Friday, June 23, 2006

Ligo & St. Johns's Day

Janni Day - this is celebrated on the 24th June, with the Ligo celebrations on the 23rd

Today is national holiday when all and sundry head into the forrests to stay overnight and celebrate Janni Day - so why am I writing this in the office ? - because our security system has gone pear shaped, and I have to wait on the security company to come and fix it.

Now being the National Holiday, and when everything is outdoors , what kind of weather do we have, well last evening / night it was a serious thunderstorm, and today it it is just pissing down, so not a lot different from a Bank Holiday in the UK. And if you are interested it is forecast to ber 30+ degrees on Monday , when we go back to work - personally I think God has at times a sick sense of humour !

Although I have published before here is the background these celebrations, at least in Latvia

"One of the largest holiday festivals in Latvia, and Lithuania is St. John's Day which celebrates the summer solstice. Traditionally, the evening festivities last the entire night. During this celebration men wear crowns of oak leaves and women put on wreaths of wild flowers. A bonfire is built, around which the nights activities take place.

This year's Festival presented a variety of St. John's Day traditions on the Mall, including wreath making, a bonfire, and dancing
. "

It also involves getting seriously drunk and jumping over bonfires, and if recent times are repeated the highest daily death rate involving motorists - carnage !

It also helps if your name is Janis, as everybody is obliged to give you a present.

Yesterday in Old Riga there was huge open Air Fair, where again all the tradional gifts were for sale, alongwith the mandatory flower and tree headbands. The women wear the flower headbands, and the men the ones made from the leafs of trees.

Given the amount of tree type stuff around, there must have been some serious deforestation taken place in the last few days.

Last night I had planned to attend the concert in Dome Square, but as the thunderstom struck at 6.45 pm, I and the rest of Riga headed for shelter, and in my case then home - a pity.

So if your name is John, have a great day, and if it not, well have a great day anyway.

And to anybody thinking of invading Riga, today is a good day - it is deserted !

To Australians the world over - congratulations on getting the last 16 of the world cup, but do not say I did not forecast it, even if my other favourite team Trinidad & Tobago did not

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Zvannieki Bank Account Details

For some weird technical reason the link (on right of screen) to Zvannieki Bank account no longer works, so until I learn how to fix - details are :

Rietumu Bank Brivibas iela
Account Name : Zvannieku Majas
BAN Code : LV80RTMB0000600804033

Sun, Sea and Spoks

Well that was an interesting week - Sailing, opera and Rugby

The company troops, along with the hangers-on ( S..... Welsh & I.. Scottish ) duly assembled at the marina - to board our Yacht. Do not get to carried away with your imagination, it was a boat of questionable vintage, but as the skipper was even older - we could but assume that all was well.

The evening was simply stunning as we sailed down the Daugava at a leisurely pace ( Snails walk faster !) - but as we were in no hurry and the food wine and beer were to hand, we simply sat back and enjoyed the views.

The trip down the Daugava cannot be described as scenic, this is a working port so the views consisted mainly of cranes, piles of coal ( where does it come from ?) and general dockland area's.

The trip down river took the best part of two hours, but on entering onto the Baltic Sea proper, then up went the sails - and over we keeled at the customary 40 degrees list.

I cannot lay claim to be great lover of the string and rags brigade type of sailors, but when all you have to do is sit back and enjoy it certainly is a wonderful way to enjoy the sea.

After some thirty minute of "sailing" we began our return trip. whereupon we were treated to one of the most beautiful sunsets that I have in a long time.

I have promised the said Welshman that I would make no derogatory comment in regards to his sailing attire, specifically the Shirt - but as his good Lady has apparently banned him from wearing it in Sunny Wales it can only be viewed in Riga.

So ended a perfect evening, good company, stunning weather.

Now lets us talk about Opera Spoks ( Phantom of the Opera).

The grand event was being held in the open area called Mezaparks, in what must be one of the largest outdoor arena's anywhere. It is a beautiful setting. Having arrived early - as opera was due to start at 9.30pm - I duly took my seat and looked at the "stage".

Basically it was a giant white sheet ( ok it was a projector screen) - suspended above the stage, a slightly smaller TV screen to the right of the stage, and again suspended in the air.

Now the actual stage was more like a pop concert stage.

Now I have to admit before I go further, that I have seen he original Andrew Lloyd Webber stage show in London - so it was pretty obvious that we were not going to see that - but nonetheless expectations were high, amongst the now assembled audience ( I would guess around 10 thousand people were there).

So 9.30pm came and went, but no sign of any action, finally along came 10.00pm and then lo and behold all was revealed - we were waiting for the Latvian president to arrive, and park her backside on the Presidential seat.

Finally the Show began, all the familiar music was there, but if I explain how it was presented, on the big sheet were static images of god only knows what, but one of them was a picture of star constellation !! - what that has to do with Phantom of the Opera - I have no idea !, then on the stage came the stars - well at least second rate English singers playing the Phantom and Christine. Well the Phantoms mask was clearly a painted on thing, all that was missing was a red nose and we would have had Coco the Clown. As for the Lady playing the part of Christine - well she screeched rather than sang. The accompanying Latvian cast, frankly made the English stars look second rate.

Now all the songs were sung in English, but to ensure the audience got the general drift of the story there was a Latvian narrator - weird to say the least.

And if you are wondering about the TV screen, well without that 90% of the audience would have no idea what was happening on the stage itself. They might as well have stayed at home and watched it on TV.

One final comment when was the last time anybody went to see the Phantom of the Opera, and had the ability drink a beer, eat Crisps, ice creams etc ?

I made it to the interval, and took my leave - Sorry Andrew - if you had been there I think you would have cried, but no doubt you get a percentage of the takings.

The weekend consisted of Rugby, Rugby and Rugby on Saturday - in which all Northern hemisphere teams got stuffed - but a good day was had by all - and of course a few liquid refreshments were consumed.

Sunday was simply beautiful, and so it was off to Jurmula to enjoy a barbie, I understand the Celtic trio also spent the day on the beach - magical.

So as I put fingers to keyboard, I can tell that today temperature is 30 degrees, and similar weather is forecasted for the rest of the week.

Riga is simply looking stunning in the sunshine - wish you were all here

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

And the chicken said - clean me !

One of our little "gang" C.... ( English property owner of ill repute) has recently "nearly" finished refurbishment of a house in Jurmula ( a wonderful beach resort only 15 minutes from Riga).

Set in a rural setting, close by to woodland - thereby ensuring a plentiful supply of mosquitoes.

When I say nearly finished, he has until Thursday of this week to finish it in its entirety, before his guests from Moscow arrive, to enjoy the rural retreat.

To celebrate this grand event, we S..... ( Welsh - would be entrepreneur) - I.. (Scottish beancounter - but a waste of space when it comes to bringing me over Scots pies) and myself were invited to a barbecue and a few drinks.

On route from Riga, we received a call to ask if we could purchase (1) bottle opener and (2) matches - this is an early indication that house was not quite completed - oh could we also get the meat for the barbecue.

On our arrival we discovered C.... trying to assemble said barbecue - with a modicum of success.

I should explain at this time that all concerned with the exception of myself were in casual attire, as befits a summer barbie - myself well as I was referred to as the "penguin" I will leave my dress to your imagination - other than to say it was my usual business look.

So who was the one to do the cooking - of course me !! However it did also required the washing up talents of S......, as not having any proper cooking utensils, it was difficult to fully control the deceased chicken on the barbecue, and there were time when they seemed to suffer from gravity and make their way onto the ground - thereby requiring some washing before returning to said burning

So to sum it all up

We are invited to a barbecue, but we must bring the food, the matches, bottle opener and the wine - cook it then eat it !

C... contribution can be summed up thus

Provide paper plates + salad thingy (pre-prepared by supermarket) and beer.

Nonetheless a good evening

As for the house - well it is looking good, but I would not put bets on it being 100% ready on Thursday, and one thing is for sure Latvia is crying out for someone who actually knows how to lay a fitted carpet.

So what else awaits my pleasure this week, well first of we ( the company) are off on a cruise this evening -not sure what the vessel on which we will alight is, other than it can hold 15 people, but apparently cannot go to sea - so the question is can it go on water - all will be revealed at 7.00pm this evening. The good news is that the weather is absolutely stunning - nearly 30 degrees.

Then on Friday evening off to the opera, but this time outdoors at Mezaparks - and the opera - is Opera Spoks or as it is better know Phantom of the opera !! - should be interesting.

Then the weekend brings surfeit of Rugby - starting at 10.30am and finishing in the early evening - Wales, Scotland, Ireland and England are all playing - not sure if my liver will be able to take it all in - as it will involve visits to De Lacey's and Paddies in order to see all of the games. Needless to say it will be the usual inebriates who will attend S...., I..., J...(Australian) and J.... (Irish).

So an interesting week - and hopefully one in which we can bask in the sunshine and simply enjoy all that Riga has to offer.

Finally one word on the world cup - my money is on Trinidad and Tobago to pull a shock result against England

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

One in a million

Yesterday saw the passing of a wonderful Lady, with whom I had the pleasure of working with, during my time with Lattelekom.

Baiba Paegle was the most amazing Lady, always with a smile, that could light up a room, and a work ethic that was second to none.

Baiba had suffered from Cancer for a number of months, indeed years, but in recent months it ravaged her, and although it is some time since I last saw her , I have no doubt that within her, the spirit was as strong as ever, but the disease had long since overcome her bodies ability to fight it.

She will be remembered by many, but for me she will always be the Lady who gave Latvia the finest Directory Enquiry / Information Service in the world - 118, and inspired so many within Lattelekom to seek to better themselves and to provide a service that they could be proud of.

So Baiba this evening I will toast your life, and I will endeavour to bring you, your favourite tipple when I join with your family, friends, and work colleagues to celebrate your life on Thursday.

You will always be one my fondest memories of my time in Latvia

Monday, June 05, 2006

Weekend Escapades

Well once again it is Monday (strange how it happens every week), and the weekend brought a weird mixture of weather. Saturday was stunning, beautiful clear skies and wonderful sunshine, and then came Sunday - dull ,overcast and quite cold.

So which day did I pick to go to the Summer Festival at the the Open Air Museum ?- Sunday of course.

For those who have never been to the museum, it is on the top end of Brivibas, and on a nice day it a lovely place to walk, and within the grounds are all sorts of structures ( mainly wooden), showing elements of Latvian life in times gone bye. But frequently, like this weekend events are organised, where Latvian dance, music and traditional crafts, are given the chance to be seen in the open air.

Last weekend saw probably the largest of these events, whereby hundreds of Latvian craftsman are on hand to sell their wares - some of the pottery has a definite "made in China" feel to it, but otherwise, it all looked hand made to me - so from woolie socks - to beautiful dresses (no not for me !) - freshly made bread, some of which I swear you could build a house with - local honey - wicker chairs - even, and this I think was a first - giant wooden bath tub with a built in wood fire heater. What a glorious thought - to sit in your garden - in a hot tub. One thought did strike me - there appeared to be no plug, so how do you get the water out ?

Then there was Harvey ( remember the film with James Stewart) - well here he was , quite an amazing piece of work, with just straw and wire - pretty nifty I thought, and you buy him for a mere LS 100.00 - I refrained.

But the one thing that does strike about these fairs, is the variety and quality of Latvian craftsmen and women, who clearly are determined to maintain their traditions. Not sure making straw rabbits is traditional though !

Also on hand were a host of folk singers and musicians, and I spent a very enjoyable time listening to a young Kokle group on the main stage, which again demonstrated the Latvian ingenuity, when it come to building a covered stage in the middle of a forest - wonder who is missing a parachute ?

As the weather was a little chilly for my liking, I took myself back into Riga to meet with V.... (Australian/Latvian and part time builder) who has finally managed to produce a quote for getting the work done at Zvannieki. It has only taken him two months to get this done, so Lord only knows how long it will take him to actually get the work done.

On a serious note I think we are going to have difficulty in getting good work men out to do this work, so if anybody out there can recommend someone, who has a proven track record in doing good quality work (Brickwork, Joinery, plumbing and electrical) - please let me know. We now have two of the elements needed to get this work done, Money - work schedule - but no workmen.

It appears we had some seriously aggressive cretins in town last weekend, as they managed to get De Lacey's shut down on Saturday evening - and now with the world cup coming up from next weekend, one can only hope that they are all going to Germany - and we will be spared from drunken English supporters here in Riga - I suspect this just wishful thinking on my part - pity.

Personally I am going to support Trinidad & Tobago and Australia.

Oh and for those who missed it Saturday (or it could have been Sunday) was Family Day - Somehow I missed it, but I am told by S..... (Welsh and plays with plastic things) that he came across a open stage in Dome Square with much speech making going on - so I guess I did not miss much.

Also on Saturday was the Riga Half Marathon, where person of various ages were trying to kill themselves, and by the look of some of them succeeding - and down on the Daugava the annual F2000 speedboat racing was taking place. Did not see any of the latter, but I did hear it - and true to form at least according to J..... (Australian wood thingy) - it always rains on the finals day - -Sunday - and it did !

So as you can see a weekend full of various opportunities, for those who chose to see a little of what goes on in Riga, as opposed to simply planting oneself in a bar and watch some meaningless sport - but of course I also did a little of the latter

Thursday, June 01, 2006

It must be True ?

Well now that S.... (Welsh,and plays with plastic bits) and his good Lady (A... and does not like heights) have both stated that I am becoming a grumpy old man - I guess there must be some degree of truth in it so hear are some thoughts of apparently other grumpy old men....

Funeral Instructions: No fuss or bother. Above all, minimal cost. If you can get away with digging a hole in your back garden then do so. Alternatively, have me stuffed and placed in your living room as a conversation piece. (If I am holding a tray people can put things on me.)

[From the Last Will of Martin Jabez Leese]

When I go, just skin me and put me on top of Trigger.[Roy Rogers, ]

This dying is boring.[The last words of Richard Feynman]

One never feels alone when one is wearing squeaky shoes. [Martin Leese]
Life is shit organised by bastards. [From Grumpy Old Men by Stuart Prebble, 2004]
The meaning of life is that it ends. [Franz Kafka, 1883 to 1924]
Life is like a shit sandwich from which one is required to take a daily bite.
Life is like a joss stick; it stinks and then it's over.
Favour moves that increase options; shy from moves that end well but require cutting off choices; work from strong positions that have many ajoining strong positions.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. But so was yesterday, and look how you messed that up.
Listen: We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you any different
[Timequake by Kurt Vonnegut, 1997]
I feel like a lost sock in the Laundromat of oblivion.
I don't like to face problems head on.I think the best way to solve problems is to avoid them.This is a distinct philosophy of mine.No problem is so big or so complicated that it can't be run away from!
[Copyright © Charlie Brown]
That's one of the remarkable things about life. It's never so bad that it can't get worse.[From The Authoritative Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson, 1990]
Someone in the world has to have bad luck so that the rest of us can enjoy happy and fulfilled lives.
If I had known I was going to live this long, I'd have taken better care of myself.
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation
. [From Walden by Henry David Thoreau, 1854]

Grumpy Free Zone

Well here we are its June 1st, official beginning of Summer and.................. its p........g down with rain -wonderful ! (this is not a complaint just an observation !!)

Last night I was accused by a certain Welshman of getting Grumpy in my old age - me ?

So to prove I am not grumpy I will not even utter a single comment today that could be construed as me complaining about something.

Anybody remember M.... ( New Zealand and consumer of large quantities of Alus) - well he clearly from time read the blog, just to check if I am still alive.

He claims that recently he was in Australia working - does anybody know what he actually does, apart from wooing young ladies in Riga, and absconding with them to New Zealand.

Any how the picture below show him and his good lady L..... not working, but fooling around sight seeing in Echuca on the Murray River in Australia.

Not sure about this one - a pink parrot and a beer, and whats with the smile ? - Hmmmm.....

You can drink and drive - as long as it is a boat ! - but are you not supposed to look where you are going ?

So as you can see he (they) cannot go anywhere without finding the local alcohol shop !

And to close this brief but grumpy free blog a little cartoon which took my fancy

No doubt back to normal in the future, enjoy the summer wherever you are, but if it is Riga, bring an umbrella