Monday, 7 March 2011

Friends old and new

Grey days bring beautifully frosted trees
March is a month of milestones for us as Tuesday was the 8th anniversary of us leaving England, and Friday was the 3rd anniversary of our arrival in Latvia, it is also Ian's 25th anniversary this month since he entered the world of work after a period of unemployment following his degree. He likes to think of himself as retired now, but it wasn't to be this morning. Our neighbours to the land called late last night with a request for a lift into the village as their car was stuck because of the snow and they live about 7km (4.3miles) outside the village. We didn't have much snow yesterday but we did have wind, accompanied by a 10 minute blizzard where our village disappeared from sight, and it meant that their road was not passable with an ordinary car, in fact it was barely passable with ours. The problem was the young lass needed to be in village the following morning, the only catch was that it was for 6:20am, an early start for Ian then. In our three years of living in Latvia we may not have learnt much of the oral language but we do feel we have learnt more about the culture and we feel accepted despite our failings with the language as our neighbours know they can rely on us when they get stuck. We feel it is important to help out where we can, as we never know when we might need help ourselves and besides we get nice invites to birthday parties, so worth the effort.

Repaired tractor window
One of the benefits of helping out was the wood we managed to get last week, to top up our rapidly diminishing reserves. This wood was from a friend who had a lot of waste wood from his business of preparing firewood for sale, and Ian had helped him out a few times with lifts when he needed them to get work done and helping him get his car started on cold mornings. Now we can hardly move in our basement and the wood store down the garden has as much wood it can hold without removing the trailer but at least our friend can move around better in his workplace. It's what we call building social capital on my course, because it is a bit like putting cash (capital) into a community bank, something you can draw on in times of need because you have made deposits into it in your lifetime and it makes living together as a community a lot easier.

Especially for my friend Pauline, she likes
hearts. This box was made by our daughter
at school quite a few years ago now and
at first they had salt dough leaves in, but
they got soggy, then they had two lots of
dried leaves in and now dried orange peel.
Last week I mentioned we had reconnected with friends some of whom we hadn't met for a little while as we had all just got a bit too busy last year, well this week we had the chance of reconnecting with some friends who we hadn't met for even longer, we weren't really sure how long, but it was heading for the 15 year mark. They had some unexpected free time in Riga and we had to take our poorly computers in for repair and so we drove 2 hours for a cup of coffee and a chat. We had kept in touch in a roundabout way through mutual friends so we all knew what had been happening in each others lives, just not chatted for a long time. I knew them both from the time I helped them run a children's session for 3-5 year olds at a Christian conference called The Event and organised the craft for 5-7 year olds at Spring Harvest where they were leading the programme for that age. Sounds easy writing it but there were just over a hundred 3-5 year olds at one stage in a big tent and about 500 children to prepare craft activities for, not to mention the organising of their helpers to ensure the crafts were successful. I think organising the helpers was sometimes the hardest part, particularly if they were new to that type of work or professed to be hopeless at crafts.

She made quite a few boxes of different sizes. They will
shortly be hung on a stick and then hung on the wall
at our other apartment
On the opposite side of the spectrum we will be connecting in person with someone for the first time in September, someone I have only got to know over the internet . Always a bit of a risk but we have got to know each other quite well over the years as Mavis has followed this blog and then more recently we have connected via facebook. I mentioned last week we had got our apartment into a state where I feel we can invite people without having to apologise all the time and Mavis commented she liked it, so I replied that she was more than welcome to come and see it for herself. The brave lady took me up on the offer and booked her tickets to come and see us after checking out to see if I was serious. We are really thrilled as Mavis has been such an encouragement over the years, as she has followed our exploits and so it will be fantastic to meet in the flesh and to show her around what she has only seen as pictures on this blog. She even wrote a lovely piece on the up and coming visit on her blog on the subject of friends

More creativity. I have finished the embroidery (more hearts
Pauline) and added a frame to it. I learnt to make these
frames on a course in Denmark using the canvases that are
readily available and customising them
I finally got around to tackling a mound of paperwork this week and I have been putting it off for ages, but it couldn't be put off any longer as there was a piece of paper I needed and I knew it was probably in the pile somewhere. It was worth the effort though, besides the satisfaction of having sorted it, I also found a £20 note ($32),  5 Lat (£6.13, $10) notes and a AUD$5 (£3,$10) amongst all the paperwork, a nice haul for my efforts! It probably means I should actually take more care of our money but we won't go there. Talking of paperwork we also got our heating bill for February through this week and surprise, surprise the bill was about the same for January, that is despite the fact that the inside temperature in January was significantly lower and the outside temperature was higher. So it took about the same amount of heat to not heat our house through milder temperatures as it was to maintain our apartment temperature at a respectable level through a bitterly cold month with temperatures below - 20C a lot of the time at nights and barely creeping up above -15C during the day for much of the month. I somehow think the sums are wrong, don't you? Will be interesting to see what the company have to say, we haven't as yet paid for last month and we are not going to pay this month until they get it sorted out but they have to answer the letter of complaint sent by our house manager by the end of the month.

Looks like we will have heat this week too.
There are huge piles of wood chippings there
but they don't last long, they have to heat
two apartment blocks, a technical school and
its accommodation block. The company though
haven't got around to building extra storage
space, hence the reason they keep running out.
Although the weather has been quite a bit warmer this last week it has been quite grey, it is now up to about zero at some point during the day most days and it makes such a difference when we step outside, it feels so mild - all relative I guess. We were back to sunny days again today and it was very cold this morning but even so the temperature during the day was only just below freezing. The shorter nights are really helping I guess and so we thought we had better get around to ordering seeds seeing as how Spring does actually feel like it is on its way. We saved quite a few of our seeds last year but we still had plenty we needed to get and so we are trying a different seed company this year, MoreVeg. The prices are low and in some cases you don't get many seeds in a packet but then again, how many squash plants do you want? We have got one mix which gives two seeds each of four different squashes, butternut, vegetable spaghetti, buttercup and black futsu. If they all come we will still have more than enough squahes for over the winter, especially if our pumpkin seeds come that we kept and it also means we get to try different types relatively cheaply. Now all we need is the compost and oh yes the minor detail of a polytunnel repaired. We are still dithering over that as we are not sure what we are going to do with it, same shape just strengthened or change the shape. Any ideas anyone?

Fancy owning a ski hill? Not sure if this one's for sale but
there is one for sale in our village but both are not working.
There is a ski track though for cross country skiing
I read an interesting article this week on "Life after capitalism." Life after capitalism is not about moving away from trade, we will always need to trade whether that be because we have a particular skill we can use to make things or whether we have excess produce but it would mean moving away from the commodification of everything and giving it some arbitrary value. And if you are wondering what commodification means it just means putting a price on something, which is fine with goods but what about the air we breathe, or the forests we visit. It would seem the UK public don't like the idea that the Government had put a price on forests, as far as many were concerned it was without price and not for sale. In Government hands it was in the hands of the public and could be visited freely, something that might not be the case if they were sold. Some things should not be priced, some things should be held in common and used for the common good - which doesn't mean a free for all but used according to agreed rules and principles and decided by those who use it, not at the whim of an owner.

These hangings have travelled around the world with us
and now are helping to keep the wall a bit warmer in our
other apartment.
I was surprised to read that several prominent members of Greek society had called for a debt audit to examine the legitimacy and legality of the debt incurred. This is what Eurodad had to say on the topic

"Debt audits have been used across the world to allow civil society to hold to account those responsible for the damage caused by their country’s indebtedness. An audit in Ecuador in 2008 encouraged President Correa to default on some of Ecuador’s most unjust debt, leading to a write-down by borrowers." 

What if Latvia did a debt audit - wonder what that would throw up? What if the lending to individuals was put under scrutiny and measured against the terms of lending to the banks origins ie Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Germany? Would they stand up to the lending laws of those countries? Food for thought anyway.

Update: Nearly forgot to mention but our friends who have had a dreadful winter rang me this morning to say that one of their goats had given birth to two lovely kids, she shouldn't have been pregnant at all as she is not quite one yet and the goats were only going to be mated the following month, but in her youthful exuberance she escaped and paid a visit to the male goat. Our friend is thrilled as is her daughter who found them, on her birthday too.


  1. Congratulations on all your special anniversaries this month.

    You certainly seem to have made an impact where you live and it's so nice that neighbours feel they can call on you for help. That is real community at work and that way everyone gets to benefit from each other.

    Thanks for the mention - my 5 minutes of fame! Really looking forward to the visit and seeing your apartment with all your craft work.

  2. I have just checked on the website about the £20 note and if it is the one with the picture of Sir Edward Elgar then it is no longer legal tender after June 30th. It is now out of circulation here in the UK but if you have any you need to take them to the bank before the end of June.

  3. Phew! Life seems quite mundane here after reading about your goings-ons! Have a good time with Mavis!

  4. Thank you Mavis, not sure about the 5 minutes of fame but you never know. I checked all my £20 notes I have and they all have Adam Smith on them, who I am not a fan of as the father of capitalism! Seems rather ironic doesn't it after my comments on capitalism. Adam Smith thought the unseen hand guided the markets to spread money around and I don't think he was talking about a fair and loving God. He didn't believe in regulation of markets either.

    Not mundane Ju? Things tend to feel mundane but that is because we live here. You should read a friend of ours blog as he lives in Mongolia and he wrestles with what to write because he lives a mundane life, well for a foreigner in Mongolia that is but to outsiders seems weird at times

  5. Didn't know that about Adam Smith, thanks. Those are the 'new' £20 pound notes and they are fine.

  6. Oh good! Pleased about that, even if it has got Adam Smith on it

  7. interseting post Joanna and I especially like the fact thet your neighbour felt comfortable asking you for a lift so early in the morning. It just shows that it DOES pay to help people whenever and wherever you can.

  8. It sure does Karen, and we got invited to the young girls birthday party too, so that should be a great event.


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