Sunday, 26 December 2010

The season of goodwill is with us.....

It has to be...the difficult neighbour has not...yet...cut off the water supply to the thirty households and businesses which use it.

He is a gentleman predictable in some ways - general bloody mindedness - while unpredictable in others - you know he's going to do something but when and what is another matter.

He was his father's favourite and in order to cut out the rest of his brothers and sisters from the inheritance the father sold him the main family finca of over two hundred hectares at an undervalue.
That was some twenty years ago and in that time he has managed to reduce the number of hectares from two hundred to eight and makes a living by transporting cattle from the local auction.
Still, to mark his status as a landowner he wears a hat...not the floppy sombrero of the worker, but the crisp white hat with curly brim worn by those buying and selling the cattle he can now only transport.

However, while of impeccable Costa Rican lineage, his attitude to property and money is closer to that of Papua New Guinea...where you might well agree to sell your property but when you have spent the money brought in by the transaction you want the property back.
After all, it was an exchange, was it for land? So when the money no longer exists you get the land back.
Simple when you think about it.

So he thinks of himself as the owner of the one hundred and ninety two hectares which have been sold off over the years to fuel a life of drinking in bars, entertaining ladies other than his wife and consequently being obliged by the courts to support his illegitimate children........ while those legitimately occupying the one hundred and ninety two hectares are, in his eyes, squatters.

Every so often the injustice of it all overcomes him...especially when his current lady friend has deprived him of her favours until his financial affairs which point he goes for the water supply.

This supply was originally put in by his father, who had a state licence to extract water from the spring high up on the mountain which dominates the three valleys below.
It originally served only his finca but, as land was sold off, each new proprietor had access to the system, through a series of tanks and pipes, carefully categorised by inch, half inch and quarter inch rights.

There are a number of users, as the original plots sold off have become split up in their turn as families expand and build houses for their children. A pig farm has been set up and one chap breeds tilapia.

By law, the owner of the licence cannot charge for the water supplied to others...water is a natural resource...and the neighbour became frustrated when even those unwary enough to have paid him once were put wise and refused further payments, so he decided not to pay the annual fee for the state licence...a sum so small as to be risible.

So, the current state of play is that no one has any proprietorial rights to the water...but his view is that the water, like the land, is his to do with as he pleases so when vexed with the injustices of life, when the contrast  between the status denoted by a crisp white hat with a curly brim and the reality of driving a lorry for a living gets too much he takes action.

If he is fuelled by drink, he just goes up to the top meadows and opens the taps in the field used for cattle...thus cutting off everyone below including himself.
If the dibs are not in tune and he cannot afford drink, then he goes right up to the source and blocks the main tank....same consequences as to water cut off, but this gives him the chance to work down the mountain from tank to tank, pushing wooden bungs into everyone's pipes so that when some of the men go up to clear the first blockage, all the others remain, with all the consequent problems of air in the pipes to be cleared before everyone is supplied again.

He is a perfect pest.

He has always reckoned to get away with this because in Costa Rica it is next to impossible to take regular court action unless he has been seen by someone..and he is always careful in this respect....but he has not reckoned with the domestic violence courts, set up to protect women, children and the elderly...courts set up to combat the machismo element in Costa Rican popular culture.
These are relatively had never entered his consciousness....and when one lady had had enough of not only the water problem but also of his shouting insults at her and took him to court, a whole box of troubles opened for him.

The insults, the threats, the O.K. Corral scenes with machetes and revolvers, the contamination of the water supply, the blockages....the baggage of years came tumbling out as one person after another joined in to support the first lady.
While a lot of it was not admissible in evidence, the lawyer representing all parties managed to get a lot in under the line.

The neighbour was beside himself.
How dare these inferior beings, wearers of sombreros, confront him, the wearer of the crisp white hat with a curly brim which, inevitably, he was wearing in court.

The first duty of the court is to seek reconciliation and when the judge turned to him to ask him if he were willing to participate in a reconciliation process he threw a fit, shouting insults and abuse...his lawyer was so worried that he would attack the judge that he physically held him down in his seat and told him if he did not control himself the lawyer would leave him to his fate.
His conduct made all the points needed for the judge to provide everyone concerned with protection orders, forbidding him to enter their property or to speak to them.

He will, of course, because he has no control of himself....but, for the moment, peace reigns upon the earth in our small corner of Costa Rica.

Thanks to the anti machismo courts.


  1. What a thoroughly nasty man he appears to be.

    I remember a man I used to work for years ago, being subjected to a lot of aggravation from various sub-contractors who seemed intent on destroying his thriving business,out of jealousy mostly. This man remained unbelievably patient whilst dealing with the problems with the help of the law. He would just calmly say "in the fullness of time...". It's always stayed with me...because he was right. People do get what they deserve eventually. What goes around comes around.

  2. We could do with some courts like that over here.

    I love the image of the sombrero hat and the idea that he thinks he still owns the land. The guy who sold me my house in Wales (actually his father in law sold it to me) still thinks it is his. Thankfully I put in a new water main!

  3. For a minute their I thought I was reading a synopsis of The Magnificent Seven...!

  4. Ayak, the law is an imperfect creature...but a lot better than violence in solving disputes.
    He is very unpleasant and, from what people tell me has always been so since he was a child while his brothers and sisters are totally much for nature and nurture!

    Mark, the legal structure here interests me with its base in Napoleonic law...overlaid with post colonialism - nineteenth century version - and now a growing awareness that this is not sufficient to protect the weak in society.
    Thus these courts, for example and we are awaiting fresh legislation to protect women and children in abusive relationships.

    The hat question is one which interests me...a public statement of status.
    Easier to see here in a town which does not have a large American immigrant population and where agriculture is still the major factor than in, for example San Jose...where wearing such a hat marks one out for a hick from the sticks!

    Steve, I reckon we could do with them....or the Outlaw Josie Wales...or just Clint Eastwood.

  5. I know exactly the hat of which you speak. You see on pretentious men in Mexico. And what a horrid little man you have described.

    Thank goodness for the courts and the new laws in place. No one should ever feel threatened, ever, by a bully. Especially those who are vulnerable, through no fault of their own.

    And yes, 'in the fullness of time', exactly. As far as I am concerned, you will reap just exactly what you sow. Karma is a joyous thing to observe in action. As long as one is on in side of the just, that is. It probably sucketh mightily, otherwise. :)

  6. Kitty, it's not a perfect system, but at least there is recognition that something has to be done to protect the vulnerable.
    I think it might also prevent this nasty little man from being killed one day when he goes too far with his frolics.

    What's the rhyme about the umbrella...
    God sends the rain alike on the Just and the Unjust fella,
    But the Unjust will have nicked the Just's umbrella...

  7. At least he doesn't get drunk and stupidly discharge firearms as was the wont of a neighbour of friends...people were afraid to put their dogs, themselves or their kids out at sunset for fear of straying bullets. The guardia looked the other way because the man was karma for him as far as I know.

  8. e, the karma often seems one hell of a long time coming sometimes....

  9. The Karma usually does seem a long time coming, yes, or possibly it's unseen by others.

    e: So.... Maybe his dick fell off?

  10. What a beautifully written post. I was so afraid that he'd get off in the court, and am delighted to hear that the justice system in CR actually works. Perhaps the UK judiciary could take note?

    I'm getting me one of those crisp white hats with the curly brim. :)

  11. nodamnblog, yes, a crisp white hat with a curly brim should make your neighbours know who's who....

    The regular justice system is decidedly difficult with the refusal to take into account anything but eye witness statements, but the domestic violence court...while paying lip service to this principle...lets an awful lot be brought to its attention and, in this case, sent out a policeman to try to get to the bottom of everything before the actual hearing.

    We hear on the grapevine that the neighbour is so disgusted by our general lack of neighbourliness that he is thinking of moving.....

  12. Mucha suerte en el ano que viene! Happy New Year 2011! Hadey xx

  13. Hadraina's Treasures, if we survive the chicharrone orgy tonight to make it into the New Year....

  14. Feliz ano nuevo! says your friend who lacks the necessary accoutrements for Spanish on this American computer made in China...

  15. e. .at least we can talk on whatever machine our masters leave us...until we are taken away for being 'subversives'.

  16. It's good to hear Neighbor was under control this year. Hopefully he doesn't try anything stupid anymore. :D

  17. I'll cross my fingers so next time he tries anything like that, he twists his ankle and gets busted!!

  18. This story strikes a cord with me. We have a man like this in the US Adirondacks. I hope peace continues to reign. Although as you say, this type usually can't control themselves.

  19. Ana, hear hear!

    Mary Anne Gruen, there always seems to be one...doesn't there....