Monday, February 26, 2007

Baa - Baa - BA

The whole point of this blog was to write about the very day goings on of life in Riga, but what do you do when a week passes and not a lot happens ?

Well I say not a lot happened on Saturday, Scotland were magnanimous when playing Italy, what other country would give the opposition a 21 point lead in the first few minutes, just to make the game more interesting, and then if that was not enough, permit Italy to have their first win overseas in the Six Nations championship. Who said the Scots were not generous ?

A brief congratulations to Ireland for there stunning win over England at Croke Park, and even the Welsh were stalwart in defeat at the hands of the French. However who decided to play a game of Rugby at 9.00pm ( local time) 10.00pm in Riga ???? - even our Welsh village member S...... ( a lover of all things tall) has time to take himself up to the top of the Eiffel tower before the game - not I trust with the thought of throwing himself off, as he has failed to keep his promise of shoving his head under the ice on the Daugava after the game against Scotland.

No doubt the Irish village members will return in fine spirits, but with no International rugby this weekend, then we will have to bide our time before the next set of clashes.

So having said all of this I still cannot think of anything of particular note that happened in Riga last week, so I have again turned my attention to events on the international front. In particular to down under - Hi M.... (New Zealander with penchant for plastic flowers).

We have all heard about the various on line dating agencies, which permit lonely men to meet lonely women - well a kinder spirit in New Zealand has recognised that it is not just Humans who are lonely and seeking partners - apparently so are sheep.

Making the news this week with the headline "New Zealanders flock to "

The site boasts:

With AdultSheepFinder you can meet sexy sheep in your area at the touch of a button!
Find the right sheep for you from our extensive database and try to arrange with their owners for a sexy encounter!
Explore the erotic lifestyle of millions of sheeplovers through our Nude Sheep Photos, we even have hundreds of Sexy Webcam Sheep online everyday!
Marvellous. Just to rub it in, the wags behind this bit of NZ-baiting offer only "New Zealand" in the drop-down list of countries in their "Search Our Members" facility, and further advise: "If you would like to know more about Sheep Shagging we can recommend the following literature- Lonely Planet - New Zealand Edition.
Enraged New Zealanders can spare themselves a whois search on the domain, since the perpetrators of are keeping their heads well down. Which means, of course, that they're almost certainly Australian !!

Now this whole thing may catch on, why stop at sheep - dogs, cats even pigs, they all need to feel loved !

Staying on the subject of sheep, also came across this headline news
Scientists look to straighten homosexual sheep ( seriously this is real)

And I quote

"Former Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova has come out in favour of the rights of homosexual sheep in a burgeoning row over tests carried out by two US universities aimed at "curing" ovine friends of Dorothy.

According to The Times, researchers at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland were able to "pinpoint the mechanisms influencing the desires of 'male-oriented' rams by studying their brains".

Former Wimbledon champion Martina Navratilova has come out in favour of the rights of homosexual sheep in a burgeoning row over tests carried out by two US universities aimed at "curing" ovine friends of Dorothy.

Specifically, they cut open the offending sheeps' skulls, attached electronic sensors to their grey matter and monitored them while "varying the hormone levels, mainly by injecting hormones into the brain". They reported "considerable success" in getting previously gay rams to consider a bit of boy-on-girl.

The purpose behind these experiments is to "improve the productivity of herds" since "approximately one ram in 10 prefers to mount other rams rather than mate with ewes". The implications are far more sinister, opponents claim, since the acquired knowledge could in the future be used to "cure" human homosexuality, or may offer the prospect that "pregnant women could one day be offered a [hormone] treatment to reduce or eliminate the chance that their offspring will be homosexual".

Ms Navratilova weighed in with: "How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?"

UK gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell declared: "These experiments echo Nazi research in the early 1940s which aimed at eradicating homosexuality. They stink of eugenics. There is a danger that extreme homophobic regimes may try to use these experimental results to change the orientation of gay people."

Udo Schuklenk, Professor of Bioethics at Glasgow Caledonian University, who has "written to the researchers pressing them to stop", added: "I don't believe the motives of the study are homophobic, but their work brings the terrible possibility of exploitation by homophobic societies. Imagine this technology in the hands of Iran, for example. It is typical of the US to ignore the global context in which this is taking place."

Professor Charles Roselli, the Health and Science University biologist heading the research programme, defended his work with: "In general, sexuality has been under-studied because of political concerns. People don't want science looking into what determines sexuality."
Michael Bailey, a neurology professor at Northwestern University near Chicago, risked the wrath of the gay community by stating: "Allowing parents to select their children’s sexual orientation would further a parent's freedom to raise the sort of children they want to raise."
As for the unfortunate gay rams subjected to the research teams' uninvited attentions, it remained for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals to slam their sufferings as "a needless slaughter of animals, an affront to human dignity and a colossal waste of precious research funds". ®

According to The Times, researchers at Oregon State University in the city of Corvallis and at the Oregon Health and Science University in Portland were able to "pinpoint the mechanisms influencing the desires of 'male-oriented' rams by studying their brains".

Well enough about sheep, but it does make you wonder about the state of the world, but for those obsessed with the subject try a Google search on "sheep stories" (That was not how I came across the two above)

Now this week sees the end of another era, last week saw the demise of Brunch at the Radisson, and this weekend sees the end of British Airways flights to Gatwick - so from this weekend the only choice of direct flights from UK TO Riga are Air Baltic and Ryan Air - no prizes for guessing which one I will be choosing.

For those interested re Zvannieki - well all is progressing - if a little slowly, kitchen should be done in April and the new mini bus in late March.

So to those outside Riga, apologies about the lack of goings on in Riga, but I am sure this week will see new happenings to once again bring Riga alive.

Update for the Welsh (and no it is not about sheep !!)

It is St Davids Day on 28th February, and Vincents Restaurant is serving in its honour, and all for the princely sum of between Ls10.00 and LS13.00 per head

Poached baby leeks with traditional accomplishments

Cured salmon on crempog with fresh cheese and watercress

Foie gras with caramelised baby pears (supplement Ls 2.40)

Prince of Wales cream of leek and oyster soup


Pan-fried cod fillet with potato puree and razor clams

Grilled pork cutlet with a faggot and potato-leek scallop

Cawl—slow cooked leg of lamb with leek and vegetable casserole

Welsh rarebit in portobello mushroom with cheddar cheese


Spotted dick with custard Caramelised winter apple mousse with a cheddar cheese tuile

Caramelised winter apple mousse with a cheddar cheese tuile

and to quote Martin Ritins - owner and Chef

Dylan Thomas, poet was born in 1914, year of the tiger (he missed being a Welsh rabbit by just 9 weeks). His short but wild life overlapped Cheesterton’s b.1874 (a dog—oh, who cares anymore).

He of Under Milk Wood would have done the subject justice, but he was mysteriously negligent in raving, or raging, about cheese. Beer yes, pints of ink on it, but just crumbs on cheese! For crying out loud, every pub in Gt. Britain served nothing but cheese and bread, particularly the ones that he frequented.

This is a long-winded way of getting round to the fact that St. David’s day is remembered in Vincents’ lunch menu this week.

So Welsh rabbit/rarebit, a delicious cheddar-based dish, is left to an English-Latvian chef to do it justice.Martin is eminently qualified for this task, just having one degree of separation from Michael Palin, disobliging proprietor in Monty Pythons’ Cheese Shop sketch.

He is also currently working on an exhaustive, detailed, 2 page pamphlets on ‘The neglect of Cheese in Latvian Literature’.Vincent’s will also remember Dylan Thomas, by gifting a bottle of Uzavas Beer to go with the Welsh thingamibit.

This prince among beers goes to the first person that enters the restaurant wearing a leek in their hat, able to recite even one verse of ‘Do not go gently into that good night’, bearing a forged, notarised affidavit declaring the Chinese year that St. David was born.

Well I think their is only one man in Riga who could possible meet this challenge - S.....- where are you ??

Just in case this business lunch does not appeal to you then you could always go for the ala carte menu which inludes :

Fried Latvian ostrich fillet with beluga lentils - now their is one for the record books !!

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Would you believe it ?

Every now and then you suddently comes across some facts about Latvia that you had never heard about. So it was this week, sitting watching CNN news (sad I know) there appeared a very strange advert featuring a blue cow, and then across the screen rolled the words "Latvija" and the web address .

I quote the author of this piece

"A blue cow. Don’t try to wake up. It does exist.
That’s right. They’re blue. They’re not painted. They’re not fed with ink. They’re just naturally blue. So bluish-blue I just can hear „It’s raining men“ playing in the background. Some people say that the color of their skin (and also – the incredible amount of milk they produce ) comes from the Baltic sea water they drink for generations and that’s why they (cows) are called „Sea-cows“.

Others say that blue cows are the aristocracy of all cows and they have this blue blood. I don‘t know. But what I do know is that the owner – Anna (and her mother, and grandmother), has kept the Blue Cow breed pure for at least seventy years. Most of blue cows that were once so popular in Latvia have been crisscross-mixed over time with all the brown/black/spotted/whatever cows and have literally disappeared. So I would be lying if saying that blue cows are the first thing you notice when stepping out of the airplane, but you can definitely meet some of them in the area of Liepaja, Jurkalne and Ventspils. It’s about two hours of driving, but think of it as a pilgrimage and combine it with a beautiful trip along the west coast of Latvia. Amazing experience, nice guesthouses and friendly people. Have you noticed how deeply emotional I have become when writing all this?

As best I can guess it is sponsored by the Latvian Tourist Association, but it is an excellent site, and some of the links are really useful, both to visitors and residents alike, particularly if they want to explore outside of Riga - have a look.

Now some of you may have noticed,. well if you check the comments on the blog, that I recently had a visit from M..... (English with artistic desires - how do I know this ?- because I am all seeing that's how !) - who clearly is suffering from that well know symptom of lack-of-fish-and-chip-itis. So sorry M..... there still is no Fish & Chippie in Riga.

But he is here for thre months on one of these European sponsored artistic/ whats it like to live in another country thingies. I am guessing he is recent arrival, but he has already started a pictorial diary which can be seen at - and with name like that he too could end up in Latvian web site. So to M..... - welcome to Riga, and if you feel like meeting fellow village people, well I guess you will be able to work out in which pub we meet.

Now speaking of pubs - time for a whinge - if you do not like my whinging do not read the next green bits - on and skip to end

Think of your ideal pub, and what would you see - A cosy warm place with welcoming staff and good beer.

Now as anyone who has read this blog - we the village people have cherished our little sanctuary - De Lacy's, ever since it opened. Of course of late we have lost out at the weekends to the moronic invaders from the UK and Ireland. But still we have had the pleasure of it during the week.

However there has murmurings amongst the troops in recent times that the high standards it set are beginning to fade just a little.

Well on Tuesday night, I along with S....(Welsh with passing interest in Rugby ), his good lady A.... (even more Welsh) and J... (Irish builder of underground swimming pools) entered to enjoy an early evening drink.

Now as I have mentioned before De Lacy's have this weird idea that you have to keep the front door open to let people know you are open, however on this occasion both the front and inside door were closed, but to no avail as a howling draft still managed to slip into the bar. To avoid this and us all being of an age where drafts cause serious discomfort, we sat down at a table, which in theory would protect us - but alas no - it was COLD !! - so returning to our ideal pub - COSY & WARM - I am afraid not.

Now it has to be said that DE Lacy's was empty, so the normal ambiance of a busy pub was clearly absent (the time was 6:15pm) - but S.....(Ukrainian with questionable music tastes) was not exactly at his WELCOMING best - indeed for the first time in a long time we did not even get a hello - now granted we were not sitting in our usual place by the bar - but with temperatures last night plummeting to -20 degrees, only a polar bear could have sat at the bar with his back to the entrance.
Thankfully the waitresses were extremely friendly and ensured that a beer was always to hand, and served with a smile.

So at least for last night, COSY - WARM and WELCOMING were visible by there absence - the BEER of course was its usual high standard.

But as this week sees the temperatures continue to drop, and with overnight forecasts of -25 for Riga, I may well be tempted to take my body to a warm, draft free establishment.

Since my arrival in Riga the various members of the village people have moved there allegiance three times in ten years - Paddies to The Dickens and then to De Lacy's - it would be shame if there was a need for fourth move.

So a word to the wise - in this day and age can we not get doors that stop drafts and the cold from coming into the pub, and please, please fix the toilets - I know the latter is an ongoing problem caused by the morons who seem to think they have to leave their mark on the toilet walls - but hanging up a coke advert is not going to fix the problem.

End of whinge !

and finally in honour of those people who strive to keep our pavements free from from snow - have a little sympathy for this guy ( it could of course be a woman) - can imagine how he (she) felt when told " clear the bridge" ??

my thanks to M....... (English artisan) for this picture, more of his images can be seen at

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Thoughts of the third kind

Its been one of those weeks when as sometimes happens in life, nothing of note actually happens - well if you exclude Reading and Manchester United drawing in the FA cup.

Here in Riga the weekend passed very quietly, although it was disturbing to learn that one of the weekend rituals will no longer be available to us - The Radisson Hotel Sunday Brunch is no more ! I was advised that this is due to the fact that not enough people were making use of it, - it is a shame as at Ls12.00 per person including champagne it was excellent value for money.

So in order to provide a little entertainment for those of you who regularly glance at this blog, I have decided to simply present a few of the weird and wonderful facts from the lunatic world which we inhabit - provided by
  • The most popular first name in the world is Muhammad!

  • The first product to have a bar code was Wrigleys gum

  • Porcupines float in water

  • The sentence "The quick brown fox jumps over a lazy dog." uses every letter of the alphabet

  • The only 15 letter word that can be spelled without repeating a letter is "uncopyrightable"!

  • Windmills always turn counter-clockwise. Except for the windmills in Ireland

  • A cockroach can live several weeks with its head cut off - it dies from starvation

  • Q is the only letter in the alphabet that does not appear in the name of any of the United States

  • Bats always turn left when exiting a cave

  • Fingernails grow nearly 4 times faster than toenails

  • Rice paper does not have any rice in it!

  • Ernest Vincent Wright wrote a novel, "Gadsby", which contains over 50,000 words -- none of them with the letter E

  • After eating, a housefly regurgitates its food and then eats it again
  • and then courtesy of the Guinness Book of records surely one of the strangest world records

Farthest Nasal Ejection.

Kevin Cole's Farthest Spaghetti Nasal Ejection World Record:Kevin Cole of Carlsbad, New Mexico, USA, holds the record for the longest spaghetti strand blown out of a nostril in a single blow.
On December 16, 1998, Kevin successfully achieved a record distance of 19 cm (7.5 in) on the set of Guinness World Records: Primetime in Los Angeles, California, USA.

I bet that made his Dad proud !!

Now a few images just to bring a smile (or at least a glimmer of a smile)

and then in a week where clearly there was not a lot new going on in the world - an Irishman has reinvented the bicycle - the pictures say it all - but if I was him I would look for a daytime job, as I do not think this is going to catch on

Just in case you think you are seeing things - yes you do sit sideways to the direction of the bike ! I think a recipe for a serious crick in the neck - and do not fall off, as you are strapped to the bike.

So to all of you who have at times felt a little despondent, remember that there so much lunacy going on in the world, all you have to do is spend a little time to find it - and when you do it will make all your troubles into perspective.

And for those not with us in Riga, we have had two glorious days of snow, so once again Riga is taking on its Winter wonderland look, and with forecast of -22 degrees for later this week, then it will simply sparkle !

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

A bit of a do

Now where to start this blog ? I think a little mention of the Rugby last weekend is a good place. However before I add my own thoughts let me quote from Sean Davies - BBC Wales Sports Journalist

"So how can a side like Wales, who lived and thrived on that edge between prudence and disaster in 2005, be reduced to the ineptitude of Murrayfield in 2007 ?" Ah what a question and our welsh incumbent S...... has threatened ( actually promised) to shove his head through the frozen ice on the River Daugava.

Of course I personally would never gloat over such a victory - not much I wouldn't - as I cried in a slightly raised voice - WE ARE THE PEOPLE ! so sad to see grown man cry !

Now at the beginning of the Six Nations, and in order to raise a wee bit of money for Zvannieki, S...... (Welsh ice head diving champion) organised a competition, where you had to forecast what the result of all the matches would be. There would be a first prize and a prize for the person getting the worst score. Now with my limited knowledge of the game I was quite confident of getting the latter, but can you believe it, of the six games played today, I have forecast 5 correct !! and to cap it all of Reading won again, and are now vying for a place in Europe - surreal is it not ?

Last week saw the visit of yet another little Irish person S... (actually English but with Irish bookmaker aspirations). He was treated royally and in the space of four days managed to take in nearly every night club in Riga. I have suspicion that this will not be his last visit. S

So once again a most enjoyable weekend, and with a lull in the Rugby activities next weekend, I think time to take a break from alcohol next weekend.

Monday night saw us, as ever, return to our village centre, where S..... (Welsh- eater of strange vegetables), A.... (English - white goods merchandiser), J.... (English - keeper of the gates), C.... (English - now with a proper job), S... (English Irishman), and myself set about to setting the world right. Now what do six men indulging in there favourite pastime discuss. Rugby - well we were not allowed to talk about that ! - Politics - always a banned subject - No we set about trying to impress each other in regards to our culinary skills, or in some cases the lack of them, if we are not careful we will be setting up a sewing / knitting club ! Now this conversation was started when S.... advised that he was having a meat stew that evening, cooked I have to say by his good lady A......(Welsh - with tall aspirations) - but within it was some strange vegetable, which neither of them could recognise - we all await the taste test with insatiable interest

Hitting the headlines this week was the story from China, where there is a dire lack of women for men to marry, well there may be a solution as Latvia has a dire lack of men. So perhaps some bright entrepreneur could (should) set up an agency to allow the men in China to meet the women in Latvia - and thereby solve this crisis in both countries.
Returning briefly to the subject of Rugby, and from my little experience of these major sporting fixtures - I did attend a game at the old Cardiff Arms park to see Wales v Scotland, it does seem to me that the toilet facilities are somewhat lacking, and knowing that certain person will be in Paris in the near future to see France beat Wales - I came across what will surely be the solution to required toilet breaks, and the associated lack of facilities, particularly in France. Its name is "Stadium Pal ", and full details can be found at - it is clearly a winner - but it does remind me of a story that Billy Connolly told some time ago - anyhow check it out.
Update on the Zvannieki kitchen, our planned design has been rejected, as they want the "garage" to be the dining room and what we had planned as the dining room to be the kitchen - so back to the drawing board, and finally -
Can someone please explain to me the logic De Lacy's keeping the front door of the said establishment open, when the temperature is minus 15 ? - I was advised that the reason was so that people would know they were open - I think not event the cretins can figure out that by looking through the windows and seeing people in there that the place is open - So a plaintive cry from me - CLOSE THE DOOR - as all I get is a back ache from the draft coming in !

Monday, February 05, 2007

A changed Man !

Sometime ago one our village people I.. (Scottish - with a love of all things furry) left to make his fortune back in the UK - well Scotland to be accurate. Despite various promises to visit us - he has so far not returned. But now I can reveal why - he has undergone serious surgery of the wallet and had a makeover. I cannot remember in all the time he was hear ever seen him in a suit, shirt and tie

Does anyone actually recognise him ? - all of this to convince the unsuspecting British public that he is a man to be trusted with their financial affairs, at his new accountancy practice. And if you are such a person then you find all the information at . Anyhow he may well in in our midst in the near future - but will we recognise him ?

As anyone you has driven in Latvia, you will be aware that the vast bulk of the roads are holes surrounded by tarmac. Well this weekend saw another hole appear at the junction of Elizabetes iela and Valdemara iela. But quick as a flash and in the middle of the night the workmen appeared and - made the hole bigger ! - but then on Sunday they filled the hole in again, and then left a number of signs indicating that there was a lack of tarmac covering the whole. The end result of this brilliant piece of work, was that on Monday morning the three lanes of traffic in one direction, and the four lanes of traffic in the other, was reduced to one lane in either direction - resulting in absolute chaos in early morning rush hour. Perhaps in the near future said workmen will once again return with an allotment of tarmac and cover the whole - but I would not hold my breath.

I have mentioned in the past the bureaucracy that creeps into every day life - however it is worth saying that it is dramatically improved over bygone days. Last week however reminded of the good old days. In an effort to improve my Internet speed ( principally to be able to watch live uk tv) I had to go and visit the office of my provider IZZI, which is located in the nether regions of Riga. Why did I have to visit ? - so that I could sign a handwritten contract for an improved service ( 2MB's) - at an exorbitant charge when compared with Lattelecom charges for similar service. Having done all of this, when I returned home I found that the service speed had not been increased, and so a phone call to the their non-customer service department, finally resulted in getting the new service activated. I was also advised that as of 2nd February they had reduced the price of my new service substantially (reduced to 1/4 off the original sum) - BUT - I had to go back to the offices and sign a new contract !!!!!!!

So this morning off I went, only to discover that they were also offering a 10MB service, so what is a man to do ? - I signed up for the new 10MB service for the princely sum of Lv 19.50 per month. Within 1 hour of returning to the office a call came in from the man from IZZI to advise me that they could not provide the 10MB service to my apartment, AND I would have to go back to their office to sign another NEW agreement to get my original 2MB service at the NEW rate of Lv 9.50 per month.

So if anyone from IZZI ( pronounced EASY - but is anything but) ever reads this blog your customer service sucks - why in G...s name if you are an Internet company do I have to visit your offices to sign a contract ???? and WHY do you only have one person in your customer care reception ?? and WHY oh WHY do they have to hand write the contract - do you not have a computer system ???

So to anyone considering installing an Internet connection - avoid IZZI like the plague - unfortunately in my case I have no option.

The only good news is that my Internet streaming of UK TV channels works like a dream.

Wow - now that feels better !!!

I will refrain from discussing the Rugby events of the weekend - suffice to say Ireland better watch out next weekend.

Finally if anyone knows where in Latvia we could obtain a good second hand, industrial stainless steel double sink - let me know - as we need one for the new Zvannieki kitchen.