Monday, 2 January 2012

A successful week

Enjoying a cuppa! Not our advanced Mac user, but a user
of the Macs warmth methinks
We have decided our cat is an advanced Mac user. This week Sofie walked across my laptop and up pops a box to choose the language for the keyboard, we had no idea that pressing "cmd" and space bar could do that. I have two options for my keyboard, British and Latvian, so that I can write the extra Latvian letters "ā, ē, ī, ģ, ļ, ņ, ō š" and so it is really useful to have a quick way of changing between the two languages, especially as leaving it in the Latvian keyboard means I end up typing a š instead of an apostrophe s. It has taken four years to find that out and it just takes a 9 month old kitten to walk across my computer! Mac users they maybe but mouse catchers? Hmmm! Despite taking our kittens to the greenhouse to play it did not seem to deter the mice in the caravan which is currently stored in our greenhouse and so just recently we have resorted to traps and then poison. At least we had some success with that and caught 6 mice now and the poison has been eaten - let's hope that sorts it for the time being as we don't really want a family of mice living in our caravan insulation.

A snowy scenes
I have had an amazing response to my request for interviews for my project on wild boar management and the conflict that results over it. Arranging interviews had been an usually protracted process for another project last year and so I was amazed to get a response to my three emails to people at national level within hours and I managed to get all organised for one day this week. All went smoothly with everyone available at the right time and everyone was extremely helpful and generous with their time. The only mishap was nearly sliding off the road in some atrocious slippery conditions on the way there, on the first corner out of our village. I also got some farmer interviews under my belt too this week and so I feel on a roll. Thank goodness! Mind you, one hour of interviews does translate to many hours transcribing them, and I don't think they would transcribe well using transcribing software, not with the accents, mine and theirs.

Ice rinks in the making as our ponds begin to freeze over
It hasn't been a proper winter here yet, but it might have just arrived this week. We have had weeks of snow here, snow gone, snow here, snow gone and it has left us with a rather muddy mess. It started to snow on Saturday and a good few centimetres fell, enough to send most of Britain into complete and utter chaos, but hardly worth mentioning here in Latvia. At least it has covered the muddy mess and, unfortunately for me, it also covered the frozen ice from the melted snow on a car park. The snow was not thick enough to cover the ice with a less slippery surface but enough to hide the ice, and I greeted a friend's New Years greeting by slipping flat onto my back. For a change I had two gallant men to help me up, makes a change from being sniggered at. Time for the Yaktrax methinks. Nothing was hurt beyond a bit of pride, actually I thought it was quite funny as I can think of better ways to return someone's greeting than sliding gracefully to their feet.

Snow covered roads. At least it fills in
some of the potholes
The reason we went out was, because I wanted a joint of pork for the weekend. We had had a lot of vegetarian meals over the week and I just fancied a joint for a change. It was a well timed action as a little later on that morning I had a phone call from a friend who was just about to set off to the near-ish big town to us, from his village some distance away, and was even sat in the car, when he found out the meeting he was intending to go to was called off. Since he was all ready to go somewhere he decided to pay us a visit instead. He had never actually made it to see us, we had always gone to see him, so we got to show him around the land we manage, as well as sit down and talk around the table. Oh we can sure do that and getting much practice just lately as you may have noticed if you follow this blog. In fact while we on our way back into the apartment with our friends, one of our neighbours was sledging with her little one and she stopped to chat a little and she invited us round for a chat another day, which was later was changed to a meal. Oh yes! we can talk and eat at the same time, and the fish supper this evening was superb too and the conversations fascinating.

A disappearing landscape under a blanket of snow
This week the Latvian State Employment Agency announced that unemployment was down 3%, they are still worried that many people are still looking for work though. A 3% drop though is pretty good don't you think? Or is it? There has been a fall of 34, 256 registered unemployed people, but there has also been a fall of around 23,000 in the population - many will have been adults who have left the country this last year. That doesn't make the fall in unemployment quite so spectacular does it! It is also worrying, because some of those may return if employment conditions worsen in other countries and there may still be no jobs for those returning. Having said that, there are some jobs that some companies are having difficulty filling, because those who can do a good job are often the ones that leave and those who are motivated to work hard are sometimes scarce. It would be easy to criticise those left behind as people who are lazy, and perhaps some are, but they are also trying to deal with a legacy of soviet system thinking that does not encourage a motivated workforce. Many battle alcoholism and a sense of hopelessness. Not easy to turn around a whole nation in less than a generation and there is still a long way to go yet, they could have done with some better politicians in the past and some better external advice, but hindsight is a wonderful thing, it is still a young nation and it all takes time.

The hat I knitted for Ian, hopefully it is
warmer than his other one.
The flip side of so many leaving the country is the anguish that one mother feels over the death of her daughter. In an article in the Daily Mail she blames herself for the deteriorating relationship with her daughter brought on by moving away in order to help her family financially. She feels it has lead to her daughter getting into bad habits and in with the wrong crowd, something that she feels may not have happened if they had all moved together. Mind you it is far harder to move with families, when the jobs the Latvians and others like them do are often low paid; it is easier for them to send the money home and live as a single person.  So spare a thought for those Eastern Europeans and think of how many families they represent back home who are missing loved ones, missing a father, missing a mother.

Just want to add Happy birthday to Mavis this last week. It has been great getting to know you through this blog and in person over the years. Mavis has followed this blog almost from the beginning and been such a support to me to keep going in the writing and then blessed us even more by coming out to see what we were doing and so it seems only right to send birthday greetings from my blog. If you want to know any more about Mavis then take a trip over here and read more about her adventures at our place here.


  1. First I must say 'thank you' for the birthday greetings and a mention on your blog. By the way, at Christmas time my sons and I enjoyed the Latvian chocolate I brought backwith me and all agree with Ian that the Tupla bar is lovely!

    What a clever kitten you have - bilingual at such a young age! But seriously it is so useful to have another language just a click away where you can easily switch from one to the other when needed. Glad you have found it.

  2. Glad you enjoyed the Tuplas they are nice indeed. Have you braved the Riga balsam yet?

    It is much easier now to switch between the languages thanks to my kitten. Especially when I'm writing my blog

  3. My sons did persevere and finish their miniature bottle of balsam. I opened mine and put it to my lips but then put the top back on and haven't ventured to touch it since! Let's just say - it's different!

  4. Lol, I think you can say that. Maybe try a drop in some coffee or tea, I think that is the best way to try it. For medicinal purposes of course :oD

  5. I suppose you can forgive the cupboard love if they are computer geeks!! As for are right, we would have ground to a halt but thankfully winter is very mild here...for now. I for one hope it continues.

  6. I like snowy winters, was getting a bit fed up of the dreary dark weather


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