Monday, 23 March 2009

Just for Mark

Well Mark, I know you are waiting with eager anticipation for this so I thought I had better get on with the blog, so here it is, along with a picture of some very hungry deer. There were four deer in the garden one night all feeding off apples which had fallen from the tree last year.

A question that I often want to ask is what is it about Ian that makes him oblivious to the laws of evaporation? You would think that being a scientist that this fact would not escape him! It leads to a certain kind of logic when drying clothes, the more you spread them out the faster they dry, the more you turn them the more of the damp surface area is exposed to the drier air, simple. It is funny where our blind spots occur, like my habits of putting things down and not knowing where I put them, so Ian patiently explains that if I put them back in the same place I would find them - yeah I know that! But it doesn't help I forget! Good job we can still laugh about it.

Something I forgot to mention about Cyprus was a strange experience of nearly finding ourselves in Turkish Cyprus. The last time I was there the main street through Nicosia had a wall running across the main street with a museum at the bottom telling the stories of the missing from the time that the Turkish invaded the island, and it had a place where you could look through to see No Mans Land between the Turkish side and Greek Cypriot side. We wandered around Nicosia meandering through the streets and had a cup of tea in what used to be Woolworths and is now a Debenhams (always seems odd to see British High Street stores in the middle of Nicosia) as from there you get a good view of Nicosia from the tall tower. After the tea we walked down the main street and came to a place where there was tape running down the street as if it was to funnel people somewhere but there were no queues and no one really seemed to be there so we carried on walking down, but something didn't look quite right, the walls were covered with the sort of stuff that they use to cover over a building being renovated and at the far end was a turkish flag, we stopped and looked around and tried to get our bearings and it slowly dawned on us we were actually standing in the spot we had only been able to gaze at 10 years ago and we could just walk straight through. There was a temptation just to walk right on through but we didn't have passports on us, only our Latvian drivers licenses and yet we don't speak Latvian so we took the sensible option and walked back to the Greek Cypriot side. I hadn't realised that there was a permanent pathway through the wall built up by hate that we had prayed by 10 years ago and I really wished we had been able to go through and we probably could have done with no bother - just not a risk worth taking at that point. (The picture is taken from the tower at the top of Debenhams showing the Turkish flag etched onto the Turkish side of Cyprus in full view of the Greek side.)

One of the joys I have to endure every summer is my reaction to insect bites. First of all the insects love me and seek to attack me whenever they get the merest opportunity and then the bites get big and swell up quite alarmingly. I seem to spend most of my summer on anti-histamines and try all sorts of remedies. Well the season has begun early this year as I have been bitten four times whilst sat out in the garden in Cyprus (see photo) and three times by some unidentified beasties from goodness only knows where when I got back to Latvia - certainly not sat out in the garden that is for sure we still have snow on the ground and it is still way to cold for insects outside. Feels like it might be a long summer if this keeps up!

We have had some snow start to melt now there is a bit of heat in the sun but this has lead to some enormous potholes, deep enough for cars to bottom out in because the ice is so thick or because the tarmac has broken up on the roads. We even had a grader come down the back of our apartment block to help shift some of the ice and it was supposed to have got rid of about 6 inches of ice but there is still a lot more to go yet.

One thing that came to me a while ago was I would love to help out at the local orphanage but I realised the language would be a bit of a problem so I was delighted to find out that a friend of ours was going to the orphanage to teach English and wanted some help. I have been there twice now and the children ranging from about 8 - 15 years old voluntarily come to the lessons in order to improve their English and they are great fun. They weren't very sure of me the first time but the second time they gave me hugs at the end so I think we are getting along fine. I also in return learnt some Latvian words too, so I am really pleased about that. So for the next few months I will be going every Thursday to help out with the lessons and get to know some of these kids and hopefully share some love.

I am well into revision now on my course as I handed in my last assignment a couple of weeks ago before heading off to Cyprus, my exam is April 21st in Riga. My course does contain a lot of statistics which I fortunately do not have to learn off by heart but do have to grasp the significance which can be a bit dry at times until another student posted a link to a Hans Rowling lecture, if you think statistics are boring try this link here and here, statistics won't look quite the same again.

Unfortunately statistics are not all entertaining even if Hans Rowling is lecturing and some sad statistics came out this week about Latvian earnings. 61% of people earn (after tax) between 200 and 499 LVLs a month (£264-£659 or $385-$961) and when our heating was 115 LVLs this month and one of households in our apartment block are down to one wage earner it is no wonder they cannot afford the heating bill. Our whole apartment block of 18 households owes 3500 LVLs to the local heating company, I have no idea who hasn't been paying but that is an awfully big bill so now the winter is nearly over but not quite we are being threatened with having all our heating cut off because they cannot isolate one house, so one off all off. So next week is looking pretty chilly if they go ahead with their threats.

On a different note I am beginning to wonder if journalists are now competing to see who can write the worst case scenario. Of course things are difficult and I am beginning to see that journalism is very necessary in democratic societies in order to uncover malpractice or highlight where things are not working. Through my course on Development Management I have found out that it is often the press who are instrumental in India in making sure that no incidence of famine occurs, although malnutrition is rife and harvests fail the press has a role to play in flagging up any failure of Government to address a potential famine, no Government would survive if a famine was to occur in India through the vigilance of the press. So journalism has a proper role to play but fiction writing? Since when did it become a profession to find the most obscure prophets of the world and give them prominence for their hopeless thinking? Why aren't they seeking out those who might actually have an answer, why aren't they publishing some of the good things that are coming out? Well I have to admit there are occasional articles but they are few and far between amongst all the gloom and doom. The World is changing and so it should, it is going to rattle and creak for quite a while while the shaky foundations of greed are uncovered but there is a God in Heaven who is in control, he is asking us to be less greedy, more thoughtful, more loving, reaching out to those around in need as best we can and also maybe reaching out to those far away as they are going to suffer most from our failures in promoting justice in trade.

I finally got some embroidery done. I started the piece below while in Cyprus but wasn't happy with my backing fabric so I frayed the edges, stuck it to a canvas and painted over it. The centre piece is shown in more detail and has lots of French knots on it which I love doing. So if anyone would like to give this piece a good home, I'm open to offers, it's even signed but don't let that put you off.

Well that wraps up this week and after a fine meal due to having some good company with which to share it with (nothing to do with my food although the scones were good even if I do say so myself ) I shall wrap up this blog, so sorry it was a bit late Mark but I am trying my best. 


  1. I'm convinced that the drying thing is a man thing! Still training my mine...he's getting there.

  2. and yours is quite scientifically minded too...... so strange...... well maybe we need to firm up our scientific terminology in terms of drying clothes, although I thought I had done that by mentioning surface area. Oh well need to add a few more terms I guess.


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