Monday, 12 October 2009

We fought the weather and the weather won

This has been another busy week but not much to write about personally as the busyness has been centred around me trying to revise for my exam and still trying to process some of the produce from the garden. The dehydrator has been on almost constantly and do you know how long it takes to dry out a couple of trays of cherry tomatoes? Two days! Mind you they are nice, I could snack on the lot but had better not, we need them for the winter. I was surprised that they were so nice as the tomatoes this year were a bit disappointing and lacking in taste but dried they are gorgeous. Ian has been at his favourite past time of chopping wood ready for the installation of our new wood stove - there are some logs that have been on the ground for while and so have already dried out which will come in handy. Next year and maybe over this winter we need to be a bit more organised and get wood sorted out early.

We did reach a memorable milestone though this week and that is our 25th Wedding Anniversary. We decided to go out for a quiet meal to celebrate. Normally the hotel is very quiet and each time we go we pray for more custom to keep it open as we would hate it to close and this time we got what we prayed for, 50 guests descended on the hotel. We felt we had to really eat up so we could get out of the way, the staff were very sweet though and didn't hurry us but we felt bad for holding them up - they need all the custom they can get so we didn't begrudge them it.

Another milestone was reached this week and not one we particularly wanted to reach so early in the year, it snowed today! Over a month earlier than last winter and that was a long winter. The snow lasted all day too which is not good for Ian as he was trying to organise getting the ground level ready for the poly tunnel. Not sure if we are going to get it finished now, we may have fought the weather and lost this year. We had hoped that the levelling would be done over the weekend as it was perfect weather, dry and frosty in the mornings but no it wasn't meant to be.

This week has been very busy on the RSS feed I have for Latvian news. The twists and turnsof the crisis continue in a worrying vein with some predictions early on in the week of the imminent collapse of the Latvian economy and all reported without one shred of decency, not one report actually took account of what this means for the poorest in this nation. Come on people this is not good enough - the pensioners cannot pay their bills now, they do not eat well at the best of times, and even last year the goods in the shops were too expensive and they had to look at everything they bought counting each santim (penny), these are real live people we are talking about and you cannot cut their incomes by 20% without a shred of regret or care. Shame!

The Swedish finance minister Anders Borg is still pontificating and hectoring the Latvians, even the Swedish Prime Minister was joining in too this week. Can the Swedes in all honesty condemn the Latvian pensioners to a winter of nothing all for the sake of the stupidity of Swedish banks lending far above what they should have done to financially naive Latvians? Should banks apologise asks the BBC, and my answer is yes they should! I would dearly love to see the same humbleness exhibited by the Swedish government ministers as the Latvian Prime Minister earlier on this year when he apologised to the Latvian people for the pain they were going to have to go through to get the economy back on track. So how about the Swedish ministers apologising along with the bankers for their role in impoverishing a nation?

As you can tell I am riled with all the rhetoric, especially when I see the pain of the people around me. I want to believe that there are people out there who care, I want to believe there are those in the Swedish nation who are hurt to see their government being so unsympathetic to the plight of the poor. I want to believe that this crisis has woken people up to the need to care about others and I want to believe that Europe can arise out of this mess by demonstrating that they are stronger when they look out for each other instead of trying to solely support their own nations at the expense of others. I was beginning to despair of anyone having any sense and speaking up for the Latvians when help came from a rather unexpected source, George Soros. Now I know that George Soros is out to make money, that is what he is good at, so I was rather shocked to read that he actually thought that the EU could do more to help the Latvian nation and he felt that really there was no sense in penalising the Latvian people by cutting the public finances when the problem is essentially to do with the private sector. What is even more amazing is he was speaking in Stockholm, the home of the hectoring Swedish government.

I am also pleased to read that questions are still being asked of the IMF and their role in the crisis and the way they operate. The Guardian commented "The Fund (the IMF) has privately told others that its policies should be judged not on whether they made the downturn worse in borrowing countries, but on whether these countries would have been even worse off if they didn't get any aid at all. This seems too low a bar. If you go to a doctor with an badly infected foot, and he saves your life by amputating it, you are better off as a result of the treatment. But if you could have been cured by available antibiotics, this is not competent medicine."

Latvia is certainly being asked to amputate a lot but this is not necessarily the best method of getting the economy on a sound footing as Mr. Soros explained and I agree with him (well on this point anyway). Institutional reform in Latvia is necessary, everyone knows that. The Latvian economy has been mis-managed, yes everyone apart from those who profited illegally from it will agree with that, but you cannot change a whole bureaucracy in a year. When a house has major structural faults you can move the people out while the work is done but sometimes there is nowhere for the people to go and the structural repairs have to be carried out around the daily chores of the homeowner. This is what it is like for many of the state organisations in Latvia who have been trying to move away from Soviet style inefficient models to modern effective organisations but as I said this does not happen overnight as the structure still has a job to do while the structural work goes on. To make proper efficient savings for the Government is going to take more than a couple of years and is not best served by cutting wages, otherwise you are not only expecting the people to put up with the restructuring, which is stressful in itself but also reducing their incentives to see the work through. Instead they go into survival mode which is not helpful in reforming an institution. The baying for blood by the Swedish Government will only serve to leave a battered and brutalised nation wondering what the point of trying to modernise. Haven't the nations of Europe battered and brutalised this nation enough in its fights over it?

Well after all that rhetoric from me I thought I had better end on a more positive note and so I had to mention this fantastic young man. At 16 he is running a school in his poor neighbourhood for 800 children, teaching them from the lessons he learnt during the day in another school which he is privileged to be able to attend. It is incredible what some people can do when they care enough.

Photos from the weekend and then today, as you can see a big difference, winter arrived here in Latvia.


  1. I heard about the young 16 year old man on the BBC news. They are doing a series called Hunger to Learn. You can read more about it on the BBC website. It makes you realise just how privileged we are.

  2. So lovely to hear from you again Mavis, I was wondering how you were doing the other day.

    You are so right we often don't realise how privileged we are. I remember standing in our home in Denmark, quite an ordinary home and not particularly large but nice enough and thinking that compared to the majority of the world I lived in a palace. I look forward to reading some more in that series.

  3. Thanks for your thoughts on my behalf. I do read your blog all the time and find it very interesting. I am also intersted in your comments on other blogs that I follow - Martin Scott and also Diane (A positive blog) who is a personal friend of mine. I love seeing your photos also. BTW congratulations on your Silver Wedding Anniversary.

  4. Thank you for the congratulations.

    Funny how things can be so interlinked these days without actually knowing someone in the flesh so to speak.


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