Wednesday, January 31, 2007

A little of what you like !

Since my arrival in Riga way back in 1995, there has been a whole host of changes, some good and some not so good. But one of the things that remained constant has been one young lady, who from upstairs at Paddies, to the Flying Frog and of course much more recently at De Lacy's has continued with good grace and always a cheerful smile to serve me a pint of whatever beer I was drinking at the time.

In my opinion she rates as one of the best bar persons anywhere - BUT just when you think at least there are some things that are consistent, what happens she changes her whole being, (well her hair).

So this blog is dedicated to the I..... who we all love, and even with this new hair thingy, we will continue to enjoy that smile, and who knows perhaps in the Spring her hair will revert to the colour to which we have all grown accustomed, and life can once return to "normal". But women being fickle creatures, and of slaves of fashion - so it may well be that we will be surprised by yet another colour change.
However for those of you ex villagers, I present the new look I..... - comments from afar will be welcome.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

seek and yea shall find

It never fails to amaze me how people from all over the world stumble across this blog, and the various phrases they use on search engines, which lead them to me.

But this morning on checking who has been visiting, I came across what must be the strangest yet. So to the person in Keispelt, Luxembourg, who searched for "fastum gel directions lower back pain" - I hope my blog helped - but I suspect not.

Earlier in the week a number of visitors using such search phrases as "drink in Riga" - "cigarette prices in Riga" - and "girls in De Lacy's" (don't think the last one produced much) - but in these cases I suspect it was potential cretins seeking to get inside information - I guess the cretin season is about to get into full swing.

I am delighted to say that global warming has stopped - and that we are now enjoying a proper winter, complete with snow and sub zero temperatures - and I can once again practice my Riga shuffle. And yes the magic snow cleaner upperers are back in action, fresh from there break. However I do notice that in some cases technology is taking over from the old aluminium scrapers. Outside the Reval hotel I did but see the man sitting on his mini tractor, merrily shoving/brushing the snow aside.

Even outside the Swedish embassy technology has been set in place, but this time I think to the detriment of the snow cleaner. It was one of the machines that looks like a lawn mower, but sweeps up the snow and blows it to one side, well at least normally that is what it does. But in this case it simply blew it in front of the machine. So she all you could really do was continually sweep up the same snow, until such times as it was one on someone else's bit of pavement

Last weekend the three intrepid explorers S......(Welsh with mild interest in rugby) - J... (Irish and a serious hangover) and myself set out for Zvannieki in order to measure up for the new kitchen. All being well we should get this completed before April. For those interested in proposed layout see below -

Hopefully all concerned will be happy with the proposed layout. Plan is to get costs for this completed within the next two weeks and then move.

Now a question - What do you get when three men of Celtic persuasion, head for a night out in Riga ? - Answer a seriously sore head. On Friday of last week M.....( high reputation) - J... (low reputation) and J.... (claims to be easily led astray). They started their evening quite innocently in De Lacy's, then meandered to a new restaurant in Elizabetes called Amphora where it is said they drank the place out of wine. Subsequently, and I am sure this was pure coincidence in the choice of restaurant, they happened to be close to a well know night club in Elizabetes. I am told it is a hang out for Jockeys. There they indulged in whatever you indulge in such establishments, but then in the wee hours of the morning, a combined decision saw them leave and head for another evening establishment located in the Reval Hotel. The one good thing was that they all saw a beautiful sunrise, albeit I suspect through rose tinted eyes.

Saturday as I am sure all of you would know was Australia Day, and and is the custom, a number of them took to the cricket field to play cricket. With temperatures well below zero and snow on the ground - I can but offer my congratulations to these hardy soles. On completion of the game they took themselves of to P..... (Irish Pub - but our weekend getaway) - to participate in some well earned refreshments. I suspect the Australian/Latvian cricket team would even give the current English team as good thrashing.

As ever we three explorers joined them, and partook of a game of rugby on the TV, along with a few beers - a most pleasant Saturday.

And finally J......(Australian/Latvian - and did NOT attend Australia Day) has now promised to read my blog, despite his disparaging remarks re blogs in general. So J...... Welcome to the my readership, and I promise I will not publish any negative comment in regards to your good self - now about your bad self - well that is fair game !! - and I am sure your good lady really believes you were out on business last night - does she not ?

Monday, January 22, 2007

Color me blue & violet

One upon a time, in a land faraway, where according to legend, dragons once roamed - it came to pass that their cricket team won the Ashes. To celebrate this event (well at least in Riga) the Australian chapter of the Latvian Cricket Association in the shape of J...(Australian wood cutter) presented to S.....(Welsh cat flap king) a golden Lat coin, for him to keep until once again the Ashes series was replayed.

Well time passed by and so it came to pass that Australia stuffed England to regain the said Ashes - and in the time honored fashion the ceremony to return the golden Lat was held in our favoured weekend watering hole, prior to the Sunday Rugby fest.

To honor the occasion and the spirit of the original ashes a beer mat was burned, with the ashes from it to be kept in posterity (actually in a plastic bag) and with that the Golden Lat was returned for safekeeping by the Australian delegation. As and when England regain said Ashes, then this ceremony will be repeated, but I suspect none of the current village team will be alive, so the tradition will be passed down to our heirs, to maintain this new but proud custom.

I understand that thanks to a new member of our village J....(English - Keeper of the Gates) the Golden Lat is going to mounted on a wooden plaque and placed behind the bar. J.... also bears more than a passing resemblance to Desperate Dan - a Dandy comic hero of mine from my youth, however he does not wear the cowboy hat - Yet !

Prior to these memorable events, Saturday was spent with all in attendance for an absolute festival of Rugby - however it must be said that a hooligan element somehow sneaked into our midst. I will for the sake of his reputation decline from mentioning his name, but he proceeded to regale us, at the top of his voice - and every few minutes, with ---

"Ole - Ole - Ole - Ole-----OSPREY - OSPREY "

I think some of you may guess his true identity - he made the football hooligans, seem almost quiet ! Nonetheless it was a grand day - thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Now a word for the wise, having been deprived for many a year of being able to watch good old British TV here in Latvia. Despite numerous technological attempts we have all failed to be able to get British TV - but no longer, albeit at an exorbitant fee of $45.00 per month, you can now watch on your computer, or if you can connect your computer to your TV, then on your TV - BBC, BBC2, ITV1 and Channel 4 courtesy of . Now I dearly suspect that whoever is behind this video streaming, that they are doing it without the approval of any of the UK authorities permission - but do I care - not a jot ! You will need a minimum download speed of 1mb, ideally more - indeed as much as you can get, and you will probably have to upgrade your computer with as much RAM memory as you can put in it.

Trip is being planned next weekend (Saturday) to visit Zvannieki, in order to measure up for the new kitchen, and determine all our electrical and water needs. So finally after a year we will hopefully get the new kitchen, into the new Zvannieki, before Spring arrives.

Now on a really important note, I have to two major announcements to make, both connected with color, and both will stagger your mind with the implications - so take a deep breath before you read on .....

1. I.... ( best bar lady in the world) has after 10 years (possibly more) changed the color of her hair to ..................dark violet !! - I can only think it is do to with the weather, and ....

2. J....( Tallest man from Cork living in Riga), has installed a blue flush in the toilets in De Lacy's - presumably to take your mind off the the graffiti on the walls.

On the last point an observation, why do the toilets in De Lacy's get graffiti, but those in Paddies and Dickens do not - could be anything to do with the fact that De Lacy's toilets are unisex and the others are not - or is simply that the others get a better class of cretin at the weekends ?

OK so it is not a Golden Lat coin - but it makes for a better tale

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Stormy Times

For the last two weekends Riga has been relatively free from the British invaders - can only assume that after the revelry of the Christmas and New Year, that the poor wee soles have had insufficient funds to bribe Ryan Air et al, to bring them to Riga. However I have it on the good authority of F.....( Australian mega hostel owner), that this weekend will change all of that and that we can look forward to once again the gay banter of drunken cretins - F.... this, F... that etc - ah the privileges of a British education will once again be demonstrated to all.

I was asked last night in De Lacy's (actually outside as I was having a cigarette), by a young man from Scotland "where are all the girls ?", so I had to advise him that De Lacy's is now a men's only bar, where no self respecting Latvian lady would frequent. When he asked why ? - I told him about our weekly invasions. Now at this point he agreed, that it was a disgrace - but then immediately asked where he could get a s...g (apologies to my lady readers), and what was the best night clubs to get girls. So obviously he is here to take in the cultural joys of Riga - I think not !!

On the village front, all absentees have now returned for duty, in particular S..... (Welsh abstract thinker) - J... (Irish - ginger ale specialist), B...... (Irish - clothing magnate) and J... (Irish - Irish slimmer of the month - December 2006).

And so it was that the weekend saw the Heineken Cup games, on both Saturday and Sunday - however with sympathy for my liver I forewent the rugby pleasures on Saturday, and limited my viewing to Sunday afternoon, and very enjoyable it was with all the regulars back in place, and duly seated at our weekend rugby haunt - I enjoyed the games and the banter, before retiring home to a well earned sleep.
Now while it has not exactly hit the headlines, there is a major crisis within the hairdressing industry, particularly here in Riga. As anyone knows the ladies take a great deal of delight in changing the color of their hair in accordance with the changing of the seasons. At this time of the year, being Winter, then bright colors are in in - BUT is it Winter ? - because we are still basking in positive temperatures - so if it is not winter - is it Spring - much confusion abounds !

You can see it in every hairdressing salon, the question are being asked " what color should I have ?" - but the hairdressers are as confused as everyone else - but I noticed at the weekend one young lady has come up with the answer - multicolor hair, that way she is ready for Winter and Spring weather - clever is it not !!

It does make you think about the side effects of this weird change in weather - who is buying winter boots ? - whats the point of having ski's - even the outdoor ice rink in Dome square, normally very busy at this time of the year, is almost empty.

Even I have apparently wasted money, buying winter vests - which are to warm to wear, with my SHORT sleeved shirt !! At least I will not have to buy tights !!

Monday night saw a wee bit of a breeze sweep across Latvia, up to 50,000 people were left without power by winds gusting up to 115 kilometres per hour - almost hurricane speed. Flooding threatened many low-lying areas, including the capital, Riga, where the river Daugava surged two metres above normal levels.

For those who frequent some of the more upmarket shops and stores in Riga, Armani and the like, you will have become accustomed to seeing the in store security guard - more often than not he (never seen a female security guard in Latvia) will be the only person in the store, as the shops they are guarding are not frequented by us more normal mortals.

Today I noticed a first - at least for me - a security guard in a restaurant !! Now we have all seen these security guards in the pubs, particularly at the weekends - but in an upmarket restaurant - never - at least until now.

With the renovation of the Hotel Latvia, a new and seriously upmarket restaurant was opened called Gastronome ,and lo and behold it apparently needs a security guard - quite why I cannot fathom, it is not as if you can simply waltz in and snatch a meal. But anyway there he sits from 10.0am until whatever time in the evening they close - and I have to say a more bored individual you would be hard pushed to find - but not only that he actually occupies a table, that could sit four people - so the restaurant deprives itself of revenue as well - strange but true. Mind you having just walked past the restaurant at lunch time today, I did espy two senior executives of a well know bank with offices just opposite the restaurant - Many of you will know them well J.....(Irish and a real treasure) and R....(South African and noted for his personality) - so perhaps the real reason for the security guard is to protect bank executives from their irate customers.

That's the problem with living in this village there is no hiding place !!

Finally just to let you all know the Public Christmas trees have now been removed, but for the most part the Christmas decorations and lights in the streets and stores are still there, and if you really hurry you can still but all the Christmas decorations at your local Rimi store.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Under the Weather

Well 2007 is firmly with us, and to celebrate I instantly came down with the flu, and spent the best part of three days in in our around bed - what a start !

Whilst convalescing, I did think back to 2006, and some of the village people that have departed for one reason or another. Not in any particular order

Massimo - Italian bullshitter, apparently escaped to the shores of America, and the best I can say is that they are welcome to him. For someone who we all liked it was sad that his departure was in such disappointing circumstances.

Ron - American Marine bullshitter - again just disappeared, but suspect his demeanour and that of his military superiors were incompatible.

Timothy - English - murdered, but to the best of my knowledge no individual was prosecuted. WHY ??

Harald - Australian/Latvian - died on his feet, wife Marita and his son now in his homeland.

Chu - Malaysian, burner of books- missed by all, but returned to his homeland to seek fame and fortune.

Michael - Irish & Head Honcho of the Bank - departed to his homeland, but still returns with a fair degree of frequency.

Ian - Scottish - Bean Counter Entrepreneur - promises to come back soon when the weather is cold - -he likes to wear his rabbit hat !

Finally, although long since gone I did get a reminder from our ex village New Zealander - M... and the lady he absconded with L....... - clearly they are all doing well and L....... has now become an official KIWI - so good to know we have not been forgotten by the down underers.

I always thought Ned Kelly was Australian ?
- prizes for the best captions to go with the above pictures

I do not think I have missed anyone, but if I have, my apologies. As ever life just goes on, and people wander into and out of the the village, but all of them in their own way leave their mark - good and bad.

Now with the final total of the Smiley almost to hand I can reveal that thanks to the generosity of so many people and companies, we raised a total of Ls 1570.00. I will be sending a mail out shortly with a list of donors - however I can advise all that the New Years party organised by U.. (Australian/Latvian bean counter) and J.....( English/Latvian disk jockey), raised Ls129.00 for the cause.

One question for local readers has anyone heard what happened to our British artist, who desecrated the Freedom Monument ? - is he still locked up ?

Spent Saturday afternoon, playing at being a house remover, on behalf of the four Somalians who have staying at the Lutheran Church in Old Riga. But thanks to his most Christian Lutheran Archbishop of Riga, they have been kicked out. They are now staying at a purpose build ( c/o of EU funding some three years ago) at refuge hostel on the outskirts of Riga.

I have to say it is a modern and well equipped building, lacking in only one thing - REFUGEES !! - it has never had any. Where was it when the Somalians were in fact real refugees ?- but I guess the Latvian bureaucrats decided that it was better to keep them locked up in Olaine.

The building is now used for single parents and anyone else who is need of shelter. The occupants are wholly funded by the state - EXCEPT of course for the Somalians, as they are (1) No longer refugees and (2) are not deemed to be in dire straights.

On speaking to Farouk (one of the older Somalians) - it transpires that they are all working in hotels as waiters etc. Two of them were employed by the hotel Konventa Centa, but for the first three months were paid Ls 45.00 per month !!! and then this was increased to Ls 120.00 per month. In both cases well below the minimum monthly wage set by the Government - do you think someone was taking advantage of them ?

Anyhow life is moving on for them, and Farouk at least has now moved on to working in a Casino, again as a waiter and working a night-shift 5.00pm - 5.00am, for Ls 25.00 per night - so while the nights may be long, he is clearly determined to earn and save as much as he can, in order to build a life here in Latvia - Good on him and indeed the others.

For anyone who is remotely interested - the weather is still mild, and shows no sign of relenting - apparently it is all down to the El Niños - now did you know that there cold and warms ones ?

Well a warm one is called El Niños and a cold one is La Niñas - so now you know !!

May the bug be with you !

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A due reward

Can you believe it this the blog is now entering its third year ! - what started as a whim, seems to have generated a life of its own, and along the way has found a voice by which we have managed to bring a little cheer to the children at Zvannieki, as well I hope a smile to the faces of its readers. As of today it has had over 4200 visitors.

I hope that later this week to provide a final update on our Smiley fund Christmas appeal, but suffice to say it has exceeded all our expectations. We did spend a little of the money (Ls290.00) to but them a large ( actually VERY LARGE) chest freezer, as well as providing a little Christmas cheer for the children. I can also confirm that thanks to Rietumu Bank we will deliver in late February a brand new Mini Bus - so hopefully their transport problems will be at an end.

It would be fair to say that Christmas and New year in Riga this year was decidedly weird - what with temperatures of around +5 to +8 degrees, and no snow. Christmas Day a downpour of rain, and on Boxing Day nature tried its best with a little flurry of wet and damp snowflakes - but to no avail.

Even as I write this the temperature is +5 degrees and absolutely so sign of temperatures dropping.

The only excitement I can report on over the Festive period, was panic in De Lacy's on New Years Eve, when once again the water & sewage system decided to pack up, thereby flooding the kitchen, and even making inroads into the bar area - not a pretty sight. Fortunately there were not to many people in the pub at the time, and it was decided by I.....( she with the stunning smile bar type person) to close shop until such times as a repairman good attend and fix said problem.

Can you imagine in the UK trying to get a plumber out on New Years Eve - mission impossible - but to Latvia's credit I understand that a plumber did show up, and the evenings festivities did take place.

The one good thing about Christmas is that it was Cretin free, at least from the British breed, however the Finns did there best to make up for it and to take advantage of the low alcohol prices. Regretfully the same cannot be said for New Year, as once again Ryan Air et al ferried in, the now annual invasion of morons, who in good British custom proceeded to get legless, watch football and generally continue to maintain the reputation and great traditions of Brits abroad.

Now I have to confess I did watch a little football - Reading v Manchester United and Reading v West Ham. All in all they did pretty good over the period - and once again the Reading hoodoo goes on. Every manager who has walked out on Reading - McGhee and Pardew, have (1) failed at there new club and (2) and that club has subsequently been through hard times - think Wolves and now West Ham.

Finally a word of good cheer in regards to Juris Calitis and Sandre,( Zvannieki Home) - after all the trials and tribulations that Juris in particular went through in 2006, excommunicated from Lutheran Church - lost his Lutheran congregation, pilloried in the press re his support of the Gay Pride Parade etc - he Sandre were recognised in a broadcast on Latvian television, and in the presence of the Latvian President - as one of the Latvian Men and Women of Year - for there work at Zvannieki. If I may say so - Not before time - and watching in the audience were many of the Children from the home - Not a dry in the house

So what are we to make of 2007 - well in accordance with EU rules, Latvia will experience higher Gas, Petrol, liquor and tobacco prices - all in an effort to comply with EU rules on "harmonising" taxes across the EU. Me thinks our Gordon Brown has been giving out free info on how to fleece the taxpayers.

For me I simply hope that I will still be here to write on the goings on in 2007 - however as this time of the year is always a time for wishing all the best to our fellow man, I would like to share with you a message which I received this year

"Always remember for 2007
* Life is Short
* Forgive Quickly
* Break the Rules
* Kiss Slowly
* Love Truly
* Laugh Uncontrollably
* Never regret anything that made you Smile"

So with that in mind to all you read this blog I wish you health, wealth and every success in your endeavours in 2007