Monday, July 17, 2006

Bear with me

What can I say about the 8oo'th celebrations in Cesis at the weekend - brilliant. Same atmosphere as at Riga 800 celebrations, just smaller. The weather held up, albeit a little cooler than in previous days.

The town center was totally closed off from traffic, and on every street and park there was something going on. As ever there was all the usual "traditional folk" goodies for sale, one which caught my (but not my wallet) was items made from stone - mugs, plates, ornaments, earings - but all of them from natural stone. The pint mug got my attention, as it took all my strength just to lift it - and it was empty.

As ever Mr Raimond Pauls was in attendance to lead, a 200+ choir. the main stage was in the Cesis town centre, and at a guess 10,000 people packed in to join in - being a man of a mature age, my legs were not up to standing for over 2.5 hours, so I sat down just of the square and enjoyed the music and the atmosphere - and watched the world go by.

As anyone who has visited Latvia, you quickly learn that they love to sing and dance, and this is irrespective of age - so I watched in total admiration at a group of dancers, who's average age must have 70+ - and they danced there hearts out.

I have mentioned some time ago that you can play a game in Riga, of "spot the ugly one" - females that is - and how difficult it can be to find one. Well now I know why - they are all in Cesis - or perhaps they were just tourists. (Apologies to anyone in Cesis - it was just an observation)

To avoid having to travel up to Cesis in wee hours of the Saturday morning, I had decided to stay in a hotel, in nearby Ligatne. So anybody considering venturing outside Riga, and looking for a really nice hotel - I recommend this one to stay at - but not to eat in ! - the food is well awful. Do not know why - as the menu looked good, but when my fish dish arrived ( patience is virtue here) - it was tasteless, and the risotto - was at a guess made about a month ago, and can best be described as stodgy. The wine I ordered arrived at perfect room temperature, but as it was Semilion Chardonnay - I suggested that an ice bucket might be in order.

The hotel name is Luca Miga (The Bears Den)

It is set in middle of the Gauja National Park, which is itself well worth a visit.

But back to the celebrations, well after the concert finished in the square, headed towards the stadium, for the Hansabanka Disco night - and as you might guess my anticipation knew no bounds. Who could resist "Right Said Fred", Bellinni, and of course Lou what-his-name - well as it transpired - ME - managed to stay the distance until about 11.30pm ( well past my bedtime) - having endured Bellinni three girl singers who sing a cross between Samba and Rap. so having enjoyed my day it was time to head back to Riga and bed.
Sunday transpired to what can only be described as a lazy day, and so it was with some effort I dragged myself of to the old town, to indulge in two of my favourite Sunday pastimes - read a book, over a pint of beer. But tragedy the pub was closed !!! - all that indicated that all was not well, was a small sign saying " Temporarily closed to enable refurbishment" - What did it mean ? - were they going to raise the floor behind the bar, in order for J.... (smallish Cork'ish type of a person) to be able to reach the top shelves ? or are they going to install a separate smoking area ? - or extra toilets ? - all will be revealed after tonight's visitation.

Speaking of this establishment, It has pointed out that I still have not spelled the pubs name right - so for the last time - The pubs name is de Lacy's ( note the dramatic difference from my last spelling correction) - small d - to go with the small j....... no doubt.

Ah well a new week has once again begun, which will see me off to the UK on Wednesday - but today has again seen the temperature rise to a forecasted 24 degrees, and similar for the rest of the week.

My apologies for providing mis leading info re the Riga Gay Pride parade - it is next weekend - my comments remain the same as in previous blog.

Finally an old friend arrives in Riga this weekend A... (English and does not have drink problem) - so I will catch up with him when I get back. But for anyone who remembers him from his time in Riga, he will no doubt be found in - Sams - de Lacy's and /or Dickens. He is the one with the Guiness in front of him - and given half a chance he will lead the Karaoke.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Whats in a name ?

It has been brought to my attention by a reader from the UK that I have a penchant for mispelling De Lacey's, and he is absolutely right - it should be De Lacy's. Funny how not even young J....( Irish reclusive bar owner) noticed this mistake. - Ah well spelling never was my strong point, but my thanks to the attentive reader.

As to the happenings of this week, well frankly it has been a quiet week, where it was much as I could do, to drag myself down to De Lacy's ( see how quickly I learn !) for beer.

Am I missing not being able to have a cigarette at the same time ?- surprisingly not - but what it will be like in winter, when you will still have to step outside - but I will deal with that when the time comes.

So as you all might gather the weather has remained absolutely stunning, and seems to be continuing into next week.

This weekend I plan to join the celebrations in Cesis, where they are celebrating there 800 anniversary. ( )

Friday night will see an outdoor opera gala, and on Saturday a whole variety of goings on, ending with an outdoor Disco featuring International stars ( I think not) - including Right said Fred ( does anybody remember there hit song ?) and Lou (Be Happy) Bega - interesting !

At he same time as the Disco, another event is being held and I quote -

"Musical performance “In the Light of Lantern”

Taking into account that Cēsis has old and diverse music traditions and many creative groups are working at a professional level, a special dedication for Cēsis anniversary is created. Legend about Cēsis is made as a musically dramatic play. Music of the world known classical composers is used.

At the end of the performance firework will be lighted on Palasta Street."

Now if you will here for the Riga 800, you will remember the fireworks display on the Saturday evening - stunning - but if the above description is correct and it is not simply a mistake in English, then clearly the Firework display - is going to be brief

Whilst it will not have the size of the Riga 800 celebrations of a few years ago, if it can create the same atmosphere, albeit on a smaller scale, and IF the weather holds up, it should make for an enjoyable weekend.

Interesting goings on at Zvannieki this week, last Friday there number increased by seven.

The background to all of this ( taken from Leta news agency)

Seven Somalis granted asylum in Latvia

RIGA, July 13 (LETA) - The Refugee Affairs Appellate Council today decided to grant asylum and alternative status to seven Somali refugees, as the Justice Ministry's representative Jana Saulite told LETA.

The alternative status will be granted to them until the situation in Somalia stabilizes.

As reported, last December the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs said that seven citizens of Somalia, who illegally entered Latvia in August 2005, have no proper grounds for receiving refugee status or any alternative status in Latvia.

Refugee status is granted to a person fearing persecution in the country of their citizenship or previous host country (if the person is stateless) due to race, religion, ethnicity, social status, or political conviction.

If these persons cannot claim refugee status, they may be granted an alternative protection form, if they are under threat of the death penalty, corporal punishment, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment due to internal or external armed conflicts and if they need protection but cannot return to their home country.

Until now, the seven Somalis were in Latvia as asylum seekers. They are now residing in the asylum seekers center "Mucenieki", prior to which they were placed in the Olaine camp for illegal immigrants. Their detention period had expired July 7, and they traveled on and stayed briefly at a farmstead in Skujene County.

As reported earlier, the Somalis arrived the morning on August 5, 2005 in Latvia and went to the Red Cross in Riga and explained to the staff their expedition to flee their war-torn homeland. After arriving in Latvia, they asked for asylum, but were denied the request.

In March this year, the Refugee Affairs Appeal Council turned down their complaint against the Office of Citizenship and Migration Affairs' decision to deny them refugee or alternative status in Latvia.

In May, the Somalis submitted to the Justice Ministry a new application with a plea to grant them refugee status.

What the above does not say is that after being released last Friday, they were simply kicked out of the camp at Oliane - with no money, and no arrangements made for them to stay anywhere.

Not quite sure how they ended up at Zvannieki, but they did - and there they have stayed, they are not at the so called asylum seekers center "Mucenieki" - as when the border guards turned up Zvannieki - they were poltely told that the children ( thats what they are) would be staying there.

So much for Latvia, and its compassionate officials - but again the Ladies S..... (Canadian/Latvian) and S..... ( Latvian) - have turned up trumps - despite the obvious logistical and liguistic problems that it will cause. They have even registered two of the younger children for school next term.

One of them even has a piece of shrapnel still in her leg, from her time in Somalia - so as J.... ( Irish builder) was out at the home yesterday, he in partership J..... ( Irish smoker) arranged for visit to a Doctor in Riga, to have her leg examied and hopefully have the shrapnel removed.

So to the doom and gloom merchants around the world - just see what a little love and care can do for those less fortunate than ourselves.

This seems an appropriate time to remind all that the Smiley Fund is still open, and anyone who feels they would like to help us to help the home, please make a donation, every amount big or small helps.

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

Have good weekend, and for those of you in Riga this weekend, watch out for the Gay Pride Parade, where once again Latvian intolerance of such things will again be on display - pity, but another indication of how far Latvian officials and society have to go in regards to an open society.

Friday, July 07, 2006

PJ's at PJ's

I have been somewhat remiss in keeping the blog updated, but over the last few days we have had some simply unbelievable weather, averaging 30 degrees plus, and the forecast for the next few days is simply stunning - see below
So to all of you out , particularly in the southern hemisphere - eat your heart out !!

For those of in Riga, at this time of year one of the joys is to sit outside - have a beer - -and just watch the world go by. Well the other day sitting at De Lacey's ( OK it is not outside - but the windows were open) - and along came two young men in there look at me I got a Ferrari type car.

However their timing was poor, and they chose to arrive just as the the rubbish truck arrived - so they were stuck - and not in the prime area - De Lacey's on one side and the Hesburger take aways on the other side. So for the best part of 10 minutes they sat having to suffer the bemused looks from us poorer mortals - serves them right - as everybody knows the rubbish truck arrives at exactly 7.0pm every evening.

This week saw a benefit concert held in St Saviours church, on behalf of the Zvannieki home, it was a delightful concert - but the highlight was at the end when all of the children, immaculately dressed, assembled at the front of the alter, and proceeded to sing, it brought the house down and I have to confess, tears to my eyes, hopefully I will get pictures at a later date. On the subject of the home, the work on the road will be started next week, courtesy of J... ( Irish - master road builder) and also through his company work on the exterior and interior of the house should be done in July / August.

Now as I mentioned in a previous blog Riga can be a dangerous place, and I know that in publishing the following images, I will be putting my life on the line, but as a fearless blog writer I feel it is my responsibility to advise others what they could see if they choose to accept an invitation to join P.... ( English with passing interest in horses) - at his country home , near to Tukums. These images are not for the faint hearted,-

You have been warned !! - though to be fair what do any of look like first thing in the morning, but as for style, well the PJ's take some beating - Nice one P..... ! - I should point out that out that it was not I you tok these images - just one on P..... friends (hmmmm) - he who sells banged about goods - but I promised not to repeat his name, in case retribution was to take place.

Now as I have said before it always nice to get feedback from readers re the blog, a few weeks back I published some not to complimentary comments re the Opera Spoks - well in response to this I received an e-mail ( not a comment) from a Theatre critic based in the UK - suffice to say he was not to pleased with that which I had wrote.

I feel therefore obliged to share with you his comments as well as his amazing insight as to my personality - and remember all of this just from reading my blog -

"dear sir
i just happened upon your comments on the opera spoks concert. it is clear that you have faeces in your ears if you think that the english christine screeched her way through the concert. how can you possibly say that the latvian singers out classed her. are you deaf? the vibratos in their voices were far too wide and their acting appalling and if anyone sreeched it was the latvian soprano who played carlotta-scream would describe better how she attempted to sing. your opinions are obviously pathetically biased.

i agree that the english phantom was past it. there are far better british phantoms that they could have chosen. but being a professional theatre critic who has seen phantom in the west end on numerous occasions, i think that the christine sang beautifully as well as looked beautiful and her acting was charming. better than the christines i have seen in the west end. did you not see from her biography that she has played christine in the west end anyway.

you are obviously a nasty, bitchy old queen (nasty old homosexual in other words) who has nothing better to do than to write complete rubbish on a pointless website. how sad and lonely your life must be.

blogg off! "

As you will gather I think I touched a nerve - so to S.... T..... - many thanks for taking the time - sorry you do not like the blog, - and if the opportunity ever arises I look forward to reading your critiques of theatre performances, as clearly you have an amazing way with words.

To everyone else have a great weekend, as clearly the call of the beach will be strong, oh and of course there is always the World Cup final, and the beginning of the Tri-Nations championship, and to all of those who are planning to visit Riga, -

A word of warning to the smokers among you - YOU CANNOT ! - as of 1st July smoking is effectively banned in bars, restaurants etc, even to the extent of the outdoors bars and cafes - however the good news is that whilst who cannot smoke in the bar - you can still buy them there - Nice one J.... (Irish Pub owner of International renown). Now that what I call an entrepreneurial spirit .

PS : for those who do not know and have not guessed PJ's was an English/American slangterm for pygamas

Monday, July 03, 2006

A Darker Side to Life

Since I started this blog, I have spoken often about Latvia, and Riga - and how it has proved to be surprisingly nice place to live.

However I have always known there was a dark side to life here, particularly in Riga. Since my earliest days when I was at Lattelekom, where I was told I "needed " protection following my decision to raise the telephone charges. A decision which I knew was not greatly appreciated by the population.

Did I really need protection ? - frankly I do not know, but for two weeks I was guarded 24 hours a say, by two somewhat large gentlemen, who permanently carried guns.

Likewise it was not uncommon to hear of foreign nationals being coerced to hand over there phone, wallets etc, if they were found in or around the old city either late at night or in the early hours of the morning -more often than not this was following a visit to a night club and having their drink spiked - in order to make them more compliant.

So as I have said anyone who cares to listen, be careful in Riga, especially late at night, and if you are a little worse for wear, and if you choose to visit one of the many strip-clubs, then beware, because at he very least you are going to loose a lot more than your shirt, and should you decide to debate the bill you are presented with, then you will meet some of the best money collectors in town, with a very persuasive arguments as to why you should pay.

Now the reason I have decided to issue these warnings, is in light of recent event involving an Englishman who was just a year younger than myself.

T..... came to Riga about 18 months ago, to seek a new life - I have to confess on first meeting him I cannot say that I was endeared to him, indeed at one time he did get a mention on the blog. But the reality was that he did no one any harm as far as I know, and by and large kept his own company.

Two weeks ago, he was found murdered in his apartment - since then a number of stories have circulated as to he met his death - but as to the truth - well I do not think we will ever know. It just about go a one inch paragraph in the local newspapers, where it was claimed by the police that he had been killed a by a woman - who then apparently on her own proceeded to rob the apartment of various items and somehow get them back to her home - well outside Riga.

It would appear that The British Embassy have done little to assist his immediate family - son and daughter - who arrived for a remembrance service at St. Saviours church. I did attend if only to pay my respects - not because he was a friend, simply a man who had sought a new life in Riga - but obviously fell into bad company for whatever reason.

So to all who chance upon this blog, and are considering visiting Riga, just remember that there is not a single weekend goes by, when someone does not get turned over.