Monday, 21 February 2011

Strong? Who me?

This is a picture I drew many years ago at a
time when I was not feeling strong at all.
That's like me at the front but I do realise
there is someone looking out for me and
backing me all the way
Twice this week someone has commented that they thought I was a strong person, not true! Really! I know I do bounce quite easily though, as I am an optimist by nature, I do look for the positive signs to tell me that all is not really lost. The ongoing relationship problems of a family member and some other news that can't really be shared in an open forum like this, certainly has knocked me though and I am getting rather tired of our house not selling yet, so happy is not a description I could use this week, nor have I felt particularly strong but I can sense that I am on the up when the fields of snow didn't just seem to sparkle with diamonds today, they looked like 30 carat diamonds not your measly one carat jobs. Snow sparkling like diamonds always reminds me of the richness of a life lived on the edge, a life that money cannot buy and it invigorates me every time and reminds me of the care of my Father in Heaven that created such richness. Also a friend and colleague posted a message which included the phrase "Carpe Diem" - seize the day, which doesn't mean be eternally busy but to seize the opportunities that come your way and I feel that we have done that and I feel that should continue to mark us as a couple - so I am seizing the day and let that drip into my soul to encourage me for the journey ahead.

My interpretation of the tearing of the
temple curtain
My eternal optimism fuels my studies too, if I didn't think that something could be done to turn around this trajectory we are on, one where we show no consideration for the poor and continue to trash the planet expecting our children to clean up, or our grandchildren or even worse not actually expecting anything and giving no thought at all to the future of this planet, then I wouldn't be doing the course I am (Managing Sustainable Rural Development, in case you don't know). I do believe there is a possibility of turning around the fortunes of people out in rural areas, so that they once again feel they can earn a respectable living from the land they love. I also believe that it is possible to turn around the degradation we see of the landscape and so stories like the one from Planet Earth, where organic waste can turn polluted soil into a rich varied habitat and lock up or deal with the poisons, really encourages me. It is incredible that the waste we discard has the potential to create such life all due to the microorganisms it contains. I feel that life can be like that too, some things we think are waste in our lives can actually have the potential for so much growth and redemption. So my prayer this week is that all the dross and waste will indeed by redeemed into something that creates life.

A butterfly in the hand, symbolises holding onto hope for me
This land of Latvia certainly needs a lot of redemption and there are plenty of statistics out this week to prove it for instance there are over 170,000 needy people in Latvia, and that is needy as described by Latvian standards not UK standards. 170,000 doesn't sound like a lot in some ways but it is 7% (1 in 14) of the population and it is 170,000 real people. Last year the Latvian Government spent 89.7m LVLs on a social network for the needy - amazingly, less than the banks earned in profits last year. Doesn't seem right does it, when the minimum subsistence level is greater than the money given to the poor? The figures for the Minimum subistance level released this week came to 171.41LVLs for a months worth of essential shopping, interesting isn't it when the social scheme gives people a basic minimum wage of 100 LVLs a month - makes you wonder what people feed off? Fresh air?

Ian and my favourite embroidery that I have
done. The original photo that inspired this
was taken in our garden in Denmark
The Latvians do not use up as many resources as many of us in Europe, obviously they can't afford it, and so the thought of electricity rises seemed scandalous, until I realised that actually it wasn't going to affect many people at all. In reality it is our electrical usage that seems scandalous in comparison. We had always prided ourselves on our low usage of electricity but I was obviously comparing myself in the wrong direction. The electric tariffs will only increase once 1200KW/hrs of electricity has been consumed and this means that for just under half of Latvian households there will be no change in the costs of electric and for another 30% there will be a one Lat difference or less per month. Our consumption of around 300 KW/hours per month means that we are in the top 24% of customers and therefore we are one of households paying more for our electric. It really shocked me to think I use more electric than about 75% of the population of Latvia and not only that but I was using over 3 times the amount as some do. I think we need to look at our usage once again and make some changes. So what's your electric consumption in one month?

The deer must be getting hungry now as they are beginning
to make their way into the gardens
Okay a bit back to front this week but I have stopped pontificating now, so what has been happening? Well it has been very cold and beautifully sunny all week again and forecast for much the same for the next few days which means temperatures around minus 21C in the mornings and lower. One of the biggest problems at this temperature is getting cars started and ours has been reluctant to get going, and takes ages to defrost but since it has been sunny we start the car and park up around the corner and let the sun do a bit of the work for us. Unfortunately for some of our neighbours coaxing the car into life has been a bit more of a problem and so we have twice had to get the faithful old tow rope out and lend a hand. In one case it meant quite a few of our neighbours could all get to the shops instead of having to walk in the cold, I think they were rather grateful.

I admit it, I am untidy with papers, books and embroidery
scattered all over the sofa
On one day this week we noticed a lot of people milling about and a lot of cars which is unusual for this area, unless something is going on. We managed to work it out when we spotted the local hearse amongst the crowds, aka a bright red minibus; not the sombre black estate car for folks around here. We felt very sorry for the folks gathered as we knew they were in for a long cold day as people were spilling out of the chapel into the open air due to lack of space for the funeral service and at -12C it isn't pleasant to be standing around, mind you from all accounts it is not much warmer inside the chapel at this time of year either. The service is not the end of it, as people will gather at the graveside too and speak some words of how much the person meant to them, and if there is a lot of people that is a long time spent out in the cold, only warmed by the vodka that sometimes flows at these things.

Much tidier with our new acquisition. A rather neat set of
shelves with a cloth basket at the top - perfect for my
We have also been progressing ever so well with getting our other flat finished. We laid a laminate floor for the hallway and were really pleased with it and pleased with the fact there was so little waste but we needed something to edge the floor with and tootled out to look for some beading, just regular beading nothing fancy. Well there was some beading in one of the shops but not the right sort, it was too small for the gap. Oh well! Next job! We then progressed to laying the laminate flooring in the living room and it was looking good, we were on a roll but... for some unknown reason we hadn't bought enough boxes we were three pieces short of finishing when we ran out. The problem is that we bought the laminate flooring on a trip into Riga and we didn't really want to go all the way back there. We gambled instead on there being the same flooring at a nearer store, only 45 mins away instead of an hour and half away and fortunately the gamble paid off and they had the right flooring with the same code, so we bought the extra sheets and another 11 boxes so we can do another two rooms with it. Sorted! Well I hope so as long as I have done my sums right this time. Can't believe we ran out, it's not like me, must be losing the plot. As we were carefully loading the car to try and make sure the weight was in the centre of the car, so we didn't destabilise the car in the icy conditions, a guy kept trying to attract our attention and eventually tried to talk to us, unfortunately he couldn't speak English and we had no idea what he was after, or if he was just trying to be friendly which happens sometimes. Only when we finished loading up the car did I suddenly realise that the guy was actually hoping we would give him a tow to start his car, as it was only then that I noticed he kept walking around a car with a tow rope all ready on the front. Doh! Our Latvian does need to improve. Just as I realised though someone else agreed to tow his car, so we thought he could share in the towing ministry and let him get on with it. Well you have to share the blessings don't you!

The temperature in our kitchen on Tuesday morning (11.7C),
 it has got better every day since. Not so sure about the
outside temperature though - that's the bottom reading and
that is minus 23C.
Update on our heating: I didn't need to go and do a sit down protest at the local heating company we have actually had reasonable heat this week - wonder if the boss reads my blog? Somehow doubt it! Our kitchen has gradually warmed up over the last week which has been wonderful and now I can sit in the living room with just the addition of a quilt on my legs.


  1. I like all your craft work - aren't you clever? A woman of many talents.

    I took up your challenge and checked how much elecricity we had used over the past 3 months and was astounded to see that we had used on average over 450 KW per month. I thought we were quite good - I never use the dryer for the washing (always dry clothes outside or over clothes horses), switch lights off in rooms we're not using, don't have the TV on unless we're actually watching something. But I think I need to think again. It's so true the saying - one half doesn't know how the other half lives.

    I like your thought about waste helping to create new life. I always think that God is the Ultimate Recycler.

  2. It is amazing isn't it Mavis? Thanks for your contribution, will be interested to know what others use

  3. I daren't look at how much electricity i use, we definitely live a very decadent life over here compared to those in Latvia..In Sweden where it also gets very cold, the sense of community and helping each other in the winter is also amazing. When my brother lived in a particular area some time ago his street had a rota for clearing snow from the car park. As everyone else on his street was over 70 he found that although his name was only down once a week he was doing it every day, willingly I might add, he couldn't let his eldery neighbours be out shovelling snow when he felt more able bodied..

  4. I think there are loads who would rather not look at their electricity usage but sometimes it is very simple things that can make quite a difference and save money - which can only be a good thing I think. More money for threads :oD

    We have a rota for cleaning the stairs of our apartment block and for the most part everyone does their bit, not sure if it would work in the UK but it is a good idea and cheaper than hiring someone for the job and gives everyone a sense of responsibility I think. Mind you we don't live in one of the mega blocks, just the regular Soviet block which comprises of 18 apartments divided into three sections, so 6 apartments per entrance


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