Thursday, April 24, 2008

Food for thought!

Well it does but appear that Spring has finally arrived in Latvia, the trees are showing signs of life, the blossom is actually out ( well in the countryside) and the outdoor bars and cafes are being erected, in preparation for the 1st of May, which is when I am told is the legal date on which they can open. However this has stopped some of them from serving the clientel now !

Now on the subject of erection ( no not that kind !) - have you ever wondered how they put up these cranes which are used in the construction of tall buildings ? Now I have to confess that this is not something which keeps me awake at night. But the other day I happened to on hand when such an event was taking place next to the new Rietumu Bank offices. Watching this engineering spectacle, has once again confirmed to me that I do not have a head for heights - and I certainly would not want to do this for a living.

It looks a little like a giant mecanno set, where you had to figure out that if you joined this bit to that bit, inserted the nut and bolt, then hoped it would stay together !!

In the case of they young man on the crane, there he was with no safety harness, dangling on a limb of the crane a good 40ft or 50 ft in the air.

Last weekend saw me extend my time on earth by another year, so thanks to all who sent me birthday greetings and bought me a beer (all four of you !!!). Must confess I do not feel any older, perhaps thats because I have always felt and looked old !

In general life in the village has been quiet, over the last few days, with no real activity or gossip to report on. On the Zvannieki front - well just possibly the kitchen will be finally finished this week, or at least this is according to V....(Australian/Latvian ship repairer). But then again he said this last week, and the week before ........ - but to be fair it appears our itinerant kitchen fitter Juris - cannot be convinced to go out and just finish the job !! - Perhaps he needs a little physical convincing??

Still struggling to get the final audit on the kitchen project approved by Rietumu Bank, but with a little bit of luck should get this done before the end of this week, which will then allow us to proceed with the new project again being sponsored by the bank. But at least this time we know the rules of the game.

As I have indicated before it is always nice to get comments on the blog, and this week I received a comment from a gentleman called benimaclet, who I guess is a resident of Riga. He suggest that I do not have a lot of sympathy for the "cretins" who are done over in what he refers to as "shady scams" - and frankly the answer to that is - No I do not - There is not a city in the world where such goings on do not happen, and if you are silly enough to allow yourself to get into that situation - well there is only one person to blame ! However I do have every sympathy for anyone - cretin or otherwise who gets physically attacked, nobody deserves to get beaten up and robbed.

He also comments on the lack of public toilets in Riga, and indeed the minimalist toilet facilities in many of the bars - all of which is true - so no argument there. As for his point is there any other city so badly served for public toilets - well in my limited experience almost every city / town suffers from a lack of public toilets.

Then he points out that given my dislike of the "cretins" why I do visit the pubs where they congregate ? - Well from my point of view De Lacy's etc were my "village" pub, but unlike my village pub back in the UK, they of course were not going to turn away this cash jackpot every weekend, albeit from young Brits determined to achieve only one thing - get pissed !!

Nonetheless whilst I cannot wholly agree with all his comments, it is nice to see this subject from another perspective.

Now speaking of pubs, I hope no one is planning to visit the Stella bar in Skunu Street in the near future as this article appeared from the Leta News agency yesterday

''Stella Pub'' cannot resume operations at this time - Food and Veterinary Service

RIGA, April 23 (LETA) - Last night, the Food and Veterinary Service (FVS) halted operations of the ''Stella Pub'' sports bar on Skunu Street in Riga's Old Town, and the bar cannot reopen at this time.

The FVS shut the bar down because hygienic violations were established, which apparently has led to several customers being infected with the Hepatitis A virus.

According to FVS's information, one of those infected with the virus is a ''Stella Pub'' chef, who did not know that he was ill while on the job.

As reported, the Public Health Agency (PHA) has begun an investigation into seven cases of people being infected with Hepatitis A.

Laura Bundule, head of the PHS's Public Relations Department, told LETA that it is possible that these cases are connected, because investigation results reveal that all of the infected worked or had eaten at the ''Stella Pub'' bar on Skunu Street in Riga's Old Town.

All of the infected have been placed in hospital and are being treated for the virus.

An investigation continues and the Riga Department of the Food and Veterinary Service has been informed.

The manager of the ''Stella Pub'' sports bar Andris Brucis admitted to LETA previously that the company's representatives are shocked about the developments. Due to health reasons, the sports bar was immediately shut down and all necessary inspections carried out, which the Food and Veterinary service requested. He pointed out that no unsanitary conditions were found, and nothing suspicious was found in the sports bar's food products that could have infected people with the virus. Brucis had intended to reopen ''Stella Pub'' for business at 1 p.m. this afternoon

I bet no one actually ordered a pint of Guinness and some Hepatitus A !!!!

So on that Happy Note I will conclude this little episode, and as the sun is shining, and a clear sky - time I think for a stroll in the park !

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Danger in the City

Occasionally I get visitors to the blog from the UK and Ireland, usually having found the blog by way of such search words as "clubs", "Cheap beer", Cheap Cigarettes", Clubs in Riga" etc.

Now it is well known my disdain for many of these would be visitors, and of course we do read from time to time ( to frequent for my liking) of the cretins using the Freedom Monument for a toilet.

Likewise it is well known about town that many of the so called clubs are simply rip-off establishments who charge hundreds of Lats for cheap champagne, and who use physical force to ensure prompt payment.

For these individuals I have little or no sympathy, however there are others who whilst they do come for the cheap beer, cigarettes etc, basically just want a good time.

Well last weekend such a young man saw himself seriously beaten up and robbed, in the early hours of the morning, whilst meandering in the Old Town in the vicinity of McDonalds.

I have no doubt he had "enjoyed" his evening, but in no way did he deserve to get the beating he got by a gang of local thugs. Regretfully little of any of this gets reported in the local press, and frankly the police seem to take no action. Even when he reported the incident to the British Embassy, I understand he received little or no sympathy or attention. Point to note he was seen by a Latvian employee of the British Embassy - what happened to the days when there was actually British staff inside British Embassies ?.

So to all of those who may stumble across this blog, seeking info on the nightlife etc in Riga a word of warning.

When out and about either late at night or in the wee hours of the morning :-
1. Take a taxi to get you from place to place, and in particular when heading back to your hotel or hostel.
2. Never walk alone.
3. Do not carry your passport or to much cash.
4. Avoid so called nightclubs in the Old Town - the majority if not all are rip-offs

I have no idea how young overseas visitors get done over at weekends (never see any mention of it in local press) - but I suspect it is a few. So to all would be visitors - enjoy Riga, but -


Monday, April 07, 2008

Somebody up there likes me !

Once again I have been remiss in keeping the many tens of my dedicated readers up todate on life in Riga. So for this story I have to return to Easter weekend - but before I do so I have a question - why does Easter weekend keep on changing ? If my understanding is correct then when the "big fella" ( to quote Billy Connolly) made his grand re-appearance it must have been on a specific date - must it not ? I mean we do not screw around with his birthday, it always on the 25th December. So how come Easter moves ? I mean in 1946 Good Friday was on April 19th, which by sheer coincidence is MY BIRTHDAY, but this year it was on the the 21st March !!

Anyhow the weekend was notable for being seriously quiet, as many of the village people departed to their respective homeland, however we did see the return of the prodigal Irish person J....( former tobacco baron and Shelley look a like - before he had his haircut)

It was good to see him in such fine form, but as yet no sign a of a permanent return.

Now on the previous Thursday afternoon I had taken myself into the old town for a business meeting, but when it came time to leave the restaurant I was trapped. In the time I had been in the restaurant, the new Gallerija Shopping Mall complex had caught fire, or at least the top floor. It would appear that every fire engine in Riga was on attendance. But again a question raised itself - how did they get through the barriers which prevent unauthorised cars getting into the Old City. If anyone has every taken the time no notice at anytime of the day there is usually queues trying to gain entry. But to get what appeared to over 15 fire appliances in must have taken

After that Easter passed quietly, and soon it was back to work time, but just as thoughts of Spring were about to enter - whallop, possibly the greatest amount of snow we have seen over the Winter was dumped in Riga and all over the the country, with some reports of over 40cm of snow falling in one day.

Last weekend saw two great sporting events, The Grand National and the quarter finals of the Heineken Cup.

For the first we had organised a little sweepstake, to raise a few pennies for Zvannieki, and guess who won ??

ME - and who says life is unfair, although I do have a confession to make, when we did the "draw" courtesy of C.....( budding Kabel entrepreneur) I had used the Sweepstake list as produced by the BBC on Tuesday 2nd April. But when I went on Saturday morning to send out the list showing who had what horse, they had changed a significant number of horses. So to be as fair as I good I took the new set of horses from the revised BBC Sweepstake list and simply replaced each of the "old" horses with new ones as per the list. So to all who took part many thanks - and I will host a round of drinks for as many participants as possible and put the balance in the Smiley Fund.

On the Friday previous V....(Australian and shipwrecker of note) finally announced he was going legal, and we were invited to a grand opening of his new and spacious office in Riga. The usual suspects were there - but a wonderful selection of goodies was there alongwith a few liquid selections. So to V.... all the best in your new legal endeavour, and if you need to know where the Tax office is - just ask

Finallyt to finish on the Rugby - as is our normal practice we would normally have been found at the village louge to view the games. However on this occasion the "management" had decided to close the Pub from 4.30pm - in order to host two private parties - but also advised their patrons that we could come back at 10.00pm on Saturday night. hmmmmmmm.........

I am not sure of the complete set of skills needed to run a successful pub, but if anyone knows of an idiots guide to managing a pub, can they please bring it and present to the so called management of this establishment, because they need it !

So having been effectively banned from our usual haunt, and fearing the worst at the new Stella Bar, we took ourselves of to the original Stella bar, and it was I have say most excellent - good beer, relatively quiet, no cretins and enough TV screens to keep both the rugby and football viewers happy.

So to the London Irish I say well done, condolences to the Ospreys, Cardiff and Gloucester.