Monday, March 22, 2010

Well its different !

Well today ( Monday) I discovered a new rinkle in banking within Latvia, After collecting my "number" I duly waited to be served, as usual 6 desks, but only two open - and my desired task was to deposit some funds into my account. After waiting 3 minutes !! ( tis true) I finally stepped in front of the young Lady, explained what I wanted to do, and was advised that if she took my money I would be charged a commision to deposit the money, however if I used that automated machine for depositing cash ( notes only) there would be no commision.
So now Swedbanka ( ala Hansabanka) charge for putting money in, and taking money out if you choose to use the counter service.
No prizes for guessing which service I used !

Watched the rugby last weekend at the homestead of R..... (Irish - Manager of Irish loan portfolio) and his good Lady - Great night - As one of only two Scots in attendance, but surrounded by Irish, including the Ambassador - we watched a great game of rugby with Scotland gaining a narrow victory. Now that is different !

Then after a great dinner onto the England v France , with French finally victorious, and with it the Six Nations Championship - Magnifique ! - So a seriously long rugby day, what with Wales v Italy game earlier in the day

Also last week saw a new approach to the Freedom Monument - by car - A local driver somewhat p..s..d.decided to take a short cut but ended up driving up the steps a the rear of the monument - different and makes a change from the usual use as a pissoir.

We seem now to be at the end of the ice season - and with a little bit of luck, we may greet April with no snow - but as ever we shall but see !

This week also saw the colalition goverment collapse withe withdrawal of representatives of the Peoples Party from the goverment with the loss of four ministerial posts. But given that the "government" is made of four parties ( was five ) it hardly makes for a stable situation - but then what new in Latvia - but it is different from any other country in the E.U. - Can you think of any country with five political parties making up a "unity" government. But then again there are over 25 registered political parties in Latvia.

Gossip continues unabated re a new "pub" opening - latest is that I.....(Latvian - barwoman with diminished reputation) is going to open a new bar/pub in the old town, apparently just off Livi Square - as ever we can but wait and see. This gossip provided by I.... (Latvian - par exellence bar manager)
Heard from A.... (English - former telco man) is once again going to make his annual pilgrimage this year in July - so an early warning notice to bar owners in Riga - stock up on Guinness !

Well I started this blog a few days ago, but forgot to publish !! ( its age you know) - so an update on goings on as of today Wednesday.

Well my roving reporter J... (Australian - King of SIP) has just advised me that work has re-commenced on the "No Problem" outdoor bar in Dome Square- no idea if it is going as per last year, with single deck or the much vaunted multi-storie version with glass panels - will update when I get into town at the weekend. Also the outdoor bars are beginning to be erected in Livi Square and elsewhere in the old town - so Spring must be acoming !! - and with Spring another village member willl be back in town today B...... (Irish - clothing merchant) - so doubt he will be letting his hair down over the next few days, fortunately for me he is a late night merchant - so I will not be involved.

Finally a little quiz to test your lateral thinking - no cheating - so no looking down the page

Answer below (after the history lesson)

but while you think about this a little English History Lesson - read and learn
There is an old Hotel/Pub in Marble Arch,which used to have gallows adjacent. Prisoners were taken to the gallows (after a fair trial of course) to be hung. The horse drawn dray, carting the prisoner was accompanied by an armed guard, who would stop the dray outside the pub and ask the prisoner if he would like ONE FOR THE ROAD. If he declined, that prisoner was ON THE WAGON So there you go. More bleeding history.

They used to use urine to tan animal skins, so families used to all pee in a pot & then once a day it was taken & sold to the tannery. If you had to do this to survive you were "Piss Poor". But worse than that were the really poor folk who couldn’t even afford to buy a pot they "Didn’t have a pot to Piss in" were the lowest of the low. The next time you are washing your hands and complain because the water temperature isn't just how you like it, think about how things used to be.

Most people got married in June because they took their yearly bath in May, and they still smelled pretty good by June. However, since they were starting to smell brides carried a bouquet of flowers to hide the body odour. Hence the custom today of carrying a bouquet when getting married.

Baths consisted of a big tub filled with hot water. The man of the house had the privilege of the nice clean water, then all the other sons and men, then the women and finally the children. Last of all the babies. By then the water was so dirty you could actually lose someone in it. Hence the saying, Don't throw the baby out with the Bath water!
Houses had thatched roofs, thick straw piled high, with no wood underneath. It was the only place for animals to get warm, so all the cats and other small animals (mice, bugs) lived in the roof. When it rained it became slippery and sometimes the animals would slip and fall off the roof. Hence the saying It's raining cats and dogs.

There was nothing to stop things from falling into the house. This posed a real problem in the bedroom where bugs and other droppings could mess up your nice clean bed. Hence, a bed with big posts and a sheet hung over the top afforded some protection. That's how canopy beds came into existence.The floor was dirt. Only the wealthy had something other than dirt. Hence the saying, DIRT POOR.

The wealthy had slate floors that would get slippery in the winter when wet, so they spread thresh (straw) on floor to help keep their footing. As the winter wore on, they added more thresh until, when you opened the door, it would all start slipping outside. A piece of wood was placed in the entrance-way. Hence: a THRESH HOLD . (Getting quite an education, aren't you?)

In those old days, they cooked in the kitchen with a big kettle that always hung over the fire. Sometimes they could obtain pork, which made them feel quite special. When visitors came over, they would hang up their bacon to show off. It was a sign of wealth that a man could, BRING HOME THE BACON. They would cut off a little to share with guests and would all sit around talking and CHEW THE FAT.

Those with money had plates made of pewter. Food with high acid content caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, causing lead poisoning & death. This happened most often with tomatoes, so for the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered poisonous. Bread was divided according to status.
Workers got the burnt bottom of the loaf, the family got the middle, and guests got the top, or The UPPER CRUST.

Lead cups were used to drink ale or whisky. The combination would sometimes knock the imbibers out for a couple of days. Someone walking along the road would take them for dead and prepare them for burial. They were laid out on the kitchen table for a couple of days and the family would gather around and eat and drink and wait and see if they would wake up. Hence the custom of HOLDING A WAKE.

When reopening these coffins, 1 out of 25 coffins were found to have scratch marks on the inside and they realized they had been burying people alive. So they would tie a string on the wrist of the corpse, lead it through the coffin and up through the ground and tie it to a bell. Someone would have to sit out in the graveyard all night (the graveyard shift.) to listen for the bell; thus, someone could be, SAVED BY THE BELL or was considered a DEAD RINGER.

And that's the truth...Now, whoever said History was boring !

and the answers is -


Happy Easter !!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

It is not Spring

I really thought that by now Riga would be showing the first signs of Spring approaching, but Oh no -this morning I awoke to another serious downfall of snow, which had obviously been going on all night with about 10cm - 12cm covering the cars and roads, with a forecast of -14c for tonight - it looks as if this will have been one of the longest winters for a long, long time.

Our Mexican/Latvian doctor type person V..... seems to set on setting up a home menagerie, having aquired a turtle last year, he now is in possesion of a parrot, albeit a small one. Whilst waiting for him to collect said bird, I saw a car which has been clearly parked for the duration of the Winter, the pictures below give you some idea of the level of snow we have experienced in the last few months.

Spot the car

Ah - there it is !!

As ever I was out last weekend to watch the rugby, with Ireland outplaying Wales, but as for the Scotland v England - has anybody ever seen a poorer game ? - it was P..s poor - and I can but wonder what the Scots need to put a bit of fire in their bellies, if a game against the Old Enemy cannot do it. Lord only knows what the Irish are going to do to us next weekend. On the plus side of my sporting interest good to see that Reading are finally managing to string a few wins together -but dreams of a return to the Premier are I think many years away - if ever.

I did but wonder if their was a gathering of the Welsh and Irish Village people at the game - perhaps someone out there could let me know, as they seem to have disappeared from my radar

Back to Riga news - and one of the original ex-pats P.... (New Zealander- with a much travelled family) has now returned to the land of his birth, and is now in cahoots with the New Zealand government trying to sell New Zealand produce to India ! Lots of lamb for the curries !!

Also so back from sunny Florida is G..... ( or J.....) - (American/Latvian - property magnate) - only wish he could have brought some Floridian weather back with him.

Well tonight (Tuesday) I am off to St. Patricks day celebrations courtesy of the Irish Embassy, but as the official St. Patricks day is on Wednesday, not sure why Embassy is celebrating it tonight - but no doubt all will be revealed - but maybe it is because the the village lounge is offering Guiness all day for Ls 1.00 per pint ! - just a pity I cannot drink the black stuff !

This week did see a major discovery - can now ( well once again actually) watch all of the UK tv channels in amazing quality- indeed I am watching the Sky news at I write this. I am not going to publish details as when ever I did this in the past the service went down within days - but if anybody wants the details send me an e-mail and I will let you have the info. It is a wee bit complicated to set up - but well worth the effort

Good Huh !

Aaah the little things that make life in Riga a little more bearable - sad really.

Finally if any of you out there would like to keep an eye on what is happening in Riga check out this site for webcam views (NB not all of them are live all the time)

UPDATE : Just heard from one of my many roving reporters ( see comment below) , that indeed J... (Irish - seller of gaming goodies) - J... (Irish - currency speculator) - J.... (Irish - former builder of note) and S.... (Welsh- now with a French connection) were indeed all in attendance at the Ireland v Wales game and subsequently indulged in a few drinks. Good to know that a few of the ex-village people are still in touch.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Conspiracy Theories ?

Now that was an interesting weekend, was it not ? - France beat Wales - Ireland beat England, and as forecast here Italy beat Scotland - so that just leaves the French to wrap up the Six Nations - Sacre bleu !!

However there to watch the Irish game was a character from the past, the diminutive J.... (Irish - Riga publican of note) and in his company R... (South African - exbanker). Now was this just a coincidence ? or was there a deeper purpose behind them meeting - far be it for me to suggest otherwise - but as this was the first time I have ever seen R... in PW's - and as far as I can remember he was not a great rugby fan - so what could they have been talking about - old times ? as R... was of course an interested party in De Lacy's - Time will but tell - but the possibilities are interesting.

Final point re young J.... he has GROWN !! - of course not in a vertical direction, more in an all round fashion - married life is clearly suiting him.

Apologies re quality of pictures- blame the camera phone not me !

Of course they were not alone in watching the game also in attendance was J... (Australian - SIP king), A.... (English - white goods king), F.... (Australian - Hostel king), C... (English - Printer king) plus goodly selection of other ex-pats, to numerous to mention. And would you believe it I was party to a conversation which might indicate a new pub opening in the not so distant future.

At this time no names - as project is top secret ( So why do I know about it you might ask) - Watch this space.

For the moment we are having a respite from the downfall of snow, indeed the temperatures has risen, such that we are now likely to suffer from flooding - but as I write the sun is shining, the sky is blue - so at least for the moment all is well.

Those who visited Riga last year will remember the "No Problem" outdoor bar in Dome Square, well it had grand plans to nearly double in size for this year, but it seems the plans will have to be put on hold, as I hear that it will simply be the same as last year, which is not a bad thing as it was undoubtably the best outdoor bar in 2009. Unsure as to why the new building is not going ahead, but I suspect it has proved to be an expensive error.

Now in my last I mentioned about the danger from falling ice/snow/icicles from rooftops well as you can read from the article below -the danger is real. (Courtesy of Leta News Agency)

Three persons suffer serious injuries in downtown Riga today from falling ice

RIGA, Feb 26 (LETA) - Three persons - all women - suffered serious injuries today in three separate locations in downtown Riga from blocks of ice falling from rooftops.

Laura Bundule, spokesperson for the Emergency Medical Care Services, commented that evidently the weather has warmed up and ice is melting, therefore one must be wary not only of icy patches on streets, but must watch out for falling ice from above.

One of the accidents occurred on Biskapa gate Lane in Old Town. A block of ice plummeted on a 33-year-old woman, knocking her unconscious. She was hospitalized with neck injuries and a concussion.
A second one occurred on the corner of K.Valdemara and Dzirnavu streets, where a 70-year-old woman also suffered a concussion.

The third accident happened on Terbatas Street, but the 35-year-old victim refused to be hospitalized despite the fact that medics suspected that she too had suffered a concussion.
The total number of persons known who have suffered such injuries in past days is now 11.

As you can see from the above the icicle on a building close by me have nearly doubled in size in the last week