The Hard Sell

fulu todosautos.com.peI really must invest in sellotape…for the mouth. It would avert a multitude of problems.

Yesterday I saw a mention of a Chinese car newly imported to Costa Rica. It was small, it was economical on petrol – and it was, for Costa Rica, cheap.

Cars here are expensive…ruinously so…. given the import tax. We always had Audis in Europe….to afford one here we would need to have been politicians in the previous government, so we have a dust covered Japanese tin box called by someone with an inscrutable sense of humour a Galloper.
It has four wheels, four wheel drive for the hills and it starts. That is all I require…except for the small matter of it passing the Riteve – the M.O.T. – in August, which is advancing at a rate significently faster than that of the car itself.

The Men do not wish to know this. The Men are happy building the new house, organising planning permission to build another house on the boundary for Danilo’s sister, fencing off the cafetal for the bullocks and generally putting the world to rights.

When I wondered idly whether the small wooden wedge which keeps the automatic window opening device in working order would give the Riteve inspector the habdabs I was told not to worry about it.
So I haven’t.
I noted that the Cuban – car electrician extraordinaire – is on holiday….but apparently I was not to worry about that either.
So I didn’t.

Come August they’d better be right…..

However, I was not interested in the cheap new car for myself. I thought it would be just the thing for Danilo’s daughter, a nurse who is currently working the stand by shifts and finds herself travelling all over the area wherever clinics are short of staff.
Her husband gives her a lift on the motorbike when possible, her brothers do likewise, but she spends a lot of time either walking or waiting for buses in all weathers and has been saving for a small car, but even second, third fourth hand cars are expensive if they have all their wheels and an engine.

There were two models of the Chinese car….one tiny, the other the size of a mini, but the only technical information revealed was that one had one cylinder while the other had two.
This being at about the limit of my knowledge on cars I passed on the information to The Men at lunchtime.

Conversation changed gear rapidly…where was the dealer….what was the car like….how big was the engine?
I was shooed back to the computer to investigate further.

I found the original mention.
From that I discovered where the showroom was. On one of the busiest, most congested roads in Costa Rica.
Then I found the site put up by the events organisers who had ‘done’ the opening. There were two small and unflattering pics of the cars followed by any number of pics of predatory looking women in little black dresses being eyed by men whose gleam in the said eye would end them in hot water should their wives ever consider finding out about small economical Chinese cars.
Finally I discovered the name of the agency importing the cars. It did not have a website, only a Facebook page.
This showed artists’ impressions of the cars – the artists clearly being in their Mister Men period – and announced that the cars were economical, had air bags and could be paid for on tick.

The Men were off on the hunt. Did I want to come?
The showroom was on a road which is lined by various stores I am banned from visiting because of the traffic congestion, so the temptation was there, but on reflection I turned down the offer.
Either I would be hurried in and out by The Men on a mission or else they would drop me with promises to return and then get lost.

They departed and I took the chance to have a quiet siesta.

I had fed the sheep and cattle and chased most of the ducks into captivity by the time they returned and settled themselves on the balcony for coffee and cake.

How did it go?

Well!

The directions could not have been more clear…..on a straight – if busy – road. Opposite a commercial centre called Via Lindora.
Except that Via Lindora has no sign saying what it is….and The Men, when on this road which leads to the airport, pay no attention to their surroundings, intent as they are on reaching their destination so were unaware that it houses a number of chain restaurants and is lavishly adorned by their publicity signs.

Accordingly, The Men had stopped at the veterinary hospital to ask for directions. This took some time as the receptionist remembered them from the Alsatian’s visit last year and enquiries as to his well being had to be made and the vet who treated him called through to hear that he was fine.

They continued, and emerged at the airport end of the road.
They returned to the beginning and this time asked directions of the security guard at the builders’ merchant.

They emerged again at the airport end of the road…..

After a few more attempts they did the sensible thing and asked the man who sells football shirts by the roadside. He asked them why on earth they wanted to go to Via Lindora and they told him what they were actually looking for.
Oh…that! They’ve got a tent in front of the Porsche dealer….

They were by now on the right side of the road and after only one mishap they found the tent – a sort of arabian pavilion bearing no signs.

Not only were there no signs….there were no sales staff. The cars were in place…the small one which looked like a snail and the larger one which looked quite swish…in colours of dove grey, neon red and a blue such as was never seen on land or sea….but there was no one in sight.

This was an invitation to The Men. The doors were unlocked so they could test the seats…the bonnet was unlocked, so thay could see the engine……

Might be a bit underpowered, thought Danilo.

Couldn’t be worse than the Citroen Ami, replied Leo. And I drove from England to Spain in that over the Pyrenees…

Then a man appeared, dapper in a sober suit.
Could he help them?

Indeed he could….they asked about engine power, fuel consumption and whatnot and he gave the information they required.
The price…did it include all the taxes?
Certainly…then, confidentially, in a lowered tone, there was a special price on these cars…

A promotion?

Not exactly…they need the money to pay the taxes to get the rest of the shipment out of the customs area at the port…

Could they take a test drive?

No…the cars don’t have batteries. Otherwise they might be stolen, what with nobody being around…

But you’re around.

Oh, I don’t have anything to do with the cars….the salesman had to go off somewhere and asked me to keep an eye out.
I’m the waiter from the Inka Grill next door…

Not Much Bread……..But Plenty of Circuses

hollande on scooter
Hello, Clement! You look a bit fed up! A glass of Claude’s rose?

Thanks….it needs something. I’ve been up to my ears all day: Plouc’s never in the office so I have to deal with all the old biddies…and if they’re not in the office they’re on the ‘phone.

I hear he’s standing for maire in the elections….so I suppose he’s out pressing the flesh.

Tell me about it! I just wish he’d find a bit of time to do his job as a notaire! I’m sick and tired of forging his signature.

What’re his chances?

Pretty good…mark you there’s not much opposition given old Georges’ antics – he won’t be re elected and people are none too keen to join his list.

Not surprised when you think of that water tax he dreamt up!

Well, there’s not much you could do about your yard, was there….you could hardly take up the tarmac with people parking and deliveries and all…

They get you all ways with water!
First it was ‘Cut down your usage…be responsible….buy water butts’.
So you do that and then the water bill goes up all the same because they don’t have enough money to keep the system going. Or so they say!
Then along comes Georges with his bright scheme to avoid paying for a new sewage works….wants the rainwater to soak into the ground instead of going into the drains….so he charges you an arm and a leg for every square metre on your property that is covered by roofs or tarmac!

Yes, even Plouc pulled out that old outhouse when he saw the bill for the tax.
Old Georges couldn’t care less if Plouc is going to be the next deputy……he reckoned that Plouc would have to splash out round here as it’s his own backyard so he didn’t have to worry about keeping in with him.

Yes, but why’s Plouc standing for maire if he’s going to be the deputy? I thought they were going to stop politicians having two jobs….

Well they haven’t…and there’s not much chance of getting it through the parliament any time soon. The turkeys won’t vote for Christmas, so Plouc reckons it’s safe to stand for maire and that it will help him when it comes round to the general election….you know, planning permissions and whatnot.

So you’ll be seeing even less of him, then?

Not really…they don’t stay up in Paris all week….they clear off on Wednesday night to spend time in their constituencies….so I suppose he’ll he in the office about as much as he is now…
Oh, hello Victor!

Victor! We’re just talking about the elections! Claude’s rose?

Ah yes…he made a nice drop this year. Elections? Well, I’m voting for Georges!

For Georges! After what he got up to!

Oh, that water tax…didn’t bother me…us farmers were exempt…
But you talk about old Georges…what about our beloved President? Now that’s one who’s really been up to something!

Well, no more than others before him. They’re all at it….always have been.
Look at Chirac – yes, thanks, another glass…the night Princess Diana died he was off with some woman and no one knew where he was until he turned up in the early hours.

And Giscard d’Estaing..colliding with a milk tanker…

Not to speak of Mitterand! Though that was more of a settled sort of thing – a whole other family rather than tarts – he had female ministers for all that.
No, Victor he’s not the first and he won’t be the last!

And anyway, it’s his private life…he has a right to privacy.

Oh, does he? And if he does why don’t we?

But we do, Victor…people can’t take photographs of us without our permission,, so why should they take them of Hollande without his?

It’s not photographs I’m talking about! Young Laurent’s been telling me that now the taxman and the police can bug our ‘phones and monitor anything we do over the internet without even having to get a judge to agree to it!

That won’t bother you Victor! You’re too mean to sign up for the internet anyway!

That’s where you’re wrong! It does bother me!
They go on about terrorism and security – but you watch! One mention of where you keep your money and there’ll be a posse of gendarmes carving up your mattress before you can blink!

Yes but that’s different….Hollande wants what everyone has – the right to do what he wants in his own time.

What own time! He wanted to be President, didn’t he? Wasn’t too bothered about having Strauss-Kahn’s private life splashed all over the papers when that knocked out one of his rivals!

Yes, but you can’t confuse his public life with his private life…

No? Well just tell me how it is then that some young policeman who works as a security guard on the Ministry of the Interior can be suspended because he does what he wants in his free time?

It must have been something illegal…

No! Perfectly legal! He worked at the Ministry in the daytime and was a rent boy at night.
And how did they find out? Snooping on his bank account.
And they want him suspended because being a rent boy isn’t compatible with being a policeman.
So if they can ‘confuse’ his public and private life then why should Hollande be exempt?

Well, he’s the President, not some young kid doing something on the side….and even you aren’t going to say that Hollande is a rent boy!

No of course he isn’t, but you can’t say what he’s up to is very savoury.
And what’s more, aren’t they bringing in a law to make criminals of men who visit prostitutes?
Doesn’t that apply if you’re the President either?

But she’s not a prostitute, Victor! She’s an actress!

Takes off her clothes for money doesn’t she? Same thing!

But that doesn’t make her a tart, Victor! Hollande’s not paying her!

No, I don’t suppose he is – doesn’t pay for anything himself – but you want to look at who owns that flat in the rue du Cirque!
Some bint married to an actor who’s well up in the Corsican mafia.
Now you tell me what’s worse…some kid trying to make a bit of extra on the side, or a President of the French Republic who, with all the snoopers in the country at his service, gets himself mixed up with bandits!

Here, Alain, lets have another. A whisky this time…and none of your Clan Campbell!

Right you are! A Johnny Walker – a double – and on the house!
Go easy Victor! One free drink and you’re anyone’s rent boy!
What’s that, Clement?

Well, I tell you what….private life or not, Hollande’s not much of a man is he?

What do you mean?

Think about it.
He was living with Valerie Trierweiler when he was elected.
He doesn’t marry her, so that puts her at the sharp end of a lot of nastiness about being or not being First Lady.
Then he installs her in the Elysee Palace with a staff….making it as public as possible that married or not she has a status as far as he is concerned.
She goes with him on State visits. Except the Vatican, of course.
And then he has this affair – which he’s not denying – and leaves her twisting in the wind, a target for anyone who pleases.
You can’t live with someone and then treat them like this. Not if you have any decency.

Yes, I see what you mean. He could have told her what was going on…given her the chance to leave with a bit of dignity.

What! Him!
If he’d been straight with us, the electors, about what he was going to do he’d never have made President, nomatter how much everyone hated Sarkozy.
No, with his women he’s like he is with power….sits on his arse and waits for better times….

The way things are he’d better watch out that performing in the rue du Cirque doesn’t lead him to performing against the lions in the Circus Maximus…

I tell you what!

Yes, Victor?

When they cut out his prostate they should have been a bit more radical.