Thursday, 19 July 2012

As the run stealers flicker to and fro...

Today was the first day of the first Test Match between England and South Africa at the Oval.
This being a Thursday it was also the day when The Men would go off to work on the house in San Jose for three days.


Once they were off I could listen to the match undisturbed for the first three days....the fourth day would be Sunday when Danilo wouldn't be working...and given recent history it was possible that the game wouldn't last into the fifth day anyway.

Everything was ready. Clothes, pills, water bottles boxed overnight. Tools assembled and boxed. Smoked fish for breakfast as being the item in the repertoire requiring least attention and washing up.

Alarm clock on. We are seven hours behind the U.K.

Alarm clock giving tongue and silenced.
Dressing gown on, computer fired up, dogs let out, teabag tea made.
Play delayed by fifteen minutes...time for a shower.....then play starts and the England captain is out for a duck.
Weigh up whether to wake Mr. Fly to give him news of his side's triumph and decide against it.

Rush out between overs to heat water in the heavy saucepan.
Rush out between overs later to turn off the gas, put fish into water and cover with lid.
In the drinks interval wake Mr. Fly, give him the news and make toast and tea (properly this time).
Gobble breakfast. Pile dishes. Return to computer.

All according to plan.

Cooke and Trott are batting well. For some reason the South African bowlers aren't running down the pitch to make rude remarks to them. The umpires haven't had to intervene.

Then the telephone rings.
Cursing, I turn down the sound on the computer and answer it.

It is Danilo. He has a problem, Houston.

I pull up the page in the Daily Telegraph which gives over by over commentary and read while he speaks.

It's a problem with the car, which he keeps at his place to drive to work in the mornings.

It is a fairly modern one, a Ssangyong, with all the usual footling modern devices.
Including security devices.
It locks itself if you don't get there first.

Which is what has happened.
He was emptying it when he was called into the house by his daughter who thought she'd seen a snake.
At that moment, his dogs, excited by the squawks from the house, plunged to the rescue and, being hefty dogs and the car being parked alongside the house, made room for themselves by pushing past the open car door.
Which shut.

Excitement over, he returned to the car and found that he could not open the door...because the keys were in the ignition. Inside the car.

What about the spares?

Ah, that was the problem.
On the last visit to San Jose he had locked up the house on departure, only to discover while driving home that he had left the spare keys on the table in the house.
Mr. Fly had decreed that it wasn't worth turning round to get them. After all, what could happen?

By this time Mr. Fly had arrived and I handed over the receiver, belting out to the balcony to fire up the laptop while sparks flew over the telephone line.
Ah. Relief. England hadn't lost another wicket.

The rumbling stopped. Mr. Fly emerged.

He says he'll work here this morning and nip into San Jose on the bus this afternoon to get the keys.

Hell and damnation!
Tea breaks and worse...lunch!
I had reckoned on having the remains of last night's balti for  my lunch and now I'd have to feed the pair of them.

Upend myself in the chest freezer to find tilapia.
Tilapia found.
Sound of motorbike announces the arrival of  Danilo.

Tea made, I retire to the computer.
Cook and Trott still batting. South African bowlers still polite. Umpires undisturbed.

Danilo retires to the cafetal. Mr. Fly appropriates the computer. I remove myself to the laptop on the balcony.

Trott is out. Pieterson comes in to replace him.

Time for coffee. And cake. Remove myself to the computer.
Evicted at end of coffee time.
Wash up and rush back to the laptop.

Pieterson still in.

Bring knife, board, plastic box and tilapia out to the balcony.
Filet and skin  tilapia.

Pieterson and Cook still there.

Plunge into kitchen to bake tilapia in stock with carrot and celery.
Rush out to balcony. Reassured, plunge back to kitchen.
Peel and boil potatoes for mash.
Rush out to balcony. Plunge back to kitchen.
Chop ginger and garlic, throw into pan with oil and red pepper flakes. Slice chinese cabbage and throw on top.
Rush out to balcony. Plunge back to kitchen.
Mash potatoes, stir fry cabbage and add soy.

The  Men appear, looking for lunch. As I dish up in the kitchen I hear a roar from the laptop.
Pieterson is out!
What happened?
They don't know how he got out, they're discussing fertiliser for the coffee.

I serve lunch and Bell, who has replaced Pieterson, plays sensibly as South Africa take the new ball.
Play ends and Danilo takes his leave.

The motorbike returns while I am washing up.
He had forgotten that his set of house keys were with the car keys so he can't get into the house in San Jose.
I give him my spares and he leaves again.

Mr. Fly appears while I am investigating the fridge for likely suspects with which to prepare supper for two.

You'd better get something out for lunch tomorrow too. There's no point going in just for two days.
We'll put it off until next week.

Ye gods and little fishes.....!

Later, from up on the mountainside, I hear the sound of a car alarm.....
Danilo's wife rings.
Do we have the car keys because she tried to open the door to get Danilo's tee shirt out for the wash and the alarm went off....

Monday, 9 July 2012

Something's gone AWOL....

Further to the item on Bailey bridges it would be salutary to read this post on Flies in the Ointment, which wonders aloud where one might find the Bailey bridges bought and lavishly paid for....but invisible to the naked eye.

A super blog on the underbelly of Costa Rica for those whose Spanish isn't up to reading the Infierno - also on the blogroll on the right.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

The Saviour of Costa Rica....and British at that!

Costa Rica is a small country abounding in rivers...which makes travel by road a problem as these rivers need crossing, and river crossings need to have an eye kept on their maintenance.

Which is exactly what the Transport Ministry (MOPT) and the Roads Authority (CONAVI) have not been doing for several years.

As our own experiences have shown.

While we were still holidaying here we decided to take a trip to the National Agricultural School on the other side of the Central Valley and decided to go cross country to avoid retracing our steps for some forty kilometres by going into the suburbs of the capital and out again.

This meant crossing the Virilla River, carrying the pollution of the Central Valley towns down to the Pacific Ocean.....but the map showed a way across so off we went.

Costa Rica is not well endowed with direction signs, and certainly none existed on the dirt tracks which had succeeded to the asphalted roads once we left the better populated areas.

We passed a large pig farm - and were surprised that we knew and were known to the man with the tractor working there.
He gave directions.

At a junction by a mango plantation we asked again.
Down there....pointing somewhere equidistant between the two tracks available.

Down there, we came across men cutting cane.
Yes, down there.

So down there we went, cautiously as the track had turned into a quagmire after the rains.
We turned a corner, and gasped.

There was the Virilla river.
A long way down.
Crossed by a suspension bridge.
A suspension bridge which had seen better days.
To the point that there were more gaps than planks.

Turning was was the bridge or bust - and luckily it didn't.

We arrived safely at the Agricultural School, to find it was closed to visitors, but the man selling cheese produced there took pity on us and made a 'phone call, which resulted in us having the undivided attention of the deputy director himself, giving us a guided tour of everything from artificial insemination of Bramah cattle to a crocodile farm via water buffalo to produce proper mozarella.
Scots blood might have helped...the place had been founded by Scottish veterinary surgeons before being handed over to the state.

It was a wonderful tour guided by a real expert and we had almost forgotten about the terrors of the bridge when we saw a news item on the television.

A similar bridge further downstream over the Tarcoles River had collapsed, taking a bus and its passengers into the fast flowing waters.

The living escaped onto the roof of the bus to be rescued by Red Cross workers and volunteers.

That there were only five deaths among the thirty eight passengers was due to the abnormally low level of the river.
This  video shows what crossing that bridge was like in the rainy season that year.

The bridge collapse meant that communities were cut a replacement was needed, urgently. And, as always, the answer was a bailey bridge.
These bridges, the product of British wartime ingenuity, are the mainstay of road transport in Costa Rica with at least eighty in service to keep things moving both on the backroads and on the major highway between San Jose and the international airport where lack of maintenance led to a huge sinkhole forming recently, closing half the road and reducing most of the Central Valley to gridlock until two Bailey bridges were set up while repairs (still unfinished) took place.
The bridge was designed for warfare. It was made of light prefabricated parts which could be  transported and assembled without the need for heavy lifting gear and being modular could be made as long and strong as was required by doubling up on the component parts.
It took the British army and its tanks across Africa and through Europe to final victory, the brainchild of Donald Bailey, a civil servant with a passion for bridges. An amateur.
And now, in a fine example of swords turned into ploughshares, it is keeping Costa Rica on the move, from the farmer taking his crop to market to the lorries hauling goods between Mexico and Panama on the Interamericana Highway. 
But without the genius of Donald Bailey Costa Rica would be at a standstill.