Monday, 1 February 2010


Hopefully this blog makes sense but if it doesn't then please excuse me, as I have a cold. This is not something I have very often and so the fuzzy head is a bit of a strange phenomenon to me, in fact I think the last cold I had was in 2006 when I first went to America and the one before that that lasted anything longer than a day was errrrr maybe when my youngest was born in 1989. I might get sore throats or even lose my voice, last year I had trouble shaking off a cold sores, and in the past I  have had gall stones, ovarian cysts and a hernia but colds I don't normally get. Anyway this one got me and so with a fuzzy head I shall plough on.

For those of you who have known us for a long time you may remember that Ian used to work on flow cytometers in leukaemia diagnosis and that sort of thing in a hospital before moving onto research and development on flow cytometers themselves. Ian has been looking for an opportunity to find out what the field is like here in Latvia but until now nothing opened up. Before Christmas I spotted an item on one of my newsfeeds about an EU initiative to improve leukaemia diagnosis and Ian followed it up and found out that a Latvian professor was involved and sent an email to her. She was rather dubious of a "cold call" from a strange guy she had never heard of but eventually Ian was able to convince her he was kosher and not after anything in particular except to see where things are at in the field and offer his experience if it was helpful.  Finally emails were passed on to the relevant people and we both went into Riga this week (well someone has to navigate)  to see the haematology unit of a hospital. It was interesting for Ian to see where they are at with leukaemia diagnosis and what they are doing. We had a lovely time with the doctor in charge and it was fantastic to see a person committed to the patients and making them well again and not about her status as a doctor. We shall see what comes out of it and let things develop as we normally do but there certainly looks like there is scope to help out more.

Progress has been good on my course and I got back my final result for the other unit I completed just before Christmas in Policy Framework Analysis and thankfully got 75% for that one, so overall did well. I am really relieved as well as pleased to have got off to a good start as I do hope to use this knowledge to help in rural Latvia and I do hope the good marks means I have a good grasp of the problems and solutions and not I am just good at answering questions - always a danger in academic work. My new units starts February 1st so I was having a look through some of the work and realised that I have a steep learning curve with regards to some of the terms in Biodiversity which was a bit of a shock, I maybe a scientist by training but botany and zoology were not on the agenda for me and so I am not familiar with many of the terms used, oo errr! Hopefully all will become clearer as I progress through the unit.

The start of the week was still very cold and made quite miserable with the wind; cold temperatures are one thing but wind chill is bitter. It did warm up though as it snowed which means the snow is actually beginning to get quite deep in places, with no sign of melting and possibly more snow on the way. Still not as much as last year yet. As you can see though that despite the double glazing there is still an ice build up on the inside of the window, and I can now see why in Scandinavian countries triple glazing is standard.

Christmas gets earlier and earlier, or is it later and later? Well that is what it seemed like as Mark our son and his fiancĂ©e Kerry have come to visit and they brought their Christmas presents for us with them. Would you believe it I got some more pampering products - now either my kids don't think I wash enough or could it be that my son read a previous blog about how thoughtful I thought my daughters gift of pampering stuff was and thought it was a good idea? Hmmm! Maybe just maybe. I did appreciate it, really! along with the gift of a mug with "Make Tea Not War!" on it, definitely my philosophy in life.  Ian got some socks, maybe not a big deal for most, I mean it is the typical "I don't know what else to get you type present" but actually these particular socks are very dry and very warm which is very helpful in cold weather whilst wearing wellies (rubber boots). If there is one thing Ian hates it is cold feet and the SealSkinz pair he got for his birthday have been worn rather a lot, I think they could walk themselves to the washing machine sometimes but he had dry warm feet so didn't care.  It hasn't been all just opening present we also took Mark and Kerry out to see what we had been doing on the land and Mark had a great time clearing snow with the tractor, a budding farmer perhaps? Doubt it actually, more like a chance to play with a tractor, now did he come out to see us or to see the tractor? Love him really! For Kerry it was a chance to see some real snow, having lived on the South Coast of England she has rarely seen more than a few centimetres of snow.

A big step forward happened today in our settling in in Latvia as our friends who own the piece of land we are working on gave us power of attorney for the land. Okay we are working back to front as usual but heh life would be far too boring if everything went the way it should and in the correct order all the time. It does mean that now we can take over the signing of any permissions for building structures and infrastructure and we don't have to worry if they are away at all.

Came across a new search engine this week which looks interesting called Ecosia. They claim that by using their search engine the money doesn't go into the pockets of the company or shareholders their profits go to the WWF to fund projects to save the Amazon rainforests. Having done the courses I have done I am well aware that there is a danger in outside organisations coming in and telling the locals how to manage their own resources, in essence being no better sometimes than the colonial powers of previous centuries taking away land from local people and robbing them of the power to make their own decisions, so that is a worry but managed well projects can be a positive influence. One aspect I do like is that they use renewable energy to power their computers in order to do the searches. We tend to think of searches as saving paper and therefore is good for the environment but searches still consume power, not just our own electric but also the power used at the organisations own facilities. Now I have some questions as regards the way they search as they still use Yahoo and Bing so which computers are being powered by renewable energy but at the end of the day it is a start in the right direction and it means that people can make a choice. Well you can see what you think and make your own decisions and if you think it is a good idea, pass it on.

Photos 1 & 2 More gorgeous sunsets
Photo 3 & 5 Ice on the inside of the window
Photo 4 Mark in the tractor


  1. Well don't often comment (have I ever?), but really encouraged by your 'journey'. Maybe for some of us an overused one, but not in your (and Ian's) case.

    I am well impressed by your dedication to the realm of study and equipping. Getting ready with the tools for what is to come. Your work on the land and in the land is so much a parable that you are in days of preparation - and a big encouragement to me - and many....

  2. Thank you for that encouragement Martin, I appreciate that. You have been a great encouragement over the years to us as well as an inspiration. Must admit to being surprised by your comment on my blog, hehe it is a first on the blog itself.

  3. just remembered my log in, so i can now leave comments again.

  4. Thought you had not been your usual witty self


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