Wednesday 30 March 2011

He has a cunning plan.....

The four major incarnations of BaldrickImage via Wikipedia
The neighbour, he of the crisp white hat with the curly brim, has come up with a cunning plan...several of them, in fact.

Last seen the subject of an order forbidding him to pester his neighbours, he has been lying low and while life for those around him has been tranquil, it was, inevitably, too good to last.

The  Baldrick of Costa Rica has been applying his brain - or turnip - .to the problems besetting him and has come up with interesting answers.
Local opinion is that he owes a lot of this inspiration to the current live in ladyfriend who has an agenda of her own, but whether it is down to Baldrick or Baldricka we have had 'events, dear boy, events'.

The insult to his status of having been hauled up in court has decided him that the judicial way is the way to he has laid before the court a claim that everyone who gave witness as to his activities was lying. Here, it is thought, lies the influence of the live in ladyfriend, who was severely warned of the consequences of perjury by the judge at the first hearing.
He'll have to look further afield for someone to represent him because no local lawyer would touch him with a bargepole after his bravura performance in court when his lawyer had to restrain him from attacking the judge...quite apart from the sure and certain knowledge that he will not pay the bill.

Excited by the prospect of the humiliation of the untermenschen in floppy brimmed sombreros who had dared to rise up against a superior being in a crisp white hat with a curly brim, he was just in the mood for the week long town fiesta.....drinking, helping to transport the bulls, drinking, dancing, drinking and strutting his horse's stuff at the tope...the traditional parade of horses and riders through the town.

Returning home, fired up and full of beans, he decided to show everyone who was whom in the local pecking order.
He took his cattle lorry out onto the road into the valley, drew it across so as to make any car wishing to pass slow to a crawl, and attached a hosepipe to the standpipe nearby.....then amused himself by aiming the hose at the open windows of the cars trying to pass, soaking the occupants.

He was still playing happily when he did it once too the occupants of the police car sent out in response to furious 'phone calls from the drenched.
Not best pleased, the police made him put his lorry away and carted him off to the local nick for a full and frank discussion of events.
It seems he claimed that the occupants of each and every passing car had insulted his mother's reputation.... and although I'm pretty sure they didn't when dry I wouldn't mind betting a fair few of them did when wet.

We await the decision of the judge as to his several of the drenched were among those with protection orders.

Still, this has been only one facet of his interaction with the law.

For what follows you need to know that he still holds eight hectares of the initial two hundred which he bought from his father.....and only five of these are registered.
No one wants to buy unregistered land because of the time and costs involved in verifying ownership.

Now for the next two, or even three, cunning plans.
We were having a coffee in town weeks ago when we were approached by one of the chaps who specialise in putting together buyers and sellers of property.
His office is his mobile 'phone and the pocket of his jeans.

We were having a spot of bother with the neighbour, were we not?

We were...and so were others.

But the others don't have much money.

Neither do we.

This was shrugged aside...everyone knows that  Gringos have money.

Well, wouldn't it be worthwhile...just to have peace and quiet...if you were to buy his land...he's keen to be off, that court case shook him up.

Oh yes? And what's he selling? All of it, or is he keeping the house?

All of it.....all the five hectares registered and the three not and the house. He's even leaving the cane crushing machine.

And the price?

Only three hundred thousand dollars......

Noises of incredulity in English which, although not being a student of that language, it was clear that he understood.

It's only money...isn't a quiet life worth it?

He was given to understand that it was not.

The great pity is that the Scots reputation for being close with the bawbees has not entered Costa Rican culture, so the explanations were necessarily longer than in cultures where you could just say you were Scots and that would be an end to the matter.

About the same time, people saw bulldozers at work on the neighbour's property...on the unregistered bit. They were laying access roads and levelling out a building plot.
Then a monk surrounded by adoring ladies appeared to inspect the site...and speculation was rife.

Dona Estrella came up with the goods. One of the adoring ladies was a cousin goodness only knows how many times removed...who told all.

The neighbour had got in touch with the monk's order...though they sounded more like friars to me as they used to bring the Word to the more benighted areas of the country in the time of the neighbour's father.
He had told them that he wished to make a gesture to show his thanks to them for the services their order had given local people in the past, in honour of his father's memory.

Hew was, however, a poor man.
All he could offer was a three hectare plot of unregistered land for them to build a church....if they would see to the registration process, he would give them the land and help them with all the information he could to assist in the registration.

It is a beautiful site....high above the river with a waterfall below...and the monks, as we shall call them, agreed to the deal.
It appears that they have a church over on the Caribbean side of the country where the donations pile in and the chance to expand on this side must have seemed heaven sent.

The rainy season is approaching fast and the neighbour encouraged the monks to go ahead with the levelling works, before the rains closed down work for a year...thus the bulldozers....while they got on with the registration.

Now,  Dona Estrella has heard from her distant cousin again.....the monks will not be coming after all.

The neighbour had waited until the registration process was nearly complete...he was, after all, the source for most if the information involved....then took his copies of the paperwork off to the National Registry and registered the land in the name of a new company he had set up for the purpose.
The monks had paid for the legal work and for the levelling....and the neighbour now had a piece of land that was sellable...and a ready made site for building a house.

Now, had we been interested in handing over wads of the folding stuff to the neighbour to get rid of him, we would have been sadly disappointed......if we had bought his eight hectares for three hundred thousand dollars we would have checked the National Registry, found the five registered hectares and assumed the rest was still off the list.
With the result that we would have found ourselves with five hectares for which we have no use at a vastly over rated price.....and for a neighbour we would have had The Neighbour.....busy building himself a house with our money on the three hectares we had assumed we had bought!

A cunning plan or two indeed.

Cheating God!

Says  Dona Estrella

And to think he's in church every Sunday!

Well, he is, but it's more to pick up women than to commune with his Maker...the local church seems to be a mini version of St. Paul's in London before the Great Fire from what I gather.

However, he owes it to his status to behave as a prominent citizen so every Easter he takes part in the re.enactment of the Passion which passes through the streets of the town on Good Friday.
He is, inevitably, a Roman soldier.

Pity we can't change things this year.

Says Don Armando.

Like how?

Put the two thieves into the procession....the way he goes on he could represent both of them.

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Thursday 17 March 2011

If it isn't Tuesday, then it's the two seater...

National Gallery of ScotlandImage via Wikipedia
We costed out the pork after slaughtering the first batch of pigs and decided that although there was a reasonable price advantage...apart from the security of knowing what they had been eating....the initial cost of buying in piglets was over preponderant..

So the men thought that we would keep back the sow with the best conformation with the idea of having her served and thus producing our own piglets....reckoning that the cost of feeding her in the intervening period would seriously undercut the 'bought in' piglet price.
We named her Laura...after the Presidenta.

Now the logistics of the whole thing came in.

The simplest option would have been artificial insemination. The men came away groggy from a demonstration of same at the pig farm down the road.....sat over their coffee making rotating arm gestures accompanied by noises indicating that they weren't going to be trying that, thank you...but were rescued by the pig farm owner turning up to say he would do it himself (?!) if they would buy the semen, which would have to be kept in the fridge. Space duly made in fridge at the expense of sundry leftovers which on inspection would just make lunch.

Men set off over the hill to buy semen.

Ah. It only comes in on Tuesdays and you can't order it in advance and it lasts a week in the fridge.

Return of men from over the hill to eat lunch.

Next day, Laura came on heat. She destroyed the front of her pen and ranged about looking for she knew not what...pausing to wallow in the veg garden and wade majestically through the tilapia pond, emerging like a four legged Venus Anadyomene draped artistically in water hyacinth.

Reclaimed with bucket of coconut...thank goodness for porcine addictions...and loaded into the trailer for the journey to the pig farm...telephone discussion with owner of same having brought about the conclusion that as it wasn't Tuesday it would be best to put her to the boar.

The men drove her to the pig farm, stopping at the top of the road to reclaim the trailer planks that she had tossed into the air and replacing them under her elegant trotters.

I avoided this little outing, volunteering instead to rebuild the front of the pig pen.
I know from spending time on stud farms in the U.K. that the chaps are not too keen on the presence of women at these moments, let alone the horror of women directing operations - 'lower 'ole, ma'am' - and, given the macho culture of Costa Rica, it would have been like intruding on the Eleusinian Mysteries.
So I repaired the pig pen and awaited the triumphal return.

Well, Laura was fine.
Decanted into the pig pen, she ate a little trimmed sugar cane and settled down for a nap in the shade.

The men needed coffee and a drop of guaro - roughly distilled rum - in it.

Which boar did they use?

There were two at the pig farm...both resembling sofas covered in shag pile a three seater size and the other two seater.

A conference of the men, the pig farm owner and his compete staff of four had decided on the two seater model.

Laura had bounded from the trailer, the two seater model had leapt from his pen.....and one of the staff had the interesting task of connecting the two of them.
The two seater model needed assistance.
More rotating arm movements.
It all sounded like Flanders and Swann's 'Misalliance'...the right handed honeysuckle and the left handed bindweed...but the mission was accomplished and after an invigorating chase to reclaim Laura and the two seater model from the sugar cane on next door's land, our investment in piglets returned to base.

The men turned to other projects. They decided to lay a concrete roadway from the gates to the house before the rainy season set in again....this was fine, every day a few more feet progressed.

And then something happened which ruined all the calculations on the back of the envelope.
Laura came into season again.

This time she broke down the back of the pen and rampaged down to the creek, whence she made her way up to the plantains and knocked several over by rubbing against their stems.
A plantain is no match for a pig.

Bucket of coconut.....but not to the trailer this time. The trailer was parked alongside the house....the car at the top of the drive...separated by yards of wet or fragile concrete.
So no journey to the pig farm.
Neither was it Tuesday.

Laura was decanted into the holding pen while repairs were made and the men took coffee and gauro on the balcony while adjusting their business plan.

You will recall that all this was to avoid buying in piglets and you will recall that this is a project whose driving force is men, so it will come as no surprise to women readers that the next week saw us all at another pig farm about to buy two piglets.

The men had decided that ...just in case they ever had another mania for laying concrete, I would be better to have their own boar on site and Danilo's cousin had put him on to a pig farm which specialised in selling piglets off, rather than fattening them for slaughter.
Much better business, in my view...all good money and no risks.

The owner's son was there and kindly gave us a tour of the premises, beautifully laid out and spotlessly clean.
He showed us their boar....telling us proudly that it was the offspring of a Canadian champion.
Well, if the others were two and three seaters, this was the corner unit and footstool as well.
He was massive, lying under a cooling spray of water and watching us with those disconcertingly alert small piggy eyes.
Given that eyesight is not a pig's best asset, he was probably not seeing much...and he would have been a lot less impressed by us than we were by him in any case.

Walking backwards from the Presence, the time had come to choose the piglet. There was a great deal of discussion about litter sizes and litter histories...with the aid of notes on the back of calendars....and the men decided on not one, but two, piglets. An entire male and a female.
I liked the male...and I liked the look of his mother, a many nippled creature who made you think of Diana of the Ephesians...but got distracted while the parentage of the female was being discussed by the antics of the piggery cat who seemed to be playing at bullfights with itself featuring as the bull and the piglets as the matadors.

Still, once decided upon, the two piglets were placed into sacks and we returned to the top of the drive. Carrying a sack with a wriggling indignant piglet in it over rough ground is not to be recommended if you are of a certain age, but we made it to the bottom and installed the piglets in the pen alongside Laura, where they are currently increasing in size and giving a great deal of pleasure.
The little chap is very endearing, rolling over on his back for a tummy rub after his meals....while the little lady spends her time rooting under the mango tree. They would be perfect if they could refrain from standing on my sandalled foot with their trotters at feeding time.

Meanwhile, the concreting went on apace until the men calculated that Laura would be coming on heat again and that the concrete would be dry and cured enough to drive on.

Well, they were right about one thing.
The concrete can be driven over.
Laura has not come on heat.

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Wednesday 9 March 2011

Just for it's Oscars' time.

Enough of the British domination of drama.....give the misunderestimated Americans a chance.....

I am indebted to Charon QC for this.

Wednesday 2 March 2011

Please adjust your dress before leaving....

Surfers in Costa Rica's Manuel Antonio Nationa...Image by mikebaird via Flickr
This notice adorned, to the best of my recollection, the inside door of the loos on the steam trains taking one to Scotland.....and I think its day has come again.
It could be posted with advantage on the inside door of the hotel rooms occupied by American tourists in Costa Rica's capital, San Jose.

Before anyone thinks I have it in for the American abroad, let me just reassure you...I have seen the British abroad as well.
Equally discouraging...but different.

For example, while on holiday in Tunisia at Hammamet I came across two British archetypes in quick succession.
The first family was led by a gentleman with shaven head and heavily tattooed arms. What else might possibly have been tattooed was mercifully hidden under a singlet. The lady accompanying him was unshaven, and sported lighter tattoos. Alongside was a boy of some seven years with red on white crosses of St. George on each cheek while father was in charge of the pushchair, nattily lined with a St. George's cross towel and containing a small child in a jester's cap in red and white and a tee shirt adorned with...well, you can guess.
Dragons would have been well advised to steer clear of this little party.

A safe distance behind them came the second group.
Father, all floppy sunhat, black sock and sandal was leading his brood....two teenage girls so covered in sunblock as to resemble ladies of the court of Queen Elizabeth I with their white leaded cheeks, a younger boy - in sunhat - carrying bat, ball and stumps with which to bring the family to the brink of heart failure while re enacting Flintoff's finest hour under the Tunisian sun - while mother, sunhat, droopy skirt and vast beachbag full of food looted from the breakfast buffet brought up the rear.

The American version is different.

I first became aware of it when meeting a friend in the elegant surroundings of the coffee shop at the Teatro Nacional...all painted ceilings, fluted columns and marble tiles...a quiet haven in the city centre.
We were well into our coffee, cake and gossip when a new group of patrons appeared to take centre stage.

Think a cross between Raiders of the Lost Ark and Crocodile Dundee......

Broad brimmed safari hats, those shooting party waistcoats with bands for cartridges...thankfully empty...shorts, knee length socks and walking boots.

In the coffee shop of the Teatro Nacional. All painted ceilings, fluted columns and marble tiles.

I awaited the arrival of their order to see if they would produce machetes with which to cut their cake...but I was disappointed. They made do with cake forks.

Walking across to the library, I became aware of more of them....all dressed as if about to face the wilderness but strolling the streets of the capital of Costa Rica, among the monuments, the parks and the shops.
Why hadn't I noticed them before?

Well, mostly because I only toddle up to the centre of town if I'm meeting friends or going to change my books and because when I do I'm  usually concentrating on not putting my foot into one of the many unprotected holes in the pavement rather than on my fellow man.
Where I do my food shopping, the streets around the Mercado Borbon, the tourist is firmly discouraged from putting a socked and booted foot for fear of crime.
"Afueras del Mercado Borbón"Image by Néstor Baltodano via Flickr

Reading the guide books you would imagine that once you enter that area you would be torn limb from limb by muggers intent on parting you from your watch, earrings, necklaces, cameras and wallets.
Absolute nonsense.
You might have to keep a wary eye out for gentlemen barely in control of barrows laden with pineapples, plantains or coconuts, but that's a different sort of hazard.

Where you are more likely to find crime is where the intrepid Great White Hunters the town centre, with the casinos, the tourist hotels and the golden arches of McDonalds.
More chance of grabbing a mobile 'phone, a camera or a wallet up there than down round the Mercado Borbon where all that people carry are their shopping bags.

Still, to return to the tourists.....they must know that they are staying in a town, so why dress as if about to go whacking the bush?

I think the answer is that they have, or have been sold, a certain idea of Costa Rica as a third world destination with oases of modern hotels from which they can venture forth to visit rain forests, frighten the wits out of wildlife by screaming their way along ziplines and have their hats stolen by monkeys in the Manuel Antonio National Park.
The idea that Costa Rica contains towns has never entered their consciousness, so they haven't packed for urban strolling.

That San Jose has some stunning architecture passes them by'd be hard put to find mention of it in any guide they spend their obligatory day in San Jose sticking out like sore thumbs and buying expensive coffee in the tourist hotels. Where they speak English...or, rather, American.

Other tourists I've always been aware of...the backpacking kids changing buses in Coca Cola, heading from one coast to the other...goggling their way through the Mercado Central, all burned red by the sun, the girls wearing skirts which might be better described as pelmets and the boys wide legged long shorts that give them the air of seventeenth century Dutch burghers, the air resounding to cries of
'Oh My God!'
as cameras record their presence among the pet shops, the stalls selling religious figurines - bondieuserie - and creche characters....the herbalists, the souvenir lairs, the butchers, the petshops and the veg stalls, before they stop for an ice cream and a fresh fruit drink at one of the many foodstalls.

And then there are tourists for whom the sign on the door is the most apt.
I never see this lot as they tend to be nocturnal.....only heading out into Gringo Gulch as darkness covers the earth.
The sex tourists.
Those who come to Costa Rica because prostitution is legal...because they can buy human flesh for an hour or two and compensate for their inadequacies.

In their case, it's not just their dress that requires's their morals as well.

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