Monday, 18 April 2011

Bits and bobs

The red leaves are from a plant that has
survived very well in its winter fir coat.
In Latvian it is called Bruklenes and
cowberry or mountain bilberry in English
and will produce small red edible berries.
I am a bit worried about Ian, I have been for about a month now. He is whistling a lot and making optimistic remarks, now anyone would think I should be glad about this, but it is unnerving really. I married Ian for his sense of humour, but that doesn't mean he is optimistic by nature - I'm just not used to it. Mind you the fiasco of buying a pressure washer to wash the car and tractor equipment after use, helped to return things back to normal, as we were sent away with the wrong pressure gun for the one we bought - not a happy bunny, especially when the shop is 30 miles away. The good news is that we didn't have any difficulty changing the offending item for the correct one, well once I used my well worn phrase "Vai jums runat anglu valoda?" I am not entirely sure if that is correct but it usually gets the desired response of someone who speaks English. 

Coltsfoot - spring is here and the first of a succession of
yellow spring flowers
There are further signs of Spring this week, the communal heating is now off (no half measures now), snow is just confined to a few places and I don't see Ian for most of the day as he toddles off, with a cheery wave. The standard morning joke is, "have a nice day at the office dear" as turns to go, carrying his two battered blue bags of stuff and wearing his battered red coat and yellow wellies, they would die of shock if he ever turned up to an office dressed like that. I also unwrapped the bushes from their winter fir coats at the weekend, and the fir is all shredded and put down as a mulch for our blueberries that like acidic conditions. I even got a tad sunburnt, as I really should have been wearing a hat, but it is only April for goodness sake. Although most places are drying out, the road at the bottom of our ski hill is still in a very bad state. Fortunately our friends haven't got stuck this week, but a grader that came to sort out the road got stuck and made it worse, plus a logging truck got stuck by their pond up to its axles (like one of these, link). Fortunately we didn't get asked to pull any of them out as it needed a big John Deere to do that, actually it didn't need just one tractor, as it needed another tractor to pull out the John Deere which also managed to get stuck and then two of them to pull out the truck. What a performance! What a mess!

I knitted this for our newest neighbour and even got to give
her a cuddle, she is soooo cute. Her brother who is normally
so shy was easily bought with some chocolate eggs and was
quite friendly when we went round, normally he hides behind
his mother's legs
The picture is not so good but this is
one of the buttons on the cardi
Two weeks ago I mentioned that the headteacher had asked if we could go into school to help out with the conversational English, I actually ended up in school quite a bit this week. Both Ian and I went to help with the class, as planned, and then I found out that a whole load of dignitaries and business folks were coming into the class to observe an English class being taught de Bono's methods of creative thinking (lateral thinking) which I thought would be fun to see, so invited myself along. I went along to that and then sat through a meeting in Latvian with the teachers where the visitors were trying to convince the teachers of the merits of creative thinking in schools and businesses. I didn't understand a great deal of the meeting but I could observe the reactions of the teachers, who didn't seem that convinced at times, but they listened politely enough. The headteacher has been explaining the problems of the Latvian education system which is still trying to shake off its Soviet roots and the consequences are a lack of initiative and lateral thinking which is quite necessary in business, I also added there doesn't seem to be much in the way of analytical skills - which I can understand wouldn't be a particularly favourite subject within a Soviet education system. One of the teachers there was a lady who taught us some Latvian over a year ago and she was really sweet, she doesn't speak much English but she made sure I sat next to her and we chatted a bit afterwards and she was thrilled to hear the news of our children who had got married in the year since we last chatted. Anyone fluent in English and Latvian would have laughed at our conversation with gesticulations and half butchered sentences, but it made sense to us.

Downsized polytunnel! Not as big as last year heh! Since we
still haven't got a replacement we thought we would buy a
temporary construction since they were on special offer. Later
on it will be put inside the larger construction for added
protection of the tenderest plants and to extend our season
One of the days in school I took in a copy of some ideas I have been jotting down for possible areas for development and I was going to chat about them with the headmistress. I have no idea whether any have been tried or whether others have thought about them, but they struck me as possibilities whilst reading through studies and examples of development in other areas. The headmistress was very pleased with them and asked if she could take them along to a development meeting she had been invited too, which I was more than happy for her to do. She is going to get one of the students to translate it too. Will be interesting to see what comes out of that. Not sure what else I released this week, but a chance comment I made to the headmistress has increased my faith to expect something to change "I see a lot of potential here, and there has to be a way to make it work" I said and I really believe that. It doesn't look much written down, but on the day I sensed that if there is God in Heaven, which I believe, then there must be a way of making his creation work well or at least better than it does now. I think she was surprised that I can see potential here in rural Latvia, not many do, unless it is timber companies of course and they are not much help to the local economy at the moment.

We have ponds again
I have had a few occasions to skip around the room this week (well maybe not literally but metaphorically anyway), one is that our house sale is still progressing - hallelujah (okay a cautious hallelujah as I have known house sales stall before now) and the other is the fact I managed to get an appointment for the fourth of my five days of placement I need for a unit of my course. Just got to squeeze one more in before the end of May with enough time to write a report and I shall be ecstatic. I have been trying to get this pulled together since September. That means that tomorrow morning at an unearthly hour we are heading into Riga, again. Ian will sort out the car for a service and pick up the repaired computers while I head to the ministry of agriculture building for my meeting. Which reminds me, I haven't been keeping you up-to-date on the computer saga. If you remember (well possibly if you have been following me long enough) our computers both died, MacBook pros too! They were bought within a month of each other and died within five months of each other, one just being under three years old. We were told in October it was the motherboard that had died and was so costly that it was cheaper for me to buy a MacBook (not a pro) in England with my student discount than to have the other one repaired. Well apparently the company who did the evaluation of the problem were not doing their job properly as there is a known issue with graphics cards that can affect motherboards and they should have contacted Apple. When the next computer died Ian contacted Apple care - or equivalent as we live in Latvia which doesn't have the full services, and the guy was very helpful. One computer was repaired within the week, even though it was sent to Lithuania first, the other however had a screen issue, a dvd player issue as well as the logic board issue. Unfortunately sorting out the second computer was a little more complicated for some reason, it didn't help that the guy from Apple also had a motorbike accident in the meantime which meant he didn't get back to Ian as promptly as he would have done normally (why do things get complicated for the most obscure of reasons?). Anyway both computers are now repaired and for a lot less than it would have cost if we had had to pay for all the repairs ourself and means that we now have a spare laptop which will be our media centre as Ian's very ancientPowerbook (over 8 years old now) from when he was working for the Danish company is dying slowly and that is the one we use to play the internet radio on. So there will be no more tutting and sighing from across the room as the ancient beast takes sooooo long to load, so I'm told. 

More evidence of winter visitors. We
think they are mole tunnels and there
are lots of them, all over the place. At
least they help with drainage, I guess
On a completely random note a thought came to mind this week and has been bouncing around my head - must be pretty empty for it to bounce so much but in the words of one of my sons my antennae is up (makes us sound a right batty lot, well you're probably not far wrong if you have come to that conclusion). I was thinking and praying about our house sale and looking forward to it going through and then really sensed that it didn't really matter one way or another because God has his plans which will be fulfilled, he is not relying on our house sale to go through and the phrase that came to mind was "Wait and see what the Lord will do" - no idea what he will do but looking forward to what will open up, looking forward to seeing the plans he has for us.

Ian's latest construction, a wood store. The roof is made from
lino we took up from our apartment floor. He assures me it is
very robust as he can swing from it.

These car tyres were lying by the side of the road and just what
Ian was looking for to help with chopping wood. He had heard
about the idea of using a tyre to reduce time chopping as they
stop the wood flying off, saving time retrieving them. Here
is a link on Youtube showing the technique

Everywhere is a mess right now, with small piles of earth left
from moving snow, large piles of earth from the barn
project and gouges in the soil from a tractor. Our
nice flat slope is now well rutted - not Ian's doing! I keep
feeling like I should be apologising to the land as it seems such a
shame. Next weekendI shall be out with the rake to level off
what I can by way of an apology. 
Updated - the old computer was actually a Powerbook and not a MacBook Pro - hand slapped now for making such a mistake. 
For all of those who thought I had completely lost it, apologies for the ramble on the last photo - you were all too polite to mention my incoherent ramble. Must try and make more time to proof read my blog before posting :oD


  1. Good to hear your news! Been reading an excellent book - do get it if you can 'The Rhema Code' by Scott Schang.

  2. I am glad that you recommended the book Ju, as I would probably not have given it a second thought the blurb and the review seem a bit over the top.

  3. Nice to see the snow has gone and spring is showing its face again. Good news about the computers, at last.

  4. a lovely baby next door!!! lucky seems that life is very exciting in Latvia always so much going's a lot quieter in my shed!

  5. It is lovely indeed to see the snow gone Mavis, in Riga where it is a bit warmer it is even beginning to look distinctly green, very different from when we were last there.

    Ian is very glad to have his computer back and is sitting surrounded by three as I speak. No idea what he is doing but I guess I will find out.

    Living in an apartment is a bit like when we were living in the terrace back in Derbyshire, there was usually something going on. I hated living in suburbia where we didn't really get to know the neighbours as well. In America one of our neighbours said they would really miss us when we went because we were such good neighbours and all we did was clear their path of snow - only seemed right when her hubby was away a lot and she had got two little ones but that was the extent of our friendship. Here in Latvia everyone is partly responsible for looking after the area around the apartment and I think that helps.


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