Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Be bold

Update: I was looking through this post and noticed a mistake. I was writing about pumpkin seeds and actually wrote about sunflower seeds. Oh well! Amended now
2nd January 2010, taken in Australia. What a contrast to
this year
We arrived home safely on Wednesday after having been looked after brilliantly by our son and his new wife, they are indeed excellent hosts and we feel very well cared for and cosseted. We loved the belated gifts we got for Fathers' Day and Mothers' Day and they produced much merriment. As I mentioned last week Ian got a lego tractor which he enjoyed putting together and it is now sat on the bedside cabinet and I got two books for knitting baby hats and snugglers or baby cocoons. I guess I need to get knitting in preparation, although there are no grandchildren on the horizon yet, but I might need to get up to speed, you never know. Our kittens were also well cosseted by our neighbour and her young son who came in to look after them and play with them everyday. They didn't seem to have missed us while we were away.

This is outside our flat in 2009. It has snowed the last
couple of days, but not quite so much. I had a
beautiful picture on my phone taken on New Years Day,
 but forgot to save it. Doh!
Our son, his wife, Ian and I squeezed in a trip up north to the midlands before Ian and I left the UK, to see our youngest son and meet his new girlfriend and her daughter. I think his girlfriend was a little nervous of us all at first, but she was lovely and we were all impressed with how imaginative and well behaved her daughter was. Despite mum still being young she demonstrated a lovely gentle patience which was a joy to see. I took a book for the little one but had forgotten how small they are when handling books. I bought Nick Butterworth's "The Treasure Hunt," he writes such beautiful stories for young children and so well illustrated and I loved reading them to my own children and children at playgroup when I used to lead one. The problem is that the book was soft back and big so is already a little torn but I am sure it will still be well used. I was fascinated by the little ones stories as she looked through the book, using the illustrations as a starting point for her own story and later on watching her play with her money from her purse and calling them money beans which she proceeded to plant in the carpet - that kid could go far!

A world away! Last winter in Australia
You know those moments "I'm sure that guy looks familiar?" Well we had one of those at the airport on the way home, as an older chap sat down nearby on the departure lounge . He looked like the kind of guy who loved pop/rock music from the 70s, complete with the 70s hairdo. Later on that day, on the way back from the airport, Ian was standing in the shopping mall waiting for me whilst I was visiting the loo (as you do) and was watching the tv screen, when up pops that familiar face, it was Chris Norman the lead singer in the 70s pop band Smokie, someone we remember as kids and he was playing in Riga with Bonny Tyler, so that's why his face looked kind of familiar, and he really was a rocker from the 70s.

This is the new wardrobe. The black
stripes are black glass and I am really
pleased with how it has turned out as
I came up with the design, and our joiner
friend suggested the sliding doors.
We didn't quite get the peace and quiet on our return. As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago we were waiting for a wardrobe from the local delivery firm and sure enough it has finally arrived. I waited in all day again for the wardrobe and it eventually turned up at 9pm. The guys were barely able to stand as they looked so exhausted and so had to return the following day to assemble it. It turns out they had had a large order for doors, an answer to prayer indeed, but entailing so much work to be done in a short period of time. We had chatted a while ago about which way the economy was going, as the guy was really struggling with his company, as so many are in this country, the chat even made my blog late that week talking about all sorts of options and in the end I just said the only thing he could do was to watch for the signs from God. Apparently the next day he was given the opportunity of this big order - well I don't think you can get much clearer than that. I am so pleased as I was praying that he wouldn't have to leave the country and leave his family so that he could support them like so many Latvians are doing.

Another world away, but this time the date is New Years Day
Our New Year was a quiet affair, but I wanted to welcome it with eyes wide open this year. Sometimes we had even gone to bed rather than see the New Year in, after all it is a fairly arbitrary choice for the start of the New Year. Having said that, God does sometimes use our calendars to work with, and this seems to be one of those years I feel and so I wanted to be alert for the beginning of the year. It was amazing to see the stars glinting in the sky on a clearing night sky as the year turned and the fireworks signalled the start. We saw the neighbours children running around the building, torches in hands, enjoying the thrill. I was equally thrilled to receive a text wishing us all the best for the new year from one of our Latvian friends, being greeted in the morning with "A happy New Year" in English by one of our neighbours ( I replied in English and Latvian so I am as proud as he was) and a phone call from another friend later on in the day wishing us all the best for year ahead. We feel much more a part of the community this year, patience and a willing to build relationships seeming to bear fruit. We didn't want shallow friendships, we wanted to be a part of the community and its workings and although there is still some way to go yet I am content with the progress we have made so far and it sure feels like home to us.

This time from our time in Denmark.
January 2004
So what are our reflections on last year? Nothing too profound really. It came as a revelation to us that kale crisps and roasted pumpkin seeds are really tasty and are now a staple part of our diet. I had always thrown pumpkin seeds away with a tinge of guilt as I felt sure they would be good to eat, but how to prepare them was something I have only found out recently. Roasting with a little salt and oil till they start popping makes a really tasty and crunchy snack, either shelled or unshelled. Once they have stood around for a day though they need to be shelled but that is easier to do once roasted - unroasted they are far too fiddly. Mind you it is not the sort of snack you would want to eat in a posh restaurant as you crack the shell between your teeth. Another refection on our year was, we were rather busy, it seemed a rush from start to finish and we can't believe how fast the year has gone. We don't like being busy as we are reflective type folks and at least like to pause and think about life. In some ways it will be a pattern for a while, but at least if I complete my Masters this next year, I might get the summer off which will make life easier by far. Don't let our busyness put you off visiting though, many of our jobs can be rearranged and the only times we would really have problems is if the weather has been bad and we have to catch up on jobs such as hay making, but people come first. Mind you, if you fancy a week or two where you get the chance to work on a farm, feed some animals (hopefully get some of those soon), cut some hay, weed the garden then we have plenty of opportunities for that and then there are always the evenings to sit around the table eating food fresh from the garden and chatting away - now we can do that!

Vestvolden, Denmark. A canal that ran down the back of
where we used to live
One of the main bones of contention for us here in Latvia is the fact we cannot own the land we work. I can accept that on one level, as I understand how connected Latvians can be to their land and they fear foreigners coming in and buying up all the land on the cheap; what I do not accept is how foreign firms can create Latvian companies and buy up the land anyway (link here). This is one way a foreign company can pillage the land legitimately and be thought of as heroes and saviours as they "invest" in the land. Unfortunately they siphon off the profits and in return often only offer low paid jobs. In contrast if we owned the land, as much as possible of any profit we make would stay in the area on principle. What I was also astounded to find out is that it is mainly Swedish agricultural companies that own the land via their Latvian subsidiaries. I am beginning to wonder if Sweden has more influence now in Latvia than when Latvia was under the rule of the Swedish empire?

Ducks making the most of an ice free spot
on the Vestvolden canal
And to finish off the blog! I see the leaders in the EU are issuing grim news about this next year - oh great! Something to encourage people then? It would seem that only David Cameron issued anything like a call to encourage people - amazing I should agree with something he said. I wonder if it is just the British media's take on it though. Do they look for where they think there will be changes, so they are ahead of the game? No longer reporting news, but what might be? No agenda per se, but just looking for change, looking for news and maybe creating it along the way by generating a panic here and there? If the news is correct though it is a shame as leaders should be those who lead, inspire and guide. Things may indeed be tough next year, 2011 may indeed have just been a precursor to what is to come, but so what? Focussing on that, will not get us through, and get through it we must. Yes we need to be realistic, but come on, let's face the future with courage and make the adjustments necessary, let's work together for the good of our communities which takes more than money to put right - it takes love and commitment and willingness to help where possible. So in the words of David Cameron, taken out of context "go for it!"

As you may have guessed, I forgot to take photos or forgot to save them and so I thought I might treat you to winters past along our journey to where we are now.


  1. Glad you managed to fit so much into your days in England. At least the weather was kinder this year (rather than last year!).

    And to anyone reading this blog - I can certainly recommend a few days in Latvia with you and Ian. A great experience that will remain with me with much pleasure and happy memories.

  2. It was a good job the weather was kinder, last year when we came to England, before going off to Australia, Gatwick was shut due to snow and we got into I think the only airport that remained open.

    I am so glad you enjoyed your trip, it was great meeting you in the flesh, rather than just over the blogosphere

  3. cats are so fickle!! didn't miss you? outrageous....
    I hope 2012 brings you all you hope for......and sincere felines!

  4. I know, cupboard love "sigh" :oD


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