Pura Vida!

Totally fed up with the basket case to which the corrupt leadership of the Scottish National Party has reduced my country…resigned to not seeing independence in my lifetime…appalled by the whole pack and boiling of them, I thank my lucky stars we live in Costa Rica, mismanaged though it is. That purchase on a whim, all those years ago, has turned out to have been a good call, despite walking into a local water war at the start of it all.

Mark you, the Costa Rica in which we live is not that of the tourist posters, specialising as they do in lunatics in helmets and water wings rafting down fast flowing rivers, other lunatics in helmets screaming down zip lines to the horror of the local wildlife, and thin women in bikinis prancing in the ocean. None of that round here, thank goodness.

We have a National Park…..the Cangrega….

Closed, needless to say, thanks to the bug, but a super place to visit if keen on nature in general and hiking in particular, but as it is off the beaten tourist track it does not attract many visitors even when open.

That might change as it is approachable by the old main road from the capital to the coast, deserted for years in favour of the laughingly named motorway – two lanes most of the way – which replaced it, but this year there has been a publicity campaign, pointing out the tedium of the endless jams on the motorway compared with the pleasures of running through the countryside and enjoying the little cafes and wayside stalls which mark its path. Judgng by the volume of traffic in town on the weekends, it seems to be working and a friend with a cafe on the route is delighted with the uptick in custom.

This is the view that comes free with the meal…..

This is the working Costa Rica, not the tourist traps of the coast, where family farms were the backbone of the country’s economy long before United Fruit started its plantations. While ox carts hauled coffee beans over tracks that existed before the arrival of the Conquistadors to reach the Pacific coast whence they were shipped to Europe, farmers produced for the local market and this area was famed for its beans – that staple of the Central American diet.

The farmers started to exploit the lands between the capital and the coast in the early nineteenth century, and as the population grew there was felt to be a need to supply its spiritual welfare. The Roman Catholic Church, under a couple of energetic archbishops, began evangelising the rural areas, providing priests and building chapels, a process which continued into the early years of the twentieth century.

It was a community effort. Someone would donate the land, others materials or means of transport, others would give their own time to work on the project.

Given the country’s links with England, through the coffee trade and through the cultural influence of the then British empire, many churches were buit in what is known as the Victorian style….adapted to the materials and skills of the builders…and there is a cluster of these churches in this area, well worth a side trip when heading for a beach holiday, or a day trip from the capital – take a picnic and enjoy a part of old Costa Rica.

Starting from the busy town of Cuidad Colon in moments you are out into the country, wending your way to El Rodeo

Still maintained and in good order.

On to Picagres with its tower…

And Piedras Negras…

Then Llano Grande with its twin towers and metal plates

Jaris….supplanted by a modern church….and in need of TLC when I last looked…

There a a couple of other churches in that style, but more difficult to fit into a round trip…Corralar

And dear little Balsilla with all of eight benches for worshippers.

I had to discover these places for myself…the tourist guides are not interested in these monuments to faith and solidarity out on the old gravel roads….but then, the tourist guides assume that Costa Rica has no culture save that of hedonism on one hand and much trumpeted ecologism on the other, with a passing – obligatory – bow to indigenous customs and handicrafts.

A friend who is a talented artist cannot fnd a gallery to show his work because he is not

A indigenous

B a recovered drug addict living in the streets

C an abused child or

D has no art world contacts

because people buy the story, not the art.

Just as people buy the idea of ‘green’ Costa Rica, the false animal refuges, the ‘spiritual’ scams of the exploitative hippies and the ‘pura vida’ of the tourist traps.

So why did we buy ‘on a whim’? Because we had the good fortune to have stayed with a family who loved their country, loathed the tourist industry and let us loose to explore.

But that resource is not open, in general. People come on tours…see the sights…swallow the publicity and see what they expect to see, as in all countries.

So, you can come to Costa Rica…no vaccines, no tests, just an insurance in case you have health problems…but when you are there, or in any other country you visit, don’t rely on the tourist professionals…ask local people what to visit and you will get some great surprises.

Like this great group..Malpais

I’ve missed Saturnalia Again…

No, not Satyrnalia….sit down at the back there!…..though you might be forgiven for the confusion.

Saturnalia was the ancient Roman festival of the winter solstice when the world was turned upside down…decorum and status forgotten, masters serving their slaves – well, a bit like the officers serving other ranks in the Army, a bit of fun for one day and then back to the status quo.

Faced with feeding, watering and bedding down the menagerie singlehanded on Christmas Day…to be done again on New Year’s Day…it occurred to me that it would be nice to have a Saturnalia when the menagerie could look after me.

Having visions of dogs like those of Beorn who could walk on their hinds and lay tables I dreamt of hens laying an early morning egg, to be soft boiled and served to me on a tray with a tray cloth accompanied by a cup of tea.

Reality intervened, though. I know what would happen if Sophie entered the hen house…much squawking, feathers flying and hens taking to the hills. Even if by some miracle an egg could be obtained it would be appropriated by Bunter and Einstein – who always have a morning egg – as their property so all that I was likely to get would be a leftover bone – probably well chewed – proffered by kindly Plush only to be snatched away by his mother, little Scruffy, to be buried in the pillows and defended against all comers.

So forget Saturnalia…and even Satyrnalia. At least on the domestic scene.

But there is a chance of Saturnalia – the world turned upside down – in post Brexit politics in the United Kingdom, which might well become the Disunited Kingdom should Scotland press for its independence.

The Independence Referendum of 2014, which resulted in a vote for Scotland to remain in the union, was supposed to be a once in a lifetime event…as usual, though, nobody specified whose lifetime.

Then came the 2016 Brexit referendum where the majority of constituencies in Scotland voted to remain in the European Union whereas those in England mainly wanted to leave its clutches.

Thus, argue the Scottish National Party – SNP – who are in a majority in the Scottish Parliament and hold a significant block of seats in the Parliament of the United Kingdom, regardless of whose lifetime it may be, there has been a dramatic change in the relations between Scotland and the rest of the U.K. which justifies another Independence Referendum, allowing Scotland the possibility of applying to remain in the E.U. as an independent nation.

Given the Tory majority in the U.K. Parliament, this view is unlikely to obtain the necessary votes…the Tories are not called the Conservative and Unionist Party for nothing – even if they have just dumped Northern Ireland into the lap of the E.U. as part of their disgraceful Withdrawal Agreement with the said body. Northern Ireland has cattle…Scotland has oil.

What, then, is to be done?

Invoke the Declaration of Arbroath? That document of 1320 addressed to the pope of the time to ask for his intervention to stop the incursions of the English in their quest for sovereignty. Based on the Celtic traditions of kingship, where the seven mormaers – earls – of the kingdom elected the high king, those signing up to the Declaration stated that should Robert Bruce betray them and submit to English rule they would deny him as king in the name of the freedom which they proclaimed to be that of the kingsom of Scotland.

Rather like Magna Carta, the Declaration of Arbroath has taken on the false glamour of democracy …but it still resounds in Scottish history.

“As long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule. It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours, that we are fighting, but for freedom – for that alone, which no honest man gives up but with life itself”.

However, when Scottish economic power crumbled at the failure of the Darien scheme in the 1690s the powers that then were acceded to the Act of Union of 1707…celebrated by the song, such a parcel of rogues in a nation

Indeed, Scotland might be secure in valour’s station…but valour had no value when weighed against the bribes to the members of the Scottish parliament.

So Scotland became North Britain, part of the United Kingdom – again leaving aside the history of relations with the island of Ireland.

It accepts the reign of Elizabeth II…though no Elizabeth I ever ruled in Scotland and the lady in question uses the title of Queen of Scotland rather then the traditional title of Queen of Scots….but that might have to change with independence.

So, once again… how to proceed?

Armed rebellion? Blue bonnets over the border?

My backside. The only armed rebellion in the U.K. these days comes from drug gangs fighting for possession of the streets.

Set the Wee Free loose on the English? For those not acquainted with this body think a Scottish Presbyterian version of the Spanish Inquisition. It did not work in the Civil War and is unlikely to win hearts and minds now…especially as its face is firmly set against satyrnalia of any sort.

There has to be an answer..a constitutional answer…. to force the U.K. parliament to accede to another Independence Referendum for Scotland.

The current leader of the SNP in the House of Commons is so boring that he can empty the chamber faster than a thirsty Glaswegian can sink a pint of heavy. Success will not come from his portentious utterings.

So the SNP must change tactics.

.During the Brexit votes the SNP members sang or whistled the Ode to Joy…adopted by the E.U. The then deputy speaker was not too chuffed.

This can be the new weapon of the SNP…but one that reflects the Scots heritage.

Forget reasoned argument…that has never worked in the House of Commons.

Go for the jugular!

Give them Scotland’s finest!

Jimmy Shand and his Band….

And if that is not enough then unleash the nuclear option…..

Donald Where’s Your Troosers…

Forget the claymores charging out of the mist at Prestonpans…their day is over…but between them Jimmy Shand and Andy Stewart can bring victory home to Scotland…

If the SNP follow my advice we’ll have independence before we know it!

I would like to thank you for your company this past year and wish you all the best for the year to come.

Lang may your collective lums reek!