Monday, 23 September 2013

Autumn days

Autumn days are definitely drawing in, as the temperatures drop, the rains finally arrive and the geese head south for winter as they were doing today (Forever Autumn lyrics floated through my brain at this point). We saw three groups fly over making a racket as they flew overhead. Now to see if the old wife's tale of geese flying south ten to fourteen days before the first snow holds up again. So far they have been pretty consistent - but that is because we usually do have some snow fall mid-October anyway. Well as our agricultural season turns I should mention that Ian has not been idle while I was away, as you can well imagine if you have followed this post for any length of time. He has now finished the second alpaca house and started back on clearing the woodland of weed bushes and doing some thinning out to improve the health of the forest, that is all alongside regular chores such as looking after the animals, moving electric fences, bagging up our 8kg of grapes for the freezer, bagging up the tomatoes I didn't manage to freeze, digging out bulrushes before they take over the pond and goodness only knows what else. At least the shorter days means getting home earlier though.

Not on our lunch menu in Tartu, but an out of season
strawberry growing in our garden. It even tasted nice, which
was surprising since it is so late in the year. We are going
to replant the plant from which this strawberry came from
as it is a plot that is to be cleared out, as the plot is past
its best. We are hoping that maybe we will have more late
strawberries next year
We had a nice drive up to Tartu last Monday, as I was meant to sign a paper. I wasn't sure exactly what paper this was, but I had to sign it. When I got up there I was given a paper and told to take it to the other university in town, where my university has an arrangement for them to teach didactics to International doctoral students. I had to look up the word "didactics" and even then I'm not entirely sure I understand what the aim of the course is, but I have to do it and I will just go along with that. In the end all I did was hand in the paper, along with a photocopy of my passport and that was it. Seemed like a long way for nothing, but since Ian came along for the day out we took the time to enjoy ourselves and a lovely day it was too. We ate in the cafeteria at the uni where I usually eat, and then went to a cafe near to the place where I had to deliver the paper that someone recommended to me called Werners. The cake was fantastic, not quite worth the three hours it takes to go there, just for that, but close.

The wild boar came back again and re-dug the ground.
They have also started digging in other places.
Hopefully the hunter will make a difference again
I suppose it kind of made up for the fact I abandoned Ian on his 50th birthday. While in Tartu we did some thinking and decided it was going to be better for me to travel to Riga by bus and stay in a hotel overnight. The cost was almost the same as Ian taking me and driving back and meant we both didn't have to get up at the crack of dawn plus it saved more wear and tear on the car. Fortunately our friends did us proud. I confess to letting them know it was his birthday and that I was going to be away and one couple rang early evening and invited Ian to eat with them after he had finished out on the land.  Before he left the land, some more friends walked over the hill to where he was, singing "Happy birthday." Ian said it was like a scene from the "Sound of Music." I wasn't all on my own though, I managed to meet up with a young friend of mine whilst in Riga. We maybe years apart in age, but we really enjoy each others' company and always manage a good old natter. I'm so pleased that the thought crossed my mind to text her and see if she was in the country and if she was free - she has been gadding about just lately, rather like me I suppose. She showed me a lovely little tea and coffee shop that I didn't know about and had a proper pot of tea for the first time in ages on nice comfy sofas. Perfect!

Hamburg town hall
My destination this weekend was Hamburg and I arrived there about an hour late, as there seemed to be a few problems with the weather, with some flights cancelled and others delayed. Couldn't work it out when I looked at the weather satellite and there seemed to be nothing in the news, so I have no idea what the problem was, even my Latvian travelling companions didn't know. My impression of Hamburg is that the public transport system seems okay, with plenty of trains and an underground at relatively low prices, but the city itself, I wasn't so impressed with. Maybe it is because folks are so tall and seem to smoke a lot, that it seems quite claustrophobic. Maybe it is because it is a Saturday afternoon and that is not a good day to explore a city when you are used to the quiet countryside. There were also lots of folks sitting around drinking, begging or just sleeping on the floor. I haven't seen that for a long time and it disturbs me. There were also a lot of flyers on the floor, presumably from the German election, making the place look a mess. Just to add to the surreal nature, or at least my perception of it, there was a gospel choir playing outside the main station as I neared our hotel and on a stroll around there was a guy pacing around with a huge book in his hand, presumably a bible and he kept lifting it up to his mouth and singing. Just as I walked past the guy sang "Jesus ist hier" (Jesus is here), at least my German stretches that far to know what he was singing. I felt like turning around to him and saying "I know that, but right now it is difficult to grasp in this seething mass of humanity and with you pacing about without much sign of peace." A bit later on though, as I sat to eat a pastry there was another guy playing a cello, it seemed an oasis of peace in that place for which I was very grateful- I put some money into his bag.
A close up of the town hall

A balloon over the town hall

I didn't see much in the way of lovely architecture in
Hamburg, but then again my own nation's bombing during
the war didn't help. 
Although I wasn't too impressed with Hamburg as a city - wouldn't like you to think that I only go to warm sunny places all the time now anyway - I did enjoy the course I was attending. It was aimed at getting doctoral students together from different universities to talk about what they are doing and to provide help, support and some guidance along the way. I was greatly encouraged by a professor from Portugal, she loved what I was trying to do and thought it was very much needed in the field of Landscape Architecture (just in case you've missed out on what my studies are, it is aimed at finding ways to encourage people to participate in decisions affecting the place where they live). She appreciated the fact I have studied in another discipline to the one I am now in and therefore bringing different skills to the subject, including my life skills. If Landscape Architects are going to make a positive difference to the environments where people live, they do have to find good ways to engage with the local inhabitants and so she encouraged me to stick with it and she stated quite emphatically that she thought I would be able to do what I set out to do. I guess it's nice to be believed in from time to time.

Autumn leaves against a fading wall
Within the field of Landscape Architecture (and conservation like the previous course I was on) the application of the African proverb "If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together" is very relevant, especially when dealing with places that people use or live in. This saying resonated back through my head this week for another reason though. I heard it at the course in Peyresq (where my previous course was held) and thought that's nice, but sitting in yet another house meeting to deal with issues arising in our apartment block, it became more relevant. I was beginning to wonder that, if I cannot see a way to help resolve some of the conflict amongst my own neighbours, how can I hope to comment on conflicts at a wider level. After re-reading through some profiles of speakers from my time in Peyresq, it dawned on me that much of the conflict centres around a lack of hope and shared vision of the future. That looks a good place to start then, a visioning exercise. Sounds dreadful but it is not as bad as it sounds. It basically means thinking through how you want your life to be, what do you want to see happen and then working out how to get there. It is about envisioning a more hopeful future, rather than one locked in the conflicts of the past and present. Well it might be a start!
Any clues as to what this little fella is? I rescued it from
the road near our apartment block as it seemed determined
to kill itself on the road


  1. I "invested" in 4 plug plant of all the year round strawberries , theyve sat and sulked since they were planted, but now in September theyre blossoming widely and we have 2 half ripe

  2. Better late than never I guess :D

  3. I saw on facebook that you were in Hamburg and about there being a lot of beggars in particular. That was the thing which stood out for me when I visited Oslo a few years ago, so many beggars and finally, very important, did the man who works so hard have a good birthday without you!!

  4. It is disconcerting to see so much poverty in amongst so much wealth. It was the number who were just sleeping on the floor that got to me the most. How hard it must be to sleep amongst all that foot traffic.

    My hubby did indeed enjoy his birthday, he not only got surprises from our friends here but some people also sent him birthday wishes via email - since he doesn't have a facebook account


I love to hear your comments and will always reply, so go ahead, ask a question or just say hi