Sunday, November 08, 2009

Weekend round-up

I've had the strange sensation that it was Sunday all day today. Meanwhile, V has been saying she has the feeling that it's Monday...but not next Monday, last Monday.

It's been one of those weeks I suppose - low on achievement - accompanied by some temporally-confused behaviour on the part of the weather, in which we've had a tardy but intense reminder of the kind of precipitation we experienced almost a full six months of last year. It seems I spoke too soon about the kitchen doors not swelling up in 2009.

Caught between tropical storm/hurricane Ida in the east and a nasty depression to the west now sliding up across Tapachula and into Mexico, things aren't supposed to get much better here in Guatemala until Tuesday at the earliest. There's been a bit of a nip in the air too.

Lunes ni las gallinas ponen, they say here. Martes, ni te cases ni te embarques. I'm not sure if there's a culturally-mandated excuse for not getting anything done on Wednesday too, but I found myself with quite a lot of catching up to do at the end of the week. V pointed out to me the other day that I'm already peppering conversations about impending projects with references to "next year".

I did have a very pleasant lunch with R at Hector's on Thursday and put in a brief appearance at the opening of the CFA's debut exhibition at Las Capuchinas yesterday evening. It was a young. sophisticated and largely local crowd, with some of the usual suspects. A friend I ran into confided to me that his business in Antigua has suffered a drop in revenues of over 80% in 2009, a blight that he puts down to the recent ebb in remesas more than anything else.

He also told me not to get my hopes up about the cabernet sauvignon from our local winery Chateau DeFay. Apparently, at another one of these gatherings, he and other attending guests were mortified to discover that the 'oversweet' red plonk produced up there was all that was on offer.

Still, to avoid any suggestion that I am quick to crticise things I haven't even tried, a trip up the dodgy Palín road looks like a project I might still try to fit into the remainder of this year. The cheese alone looks enticing. (Judging by the fantasy castle showcased on the website, the finca deFay's proprietors are likely to be as unconcerned about any totally uncalled-for remarks one might be inclined to make about the inferential pretentiousness of their concept as those of a certain French bistro in Antigua.)

I suppose the unpredictability of the weather over the past 24 months can't have worked in favour of a consistent vintage anyway. But there are enough micro-climates in Guatemala, that it wouldn't surprise me if there were indeed a spot or two around which were more or less suitable for viticulture. It just takes so long to get going, and one does need an inordinate amount of know-how and capital. A great hobby though, and perhaps also a great spite of all the effort. (Brazilian wines such as Rio Sol have been a bit of a revelation to me. )

One place with far fewer delusions of grandeur which I have tested out on numerous occasions, is our local Domino's outlet. In the interests of full disclosure I suppose I ought to fess up here to being a shareholder. (When the stock dropped to around $3 at the start of the year I loaded up and waited for it to return to double figures a few months later; a piece of business that should keep me in pizzas for a while.)

DPZ now trades at around $7.5 and I've hung on to some of my shares for what are undeniably sentimental reasons. These warm feelings were put to the test the other afternoon however, when we dropped by to pick up a double order of cheesey bread. The counter staff were fighting with the bank of phones in front of them, and it seems that with the kitchen behind them undermanned, some of the motorcycle couriers were on emergency seasoning duty, because our order was delivered minus the salsas, yet heavily over-sprinkled with garlic salt.

We'd gone in to get it ourselves because V had decided that she didn't want to be responsible for some poor bloke having to come out on his bike in this stinky weather.

Downpours do tend to turn our neighbourhood into an occasional island township like Mont Saint-Michel, thanks to the basin located at the intersection of the main highway with the Calle del Reformador. Once that moat fills up with water even the big lorries start wandering around the narrow streets looking for a way out with a hard surface.

The Muni are trying to alleviate the problem by laying down an empedrado in the Avenida del Comendador, the last main road in the district to have remained mud-paved throughout the current wet season. Unfortunately, the project was delayed when the street-levelling machinery accidentally fractured the water main, and I suppose they were rather hoping that the rains would have ended on schedule this year, because every day or so the lake which has now formed at the southern end of this artery has been getting a significant refill.

Even once this has finally dried out, this project is likely to remain a bit of a struggle, given that they can't now take the level of the new surface down to where they originally wanted to (thanks to the shallow sewage system they have discovered), and I wouldn't be surprised if the guys in charge are also starting to drop the words "next year" into their meetings.

In other news...

A German tourist named as Paul Wolfgang Ritter was reported as having died today from gunshot wounds he received in Puerto Barrios on Wednesday. The story was hardly the lead in the local papers, perhaps a reflexion of editors' concerns about the damage this misadventure could do to the local tourism industry.

Ritter was a 73-old passenger of a Norwegian cruise ship who had disembarked at Santo Tomás de Castilla with the intention of crossing the bay to visit Livingston. For some reason he also thought it would be a good idea to visit a Hindu shrine in the public cemetery of Puerto Barrios and it was there that a pair of tattoed mareros, 20 and 21-years old respectively, decided to relieve him of his valuables and his life.

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