Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Well its been a while since yours truly updated this blog. But now with a fair bit of time on my hands since my back operation in January I decided to get back online.

So what has been happening this past few years, well the only big thing, apart from my operation, is that I am older but still alive !

Last night (Tuesday)  at my favourite watering whole I bumped into one of Riga's legendary characters, anyone who remembers De Laceys pub will recognise the wee man.


He has not changed a lot, altough I seemed to detect a slight enlargement around the waist. But it was great to to see J again, brought back some fond memories.

Riga has once again experienced a really mild winter, with only a smattering of snow and low temperatures.

For those wondering if Riga still suffers from an influx of cretins at weekends, I regret to say we do - still think they should be shot on arrival, or at the very least immediately imprisoned.

In December 2015 we held the 10th Charity dinner in aid of Zvannieki childrens home, over the years the evnt has grown, with over 170 guests in December, and over 7,000 Euros raised, a record. Strange too think of the early days with 30+ guests sqeezed into the Ainavars hotel dining room !

Looking further back in 2014 a good friend A finally succumbed to leaukemia, this after 7 years in remission - so for me 2014 is best forgotten !

But looking forward 2016 will see me reach the grand old age of 70 !! - not bad for a life long smoker and one who still manages a couple of pints every day.

So there we are a wee update on life here in Latvia, and hopefully I will keep it uptodate with the goings on .

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Its been a While !

Well once again I have been remiss in keeping the blog uptodate - no real excuse - just enjoying what has been so far an outstanding summer. So what has been going on in Riga?  - well this summer saw the Song and Dance Festival, with over 40,000 participants. As ever this event which is held every five years, culminated on the Sunday night with a mass choir, over 17,000 strong giving a concert  you woud die for. But being Latvia even when the concert finished at around 1.30am on Monday morning, they continued well into early morning with an unrehearsed "Sing Song" - Simply Magical.



Then we had the visit of the Tall Ship fleet, visiting Riga after a 10 year absence. The City took them to heart and a festival took place on the banks of the Daugava.




And just complete this summer festivals this coming weekend sees the annual Riga City Festival with events being held throughout Riga. The full program can viewed at http://www.rigassvetki.lv/2013/galleries/category/en/jaunakas-galerijas or by clicking on this link. 

As I said the weather this year has been brilliant with temperatures above 30c - however this last week has seen a return to normal, indeed we have had more overcast/rain hours than sunshine. But hopefully the weather will sat dry and warm for the festival this weekend.

Last week saw the annual visit of A... (World record for Guiness consumption) - he was in fine spirits and as usual single handedly doubled the sales of Guiness during his 10 stay. I was also the lucky recipient of bacon and Scotch Pies, the latter I have not tasted for many many years -- delicious, but gone all to soon.
 
For those interested I am delighted to say the the annual Christmas Dinner in aid of the Zvannieki Childrens home will be held at the Radisson Ridzeme Hotel. My thanks to the hotel management and S....  ( Scottish Executive Chef)  in particular for agreeing to host this years dinner on Tuesday 10th December 2013. I have made myself one promise - and that is I will eat the full dinner this year, and hopefully avoid the fate I suffered last year, when to little food and to much wine led to be seriously altering my facial features, or at least my nose !

Monday, April 22, 2013

With age comes a seat on the bus !

Its official - I am Old !! - Yesterday apart from being my 67th birthday - finally made me realise that not only am I old" but it would seem I look old. Why ? well as per usual I took the bus into town and as ever it was busy with so seats available - BUT a young man got out of his seat and offered me to sit down. Now I have done this often when I see what to me is an old Lady or Man - but it would appear I am now in the same category, at least to the younger generation.
BUT it takes years of practice to blow smoke out of your ears !! So age does have some advantages

Now I have to say I do not feel old - but clearly for many I am old - so be it, and  I will accept this fact - but at least inside my head I am just middle aged.

On the Riga front Spring has finally put in appearance, with sunshine and temperatures reaching 16c on Thursday, and as per every year the frantic race to erect the outdoor terraces has begun. All we need now is for the trees to sprout their leaves - and turn Riga into a green and pleasant place.

However !! - those damn taxi tricyles are back with a vengeance, in particular the ones with the built in sound systems which play the most obnoxious music at decibel levels that should be banned. In fact if Riga City council, who I think licence these things, had any sense they would ban them all, as they offer no benefit to anyone, apart from the odd drunken cretin who cannot remember where they are staying. Indeed they are turning Livi Square into a bicyle park.

This week also saw the opening of another "Irish" bar - The Dubliner. Just what Riga needs - it shows a distinct lack of imagination on the part of the owner ( Who also owns Donnegans pub). Someone should have told him that Riga has had already had a pub called the Dubliner, way back in the mid 90's. It closed and became a Pizza parlour !! A forecast of things to come ??

So in closing can I thank all of you who were kind enough to send there best wishes on my Birthday, and to those who did not - then please put 19th April in your diary for next year.


Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Another Day in Paradize

This week saw the sale of tickets for the 25th Latvian Song and Dance Festival. One could either buythem through an online ticket agency www.bilesuparadize.lv or buy at a authoried sales outlet. As buying tickets online did not commence until 12.00, but at local outlets at 11.00am - I decided to try one of the local outlets. So at 9.00 am I made my way to the Dailles Theatre, only to find a queue some 200 meters long, so I made my way to Congress Nams - where to my delight the queue was only some 20 meters long.

Nearly three hours later !!! I had move within 10 meters of the sales desk, only to be advised that ALL tickets for the Grand Final were sold out. I later discovered that they had sold out within 2 hours of opening. So at that point I gave up and like many others I will be watching the event on TV. For those of you do not know that Song and Dance festival is held every five years and attracts some 1600 choirs and dance group, with over 40,000 participants.

 I managed to attend the Grand Final five years ago and it was an experience like no other - just a pity I will not make it this year. But to give you a taster see below and enjoy !



But for a week 30th June - 7th July - Riga will come alive - all we can hope is that the weather is good.

Now speaking of weather, it is now April, the 9th to be exact and yet as you can see from the pictutes below Spring has not quite Sprung ! Although it is difficult to tell when I took these photographs it was seriously snowing - this on the 8th of April.



 And the man walking the dog ? - well lets just say that the dog and the man share the same name, and he is a renowned hostelier and bar owner from down under !

Now in the years I have been writing this blog I have stayed clear of politics, with the exception some time ago of mentioning the number of political parties in Latvia. However one of the great politicians of modern times.  Margaret Thatcher - Britains only woman Prime Minister - has passed away - In style at the Ritz Hotel in London. Many of course disagreed with her politics - but none can deny that during her premiership she saw through major economic and social changes which in the main were for the good of Britain. I for one will always hold her in high regard.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Straight from the Horses Mouth

The sun can be deceptive - For the last few days I have woken up to clear blue skies and the sunlight streaming into my bedroom. beautiful you might think - but lo when I check the temperature it is -12c and stays below zero for all of the day - so the winter woollies are staying on !

This week sees the annual Irish madness in Riga ( and all over the world)- with celebration of St Patricks Day, why they do not just call St Guinness Day I do not know  ? Its not as if everyone heads for a church, although to some the Pub is a church. Every so called Irish bar in town is claiming the Titleof the "best" place to celebrate the day. Of course for some one day is not enough, so they make it a St Patricks Weekend.

So for those contemplating being in Riga this weekend here is the list of the Irish bars Celebrating

Paddy Whelans - www.thepub.lv
Maloneys - www.moloneyspub.lv
Donnegans - www.donegans.lv

Of course not to be left out our local "church" the Kiwibar ( www.kiwibar.lv ) is also participating, and with Guinness at Ls 1.00 a pint, I am sure it will be a sellout. Not least of as they will be the only pub featuring Gaelic Football on the day, as well as traditional Irish dancing, courtesy of Ruta and her girls, and of course Martins will be there to provide authentic non-Irish music. And we should not forget the late evening Irish Dancing and Karaoke at The Funny Fox (www.funnyfox.lv)

Magical Club games such as Kilcormac-Killoughey v St Thomas and Ballymun Kickams v St Brigids will feature on the day - Sunday 17th March.

For rugby fans ( me included ) Saturday sees the last round of the Six Nations Championship, the key game of course being Wales v England. In theory the winner taking the championship - but NO - assuming Wales win ( a big assumption) then they can only be crowned champions if they have scored more tries than England over the course of the championship, but if England win then they are champions. No point in mentioning theScotland game against France, it is being played in Paris at 21.00 local time - who in gods name plays rugby at nine o'clock at night ??

Now on the subject of sport, in this case football, in which my only interest is Reading, who having been taken over by a Russian playboy, have decided to sack the manager, who got them promoted last season, and won the manager of the month in January. Now granted they seem doomed to relegation, but to change managers with 9 games to go - Dumb !! Would never have happened under the previous owner - in fact it is the first time Reading have sacked a manager since Madjeski (previous owner) took charge 15 years ago.

As everyone knows the "horsemeat" has engulfed Europe in recent weeks, and Latvia has not escaped - but another lesser known scandal is the Mutton being substituted for Lamb. Without mentioning any names this was a recent occurence in one of Riga's restaurants - so watch out it could be happening in your town. And how was this discovered, well T.... (Swedish - like delivering things on time) was the one who discovered this meat substitution. So from the horses mouth comes the truth about Mutton being dressed as Lamb.


I have mention before how from time to time the blog brings back old friends from yester year, and so it has proved once again with contact being re-established with B... (English - Newcastle fanatic). It is some years since he left Riga to work in Newcastle, but now seems happy with his lot in life and has even given up smoking - with the resulting increase in body mass. Anyhow good to have you back on the blog, and hopefully as you say we might see you back in Riga in the not to distant future. In his response he claimed his music tastes were , and I quote "classically good NME/ Mojo music taste" No idea what that means !! - However as to my taste in music, well I have to confess I seem stuck in the 60's and 70's music scene, as to my ears it has been downhill since then, and what is Mojo music ?? ( answers on the blog please)

On the subject of music, all of Riga's bars seem to deem it necesary to install the modern day equivalent of the jukebox. Of course nowadays it is a cleverly disguised computer with thousand of songs under its cover. BUT and it is big BUT, unless you feed it money it plays the biggest load of c..p ever recorded. Now most days I just close my ears and suffer, and usually beg the ladies behind the bar to turn the sound down (preferably off) - sometimes they do and most times they do not.

However on day last week enough was enough, and abandoning my usual Scottish Thrifty demeanour, I inserted 50 centimes ( It will take Ls 1.00) and selected my three songs. As this was a historic moment it was captured on camera.


Please note that unlike the old days, this Electronic "jukebox" has a supposed touch screen, but in this case it should be called a "poke" screen - as takes about two to three "pokes" before it recognises what you are requesting. Any how the result was a few minutes of musical pleasure (to my ears at least) and a respite from Rap C..P that it usually expounds. Of course it could just be a clever marketing ploy to play rubbish - thereby encouraging the customers to put money in the slot.

For those interested in Latvian politics (anyone ?) the current Prime Minister has been celebrating the fact that he is Latvia's longest serving Prime Minister - FOUR YEARS !! - well done that man. To celebrate this momentus event what did the State Chancellory present him a with - A bouqet of Roses. I took this as a sign of his succesfull austerity program which has resulted in Latvia having the highest GDP growth in the EU recently, and another step on the adoption of the Euro in 2014. Not surprisngly 65% + of the Latvian population do NOT want the Euro - but what do they know !!

So there we have it another week has gone by - and with Easter fast approaching, which hopefully will herald the arrival of Spring, and with it the return of having food and a beer outside, hopefully in the sunshine.

So Happy Easter to you all - Enjoy !

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Cheapest Guinness in the World ?

Well here we are in March - and the silly season has begun - in the nicest possible way !

Now I am sure that you will know that my favourite hostelry is the Kiwibar, and during its years of being open it has from time to time had some mad moments - but this week or should I say month has to be one of the best.

First the Guinness - Well this much travelled Irish favourite has had its up and downs over the years, but here in Riga - for this month only - it has what is surely the cheapest pint of Guinness - EVER ! Ls 1.00 a pint, and to help that pint go down why not enjoy there famous (or is it infamous) meat pies - again for the amazing price of Ls 1.00.

All in aid of course of St. Patricks day celebrations - which of course do not begin until 17th March - but who is counting. And just to make sure that everyone is ready for the big day - this Sunday will see a practice for the event. Only in Riga - in fact only in the Kiwibar !! and at its sister bar The Funny Fox.

Now some of you may have know that March 8th was International Womens Day - regretfully I am one of those who had no idea there was such a day - but not F.....(Australian - Hostel/Bar Entreprenuer) who arranged for a complete makeover inside the bar - with hundreds, perhaps thousand of roses to give away to the staff (all female) and of course female patrons. Walking into the bar last night I thought for a moment that I was in a florists shop ! To give you an idea what the bar looked like - see below

All of this and we are not event 1/3rd of the way in March.

This month also sees the visit of Eddie Izzard to Riga - will be interesting to see the reviews after his show at Congress Nams on 19th March.

Weatherwise we are in sub-zero temperatures - but (at least for the moment) beautiful clear skies and strong Winter sunshine. Today will see me once again venture out to watch Scotland v Wales, and later Ireland v France. On the football front Reading v Aston Villa  will also be shown live. So either I will go home a happy boy with wins for Scotland and Reading, OR (most likely) I will retreat home to sulk.

On the subject of sulking - after the Manchester United v Real Madrid game this picture has been doing the rounds - Wonder if Sir Alex has seen it ? Puts a new meaning into Busby Babes


And finally something that caught my eye and brought a smile to my face


Well thats it for now - have to get myself presentable for this afternoons activities

Saturday, February 23, 2013

What goes up - must come down !

When I first arrived in Riga in January 1996, I alongwith many others faced a few challlengies, not least of all in opening a bank account. However after a few tries I did finally get a bank account with the the then Hansabanka, now Swedbank. In those days the Lat was tied to a basket of Scandinavian currencies, which resulted in the £ being more or less equivalent to Ls1.00.

But now role forward 17 years and what do we find - well first of all the Lat is now tied to the Euro, and as of today the glorious £ is now worth just Ls0.7879 - a drop of almost 24% !!! - and as I write no sign of things getting better.
So for those of us with a Sterling income it is not good news - however for those Latvian businesses purchasing in the UK using Lats  - well let the good times roll !!

One of the nice things about writing this blog, is that occasionally a friend from the distant past gets in touch, and so it was this week when an accountant of ill-repute ( he did not cook the books - he burned them!) got in touch - so C.. or should I say W.. - many thanks for getting in touch. However one question I see that you accessed the blog from Reading in the UK - does that mean you are now based in the UK ? As I have no way of contacting you I trust all is well, and who knows perhaps one day you will come visit us me here in Riga.

Now speaking of old friends through the magic of Facebook I have been reunited with a former English Language teacher, who has long since departed Riga to Newcastle, where he supports his beloved Newcastle United, whilst teaching overseas students at Newcastle University. Now I know we all change but ??


Not sure what happened to that glorious head of hair from 1985 - but me thinks young B.... has put on a few pounds since arriving in Newcastle. Just a pity about their football team manager - and I did hear a rumour that my "wee" team Reading beat the "big" team Newcastle - could not possibly be true - could it ?? Finally a request please - please STOP putting out on Facebook that awful music selection - Lord only knows where you find them. But a question - Do you sleep with the hat on ?
This weekend sees the return of the Six nations rugby fest - so I will watch with bated breath to see if Scotland can continue their winning streak (Ok just the one win) against Ireland - I fear the worst but we shall but see. Of course before that we have the France v England Spectacle and Italy v Wales.

With todays temperature dipping towards -10C I think a winter warmer is called for before I step put.

A reminder to all of you thinking of visiting Riga this year, We have two major events - Visit of the Tall ships regatta in July ( I think) and then in August the Latvian Song and Dance festival. Both should not be missed, but if I had to choose - then let it be the Song and Dance Festival. Held every five years it is a week long celebration of Latvia's dance and musical heritage., and culminates in a 20,000+ choir singing. Simply unbelievable.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

In memory of a dear friend

Yesterday was a sad day for me, as it saw the passing away of a valued and trusted friend. We have known each other for more than eight years. During that time there was not a day that went past when we did not talk to each other. We shared some of our most innermost secrets, indeed without his help I would never have been able create this blog.

It has to be said that in recent years his health has not been to good. Sixteen months ago he needed major surgery, after suffering a major internal failure. But since then he seemed to back to his old self.

His passing was quick, in the morning he seemed fine, but then suddenly in the afternoon and without warning he passed away.

It goes without saying that I will miss him, but I will retain all of the memories of him.

So to my dear fried "Advent" or as I called him "Laptop" - Fare thee well


Monday, February 04, 2013

A Mans a Man for A' That

Well here we are - February has arrived and all is well in the land of Riga.

January saw me achieve a first - The guest speaker at the annual Burns Supper dinner, to deliver the Immortal speach. An honour never before realised. Much prepartion went into its making and as best I understand it was well received by the 180+ guests. It is long time since I had the excuse to wear a kilt, but as you can see from below I seemed well suited to the attire.



Unlike my last dinner, this time I stayed sober, ate a full meal and only indulged in a little wine and whiskey. A good boy was I !! However I have one comment to make re the kilt - it is not geared for -10C temperatures ! - I do not think I have ever smoked a cigarette so quick.

January also the Annual Australia Day celebrations, starting with Cricket (in the snow) followed by a parade starting at the Ala Bar, then onto the Kiwi Bar and finally to the Funny Fox - for those that managed all three my congratulations - however as it coincided with Burns Night I was spared from these activities.

February of course has seen the start of the Six Nations Rugby, and it was with a low level of expectation I watched the England v Scotland game - no surprises as to the result - however on the same day the only football that I have any interest in - Reading - continued there fight to stay in the Premier league with a win over Sunderland - long may it continue. Staying with the sporting theme this week sees the arrival of GB ice hockey team ( did not know we had one !) to play in the Olympics group qualifying games.In the same group as Latvia, France and Kazakstan. All the games to be played in Riga - who knows I might even go along, at least to the Latvia v GB game. For those interested the games can be seen on the ESPN network.

Otherwise all is quiet here in Riga., temperatures are rising - today is -4C, daylight hours are getting longer, and the only sound you can hear is either coughing or sneezing - and regretfully I am guilty of both. Fortunately I have avoided the flu epidemic which so many have suffered from.

Finally I will leave you a piece of "Irish" humour - 19 Paddies go to the cinema, and the ticket lady asks "Why so many of you ?" and Mick  replies "The film said 18 or over"
or this one (not Irish)
 Local Police hunting the "Knitting Needle Nutter", who has stabbed six people in the rear in the last 48 hours, believe the attacker could be following some kind of pattern

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Return of the Blog !!

To those who have been suffering withdrawal symptoms, due  to the absenceof blog updates since August last year - my deepest apologies. However the good news is that one of my New Year resolutions is to at least update the blog on a monthly basis.

So what happened during the last few months of 2012 who may ask ? - well not a lot is the answer - but we did see one major event in December - The Annual Christmas Charity dinner - and this year proved to be a record, with 66 people attending, and a record amount raised - over Ls 4000.00 - simply amazing - and a tribute to the generosity of those who participated


The only blight on the evening was due to a lack of food, but an excess of wine, I have no memory of my journey home by taxi, nor indeed my arrival. However the following morning I found blood all over my bathroom floor, and my nose seriously damaged (not broken - just damaged) and a right leg that refused to work. Clearly at some point I tripped and fell - but where I know not. So another of my resolutions is that next year I will arrange things so that I too get to eat the dinner as well as having a glass or two of wine.

Christmas itself was kind of weird - with a temperature of -11c degrees on Christmas Eve, awoke on Christmas morning to find it was raining ! and it was downhill from there on until New Year, with the snow rapidly disappearing and turning into slush.

Riga itself was simply beautiful  - with the best Christmas decorations I have seen anywhere
.
 

One cold but beautiful Sunday morning I participated in the Annual Santa Fun run organised by the local Rotary Club - not the longest run in the world ( or in my case - walk) - but all in a good cause 

Once again my cooking skills were called into action, when cooking an 8kg Turkey at one of Riga's newer bars - The Funny Fox - Over 25 portions served, with trimmings and all seemed satisfied with the fare provided.

I am delighted to say that Riga is once again covered in a blanket of snow, and temperatures hovering around -10c and although it is well after Christmas and New Year many of the Christmas lights and decorations are still up.

Later this month I will be giving the "Immortal Speech" at the annual Burns supper - which will be a first for me - but all is in hand with the speech written and rehearsed - for those of you who would like a copy of this masterpiece please send your e-mail address and I will provide my bank details  ( just joking !)

Reflecting on 2012 - once again we saw a number of people departing these shores to return home - it is sad and means that the band of brothers who gather at the Kiwibar is diminishing. But equally I am sure that 2013 will bring some new faces.

So there we have it the first blog of 2013 - and I wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year - and I will share with you my most important New Year Resolution - To Keep Breathing !