Sunday, 28 September 2008

Feeling more at home

On Wednesday the flat (apartment) we have just bought was finally cleared. The last resident in the flat was an old man who had died around two years earlier and a lot of his old furniture was left in it. It was an amazing thing to watch the clearing out. A tractor called round to take away the rubbish but before he took anything the neighbours all streamed through the house taking away things that they wanted, and one guy took things down to a workshop that he ran, where he renovated furniture. It was a real communal effort. The flat and the basement was left as tidy as it could possibly be and the two women worked well into the evening to achieve that, even cleaning out the ash can of the wood stove. 

One amusing note from the day was the tractor driver who turned up in the morning while we were in the flat with our friends who will be living in it. He was quite insistent that we understand what he said and all I could understand were the words "traktor" - obviously tractor and "mebeles" which is a similar word to the word in Danish for furniture. We called over two young boys but they had not a clue what the driver was on about, so we trouped down to a local shop (which we discovered was a tractor supplies place and we thought was just another part of the technical college) and they didn't understand English at all. Finally we called our friendly translator and she talked to him and we got to the bottom of the problem of who he was, he was from the local rubbish company (garbage disposal). The next was to ring the lady we had bought the flat from and find out what was going on. She had booked the company to come and clear out but she was only going to be there at two o'clock and it was only 12 o'clock. Confused? We were too!

The process of buying a flat in Latvia is a little less clear cut in the period between signing and getting the land book and official ownership as we found out and it has been a slow transfer but it went through in the end and was quite an enjoyable process. We found out the lady
 who owned the flat has lost many relatives in Ērgļi and so she doesn't want to live there any more and she lives near her daughter in Cēsis. Her daughter who did some translating and had a baby in the middle of the process of purchasing the property works for the Ministry of 
Agriculture in the Organic Farming sector. We would love to own some land and make it work here and that just seemed such a good connection. Her daughter also introduced us to the neighbours and we found out that one lady is a Christian who goes to the Catholic church and she made apple cake, some sandwiches and coffee for everyone and made us feel very welcome. We were shown the grounds by two of the guys so we know exactly where our friends can do some gardening and then we went to look at the apple tree or rather apple trees! I thought we were being shown two apple trees like in the garden area but no, it was a whole row of apple trees. As our friends return to England this next week to prepare for their move in 
March we will have the use of the apple trees, so now we have to rapidly find ways to store the apples for around 6 apple trees. Recipes anyone!

We moved a double bed into the flat and a futon and some chairs, just enough to make things comfortable so they could get a feel for living in the flat. Ian got a chance to light the stove - a job he has always enjoyed in England and Denmark, it is the hidden pyromaniac side of him. (It could get confusing next year our new friends are Kathleen and Ian and it gets confusing as to which Ian to shout for, they need nicknames I think). The new flat is a thick walled building and with the wood heat it was overly warm, compared to our flat which resembles an icebox at times (still no communal heat). We found out that a travelling shop visits the flats on Thursday mornings and the next door neighbour, with a look of glee on her face, was busy telling the lady on the van that we only spoke English and didn't speak any Latvian, the poor lady in the van put her hand to her mouth in a sort of horrified manner in case we tried to make her speak English but we all laughed and with a bit of signing and a little Latvian I managed to ask for 6 tomatoes and I knew enough Latvian to make it clear it was not 6 Kilos I wanted. 

On Friday we had a knock on our door, it was the house manager and the young lady from one of the flats downstairs to help translate. A half Latvian, half English conversation then ensued and eventually I understood that the house manager wanted to know if we wanted some manure for the garden. We had seen the farmer out delivering manure and wondered how we could get some, so were really grateful that our house manager remembered a previous conversation through our friend who does much of our translating. It shows that our neighbours are really taking care of us and helping us to settle down as much as possible and for that we are really grateful. 

Sunday we took a visit to an arboretum to see a collection of trees with Kathleen and Ian, it is definitely the best time of the year to visit somewhere like that, it was gorgeous. We had phoned ahead to let them know we were coming and the lady was waiting for us with a lovely smile. She only spoke a few words of English and some German but I don't think my German is up to a tour around a tree garden even if some of it has been coming back since coming here. She showed us the information room and we picked up some leaflets and she gave us all an umbrella each and we started off around the garden, and she talked to us in a bit of English, German and Latvian and we understood some of it, helps we knew a few of the Latin names between us and some of the trees had English labels. After a short while a young lady, her mother and grandmother turned up that our guide obviously knew well and the young lady then started to translate. We were joined by even more people who all seemed to know each other and we had a very enjoyable tour, we were even given a free tree to take home with us. 
At the end of the tour we were invited in for a cup of tea and we sat and chatted for quite a while and we were told about some Latvian superstitions and we found out a little about the young lady and the fact she had been in England working on a strawberry farm quite nearby to us and then another year on an asparagus farm and they asked questions about us. During our conversation we found out that the young lady also worked for the Ministry of Agriculture - coincidence? I don't think so! That has been two women who were a joy to talk to and a passion to see this land become productive that we have met this week, and I would love to see where that will lead.

This post is a little early this week as tomorrow we are taking Kathleen and Ian to see our new friends Roger and Valerie, who moved to Latvia in May, we met them for the first time earlier on this month. They are of a similar age and they are both coming from England (Kathleen is American but is now an honorary Brit, she even gets our jokes and sometimes is even ahead of us) and both couples feel that God wants them here in Latvia but are not sure for what reason, I think they are going to have a lot in common. We will stay overnight there and take Kathleen and Ian to the airport on Tuesday and I know they are going to miss their new home while they get ready to move.

We had an increased offer on our house in England this week which is promising and I have had contact with the Open University and I am now in the process of signing on to study Development: Context and Practice which I hope will then lead to doing the Masters eventually in Development Management. My heart is to use what money we have and develop projects that will impact the community but I need to get a better understanding of how development works and so I thought I would at least try one of the units on the course and see how it goes, if I enjoy it and it proves useful then I can carry on to do the Masters, and maybe even that Doctorate. 

To finish off I hope you have enjoyed the pictures around Ērgļi of the autumn. As we are driving round I can feel my heart lifting in wonder and praise for the gorgeous colours I see. I hope autumn is always like this in Latvia, as I love this time of year with the colours that radiate even on a gloomy day.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Houses and bikes

The joys of communal heating - switch it on too early and the poorest suffer when they have to find the money to pay for it. Switch it on too late and those who have money switch away from communal heat. Such is the dilemma in our building, one more person leaves the system and there is no more communal heat and the poor are left without heat. Found out yesterday that one of the possible reasons we don't have heat could be because someone else hasn't paid their massive bills accrued over years. Heating is not expensive to us but when you are on 75 - 150LVLs pension then a bill for the heat can become a choice between eating and paying bills.
The good news we had an offer on our house it is a little lower than we would like so we will give it a week and see what happens. I know the markets are not great but we can afford to wait if necessary. We also signed a contract on Tuesday for the flat (apartment) we agreed to buy about three weeks ago, and we got keys for it on Sunday and showed our new tenants around. Unfortunately the people who owned the house had not finished clearing it out yet, and although we are legal landlords we are not legal owners yet until next week when we get the official registration with the new land book. I am sure it will all come together soon.  

It was Ian's birthday this week and to celebrate he decided to take part in a bike race on his new bike. It was well organised with a transponder on the bottom of each bike to record the finishing times and at the end of the race there was hot sweet tea (not a fan of sweet tea but since I was so cold I didn't argue and it was free) and a bowl of barley porridge and jam. At the end of a bike race we went to in England, when we saw our son race, all the racers got a free cake/quiche and juice or tea but definitely not porridge. (The pictures are from the beginning and the end of the race.)

It has also been a week of thinking and dreaming about our future and I am going to do some investigating about Development Management courses- maybe I will head for being a doctor after all, who knows, watch this space! I also had a dream of renovating a block of flats; in my dream we had made one flat into a communal area, and one was a warden's flat who's job it would be to encourage community, and a mix of rented and bought flats which were gradually renovated as money allowed. An interesting project but not sure we have enough money for that yet. Lol

We took our friends/tenants Ian and Kathleen to Jekabpils to look around the DIY places to decide how they would like their new accommodation decorated and fitted and to see a little more of Latvia and while we were there we went into the grounds of an old church that was being restored. I realised after a short while it was an old believers church and just as we were about to leave the grounds a lady came running up to us and sort of curtseyed and indicated that we could go into the church if we wanted to. The church was incredibly ornate and very religious but somehow it still had a peace about it, I did not feel quite so uncomfortable with it as I do some old churches with their religious spirits. The lady did not speak any English but tried a little Latvian, Russian (her native tongue) and German but none of us can speak enough of any language beyond a few basic words, as we left though she gave Kathleen and I a hug and said "I love you" in English. I had a feeling she is one of those in this country that have held onto a faith in a living God and although her expression of this is very different to mine, I still felt she knew something of God and sensed that in us. 

Monday, 15 September 2008

Deep Thoughts

Earlier on in the week there was a headline Polar bears turn green in a Japanese zoo, I think it is a clever disguise that the polar bears are perfecting in preparation for global warming in the Northern Regions, after all it wouldn't be helpful to stay white now would it!

I have been a gopher this week, go for this and go for that! Actually I have done very little but supervising is a very necessary
 occupation. I have been practicing the art of supervising from a young age. My dad always liked to have an audience and gopher, and it was usually me, whenever he was doing a project and I have carried on the occupation into marriage. I am around to make sure that Ian gets it right and occasionally to fetch and carry if need be. 
Beats working any day, At least we now have the kitchen back in the kitchen which is a relief. Anyone who has ever lived without a kitchen even for a few days will understand exactly what I mean. It did mean we had to go to the local hotel for a few meals which was a hardship we suffered rather gladly really. (The photos show just the sink reinstalled, you will have to wait until next week for further pictures. The other picture is me sitting on the cardboard from our recent acquisition, the freezer. Why am I sitting in this box you may ask, good question! I was trying to protect our laminate floor while I plucked spinach leaves from some which had gone to seed and Ian had taken over my kitchen and there was nowhere else to work. The things you do when you are renovating!)

A casualty of our renovations (remodelling) has been a little heart made for me by a little friend of mine when she was living with our friends as their foster daughter. Salt dough does not do well in damp conditions and this is looking decidedly ropey from all the moisture after pouring concrete to level the kitchen floor.

On a less flippant note I knew there had to be a better way to help those who are from areas that attempt to migrate illegally and it was encouraging to read of one couple who put their efforts into doing just that. It takes so much money to send someone, even illegally, to Europe which could be used to improve the lives of those in small villages but they do need help in these depressed areas. People do not take the perilous journey across the seas for nothing and our own ancestors often undertook such migrations for a better life in America or Australia etc and shouldn't be surprised when others do it today.

This week I got around to clearing the area that we are responsible for. Each apartment has a designated area that they are to keep neat and tidy, some do it and some don't and some can't but it is all down on a nice colourful chart at the bottom of the hallway. I was just finishing off clearing the path from the over growth of grass when one of the neighbours started talking to me in Latvian and said something like "skaiste" I knew she meant it looked lovely and then she said "nice" in English, I was well chuffed - it meant the two days spent clearing it was worthwhile. (You can see a picture of our apartment block with the leaves turning their autumnal red and maybe I will remember to take a picture of the newly cleaned path - bet you can't wait!)

This week I was talking with a friend about taxes in different countries and comparing systems. I came to the conclusion that socialism only works when people do not become dependent on the state and lazy; capitalism only works if those who "have" are willing to help those who "haven't", otherwise both systems fail and both require everyone to take their part in making it work. It was interesting therefore to read in Sierra Leone there are people queuing up to pay their taxes because they want to help the country get back on its feet. It is incredible to see people with not much money motivated to pay taxes because they actually believe it will make a difference. I say may God bless them as a nation for being prepared to put others first.

If you have been following along with my blog you will know that I have been reading Acts for Everyone by Tom Wright and I am now on to Part 2 (I also discovered this week that there is a group in Timberline Oldtown, our church in America, who are also going to be using Acts for Everyone as their book to study in small groups - good for them they are good books). I found Tom Wright's comment on power thought provoking; he was commenting on Acts 19:11-22 on the power of God versus the power of Ephesus and this is what he had to say about power in general 

"When I was growing up, one of the leading politicians in the British Labour Party was a man named George Brown (no not Gordon Brown - my comment). He was extremely able, very shrewd. Some thought at one point he might have been a challenger for the job of party leader, and perhaps even Prime Minister. He became, in fact, deputy leader, and that was the peak of his career. He went his own way though, and in later life was quite an outspoken critic of his own party. The impact of his views was somewhat lessened by his increasingly eccentric behaviour.
But I recall George Brown here because of something he once said about power. When he was a young man, he said, he knew that things had to be changed. British society was in a mess; someone needed to get to the levers of power and make things happen, make things different. So he went into politics. But in local politics, even once he'd been elected to council office, he discovered that neither he nor the council had any real power. Things were decided elsewhere. So he decided to run for Parliament. But, he said, when he got into Parliament, he found that members of Parliament didn't have any real power. They could talk, and they could vote, but nothing much seemed to change, and the real decision still seemed to happen somewhere else. So he pushed his way to the front and got into the Cabinet. To his amazement, it was the same there. And even when he got within one place of the top of the tree, to be Deputy Prime Minister under Harold Wilson, he looked around and still couldn't see where the real power lay. Everyone just seemed to be doing the next thing that came to hand. Things happened but it wasn't obvious why. Where was the power............?
The question of power - how things get done - is at the heart of a great many of today's debates as well" 

The book Acts for Everyone part 2 was copyrighted in 2008 and was probably written before the credit crunch that has left Governments reeling and banking systems in chaos. The debate certainly goes on but the credit crunch and the doomsayers have certainly shown that the power is not where they thought it was and there is much finger pointing.

Following on from that another comment by Tom Wright really struck me too  about Paul's impact on business in Ephesus in Acts 19:23-41 "Imagine someone setting up shop in the heart of the financial district of one of our great cities - London, Frankfurt, New York, Tokoyo - and using the basis of a powerful ministry of healing to declare, over and over again, that the money markets and the stock markets were simply a way of worshipping the god Mammon, that this was destroying the lives and the livelihoods of millions in other parts of the world, and that the whole system was rotten and anyone who saw the light ought to reject it outright. 

At the time of Tom Wright writing this he was right to say that "You might get more than just a sharp word now and then, especially if the idea seemed to be catching on" but after reading this I was reading that the chief  of HSBC was himself declaring something of the rottenness of the system by declaring that bankers should not be receiving high awards for short term gains, that was one of the causes of the credit crunch, but should be rewarded for sustainable long term gains that did not bring harm. Things are turning in the markets and there is hope I believe. My desire is to see something built alongside that can eventually take over from the greedy markets. When you need to get rid of old housing, you have to rehouse people first before dismantling the old housing otherwise you have a lot of homeless people. I believe something needs to be built up to take over but you can't start dismantling the old system first otherwise you make the problem far worse in the short term even if there is a long term gain, and it is the poor who suffer when that happens. Martin Scott has also commented on the chaos that is around at the moment and I was so encouraged by what he had to say about sowing at this time and in some cases sowing financially. At a time of chaos it is good to know that we should be sowing and not hoarding or burying our treasures to await a better day but gently and determinedly planting the seed. This is great encouragement as Ian and I go ahead with selling one of our houses in England so we can plant into something God wants to grow, it just felt like a very gracious confirmation of what God wants us to do.

Ian was hunting for some further pictures of the bike race the other day when he stumbled across a gallery of pictures of Ērgļi which shows some of the old scenes from Ērgļi and some recent events such as the Gaismas Tilts which was an event called Bridge of Lights in english, where Latvians gathered on bridges and lit candles and thought positive thoughts for Latvia and the world in celebration of the 90 years since Latvia was first but briefly an independent nation. 

I do hope these blogs are not getting waffly but there is so much going on in my head at the moment, so many thoughts floating around, so many ideas that it sometimes hurts. I feel such a sense of optimism, such a sense of opportunity for the future and I am looking forward to what God has install for this World. What will it look like when the Kingdom of God touches this world and impacts it? How can we be a part of bringing Heaven down to earth? Oh Lord let it come!

Monday, 8 September 2008

News hot off the press

This week's hot news is that we are selling "the house" as Mark put it. The house where we brought up our children for 15 years 

(For those who have not seen it here is a picture. The house on the right was our original house and the 
second one on the left of it was the house we bought and knocked the two into one, we sold that one last year. The other picture is a view from out of our front door). 
It is the house we loved because it was out in the countryside. The house where we first stretched our wings of faith as we didn't even have a car when we bought it and Ian had a 13 mile cycle ride to work everyday. Even when we did get a car Ian couldn't drive and on wet days in early autumn I used to have to drive Ian with our two small children into Sheffield and spend the day at one of my friends house until Ian finished. Problem was that you could almost guarantee that Mark would be sick at almost the exact same spot every time, until I stopped giving him breakfast just before we set off. Ian did pass his test that November and I lost my car for the winter, which meant having to stay in Barlow unable to get out and about as the buses were just not convenient, but we adjusted and our children grew. Matthew was born while we were in Barlow. So many memories and so many friends that have come and gone from the Terrace as it was known, which consisted of three blocks of ten houses in the middle of fields. I don't regret moving as it has been quite an adventure since we have moved, I never envisaged moving to so many different countries or our children travelling so much too. By the end of the year our family will have had someone visit most of the continents including North and South America, Africa and Australia, only Asia and Antarctica to go - any volunteers kids? Although I don't regret the move from there, it is a poignant time as it is our connection with a large part of our history that we are severing.
This week we finally got our gas pipe moved and we no longer have a spaghetti junction in our kitchen but we now have flexible hose so we can put the pipes wherever we want them - well within reason. Mind you the guy did not come until Friday and we were hanging around and hanging around waiting for him to come. Thursday we got a text message from our Latvian friend who was our contact person to say there was an emergency and he wouldn't be able to come that day after all. I decided to phone some people who we were told had moved to Latvia because God had told them, but didn't really know what God wanted them to do (sound familiar?). They were free at very little notice and so two hours later we were at Roger & Valerie's house. We got along very well, in fact so well that Valerie made some tea (evening meal) and wondered if we would join them and it was only then that I realised that we had been talking and laughing for 6 hours. Their situation was so similar to ours of having a connection to Latvia for quite a few years and over time realising that God wanted them in Latvia and this year God cleared some obstacles which meant they were free to come and here they are, waiting! It is exciting to think God is moving people here who are prepared to wait on his next move. He is moving people who are patient but also prepared to make big changes. What has God got in mind for this little country? I have no idea but I am looking forward to finding out.

On the way home from our new friends' house we saw a fox running down the road. It was obviously trying to outrun the big red monster and darted this way and that and when Ian tried to scare it off to the side of the road, by revving the engine a little, it ran all the harder. I thought the poor little thing was going to have a heart attack. In the end we had to stop and let it find its way off the road before we could carry on. Wonder how often we get like that little fox, running and running, getting scared of something we don't understand, trying everything to avoid it, when all we have to do is get out of the way and let it get pass. That poor little fox did not understand that the big red monster was not indeed a monster about to mow it down and I think some of the monsters in our lives are not really monsters at all, not every circumstance in our lives is as bad as we make them out to be, they might look big but we have a Dad in Heaven who cares for us and he is bigger than even the big red monsters in our lives, sometimes we just have to get out of the way. 

Talking of monsters, the world economy certainly looks big and scary at the moment but I feel that there is a lot of hope and a lot of opportunity to right some of the wrongs with the way our economies are run. I get annoyed with the testosterone fueled stock markets where much is to be made and greed rules the day. It is interesting though that questions are beginning to be asked about the way deals are done, and the risks people take with other peoples money. I found the following advice by the chairman of Spain's biggest bank, Santander Emilio Botin to London's financial the recent Euromoney Awards Ceremony, very encouraging.

"If you don't fully understand an instrument, don't buy it. 
If you would not buy a specific product for yourself, don't try to sell it.
If you do not know your customers very well, don't lend them any money. 
If you do these three things, you will be a better banker, my son."

Well on that note we are selling our shares this week and finally got around to the bank to initiate the transactions. Not the best of times to be selling but the time is right to stop investing in the old economy and to start to invest in the new economy. In many ways it is a very old method of investing as we will be using the money to pay for the flat (apartment) we agreed to buy last week, but we are doing it so that others can benefit and not just ourselves. 

On the way to Riga in order to sort out the share sale we saw an accident with one of the log lorries (semi). These lorries are usually a truck and a trailer piled high with logs and there are loads of them travelling backwards and forwards in Latvia. The trailer on this particular lorry flipped over and tipped it's load down the embankment towards the Daugava river, all I saw were logs bouncing across the carriageway, a mangled barrier and the overturned rear trailer. Thank God there was no one coming in the opposite direction at that particular time otherwise it could have been very nasty. The poor driver looked so shook up as he was hurling logs off the road, it was not as if he was going too fast but we didn't see what caused the accident, so we have no idea how just the rear trailer managed to flip over. 

I mentioned about three weeks ago that Ian saw a mountain bike that might suit his riding style better, well our trip into Riga also resulted in us buying the mountain bike that he saw and liked the look of. They had one bike of the sort he was interested in and the next time they would get any more with the same specifications would be April! I decided that it was going to be wise to get one now or he would never get one and mountain biking does offer more opportunities here in Latvia than road biking. Ian has been out twice now on his mountain bike and loved it - good job or there would have been mega trouble! 

This week we are able to get on with the kitchen floor which has involved pouring self-levelling concrete onto the undulating floor. It also involves the whole of our kitchen spilling out into the rest of our flat (apartment). There is a table in the living room with the drawers from the sideboard (buffet) on top of it and cups
 underneath. In the office are two cookers (stove), an old one and a new one and the sideboard. In the hallway is the sink unit and the fridge and last but not least our bread, pans, and any other odd and ends are crammed into our bedroom. We hardly have room to move at the moment. 
(Yes Emma it is still "that clock" on the wall) 

Finally Autumn has arrived in Latvia, with the frost last week the trees are definitely turning now. Mind you yesterday was really hot and humid as if to say summer is not quite finished yet.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Gardens and things

We had some drizzle  early on this week it was lovely and  soft on the face and the sweet smell from wet ground and grass was wonderful. I was always surprised in Fort Collins when it rained how everything smelt sweet and fresh but the rest of the time there wasn't really much of a smell. That may be a good thing sometimes but it was one of those things I missed, I was brought up in the rather wet North West of England so that might explain a lot. This morning we also had our first frost of the season, I had to go and wrap our cucumbers up in a nice cuddly fleece last night to protect our four cucumbers which are still growing. The frost did damage our courgettes (zucchinis) and squashes but I think they have survived but hopefully it won't be too cold tonight.

Still on the theme of the garden we are still getting some runner beans but they seem to be quite slow, wonder if the rain that we had last week was affecting the development of the beans as there seems to be plenty of flowers but not so many beans. We also cut our first cabbage and probably our last broccoli on  Friday. Our carrots are amazing, we have never grown carrots really successfully before but these are huge as you can see in the picture. 

The other gardens are getting more and more cleared as people get their produce in before the winter so we got motivated and have made an effort to get all our potatoes up. We have dug up and stored quite a few potatoes but one really strange thing is that one of the beds of potatoes had a really random mixture of white and red potatoes. We thought they were from the same bag - I am beginning to wonder if they were two bags that got mixed up when they were chitted out but I wouldn't have thought that would be the case. Hmmm! The garden has been good at keeping us in veg all summer and the only things we have bought are peppers as ours didn't really do very much and tomatoes - ours were so far behind they only produced green tomatoes. Unfortunately the cooler wetter weather meant our tomato plants ended up with a case of blight so had to be dug up to be burnt later. Oh well! At least I had enough green tomatoes to make three large jars of green tomato chutney. 

Well we opened up the packaging for the Freezer and started to read the instructions, first instruction "Getting to know your appliance" so we introduced ourselves and said hello and welcomed our new appliance into our little household, Lol. Once the freezer had been upright over night and then switched on I started freezing stuff from our garden. I was beginning to get irritated after a while by having to keep freezing stuff and it seems to take forever but then I realised that it was only really for another few weeks and then the frost will kill off all but the hardiest of the plants and my times of freezing may well then be over and I will have time to do other things. This year has definitely been a time of new rhythms which has settled around the growing season, painting and decorating can wait but getting seeds in the ground can't. Harvesting can't wait either or you can lose a whole crop so whatever else you want to get on with has to stop for awhile. It helps when you see the importance of rhythm in the Bible and the dependance that people had on the rains etc in season, and the dependance on getting the seeds in at the right time. Although we have had quite a good crop of most things some stuff was just planted too late to do anything but it has still been fun watching the garden coming to life with good things.

We had another power cut this week but electric was not off for very long  probably about an hour but it was very romantic with all the candles I just hope that it is not a sign of a regular pattern.

Two pieces of good news this week one is that our daughter Emma passed her driving test first time (in England the pass rate is 43%) and the second is that we have agreed to buy another apartment. No we are not being greedy, this one is to help a couple who wish to move to Latvia from England and it means we can have it ready for their arrival in the Spring. At least it is a hobby to keep Ian occupied over the winter! Lol

We are praying that we don't have to wait much longer for the gas pipe man to come to this apartment. We need a pipe moving so that we can rearrange the kitchen but until he comes we can't do anything else as the cooker is directly plumbed in and we can't detach it and still have some means of cooking (especially important if the electric keeps going off) and until that is moved we cannot do the kitchen floor or get our new cooker connected. Oh boy! Hopefully it will all come together as we have someone making a new kitchen for us which is really exciting, I have never had a designer kitchen and really it is not that much more than buying in some reasonable quality units and having to fit it ourselves. This way we get to decide what we want where and how big we want everything so it fits exactly to our kitchen. It also means the worktop will get cut to exactly the right size but that's another story hehe!

1st of September is the traditional back to school day here in Latvia and actually practically all over the former Soviet Union. It does not matter what day of the week the 1st of September falls either. Some of the peace of Ērgli has now gone as the music blares away from the dormitories of the technical school (fortunately far enough away from us not to be a nuisance), and at lunch time when one of our neighbours children comes home - at least it is predictable. The main sounds of Ērgli in summer are the drone of strimmers as they battle with the grass, keeping it down to keep the number of insects down near buildings but when they are quiet it is very quiet. Our friend Mr. Tipler did comment that there weren't so many birds around - we did wonder if this was a consequence of having Storks and maybe this was why it was so quiet.