Monday, 25 November 2013


View from a footbridge in Tartu
It has been a bit up and down week this week, so stick with me it gets better. Sorry if the lows are getting depressing - matches the weather I think, damp and dreary. A short while ago a conference I had applied to attend and really wanted to go to, suddenly announced it was cancelled. It would be just plain annoying, but it actually takes me rather too much of my time to write an abstract (a short piece of work describing some of my research, but tailored to fit the theme of the conference). Of course it will get easier as I get more practice, but it is still annoying to go through the process and then for the conference to be cancelled. Fortunately I had already applied to another one and been accepted. I nearly withdrew my application for that one, as I would rather have attended the one that got cancelled and there is only so many funded trips I can take. Are you still with me? Life can be a bit complicated at the moment.

An ornate door that's seen better days. Still
gorgeous craftsmanship
So to continue. I duly wrote an application for funding for the conference costs and got a reply to say my funding application was accepted. Great! Now I could go ahead and book since it means I will get the money back. I went to fill out the online registration and it said "online registration closed, on site registration still available" or something like that. Oh yes! I'll just pop down to Berlin and sign in, shall I? I was not a happy bunny! Well actually that is greatly understating the case. I was rather upset. I was just glad I had some work to read that didn't demand too much brain energy. I was just writing an email explaining the problem to my supervisor and pouring out my frustration about the whole funding/conference issue when I went back to check on the online registration site, because I wanted to send him the link to see what he made of it. Unbelievably the online registration was back up and running. You have never seen someone type so fast to get the booking done. It still feels a bit like a game that I still haven't got the hang of and not one I particularly like, at least the outcome was fine in the end though.

Our Christmas tree on the right. One
of them has to go and so it may as well
be used. It won't be cut down for a
while though. I don't put up the
decorations until Christmas Eve
We've had tenants in our other apartment for the last two months. Can you believe it, we've had two months without a bath. Don't worry though, we do still have showers, not quite the same though. It was worth foregoing the baths as our friends had a good time here in Latvia and enjoyed staying in our apartment. They have made the most of their time and been busy out and about visiting folks, chopping wood, chipping wood - I think between us and the camp though, we put them off chipping for life, helping and encouraging as they went. They were sad to leave, but I think they will be back again sometime and maybe by then I might be spending a little more time at home - maybe! It does mean that this week we were able to re-instigate our Saturday night routine of bath night and DVD, currently we are making our way through the Edwardian farm, but that was only because I wasn't travelling up to Estonia on the Sunday morning but getting a lift up on Monday. Watching the Edwardian farm at times makes us giggle, because some of the information in it is so basic - basic to us that is, because we've been gardening for well over 20 years now. We learnt an amazing fact this week, the eyes on the potatoes sends out shoots to make new plants. Do people really not know that? Fortunately there are lots of other fascinating snippets that aren't quite so basic and could even be useful for a more low tech approach to farming. Ian still wants a shire horse though.

I love names of things that don't travel very well. How
about this for the name of a shop "Takko?" I don't think it
would do too well in the UK
We finally have the inventory done on the barn. That took a bit of organising. At first the lady couldn't find the place and tried to phone Ian, but she didn't speak English. We got someone to phone her back who spoke Latvian and she then planned to come out with the architect. At least the architect knew where we lived and Ian picked them up from our apartment, after first letting the animals out. The inventory is a record of the structure, as it was a little different to the original plans. She took pictures and measurements and then asked if she could see the alpacas. She took more pictures of the alpacas than she did of the barn. She thought they were wonderful and they played up well for their audience, coming to see who was visiting. I think they were thinking they were going to get fed, but at least they looked friendly enough.

James the stalker
The mild weather has been a bit dreary, but at least it has meant that I could dig up the last of the beets for the animals and carrots for us from our home allotment. Just got a few more carrots and some leeks to sort out on the land, but unless we have severe weather, we are not hurrying. James our cockerel is performing one of his last duties this week. He is making sure that the new chicks, we introduced into the big hen house, do not get picked on very much. Apparently a dominant cockerel should keep the squabbling to a minimum. He more than sealed his fate on Sunday though, Ian has never seen James stalk me until today. Not sure why he should do that and has never done it to Ian, well not while he is on his own, but he did today as we went for a walk in the woods. So after a week or two he's in the pot and a newcomer will get his place. He has been fairly good at taking care of his lady hens and keeps them together, but his aggressive nature is not what we want on the farm. Just hope the new boys will be up to looking after the ladies.

A list of the 54 who died. It brings it home to me. Three
were firefighters who were trying to rescue people. 16
children have lost one or two parents. A massive loss to
a nation of just 2 million
It's been a shocking week this week for the news, with Latvia making the front page headlines for all the wrong reasons, 54 died in a supermarket and three days later 7 are still missing. People were just going about their every day shopping on their way home, at a busy time of the day when the roof collapsed. Of course rumours abound, not least the complicity of the construction company. It is still such a shame that Latvians are often robbed, not by thieves on the street, but by thieves in companies who siphon off money. From the money that has leeched out of the money allocated to road building, money allocated to water upgrades, and goodness only knows where else. A situation they are slowly getting to grips with, but maybe this time there will be a wake up call. Even if the construction company were not to blame for siphoning off money, we can only tell that when the final report comes out, lives were lost this week and how many more lives will be lost due to corruption in departments that close their eyes to substandard building, to corruption in companies that cut corners to line their pockets, to lack of finances in rescue services that does not give them adequate machinery and training?  How much longer will people complain and their voices ignored? I have heard more people recently who are ready to speak out or not put up with corruption in whatever form it takes and I find that immensely encouraging.

Sunrise on a beautiful frosty morning whilst waiting for my
I promised to finish on an upbeat note. I got an extra day at home this week. Big deal! Some of you may think, but to be honest it has been nice. I actually got to travel up on the day of my lecture this time, because I had a lift up in a car from some of my fellow classmates, who are also from Latvia. It did mean leaving on the 6:40am bus, which is a tad early to get up to so we could meet up somewhere convenient - where I live is not very convenient to get to at all and would put a lot of extra miles on. It also meant waiting around for half an hour on a rather frosty morning, wishing I had put on a thicker pair of trousers, but rather glad for having packed a flask of hot tea and for the fact that I hadn't been able to convey to the bus driver to stop where I wanted to stop. That little episode meant I got off two stops after I wanted to and a 20 minute walk back to where I was supposed to be meeting my friends, but at least that was 20 minutes walking and 20 minutes less standing around getting cold. The trip up was lovely too, with the frost never leaving the fields the whole way up, until we got close to the city of Tartu and the sun even made an appearance during the journey. Quite nice after the dreariness. To top the day off, I got an unexpected bonus from another fellow student, as he paid me a rather good amount for looking over a paper he was writing. English is not his first language and there were a few obvious mistakes and a few poorly worded bits, nothing too major though and he was obviously happy with the work I had done on it and the comments I had digitally scribbled all over his work.
A happy find in a supermarket shop today! Wensleydale
cheese with cranberries. A nice bit of English cheese


  1. Another interesting insight into you week. Btw, I couldn't find the link on Facebook to click the 'like' button.

  2. money gets creamed off by local officials here too.makes me so cross cos others work so hard for a mere pittance - especially my home helps. the 'lost' money from some capital project or other would have meant proper pay for them, or extra helpers so that everyone who needs them could have them .... etc .... i know i'm preaching to the converted here.

  3. Thanks Mavis. Strange about the facebook like button. I'll have a look but not sure I will discover anything.

    Liz, you are indeed preaching to the converted, but preach away. It makes me mad when it happens as those who work hard and on such low wages, usually end up the worse off in all these cases.

  4. What I meant was that the link to your blog this week did not appear on facebook (and still isn't there). I thought that maybe you forgot to share it on FB.

  5. I did post it Mavis. I have copied you in now, so hopefully you will see it now. Strange things happen in internet land

  6. Wensleydale cheese!! I hope you bought some for Ian....we heard about the Supermarket collapse here. Such a tragedy and I noticed on your facebook feed that the Prime minister has now resigned......I hope that they eventually discover where the blame should lie.

  7. I did indeed bring some back for Ian, like a good girl.

    The supermarket collapse was a very big shock to people here in Latvia and yes the Prime Minister has resigned, another shock. I was surprised at the lack of resignations under the circumstances


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