Sunday, 30 December 2012

New Year, New Start

The tradition of the Christmas creche is widespread in countries with a Roman Catholic cultural background and Costa Rica is no exception.
Public buildings, like the Teatro Nacional in San Jose. have the creche, or 'portal' set up either outside - the weather being clement - or inside.
Banks and offices also create their portals and the approach of Christmas is the sign for children to ask that the home portal be set up, the figures approaching the manger day by day.

My favourite, though, is this one set up by a friend; an artist in wood and paint, a postman in his day job, while he was building his new house last year.....

Amid  the mess and the detritus of a building site, he made this portal for his family, to make it really Christmas....and I discovered it on being invited, as every year, to his New Year celebrations.

For that event it didn't matter that the house was unfinished as everything took place outside to accomodate the assembled, friends, waifs and strays all perching on chairs brought out for the elderly or on logs, stones and building materials for the rest: the elderly ladies refusing (for form's sake) to believe that the wine was not fruit juice and glugging away happily; the children playing with the dogs; the beer circulating, plates of food on the trestle table and the television brought out to add its contribution while waiting for midnight and the national anthem.

The centrepiece was the fire...with a vast cauldron perched on breezeblock in its midst where lard sizzled, awaiting the plantains, potatoes and pork pieces - chicharrones - which would form the main event of the feast.

The master of the house is also a master cook of chicharrones and served his offerings at midnight as the anthem blared out and the skies around exploded in fireworks.
Hot food, cold beer and good company to celebrate another New Year...what would it bring?

It has been, on the whole, a great year...good news on my husband's health,  The Neighbour hammered by the court, the work on the house in San Jose advancing and plenty of discoveries made in what is still our new life.

There has been a downside, though, which has made blogging less of a pleasure than it used to be....the stalking by those who want to know what we are doing by the backdoor, as it were, rather than doing the normal, open thing of using the 'phone or e mail.

I'd hoped we were done with that, but I was mistaken as I discovered when one bright spark telephoned my mother to find out whether I was actually in Europe or whether, as he said, I was using the blog as a red herring.

There are limits, and having a woman in her nineties bothered by the unpleasant obsessions of others is one of them. It also made me aware of the number of times I had decided not to write something beause of the eyes at the keyhole and I have decided not to continue with this blog...nor with French Leave. The pleasure is tainted.

You have given me so much....friendship, support, information...opened my eyes to so much,...and I am very grateful.

I will continue to blog elsewhere....and would be delighted to give you the new address if you would care to e mail me.

Happy New Year to you all.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

You mightn't happen to have a piece of cheese about you, now?

I landed at Juan Santamaria airport on the evening of the eighteenth of December.
The cheese landed on the evening of the nineteenth, having taken a little break in Madrid.

It, and the suitcase containing it, have just been delivered to the door by a charming gentleman who, intrigued by the aroma of his cargo, enquired as to the nature of the contents.
He recoiled as if faced by a striking snake when I freed the zips and with the driving force of a thousand horse the collective odours of the cheeses of France and England made their presence known.

He gathered himself together.

Had something died?

Costa Rica is not a great cheese producing nation.

All stacked away in the fridge...not ideal, but when in the tropics....I can count my journey as finally over, and look forward to the first band of visitors arriving tonight, the only anxiety being whether - having contumaciously decided to travel via the United States - the packages of whole smoked fish will get past U.S. customs.

I have enjoyed seeing friends, meeting and telephoning fellow bloggers, visiting old haunts and new; have managed to do most of the admin things which needed attention, have visited mother, but am truly relieved to be home, where not only has the kitchen been finished but the exterior of the house has been painted in a most dashing combination of deep yellow and green.

The dogs were as delighted to see me as I was to see them, the newly hatched ducklings are waddling about in their pen and reducing the contents of their water bowl to sludge in the space of an hour, the hoses are laid out for watering and every house I passed on my way home was alive with Christmas lights.

And what do I remember of my trip?

That the fashion for Mod style pork pie hats has returned for girls in France.

That ankle boots are worn...usually looking incongruous on the end of stick thin legs.

That travel by Eurolines resembles an ill managed retreat from Moscow.....
Firstly, their bus no longer leaves outside the front door of Tours station but from a layby about a kilometre away down a dingy side street deserted at night, where the office does not open until you have started to board the bus, only to be repelled and sent to the office to get a boarding pass.
Then you are decanted  at Lille station in the dark of a winter morning where the perversity of SNCF is such that it first refuses to open the doors, leaving the Eurolines stragglers outside in the wind tunnel and then refuses to close them, so that the said stragglers have to find refuge from the chill in the only warm places - the ticket office and the loos, the haunts of SNCF employees.
Staff at the franchised caffs have to work in the cold.
Unloading the luggage at the Chunnel  is another joy.....large smug young customs officers watching tired travellers struggling to put luggage on a scanner, the ritual stop and search of a Bulgarian, the queue for the loos.....the only pleasure being on the approaches to Victoria Coach station where social mobility is such that areas of the South Circular are becoming sub gentrified.

That a first visit to Spain was a delight.

That while the majority of men above middle age in Southampton are well built and fair haired those characteristics seem to disappear when considering younger men.

That travelling on the bus in Southampton is a friendly, chatty affair.

That the carol concert by candlelight would have been improved by some mulled wine.

That the food available in the U.K. is infinitely varied and of good quality.

That my days of lumbering two overloaded suitcases, a cabin bag and handbag across Europe are over.

Roll on Christmas, I'm just about ready for it. Cheese and all.