Monday, 31 August 2009

Digging in

Well I finally made it! This is my 100th post and to be honest it feels a bit of a cheat as some of them were a week of extra blogs with a positive theme and one or two posts saying I was going to be late posting, not quite my normal weekly posts at all. Still I am quite amazed that I got there and some folks kindly read it and send me comments. So thank you for those who have stuck with me.

One of the issues I have wrestled with over the time is what do I write in these blogs and what do I leave out? What stories cannot be told because this is a public arena? Sometimes it would not be fair on those involved to go into detail, and by the time you leave out most of the identifying details the story to be told doesn't really amount to much. That is not to say that I have hundreds of amazing stories to tell of our time here that I haven't been sharing but there have been times that I would like to say something but can't.
It is so easy these days to blog about something but it is also just as easy to "blab" instead. To "blab" is to mention something that should have been kept confidential or maybe not broadcast to the whole world. We don't have to let it all hang out but how do we balance that with transparency and openness? Well I haven't got all the answers but if you have any then I would love to hear your thoughts.

The signs of autumn are appearing already here in Latvia, the leaves are turning and the storks have flown (apart from the odd one we see occasionally), the Latvians are lighting their smokey bonfires and Ian is starting to complain about the lack of heat in the sunshine but as for me I love this time of year. I love the coolness of the breeze, not that this year has been particularly hot but I love the smells that accompany the breeze at this time of year. I also love the richness and the depth of colour as the leaves turn and the fruit ripens. It is the time of the year when hot cups of steaming tea are even more welcome, along with hot toast and blackberry crumble. Only problem is that there are no blackberries here - I don't understand it at all and neither do they have elderberries but there is still a richness and a variety in the landscape and I have started to do a photographic record of the vegetation on the land so we know what diversity we do have. Of course this time of the year is not the best time, I should have started a month earlier but better late than never. Most of the plants we found as we wandered about we have seen before but there were some surprises like a small apple tree that we hadn't noticed before, no idea how it got there but it will be staying that is for sure.

One thing that was reinforced this week is that digging deep in this land does not come without risks, digging deep in this land risks uncovering the conflicts of the past lying just below the surface, a potential explosion to the unwary. That is the reality of this land called Latvia, where conflicts have waged back and forth leaving its mark upon the land and its people and just below the surface in many places lies real unexploded ordnance. A good friend of ours has been out with a metal detector on the land and found evidence of bomb craters which have at least exploded sometime in the past and the possibility of mortar bombs laid like landmines in one area which have not. Now we have to map the land and pinpoint the possible dangers and then call in the experts to deal with it. So what lessons can we draw from this? That the land of Latvia we are seeking to dig into is not without its dangers and caution and wariness needs to be employed so we do not inadvertantly dig up a conflict we cannot deal with, and be prepared to call in reinforcements when necessary, tread lightly on the land in the meantime.

Talking of digging, Ian has this last week finally finished digging the entire vegetable plot by hand. There is a little tail end of a piece but that is mainly for fruit bushes and the like so we hadn't really planned on digging that over so much. It does seem significant that the week after he finishes is the week when we expect the tractor to arrive, he has closed one chapter to open another bigger chapter. I guess the one thing I have noticed in the digging process is the greater connection Ian has got with the land, the digging has become a labour of love, and just as in a labour of love it has had its frustrations, it has had times when you don't feel like trying but in the end you persevere. Does having a feel and a love for the land mean that you love people less? I don't think so but it gives you more of an appreciation for the interconnectedness of it all. Like I said earlier the conflicts of this land are not just marked on the land but also in the people, as we see the evidence of the bombs that have fallen and exploded, the solitary gas mask on the ground, the ammunition and weapons abandoned it all speaks of a horror that few of us today would know, then after all that to be abandoned as a people to the tyranny of the Soviet system, so much is written in the hearts of those around. The hopes of democracy and the cruelness of the crisis are further marks upon hearts here. This winter will be a tough winter for many and I just pray that the other countries of this European Union will have outstretched arms to welcome the Latvians as they search for work, and outstretched hands to give what aid will be necessary.

Well as I contemplate the winter ahead I can draw encouragement from a great quote from my course which I have paraphrased a little "For anyone devising a scheme of their own making, things are not set in stone, and when we started coming up against brick walls we actually found we could rearrange them" Roy Tylden Wright, Laggan Forest Trust, brilliant! So positive, so if you are facing a brick wall right now, rearrange the bricks! Laggan Forest Trust set about buying their own forest rather than let it fall into private hands so that the community could benefit from the amenities and any jobs produced, it has been a long process but they were forerunners for other schemes to take back forests for local use in Scotland.

Land and who owns is and runs it, is in the news again this week. There are big dilemmas to face when buying land in a foreign country or even leasing it, for us it is on a small scale but for some they are seeking control of huge tracts of land. The problem is that at the end of the day, huge mega fields divest the countryside of its biodiversity, it is not stewarding the land it is raping it. As someone who is leasing a piece of land in an ex-Soviet country I am aware that I am in a similar position but we don't intend to take huge swathes of land and turn them into mega fields, there has to be a better way to do this, there has to be a way of managing the land that doesn't rape it but works with it, the way God intended it to be and hopefully he will guide us as we listen to him and others as the best way to do that.

(Photographs: 1.The little apple tree we found, 2. seed head, 3. denuded tomatoes - many of the leaves had blight, 4. unidentified -at the moment anyway- plant, 5. pumpkin, 6. wild boar helping with the digging on the land, 7. Ian with the pile of weeds from his two summers of digging, 8. the finished digging, 9. a rather large marrow and 10. the ever so tall sweetcorn)

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Wet, wet, wet

Tuesday was the turn of the orphanage girls to go shopping and we decided to start earlier as we thought they may take a little longer than the boys to get their shopping done and we wanted to get there before the market stalls started shutting up this time. We were right, they did need longer but they weren't that bad really. I can't imagine taking four teenage girls from the UK shopping with a set budget and they being quite happy to stay with the list set for them, that they had helped to draft anyway, and not have any tantrums if they saw something else they wanted. I have been so impressed with how grateful the children have been from the orphanage at the chance to buy their own things and have lunch out, there was no greed that I perceived. One thing that did spoil the day was the rain though, none of them had coats and it started to rain the minute we got to town and it poured the rest of the time, the poor girls were blue with cold and we were all wet through even with our rain coats on. We half wondered if it was wiser to go home and get changed before having lunch but home was three quarters of an hour away and the girls were so hungry we decided to eat anyway.

The Baltic Way has been in the news quite a bit this week and often it is described as a remarkable peaceful demonstration that ushered in democracy and independence, which is testament to the heroic actions of the people from these lands. In Disneyland Paris they even created a mini Baltic Way with a number of people holding hands from mini Tallin to mini Vilnius through mini Riga in the mini Europe section. I would loved to have seen that, I used to love going to see miniature villages and my grandparents often took me to the one in a nearby park in Blackpool. I had hoped there would be some pictures of the relay run commemorating the original Baltic Way but so far I haven't seen any, so if anyone else comes across any please let me know.

Thursday saw me heading out to Scotland, it was a very early start and we woke at 1.30am and left the house at 2.30am, needless to say I slept pretty much most of the plane journeys both Riga to Stockhom and Stockholm to Edinburgh. I never used to sleep so much on plane journeys but either I am just getting older and snoozing comes easier or I have just got used to falling asleep on planes and since I don't often snooze in the day I think it is the latter. It was nice to be welcomed by a friend at the airport, Phil a medical student who we met in Latvia last year. He goes to Glasgow University but had taken the time to drive over to Edinburgh so we could meet up over a coffee. It was wonderful to hear the hopes and dreams of a young man embarking on a future which will lead who knows where but with such a big heart for people. Sometimes when I get jaded with church and people getting stuck in programmes and idealistic visions that don't go anywhere because they are not really listening to God it is refreshing to hear of the hopes and dreams of the young and be able to offer some encouragement and guidance to follow the path God has set them upon, hoping by doing so they will avoid some of the mistakes of the past. I know God does sometimes set all of us away on idealistic visions and we wouldn't be here in Latvia if we hadn't followed one such dream, but we have waited on God's timing and seeking to dig deep and slowly, if God says run we will run, but he hasn't and even though there are times we feel impatient with the pace we know that a hurried pace will mean leaving too many weeds in the garden which will rise up and choke the dream later.

The reason for being in Scotland was a couple of Induction days for the new course I am starting. I did find out that the University of Highlands and Islands does not exist yet, it is on its way to becoming a University but the degrees are properly accredited anyway. It did seem appropriate to be in near the beginning of an enterprise and seems to be something of a pattern in my life. When I went to University it was to join a course that had only just been created and it was pretty tough because of that. I studied Pharmacology and Chemistry and it was if they tried to stuff the whole of the two courses together and subsequent years they cut the workload drastically. When we first went to Latvia we were the some of the first to go to the camps but we were definitely the first to take kids along with us and that set a pattern for what was to come. So to be using an online educational institution that is moving towards University status and pioneering education amongst a sparsely populated part of the world, the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, just seems so fitting. I am sure there are lessons to be learnt for developing education as well as what I hope to be learning about sustainable development for here in Latvia. It was really exciting to talk to the Biodiversity Management tutor from the new course, up till now I have been studying the theory of Development management with a lot of reflective thinking on power relationships and trying to get my head around the complexity of the systems that make up development which is great and useful but it was refreshing to be able to talk about something practical regarding our piece of land and how the course might actually be useful for deciding on the best way to manage the piece of land (no we haven't come up with a name yet!) and still maintain the rich biodiversity of the place and even enhance it. I am really looking forward to seeing how this course develops and there are some courses I will have to do but there are some that I would love to do and wondering if I might end up doing more than I need to just out of interest - we shall see, as finances or common sense may stop play on that score.

The second day of the Induction days was only a half day so it was opportunity to get out and see some of Scotland which I love, and I would have been nice to have shown you some pictures but I forgot my camera, so I guess you will have to just take it from me that the scenery North of Perth is wonderful, with some surprising sights, like Menzies castle that suddenly appears in view and is so different to English castles I uttered "Oh Wow!" when I saw it, which is not like me at all, and the internet pictures don't do it justice at all. It was lovely to see the heather in bloom on the hills still, although it wasn't at its best as the hills looked more brown than purple from a distance but I took the chance of a dry day (so why oh why didn't I have my camera?) for some short walks so I could see the heather up close. I do love Scotland, even if it does rain a lot and I love the change of scenery from the bleak moors to the sweeping hills and mountains, the trees and lochs and the cute cottages and dour looking stone buildings that look so solid that they should be there for hundreds of years more. I hope that won't be my last chance to visit but at least I did get the chance to take some photos on my last wet day in Scotland on my circuitous route to the airport - a last chance to take in some sights - and they are from a little village called Douane where it was only drizzling and not pouring with rain and somewhere for me to stretch my legs for a few minutes.

I won't always do an internet trawl, just in case you think this going to be a regular feature but if something does strike me in the week I shall mention it here. This week I was struck with the phrase from a Guardian article "History is too important to leave to the politicians", which is so true as the Russians are desperately trying to convince the world that they are really cuddly bears and not the evil big bad bears that is sometimes depicted and that the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact was really not an attempt by Russia to steal the lands of the Baltics but was the best approach in the circumstances in order to make a pact with Hitler for the sake of the Russian nation. History does get re-written for the convenience of those who wield power, and we have to read all history bearing in mind it was not written objectively, no matter how hard the author tries, it will still be suffused with the ideals and politics of the writer or the politics of the those paying for the "research". All history is useful to help us with our present and our future but it needs to be read carefully and not at face value and certainly not from one source only.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Whoops sorry

The post will be late this week as we have had a great time visiting some friends, promise to catch up in the morning

Monday, 17 August 2009


Ian and I had both been thinking along the same lines this week, a miracle in itself at times. His thoughts are usually on strimming and gardening and mine are on my studies. Anyway we got chatting about the piece of land that we are working on (ok mainly Ian working on) and we both feel that calling it "the land" is clumsy and not a particularly nice phrase, a bit impersonal really. We thought of calling it Corncrake but that doesn't really sound right to our ears, even though that is what the piece of land is called in Latvian, we could call it by its Latvian name but getting our tongue around that is a little hard too. One thing we were absolutely adamant on is that we will not refer to it as "our land" unless we are trying to clarify something because we do not consider it our land at all; I know our name is not on the land book (official Latvian ownership paper), and we are leasing it but the owners consider it as belonging to us, but as far as we are concerned we are stewards of the land, not owners. It is our duty to make the best use of it so that future generations can benefit and even today's generation will be served by it but how that all works out and who actually ends up owning it on the land book I have no idea. I have a feeling though that those thoughts are going to start to leading us towards where we are going with the land and how we are to proceed from this point, all a bit vague I know but we are taking things nice and slow, too much has been rushed into without thought here in Latvia leading to many half finished or poorly finished projects and not a lot of consideration for the future, something we hope to avoid.

I have posted some photos of our garden and as you can see it is not as nice and neat as last year, the two weeks away in July kind of sorted that out. The beans are starting to take over even though I have nipped the ends off several times, never mind we will collect some sticks from the land to prop them up and then we can benefit from them as long as possible, we could even make an arch out of them just for fun. Our courgettes (zucchini) are producing like mad and one of them is now a marrow, as you can see, I was hoping it would slow the production down of courgettes but that doesn't seem to be the case, so courgettes end up in just about everything at the moment and I give them away as often as possible. I gave some to our neighbour the other day and she sent back some zucchini bread made from the donated courgettes and it was still warm from the oven, it was delicious. This year we actually managed to grow some tomatoes to the stage where they are ripening and we had our first ones today, pity they seemed a bit watery I was quite disappointed, at least they are not as bad as the Dutch tomatoes which I am sure are bred to be totally tasteless. We also had some sweetcorn for the first time this year, again not brilliant but not too bad either, not sure if maybe they need another day or two.

Early on in the week we went with a few of the orphanage kids on a trip to buy clothes, they had a list they had to stick to and a budget and they were so happy to be going round choosing items off the list and they did not give us any grief when they weren't allowed something or told they were at their limit. We also took them out to lunch in a cafe and they were really respectful and didn't go mad but enjoyed the food nonetheless. Taking teenagers clothes shopping was never my greatest joy but this was actually a fun day out as they truly appreciated the experience, but then again that was the boys, tomorrow we take a few of the girls shopping so we are going to set off earlier on in the day, can't think why.

This week they published the photos of the bike race here in Ergli, and you can see the numbers of folks in this link and in this link there are more pictures of the children's races, you have to see the determination on some of their little faces. Click through to see the race going up the ski run, they all had to get off their bikes and Ian said there was an audible sigh went up from fellow bike riders as they came round the corner and realised they would have to get off their bikes and push them or carry them up the sandy hill, there are also some pictures from the part of the race where they had to go across a river - makes me wonder if they got the bike race mixed up with a triathlon. Ian was relieved to tackle the water part at the end of the race as the one thing he really hates is wet feet. Unfortunately we couldn't spot Ian in any of the pictures, so if you do, let me know.

My inspiring link this week although it is also a little sad too is the death of the oldest pupil in the world at the age of 90. He is a Kenyan man who took advantage of the free primary education for all at the age of 86, what an inspiration and he continued studying right to the end, he even wanted to get a veterinarian certificate, so he still had ambitions. I hope I finish my studying before that though, as my studying is certainly not free and the next two months are going to be intense as I finish one course and start on the next one. At least I get June, July and August off next year which means I shall be able to work on the land and the garden, maybe I can learn to drive the tractor then. By the way we are still awaiting its delivery, so pictures will have to wait.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Happenings and ponderings

Lots of things have happened this week and lots to think about so I shall start off with the happenings. On Sunday 6 youngsters from the orphanage got baptised and it was lovely to see the orphanage director congratulating them on their decision. There is such a sense of family from the folks who come from the village where the orphanage is situated, that doesn't mean it is perfect but they do support each other. After the meal I saw an event that I have rarely seen elsewhere and is testament to the work the work of the director on the children, two of the girls started to tidy up without even being asked. Teenagers spontaneously clearing up!!!!!!!!! Unheard of!!!!!! Impossible!!!!! But I tell you the truth that really happened.

We had visitors from the UK here this week from our old church. It was lovely to see them and be able to show our new home and our piece of land. We traipsed them all around the field but the youngsters baulked at going into the forest - probably just as well as they weren't really dressed for the part but Graham and Steph came with us and they were delighted to see so many fungi of different kinds and they were naming them all as we went along. I must admit to never really taking much notice of fungi but it was exciting to have the different sorts pointed out, from the purple topped ones, a perfect red headed one to the "angel of death" one which is highly poisonous. It was also fantastic to take someone around who was so enthusiastic about the place and enjoying the adventure of discovery.

After we got back from our trip to the land we decided to pick one of the enormous round mystery objects up our garden as it certainly looked like a watermelon from the skin colour, well kind of, and a nice slice of watermelon would have been a lovely end to the day. I took the knife and plunged it into the object and as it fell into two pieces we realised that this was no watermelon, or melon of any type it was a pumpkin. It was an under ripe pumpkin but at least it tasted like a buttery squash - quite nice really apart from the fact it is so huge and now we have the problem of what to do with it, being underipe it won't store so well anyway we decided to make pumpkin and ginger chutney with some of it and roast some to make roast squash soup.

Just for your entertainment I thought I would let you know that we bought two more fly-swatters this week. Entertaining? Yup! Sure is if you have ever seen me prancing around playing fly badminton. I have to say I am getting quite good at it and the flies that circle around the lights, even when they are not on (why do flies do that?), are brought to a swift end by some nifty swatting techniques. Mwaahhh!

Ian took part in a cycle race here in Ergli this week. He came 900 and something out of over 1200 competitors. You can see how many folks there are in some of the pictures and Ian was at the back because he was a newbie, no wonder he didn't get a better place as there were too many people to get around - well that was what he told me. Our village only has 2800 ish inhabitants in the whole of the parish so over 1200 riders is an enormous number of folks to contend with and they did it rather well, the whole thing was very well organised with police stopping traffic where necessary, a car park provided on a spare piece of land, and relevant marking out of the course. They finished the race in true Latvian style with porridge and tea for the riders but Ian didn't get his because there was such a long queue and it was quicker to go home for a drink and a rest. By this morning the place was neat and tidy there was only a crisp (chip) packet to be seen lying around. They had borrowed the apartment's bins (trash cans) for the occasion but they were returned by this morning - we had wondered where they had gone yesterday and were a little worried as 3 small wheelie bins between 18 apartments even for Latvians is not enough, we can manage on 6 but not 3.

The last happening which is not that amazing really but for us significant is we bought a gazebo with fly netting, four plastic chairs and a table. It is not exactly an astonishing purchase like a tractor but significant for two reasons. The first is that we have somewhere to sit and rest on our land without getting eaten alive by the dear little insects, I even did a bit of studying but that won't work very often as it is hard to work with Ian around as he is either sitting down with me or strimming and making a lot of noise but at least we can have picnics there now or just sit and think and plan. The second reason is that we can now take folks to the land and we can sit around and talk or pray which I think will be an important part of what we do on that land. So a gazebo and four chairs and table may not be much but it is a start.

Now for the ponderings.

I was reading this week about Asset Based Community Development, ie development based on the assets of a community and I thought why not have asset based evangelism (not sure I want to use the' evangelism' word since it has so many connotations but it is the best I have for the time being).

John 5:19- 20 Jesus gave them this answer: "I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.

So Jesus looked to see what was already going on and worked from that. How often do we look at a situation and see what isn't there and act on that? God is at work before we even get there, he doesn't need a hand to get somewhere as if he has a mobility problem, he is already there and active, if anything it is we who have the mobility problem, we can't be everywhere at once. We can, however, start from where we see God working and with what we have and where we are, we can move forward little by little. I think as a Christian community we can often start from what we don't have, we don't have a good worship team, we don't have a good PA system, we don't have dynamic preaching, we don't have a good team of prayers, we don't have......... etc etc etc. and I think we have to stop that kind of thinking and start looking for the positives and build from there. After all if Jesus can feed 5000 from five loaves and three fish I am sure he can take what there is in a small community and make something wondrous out of it.

Another set of thoughts generated from my studying this week was on giving (sorry if this makes the post a bit long but my thoughts don't understand brevity at times). We want to do "good" by giving so we give to reliable organisations that feed us with visions of success. But how often do we "give" when we know there is a good chance of failure? We should be good stewards with our money but what happens if we dealt with our money in the same way Jesus dealt with his? Jesus gave his money to a thief (John 12:5-7) and I don't think Jesus was unaware of this but I believe he was waiting for a redemptive opportunity that didn't come. Jesus going to the cross, a symbol of failure, shows how our giving should be, a total giving of ourselves with no assurance of success except success in the Heavenly realm maybe. We cannot measure our successes by the World's standards, we have to measure it by God's standards; "Of course!" you all say! "Isn't that what we always say?" We might say it, but do we match it with our cash? Do we match it with our giving of time? Complete with no guarantees of success? We have to learn to embrace failure in order to release the future, we have to learn from the past failures. We have to acknowledge when things aren't working and use that as a spur to looking for creative and innovative solutions instead of carrying on as if there wasn't a problem and hoping no one notices. As givers we have to give the recipients freedom to fail, so that they can try again with a revised plan, or the same plan just a different timing or a complete change of plan. We shouldn't condemn people or organisations as failures. Just because something failed doesn't mean that it will never work, wasn't worthy of our backing or mean those involved were untrustworthy, it just means it didn't work at that time, in that place, with that plan. Let's be prepared to risk our money and our time with less certainty of success, not wildly gambling like the bankers before the crisis but as people prepared to invest in the things of the Kingdom which don't always have the success that the World can measure but has eternal worth.

Enough pondering it is internet trawl time and the first site is one that Ian found about Latvian history, the English is not perfect and can be a little difficult to read sometimes but it certainly gives you a good impression of the history of this nation and the subjugation it has endured. It is no wonder that some are looking for the safety of someone to tell them what to do when they have had centuries of other nations dictating to them what to do. My prayer is that the Latvians will see the great gifts they have in themselves, without becoming conceited or proud as some fear but humbly and graciously share those gifts with other nations, the Latvians have a lot to give.

One gift they have given is to demonstrate solidarity during the Baltic Way. I mentioned last week that the Baltic Way has been added to the Unesco's Memory of the World, where they add significant events worth remembering and this week I found a site that aims to get the Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians to demonstrate their solidarity again by a run from Tallin in Estonia and Vilnius in Lithuania to Riga in Latvia. The run will finish in Riga at 8pm 23rd August but if you click on the map from the link above and move the cursor over the dots you will see where the run is expected to go and what time. Try and join in or at least be there to support it if you can, let us show the Baltic nations they are not abandoned and we support them in their efforts to make a society free from domination and corruption.

Big news of the week on the Intenet regarding Latvia is that they don't want the stag nights of drunken Brits - a double edged sword indeed. The majority of Brits do behave who visit Latvia (here is the recently retired Ambassadors blog on the subject 24th March), and no Latvians do not hate all Brits but you have got to sympathise with the locals having to deal with the hoards who walk down the street in a big gang all wearing their football shirts or fancy dress and talking very loudly, they look and sound intimidating. I hadn't realised how loud the English were until we went to Denmark and I was reminded of it when I went back to England this year, I kept wanting to ask people to tone down their conversations. So do come to Latvia, it has some beautiful places to see, some lovely people to meet, yes there are those who won't look at you but years under communism does that to you, but there are those who will serve you as best they can and are a joy to meet, just remember to keep the volume down.

Monday, 3 August 2009

When the wind of history blew

When the wind of history blew

The banking system shivered

Drew its coat around itself

and carried on

When the wind of history blew

Governments trembled

Threw some money into the banking system’s begging hats

then carried on

When the wind of history blew

The people paused and

For a moment considered a future different

To one they had relied on

When all seemed to be restored

Once again they carried on

But few saw the cracks

Opened up by the wind

Growing, creaking its way into the system

Space is being created

Space into which a new Kingdom will come

Quietly without much fanfare

But sweeping across the nations

Blowing through

Sculpting a new tomorrow

by Joanna

Inspiring events

Finally there was agreement this week and the loan from the IMF was secured late on Monday night (if you are wondering what I am going on about read a few of my more recent posts about Latvia and the IMF). Not sure whether it is a good thing or not as it obviously means a huge debt repayment in the future but for now the country is at least stable, kind of! I still believe that there needs to many questions asked of the IMF who stand to gain so much from the plights of countries who sought to emulate the dream of wealth from banking without much in the way of manufacturing. I wonder where the advisors are now who encouraged the madness?

A proper good piece of news this week to come out of the Baltics is that the Baltic Way demonstration from 1989 has been entered into UNESCO's Memory of the World for its importance to the world. The Baltic Way involved a 600 km chain of people stretching from Tallin in Estonia, through Riga in Latvia to Vilnius in Lithuania in a peaceful demonstration against the annexing of their countries by Russia in a pact agreed between Russia and Nazi Germany in 1939. This demonstration is significant for being a peaceful demonstration by three small nations against the might of Soviet power. 1989 was a remarkable year when much of the political landscape was changed and much of it was peaceful but not all. For a breathtaking overview of the year read the article by Neal Ascherson to get a grasp of those immense changes that occurred (I know it's long but stick with it, it was an incredible year). It was all a bit vague for me as I was pregnant with our youngest and he was born in the last few days of that year, he couldn't wait like the other two and had to be born into an exciting year of change. A quoted phrase from the article made me feel a bit poetic so I wrote a poem called:When the wind of history blew, which is a corruption of a poem title "When the wind of history blows" by the Polish poet Galczynski and you can read my version here

Had one of those "wish I had my camera with me and ready" moments this week. We were on our way back from Madona (the nearest large town) having just paid for the tractor when we spotted an eagle at the side of the road with its recent kill, as we drove up close to it it took off and we had to slow down to give it a chance to get away without hitting it. It was an impressive sight! So amazing to be up so close to a bird of prey. We are quite used to making sure we don't hit storks as they stand by the side of the road and take off with slow flaps of wings and they always appear a bit dopey really. Speaking of storks they are starting to congregate now in larger numbers, another sign of the the end of summer coming but did you know that a collection of storks is called either a muster or a phalanx? Well you do now!

Sad news this week was hearing of the resignation of the British Ambassador to Latvia after the death of his wife from cancer. I may not have agreed with all of his politics but I certainly agreed with his positive outlook on life, his lack of stuffiness as an ambassador and his seeming interest in people of all kinds - a wonderful attribute for any ambassador. I am not sure that the powers that be will read this, but if they are, please do send a successor with an equal interest in people, a true ambassador for the people of Britain.

Earlier this year I mentioned we had strange plants growing in our manure heap and we didn't know how they had got there or what they were. Well we have solved the mystery of what they are, they are watermelons the other half of the mystery of how they got there is still unsolved but it does leave the question of ownership. In England, ownership would be simple, we rent the piece of land, we bought the manure from the farmer, so anything planted in it would be ours. Here I am not so sure, if we were daft enough to not use the manure heap for growing plants as they usually do here then I could believe that someone would take advantage of that and they would consider the plants theirs, I could be wrong, after all assumptions can get you into trouble but ownership is more flexible here and probably a legacy of a communist past. The real question though should be, "should ownership be so settled?" Should ownership in communities be more fluid? There is a danger of abuse and sometimes with ownership comes a sense of responsibility so it is not such a straightforward thought process. Would be interested to know what others think, especially if you live somewhere other than England or the US, in places where ownership does not have such definite boundaries.

Well I am going to round up this blog with a collection of inspiring posts this week that lifted my week and I hope lifts yours. The first one is a guy who had the guts to persevere in pursuing a dream, he left school at 16 to train as a chef and then opened a chip shop (as in a fish and chip shop my American friends) but then decided he wanted to become a doctor. Now the gulf academically between a chip shop owner and a doctor is wide but he made it and good for him and it sure makes a great story from what sounds like quite a humble guy.

The next story is what can happen in community when it works together and involves a teacher whose plans to marry were wrecked when her fiancé was made redundant, the headteacher heard of it and helped out along with others from the school community to make a most memorable wedding, with so many people pitching in to make it a real community event. It reminds me a bit of our wedding where folks pitched in to help us, not that our plans were wrecked or anything, as we didn't have much in the way of plans to wreck, we were more bothered about just getting married than any hype around it. A friend made my wedding dress, my gran made my cake, another friend lent their car which they were really thrilled about, another friend took the photos, and others contributed food for our reception which was at our house they even stayed to help make sandwiches. I thoroughly enjoyed our wedding day and wouldn't have swapped it for a grand do any day.

The last piece of inspiration I read was a Southern Baptist Church who are selling their premises in order to release more money into local and international mission and apparently they are not the only ones, more and more congregations are moving out of their buildings into homes, and all I can say to that is fantastic! More Lord!

The first two pictures this week are taken from the hill that I would love to build a home on. One day! Maybe! The rest are flowers from the land which we are working on.