Monday, June 11, 2007

Dear oh Deer

Now here is a question for you " What does the Duke of Bedford and Latvia have in common ?" answer to follow later.

So what of the weekend, well in my stay in Latvia I have attended funerals (to many), weddings - but never a school graduation.

Saturday me saw head for the countryside at the invitation of a friend to attend his sons graduation from school. The son is 16 and is about to start his senior schooling in September.

Well the event was held in the the village hall, and seemed to me to be attended by every member of the village, but I was assured by the proud parents, that only those invited could attend.

The ceremony started at 5.00pm, and each of the graduates strode into the hall - very formal as each was dressed in their best suits and dresses, with each boy accompanying a young lady. I did but wonder what happens when there is a class with unequal number of boys and girls, but never did find the answer.

The all sat on the stage of the hall, and then in turn were called down to make a brief speech, which in the main was giving thanks to their parents and school teachers, and then all of their friends, relatives etc stood in line to present he/she with flowers.

Following this there were speeches by teachers, headmaster, and parents - all giving praise to the students. Now remember this was a small village school, so in total there were only about 12 graduates.

Finally with the formal part over, they departed the just as they had arrived with the boys escorting the girls out of the hall.

Outside each of the proud parents, and their guest lined up to have photographs taken with their children.

In the background an unseen army of helpers were clearing the hall of chairs, and layout out the tables with food, wine, Vodka etc ready for the evening celebrations. Now all of this took about 90 minutes, but when we finally re-entered into the hall - the tables looked magnificent, and food quite delicious. as the only non-Latvian present I cannot say that the conversation flowed, but everyone did their best to make feel welcome, although I did decline the Vodka, but the Moldavian wine was not bad !

Clearly the evening was set too be a long one, but around midnight, one of the guests who I had been sitting next too, announced that he had to go back to the "farm" to feed the animals, and would I like to see them.

Now in the normal course of events this was an invitation that I could quite easily have passed up on, but in this case the animals were Deer, Wild Boars and Ostriches - not exactly your average Latvian animal fare.

So off we drove, fortunately not to far. It was like entering one of those wild life parks in the UK. Massive fenced off enclosures, each with its own group of animals. I was advised that he now has over 100 deer, 80+ wild boar and over 40 ostriches.

And here is the connection with the Duke of Bedford - the original six deer, 1 stag and 5 females all came from the Duke of Bedfords herd in the UK.

Needless to say this farm is not a charity all animal welfare place - it is a commercial farm, so no fairy tale ending for these animals - but quite a place to see - and they do permit visitors, as long as they get advance notice. Unfortunately I did not get any contact details.

So weary and tired I finally got back into Riga around 2.30am on Sunday morning, way past my bedtime, so it is fair to say that Sunday was a "quiet day".

In regards to the happenings at Zvannieki, well young V...(Australian/Latvian - chief kitchen master) has now knocked though the hole in the wall, which act as the serving hatch, levelled the floor, and is now awaiting the ladies of Zvannieki to choose the kitchen floor and wall tiles, as well the delivery of the new kitchen windows and door frames. As ever with V.... projects speed is not the watchword, but I am sure that in the not to distant future, hopefully before the end of 2007 it will be finished ( just joking V !!).

For those not here, the weather over the weekend was beautiful, warm with temperatures up around 28 degrees, so I am sure for many of the village members a time to simply relax, have a few beers in the sunshine, and prepare for another week at work.

Finally a word on the cretins ( Translated English Football supporters) who got arrested last week, and entered into a fray with the local police - I was seriously dissapointed to learn that they got off with a paltry fine and sent back home - Not the message that the Latvian courts should be sending out.

I did hear of one possible solution, it appears in Liejapa, they have an old Russian style "prison" where onne can actually volunteer to spend some time ( Big thing with stag groups apparently?) - now why the authorities simply send them there, make them pay for the privilege, and make the minimum period one month.

I quote from one visitor -
"This jail once housed soldiers of a criminal bent, not political dissidents, and torture was psychological, not physical. After 'check-in', we line up in twos in the cobbled courtyard, as the guard outlines what we can and can't do - basically, we can do anything he tells us to do. We file in, double time, into the dank corridor and are made to squat, hands behind head.

To wipe off any smirks from our faces, a gun is fired into the corridor above our heads to warn us what happens if we try to escape. "

Now that sounds like the place we should send all visiting cretins, for a mandatory few days at the start of their visit.

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