food and petrol and though she would like to go to them to help them, there is no reliable public transport, nor any way of sending food  parcels…

Her mother, on a visit to her, is beside herself with worry about the family…but there is no way that she can go back there as things stand.

So, with a business to run and family members to look after, the last thing she needs is a problem with the owner of the house next door but, as she said, there are some things which you just can’t ignore…

There has been a shake up of occupants….the owner is now letting the rooms to members of the performing arts fraternity – so at least there is no more karaoke. However, there are other problems.

The tenants tend to enter late and have rowdy parties into the early hours…not ideal for the children in her family. Polite requests to keep the noise down are met with the response that if she doesn’t like it, she can go back to Nicaragua.

So much for tolerance from the performing arts fraternity.

Then, very nastily, they have accused her of homophobia…being an ignorant ‘Nica’.

Two of the male tenants are decidedly camp, it appears, and they have accused her of being afraid that  they will corrupt her children.

As she says, she has neither said nor thought anything of the kind, though the men concerned are wide of their mark if they think that being accused of homophobia will harm her reputation in one of the last central barrios of San Jose to maintain its traditional working class character, despite the burgeoning number of lawyers’ offices and a stained glass workshop.

Costa Rican society in general is not particularly accepting of what it regards as deviation from the norms – as witness the alarming success of the Evangelical candidate in the Presidential elections who stood on a platform of ‘family values’ – and I can safely say that it will be a long time before a transgender loo makes its appearance in that particular barrio. Even in the stained glass workshop.

But the last straw came about when one of the female tenants decided to introduce the area to performance art. Either that or she was as  gassed as a Ne’erday tinker.

escuela de chile

There is a large junior school over the road and mothers meeting their children tend to come to the restaurant for soft drinks and cakes before going home. This was the moment when the ‘artiste’ emerged from her house and began to dance in the road…nude but for tassels on each nipple and a tiny sequinned cache-sex.

She is, apparently, built on a generous scale and made quite a sight as she whirled and pranced, bawling encouragement to passers-by to join her.

The which, apparently, they did not. Reactions varied from legging it from the scene before wives heard of it and made unwelcome accusations – it is a small world in that barrio – to catcalls from taxi drivers and the lady from the greengrocers calling her a shameless hussy.

Meanwhile, as you might imagine, the restaurant was full of children asking ‘Mum, why is that lady…etc’.

I don’t know whether the said lady stopped of her own accord or whether she was persuaded to desist but my tenant is clear.

Enough is enough.

She can do what she likes in the privacy of her room…but not in the street to frighten the taxi drivers.

And no, gentlemen, I do not have a photograph.

 

 

Que se rinda tu madre

ortega

 

Nicaragua is in chaos.

Roads are blocked, fuel and food shortages are making themselves felt, while in the towns the police are shooting those who demonstrate their opposition to the regime of  President Commandante Daniel Ortega and his wife – and Vice President – Rosaria Murillo.

The thugs of Murillo’s private army, the Juventad Sandanista, have burned and sacked Monimbo, the indigenous quarter of Masaya, famed for its revolt against the dictatorship of Somoza. The old fort, turned into a tourist attraction as a centre for the sale of local crafts, has gone up in flames with the loss,  not only of stock, but of the jobs of those who worked there.

There have been similar incidents on other towns, but the attack on Monimbo, that icon of the revolution,  strikes at the heart of what the original Sandinistas fought for…an end to corruption, proper education, a chance to make better lives for themselves and their children…self respect.

A revolution which brought so much of good in its wake has been betrayed by Ortega and his wife…a tale too often repeated in the post colonial world….and now the people have had enough.

Given the censorship it is hard to follow what has been happening…Nicaraguan friends, in contact with and worried about their families, give snapshot pictures of the violence… social media sites give other glimpses…

Let me just say that I will not put up videos of a young man shot by police whose body is then kicked around by his killers..another, dying in the street despite his friends giving him the kiss of life…badly wounded young men evacuated on the back of motorbikes to be treated – not in the public hospitals and clinics, whose staff have been ordered not to treat the ‘delinquents’ – but in churches and presbyteries where the same staff do what they can with the resources at their disposal.

I have walked those streets…I recognise some of the faces…

The black and red flags of the Sandanistas are now countered by the blue and white of the national flag as the protesters march forward, only to be beaten back by live rounds and tear gas.

Priests and monks march in the front, arms raised in sign of peace…but the shots continue.

The women who set up the museums of Heroes and Martyrs to record the horrors of the Somoza regime and the incursions of the Contras march in revolt against the movement for which they fought…but the shots continue.

Today there was a meeting arranged by the Catholic Church, one  of the members of the troika which includes the government and big business, to hear the protests of the farmers and the students..the most visible of those rising in revolt.

Ortega described the protesters as delinquents…the student representative called for the resignation of Ortega and Murillo..the church moderator closed the meeting.

Where are we now? The Ortega regime is fighting for its life…the protesters are not organised…who knows if the U.S.A. will be sticking its finger in the pie…

But the people are in the streets despite all…and the cry is

‘Que se rinda tu madre…’

Nicaraguan friends explain…

Literally…let your mother surrender…

But in Spanish usage mention of the mother is for emphasis…so, if a person you dislike asks you for help you tell him to ask his mother…in other words, you need help, ask your mother…I’m  buggered if I am going to help you.

And so with ‘que se rinda tu madre’…

ln the struggle against Somoza’s forces the young poet Leonel Rugama Rugama found himself on the front line.Summoned to surrender he replied

‘Que se rinda tu madre’

Or, colloquially, get stuffed.

Needless to say, he was shot.

 

‘Britons Strike Home!’

 

Scotland_Forever!

This picture ‘Scotland Forever’, showing the Scots Greys charging at Waterloo, hung on the wall of the classroom where my mother went to school.

This was in the twenties…the nineteen twenties…when things were not quite as child centred as they are at the present.

The child was there to learn to read, to write – neatly – and do ‘sums’, all of which would befit it for life. Girls would do needlework and cookery, boys would do woodwork and gardening and great emphasis was placed on the glories of the British Empire and the obligation to be patriotic.

Methods were somewhat elementary….when learning to read a number of words were chalked on the blackboard and each child was given a word which it must recognise when called to the front of the class. In mother’s case, her word was ‘burn’  and when she hesitated a little before pointing to it the teacher took both her hands and held them briefly over the red hot coke stove which heated the classroom, saying firmly, ‘burn’.

Later in school life the girls were shown how to run a household, though her mother’s comments on a whole afternoon spent washing, starching and ironing a shirt verged on the unprintable as in that time the redoubtable housewife, ‘dirty’ jobs being completed in the morning, could have ironed the shirts of a regiment and made a victoria sponge  while the flat irons were heating on the hob.

Cookery was undertaken too….enlivened by the presence of girl called Sybil who came from a large family. When asked to bring an oven dish to make rhubarb pie she arrived with the smallest possessed by her mother…large enough to take the sticks of rhubarb whole.

Her finest moment came in the end of year examination where the task was to make bread…without a recipe, as they were supposed to have learned this by heart during the school year.

Sybil had measured and mixed, kneaded and proved and was quite happy as she placed her loaf tin in the oven of the cast iron stove.

Later, however, she whispered to her friends that things had taken a turn for the worse..She had slid aside the peephole on the oven to check progress and a ribbon of dough had emerge, oozing its way down the oven door, solidifying as it progressed.

Clearly she had overestimated the amount of yeast …what should she do?

The council of war decided on drastic action. They would remove the loaf tin, scrape off the excess and put it back in the oven in the hope that it would look fairly normal…

Which was fine until they opened the oven door and something the size of a large cushion plopped out…leaving a heavy burnt crust on all the internal surfaces of the oven.

Discovery was inevitable and the clean up took forever.

So that day they missed playtime where the girls would skip or play hopscotch while one group of  boys would link arms and run round the playground singing

‘Are you ready for the fight?

We are the Romans’

To be met by another group of boys who would reply

‘Yes, we’re ready for the fight

We are the English soldiers’

After which a pell mell would ensue until broken up by the sound of the whistle for the end of playtime.

Patriotism was not left to the playground however.

Mother remembers the preparations for an Empire Day celebration for which the children were kitted out with broad brimmed hats in red, white and blue and were marshaled onto a slope in the gardens of the local charitable hospital which, despite being run by nuns, was pardoned for its catholicism by its care for veterans of the Great War.

The idea was that the coloured hats would make up an image of the Union Jack and the children were drilled into moving in groups in order to simulate the flag waving in the breeze to suitable patriotic music

Brigade of Guards, eat your heart out!

Patriotic music, in that time, seemed to consist of ‘God Save the King’ – George V – and ‘Rule Britannia’ accompanied by ‘It’s a long way to Tipperary’ and ‘Pack up your troubles in your old kitbag’….though ‘Mademoiselle from Armentieres’ , nomatter how popular with the troops, was judged to be beyond the pale in polite society.

I suppose now that the globe is no longer coloured with  the red of the British Empire patriotic fervour is somewhat diminished.

You do hear it at the last night of the Proms.. ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ from Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance marches…known to us in my student days as ‘Land of Bullshit and Tories’..

 

Long gone are the days when the House of Commons would rise as one to sing ‘Britons strike home’ – the classic patriotic song before the popularity of ‘Rule Britannia’ – as it did when Pitt the Younger announced that his attempts to reach a peaceful solution  with revolutionary France had failed and that war must inevitably continue.

 

 

Can you imagine for one moment the current time serving lackeys of finance rising to sing anything but  ‘Happy days are here again’ when their expenses claims are paid?

As Great Britain becomes a minor player on the world stage…enter right in support of the U.S.A….patriotic fervour seems to have been relegated to the sporting arena.

Thus the Barmy Army mangling Blake’s wonderful ‘Jerusalem’ at the start of Test matches…

But should there be  a competition for the best sporting anthem which reflects the Britain of today my vote goes to this…

‘Vindaloo’ by Fat Les.

Inclusive, happy and totally daft.