Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Slugging it out

Autumn is definitely upon us, the leaves are dropping, and the leaf sweeper upperers are hard at work trying to keep them at bay. Have discovered what they do with them, they dump them either in refuse trucks or in the case of my apartment in the the skip in the back yard.

Last week saw not a lot happening, loads of Rugby at the weekend, albeit that I was seriously under the weather, I managed to catch a few of the games, the best for me being the Leicester match against Munster, with both teams slugging it out in appalling conditions, and with the the last kick of the game winning it for Munster. Lesson to Leicester forwards "do not argue with the referee" because in doing so he moved the penalty 10 yards ( or was it meters ?) forward, and voila three points and the game. Replays showed that it had been a knock on, so the penalty should never have been awarded anyway !!

Cretins as usual, but his weekend saw a seriously obnoxious crowd, hailing from Northern Ireland - but as ever Upstairs at P...... provided a degree of sanctuary.

Riga itself is clearly preparing itself for the onslaught of winter, with all of the squares now empty, with the exception of a few hardy soles, still plying their trade in trying to sell Latvian souvenirs to the tourists - and yes there are still quite a few.

Still awaiting the arrival of my SKY box from I.. (Scottish person with pretensions of being an accountant), he has promised that he has sent it, but if it the promise is anything like his promise to get me some Scottish Pies, then I suspect it will get lost in the mail system between the UK and Latvia.

I have been quite remiss is mentioning a new member to the village, P.... (Finnish with Irish accent !) - recently arrived and working, I think, as an electrical engineer with V...(Australian-Latvian builder of distinction - the distinction being has he actually ever built a house ?) - Welcome to Riga P.... and thanks for buying a round of drinks and good luck with the dog walking (do not ask !) They are clearly very busy particularly in planning there work, I espied them deep in conversation in De Lacy's only the other afternoon, where they assured me that they were discussing business - if so why De Lacy's ?? - and should you ask why I was in De Lacy's at 4.30-ish in the afternoon I was on my way back from meeting with Philip - see previous blog.

Now on a most serious note De Lacy's has run out of Wexford, my favourite tipple - how can this happen ?? - shows signs of serious mismanagement on behalf of the little person. I think the cretins should be barred from drinking it, if it is in such short supply.

Finally did you read this

"The Times turns its attention to the growing problem of sea slug smuggling.
The creatures can fetch up to £350 a kilogram in Asian markets. Also known as Sea Cucumbers and Sea Rats, they are being targeted by Japanese smugglers.
The creatures breathe through their anus and, when alarmed by predators, fire sticky threads and vomit their internal organs, which later regrow.
The paper says the delicacy is gutted, boiled, dried and enjoyed by Japanese diners with cold sake."

Sounds a great feast - does it not - almost on par with Latvian Christmas food !

Monday, October 23, 2006

Well it is getting towards that time of the year again, so in this brief entry a plea to all you have either in past supported our efforts to raise money for the Zvannieki home , or who simply would like to make a small contribution to making this Christmas a special one.

Our Smiley fund has really only a simple purpose to raise money for use at Christmas, and if anything is left over to help out with specific projects as they come along. It is not meant as a replacement for the on going fund raising and support that Zvannieki gets to meet its day to day needs.

If you would like to help then please send money ( every little helps) to the Smiley fund bank account - detail are on the right hand side of the blog. If you do send a contribution please take the time to let me know, as the folks at Zvannieki like to know and thank the contributors.

Last year in money and goods we raised the equivalent of Ls 1600.00+, of which today we have a balance of Ls 385.00.

And just as Christmas is fast approaching, likewise so is the New Year, for those of you who attended the New Year's Part in the Latvian Chamber of Commerce, well Uve and Juris have once again volunteered to organise same. So if you would like tickets or simply to get details please contact Uve at and put the date in your diary - as last year it was simply a really good night, without breaking the bank

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Where's the Queen ?

As I mentioned some time ago, I was honoured by the British Embassy in Riga, to attend a ceremony at St. Saviours church, at which ( as I understood it) the Queen would be unveiling a plaque to commemorate the British servicemen who died in defending Latvia in the first world war.

On route to the St. Saviours I passed by the Freedom Monument, which was awash with people, apparently the Queen and the Latvian President has just laid wreaths at the monument, but no mind I would see her at the church

Well as requested I arrived early (instructions were to arrive no latter than 3.50pm), and I seemed to the first !

Security was clearly high on the agenda, so in order to get into the church grounds, one first of all had to convince a very serious gentleman that you were invited - and sure enough there on the list was my name - number 49. However absolutely no proof of identity was requested, nor was my little bag inspected.

Inside the church grounds it was a hive of activity, what with a dog sniffing inside the church, and outside a team of police and military personnel searching under every nook and cranny, presumably in search of hidden thingies, what could do you damage.

But slowly the throng started to arrive, and finally around 4.00pm we were ushered into the church, which had all its pews removed - so just a large open space, and at the alter was the plaque, still covered.

At around 4.30-ish accompanied by the sound of police sirens, the royal entourage arrived, and in HE came - no Queen !!! - just our Philip.

He then proceeded to meet with a number of Latvian military personnel, some clearly either just back from or going to Afghanistan.

He then met with THE 13TH EARL OF CARLISLE, Viscount Howard of Morpeth, Northumberland, Lord Ruthven of Freeland, and Baron Dacre of Gillesland (George William Beaumont Howard) - remember him from Remembrance Day last year.

Well I think he has been the main instigator of getting the British Serviceman a permanent remembrance plaque, and the Duke seemed immersed as the Earl told him of history of the Servicemen who has died.

Then came the unveiling, which was then followed by a brief but touching eulogy by the vicar Juris ( ala Zvannieki).

With official ceremony now over the Duke then proceeded to speak to the non military guests, and lo and behold there he was in front me, asking me if I was Latvian ? anyhow after extending my hand, to which he removed his hand from his jacket pocket and shook my hand, I advised that I was Scottish, and in response as to why I was here replied work - end of conversation.

Now the next gentleman to be greeted - an American Called T..... and in response to being asked his name he replied Thomas Jeffersen, and the Duke without hesitation replied I always wanted meet with you !! Strange he was not asked if he was from Latvian - perhaps something to do with skin color.

After speaking to all his parting comment was Well at least you all of one thing in common, you are Christians !

After the Dukes departure I took the chance to view the plaque, and whilst doing so was approached by a young lady who come from England and was another blogite, but in this case was heavily involved/interested in attending the ceremony as her grandfather was one of those killed. Accompanying her were a number of relatives of others killed in action in Latvia/Baltics.

She advised that courtesy of the Latvian Navy, they would on Friday be laying a wreath at sea, in honour of the war dead. Nice one !

Apparently there was a dinner in honour of the Queen and Duke, that evening in the small guild hall, just around the corner from de Lacy's -perhaps I should have told the Duke where he could get a decent drink ?

So there we go the Queen has been and gone and never did manage to catch a sight of her, perhaps next time !

One question does remain, why did I get an invite in the first place and the only reason I can think of was that when I registered at the embassy I think there was a question - Did you serve in HM Forces ? and of course I did - Royal Air Force

PS apologies about the quality of pictures, not sure I really understand these digital cameras

Monday, October 09, 2006

Dog-Gone it

On Saturday a great deal of happenings were underway, first of all it was election day, as it transpires 60% of the electorate turned up on what was a miserable day, to vote. It appears that the current Prime Minister and his coalition parties have been re-elected. The present ruling coalition parties - TP, the Union of Greens and Farmers (ZZS) and Latvia's First Party/Latvia's Way (LPP/LC) - will have a total of 51 seats in the 9th Saeima. This is an all time first for Latvia - having an existing government re-elected. So well done Mr Kalvitis.

Now the other important event, and arguably more important, was the trip to the new Zvannieki by myself, B....(English teacher and supports Newcastle), J.... ( Australian - and watches weird road races from Australia), S...... (Welsh - with declared bad back). Now the purpose of the trip was twofold - firstly to deliver furniture and foodstuffs from Riga to the home and secondly to transport some of the heavier items from the old Zvannieki to the new Zvannieki.

We also had the bicycles and toys so kindly donated by J..... ( Scottish peatbogman) - many thanks J.....

Transportation had been kindly donated by Rietumu Bank and J....(Irish - claimed to be working on Saturday ??).

So having collected S..... and then B....., the latter looking decidedly haggard at 8.30am in the morning, we then met up with the transportation outside St Saviours church, eventually to load up with untold amounts of Broccoli soup ( of the instant variety) and similar quantities of muesli - I assume donated by some well meaning company. Then it was across the river to collect some furniture of dubious age. Organising our endeavours was a lady who at best had a very school teacher approach in dealing with us menfolk - I felt as if we were handling the crown jewels !
Well of this took the best part of two hours, before we set off for the New Zvannieki ( via McDonald's ! - where B.... gave a new meaning to fast food, or in his case slow food !!).

Finally we arrived, and proceeded to unload said food and furniture, and then it was off to the old Zvannieki to load all the heavy items.

On route to the new home we came across what must have been the loneliest set of traffic police in the country. In the middle of absolutely nowhere, there they sat, speed gun in hand ready to catch anyone foolhardy to be speeding on this country road. As we barely saw another car on the whole journey, I can only assume that these two policeman were simply practising their skills, because they certainly were not going to catch anyone speeding

Now S.....( Canadian - vicar type person who can cuss along with the best of them) had a wish list of what she wanted
  • Industrial washing machine
  • Industrial Clothes dryer
  • Two fridges
  • Cooker
  • Outdoor climbing frames(s)
  • and anything else we could squeeze in

Now dear reader this may not sound a lot, but let me on behalf of my fellow workers assure you that these items individually weighed a ton - and of course we had little professional tackle to assist us. But like the true troopers we, are after much sweat, (B.... at one stage looked as if he was going have a seizure) - all was loaded - or so we thought - S..... ( vicar type lady) decided that we had to take the dog house !. Now this particular item was somewhat large, and frankly not in the best condition. however it clearly had sentimental value.

So we picked it up and tried to get in into the only space available on the van, but no good it would not fit, despite the various suggestions from S...., finally after (a) banging a bit off the back and (b) sawing a bit off the front - it fitted - just !

We did not even try to dismantle the outdoor wood climbing frames etc, they were simply to complex, and in any event we would never have got them inside the vans - another time.

Time now to head back, but we faced one minor challenge, the road so immediately leading from the home, was still a mud pile, despite the best endeavours of J.... (Irish master builder) teams efforts to repair it. So with great trepidation off we set up the hill, and despite sliding all over the place we did in fact get out !!

So back along the country road to the new Zvannieki, where the reverse process took place, but considerably quicker, and I trust that said dogs enjoyed there home being re-located. However the reality is that none of the said appliances were working, in the case of the washing machine & dryer due to lack of suitable heavy duty electrical supply and the fridges would not fit through the door into the kitchen area - smallest door way I have ever seen (NB . J... subsequently suggested taking the doors off !! - this he assures me will allow them through the doorway)

S..... (Latvian angel and mother to all) had prepared a wonderful meal, of meatloaf, potatoes, salad etc - to which we all partook - she is an amazing lady.

This was the first visit by B......, J...... and S...... to the new home and like me, thought it was simply a stunning place, and when they are fully settled in - will be so much better than the old one. There is still much to move, from clothes to Jacuzzis - building and paving materials, fruit trees etc, but one way or another it will be done.

So having worked our B...... off and been duly fed, it was time to return to Riga for a well earned beer, but even this was not to be - the cretins were in town, so De Lacy's was out, Paddies was full of English Cretins downstairs watching the England v Macedonia (cracking game !! - if you Macedonian) and upstairs similar sights - but this time local Russians watching Russia v Israel.

Did manage (using the new keyhole camera installed in De Lacey's) to capture some of our visiting cretins at their best.
So we settled for one quick one and then headed home. All of us to a man, with aching backs and sore legs - but feeling good in heart.

Did not take much rocking to get to sleep.

Sunday was rubbish - rained all day - did domestics and joined S......, J.... (Irish work absconder) and B.... (still did not look good) to watch Saracens v Blues, and enjoy a few beers in relative quiet.

Finally I met my first blogite ( is that a word ?) - last week whilst standing outside De Lacy's having a cigarette - I was approached by a young lady, who enquired if I was David ? - having agreed I was - she proceeded to introduce herself - S...... T........... - from the USA and a Bruce Springsteen fan to boot !, and a reader of the blog. Truly a small world !!

So there we go another week has passed us by, and what with Latvia beating Iceland, and Scotland beating France, all it needs is Reading to beat Chelsea next weekend and I think I will start believing in miracles

Monday, October 02, 2006

Mind your P and Q's

Last weekend, saw once again a glorious day, which started at the early hour on Saturday in De Lacy's, alongwith the complete Australian population of Riga to watch the Aussie Rules final. I must confess I did not make it for the start ( 7.45am !) - but I did struggle in for about 9.00, by which time the Swans were losing by some 20 points to the Eagles. By the time I had consumed breakfast alongwith Orange juice and Coffee, the scoreline was much closer, and by full time only one point was in it - Much to the relief of the watching Eagles supporters. Uve did his best to explain the rules, but to me it still looks like total chaos.
I left the Australians to celebrate, and entered into Dome Square, where there was the annual Autumn craft fare. By this time the sunshine was out, and it was simply glorious to sit in the square and watch the world go by, and at the same time watch the almost non stop dancing of the the regional dance groups. It never ceases to be amazed by the sheer energy that goes into these dances, and the joy that the dancers show, both men and women. I cannot think of another country where the young people take such obvious pleasure in keeping the local dance traditions alive.
The square and the surrounding streets were awash with local produced goods, but this time I noticed for the first the amazing number of Pumpkins, both in terms of size and colour.

It made such a pleasure to see so many tourists strolling in the streets, and unlike the Cretins, actually taking time out to take in a bit of local culture.

On the subject of Cretins this week sees the first arrivals, courtesy of the you know who airline, with direct flights from Glasgow (well Prestwick actually) and scarey thing is that if you check out the web site, you cannot get a flight any weekend in October or November, so God help us next weekend when the first batch arrives.

I finally left the festival in the late afternoon, and as ever set about my domestic duties, which continued through until Sunday, when after a few sms's from J....(Aussie wood merchant - who admits he got on Saturday) - to advise me Paddies was empty. So I joined him there - in the late afternoon, but due to shortage of bartenders upstairs was closed - so downstairs we sat, very pleasant - UNTIL - the magic hour arrived and from nowhere the cretins appeared to watch their football - in this case Man United v Newcastle. So I left the morons to enjoy there simple pleasure.

Before my departure young B..... ( English teacher - or so he claims !) arrived looking very much the worse for wear - but then does he not always ? - claiming his appearance was due his celebration of his birthday on Saturday - So belatedly HAPPY BIRTHDAY - B....., and the same subject HAPPY BIRTHDAY C... (English property magnate in Jurmula).

I had hoped to get out to the Sigulda Craft Fair - but it was not be.

Now as I am sure all you are aware, this October sees the visitation of our Queen and Philip to the Baltic States, and can you believe it British Embassy has finally admitted that I exist - I have received an invitation to attend St. Saviours Church, where the Queen will unveil a plaque in memory of the British Servicemen who died in Latvia on both World Wars. I received the invitation on Saturday 30th September, but the invitation indicated I had to respond by the 29th September - nice one Mr B... !! ( UK embassador with dodgy shoes).

Re Zvannieki - had a strange request from S..... (Canadian-Latvian with religious bent) - cpuld we find her some dead pigs !. Apparently the cost of buying pigs in bits is geting a bit too much, so they would like to see if buying whole, but dead,pigs would be cheaper. Young J...( Australian wood dabbler), suggested I contact the dad of R.. (ex village member of English-Latvian descent) as he apparently breeds live pigs, but can turn them into dead ones (remember the nearly pig roast of last year ??) - but if anyone has other suggestions let me know.

And finally - can you believe it - Reading won again - the adventure goes on !!