Tuesday, November 20, 2007

32 million reasons to visit Ireland

Well last weekend saw a multitude of events, principal amongst them was the celebrations held across Latvia to celebrate their Independence Day, dating from 1919, when for the first time an independent Latvia was declared. In Riga both formal and informal activities took place, the largest being the military parade was held on 11 Novembris iela, in front of the President of Latvia and other dignatories.

In the Riga old town the celebrations were of a lighter note with concerts being held in many of the squares.

However I did come across one strange artifact which appeared outside Congress Nams, a huge great Red Rabbit ! - Now what this had to do with the celebrations I have no idea, don't even know if it was connected, but it certainly became the star attraction for many of the children.

For my part my celebrations were restricted to the village lounge on both Saturday and Sunday, to watch (a) Rugby and (b) Scotland v Italy. Suffice to say that the Rugby was most enjoyable and the football was just a smidgen disappointing, and that Scottish result allied to Israels win over Russia to provide a lifeline to England, frankly confirmed my view that life can be singularly unfair. Not that I am biased but I will not be crying if England fail to beat Croatia on Wednesday.

The Rugby attendees included the usual fraternity J...(Irish - builder of des res), J....(Australian - wood consultant to the world) and myself, alongwith half of Riga youth full Russian population. The latter being there to support Russia in the game against Israel.

So on a weekend to celebrate Latvia's Independence, I have no doubt that every bar in Riga was crammed full of young Russians supporting mother Russia. Now as these young men and women have no doubt been born and raised in Latvia, it call into question just where there loyalties lie - does it not.

Monday night being the last night of the holiday, saw yet again venture into the village lounge, only to find it was closed, and so I retired to the downstairs bar, to be met with two rather glum looking Australian persons. One being a village member J.... (Australian/Latvian - with high consular credentials) and a young visiting Australian based in London.

It transpired the reason for the gloomy looks was that a friend of the young Australian had chosen to visit that well know establishment La Rocca, and as ever "had done nothing" when three bouncers having seen him "do nothing" chose to beat the s..t out of him. The local constabulary then arrived on the scene and duly arrested the Australian, presumably on a public disorder charge, and duly banged him up for the weekend. So J... (Australian/Latvian aforementioned) had spent his weekend vainly trying to visit him (failed), get him released (failed). So in the great tradition of diplomats all over the world, having been unsuccessful in his endeavors, he retired the local hostelry to refresh himself. But as I have said many time before if you choose to visit these types of establishment, then be aware of the consequences of your behavior, even if innocently carried out, as the "minders" have no qualms about dishing out physical violence.

Now in the local press this weekend was this illuminating article

"Irish customs seizes smokes from 30 on Rīga flight
An estimated 250,000 cigarettes, carried by up to 30 passengers on one flight from Rīga, were seized Nov. 6 by Irish customs officials at Dublin airport.

Customs officials described the smuggling operation as “highly organized,” Irish Revenue said in a press release. The couriers each carried 5,000 or more cigarettes.

No one was arrested. The L&M and Marlboro brand cigarettes had a street value of EUR 85,000 with an estimated potential loss of EUR 68,750 in taxes.

The seizures arose as a result of intelligence and profiling, an Irish Revenue spokeswoman told Latvians Online. The customs service’s “Operation Swift” targeted passengers arriving from Rīga.

It is not the first time smugglers from Latvia have tried to bring contraband cigarettes into Ireland. In March, for example, customs officials seized 1.4 million cigarettes valued at EUR 483,000 from passengers arriving during the St. Patrick’s Day holiday. In May, 46-year-old Sandra Piruska of Latvia was arrested at the airport with 17,200 cigarettes in her baggage.

Arrivals from Latvia into Ireland are allowed to bring only 200 cigarettes for personal use, according to Irish Revenue.

Of the 32 million cigarettes seized so far this year from passengers arriving from the Baltic states, more than half—17 million—were carried on flights from Rīga. The total seized represents a retail value of EUR 11.6 million and a potential loss of revenue of EUR 8.8 million, Irish Revenue said."Do you think there is some enterprising Latvians / Irish trying to make a some money out of the cigarette prices in Latvia and the other Baltic States ?
Now moving onto other irrelevant facts, but keeping an Australian Feel, the next article

"Australians with Latvian ancestry top 20,000

The number of people claiming Latvian ancestry in Australia has increased over five years and now tops 20,000, with females outnumbering males by 1,000, according to new census results.

A total of 20,058 people claimed Latvian ancestry in the 2006 census, according to results reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Of those, 10,529 were female and 9,529 were male.

In 2001, a total of 18,938 persons claimed Latvian ancestry.

Broken down by states, census results show that New South Wales had the largest population with Latvian ancestry, a total of 5,879, followed by Victoria (5,771), South Australia (2,933), Queensland (2,610), Western Australia (1,792), the Australian Capital Territory (603), Tasmania (331) and the Northern Territory (145). Of the country’s major cities, Melbourne had the largest Latvian ancestral population with 4,609"

But according to beloved Australian Acting consul there are only 52 Australians living in Latvia, so not a lot then. Now as I seem to be on an Australian bent, the next is a first for me (if it works) and a first for J.... (Gate mender and now video star) . You have to wait a bit before he appears ! If the video does not work then visit www.workpermit.com/video/player.htm

And finally a question of the week

What senior village personage, with Waltzing Matilda credentials, and a penchant for rescuing destitute Antipodeans, dines and has takeaways from one of Riga finer dining establishments, specialising in haute cuisine hamburgers and pomme frites - Hesburger ?

A clue his hairstyle bears a passing resemblance to Oor Wullie ( this is only a help to those of a Scottish persuasion and who read the Sunday Post in the distant past !)

Monday, November 12, 2007

A time to remember

So here we are again, Remembrance Sunday, so as is my wont, I and J....(Australian/Latvian and in a past life an HR manager), D...(English -ex member of Her Majesties finest - RAF) and I set off to once again take part in the service at the Nikolay cemetery in Jelgava.

This time we had two new faces, The military attache Lt. Col. L.R. Wilson and of course our new Ambassador Mr Richard Moon. No prizes for guessing who did not have shiny shoes !! - what is it with our ambassadors, can they not afford shoe polish ? ( sorry this shoe thing is one of my little fetishes, that and ironing socks!).

For the first time since I have been attending the service we actually had a beautiful sunny morning, albeit a little chilly. Attendance was good, with about 40+ civil and military persons in attendance, and for the first time a singer was present, complete with a PA system to provide leadership in the hymn Abide with me. Just as well because with exception of the Earl of Carlisle, no one else sang a note.

As ever it was time for quiet reflection on the those that have goner before their time, as well as a time for remembering all of the military personnel currently engaged in conflicts throughout the world.

As ever following the service of Remembrance, we then went the short distance to pay our respects at the Latvian memorial, where wreaths were laid alongwith a small service.

Now it was intersting to note that D... had little knowledge of the background to why there is a British Wat memorial in Latvia, so if like him who are not aware of history, then very briefly -

While Britain celebrated the armistice in November 1918, the Baltic States continued to struggle for their independence. German troops remained in occupation following the cessation of hostilities in Western Europe and both the Bolsheviks and the ‘White’ Russians refused to recognise the independence of the three Baltic States. Britain and her Allies had already accorded the Baltic States recognition, but it was not until the Armistice that it was possible to take military steps to assist them.

While it was decided not to deploy any land forces to the Baltic States, the British Government took the decision “in the case of the Baltic provinces, to protect, as far as we can, the nascent nationalities with our Fleet.” From the outset British Naval Forces were to prove vital to Latvia’s struggle for independence. In April 1919, following an attack upon the Latvian General Head Quarters, President Karlis Ulmanis sought refuge upon the SARATOV; a merchant vessel operating under the protection of the Royal Navy.

President Ulmanis was to remain aboard the SARATOV until 27 June when he landed at Liepaja to resume the reins of government.
The British operation in the Baltics lasted until 1920.

At its conclusion the lives of 128 British seamen had been lost. Each November the British Ambassador lays a wreath in the Gulf of Riga to commemorate the deaths of 9 men on board the HMS DRAGON. These men fell to a volley of fire from a shore battery whilst repelling the advance of pro-German forces upon Riga.

Can I suggest you also visit the web site www.hmsdragon1919.co.uk/16226.html where you can full details on the background on the conflict, as well as a full list of those who died.

Again sticking with tradition, we after arriving back in Riga we retired to the village lounge to partake of a little refreshment, and to toast the memory of those who had died.

Saturday proved to be relatively uneventful, in the morning along with J.... ( German Sparky) we purchased all the cables, lights etc for Zvannieki, and hopefully he will complete this work before the end of this week - subsequently met up with J.....( Latvian vicar of note and is it a coincidence that his initials are JC ?) in order deliver said electrical items to him for transportation to the home.

The afternoon saw an absolute festival of Rugby, however I constrained myself with watching the latter part of the Leinster game, and all of the Edinburgh game, before retiring home to watch the Wasps v Munster.

Continuing on a rugby theme on Sunday afternoon I took myself back to the village lounge to watch the Clermont v Llannelli game, but a small problem arose. As no one of the village rugby fraternity had arrived to watch the game at 3.00pm, and indeed I was late in arriving to Watch the Wasps game kick of at 5.00pm, the bar staff had at the request of those in attendance to put on the Chelsea Football game on all the Tv's.

I have to confess I was little miffed, but I suppose in fairness to all, it would have been a little difficult for the staff too suddenly advise that he was switching the TV to the rugby, just because I had arrived. The situation was not helped by the arrival of J.... (Irish - with just a little hint of Celtic anger) who like me had assumed that as it was advertised, the game would be on. But having vented his frustration, he swiftly departed. There is nothing like a rugby man deprived of his game !

However as it transpired a solution of sorts was finally found, the TV in the smoking corridor was switched over to the rugby. So there I sat in splendid isolation, until the end of the first half, which thankfully coincided with the end of the football match, so I was able to return to the bar and watch the second half of the game in comfort, as it has to be said that the smoking corridor is not the warmest of places. So for me at least all was well in the end.

So on that I will finish, other to remind everyone that as Christmas is once again approaching, we will again be asking all and sundry to open their hearts and wallets to support out Christmas appeal for the children at Zvannieki. We will again be hosting a Christmas dinner on 13th December, so for those of you can attend please let me know. The inclusive price will be Ls30.00 per head. If you cannot make it, well you wil miss great night if last year is anything to go by - but fear not, if you cannot send yourself, then just send the money to Zvannieki bank account at the Rietumu Bank.

Monday, November 05, 2007

It is good news time !

Well after the recent happenings and doubts regarding gaining the additional funding from Rietumu Bank to complete the Zvannieki kitchen, I am delighted to say that today I received an e-mail from the bank confirming that the balance of the monies will indeed be forthcoming !!!.

So to all at the bank, and in particular J.... (Irish with a footwear fetish)


So now it all hands to the mast, and let us get this kitchen finished before Christmas.

PS - If there is anyone out there who would like to make a donation to the Smiley fund, please send to Zvannieki account - details are on the right hand side of this blog, as we aim to make this the best Christmas yet !

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Flushed with success

Well finally this week I managed to get out to Zvannieki, along with V...(Australian/Latvian - designer of doggy pooper scooper), J...(German - Vee has ways of making it vork !- electrician). D.......(English - Ex Printer with building skills). The object of the exercise was to work out the cost of the electrical work, along with what we need to do to completely finish the kitchen. Suffice to say we have still got a lot of work to do, electrical, a bit of plumbing, new ceiling in dining room ( the old one is falling down) and of course painting the walls. In the case of the latter I need some volunteers to help in this task, so to all of you out there if your going to be in Riga in mid November please let me know, as clearly the more volunteers the quicker we can get the job done !

Getting to Zvannikei proved to bit a bit of a challenge at least for me, as the master plan had been for me to collect J....(Irish - builder of repute) Mercedes van, drive to Olaine to collect the Fridge, dishwasher, Microwave and various kitchen bits and pieces, then onto Zvannieki, and with assistance of the above umload. However the van had a mind of its own, along with a flat battery ! - so despite my best efforts at trying to jump start it, the technology of the van was having none of it. So after an hour of trying I gave up and joined the rest of the crew in their car and drove onto Zvannieki.

It was good to see that a new play area has been created, and presumably no need to move the original climbing frame and swings from the old Zvannieki.

The project now has a timetable, so by 10th November all electrical and plumbing work finished, by 17th November new ceiling installed, by 24th November - all painting finished, and by 1st December complete kitchen installed.

Now it has to be said that this is only going to happen if Rietumu Bank come good with the balance of the money, if they do not then we have a serious cash problem, which even with the cash raised the planned charity Christmas dinner of the 13th December, will still leave us substantially short - But let us hope the spirit of Christmas will permit the bank to have change of heart and let us get this kitchen finished and installed in time for Christmas.

This week also saw another piece of enterprise at our village lounge. Only a few weeks ago they introduced Indian food onto the menu, and now in an even bolder move to provide a full service to their clients, a take away ironing service. So now you can have a beer, eat your Indian meal and get your ironing done at the same time !- Brilliant

Can I once again remind all and sundry about the Charity Christmas dinner on December 13th, places are already being booked, and we have limited space, so can only accommodate 30 people, and at this time we have 11 definite bookings - so come on get your name down. Menu has now been agreed with our resident chef

Home made Pate
Full Christmas Turkey Dinner

Christmas Pudding/Mince Pies

Red & WhiteWine

Fully inclusive price Ls30.00 per person

I would also like to bring to your attention a world wide event on November 19th !

World Toilet Day has been declared to be on the 19th of November each year.

The purpose of having this day is to have people in all countries to take action, increase awareness of toilet user’s right to a better toilet environment, and to demand for it from toilet owners. As such, it is also the toilet user’s duty to contribute towards its maintenance, cleanliness and hygiene. The public marks the day to practice toilet etiquette, the restroom community-at-large celebrates with a new declaration for the forthcoming year.

So to all of you please make sure that on at least that day you treat your toilet(s) with respect and you comply with the proper toilet etiquette, whatever that might be !

And finally who or what is this ? - a clue to assist, you could be seeing double, its Australian in origin, it is frequently seen near wooden gates, and it requires constant attention to keep it upright !
Have great week, and as I write, the first snow of winter is descending, and forecast is for more next week, along with the first overnight sub zero temperatures.