Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Why Me ?

Let me tell you a story - ( anybody remember Max Bygraves ?) - Last Wednesday I set off for Manchester via Copenhagen. Flight to Copenhagen was fine, then ..... aircraft parked, but as I was a tail end Charlie, I sat in my seat awaiting the other punters to get off. However after 20 minutes we were all still on board, and the captain duly advised that the jetway was broken, and that we would disembark via the stairs at the rear of the aircraft. So now I was going to be first off. But after two tries of delivering the wrong set of stairs, it was announced that Copenhagen airport was having "difficulties" locating a set of stairs which would fit a Boeing 737 !!, but just as a third set arrived it was announced that the jetway was fixed and that we would be going ut through the front - so I was back to being last off. Total time for this escapade was over 40 minutes, and I only had 45 minutes originally to catch my connecting flight to Manchester.

But no worries, as when I did get into the airport SAS announced that the Manchester flight was cancelled, due to the Captain being ill !!!! - apparently SAS do not have standby crews.

So after queuing up at the transfer desk, for the best part of 50 minutes, I was advised that I was on the 5.30pm flight to Manchester. and I was lucky as others were being flown to Birmingham.

Finally arrived in Manchester around 8.30 pm, to find what can only be described as the worst designed airport in the world, Question - how many times do you have to descend stairs only to climb back up, in order to get from plane to immigration - answer - three times, and when you do get there, what do you find - a queue a mile long for EU citizens - only three officers on duty, but for non EU citizens with a queue of one - two officers on duty - amazing, and they call it an International airport - me thinks not.

Roll forward two days, and there I am sitting quietly in the car on a motorway restaurant car park, (which was nearly empty) and up rolls a car beside me, the drivers winds down his window, knocks on mine, and in his best Italian proceeds to tell me a Story, which goes something like this

" I from Italy (it helps if you read this in your best Italian), I ona my way to Milano, I beenna to GMS exhibition in Manchester, and I no wanta to take backa alla these leather coats. They mada by the finest leather/Suede and if affa you give me cash, I giva you the coats at a special price !"

I reply I know wanna the coats - but he persists - so I finally tell him I have $30.00, and he parts with a suede jacket, which I figure at £30.00 I cannot go wrong.

But can someone explain to me why with a whole car park to pick from he chose me to tell his tale ? Why me ? - can it be the red scarf ?

Spent the weekend visiting my newly born granddaughter, and she is beautiful - the great thing about being a grandfather is that you can give them all your love and attention, but when you have done all of this you simply hand her back to the parents.

So there we are another week gone by, and Spring weather has set - its P......g down, but the good news is I missed the cretins at the weekend.

Now advance notice, I will host a celebration of my achieving 60, on the evening of April 19th at De Lacey's. All who know me are most welcome, drinks are on me BUT a collection will be made for the Smiley fund - donations of whatever size are mandatory !!

This is once in a lifetime opportunity (when was the last time I bought a round of drinks ?) so it is not be missed - look forward to seeing you there.

Monday, March 20, 2006

I see no Sea

What a weekend - a glorious sunny Saturday, saw me take off for Jurmula (Latvia's answer to Blackpool).

The temperature was in the high's, well almost 7 degrees, but somehow it felt much warmer, perhaps because the snow and ice on the beach reflected the sun. Whatever it was absolutely beautiful.

Must have walked for the best part of 7km, part of which was to do my "walking on the sea" thing, as the pictures testify absolutely no sign of the sea itself, other than I knew it was somewhere underneath me. The sight of the frozen sea still fascinates me, as it seemed to do for the hundreds of others who were taking in the air.

Some even to do a little bit of sunbathing, albeit wrapped up in fur coats, but there they sat on the benches, soaking up the sun. Only in Latvia !

Suitably refreshed (actually knackered) I then spent a leisurely afternoon, doing the mandatory domestics. - All in all a really nice day


Avoided all of the Rugby, amazed to see that Scotland actually beat the Italians, The French stole it from the Welsh (S..... You are not going to be a tipster are you ?), and god bless the Irish, who won the Triple Championship with a try at the death. I see in this morning BBC report that they (England) are thinking of bringing back Sir Clive - talk about desperate !

And so to Sunday - or Marita Day - With numbers uncertain, despite daily cajoling, I arrived at Paddies at the appointed hour, only to find I was alone. However it did not take long before the assembled Aussies arrived, and an electrical engineer from Lebanon - a new member to our village people and a gentleman of Indian persuasion, but living in London, who proclaimed Eric Cantona the king of Man U. We do meet all sorts !

All in all between 25-30 people did turn up, and to them I say thank you, on behalf of Marita and her son Edwards. Well we did not quite get to our target, but we did raise a goodly sum of nearly Ls 600.00 - and to those who did indicate they would come, but did not, shame on you as you missed a good afternoon, but if you still like to donate, then find her bank details at

Let us but hope that Australia lives up to her expectations

This week will see me off to the UK to see my grandaughter, and take the opportunity to stock up on a few goodies, not available to me in Riga.

Have a good week

Friday, March 17, 2006

Why oh Why ?

As all of you have lived in Latvia for any length of time will testify, there are a number of oddities which have no apparent explanation, like -

Why are the majority of Trolley bus / Tram drivers women ? whilst bus drivers are Men ?
Why are the majority of them, what can I say - somewhat large in stature ?
Why do they put curtains up in the drivers cab ?
Why do the white lines on the road disappear every year ? What kind of paint do they use ? Do not remember this happening in the UK.

Weird !

Also noted yesterday that a lady driving a trolley bus, had on her lap a crossword puzzle, so whilst is supposedly illegal to use a mobile phone whilst driving (but everybody does it anyway !) - it clearly is OK to do a crossword when you are in charge of bus.

On the subject of transportation, do tram drivers, drive a tram or do they steer it ? - given that they have no choice where they are going perhaps they do not do either. So perhaps they should be called tram starters/stoppers/door openers/shutters.

Saw this advert in the English Language newspaper Baltic Times, and I quote -

"Retired, handsome, athletic, Californian lawyer. 40's, 6ft, 170lbs, brown hair, fair skin, often in Riga on business. Enjoys skiing, travel, adventure, wine and conversation. Very eligible bachelor, mischievous millionaire. Seeking for friendship/marriage with Latvia's greatest woman - 25-35 years. Must be highly intelligent, highly educated, highly beautiful, a true centrefold from a magazine. I am worth it, Info photo to OXY424@yahoo.com"

Now whilst this is not the first advert of its kind I did find this one somewhat amusing.

First note he is retired but visits Riga on business - Pardon ??

He wants met Latvia's greatest woman - must mean the President Vaira Vike-Freiberga ?

And would a highly intelligent, highly educated woman really be interested in this Californian nerd ?

and what does he mean he is worth it ? and what in god's name is a mischievous millionaire ? - perhaps someone who isn't !

Ah well it takes all sorts.

Today is St. Patrick's Day and like all over the world, Riga will host the annual Who can get P....d the fastest contest - Fortunately as it is Friday the Cretins will be here in force, to drink the Guinness - suffice to say I will be giving it a miss.

The Irish Ambassador is hosting a Function in the Maza Guilda , at which an Irish group will be playing and by special request a Latvian Irish group, led by a Lithuanian lady will perform for the guests. For those not invited said group will also perform at De Lacey's if they can get past past the cretins - or maybe they will just perform in the street.

Tomorrow sees the Rugby fiesta Ala Paddies, and on Sunday Marita day - so if you have to make a choice - make it for Marita day - Sunday at 2.00pm in upstairs in Paddies.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

A Night Out with Chris

Even at my late stage in life, I still find that I am capable of surprising myself, a few weeks ago when it was announced that Chris Rea was to play in Riga, I took it upon myself to buy some tickets. Now I should point out that whilst I had heard of the man, I could not have named a song he has sung - but as the occasions to hear a well known name in Riga are limited I took the plunge.

The last time I was at a concert was in 1997 to hear Bonnie Tyler ( Wales answer to Rod Stewart !) - so I am clearly not a concert aficionado.

So there we were, S..... ( Welsh), P.... ( English and new father), I... (Scottish retired bean counter) and myself, off to the new Riga Arena ( which will host the World Ice Hockey Championship in May). The seats were perfect, high up, with a perfect view of the stage.

The set was real basic, none of this hi-tech nonsense. just a simple stage, a few lights and the mandatory ice "Smoke"

What can you say about Chris Rea concert, other than the music was stunning, the sound incredible, and he and his band played non stop for the best part of two and a half hours. The four of us sat enthralled for the whole show, and clapped and cheered along with the best of them.

Now it has to be said he is not the greatest conversationalist. I do not think he spoke a word to the audience ( about 10,000+) other than toward the end to introduce the members of the band. But I guess he figures that his music says it all.

The busiest man in the place was the gofer who tuned his guitars, of which he must have played at least twelve - not sure why, assume each guitar has its own particular sound

The time passed in the blink of an eye, and before we knew we were heading for home - well via the New York bar, which offers one of the most unique selection of beers in Riga - 1 ( yes ONE! ).

We solved the worlds problems over a couple of beers, before I headed for home.

So if it truly Chris Farewell Tour, then I am glad I had the chance to hear him live - so if any of you get the chance to hear him, may I suggest you take the opportunity.

Can I also remind all of you that it is "Marita" day on Sunday ( Upstairs at Paddies) from 2.00pm - this is great chance to help Marita and her son make a new start in Australia.

And for those who appreciate Rugby be advised that on Saturday afternoon/evening ALL the Six Nations games will be shown, again upstairs at Paddies- so a marathon session is in store.

And To A... ( Bristolian), Y..... ( His good Lady) and daughter L......, have a great holiday in Maldives, thought you might like to know what the weather is -

31 degrees and thunder storms - wonderful !!

Monday, March 13, 2006

A Grandfather am I !!

Well it has finally happened - I am a Grandfather to very beautiful girl.

Born Sunday 12th March, with a healthy weight of 9lb 2oz ( approx 4.1 kiloes)

and her name - Sasha Megan Wood - a good Scottish/English/Geordie name ??

So to the proud parents, Charlotte and Andrew - well done, and to other grandparents, Margaret, David and Diana, who no doubt are equally proud, I look forward to wetting the baby's head.

Scotland lose to Ireland, Wales draw with Italy, and the French stuff England and I become a Grandfather - what a weekend .

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Another of Riga's hidden heroes

A strange sight appeared before me in the early hours of this morning. I have mentioned before the various people who keep Riga working, from the Sweeper Upperers, Flag Putter uppers and downers, Street and Pavement Sweepers - but today I discovered another group who work to ensure that when we go to catch a bus, the bus stop is free from snow and ice, and is then gritted to ensure that passengers to not fall A.... over T.. whilst awaiting for their bus / trolley bus.

In this case they do have some creature comforts, a van in order to get from bus stop - to bus stop as quickly as possible, and of course to carry the sand.

All of this at 6.30 in the morning, well at least that is when I spotted them, no doubt they, or in this case he, started considerably earlier than that.

As you will gather we have been experiencing just a little flurry of snow in the last few days, so no doubt these bus stop snow clearer's have been working overtime to keep there passengers safe. Wonder what they do for the rest of year ?

Returning to P..... recent family addition, he is to be called Patrick, have seen the picture and he looks like..................a baby !

Some of the pictures were, what can I say explicit, thank God he did not have a video recorder, otherwise we would have been treated to the full birth process. Mother, Patrick and father are all doing well - but still no comment from the dog - no doubt this will be resolved when dog meets Patrick this weekend.

For those following our endeavours at Zvannieki, we plan to deliver new cooker intwo weeks time, asuming V... (Australian/Latvian and part time builder) can find us an electrician, as we need to put 15 amp circuit to power the ovens. V... if you are reading this - pull your finger out !! - otherwise I will publish your name in full.

By the end of next week we should also have a fixed line telephone installed, and the Tele2 phones delivered to the children.

Finally a small reminder re "Marita" day at Paddies on 19th March at 2.00pm - spread the word - as it is an afternoon for families as well as the male fraternity.

Nothing else much happening in our "village" - so for now - bye !

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

A Rugby Feast !!

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Its a Boy

At 9.0pm, March 6th, to P...... (Rugby Fanatic from Bath) and Z...... ( Latvian ) a baby son was born!

Weight undetermined, but Mother & Baby are fine, Father is in a state of delirious shock.

No comment was available from the dog at this time.

No doubt pictures to follow

Monday, March 06, 2006

A Night at Diamond Lil's

Now here is a question, if the world ( well Riga anyway) was your Oyster, what would you choose to do on a Friday night ?

Well last Friday on the invitation of V... ( Australian Latvian who builds things - sometimes) - I and a few friend were invited to a Soiree at Les Diamonds to view the Faberge collection of jewellery.

This was based on the premise that some "interesting" people would also be attending, and that free wines and finger nibble would on hand.

Apparently the owner wanted foreign guests, as she clearly assumed that they have money - between all of us I don't think we could have afforded a pair of cufflinks.

So there we were at the appointed hour - 6.00pm - I.. ( Scottish - he who counts numbers), T... ( American - Candlestick maker) and partner, V... ( see above) and myself - and in we entered, to be greeted by the Lady owner, resplendent in a what looked like an evening gown, two female assistants and a young man of of German persuasion, who took great delight in explaining the benefits of buying Faberge products.

Our fashion attire was more down to earth - basically Jeans etc, + boots/shoes covered in snow - a more unlikely looking of Faberge purchaser could not exist, but as the pictures show V.... just blended right in !

For those of you, who are interested, the eggs were a mere Ls8000.00 and Pies De resistance was the necklace, which was priced at Ls 32,000.00.

Having spent the best part of 30 minutes in absolute boredom, and with no other "guests" arriving - we were it !! - and just to add to the discomfort in the background was the mandatory pianist, giving it his all, and thereby making sure that any conversation could only take place with difficulty.

Now the really good news is that this event is going to be repeated every Friday night, so if you want some free food and wine go along, and on the 17th March a really special night - even more Faberge eggs will be on display - God I can hardly wait.

Having been duly enthralled, we took ourselves of to a more down to earth hostelry to indulge in a few beers.

S..... ( Welsh with attitude) joined us, very disappointed that he missed the earlier cultural event, but indulged in what he claimed was his first beer in 10 days (dubious claim me thinks) - but apparently he had been suffering from food poisoning. Anyhow he managed to have a few without any after effects.

Anyway we righted the world, and even S.... managed a smile ,as he put his challenging week behind him - refreshed in the thought that the ass.....s of Sweden ( T..... part time fireman I exclude you from this list) have been duly dispatched back to where they belong. Who said doing business in Latvia was easy ?

The weekend seemed to pass in a flash, however Sunday was spent in the relative luxury of the Radisson hotel, where the three of us ( I...., S..... and myself) indulged in there Sunday Brunch - first time in years that I have been in the Radisson).

The lunch was superb, as much you could eat, with champagne on the side, all for the princely sum of Ls 12.00 - and there to entertain us was a delightful trio (Violin, Organ and base guitar).

As you will gather at any function in Latvia - musical accompaniment is mandatory.

So all in all an interesting weekend, and of course the band of cretins were in town, and it would appear that Liverpool may claim to have the largest percentage of cretins of any city in the UK, judging by the numbers and behaviour of them.

One small note in regards to cretin free drinking establishments, we rediscovered one of the oldest "Irish" bars, which was totally cretin free - could it be the fact that they do not have SKY TV ? I will not name names for obvious reasons, but for those in the know, it was where the original Paddies night was held.

and finally to visitor from Kirklees - many thanks for visiting, and you now hold the record for having spent the longest time on this blog an astounding 106 minutes, in two sessions, on Saturday 4th March - I hope this means that you found it interesting, and not that you fell asleep whilst reading.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Two Car Kiwi !!

Our long lost Kiwi M.... has finally got in touch, so for those with fond memories of alcholic haze ala New Zealand, below is the e-mail I received ( sorry M.... had to edit a little, as naughty words are not allowed).

Hi David,

Yes I certainly did visit the Blog last night - 2nd time this year.

We are both very good and Larisa has been seeing a lot of NZ since new year. Larisa and I have recently met up with some Russian people in Nelson (1 is now her English teacher who was an English teacher in Russia 4 years ago) and it has been quite entertaining.

My work has been very busy since start of this year and I have to go to North Auckland 8 days every month in addition to my normal work, so only been home 2 weeks in the last 8 ( had to buy another vehicle so now have the Sabaru Outback based in Auckland and the new Chevrolet Blazer in Nelson).

I told Jerry this the other day "There's only one thing for those asshole poms - tell em to f..k off. I know your locals would be very very pleased if the poms were never aloud in the best bar in Riga".

Yes you seem to be very busy with fund raising - well done. Who is Harald ? Do I know him ?

Thanks for the invite, but at this stage we are not sure when we will be back in Riga (unfortunately not in April as we have meetings etc with NZ Immigration) and it all depends on what Larisa's daughter decides to do when she finishes school this year in June.

Enjoyed the weekend rugby wins in the tri-nations - good to see the poms get a hiding :-)

Shame about SKY coverage and having to watch and listen to Welsh commintators.

Cheers for now Merv & Larisa

So as you can see not a lot has changed, other than he is now the proud owned of two vehicles, one of which is American ( why American - can they still build cars !)

Anyhow enjoy the pics , as you can see living adverts for De Laceys

Now that is a BIG tree, apparently it is an 800 years old Kauri

And this I am told is Larisa's first driving lesson