Monday, 30 November 2009

An interesting week

The week started off by a visit from immigration officers. One of the not so nice outcomes from the open borders agreement in much of Europe is that now the immigration officers need to check up to make sure people really have left after visas expire, or to make sure that people are up to date on their registration documents and so entails periodic home visits from the dear folk. The last visit I had there were four guys who all looked pretty intimidating, but fortunately the one who spoke English was a nice enough bloke who was very courteous. This time it was a visit by a man and a woman but they still looked intimidating with their official cards and huge jackets with immigration written on them, oh yes and don't forget their pistols, however they were really nice and checked our passports and asked some questions about a friend of ours who has left the country. The only question I do have, is how come they always wait until Ian is out of the house before visiting? Hmmm!

This week I also discovered a squeamish side of me I didn't know existed and if you are of a delicate disposition, then please skip this paragraph. We decided to buy some of the local carp as I had the great idea that the lake that keeps appearing could be developed into a fish pond, well there is not much point in developing a fish pond if you don't like the type of fish that grows well in it so it was important to try it out. Well the fish was fresh, some of it was still flapping in the buckets but the one we bought didn't flap, well not until I started to gut it. Gutting fish I can cope with fine, but not when fin moves, even more so when it opens its mouth. It kind of freaked me out a little and I made Ian come and do the manly thing and dispatch it properly before I continued, he wasn't particularly happy about doing it either but he managed. So the lesson learnt? Make sure you know how to dispatch fish properly before starting to prepare it for cooking. Now I know some of you would be thinking at this point that really the lesson learnt is to buy a nice little pre-packaged thingummy jig at the local supermarket - problem solved! Well here in Latvia they keep the carp in tanks so it would still be flapping when they give it to you, and besides I think we do need to reconnect where our meat and fish comes from and not be quite so squeamish. I am going to learn how to make sure the jobs done properly though in future.

Been a good week for feasting and sitting round a dinner table chatting, which is my idea of a perfect time. Earlier on in the week was the American Thanksgiving, sorry to be absolutely correct United States of America Thanksgiving as the Canadian Thanksgiving is a month earlier, and Canadians are American too so it was pointed out to me that evening (well yes I kind of knew that). Amazingly we had a huge turkey, which is not all that common here in Latvia, both the turkey and huge; normally if you can find a turkey at all they are of the scrawny variety and not the well fattened sort. America exports many things including ideas and celebrations but not Thanksgiving, which I think is a shame. I am all for a celebration that revolves around eating (notice a pattern here) and being grateful for the past year with friends and family and, as one person said whilst I was in America, no pressure to buy presents. Mind you with hindsight I wonder if his wife thought the same way about it?

The other feast was a wedding. We were invited to the wedding of one of the camp leaders we met in the first year of camps we did in Latvia back in the year 2000. She is a bubbly, passionate kind of girl and looks like she has found someone who is equally passionate about his relationship with God and I think they will suit each other well. The wedding was a little of an English-Latvian fusion because there were many guests from England, including the "best couple" who were good friends of ours from our church back in England - in fact the couple who were responsible for getting us interested in going out to Latvia all those years ago. Latvians love flowers and use any occasion to give them and so instead of flowers being arranged by the couple, every family brings along flowers to give to the bride and groom. There were lots of vases around so I think that the huge number of flowers given were actually distributed around the church building where they got married to decorate it rather than be wasted. Other differences to the UK traditions I noticed was no bridesmaids and once the father walked the bride down the aisle he immediately handed her over to the bridegroom instead of an elaborate handover ceremony. At the reception the bride and grooms family did not sit on the top table, it was the two supporting couples. There were songs sung by the bride's brother and friends, which is not surprising in Latvia as they do like to sing even if they don't go to church, there was a game where the winners got to take the young couple out over the coming year, for instance one couple will take them to the cinema one month, one will organise a romantic meal another month and so on, not sure how normal that is for Latvians but seemed an interesting enough idea. One thing I understand is common is the regular banging on glasses with cutlery and the shouting of "kiss, kiss" in Latvian of course and then the couple were expected to kiss, a real headache inducing tradition.

On the way to the wedding in the morning we came to an area where it was unexpectedly misty and I couldn't quite work out why until we came round a corner to see a very sad sight, a hotel that was on fire and by the time we were passing the spot was a mere shell with the outside walls still standing but no roof and only the chimney stacks still visible; by the time we went home the whole thing had collapsed. It was a great shame as it had only just been spruced up since we arrived in Latvia, in the bright yellow colour that the Latvians love (as you can see from the picture)

On our late night trips back home we usually see plenty of wild life and this time was no exception. If you see one deer on the road you can usually expect more so Ian is always careful to slow down. This time there were three deer stood in the road who were looking in the opposite direction to our car, we expected them to at least scatter when we approached, but no they didn't even turn around to look at us. You would think that a car at night with headlights on would warrant some attention but it wasn't until we were within metres of them did they seem to realise we were there and run off. We decided at this point that wolves have got it all wrong, they don't need to go around in sheep's clothing to confuse the deer, they just need to take up driving, the bigger the car the better, they would be sure to be able to sneak up on the deer then.

It has still been rather wet here this week so it was quite a surprise when the sun actually put in an appearance today and so the dark night took a little longer before it really took hold, well perhaps 10 minutes more daylight than normal often it is pretty dark by 4pm, and we have even needed the light on for much of the day sometimes. Makes you realise why the Northern Europeans like candles in winter time. Talking of winter Father Christmas was spotted today having a walk around our village, he does seem to have lost quite a bit of weight though in preparation for the annual stuffing of eating all those mince pies and shots of sherry at the UK addresses. Which reminds me, I guess that must mean Christmas is fairly close! Oh! Crumbs! Well never mind the kids aren't actually going to be coming out this year on Christmas itself so I should be safe. First one arrives two days later, next one two months and errr the other one?????? Whenever!


  1. I'm with you on the idea of knowing where our food comes from but like you find parts of it difficult. When we lived in Argentina, we used to keep chickens. I was fine with feeding them, gathering the eggs, even plucking, cleaning, cooking and eating them but my husband always had to kill them while I wasn't looking. Hmm!

  2. I think I will be alright as long as I know how to do it properly. I did do a science degree so experimentation was part and parcel but not unnecessary suffering.

  3. only dad could wear a wallace and gromit tie to a wedding!! were you going for a his and her look again?

  4. It was the only tie that remotely went with his shirt, it was desperate really and we thought that it would be full of children's workers so they wouldn't mind :oD. Did you notice the Wallace grin too?

    We weren't going for a his and her look, honest! It is just the lighting

  5. Fine for wolves to drive as long as they don't share the idea with foxes. If foxes start driving we will have to put down strips of spikes to blow their tires to keep them from the sheep, hahaha.


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