Monday, 22 March 2010

Spring has sprung

It came as no surprise this week when our neighbours at our other flat asked if they could buy the stove off us we lent them after their catastrophe. It is in and working well - I don't think they had the problems we had with smoke on lighting as they haven't got quite the convoluted pipe work that we did - and to move it out and put another in must seem like a lot of hassle for nothing. We had hoped to use the stove in the polytunnel to extend the growing season but I think their need of heat is greater than our need for extending the growing season, having said that I did have a brain wave just before we got the request and thought about building a brick oven on site, it would be great for barbequeing as well. Hmm! Veg straight off the vine and onto the bbq. Nice!

Finally went to the dentists this week, something we have been putting off for ages. One very large filling fell out before Christmas and I had a tooth which disintegrated at the front but there was no pain fortunately, so there was no need to rush. We got to hear of a dentist in the nearby large town who actually speaks English and not German (not terribly helpful for us) and so we decided we really ought to go. The week before we had actually duped a friend into going as he was in a lot of pain but doesn't like dentists either so we said we would go together, the reality was that there was only one appointment and he had priority, but we didn't tell him that. I understand totally though, the thought of going to a dentist who messes about or is unpleasant is not my idea of fun, I want someone I can trust to do a good job without trying to do a whole lot of unnecessary work. That was one of the reasons for me not going to the dentist in America, as I didn't think they would like my teeth, not being of the pearly white perfect sort, and would want to start doing major megabucks work and I really couldn't be bothered with the hassle. Well while we were at the dentists with our friend we sorted out our appointments for this week, since she seemed so nice and spoke good English, very reassuring. It is a good job really as I haven't been to a dentist since Denmark, four years ago and Ian hasn't been since he left England and so that was over 7 years ago. Ian was, however, pleasantly surprised that he hadn't got any new holes, just needed old fillings replaced.

English Mother's day came a bit late for me as I finally got  a lovely card from one of my children - one to treasure I think, it is actually rather sweet instead of cheeky like some of them I have had in the past (when I got one that is, love you really kids and to be honest I am not really bothered). Even more surprising was to get a gift too, a Pat and Mat DVD. If you remember a couple of weeks ago I commented that the Czech airlines played a hilarious cartoon that I had never seen before, it is even more hilarious because we live in a country with a similar Soviet history, so I could imagine some of the antics happening here too. We sat through five short episodes the other night and roared with laughter, only another 30 to go. One of the classic scenes was one of the guys (not sure which is Pat and which is Mat but heh!, does it matter?) whose tap kept moving around so that it poured water on the floor, so the guy drags his sink over to where the tap was - easy eh! Oh yes forgot about the pipe connections didn't he. Next moment a puddle is fast appearing on the floor, so what does he do? Pulls out his drill and drills a hole in the floor of course. Slight problem he lives in a flat (apartment) and so it goes on. Great fun!

Spring suddenly decided to make an appearance this week and over 20-30cm of snow disappeared within two days, great patches of winter weary grass started to appear as if by magic and then it started to rain. I love Spring when the bulbs start to push up their heads to greet the gentle warmth of the sun, but this part of Spring when the snow is melting and the ground is turning to mush and the days can be dismal is not something I enjoy. It almost feels like when you go for an operation, or to the dentist, you know it is something you have to go through and something good will come out of it but you would rather it was just over and done with. We went to have a look at the polytunnel and it is in the same state as last year when they couldn't work on it because it was too wet which is so annoying because we warned the guy there would be a problem if he delayed any further (we only had to look at the weather forecasts to see that), but we need that plastic up or we are not going to be able to get a good start for the new planting season so something has to be done.

On a slightly lighter note I thought I would list some of the things which herald the Spring here in Latvia:-
We rediscover which roads have tarmac and which ones are dirt roads
The pothole challenge - the roads are in a desperate state until the tarmac lorries get out and until then it takes nerves of steel and a quick response time to avoid them
Ice breakers - teams of folks out chipping away at the ice
Green grass where the heating pipe travels from the boiler at the top of the hill to our apartment
Reappearing features - bins (trash cans, outdoor seating)
The fly swatters out - I got four this morning but then again they were sluggish.

One thing I discovered which I wasn't so happy about in Latvia is to do with the interest rates. Interest rates on deposits seem to have gone down rather a lot just lately and I was wondering if by any chance my bank had reduced the interest rates on loans (which would be good for many folks here, something I could accept) and I was absolutely gobsmacked to find there was no information on the amount of interest paid, I can find out how much a loan will cost per month but not the interest charged. Interest rates in the UK have to be clearly stated, and rightly so, but I thought this may have been in line with EU law, if it is not then it is no wonder that people here in Latvia have been duped for so long - how can you take out a loan and not know how much it will actually cost you in real terms? I decided to do a little comparison of some of the banks and found that Nordea, DnB Nord and Swedbank do not advertise their interest rates on Latvian sites but they do on Swedish sites.  Now that it is downright criminal, why do these banks (and I don't think they are the only ones) not practice "best practice" and make sure the customer has all the information they need to make an informed choice? You would think that Scandinavian banks would practice the utmost transparency in all their dealings and maybe they do in Sweden but there doesn't seem to be much evidence of that in Latvia.

Politically things are a little jittery here as one party pulled out of the Latvian Government, meaning the coalition parties in Government are in the minority and the question is will it fall? Not likely I think! Who would want to take on governing this nation at this minute, who would take the poisoned chalice? No! Let the Government get so far and hopefully by October, when an election is due, everything will be looking better then and so another party could take over and take the credit. Oh yes! And if it doesn't go to plan then the previous Government could of course be blamed anyway.

I was doing some research for my studies and came across and astounding fact that 90% of all soybeans in the US contain the Monsanto gene, that is a huge monopoly of the market and makes me wonder how it has taken the US authorities so long to investigate this as they are now doing. It would seem that today crops are not about feeding the world but about the world domination of the markets by no more than four seed companies. There is also inappropriate development that only serves the seed companies, ie developing seeds that resist their own herbicides rather than developing what the farmers need. In fact more food is lost due to poor storage than through loss to pests and diseases and so tackling that is a low cost, low technological solution which would improve this world's ability to feed its citizens. Improving agricultural techniques such as crop rotation and more appropriate crops for a region will do far more than tying farmers to a seed company, which is what happens when GM crops are used. I don't often pass on details about online petitions but the Avaaz organisation appears to have a better way of organising them than passing on through emails, which to be frank is a waste of time, and if you disagree with GM crops being introduced into Europe then this is the link to register your disagreement, you do need a European address to sign it though.

Photo 1: Reappearing seats and bins (trash cans), you can compare this picture to last weeks where the bin was only barely visible
Photo 2: Reappearing manure heaps - lovely
Photo 3 & 4 Pat or is it Mar?
Photo 5: Little one enjoying walking on grass again, it was so funny to watch him walking up and down it and jumping the ditch at the bottom
Photo 6 & 7 More disappearing snow which you can compare to previous pictures.


  1. Nice to see that spring is eventually reaching Latvia. And I really enjoyed your poem.

  2. Thanks Mavis. I think everyone here is glad to see Spring, it has been a hard winter with the cold.


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