Image via WikipediaSaint Louis, Louis IX of France, might have been a disaster as a crusader but was regarded as pretty hot stuff as a judge, to the extent that his subjects would approach him to settle their problems while he held court under an oak tree in the park of the royal fortress of Vincennes.
Current common view is that the local judge....hereinafter referred to as Licenciado Luis to protect the guilty...has a fair way to go before he approaches the reputation of the sainted version.
Farther than the romero (pilgrimage) to the Basilica of Cartago for the feast day of La Negrita - taking in Fatima, Lourdes, Compostela and Jerusalem en route.
The only resemblance is the presence of a tree....not an oak, but a stately guapinol...the stinking toe.
There has been trouble at t'molina in the three valleys lately and, of course, The Neighbour is involved, messing around with the water supply that comes from the spring high up on the mountain.
While he normally contents himself with blocking pipes to create a temporary nuisance, this time he has been re routing the system, leaving a number of fields and coffee plantations with out any water at all, but, equally seriously, he has been changing the diameter of supply pipes, reducing the supply to the tanks which serve the houses and businesses in the area.
There have been a few unpleasant encounters and a number of people have hauled him off to the court where Licenciado Luis officiates, waving protection orders, the deeds to their properties and statements from lawyers.
The first duty of a Costa Rican judge is to achieve reconciliation of warring parties and in this respect L. L. cannot be faulted.
Under his benign influence The Neighbour promised to undo that which he had done and the aggrieved parties accordingly agreed not to take matters further.
Unfortunately, The Neighbour, never one to spare a thought for sins of either omission or commission, nor wasting time on respecting agreements one minute after making them, has not undone that which he had done.
He has, in fact, continued on his merry way.
There have been more unpleasant encounters and it was felt that it would be wise to make a joint submission to the court, rather than approaching the matter piecemeal....particularly as Don Armando has come up with the goods.
One man has been buying plots of land at the very far end of the last valley...the one in which I live.
Or rather, he has been giving loans to other people to buy them at exorbitant interest rates and then foreclosing when they could no longer make the payments.
Working in one of the local banks, as he did, he was well placed to know who would be likely to come up for a scheme like this.....the hopeful poor.
As a result, he has accumulated a neat holding of flat land, ideal for building, at minimal cost.
However, to get the local equivalent of planning permission he has to show how he will get water and power to the site. Particularly water.
Thus it is that he has 'employed' The Neighbour to do the dirty work so that he can show the appropriate authorities that there will be a sufficient supply for the number of construction sites he plans to sell.
Thus all the reductions in supply.
How did Don Armando find out?
His sister's daughter in law works in the same bank.
A meeting was called at Don Freddy's rancho.....the Costa Rican weekend retreat, with a building for shelter, loos and a kitchen set in enough land for the kids to play, horses to graze and fruit trees to grow, neatly to hand for making cool drinks.
People had gathered and Don Freddy was summing up the situation when another car drew up.
The Neighbour. And he was not alone.
Accompanying him was Licenciado Luis.
L.L. said that he had had enough of the situation...he was sick of hearing about it...and had decided to attend the meeting to try to settle things once and for all.
Clearly, he said, The Neighbour also wished to settle things, since he had had the good idea of telling him about the meeting, so he was happy to do his duty by listening to everyone's point of view and trying to achieve a lasting settlement.
He pulled a chair into the shade of the guapinol and prepared for action.
There was a lot of it, so it was lucky that we were still in the 'little summer' that breaks up the rainy season or the guapinol would not have provided adequate shelter from the afternoon rains.
Neither would the rancho have been sufficient.
The litany of trespass vi et armis, insults, threats and loss of income both actual and potential went on all afternoon, until eventually Licenciado Luis held up his hand.
'I don't want to know about the past.'
Thus consigning legally protected property rights to the dustbin of Costa Rican history.
'I am here to try to manage the future.'
With ambition like he was wasted on us. He should have been on a plane to Washington D C to have a word about defaults in the shell likes of Congress, Senate and President.
I't is clear that the new development will bring benefits to all of you.'
'Like a properly made up road.'
Oh. People used to the unmade up road whether travelling on it in 4x4, ancient car without a licence, motorbike, horse or on foot take a lot of persuading that a made up road compensates for loss of water on the land where they have grazed their cattle for years.
'I have the solution.'
Washington D.C. again.
'You should form an association to manage the water supply, and then you can pay this good man for all the work he has done to make your futures better.'
For a moment there was silence, as no one recognised The Neighbour under the guise of 'this good man'. Then, as the muttering turned to indignant shouting, Licenciado Luis rose to leave, The Neighbour clearing the way, hand on the hilt of the machete at his waist.
One woman stood in his path. Dona Mery, all four foot nothing in a flowered pinny.
'You're a disgrace! Associating with something like him!
Chin jerked towards The Neighbour.
'You can't speak to me like that! I'm a judge! I demand respect for my office. I'll call the police!'
'You do that! But they can't touch me!'
'No one is untouchable!'
'Well, I am this afternoon! The two policewomen are off duty and the men aren't allowed to manhandle women....so get off out of here! We'll go to San Jose with all this....and then we'll see who's untouchable!'
A committee has been formed, the next full meeting arranged and a preliminary plan of action has been agreed upon...
Never a dull moment.