Monday, 28 December 2020

Memory Lane

A snowbow over the boys aplaca house, taken
on Boxing Day

It was a relief to finish work last week. I love my work and enjoy doing research, but I needed a change and some rest. Unfortunately, one the first jobs after finishing was to take my new computer in for repairs. As I mentioned last week, I accidentally managed to shut a usb stick in my brand new, hours old computer, causing the screen to crack. I had to drive into the repair centre in Riga on a snowy day. The roads were not good out of our village, as they hadn't been ploughed that early in the morning. Thank goodness for a 4x4. It still meant that an hour and half drive became a 2 hour drive, which was a bit inconvenient as I had an online conference call to take. 

Oh it was good to see some sunshine
A very picturesque outhouse.
Still a bit chilly to be using at
this time of the year.

Anyway I got into the repair centre and the lady spent all of five minutes showing my computer to the repair guy and came back to tell me that it would need the complete screen to be renewed at a cost just shy of €600. I was not thrilled to say the least. I think I confused the lady a bit and there wasn't a great deal of empathy. It was just a repair job to her and I understand that. By the time I had finished in there, I felt more like crying in rage and frustration. Not because of the way I was dealt with at all, but just the stupidity of the situation, that such a small and insignificant act entailed such a massive repair bill, especially when I had just forked out the money for a new one.

Eyre following Ian on another chilly walk. A bit
trickier than the last time. They are jumping
in out of the tracks that Ian makes.
Ewww! This white stuff!

Anyway there wasn't really time to dwell on it there and then, I had the conference call to take in the car. Fortunately, that was a very pleasant time. It made a change to be on the receiving end of questions as they were interviewing me about my thoughts on moving into the Vidzeme region of Latvia. After an hour chatting about the joys of living in Vidzeme and some of the difficulties for an immigrant, with little language skills and no access to lessons locally, I then set off back home. Getting into Riga was fairly straightforward as I knew most of the route, but getting out of Riga was a bit trickier and I argued with Google maps on several occasions, partly due to roadworks and telling me to take turnings that did not exist. I finally made it onto a road I knew and turned her off. 

The white stuff is pretty though
Now that's what you call a Christmas tree!

Once out of the city I did have time to dwell on the computer mishap and I wasn't in a happy place at all. When I got back to our apartment, I emailed Ian to let him know I was back home and would have some lunch before going out to pick him up. I noticed that I had an email from a friend asking about the computer. I let him know the result of my trip and got a very empathetic reply back. It was enough to set me on a more even keel. Although the next few days were a bit up and down emotionally. I still had to remind myself that it is only money and it's only a computer. 

Christmas card material.
This year's Christmas tree. It's 
just the right shape and 
proportion I think.

On Christmas Eve I continued a job I started last week of tidying up in our dump room. That at least had a cathartic quality about it. Helping me to get some of my thoughts organised too. I still wasn't in a particularly happy place but it was made much better when Ian turned up with a rather nice Christmas tree he found out on our land. I wasn't sure if he would remember or not and couldn't be bothered to remind him - that's how low I was feeling. He at least had the foresight to get the Christmas tree when it started to look a bit dark as the promised snow edged closer. By the time he got back to the apartment there was already a few centimetres cover. 

I love the patterns of the tree against the sky.
Nope! I'm not going out in that stuff!

On of the joys of living in rural Latvia is Christmas away from commercialism. Christmas is therefore taken at a relaxing pace. Unusually this year I spent quite a bit of time sourcing presents for the family from places from the UK via the internet and avoiding using Amazon. Normally I buy things from Latvia or make them. Most of the presents arrived on time, I'm glad to say. One was reposted via courier but the original also turned up late on Christmas Eve. It had taken three weeks to get from Scotland to the south of England. It was nice that they tried to make sure that my son and family at least got their present though. My parents are the only ones still waiting but I had organised for theirs to arrive after Christmas anyway for a reason, so hopefully they will get theirs next week. There was an update on my errant seeds. They arrived in Portugal on the 18th November and on the 18th December they moved.... to the international department. I wonder if that is the postal equivalent of putting someone in a removal centre prior to deportation? If so when will they be deported and to where? The saga continues.

I'm quite happy just sitting here. By the way
can you spot a certain little pussy cat?
Oh go on then! 

I spent Christmas day mainly on my own but I had a happy time taking a trip down memory lane sat in the middle of the hallway surrounded by papers. I was finally onto the last part of my sorting out. Two boxes that had travelled the world really needed a good sorting out. The box mainly contained stuff that the kids had written or drawn when they were little. Most pieces were connected with memories, some were complete mysteries. We had a WhatsApp chat going about random things that was amusing to join in and I posted some things my kids had done. I had to laugh at one card that explained that I was really old now I had reached the grand old age of 31 years old. My youngest reached that age over the weekend. They were all officially old now in their kids eyes and I took great delight in informing them of this.

I think Rocket Ron has been spotted
May be I can hide here? Nope! Ian had to rescue
Rocket Ron before he spooked Turbjørn

Another was a Mothers Day card with a picture of me ironing. I asked for an explanation! After all, the sight of me ironing anyway was a very rare one. My daughter had to confess, she wouldn't be best pleased to receive a card like that now. How time changes ones perception. There was a very mysterious elephant mask and I had no idea who had made it. One of my son's, who's not renowned for his memory, said that funnily enough he remembers making that. And so the exchanges went on, with me posting another piece of artwork or a memory raised. It was just what I needed. I was in a happy mood when I called it a day and went to start the evening Christmas meal for when Ian got back.

The greenhouse with a festive Christmas hat on
Josefs has been having a roll in the snow

The next day was spent out on the land. We attempted a Zoom call with the family but with everyone escaping the city for the countryside due to the lockdowns our internet is diabolical. We just about lasted but couldn't really interact well with everyone. It was worth a try though. I'm sure there is a way of making it work better for us and we might just have to prime the kids to take turns doing something next year. It was still fun at least to say hello to everyone wherever they were. After that Ian and I went out for a snowy walk. The snow was just deep enough for me to have to follow him and walk in his tracks. Definitely a white Christmas this year, even if it was only just.

Mari enjoying her ice-cream
These girls are enjoying the snow at least. I think
they've been photobombed!

The last few days I've been going through the old photographs and sorting them out. Many had no details on them. Now they are at least filed under a year with some rudimentary description, such as names, maybe places and the event. The job was made partly easier by being able to email my mother and find out about some of the pictures and newspaper clippings that I had from our side of the family. That set my mother off on a trip down memory lane too. It was fun to hear some of the details that I either didn't remember because I was too young, or didn't know anyway. I remembered my Nana was from Cumbria and guessed that a newspaper clipping of a house for sale in Rowrah would be connected to her. I seem to remember going there or people talking about that place and my Mum filled in the details. It was indeed a place I had been to and was the family home of my Nan's family. The little clipping is now in an envelope with the story behind it written on the outside. Hopefully it will connect our kids to their own sense of history at some point in the future.

A close up of Silla
The photobomber herself!

On a more serious note, Latvia has not done well in the latest wave of Covid19. Numbers climbed high last week. Over the Christmas break itself the numbers dropped but maybe due to less testing, so I'm not so sure whether this is due to the effects of the increased measures or not. For the first time since the emergence of this disease back at the beginning of the year our area has more than five people infected. Many of the weeks we had zero. It has felt a very safe place to be and still is relatively speaking. I do wonder though to what extent the arrival of Covid here is due to people returning from abroad or escaping the city where the incidence is much higher. Hospital care this far out is not so easy to access and the population is older making it more vulnerable. Let's hope the break means people hibernate, which fortunately is a bit of a national trait.

Ginger Tom also followed Ian on his walk

It's a bit high for a little kitten

Following in Ian's tracks. Eyre looks like she isn't
sure this was a good move

A very white Christmas indeed.

Oak in festive mood too

Sunrise this morning. Later on in the morning I
saw three deer racing across the gardens, closely
followed by a dog. It was amazing to see how 
far they could bound. The dog fortunately did
not stand a chance against these three young males.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020


It looks like Brencis has been for a cut and blow
dry. You do know Brencis, don't you, that we
are not supposed to go to the hairdressers for
the next three weeks? I'm pleased I managed to 
get mine cut before lockdown.

It feels a great privilege to be working from home and to have had a long experience of it through all my online studies. I feel sad for those who struggle with it and for those who have lost their jobs in all this chaos. It is so frustrating to see the governments who have tried to save the economy and ended up hurting the economy more by not dealing with the health crisis in the first place. When I see the numbers about debts owed caused by the chaos, I think to who is it owed? What purpose would it serve to pay the debt to them? Who is benefiting from all of this chaos? Would it really hurt to redistribute the money to those who need it? Think that sounds communistic? How about a year of Jubilee being declared? A great resetting of debts. A fresh start? That my friends is very biblical!

There are three cats there! Really! We knew that
once it started to get cold Eyre would suddenly
find that her new companions were worth getting
to know
The snow has been coming and going this week.
Not as cold as last week but still a bit chilly.

Along with the privilege of a job I can do from home, I'm also privileged with a more up-market scam email. Hahaha! This is a sample of one I received this week and I get quite a few from these and some from predatory journals as they are called. 

Dear Professor., <=== Whoops! Not yet kind sir!

Hope you are safe and healthy! <==== I am indeed, thank you for asking! 

We are in the process of appointing a Speaker for the Power and Energy engineering conference as Speaker which is going to be held in Barcelona, Spain during July 12-14, 2021. <=== Oooh! Lovely, I enjoyed my trip to Spain last year, unfortunately it does clash with haycutting season, which as you can appreciate is an important part of my year.

Considering your profile, and based on your excellent continuous research in the arena of Energy engineering we would like to take the privilege to enquire if you can join as a Speaker for Energy Engineering-2021. <==== Errr! And which ones would those be? I don't recall my papers being in the field of Energy Engineering, perhaps I write them in my sleep? Now that would be cool

 I would be grateful if you can accept our invitation and take up the position. <====Somehow I think not, at least not until you do your own proper research.

At least they can be flatteringly amusing. 

Cleaning up crew

Hmmm! I think there's an imposter in there

One of the privileges I would rather do without at the moment is having computer issues. A first world problem for sure. I mentioned that Ian's computer went pop the other week! He's managing on the old PC he was lent, but that has been temperamental. He thought that had finally gone too one night when it switched itself off. It was a relief that it was the same night I had a new computer delivered. Everything would be fine, or so I thought. The computer was fine, I got it set up and upgraded no problem. I was settling in well with it and then disaster struck. I went to close it and hadn't notice a usb stick was in the way. I realised that something was stopping it from shutting, I was a bit surprised to see the usb stick, so I moved it out of the way, then closed the computer and I thought no more about it. 

I said there was an imposter in the chicken ark. That
will teach you to be greedy and try to pinch the 
chicken food. Apparently the chickens ganged up
on poor Ginger Tom. A quick lesson in not messing
with the chickens and trying to muscle in on their
Help! Get me out of here!

Thos fine lines from the corner I 
assume are cracks but somehow it
has also influenced the rest of the 
screen. Sigh!

When I opened it up later, the screen was not how it should be and it looked like there was some fine cracks in the corner. I was gutted! I tried to feel the cracks but I couldn't. I couldn't understand what the problem was. It wasn't powering up properly. Eventually it worked but the screen was still a mess. How could that be? It was only a usb stick and it wasn't as if I was rough with it. Ian gave me my old computer back and he went back to the PC. I had cleared a load of stuff off my computer so there was more space for his files and photos, so all of my stuff was now on the new one. All is not lost as it is backed up, but such a faff. I really felt I didn't want to adult at this stage. 

I think we might just get a white Christmas. 
Eyre is such a grumpy looking cat, but I know 
how she feels at the moment. I have to remind
myself, it is just a computer.

"To adult" such a strange newfangled phrase that some of my grammar inclined friends will probably not like. Somehow though that does sum up how I feel at times right now. I had a really dull head Monday morning and couldn't think straight. I tried to get some work done but I may as well have been reading Chinese for all the impression it was making on me. I headed to my pantry and dragged out the betony tea, some hemp tea and a mix of marjoram, mint and bergamot. Hopefully something out of that lot would settle my brain. I sat and let the steam from the teacup waft up my nose and sipped the warm brew. Something worked as my head cleared and after lunch I got some work done. 

My waterlilly trapped in the ice
A winter wonderland

I was doing okay with this adulting lark until I got an unhelpful email from the company that I had bought my computer from. Instead of telling me what options I had in response to my question, it just said they couldn't tell me without a diagnosis. Great but this is 2020 and there is a pandemic on, you cannot just walk into a shop and get things done can you?!!! No of course not! It needs a form to be filled in and then they will contact you with some dates. So why not say that in the first email? While I am on a moan and not being very adult about it all, why does my new computer not have a nice protective metal surround to stop it being shut on something hard and wrecking the screen? Especially if it is that much of a delicate fairy. The whole point to buying an apple computer is that most of our computers have lasted a very long time, except for the ones that were recalled and they were fixed by the company and went on to work for quite a few years longer.

A foggy winter wonderland though. 
Full of little treasures. I love moss growing in trees
Our Christmas tree perhaps? 
Probably not, I think it might
be a bit big. I will collect one
either tomorrow or Christmas

Saturday had been going so well up until that point. A new computer that worked well, jars finally found a place after weeks of them sitting in crates in our living room, some nice little chats with the kids via messenger and WhatsApp. So relaxing to potter about and get things sorted. After the disaster it was a good job there were more pottering about jobs to do on the Sunday as I hardly wanted to touch a computer after that. The new computer sort of still works and I could back up everything that had been done in the last week - that had been the next thing on my list before the disaster. I would have been okay without doing that as I had uploaded all the work that needed doing on the Friday, but still it was nice to be able to do it. The rest of the day I sorted out shelves to make more room in the dump room so I could walk down it without nearly killing myself. My aim is to be able to get to my craft stuff and know where it is, so that next year I can be more creative. 

"Look up!" my friend you used to say in Colorado.
But there the sky would be blue here the monchrome
effects of winter trees against the grey sky has a
charm of its own
Snowy patterns on a neighbour's field

Well that's the plan, but there is one more thing to do before I might have space to do that and that is to learn Latvian. I'm going to try Zoom lessons with a language school in Riga. Not cheap but at least they have experience and if I apply myself, hopefully it won't take that long to get the necessary fluency I need. At least that should reduce some of the stress of the times, especially as a Brit abroad in Europe

The next group of pictures are from the walk that Ian went on today, accompanied by his loyal companions....the cats. 

Rocket Ron and Ginger Tom

Investigating the destruction left by a visiting
wild boar family.

Eww! What is this? It's wet!

I'm really not sure what all this white stuff is about, 
not sure I'm a fan.

Ian's trusty companions

Damp chilly days = ice sculptures

I don't know what all the fuss is about. The white
stuff is not that bad. As they say, there is no such
thing as bad weather, just bad clothes. 

Not sure that Mari agrees, despite having a very nice
dense fleece to keep her warm.

Silla looking portly. A tad too much weight? A lot
of fleece? Pregnant? Or all three?

Antonia also proving that there's no such thing as
bad weather, just bad clothes.

What do you think you're doing here little one
says Silla. This group of alpacas don't chase
the cats, just investigate them.

Hmmmph! No such thing as bad weather they say!
Not sure about that!

A new chicken ark. It has a metal roof, which will
be lighter. The handles are closer together too
to make it easier to lift and the final detail is
very small holed chicken wire to keep the critters

As this is the last blog before Christmas it just leaves me with one further thing to say. As most of us are in lockdown of one sort or another, I wish you a very Peaceful Christmas and may the New Year bring the joy and celebration that many of us are missing from this strange year.