Monday, May 29, 2006

Grumpy Old Man

Well here we are thirty days to go, and the world will become a cleaner place (well Riga at Least) - Smoking will be effectively banned in public places, unless they can have separate areas which do not permit non smokers to suffer from those who do.

So its goodbye to having a beer and a cigarette in De Lacey's, as the lay out just does not facilitate having separate area's. What to Do ? - well as I have learned from previous years, just accept it.

Once upon a time I was allowed to smoke at home, in the lounge, even in the bedroom, but all that stopped a long time ago, so it was into the garden to indulge my vice.

So in the case of De Lacey's it will be have to be outside, regretfully De Lacey's does not have an outside "area" - other than the pavement.

The other hostelries, Paddies, and even Dickens should just about manage to accommodate both smokers and non-smokers, but not so our favourite (at least during the week) pub.

But I guess it is progress, and Latvia is simply following the example of other countries, although at this time unlike Ireland and Scotland, it is not an outright ban, in other words it is a social decision, not one based on workers health. Although I suspect this will change in the coming years.

So there we go, another vice is prohibited -and I have to say that whilst I personally regret this change, it is only right that those who do not smoke will no longer have to suffer the consequences of second hand smoke.

But it does again remind me of all that has changed during my lifetime, and how foods which were once formed the staple diet is no longer deemed "healthy"

Full cream milk
Fried foods (Chips / Fish / Sausages / )
Real bread ( although does anybody remember Slimcea bread ?)
Double Cream

There is whole industry removing "things" from perfectly natural products - have you seen the so called skimmed milk, with no fat content - it looks like grey water - WHY ? -perhaps they should have a word with cows and tell them to stop producing real milk. And guess what - these products are more expensive than the real thing, a s they have to spend inordinate sums of money to remove, whatever it is there is to much of. Why would anybody want caffeine free coffee - if you want that - drink water.

The whole world seems to have gone overboard with this health thing, and it seems every other day we get another health warning - does anybody actually understand what a cholesterol level is ?

The good thing is that my tender age, I have long since stopped worrying about such things - as every time I have a check up - I seem to be disgustingly healthy - must be doing something right.

Now speaking of life's absurdities- here is gem of staggering proportions. You may remember in a previous blog I mentioned the Rev Juris Calitis, who is a Lutheran vicar of 40+ years standing, Professor of Theology at Riga University, Vicar at the Anglican church - St. Saviours in Riga, and a practising Lutheran pastor at the Lutheran church in Old Riga. - Well in the case of the latter I should say he was - as the Lutheran Archbishop of Latvia and his committee have decided that he is no longer a fit person to act as pastor, as he has seriously transgressed !! - His sin ?- he allowed a gay pride parade to meet in St. Saviours ( NB this is an Anglican Church NOT a Lutheran church), AND he attended a Moonie conference, in his role of Professor of Theology.

Apparently all of this was to much much for the Morons in the Lutheran church, so they have banned him or excommunicated him - whatever.

Now to add injury to insult they have also decided to close the church and ban the 150+ members of the church, such that they are no longer deemed to be Lutheran nor will they have a place of worship in Riga. Wonder what plans they have for building in the Old city - Mmmmm - could it be money ?

And they call themselves Christians ? - I think not - I really wonder if JC ever came back whether he would be allowed to join any church.

Here is man who lives his faith every day (remember he is the father figure at Zvannieki - surrendered his pension to the home) - but the dipsticks who run the church no longer consider him to be a fit person.

The only thing religion appears to the world, is the potential for conflict, be it domestically or nationally - and it comes as no surprise to see that every church has created a hierarchy similar to that of the military - I wonder why ?

Well with that moan of my chest, let me return to matters of Riga, the weather this year is decidedly indifferent - the magic of summer has yet to appear - but one piece of magic did happen on Monday.

I visited Zvannieki along with representatives of Rietumu Bank, and it looks very likely that they will be kind enough to fund the improvements that we wish to make to the home. So next step is to V... ( Australian / Latvian - builder of sorts) out of comatose state, such that he prepare a proper quotation, that we can submit to the bank. So every time you see him remind him that he has promised to have this by Friday of this week !!

Also Lattelecom (have you ever seen such a new dumb logo ?) will reconnect the phone line on June 2nd - -so I will purchase new telephone handset from our Smiley fund account.

So there are - we some good - some bad - some just plain stupid happenings in Riga - but thats Latvia for you.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Its a funny old world

The one thing about a writing this blog, is that you never know who reads its, where they come from, or indeed how they find you.

Well last weekend a young lady from Upchurch, Medway, UK searched for "Riga 1919" and lo and behold found my blog in regards to last years Remembrance Day memorial service in Jelgava

It transpires that her Great Grandfather was one of the people killed in action in 1919 - she e-mailed me to say and I quote


I just wanted to say a big Thank you for this post and well- the whole of your blog which I really enjoy reading. I also attended the Ceremony at Jelgava and had a chuckle at some of your experiences .

I live in the UK but have visited Riga 3 times due to my interest in my Family History. My Great Grandfather was one of 9 killed in action during 1919 while serving aboard HMS Dragon at Riga.Thanks to your blog I've been inspired to set up a website about HMS Dragon and start a blog myself.

It's early days for both projects but I thought I would give you some credit and my thanks!!

I would like if possible to use one or 2 of your photos on my website and blog as I didn't get a chance to use my camera on the day.

I'll be back in Riga later this year and I'll look out for you!
Lu x


By the way..I have nothing but praise for The Earl Of Carlisle who has been so useful with my Family Research did much of the research necessary to confirm the names of those killed in action and has pushed for there to be a permanent Memorial to those killed in action in the Baltic during the fight for Independence during 1918-20.

Thanks to him 2 plaques now bear these names, the first in Tallinn and the 2nd at Portsmouth Cathedral. A 3rd is due to be unveiled in Riga later this year. "

If you would like to check out Lu's blog go to or for her web page on the events of 1919 visit - I found the latter to be real interesting.

Also her comments in regards to the Earl of Carlisle go along way to explaining why he was there and the part he has played in not allowing those who died in Riga to be forgotten.

Well last weekend saw a stunning game of Rugby, with Munster running out worthy winners, but what was really amazing (at least to me) was to see the crowds both in the Millenium Stadium and in Limerick, where it appeared the whole population plus some, were out in the streets watching the game. God the celebrations that night will be talked about for the next few years.

Oh, and in case you are wondering Sweden won the World Ice Hockey championship, and to make it a Scandinavian double, the Finnish rock band won the Euro-vision Song Contest, I think they are going to have to change the title for next year to European Crap Song contest - who in god's name voted for that song - well the UK gave it 12 points (the maximum) - so that explains a lot !!

For anybody visiting Riga in the next few days, bring an umbrella, the weather for the last few days has seen some pretty heavy rain, and temperatures around 8-9 degrees - not exactly summer.

With championship over, I guess the British cretins will have the town to themselves for the rest of the summer, although hopefully the majority will be saving their pennies, so that they can go and watch the World Cup in Germany.

So to Lu, many thanks for your kind comments and of course you can use any photographs you wish, and I look forward to meeting with you, when you are next in Riga - See you in De Lacey's !

Friday, May 19, 2006

Life is full of little challenges

As someone who is around 6ft tall, I can honestly say that I have never found my height, weight offering any particular difficulties with life in general. But for those who are otherwise challenged then even the simple things in life can prove to be challenging.

Frequent blog readers may remember my comments about our vertically challenged Irish bar owner, who suffers from vertigo when asked to get a drink from one of the top shelves behind the bar.

Well this week saw another such person face a similar challenge due to their lack of height - the challenge to get up on the new bar stools in De Lacey's.

Now I am sure that when J..... bought these new stools earlier this year, he did not realise the problems that "little persons" might have in getting up on them.

But a challenge it was, in the first effort she tried (without success) to mount the elongated bench seat next to the window, but this challenge was similar to what I would face if trying to climb Mount Everest - -impossible, even with frantic assistance of her partner, it proved mission impossible. So- it was decided that the bar stool might be a better option, albeit that it was of a similar height to the bench seat - but here a little ingenuity was employed, by cunningly placing a similar stool next to the one onto which she aspired to climb onto, and by using the foot stool built into the said stool, and again ably assisted by her partner, and with an action similar to climbing onto a horse, up she went - success.

Needless to say she did not move all evening other than when it was time to home.

I will refrain from mentioning any names, thereby protecting the innocent, but to J...., can you arrange to have a pair of steps, for those like yourself, who are vertically challenged, but still wish to take advantage of your new bar stools.

I have not mentioned the smiley fund for some time, but to all of those you have supported the cause be advised that the bank balance recently increased by Ls220.00 thanks to the kind generosity of J... ( Irish Builder) and J..... ( Australian/Latvian with hair like Oor Wullie) - only those who have read the Sunday Post will understand this ! - and it is planned to visit the home next Wednesday along with Rietumu Bank - and following this visit I hope we can commit to getting the kitchen & house refurbished this summer, and indeed make a little progress ala the extension.

And finally with the Heineken Cup to look forward I wish you all a pleasant weekend, and just to once again demonstrate what a beautiful city Riga can be I leave you with this picture, which is one of the best I have seen.

Will bring you the result of Ice Hockey championship as and, as I know many of you can hardly wait ( until is over !)

Monday, May 15, 2006

The Five S's

Well as we all know the World Ice Hockey championship continues unabated, or in the case of Latvia continuously beaten, but you have to admire the Latvian supporters, even when the team was getting trashed 9-0, the supporters showed their admiration for the referee(s)by donating coins to them - well actually casting them onto the ice rink, so that they could collect them. No record of how much was donated, but such generosity - apparently one kind supporter even donated a shoe. How he knew the referee needed one I do not know.

The papers have reported a number of arrests during the hockey championship, with the Finns leading the arrest league ( now there is a surprise) - but the best one was a slightly inebriated Finn, who on leaving the Arena, reported to the police that someone had stolen his boat, which he claimed he had moored outside the arena. Needless to say he did spend the night in bunk - a police bunk. (just in case you are wondering the Riga arena is landlocked)

Saturday did take myself, S...... (Welsh - likes Rugby) and his good lady A..... (likes Lava bread) off to the sea side, in order that she could enjoy for herself the sun, sand and sea at Jurmula.

As you can see it was a beautiful sunny day, and having strolled along the beach, we took ourselves off to strut our stuff on the main boulevard, whereupon A..... sampled some Latvian Saldiem.

We being men partook of a well deserved beer, before we headed for Riga.

As has been mentioned before the hotels and restaurants of Riga were all prepared for a bumper season during the Ice Hockey Championships. To maximise what they thought would be sell out, they decided to significantly increase prices. I am delighted to report that in nearly all cases the hotels have a significant number of empty rooms - serves them right for trying to profiteer.

Which brings me to Saturday afternoon De Lacey's were showing the English Cup final - and as you might guess the Liverpudlian cretins were there in force - surprise - surprise we did not go in. So it was off Tim McShanes, which was pleasantly quiet ( remember no SKY TV) - but horror - the price for a beer, a cider and a glass of water had rocketed to over Ls7.00. Appalled at these prices, we bid a quick farewell and took ourselves of to Paddies, again, at least upstairs it was reasonably quiet, even with the Cup Final on, but again the prices for drinks was nearly double the normal prices.

I am delighted to report that the one establishment which has NOT increased its prices, is De Lacey's - perhaps explains why it was mobbed, unlike the others. So to J..... ( he of diminutive stature, heart of gold AND with a good sense for ongoing business) - Congratulations on having to sense to keep normal prices, thereby ensuring that those of us who regularly frequent the pub will continue to do so, unlike the other establishments whose owners clearly do not value our business.

Well this week should see Latvia's interest in the Hockey come to an end, but as we still have another week to go, I guess we just have to make do with Scandinavian contingent to prevent Canada from romping away with championship. Unfortunately the Finns have a good team so their moronic supportes will be with us for another week.

Next weekend sees the final of the Heineken Cup in Cardiff, and thanks to J... (Australian and dabbles in wood) - he has arranged for the upstair bar ( well one corner of it) to be reserved so we can watch the Rugby.

This is godsend as the Rugby final conflicts with one of the Ice Hocket semi-finals.

So there we have it another week, and to A....., I trust you enjoyed your five S's on Saturday
Sun - Sand - Sea - Saldiem and ..... (the fifth being a private matter between S...... and A......).

Monday, May 08, 2006

The mating cry of a lonely ice hockey fan

Well it has started, that's the IIHF World Hockey , and last weekend saw a real invasion from fans, in particular from the Northern hemisphere, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Belarus, etc. I have to confess that in general they are a well behaved bunch, and mingle well both prior to and after the games, well with one exception - the Finns. What is about them, they are loud, obnoxious and generally polluted, just like our beloved English football cretins.

Latvia got off to a reasonable start, but then along came Finland last night, and to put it mildly we got whipped. But there is still a chance that Latvia will qualify for the next round.

Well as I mentioned before, this weekend really did see the start of Spring, the sun was shining, many of the outdoor cafes were open for business, and with the visitors the place was really buzzing - nice.

I took the chance on Saturday to wander through one of the many parks in central Riga, and it is amazing just what you miss if you do not really look.

First port of call was the bridge, where a certain young man from New Zealand M... and his good Lady L......,as is the Latvian tradition, placed a padlock with there names on it onto the bridge railing. Well M... & L....... your love is clearly still going strong, as it is still there !

Further into the park were two oil drums, suspended in the air, and connected with a wire. - -What to do ? - well for those of us who are of an older generation, when we were young we used to get two cans, puncture a hole in the bottom of them, and connect them with a piece of string. When you pulled the string tight, then you could speak to one another - well this was modern day version, instead of string it was electrical cable and inside the drums were a loudspeaker and microphone, so you could speak to someone who had stuck their head inside the oil drum. No idea what the purpose of this was, but it was fascinating just to watch people trying to figure out what it was.

In another part of a park came across a statue of Mirzo Ulugbek - a Uzbekistan Mathematician and astronomer - 1394 - 1449.

For info go to
The statue was gift from President Islam Karimov Of Uzbekistan in April 2004, thanking the people and government of Latvia for honoring Ulugbek. He said that this monument is a unique symbol of the strengthening ties between the two peoples.

Finally made to the beer garden in the park, and saw some of the most amazing straw figures, Bears, Swans, Chickens etc - a real work of art.
As ever if you want to see full size images click on the small pictures

Sunday was kind of weird, temperature in Riga was 21 degrees, so I thought I would take myself of to the beach and get some healthy sea air - week I lasted about 20 minutes the temperature on the coast was 12.5 degrees - so I decided that I would settle for less healthy city air - well De Laceys to be precise - and surprise not to many cretins of either the football or ice hockey persuasion.

On route back to home came across a small music festival in Jakobs Barracks, where there was a kokle ensembly playing (a what I can hear you ask - - for full info.
But the combination of the music and lady singing was truly wonderful , so I spent some time just listening - so passed a pleasant afternoon, before returning to watch the Latvia v Finland ice hockey -but we will not dwell on that.

Found a nice restaurant in Alunana iela Ciiz Bars - a bit pricey, but very good - and pasta dishes are superb, and I see another one, again in Alunana iela called Le Bohemme has also opened, but indoors only. Have not tried it yet, but if I remember correctly its previous incarnation was a bar with two snooker tables.

And finally that mating cry - well it appears that in the ice hockey world in order for the fans to keep in touch with each other, they acquire a horn like device, and then when they want to find a friend or fellow supporter, the blow into the horn, and create a sound not unlike that of a duck horn - but louder - the most often heard call is Daa.....Daa....Da..Da..Da.Da......Daaaaaaaaa ! - Again not sure exactly what they are communicating, possibly like the duck it is a mating call.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

The Mouse That roared

Anybody remember that Peter Sellers film ? - well last week took me off to the UK, part business - part social.

The business bit I will skip - but the social side saw me get into the fence erection business on behalf of my daughter, what with my bad back and using muscles that have not been used in years, the following day saw in serious state of disrepair - and the mouse ? - ah well it seems that a small (very small) field mouse had taken up residency in my ex 's garden shed - and was setting about devouring all that it could find.

So my challenge was to "catch" the mouse.

Of course being a garden shed, meant that it was stuffed with all sorts, so they had to be removed, before any mouse catching could take place. As usual in these circumstances it was only upon removing the very last piece of garden accoutrement, that said mouse was spotted.

The next 15 minutes were spent with ex ( D...... and an English Lady), shouting from outside the shed "catch it !" - which if you have ever tried is easier said than done.

Eventually with the aid of a plastic box, the mouse was captured - but now what ? - kill it - sorry cannot do that. So off I went taking my new found friend of on a walk to find a safe place in which to release him (or her ?) - Another first in my life - taking a mouse for a walk ! ( I can feel a Chic Murray moment coming on). Now I am not sure if it roared, but one thing was for certain it was not a happy mouse, being removed from its comfortable lodgings.

Now came the tricky bit, replacing contents of shed back in in roughly the same order as when they came out.

In amongst the socialising I had another opportunity to see my beautiful granddaughter, and has she grown - and in such a short space of time.

Now to all my blog readers - I know this blog is supposed to about Riga, but just every now and then I am allowed to deviate into my domestic life. )

If you want to see a BIG picture of little S.... ( English - but think Distell) - then click on picture.

But back to Riga on Monday I came, and what a joy to arrive at airport that is of a manageable size, Gatwick is not bad, but how far do you really have to walk to catch a plane ? and now we have the Skyway, which is just another name for a big bridge, with huge escalators. Apparently aircraft can pass underneath ( Why bother ?).

Anyhow the cretins were still in town, no doubt thanks to the Bank Holiday. But speaking of cretins, from this Friday it is going to get really interesting - The World Ice Hockey Championship starts here in Riga and lasts for two weeks

So in addition to the English and the Irish, we have Swedes, Finns, Canadians, Swiss etc etc, all competing to watch the game, be it Football or Ice Hockey - It is going to be interesting - is it not.

Latvia's first game is on friday night, so I will take myself down to Congress Nams where they have erected a huge screen and of course the mandatory beer tent. Will don my Latvian Tee shirt and join the hords shouting encouragement to the Latvian team. Wonder what the Cretins will make of it all ?

For those of you who read this blog but do not live or visit Latvia, thought that you might like to know that Spring has finally arrived. All over Riga the Trees are sprouting leaves, and the outdoor cafes are appearing on the scene - it is like watching a city in transformation, from one dark grey place into one which is a joy to behold - Magical.

Today is a simply beautiful day, the sun is shining, the temperature is around 22 degrees, and we are on holiday - remembering Latvia's first declaration of independance, I think. So parades all across town, and the chance just to sit in the sunshine, read a book, drink a beer and enjoy - wonderful. Unfortunately back to work tomorrow.