Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A tale of two Soaps

Some time ago I gave as a birthday present a set of smellies, consisting of various soaps and candles, as I knew (hoped) that the Lady concerned enjoyed such things.

For me being the basic kind of man that I am the nearest I have ever got to such things was when they introduced Dove soap some years ago. Prior to this I was a basic Imperial leather, coupled with Old Spice after shave sort of a person. Sophisticated I was not !

However all of this (nearly) changed last week-end when I was out Christmas shopping, I decided to indulge myself in some of these Smellies soaps, just to see if I was missing out on something.

The first thing to note is that all of these soaps are hand made in Latvia, so no mass production. They arrive in what I can only describe as corrugated cardboard box made from I guess recycled paper - in other words basic packaging to reflect the "natural" essence of the soaps.

My choice was random, but transpired to consist of two basic soaps

1. Coconut
2. Leaves and stuff

My first choice to use when soaking in the bath was the coconut, and sure enough it did smell of coconuts, however it had the same texture as that of a coconut shell - and you had to rub like H..l to get the smallest amount of lather (I am a lather sort of a person), and by the time I was finished my skin simply glowed a bright pink, and I smelled like a Bounty Bar - I think Not !

I then moved onto what can be best described as a like a bar of Wrights Coal Tar soap ( You need to be really old to remember this), but mixed with an odd assortment of leaves and bits and pieces picked up from the woods.

No matter how hard I tried I could not get any lather from this one, but when I was finished I was covered in all these little bits of leaves and things - so had to go for a shower to remove said bits from my nether regions. So I fear that the leafy soap was destined for the bin, as I can see no point in using a soap that instead of cleansing the skin, simply adds woodland fallout to my body.

So after this grand experiment in using natural soaps, I think I will stay with the Dove, however I have moved on from the Old Spice, and I am now a Paco Raban man.

Now on the subject of Smellie things - but in this case candles, may I recommend to all Riga Candles Unlimited, a small company run T.. ( American with the loudest laugh in Latvia) and his good Lady. The candles they produce are wonderful, are made from 100% Malaysian Oil, so if you are looking for really nice gift at Christmas suggest you visit SKY or give T.. a call.

Lienes 28, Riga, LV-1009
Phone: 7314770

Now on the subject of cleanliness, I came across this picture below, where it indicated the best position when sitting on the toilet ?? - Why so ? - read on - and you have to use your imagination as to what BM stands for.................

This is the best position for defecation on the American toilet - ( Who says ?)

1. Bend your head forward and down to the position where your head is between your knees. Your back should be as close to parallel to the floor as possible. Your shoulders should touch your knees. Grab your legs between your ankle and knee (the closer you grab to your ankles the better) . Grab your left leg with your left hand and your right leg with your right hand. ( are you with this so far ?)

2. Pull your shoulders down against your knees and BM.
That's it. By bending forward and placing your head between your knees you effectively straighten the tube out. By pulling your shoulders down you cause muscles to contract that aid in elimination.

You will feel the difference this position makes. You may notice that up to TWICE AS MUCH BM comes out this way. Not only does more come out, it comes out faster and easier. You should ALWAYS BM like this. NEVER BM sitting straight up on a toilet.

If you are really interested and want too read the whole unexpurgated version go check out the site ! - Only in America !


And finally - another little known fact about Latvia

The first decorated Christmas tree originated in Riga, Latvia in 1510, according to legend. In fact, it was Martin Luther, of the 95 Theses, who came up with the idea of decorating a pine tree with candles after walking through a forest in Riga and seeing the moonlight reflecting on pine trees.

So there we go another day - another blog - off to the UK tomorrow so no more until I get back - but in the meantime do not forget our fundraising for the children - so far we have raised Ls165.00

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Wish list for Childrens Home

Well finally managed to get "wish" list for the children appeal.

It is :

1. Industrial Kitchen Unit ( approx Ls400)
2. TV + video / dvd player ( aprox Ls 200)
3. Tobogans, Sledges etc ( approx ls 200)
4. Renewal of Internet connection ( trying to deal with Lattelekom)
5. Computer + printer ( second hand will do)

It is not my intention to indicate we will provide all of these, this is just there wish list, so depending onhow much we can raise will determine what we can give.

So ideas please - J.... ( he of diminutive stature ) has indicated that he would be happy for a donation box to be placed in the pub

Monday, November 21, 2005

Number Vins, Una , One !!!! - in the world

First of all we (Latvia) won its independence.

Then it won the Eurovision Song Contest and NOW it has won the number one rating for the best hostel in the WORLD, as voted by the people who actually stay.

What can I say Congratulations to F.... ( Australian) and A... ( English/Bristolian - seller of slightly damaged goods ).

Click on picture to enlarge

Not bad from zero to the best in the world in less than 9 months
Just shows what can be done through a little imagination, hard work - and more hard work !

Skating with Penguins - Dancing to Freddie

Until this weekend I had managed to live without Ice Skating or visiting a Latvian Night Club, but I fear I can no longer make such a claim.

To Celebrate a friends birthday, it was decided that on Saturday we ( six of us - M..... (Latvian - wood cutter downer, J.... (Latvian - Birthday Boy and three of his friends) would make our way to the famous Lido restaurant, which apart from selling food, boasts the largest outdoor ice rink in Latvia.

In Spring and Summer it converts back to being a roller blade rink - and I have no idea how it is converted into an ice rink - but clever technology.

My agenda for the day was this

1.00pm - Ice rink
2.30pm - Lunch at Lido
4.00pm - Secret location to watch England v New Zealand
10.00pm - Latvian Night Club - Four White Shirts.

The reason for the latter was to listen to a singer called Freddy.

Now from a personal point of view, and apart from watching the Rugby, this agenda required two things - 1. An ability to Skate and 2. An ability to Dance.

Unfortunately I do not qualify on any of these counts - however help was at hand, at least as far as the Ice skating was concerned. A Penguin !

The Ice rink provides (for children ) Plastic penguins with large feet and handles in their head, such for those who cannot skate, they can keep their balance by holding onto the Penguin.

Unfortunately these are designed for children - and being around 6ft tall, I was a picture of elegance , bent over double, holding onto the penguin handles for my dear life - Pictures were taken of this by those who clearly had gained a proficiency certificate in skating -

I will decide later as to whether they are published

Despite countless falls, even with the aid of the Penguin, I managed to survive this moment of madness - but it was with a great deal of relief when we finally made our way to the Restaurant.

For those of you who have never visited the Lido complex, make the effort, it is quite wonderful, particularly at this time of year when it is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with the largest Christmas tree I have ever seen - and the food is simply great - and cheap.

If you are interested then check out the web site at :


Having dined then I left the group to go watch the Rugby, at our not so secret location, having our reserved space at the bar ( courtesy of Aussie J.....) the two hours simply sped by, with a wonderful game of Rugby, which resulted in a victory for N.Z. This team is simply awesome and next weekend they get to "play" (with) Scotland - God help us. Don not know if I can stand the thought of watching a massacre.

But with ending of the game, I now realised ( dreaded) that it was fast approaching tome to go clubbing !. Anyone who knows me here will tell you that if I am seen put past 9.00pm then something is wrong, and given that after 10 years in Riga, I have still not been inside a nightclub.

However I had been assured that I would enjoy the music, and that dancing was not obligatory ( with six fellows !- I should think not).

So we met outside the said establishment, and in we went - and thankfully J.... had reserved a table, so were not going to have to stand all night.

To cut a long story short, the music of Freddie was OK, the atmosphere was excellent, I made everyone look young - which they were - I think I was the oldest person in the place.

But I here you ask "did you dance? " - Well - Can a pig fly ? - So now you know.

It was an interesting experience, particularly when I discovered on leaving that it was nearly 2.00am in the morning. - I can honestly claim that never have I been out so late in all my time in Riga -and the chances are I am unlikely to repeat this adventure - to old and to noisy.

One lesson for today was learned - when you are 60 ( well nearly) there are some things you should not even attempt- skating with Penguins and Dancing with Freddie.

On Sunday morning I took myself off to church to meet with the vicar, re the childrens home in Zvannieki (For those less fortunate) , and we discussed his wish list, he wants a little time but here is what we discussed.

1. Industrial Quality kitchen sink unit with double sink.
2. Winter Toys, tobogans etc
3. Reconnection of Internet (they have a dial up connection but cannot afford to pay account)
4. TV and video/dvd player

Apparently they had a quote for the kitchen sink unit some time ago and was going to be around Ls350.00 - ish.

I will publish a new blog specifically in regards to what we can do - but in the meantime if you have any thought re above let me know, either direct or via comments. Lets try and make a little difference this year, as there are now 24 children at the home, with ages from 3 - 17.

An interesting weekend - And finally has anybody seen V.... ( Australian/Latvian - claims he can make and build things - like partitions !!!! )

Monday, November 14, 2005

Tales from the Riverbank - in pictures

You may remember that some time ago we had a glorious weekend outside Riga, by the banks of the Daugava.

Well it has taken some time but finally courtesy of T..... ( Swedish part time fireman - part time hells angel and plays with bits of plastic) has finally overcome the technology and managed to get the prints to me. So much better than my poor images taken with my camera phone

As usual if you were there, then you will recognise everyone else

Cooking and playing trumpet -questions which one is which ? We know he cannot play the trumpet, and I am not sure about the cooking bit !

So now you know - and with a Winter visit planned it will take on a different beauty

Time to Remember

One of the more remarkable coincidences of life in Riga and the UK is that in both countries, and on the same day, November 11th, we remember the fallen soldiers, sailors and airman who have died on behalf of their country.

For the UK and Commonwealth countries the time of the 11th minute, on the 11th day of the 11th month, is related to the fact that on this precise time in 1918 the 1st World war guns fell silent.

In the case of Latvia on November 11th 1919 the Germans/Russians were defeated when they sought to capture Riga. This defeat ultimately led to the creation of the first independent Latvian State in 1921.

The day was named after the the Legendary Latvian hero Lacplesis, ( Part bear - part man) who according to legend some 700 years prior had helped defeat the Germans whenever they attacked Latvians. You can read more about this legendary character at :


So on grey and gloomy Remembrance Sunday S.... ( Welsh) and I set off to visit the British War grave site in St Nikolay cemetery, near Jelgeva, where the bodies of 36 British soldiers and sailors are buried, who lost there lives fighting the Germans in order to liberate Latvia, for the Remembrance Sunday service.

At the beginning of 1919 when Latvia was occupied by the Bolsheviks, the British ship "Saratov" stationed in Liepaja for a short period became a shelter for the temporary Government of Latvia and its head Mr. Karlis Ulmanis.

There was of course one small snag, neither S..... or myself had ever been to this particular cemetery, so whilst finding Jelgava was easy - finding the cemetery could prove to be a little tricky.

However, God help diplomatic plates - as whilst on route to Jelgava, we were passed by 4 x4 with diplomatic plates - Aha we cried - follow that car ! - and we did - all the way into the Nestle petrol station into he middle of Jelgava.

It was at this point that doubts did creep into my mind - particularly as the reason for visiting the Nestle garage seemed to be to allow a lady passenger to visit the toilet.

But given that we had no other option ( we were lost !) we proceeded to follow said vehicle all around Jelgava and finally there it was the Cemetery, and we were early.

The service of remembrance was to commence at 10:30am, and for the next few minutes various dignitaries arrived

J..... ( Scottish - retired but still likes to play with trains)
J..... ( Australian/Latvian and a consulate to boot!)
I... B... ( claimed to be British ambassador)

and a whole host of military and civilian officials representing UK, America, Canada, Latvia

It was a very moving ceremony during which a number of wreaths were laid, and the names of the fallen were read out.

We then proceeded across the cemetery to the Latvian War Memorial, to again allow our respects to be paid to Latvians who had fallen. Again wreaths were laid by those countries represented at the ceremony.

At this point J.... ( Australian/Latvian) realised that he had left his wreath in the back of the car, as nobody had told him that the two war memorials were so close together !.

So having agreed that we would give the Jelgava Mayor's coffee and biscuits morning a miss, mainly because we had no idea how to get to his office, we retrieved the said wreath and J.... held his own personal act of remembrance.

I think for all who attended, a time for reflection, particularly when you realise that the average age of the British soldiers and sailors was mid twenties. How lucky we are , at least of my generation, not to have faced to horrors of a World War.

As ever on these occasions characters appear, in this case two are worthy of mention. The first and most illustrious was the Earl of Carlisle - what was he doing in Latvia ?

He reminded me of Michael Foote ( one time labour leader) who when attending a Remembrance Sunday Service in London, arrived wearing a duffel coat - it cost him the next General election. Well lets just say that the Earl will never win prizes for sartorial elegance.

For the interested here is his pedigree ( and yes they do call it that )

THE 13TH EARL OF CARLISLE, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, Northumberland, Lord Ruthven of Freeland, and Baron Dacre of Gillesland (George William Beaumont Howard); b 15 Feb 1949; s f 1994; educ Eton and Balliol Coll Oxford (MA); Maj 9th/12th Roy Lancers to 1987, fought (Lib Alliance) Easington 1987 gen election and (Lib Dem) Northumbria European party

and this from Burkes Peerage :

George William Beaumont Howard, 13th Earl of Carlisle (M)b. 15 February 1949,



Last Edited=10 May 2003

Consanguinity Index=0.0% ( prize for first person to describe what this is)

And finally a lady to whom we are all indebted - an American colonel, of diminutive stature ( she should meet J.... Irish). It was this lady who took it upon herself to remove R.. ( American soldier - who once cursed these shores).

Had the opportunity arose then I think I would have suggested that she be given the freedom of Riga.

I would like to think that all of those who have died will forgive us a little humour on what was and is a solemn occasion.

On arrival back in Riga, we partook of a few beers in honour of those we had remembered, well at least S.... and I did. J.... (Scottish - plays with trains) went to play with the doctors and nurses at the ARS clinic - as he needed something "lanced" Ugh

What with England beating Australia, Scotland nearly beating Argentina and a group of cretins who have brought new meaning to the word, and I do not mean better - quite a weekend.

For those interested in the history of why the red poppy has become a symbol of rememberance read on

Poppies, by nature, appear in churned up soil, particularly soil with a high lime content, which makes it so relevant to the battlefield. They were first noted blooming around soldiers' fresh graves during the Napoleonic Wars.

But the poppy was immortalised in a poem In Flanders Fields by Canadian Medical Officer John McCrae, written in response to the horrors he experienced at Ypres in 1915.

The poem begins: '

In Flanders' fields the poppies blow,

Between the crosses row on row'

Moina Michael, an American War Secretary with the YMCA and a writer, was moved by McCrae's words. She was the first to wear a poppy in memory of those who lost their lives during the First World War.

Using a gift of 10 dollars, she bought 25 artificial poppies from a department store, which were then worn in memory of the dead at a YMCA conference in November 1918.

Attending the same conference was Frenchwoman Anne Guerin. She was already selling her own handmade poppies to raise money for children in Europe affected by the war, but after attending the conference she had the idea of selling poppies in Britain to raise funds for ex-servicemen and their dependants.

Poppies went on sale on the first ever Poppy Day – 11 November 1921. Major George Howson served on the Western Front in the Great War. After the war ended, Howson founded the Disabled Society and, with a grant of £2000 from the Unity Relief Fund, set up a small poppy factory in London with five ex-servicemen. Today, the factory employs 61 people and 70% are disabled and most of the employees are widows or widowers or dependants of the ex-service community.

Friday, November 11, 2005

A really bad day !

You know you have had a bad day, when you look in the mirror and this is what you see.

Mind you there is some uncanny resemblances to others within or small community.

Is there not ?

And to anybody you is tempted to say this is an improvement on the the "real" thing - then keep comments to yourself.

For those technically interested software can be found at


Have fun !

Let there be Light (s) !!

What is with Riga's Ministry of Lights - does nobody tell them when sunrise and sunset is ?

This morning at 7.30am all of the street lights in Riga went out, and it was still seriously dark - were it not for the shop window displays still being illuminated, Riga would be plunged into darkness !

Can it be so difficult to change the timers on these street lights such that we poor pedestrians can walk the street without the aid of a torch. Mind you with my 3 million candle power torch, courtesy of A... ( English who sells slightly damaged goods) - not only can I light up the pavements I can even blind the oncoming drivers who seem determined to run me over.

It is not exactly pocket size - but it certainly lights all before it !

One of the things that I am guilty of is that I tend to use "sign" language whenever I ask for bill or check at a restaurant. So despite the waitress speaking perfectly good English, or even when I try my still limited Latvian, I just cannot seem to stop myself holding up my hands and pretending to "write" a bill - Why.? Do I think she is stupid or deaf - But I know that I am not alone in doing so - hands up all those who do the same thing, particularly when we are abroad - never do it when we are at home.

Thinking of this reminded me of comments made by one of my kinfolk - Billy Connolly when he commented on the strange things we ask

1. People who point at their wrist while asking for the time....I know where my watch is pal, where the f**k is yours? Do I point at my crotch when I ask where the toilet is?

2. People who are willing to get off their arse to search the entire room for the TV remote because they refuse to walk to the TV and change the channel manually.

3. When people say "Oh you just want to have your cake and eat it too". F*****g right! What good is a cake if you can't eat it?

4. When people say "it's always the last place you look". Of course it is. Why the f**k would you keep looking after you've found it? Do people do this? Who and where are they?

5. When people say while watching a film "did you see that?". No tosser, I paid 10 quid to come to the cinema and stare at the f*****g floor.

6. People who ask "Can I ask you a question?". Didn't really give me a choice there, did you sunshine?

7. When something is 'new and improved!'. Which is it? If it's new, then there has never been anything before it. If it's an improvement, then there must have been something before it.

8. When people say "life is short". What the f**k?? Life is the longest damn thing anyone ever f*****g does!! What can you do that's longer?

9. When you are waiting for the bus and someone asks, "Has the bus come yet?". If the bus came would I be standing here, Knobhead?

10. People who say things like 'My eyes aren't what they used to be'. So what did they used to be? Wellington boots?

11. When you're eating something and someone asks 'Is that nice?' No it's really revolting - I always eat stuff I hate.

12. People who announce they are going to the toilet. Thanks that's an image I really didn't need.

13. When you involved in a accident and someone asks 'are you alright? Yes fine thanks, I'll just pick up my limbs and be off.

And ……………………. Two guys are talking and one says to the other:

"What would you do if the end of the world was in 3 minutes time?"

The other one says, "I'd s**g everything that moved...What would you do?"

And he says, "I'd stand perfectly still."

Having thought about these strange things we do, I may have across the answer as to why Riga's lights go on and off at weird times - Do you think there is a wee sick person in the Ministry of Lights who is watching a web cam, and when he spots all the early morning pedestrians making there way to work - "switches them off" just to see what happens ?

I would be surprised !

What can the guy in hat be thinking ?

Have a good week-end - and do not forget Rugby on Saturday at 4.30pm in secret location.

S...... (Welsh) will be there to bring tales of remorse after last Saturday - so do not mention New Zealand.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

For those less fortunate

As well you know Christmas is only just round the corner, and as anyone who knows me it is a time which has always been special for me - in other words I just love the whole thing - even the crass commerciality.

However there are many less fortunate than ourselves, and I have reproduced below an article which is on St Saviours web site.


As you can see the church is funding a home for dysfunctional families and children.

So I would like to suggest that we try and give a little cheer to this group at Christmas Time either by way of cash or anything else which you might wish to donate.

If anyone has any ideas please let me know

The following is taken from the Church Web Site which was published prior to Christmas 2004 :

For 1 ½ years, Revd Dr. Juris Cālītis has set up, personally financed and managed Zvannieku Mājas, a shelter for dysfunctional families and children, deep in the Latvian countryside.

Revd Cālītis is the Pastor of The Anglican Church of St. Saviour in Riga and the Dean of Theology at the University of Latvia.

The shelter is located some two hours outside of Riga. Poverty and alcoholism are a constant condition for those living in this isolated region of Zvannieku. Zvannieku Mājas, at present, shelters fourteen children from the ages of 19 months of age to 19 years.

One family of three children, ages 1 ½ years, 5 and 7 years, have been under the care of Zvannieku Mājas for 2 ½ years and have successfully been reunited with their mother at the shelter.

It is the goal that the remaining 8 children benefit from the safety and care they receive in this home and that they be re-united with their parents sometime in the future. In the meantime they attend school and church and have activities with other young people and adults in the countryside and Riga.

Most of all, they experience love and nurture in a family environment and maintain constant contact with their families whom the shelter also assists.In the winter the driving conditions are treacherous and without the use of a 4 wheel drive vehicle, sometimes all supplies must be carried in on foot and distance of several kilometers.

This year, Revd Cālītis was able to purchase a used jeep; but on occasion, that too cannot avoid getting stuck in snow drifts.

Even a large bus which brought 35 persons to the area for a Christmas celebration got stuck for several hours and had to be pulled out with a logging truck.

Water must be carried from the lake (frozen in the winter) until such time as pipes can be laid bringing water from the neighboring village. Because there are no indoor toilet facilities, the digging of a septic tank is necessary to enable two toilets to be installed within the house.

This has now been started through a grant from the Norwegian Embassy but work cannot continue until Spring. Slowly the most important issues are being addressed. But, there are many other areas that need to be taken care of.

The kitchen facilities are another crucial concern. Cooking is done on a small electric stove which is not adequate for the number of persons living at the shelter. Heating of the two-storied house is done by one wood fireplace. Because the house is in the stages of restoration, walls, internal rooms and doors are not yet completed.

Many thousands of Lats are necessary for the completion of the house.As you can imagine, the conditions during the past years were very primitive and arduous for all involved; but nevertheless, it was better than the conditions that the children had experienced in their own homes.

The children are thriving under the loving care of Revd Cālītis, the Director and those who attend to them. Women from his congregation volunteer their time on a rotating basis to see to the needs of the children, prepare meals and do the chores necessary for such a large group of persons. There are other children from the neighboring orphanage that would love to be housed in such a shelter. Whenever possible, these children are brought into the shelter to share the benefits of a loving, home atmosphere.

This Christmas, six of these children spent the holidays at Zvannieku Mājas. During the summer months, as many as an additional 30 have come to camp, share food, sports and other activities.During mid-December a church service was held in a neighboring village, where large "care" packages were distributed to approximately 45 other needy from surrounding areas.

This year the recipients had doubled in number from those previously given because of the increase in donated products and clothing and the contact that had been made with those who could benefit. Once a month a Lutheran church service is held in this old, Lutheran church and there too, the numbers are increasing.

It is due to the involvement of Revd Cālītis with the local officials (he meets with them weekly), that many initiatives are taking place that benefit the entire area. Note: The recent policy statements of the Latvian government are in line with those of the shelter.But, needless to say, all of this takes money.

It is for this reason that I appeal to you. I believe that additional monies would considerably enhance the care that the shelter provides. I

also believe that any funds would greatly contribute to the social wellbeing and promote sustainable health, where existing services are insuffiently developed.

If you care to make a direct deposit into the bank, the information you need is: Latvijas Kraja Banka, UBALLV2X, Zvannieku Mājas, Acct. No. 1100-122-973-001, Riga, Latvia LV 1050.

Direct deposits are advisable as there is a large percentage deducted for cash and check conversions.

Postal Address: Revd. Dr. Juris Cālītis, Founder and Vice President; Sandra Dzenīte, Director; Pils 9-9A, Riva, LV1050 Latvia. Public Charity No. 000807055; Tax Reg. No. 40008070557.

Please continue to pray for these children and parents and their caretakers at Zvannieku Mājas.

A grand event

Well they we were, at the appointed hour - 5.00pm on Sunday afternoon awaiting to be served a meal beyond description - cooked by the Amazing M...... (Italian - suffers from verbal diarrhea - and does not like getting his hair touched), BUT...........

Well before I go further, lets remind ourselves of events leading up to this grand occasion.

Last weekend J... ( Australian - plays with wood) and M...... (Italian) along with a few others including myself, agreed, that it would be great idea for M....... to demonstrate his incredible ( his words - not mine) - Culinary skills. So J... ( Australian) agreed with owner of "secret Bar" that M....... ( Italian) could indeed use his kitchen whereby he could produce his masterpiece.

So with all agreed we then invited a select few (everybody we knew actually) people to join this Italian feast. Responsibilities were clear M......... Food purchase and cooking - J.... Arranging with Bar owner and spreading the word - with myself acting as unpaid assistant in the case of the latter.

Now for the list of invitees - for expediency I am going only to list the name and nationality - as for the most part, at one time or another they have already been identified somewhere in of these blogs - only those who are being mentioned for the first time will get a fuller description.. For those visiting this blog for the first time -- what can I tell you - start at the beginning !

J....( Australian)
J.....( Australian / Latvian)
C..... ( Malaysian)
R...... ( Malaysian)
P..... ( English)
B..... (English)
F.... ( Australian)
? F..... girlfriend ( Latvian - Sorry I do not know her name)
V.... ( Australian / Latvian - part time builder - still trying to work out which time and which part)
L....... (Latvian - V... wife, - lovely lady, wonderful smile) - If this sounds grovelling - it is - V.... has offered for her to help me improve my Latvian language skills)

As you may gather the majority of persons in attendance were Australian - there's a lot of them about right now.

In addition there were three or four others who joined the party, but whose names I am unfamiliar with. - Apologies

In total we had 16 people in attendance - not bad for Sunday evening.

Now the agreed arrangement was that M....... would do his best to ensure that the food would be ready on around 5.00pm - two reasons for this, we can only keep the "Cretins" out until 5.30pm (when our secret location officially opens to the public) and I cannot remember the second reason, but it was a good one.

For my part I arrived just before 5.00pm - but where was the MAN ? - well he was downstairs watching the spit going round (you call this cooking) and drinking a whiskey - Not a good first sign. Anyhow he duly advised that he was running late due to :-

1. He could not get into Kitchen until 11.30
2. What the F... could he do ? - So ? ( this is a direct quote - and he does use the phrase "So" like a question - must be an Italian thing.)

You tell him he is late - He says "so?"
or another variation is
You are loosing your hair - He says "so What ?"

Ah the power of the English Language in an Italian mouth

Back to the story - The clock keeps on ticking, and whilst we continue to have a beer or two, watch the Rugby, then at 6.00pm the Football ( Man. United v Chelsea)- starts, but no food on the horizon, and the place is beginning to fill up, fortunately with very few "Cretins".

However in the expectation that it will arrive, J.... manages to organise a few tables so at least when it does arrive we will have somewhere to put it.

I make a number of checks to see all is well, and M....... assures me it will be in 30 minutes ( NB he was not specific about which 30 minutes)

BUT, and it was a big BUT, with a grand fanfare , well actually shouts of the "the tucker is here " from the Australian contingent - the meal was finally delivered.

There in all its glory was, Quail, Duck, Lamb, Chicken, - Risotto and Polenta and a sauce that you would die for.

Now it would have great if all of this had arrived at the same time, but due to pressure on the waitress / kitchen staff - it came in installments, as did the plates from which we could eat.

We have all experienced this phenomenon, or at least those of us in Latvia, when you visit a Chinese restaurant, frequently they can only manage to serve one person at a time !

But despite this small failing, which in no way can be blamed on M..... , (Although we did try) it did little to damage the appetites of the starving hordes - and so within a few minutes, the results of over seven hours preparation - was devoured.

Now whilst I have only a basic knowledge of Italian style cooking - and in answer to the question why did it take from 11.30am - 7.30pm to prepare this feast, here is the answer -

The Risotto take about 20 minutes
Sauce - another 20 minutes
Polenta about 30 minutes,

All of this was carried out in a multi-task way - so total time was only 30 minutes

Stuffing "meat" onto skewers 10minutes
Inserting Skewers into Spit - 5 minutes
Cooking Time - 360 minutes - ( It was only a little spit)

So there you have it - a total time of 405 minutes - Ah I here you say ( or at least those mathematicians amongst you) there are 420 minutes between 11.30am and 7.30pm - so what happened to the missing 15 minutes - Another mystery - but remember the whiskey (s) !

Joking aside, to all involved - Well done - particularly to M........ To whom I can now add the distinction of being the best Italian chef, in an Irish Bar - In Riga.

We all had a good night, and it was nice to see a Scotsman score a goal, albeit it was an accident.

I left at around 8.30pm - and rounded off a very pleasant evening with a stroll through the park on my way back to my homestead.

Nice Evening !

M........ has subsequently advised me that when he got home, he had a dream in which I (???? why me) was whipping him with a stick, well I say a stick, but let me in M........ own words describe the stick, or at least how it is made.

1.Catch goat
2. Cut off the Penis of the said goat
3. Extract the nerve from said penis
4. Stretch the nerve until is about one meter in length
5. Leave to dry for up to four months

To really appreciate the above ,close your eyes and just use your imagination !

Apparently shepherds in Italy use these"sticks" to herd the sheep and goats, and to punish small children.

You can just hear the Italian goat herder/father when he says to his son " if you do not behave I am going to whip you with the goats penis stick!"

I wonder who was the first goat herder to discover how to make this stick ? I expect the same person who when he saw the wild cow in field thought " I wonder what would happen if I squeezed the cows udders" .

So there we are - another weekend gone - but to all I have but one question

Has anybody seen R.. (English) ?

Friday, November 04, 2005

What if ?

Sorry I could not resist this, and it is Friday night -

What would happen if condoms were sponsored ? ( Click on picture to enlarge)

But I don't suppose Polo mints would be interested - would they ( for those who do not know Polo mints - there sale motto was The mint with the Hole !!)

Memories of times long gone

As the title of this blog indicates I originated from Scotland, but effectively left when I was the tender age of 15+ to join the Air Force - In those days they could they (RAF) could sign you up for 12 years, but omitted to tell you that the "clock" did not start until your 18th birthday - Nice one Queenie !

Well I came across these pictures recently, and so I thought I would take the opportunity to publish them and thereby answer to all of those who occasionally ask "where are your from ?"

So I was born in Stewarton, which was ( sadly no longer) a small town in Ayrshire ( Land of Rabbie Burns). It major claim to fame was the manufacture of woolen goods, the balaclava worn my whats his name who first climbed Everest was made in Stewarton) and the fact that until the early sixties, had five churches and no pubs ! - now it has 2 churches and god only how many pubs - Ahhhhhhhh........... progress.

The first picture is of Main Street Stewarton, probably taken about the mid fifties, and the building with the yawning was my Fathers & Mother Bakery Shop Had I taken up this profession I would have been the third generation Master Baker ( and no puns re Captain Pugwash please !!).

This was where I spent my childhood, and in those days you walked or cycled everywhere, to School - where ever.

One of the joys at the weekends and during the summer holidays was to go up the "Corsehill", which in those days was a huge expanse of open countryside, where we all lived out our childhood dreams, cowboys, soldiers etc.

One great memory was when the leader of our "gang" Ernie Hearn, discovered a fallen tree, and decided that we would make a dugout canoe from it.

I don't remember how long it took us, but I do remember the day we launched it under the very same bridge that you can see in the picture - It sank without trace.

Regretfully much of the Corsehill has now been developed, so the children of today can no longer enjoy these simple pleasures. - Sad........

If anybody is interested in learning more about Stewarton and why it is called the Bonnet Toun go check this out :


I have not been back for many a year, and when I did go back many years ago to show my daughters where Dad grew up, I think we stayed about an hour - Like most things in life better to keep the memories alive in your head, than to revisit in the flesh.

It comes from the Trees

Each and every season brings its own unique attributes, and Autumn is no exception. If you were to visit Sigulda ( Latvia's answer to Switzerland), then you could take in the visual delight of the leaves turning into a mixture of gold, brown and red - and when they fall, as fall they must, then they turn the ground into a carpet of wonder. Magical !

In the city the "cleaner uppers" must hate this time of the year, as each and every morning a fresh batch of leaves have descended, and must be swept up. The good news for them at least, is that the trees are now nearly bare, so in a few days this work will be over, and they can prepare for the snow and ice, which again must be cleared from the pavements each and every morning.

There is one visitor who however is most unwelcome, or least if you are a car owner. For some strange and inexplicable reason, the Rooster birds ( pigeons - crows ) - now perch themselves up in the tress and proceed to Crap, but and this is the BIG but, only if there is cars parked underneath the tree ! and only at night !

Check it out for yourself, walk down any street where there are trees, if cars can park underneath - bird pooh everywhere, but if cars cannot park - then the pavements are clean - Why ! and why only now in autumn ? - you never see this mess at any other time of the year, just when the trees are bare. Where do they s..t at other times of the year ?

Life is full of mysteries - -this is just one more to add the list.

Speaking of strange things, the weather here in Riga is unusually warm and pleasant, I think we have had only one night recently when the temperature dipped below zero, When I think back to my very first visit to Riga, exactly 10 years ago this month - the temperature was -23C and stayed that way all through winter - another sign of Global warming !

And speaking of warming, one of "benefits" of living in Riga, is the method by which houses/apartments are heated in the Winter. For the vast majority heating is supplied by via vast underground network of pipes, which supply hot water into your dwelling, and thereby into your radiators. Until fairly recently this hot water just arrived, and you had no method of controlling the heating ( no thermostats) - this is gradually changing - but I can remember in January 1996, the only way I could cool the apartment down was to open the window and let the heat escape.

As to who decides when the heating should come ?- well the rule seems to when the temperature drops below 8C, and stays that way for three consecutive days - then viola - the heat arrives - likewise come Spring comes along - then again when temperature is 8C or higher for three consecutive days - then of it goes.

Not sure where the hot water is generated ( Power stations ?) - but the system by and large works.

Sometimes when a visitor arrives ( Like my son-in-law recently) - they ask to go to a "typical" Latvian restaurant to eat "typical" Latvian Food. Well there are many around, including the Lido chain ( boasts the largest Log house in the world- and worth a trip). However before you get carried away -be warned Latvian food can be a little basic -for example this is "typical" Christmas fare

Special foods were eaten at the winter solstice, a celebration to mark the days becoming longer. Many of these foods can still be found on contemporary Latvian Christmas tables.

A popular dish is boiled pigs head with boiled pearl barley, another popular traditional Christmas dish is boiled grey peas with pieces of fried meat and fatty bacon, usually eaten accompanied by a drink of rūgušpiens or kefīrs (curdled or cultured milk).

This dish can be found in many restaurants and cafés in Latvia all year around.

All of the peas boiled at Christmas must be eaten by the morning, otherwise there will be a lot tears shed in the new year. Another special Christmas food is the once-popular blood sausage with pearl barley, because its rounded bend is reminiscent of a circle, symbolising the solar year.

Now lets be honest what would you choose - Turkey, Ham and all the trimmings or Christmas Dinner Latvian Style ??

In Latvia Turkey is not an option - no turkeys ! - Ostriches -yes - Turkeys - No

You may Remember M... ( New Zealand ) - who found true love and happiness in Latvia, and helped reduce Latvia's population by whisking her away to New Zealand - well I always meant to publish one of there Wedding photgraphs, if nothing else so that if you ever bump into them you will know who you are talking to. ( This is the only known picture of M... wearing a suite)

So M... and L........ - stay happy - we will drink a toast to you both on Sunday, when we meet for M........ ( Italian) cook-in at our new secret week-end watering hole

If you are wondering what this photo has do with trees, please note they are standing underneath a tree - OK ?

So there we go nearly the end of another week, and as I write the sun is blazing into my office, so with a litle bit of luck I will get the chance this weekend to either walk on the beach, or head to out to Sigulda and play in the leaves.

I recently added a new counter to the this blog, and it is quite amazing the information it provides, not just how many people "visit" but where they are visiting from - So to all of you in Australia, UK, Sweden - welcome, and please feel free to leave a comment or two.

So now I can watch you - reading me - is'nt technology wonderful ?