Monday, 26 December 2016

Flying home for Christmas

The nearest I got to a Christmas tree this year. Not mine but
at the quaint little hostel in central Uppsala
I just about made it back home for Christmas and that is a tale in itself.I arrived back in the early afternoon of Christmas Eve. I was nearly bumped onto a flight via Helsinki that would only have arrived in the evening into Riga and then another couple of hours to get home.
My chalet. It was a little chilly on the first night, but then
someone put a fan heater in my room and then it was snug
enough

The manor house where I had breakfast. This was very nice

This was the more spacious hostel I was in the first half of
the week. It was much quieter but perhaps needing in a bit
of updating. I slept better though, as I am so used to the
peace and quiet these days
I could kick myself now for turning down the offer of £200 vouchers they offered as compensation to take the later flight but Ian had already set off from home and I couldn't quite catch where he was because of the general  noise in the airport. I didn't think until two days later that it could have come in useful for either flying to the UK next year or flying out someone from the UK to join us.
Aggie has been worrying Ian, she has a lump on the side of
her face. We will have to have the vet come out and deal with
it, but it is a worry he could do with out, especially in the damp
depressing days

How did Mari manage to get so mucky on the top of her head
I also didn't think until after the event that perhaps the gentlemen who didn't put up such a fuss had children to fly home to, they just seemed kind of stunned and resigned to it. I just hope that they would have put up more of a fuss if they did. I was just rather tired and wanted to get home, so I wasn't thinking straight. It does kind of dismay me that I was so thoughtless though.
It was a good job it was a quiet time of
the year as it allowed me to spread my
work out on the table. I needed to arrange
the work I was doing in a specific order
to organise my thoughts and the best way
for me is to print it out and then cut up all
the bits I need and arrange them

The second hostel was very Scandinavian
in style, but quaint
At least the week before was wonderful. As I mentioned last week I was very well looked after, despite the closeness to Christmas and all the family preparations. I had plenty of meetings and chats with other academics in the department, which were helpful for me to clarify in my mind the way I was thinking. It is also great to hear from people on the same wavelength that the urban and rural areas need each other and need to support each other and not just think of rural areas in terms of production of agricultural products - that will kill the very industry that is needed to make the urban areas sustainable in the long-term.
A rather nice dining area and tea and coffee was free

The kitchen was very well equipped
The best meeting though was getting out into a rural area of Sweden to talk with a gentleman who is interested in seeing slow development in his village and not the addition of 200 houses, which he estimates would increase the population of the village approximately by 50% in a very short period of time. He wants slow development so there is time to assimilate the newcomers and welcome them into village life. He also feels it would be better so that the infrastructure can develop slowly to meet the new needs. The Professor and I had a few different suggestions that he liked the idea of and so I was tasked with writing a proposal for a way to help the villagers plan a way forward. It will be exciting to see where that leads. It would be nice if I can also be a part of that process.
The rooms were tiny, but big enough. I
had to stand on the bed to get this photo
and the desk was a drop leaf attached to
the wall. 

This is outside our apartment a few weeks ago, but finally
managed to get the photos off my camera because I have a
SSD slot on the computer and don't now have to find the cable
which has been lost for weeks
I bought myself a computer on the last day. I found out that it was cheaper to get it from Sweden than in the places I looked online in the UK, which seems really odd, as Sweden always used to be far more expensive. I was worried that my 6 year old MacBook could pack up on me any time, something I could ill afford to happen when I have a thesis to write next year.  Also I needed to update the software but since it was getting old and cranky I wasn't sure how well it would handle it.
It would be nice to have some snow back
with some cold weather to freeze the ground
better than all this mud
Ian taking the muck to the compost heap - such a cheery scene

While I did at least see some sunshine from my office
window, this was Ian's view. There are some sheep somewhere
in there
My MacBook was also heavy for lugging around on my travels and I just needed something lighter. I can't say I am completely enthralled by it and I it obviously is not depositing everything I want in the places I want it to, but I will get used to it in time. It does bother me though to have to buy a new gadget, I don't like the idea of buying new things, I would rather make old things work better and one day I hope we can do that. Admittedly there wouldn't have been much I could do about the weight.
Lost! Some alpacas!

Moss and lichens do kind of glow in
the low light levels though
I have to say the service though in El Giganten was fabulous. The lass who served me tried her best to get me a cheaper returned computer, but unfortunately when they do a factory reset, Pages (the Mac equivalent of Word, well sort of) wasn't on it, which she wasn't aware of and I need that programme to do some of the work I do. There was quite a bit of faffing about trying to work out why it didn't have Pages on, which entailed me trundling off to the nearby IKEA to get some lunch and of course I ended up turning the wrong way and having to go part way through the store to get out. I managed it without further purchases, but it was close, I nearly spotted something to buy but managed to avert myself at the last minute.
And the moisture glistens on the end of the branches

I still find it hard to think that this is our
forest. 
Coming home in the afternoon of a damp and dreary Latvia meant that we have done without a Christmas tree this year. I would have gone out to our land with Ian if it had been dry, to get one but it was so miserable, it just wasn't worth it. It would have had to stay down in the basement to dry off before bringing it into the apartment and the next day while Ian was seeing to the animals I was busy cooking a goose and a dessert to take with us to a Christmas meal we had been invited to, so no time for putting up the Christmas decorations. I did get out the fairy lights though and hooked one lot to a curtain rail and twisted around some silver stars and hung up a star and baubles next to it and the other set of fairy lights were stuffed into a large vase and a star perched on the top. Not the most festive but it works and cheers the place up a bit.
It is not all neat and tidy forest, there is also a lot of swampy
areas where the willow ends up in a tangled mess

Moss and wood
We thoroughly enjoyed the meal with our friends. We had our first course and then went out to the land to put the animals away, some went out for a walk and some just hung around the house. We then went back for dessert. My dessert went down very well, which was a good job as it wasn't quite how I planned it. It was a sponge layer with lemon, squash cream layer (which tastes like lemon curd), followed by a layer of raspberries and then meringue. The lemon layer took longer than I anticipated to make and so I was having a hard job putting it all together. The meringue was meanwhile slowly decreasing as it was standing around. It worked though despite the hassle of making it. I know next time to allow more time to get a thickened lemon layer, although that may have been an asset in making the slightly soggy sponge layer. At least the meringue could have done with being made later.
I think we had some visitors nibbling on the bark

Not quite Thomas the Tank Engine on the telly, but GJ and Pops
We have managed to say Happy Christmas to two of our children and their little ones. Skype is so great for that. We sat and watched one of the grandkids building his lego set while we chatted. It is funny to watch the little ones interacting with us and they seem comfortable enough with us being either on the computer or on the telly even. Not as good as being there, but at least the next best thing.
Ian has found it is easier to ply two strands of wool together on
the drop spindle rather than on the spinning wheel, but then it is
difficult to make it into a ball after that, so he made this gadget
to hold the spindle and turn while he winds the wool up

One final comment. Heather and I managed to finalise the plans for our felting workshop for next year. We will put up details soon on our website, which is at Griez─źtes Alpakas and on our Facebook page. So on that note, I wish you all a Happy Christmas, what's left of it and a great New Year.

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