The Green Season

Chinese cabbage and avocado...picked this morning from the garden
Chinese cabbage and avocado…picked this morning from the garden
The Green Season is what hoteliers and others in the tourist trade in Costa Rica call the rainy season – a phrase which does not have quite the same allure, conjuring up as it does the reality of life between May and November when the sunshine of morning is replaced with alarming swiftness by a lightning bolt, a peal of thunder fit for the worst excesses of Wagner and rain fit to soak you in seconds.

I have to admit to liking the rainy season….coming from the U.K. rain has no terrors for me and an afternoon on a balcony in the clouds is an ideal time to settle down to read the books I have ordered from Better World Books U.K. who not only supply used books in good condition at sensible prices but also devote the income to promoting literacy. You could do worse than give them a try.

Still it does mean I have to bustle about a little to make the most of the morning….the washing has to go out early and the veg has to come up in good time unless I fancy seeking out the watercress for the evening’s beef with a black plastic sack over the head and shoulders while Gotterdamerung plays out in the skies above.

I’m particularly pleased with this morning’s veg haul….not just the Chinese cabbage which defeated every attempt to grow it in France, but with the avocados.

Before we moved permanently to Costa Rica we used to come over to avoid the worst of a European winter and on our first visit my husband planted the stones from the avocados we were enjoying.
The fruit on the table are from the tree which sprang from one of those stones…so very much our own avocados.
They are a bit scabby….but they are ours. Untouched by chemicals. Unknown to Monsanto.

The table they are sitting on was made by my husband over forty years ago from an old wreck found in a house he was renovating, using Italian tiles left over from laying new floors.
It has traveled with him where other – ostensibly more valuable – furniture has been jettisoned and it is still in daily use for everything from butchering meat for the freezer to drinks at sundown.
It’s a bit bashed about..not in the first style of elegance…but it’s ours and it serves its purpose.

It’s a quiet life now that the courts have thrown out the proposed development further down the valley….except for collecting and collating the deeds we will need prior to the inspection of the water systems disrupted by the would-be developer’s henchman.

The said henchman has quietened down….still a would-be bully, but now cowed by the courts and by loss of face following a failed machete attack on a sturdy but unarmed gentleman which ended in loss of henchman’s machete and a rock through the windscreen of his van as he reversed from the scene of his humiliation.

Not that initiative does not rear its head….a chap appeared at the door last week trying to interest us in a contribution to laying hardcore on the road from the bridge down to his property (bought from the would-be developer) to benefit his new business.

What might be the nature of his business?

Massage parlours installed in log cabins. He was sure it would attract foreign tourists but no American would travel down the road in the state it was in at present…so, as it would benefit everyone on the road, would we like to contribute?

How would it benefit the neighbours?

We could set up a restaurant.

We declined with thanks.

Life, though pleasant, is not without its inconveniences…

For example, I would be delighted if we could sell the house in France and be free from the taxes and maintenance associated with it.

Much though I love France and the friends we have there, I dread to think what new schemes this or successive governments will dream up to extract blood from already squeezed stones.
I see today there are proposals to tax the use of computers, laptops and tablets the justification being that they access public broadcasting channels….
They might better spend their energies mending the finance ministry’s computer which blew a fuse last week and is not yet up and running again.

Until recently when you bought a television set in France the shop asked for your details and forwarded them to the appropriate official body who would put you on their list.
Therefore anyone with half a brain paid in cash and gave a false name and address.
Some shops winked at this…others demanded ID.

To counter this act of civil disobedience, measures provided that every house would be deemed to have a television set unless it could prove otherwise…
And the standard of proof is high.

If you have never declared ownership, you might get away with it but if you used to have one and then threw it in the bin in disgust at the moronic level of programming you are in trouble.
You can’t just dump a television. France being France you will need proof of disposal.

Burglary? Certificate from the gendarmerie.

Dumped? Certificate from the guardian of the dump.

Put it on the bonfire? Fine for pollution.

No such problem here. You put it out and it promptly disappears. No questions asked.

I know which system I prefer.

Nothing New Under The Sun…

dicese-poitiers.com.fr

As the French economy turned down and the votes for the Front National turned up the Sarkozy government thought best to draw the fangs of the FN by starting a debate about what it was to be French, which roused a great deal of noise and fury but arrived at no conclusions.

Waste of time, of course: any reader of the Daily Mail has the answer on the tip of the tongue….
Eats snails, has unsavoury urinatory habits in the male (possible link?) and makes improper use of hand and head when playing football.

And there was even an answer in France among – the beaufs – not that they would be listened to as not having passed the portals of the Grandes Ecoles, except as labourers…..
Anyone born in France who is not a bougnoul.

A bougnoul?

Someone of North African descent, now extended to anyone darker skinned than the average non bougnoul Frenchman.

The word might be relatively modern….probably from the colonisation of Algeria….but the sentiment is not.

I would often be included in the boules party at Jules’ place when walking the dogs in the evening, followed by the glass or two at the kitchen table, mustard glasses on the oilcloth and a plate of biscuits put out but left untouched.
They were the sign that we were not alcoholics….just there for the booze…but they remained untouched.

Jules was recounting a run in he had had with a man who had bought one of his sheep and was reluctant to pay for it….a man from the next commune just over the departmental line.

His wife was not surprised. She certainly wouldn’t have dealt with the man.

Who is it, I asked, curiosity being my besetting sin.

That man out at Humeau….you know…does eau de vie and honey.

Yes, I did. Sold under cover eau de vie at higher prices to foreigners.

Not that you can trust any of that lot out there, she continued. They all have the ‘teint bazane’. (acute accent on the final e).

Teint bazane? Swarthy.
Not, in my view, noticably so compared with their neighbours on this side of the departmental line…but enlightenment was at hand.

Descended from the Saracens beaten by Charles Martel at Poitiers! They ran and hid in the forests and there they are today!

Given that this was in the 1980s and the battle of Poitiers was in 732 that seemed a mighty feat of folk memory. Clearly these early immigrants from North Africa had about the same level of appreciation as did the later wave of new arrivals.

Further to the south, a commune bears a name referring to a legend concerning the same flight of the defeated from the battlefield…..St. Sauveur de Givre en Mai – Holy Saviour of Frost in May.

Legend has it that a band of Saracens holed up in the local church in the month of May some six months after the battle, defying all efforts to dislodge them.
Eventually they made an agreement…if there was frost overnight, they would surrender.
Coming from southern climes, they could not imagine such a thing, but, lo and behold when they emerged the next morning, the ground was covered in frost and the trees were white.
They marched out with the honours of war…to leave the village in peace.

Ancestors of the honey man at Humeau? Who knows.

Ah! Say those who know their rural France…the Saracens had not reckoned with the Saints de Glace…the Ice Saints.
St. Mamert, feast day on May 11th; St. Pancrace, feast day on May 12th; St. Servais, feast day on May 13th.
One of the first things I was warned of by my neighbours when moving to France was not to let the sudden warmth of spring go to my head in the garden.
On top of not casting clouts I had to beware of the ‘lune rousse’ in April and May when the sudden chill risked burning the young shoots and the Ice Saints.

Only when their three feast days had passed should I even think of planting out the tomatoes….

As in the case of the sheep, a financial reversal can bring up all sorts of reactions, and racism is one of them.
Nothing new under the icy skies of the economic lune rousse.