Monday, 4 February 2013

Entertaining week

The snow piles outside our apartment block.
Any wonder I sometimes have a little laugh
to myself when I see the woes of those living
in England and having to deal with the
snow there. I suppose 
Our week started off with a visit to an architect. We arranged to meet in a cafe near to where he lives in a village we know. Being a small village, we were pretty sure we would stand out as the incomers, I mean we look so English don't we? Well perhaps not! Maybe we have assimilated, or maybe it was more to do with one of the local villagers recently acquiring a car very similar to ours and so the architect was still waiting for a new couple to turn up in a different car. Not quite sure how long we both sat in the cafe before the architect approached us to see if we were the couple he was waiting to meet. In the meantime we both had ordered drinks and something to eat. I was just about to text him when he came up and introduced himself. The meeting went well though and we talked about all sorts of things, we even talked about the house that we want to build. We did worry him at one point though. After spending quite a bit of time talking about how we felt that people should be paid fairly for what they do, whilst recognising the economic realities of Latvia that not all materials can be purchased with receipts, we then got onto talking about our barn and the costs of the architect to build it, he thought we were talking about the total cost of the barn, which was substantially more. Here was the poor man thinking how could he possibly come up with plans at such a low price. He was rather relieved when we got that point clear.

I was recently looking through some old pictures and saw
some of alpacas when they first came. They look quite
skinny compare to the thick fleeced individuals we have now
For those who have been following along with our story, you may know that in the last heating season the heating company sent cold water around to our apartment block. This is not much fun when temperatures are as low as they get here. Going out for a walk is not nice when you know that there is no warm home waiting for you when you get back. The heating company were also indifferent to the request for an increase in the heat, despite the fact there were babies in the apartment block and only 9C in the flats where they were, they also blamed the apartment block for their "faulty installation." That in itself was a joke because the "faulty installation" had worked perfectly well two years previously. The heating this season has been much better most of the time, so we thought that perhaps they had listened and we would start to look at what we owed and how much we were willing to pay back, having refused to pay the bills they sent until they sorted it out. We requested a break down of the bills and how they had been calculated, especially since they had added some strange, unexplained costs to the bills. We might be willing to pay for what we feel is justified, but we are not mugs. The answer we received back from that request was not helpful and in fact rather childish and so we decided enough was enough and go and see a lawyer. Of course the process of doing that is far more costly than just paying the bill, but that is what the heating company rely on. In fact the costs of getting the lawyer involved, as usual, is far beyond the scope of most people anyway. We decided though that the principle is more important and we acknowledge that principles do not come cheap.

Looking more rounded
The lawyer was a lovely women, who asked lots of questions and took our documentation to work through. She has also dealt with the company before and knows what they are like. During the course of this obviously serious meeting, Ian suddenly leapt out of his chair and started dancing around the room, clasping his leg. Snigger! You bet! The poor guy had cramp! It didn't stop any of us from laughing though, even Ian. Fortunately cramp translates quite easily and she wasn't left wondering what kind of clients we were. We also learnt a new Latvian word, but I would think that Ian would be really glad to never having to be the source for using the word in future encounters.

What you've all been waiting for I know. Our little man
(aka our first grandchild) with his mummy and daddy
During last year, we were chatting to a friend who was telling us that his wife had had a really painful arm and after various tests was still not sure what it was, either that or it was something more serious, I can't remember the exact details now, but what I do remember is that eventually she talked to a doctor who suggested a large dose of vitamin D and within days there was a major improvement. Ian had been getting sore fingers, which of course gets put down to old age and so I thought that perhaps he should try the vitamin D, plus of course we had a fairly damp summer too (not as bad as the UK, but not good either) and the autumn had been rather overcast and so a good dose of vitamin D was perhaps necessary. There has been a lot in the media about vitamin D just lately with suggestions that it is perhaps quite important in a range of diseases including heart problems too and since that runs in my family, thought that perhaps I should take note. Well I have to warn you, we think we have discovered a very serious side effect of this medication, it could lead to a serious case of a cheerful disposition, even in the middle of winter. Now I think our children will concur with me on this, Ian has been renowned for being a bit grumpy at times and winter can be okay as long as the sun shines, but this winter there hasn't been a lot of that, but there has been a difference in Ian. His grumpiness usually leaves around March, maybe even as late as May depending on the weather, but this year he is whistling and making cheerful remarks, even smiling to himself and it is only February. It is very disconcerting. I know he is a chap with a brilliant sense of humour, but general cheeriness is not his style. Makes you realise why Vitamin D is prescribed in the mental health hospital where my daughter used to work. So be warned, if you do start taking Vitamin D, you may become quite cheery! Imagine a world populated by lots of cheery people, quite scary really.

The little man sleeping in
the cocoon I knitted for him
We hopefully have the car finally sorted, they eventually managed to find four glow plugs which didn't cost 48 Lvls each, only 28 Lvls each (say it fast it doesn't sound so much does it, well maybe not). It is funny how these things can take time to get organised sometimes. We were in before Christmas trying to find out what the issue was with its poor starting in bad weather and it has taken them a month after the Christmas holidays to source the glow plugs which were the problem and getting us booked in for the service. Still it is done now and we will find out tomorrow morning whether it has cured the problem. One of the nice things about taking the car to Jekabpils for a service is they wash the car for us, bit of an expensive way of getting a wash though but at least it is no longer quite so ice encrusted as it was earlier on in the day, the second is much nicer, we had our customary fish and chips at one of the few places in Latvia that do a nice English style fish and chips. What more could you ask for?

A bit gloomy but very atmospheric
I have still been doing my liaising for the local timber company and some of those contacts are beginning to see results now, which is very satisfying. One thing my neighbour really understands, which is sometimes lacking in Latvian companies, is the need to ensure customer satisfaction. She is very flexible in adjusting her products to the requirements of the customer - the advantage of being a small company - and will always make sure that the load that goes is to her satisfaction as far as quality is concerned. Many companies realise the importance of good customer relations and realise that is what brings the customers back again. I see though that the Swiss train companies have forgotten this important piece of business. Fining customers who have tried to legitimately buy tickets but couldn't thought issues such as broken machines or because a payment arrived a little late for mobile phone payments. The article in the BBC beggars belief for such a well respected company. Revenue from fines is no compensation if you lose the goodwill of your customers.

6 comments:

karen said...

oh my.....what a beautiful child. You are truly blessed.

Joanna said...

Thanks Karen, he is lovely agree but then I'm biased

Mavis said...

Ahhh!! He's gorgeous but then you know that already!

Hopefully things are moving forwards in your plans for the house and also with the heating problem.

Joanna said...

Thanks Mavis

We hope the plans are moving forward too, but we know how long some things take

Liz Eph said...

He's gorgeous :-)
We do vit D too. Good stuff.
Hope the solicitor proves a good ally in the heating company thing. Would be good if it gets in the papers so other people will complain too.

Joanna said...

I won't disagree with you Liz, he is gorgeous. :)

Well all the studies on Vitamin D are looking pretty good.

It would indeed be good if more people complained about the heating, I do hope that the company works for the people as it should.