Monday, April 23, 2007

Just picture it

Well I finally got some pictures of the Zvannieki mini bus, so to all who were kind enough to contribute, especially the Rietumu Bank - many thanks - I will hopefully have in the next day or so a picture of all the children and the Mini-Bus

This was the "formal" handover

Regretfully without any logo's ! except the car dealer

and finally two days later with the logo's -however as the photographer was from Riteumu Bank, he did not take any pictures of the Smiley Fund logo on the rear of the mini bus

A word for the wise in Alununa iela

In all of the time I have been having my little say on the world and life in Riga I have never directly copied previously published material - however this week I will.

Much has been written and spoken about the behaviour of the "Brits" when visiting Riga, and we have all had our say as to what should be done - but the following letter, written by the Earl of Carlisle, was published in last weeks Baltic Times - and it one which I wholeheartedly agree !!

Authority without responsibility

Apr 18, 2007
The Earl of Carlisle Patron, The Baltic Council of Great Britain

I write to apologize to the Latvian nation, her president and to the citizens of Riga for the disgraceful and inexcusable misconduct of a small, but also growing number of British subjects who have desecrated your Freedom Monument and abused your hospitality.

Having arranged a sister monument in St. Saviour’s Church in Riga, with the agreement of your Church of State, to honor the 112 British sailors and airmen killed in action in Latvia and Estonia’s War of Independence, I fully sympathize with you and well understand your irritation and contempt for those from my country who have disgraced us and themselves in your capital city for whose freedom our sailors’ blood was shed 88 years ago.

I am also displeased that the current British ambassador has neither publicly apologized nor set in motion a workable plan to prevent a reoccurence of such an outrage. I detect arrogance and indifference.

We learn that His Excellency will place beer mats, on which will be written exhortations, in the open-air hostelries in Riga urging British tourists to conduct themselves with decorum whilst in Riga. An insult to bona-fide tourists and a provocation to louts. What is to be done? How to do it? Try this tale. It is true.

In Tallinn, three years ago, I observed a group of my fellow countrymen behaving in an untoward fashion. I courteously but firmly remonstrated with them with good effect.

Later I met with the Defense Attache from Britain to Riga and Tallinn. I enquired, “First Dublin, then Prague, now Tallinn and Riga. What is your answer to this little local difficulty?”He replied, “On Friday afternoon, in summer, I remove my uniform. I don civilian clothes. I make my way to the places in Riga where the young men have congregated. I say to them, ‘Good afternoon, gentlemen. Welcome to Riga. I see that you are enjoying yourselves. I feel that I should introduce myself since I am the person on duty at the British Embassy this weekend. Should anything untoward befall you, I am the person summoned to assist. I wish you a happy visit and for myself a good night’s rest. Any questions? Gent-lemen.’”I suggest that the Lieutenant Colonel has showed far more leadership, firmness, tact and common sense than His Excellency with his beer mats.

The continent of Europe was plagued for nearly two decades by a minority of British football fans who disgraced themselves, their nation and their football clubs in the cities of Europe. Lives were lost. An untold amount of damage was done to people and property, as well as to Britain’s reputation. Action was taken at government level. National and regional police forces through Interpol, working with football clubs and travel agencies largely solved the problem. The miscreants were punished. Some lost their jobs, had their passports confiscated, were blacklisted, ended up in custody and missed their flights home. I suggest that this is the correct way forward. It requires coordination.

Our diplomatic service has to play a role here. I write at Eastertide. Should the British Ambassador to Riga have attended divine service at St. Saviour’s Church, Riga, he would have observed the consecrated and not desecrated memorial to the British sailors who contributed to Latvian independence with their lives. He would have also heard the tale, should he have chosen to listen, of the Roman procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate who, 2,000 years ago “washed his hands” of a matter which he found too difficult, and walked away. I apologize again to the citizens of Riga.

On this occasion for the British ambassador who has vested in him the authority but neglects to assume the responsibility to take timely and effective action to rid Riga of this pestilence.

So the Earl I say well said !!

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Happy Birthday to me !

Well its that time of the year again, when Father Time catches once more up with you - So here I am 61 years young, and getting grumpier by the day !

So as I enter into this my 62 second year on this little planet of ours, a few thoughts.

Why do cretins fly thousands of miles to Riga to watch SKY TV ?
Why when the trees near to the Freedom Monument were just about to blossom did Riga city council cut all the branches back ?
Why with grass near Congress Nams just about throw off its winter coat, did Riga Parks Department decide to cover it all with Earth and plant new grass seed ?
and ..........
Why has nobody sent me a Birthday card ?

But I am not alone on this day in commiserating about getting older- so do all of the following -- Happy Birthday !!

Germaine Tailleferre born on April 19, 1892

Cora Sue Collins born on April 19, 1927

Jayne Mansfield born on April 19, 1933

Dudley Moore born on April 19, 1935

Tim Curry born on April 19, 1946

Murray Perahia born on April 19, 1947

Harm Evert Waalkens born on April 19, 1948

Barry Brown born on April 19, 1951

Alexis Arguello born on April 19, 1952

Peter Chung born on April 19, 1961

Arshad Warsi born on April 19, 1968

Ashley Judd born on April 19, 1968

Shannon Lee born on April 19, 1969

Diego Cagna born on April 19, 1970

Kelly Holmes born on April 19, 1970

Luis Miguel born on April 19, 1970

Micheal Barrow born on April 19, 1970

Anniko van Santen born on April 19, 1971

Gad Elmaleh born on April 19, 1971

Rivaldo born on April 19, 1972

Jeroen Claase born on April 19, 1974

Pascal Cygan born on April 19, 1974

Kendra Jade born on April 19, 1977

Gabriel Heinze born on April 19, 1978

James Franco born on April 19, 1978

Kate Hudson born on April 19, 1979

Alexis Thorpe born on April 19, 1980

Dong Jie born on April 19, 1980

Catalina Sandino Moreno born on April 19, 1981

Hayden Christensen born on April 19, 1981

Troy Polamalu born on April 19, 1981

Joe Mauer born on April 19, 1983

Courtland Mead born on April 19, 1987

Maria Sharapova born on April 19, 1987

And of course the lovely Sue Barker !

For all who read the blog the drinks are on me this evening at De Lacy's, but to qualify for this magnanimous offer, you have to leave a comment telling me who is Germaine Tailleferre ?

So there we have it and it is amazing to think that this the 11th birthday I have spent in Riga

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Irish are Celebrating

Last Thursday I received what was to prove to be a great suggestion, albeit from an unlikely source P.... (English and currently suffering belated birth pains). He suggested that we run a sweep based on the Grand National Horse race, in order to raise some funds for the Smiley Fund. So on Friday morning an e-mail was sent to the various Smiley fund supporters, and by 5.00pm we had raised (or at least committed) Ls 400.00. Of this some Ls 175.00 will be paid out to the winners of the Sweep - with the balance going to the Smiley Fund

The winners being :

S......(Welsh - King of Cat Flaps) - Ls 100.00
J..... (Irish - Banking whizz kid) - Ls 50.00
J... (Irish - Builder of dream homes) - Ls 25.00

So to all who participated as ever many thanks

So there we have it and Irish outsider at 33:1 odds has won the Grand National, and two Irish and a Welshman have won the sweep stake, quite a weekend for the Celtic race, but there is more !!

The weekend itself was peaceful enough, with the village lounge remaining undisturbed by our weekend visitors, although there was a minor scare on Friday night, when I received an SMS from (J... - Australian with penchant for all things wooden) advising me that the village lounge would not be open until 6.00pm - apparently a technical fault. Which as we all know is pub speak for saying they are having a problem with the drains.

Nonetheless I did arrive a little after 6.00pm. the door was open and up I went, to find it empty ! - wonderful - it appeared I had missed the sign outside say "Closed" - Oops! - but as I was now inside I was permitted to stay, and a most enjoyable time it was - A bar all to myself - although after advising young J.... of my where about he too ignored the sign and joined up, likewise J..... (Australian/Latvian - he who has a crisis in Australia). So a very pleasant Friday evening.

Saturday afternoon saw a small gathering again at the village lounge to watch what can only be described as the worst game of cricket yet to hit our screens - South Africa v New Zealand. Now I know that cricket at the best of times is not the most exciting spectator sport - but even the attending cricket aficionado's, suggested this was BORING.

Sunday was simply brilliant day, with beautiful sunshine, clear skies, so stroll in the park followed a couple of beers was perfection itself.

Otherwise the village was quiet, with not a lot going, however A little bird has whispered in my ear that one of the village people is about to become a father ! - Now it would be wrong of me to spread as yet unconfirmed rumours - so for now I will not mention the father to be - but if it is correct - my congratulations to him and his good Lady- it just goes to that big things can be produced from small beginnings !!
Advance warning to all pub owners, A... (English with penchant for sick jokes) will be arriving in July, the 6th to be exact and will strike upon De Lacy's at approximately 1.30pm. So be warned Guinness sales will rocket during his week long stay, and no doubt the karaoke bars will once again resound to him doing it His Way.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Artist in Residence

Some time ago I mentioned a young artist (photographer) who was now resident in Latvia to create a pictorial diary of his stay here. He can be found at well not to be outdone De Lacy's has for the last few days (weeks !) also had an artist in residence.

You may remember that De Lacy's recently opened two art galleries, well they have now got an in house resident (apparently) artist, who operates under the Non de Plume of " Not Working" But as we know this is simply an anagram for Got Inn Work ! which of course is exactly what this particular artist clearly specialises has.

Each night for the last few days, he has locked himself away in one of the galleries in which to create his own masterpiece. The other evening I managed to peek into, what I am told was an unfinished piece - I stood in sheer amazement, now I am no art expert, but the immediate impression is of a minimalist style - a solid single color - Green, covers all of the walls, but this is offset by the untouched interior of the gallery entrance door, which remains in its full resplendent impressionist style.

Now what "Got Inn Work" has in store for the second gallery we can but wait and see, but I suspect it will follow in a similar fashion to the first.

Now if you think it has only grabbed my attention, you would be wrong, the queues to visit the gallery stretched nearly to the front door at times, such was the level of interest in gaining entrance. Hopefully when the second gallery is re-opened this will cut down on the queuing times to gain entrance. Indeed it was noticeable that such was the excitement created that some of the patrons unable to contain themselves went across the road to a Restaurant Boutique called Hesburger to check out their galleries.

So to J.... (Irish artisan) and all of the staff involved in this new artistic endeavour - Congratulations, as who else would have thought of allowing us the village people and the guests from the UK & Ireland the privilege of being able to watch the "Got Inn Work" artist in action. Any other art gallery would probably have done it when no one was in the gallery itself - such innovation is to be but admired.

But enough of this praise, last weekend saw Easter upon us, and with it a serious drop in temperature, so whilst the rest of Europe basked in the sunshine, we had to shiver in what was distinctly chilly environment.

Strangely there seemed a dire lack of cretins around, indeed in my meandering into the Village lounge on Saturday and Sunday, it was distinctly quiet - very nice ! The sports fare was limited to cricket, and didn't England do well ?? - Perhaps Not !

Interesting night on Monday, I meandered into De Lacy's, sat myself down to enjoy a few beers before heading for home. Young C.... ( English - soon to be Lattelecom associate) joined me and as is our wont began to discuss the vagaries of the world. As required I stepped outside to have a cigarette, but on my return discovered that my bag, containing all my worldly belongings had disappeared.

Horror !!!!! - but as either C.... or I had been beside it all the time we could not work how or by whom it had been taken. For no good reason I stepped outside again ( did I really think the thief would be standing outside ?) - but on my return -lo and behold there was C.... holding it up.

The culprit was some local moron who had been sitting next to me, he had secreted the bag under his jacket/coat, but had then resolutely sat there watching the cricket. Now either he is a cricket fanatic or he was a complete imbecile - I think the latter. C.... had seen my bag under his jacket and removed same - to whit - the would be thief casually strolled out.

It transpires that he had not bought any liquid refreshment, but had simply came in asked if he could watch the TV, and of course had then spied upon my bag.

All's well that ends well - but is was a warning to me to be a little more careful of where I place the bag, and who I sit next too.

A I started to write this blog on Tuesday, and having visited De Lacy's last night (Wednesday) I regret to advise the the artist in residence "Got Inn Work" has now vacated the premises. no doubt to take his artistic talents elsewhere. However to good news, just as I forecast is that he has mfashioned the second gallery in identical style to the first. The sheer brilliance of the overall effect of the roughened surface, covered in a Matt green finish, and offset brilliantly by the white artifacts and the kaleidoscope of surrealist murals on the inside of the entrance door - is ...... what can I say - underwhelming !

On the Zvannieki front, well Easter brought more than the Eatser Bunny, it added a further four children, aged from 2 years - 8 years. As ever these children had suffered abuse by their father, and had been taken into care by the authorities at Valmeira, and then Zvannieki had been asked if they could take them under there wings, as the only alternative would been to place them in an orphanage.
These new additions are been cared for at the old Zvannieki, in order to give them TLC and personal care - so we will need to once again acquire some cooking facilities, as all of the original kitchen had been moved to the new Zvannieki. Fortunately we have sufficient funds in the Smiley Fund kitty.

I hope to have pictures of the Easter celebrations at the new Zvannieki, as well as some of the new additions, next week, alongwith those taken at the presentation of the mini bus.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The deed is done - almost !

Well Sunday afternoon finally saw the official handover of the Zvannieki Renault Trafic mini bus. I had hoped to be publishing photographs of the handover, but this being
Latvia, there had to be a snag.

Earlier on Sunday I had gone to the dealer to collect the mini bus, only to find that there were absolutely no stickers on the mini bus. No Rietumu logo, nor Smiley fund logo ! - Frantic phone calls to sign maker proved fruitless, as it appeared there had been some confusion over when the stickers were to be ready. So the mini bus was delivered without the stickers, but with the agreement that we would return later in week to have them put on.

The actual handover was a quiet affair, as certain members of the Smiley fund, were glued to their television screen, in the village lounge, watching Leicester v Stade de France in the Heineken Quarter-final - so I cut a lonely figure representing the Smiley fund. We did have representatives from Rietumu Bank, who carried the official handover.

It goes without saying that Zvannieki were over the moon with their new transport. So now we have to focus on getting the kitchen installed !
Sunday evening proved to be interesting, as having returned to the village lounge following the handover, I indulged in a few beers and joined the happy band to watch the closing minutes of the rugby game. Joining us in a near sober state was young R.. (He thinks - I Think - We think)
And of course the indispensable Welshman S...... trying to fathom the intricacies of digital photography. He actually taking a picture of B..... (teacher of note - B flat )

Thereafter I walked home in a very pleasant if somewhat chilly evening, only to stumble/trip/fall, inflicting serious damage to my left shoulder and right hand index finger. Indeed I have spent today at the hospital having X-rays and a checkout to ascertain the damage.

It appears nothing is broken, but that I have sustained muscle damage in my upper left arm. So after a injection my rear (why my rear as the pain is in my shoulder ?) and a prescription for a course of tablets - I am hopeful that in a few days all will be well, because getting dressed is a serious challenge, apart from being decidedly painful, and I am no good with pain.
So hopefully next week we will have pictures of the stickered mini bus - with Easter approaching I think my body is in need of a rest - so quiet weekend is in the planning, as many of our erstwhile village members will be heading for home.
For those interested the picture at the top was taken on a beatiful evening last week, with the sun setting over the river daugava