Monday, 15 February 2010

All in a spin

Well no moose were spotted on the way to the airport this time but our son and his fiancée were deposited safely at the airport even though it is 2 1/2 hours away on mainly ice roads to get there. Unfortunately our return journey was not without drama. We were one bend away from our home village and I had nodded off (no I wasn't driving) but woke to see us gently sliding towards the bank at the side of the road, next thing we know we had spun round and rather unceremoniously slid backwards down into a ditch, finding out along the way that the substantial looking snow banks were no more than powder and not very effective at stopping a sliding car. Ian tried to drive out but we were well and truly stuck. A car slid to a stop next to us and nearly ended up in the ditch too but not quite and only required a bit of a push to get out. It was with relief that we recognised the young man who got out, a friend of ours who blessedly speaks English. Ian and some other of our friend's fellow travellers started digging out around the car but discovered the reason we hadn't slid further down the bank was because of a huge concrete block that was wedged under our kickboard. Ironically the driver of the car, containing our friend, that had stopped was someone Ian had towed only earlier on in the week and it was she who decided to go organise a tractor to come and drag our car out, well one good turn deserves another I guess. It was a bit tricky getting the car out, it wouldn't go forwards and in fact looked in danger of rolling so was pulled out backwards, ploughing through quite a bit of snow to do so. Still we were safe and all that was dented was the kickboard, the rest of the car was fine. 

There wasn't much chance of drama after that as I got a cough and I have been rather poorly with it, I even had to cancel English lessons yet again. So frustrating as I am so rarely ill even more frustrating by the weekend as it was Latvian Schools Winter Olympiad which is held annually in our village and all I could do was watch from a distance out of the window as cars and buses parked up and people milled around, so much happening and I was stuck inside. I did see the fireworks for presumably the opening ceremony as they were at the nearby school and clearly visible from our living room window but that was about it. They have all sorts of events from cross country skiing, downhill skiing, snowboarding, ice hockey tournaments on an iced over playground, and cross country skiing with shooting, so there would have been plenty to see. Still some presumably local youths decided to snowboard and ski down the hill near to us so I could watch them.

I was also back to studying this week and managed to get some of it done before my head hurt too much, one of the exercises was to list about 25-30 employment sectors in a given area. I of course started to list the different sectors in this village and despite a lot of jobs being based in the fact we have a large technical school here where students can board during the week there is still a multiplicity of jobs and I am sure this is not an exhaustive list.

Primary Sector -production
Dairy Farming
Sheep Farming
Strawberry Farm
Vegetable growing
Secondary Sector - manufacturing
Joinery Company
Hydro-electric generation
Road Construction company
Machinist shop
Wood mills
Tertiary Sector - services
Local Government
Technical School and boarding 
Builder’s merchants
Old people’s home
Auto repairs
Tyre repairs
Clothes shops
Tractor services (Cutting and baling etc)
Sheep shearing
Second-hand furniture shop
Post office
Quaternary Sector - supposedly higher services 
Insurance Agent

It was quite surprising to list all these jobs for such a small place. In England it was rare to have quite so many actually doing such a diverse range of jobs within the village itself. Most villages may have a range of employment of villagers but that would be because they commuted to nearby large towns. Our small village in Derbyshire lost services like doctors post office and shops either during the fifteen years we were there or shortly after - a killer for small communities. 

A diverse range of employment ordinarily is quite healthy for a community but not much help with the local economy here. A think tank in England, NEF, suggested that people should work 21 hours a week for a better work, home balance which would be kinder to the environment and that is pretty much what some folks around here are working, unfortunately that is not so good here as it means they cannot make an adequate wage to live. 21 hours a week is all very well if you are paid enough and I am not talking about funding the type of wasteful lifestyle many in the West take for granted, I am talking about having the basics to pay for housing, heating and food. Many articles recently have stated that the Baltic people are being very stoic under the circumstances, just getting on quietly with the business of trying to find work, trying to feed themselves or leaving the country. Either that or they are drinking to escape the misery of this very cold winter. We have enjoyed the winter as it is brighter than a wet winter but we have enough money for food and heating, it is no fun when you don't have a car, and your house is cold and there is not enough money to eat properly. The average Latvian needs more than 21 hours a week that is for sure.

I understand that Canada are having their own Olympics too, such copy cats. One Latvian, Haralds Silovs, has been making records by becoming the first Olympian to compete in long- and short-track speedskating events - and doing it on the same day. Silovs finished 20th in the 5,000 meters on the big oval around midday, then finished fifth in the B finals of the 1,500 around the short track at night. 

I was rather surprised this week to find out that Jonathan Edwards who was always held up as a hero for his openess about his faith - has lost his faith. What exactly did he lose? Religiosity? Rules? Or faith? I don't know, I am not him and I have no idea why he has gone down the path that he has taken or what triggered it. I think many of those with faith do suddenly find that God is not where they think he is, but often go on to find that he is bigger than they thought he was. Mystics often talk of the "dark night of the soul" where God seems to be hiding, but in essence he is encouraging us to go deeper and search for him, those who have gone through it often talk of the way that their faith is stretched and deepened in those times. I remember a time when the thought rushed into my head and exploded there, "What if God was not real?", "What if it is all a sham?" I felt I was looking into a hole and I didn't like what I saw, it was a whole load of deep, dark nothingness (not sure that makes sense but I can't really find the words to describe it). I shrank back from that hole and in my mind decided there was no way I would ever go there and the relief was enormous. Even when God seems far away I know he is there, he never leaves me, even if his presence is not felt and that is what I hold onto.

Photos: firstly apologies for the quality of the photos, they were taken inside on a snowy day with a telephoto lens - that was the nearest I was going to get to any action.
Photo 1 Coaches outside the school
Photo 2 The newly created carpark specially for the occasion on a frozen grass bank
Photo 3, 4, 5 & 6 Our local Olympians doing their own version of the Mogul event


  1. What a scary journey sliding down into a ditch! But the people seemed to be very friendly and helpful. Hope you are feeling better now from your bout of sniffles.

    When I heard about the 21 hour week, I must say that my reaction was like yours - if those who are on a low income to start with are paid the same hourly rate, then they'll need 2 jobs to compensate. Maybe that's what would happen. Instead of having more free time, people would just have 2 (or more) jobs. When will those with these so-called brain waves realise that making laws does not change people's attitudes.

    About Jonathan Edwards - I heard some months ago as he asked to be dropped from presenting Songs of Praise on TV as he was no longer sure he could go along with what he was supposed to be conveying. It must be hard being in the limelight - no room to doubt without having so much media speculation.

  2. I have to admit it wasn't that scary when we were going through it, it was more just oh oh, rather not be doing this. It was only when the tractor struggled to pull us out that it seemed like it could have been a lot worse than it was.

    I am beginning to feel better but I would like to be able to sleep in my bed rather than on the couch - I don't want to keep Ian awake with my coughing. Still at least I don't feel like I am fighting an infection any more.

    In some ways I do agree with the 21 hour week, I think too many people work more than they need to and it would lead to a better work balance, it just does not apply to the low paid as you say they would need 2 or more jobs to compensate like a lot of Latvians do in now.

    Hadn't really thought about the problem of Jonathan Edwards having no room for doubts in the limelight but your right, it must be hard in the glare.


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