Monday, 15 December 2008

Bad news and Good news!

A sad day this week Oliver Postgate died Tuesday, he was the creator of Bagpuss and Clangers. For any who have visited our abodes you may have noticed my pink and cream striped cats - my mini Bagpusses, which my children have bought for me, I even have a DVD and I once had a pair of Bagpuss socks but I am not sure what happened to them, maybe they got a hole in them. I used to love Bagpuss as a kid, in fact I used to like most of Oliver Postgate animations, they had a simplicity and childlikeness about them. They told simple stories with imaginative themes. What I hadn't realised was that the Clangers noises were actually real words done on a swanee whistle, so they had a real script. One particular script written by Oliver Postgate led to a summons by the BBC chiefs to explain the script which included a few swear words but of course the kids wouldn't have heard the real words so I guess that was okay.

Well unexpected happenings still keep happening and we certainly got one of those this week, a tax demand for an unpaid bill from Denmark for 2005 of 545DKK ($98, £66) and it cost us 16 LVL's ($30, £20) to pay the thing. We kept paying everything they sent bills for, so goodness only knows where this came from, that had better be it or I am going to blow a gasket. It was one of the reasons we couldn't even face a short time in Denmark, before Latvia. if Ian had to work some notice, as it has taken us ages to extricate ourselves from the system. They have made plenty of mistakes and I suspect this payment was actually interest from the time they overpaid us, then asked for it back - having taken over a year to sort it out, and it took us a while to work out how we owed money when they had just paid us!!!!!!!! Complicated! You should see our file! If there is one thing that depresses me it is dealing with incompetent tax authorities, and closely followed by incompetent tax consultants who need to be told their jobs. There! Got that out of my system now! Really looking forward to the end of the year to deal with a new tax system. Not!

Had some good news this week. I sent in my first assignment for my course last week and 
got the results back this week and I got a Distinction which as you can imagine I am rather pleased about. I have loved the course so far and found so much of it fascinating and it is wonderful to see the ideas that have floated around my head have relevance to this course. I had one of those ahah moments today when I was reading about high taxation on rural peasant farmers often leads them to give up on cash producing crops and resort back to subsistence farming. I think the system here is too complicated with EU directives for this and that and it does not surprise me that the farmers take the EU funding for cutting the hay in their fields and then just leave it to rot. That is taking easy money but what do you do with it when it is cut? How easy are markets to access? Where do you sell your excess produce? How many legal hoops do you need to jump through? What receipts do you need to keep in order that the taxman does not take all your profit? Many of the farmers here are at least in their 50's and most are older and they have spent most of their life under the communist system, with the state control of what you do and how you produce things and a certain level of recompense as long as you did some semblance of work and now they are expected to compete in a competitive, complicated market? It is no wonder they go back to subsistence farming, it is at least simple as the Latvian farmers are usually land rich even if they are not cash rich. I have got some ideas buzzing around in my head about centralised cooperatives that provide a market place with at least one person who is au fait with computers so they can keep a record of stock for sale and stock wanted by supermarkets. I know there are cooperatives for milk 
here and I am sure there is probably more scope for greater cooperation, although I recognise that sometimes trust is in short supply here, another legacy of Soviet times. Maybe any excess stock could also be used for making biofuels or electricity, just throwing ideas out there but they need investment - another sticky problem.

I wrote last week that I saw a shooting star which for me is really rare, well on our way home from visiting our friend Natalija we saw three more shooting stars well four if you include the one that Ian saw, and one lone firework. The shooting stars were part of the Geminids meteor shower and occur round about this time of the year every year but up till now I haven't seen them. I am still really perplexed at what God is saying, mind you he might be saying nothing at the moment just raising my alertness level, so it is still watch this space and maybe one day I will understand what this is all pointing to.

I wrote such a lot last week that I didn't mention that we had our heating bill for the month of November and it was 88LVLs (£109, $166) not sure what your bills are like but for an average Latvian 88LVLs is a lot of money. The average wage of a Latvian is 389LVLs (£482, $737) and so the 88LVLs is a big chunk of that, and the average pensioner gets 124LVLs (£154, $235) a month so you can see that 88LVLs is a very big chunk of that. It is also easy to see why they wait until late on in the year before putting on the heating. It is no wonder that some people also have a huge debt when it comes to heating bills. This didn't happen in Soviet times and it is easy to see why some people are nostalgic for the Soviet era, at least you were warm. 

Ian got to play this week with a mean machine. He needed to take a wall down in our new flat between a pantry and a bathroom to make a decent sized room. He was expecting a concrete wall but it turned out to be a concrete covered brick wall and his drill, while being a fine tool for drilling holes for electrical wires, which he as also being doing, was not up to taking a full wall down built with the aforementioned construction materials. A call to our friend Chris who we ate with last week resulted in a mean looking demolition hammer. It did the trick anyway and the wall is now in pieces. Now we just need to clean up and get the place sorted for Mark, our son, and friends to come over Christmas. We will also be getting the kitchen ready here in the flat we live in for the installation of the units at the end of this week - we hope. Lol.

Here are two pictures of doors. I like pictures of doors, especially those with character. I sense this next year will be a gateway year, one that will lead into our next phase and characterises what we will be doing for the next five or so years. One of the things I read this week was that the year before a jubilee year there would be produce enough for three years, one for the year they were in, one for the jubilee year and one for the year after while waiting for the harvest of that which was sown. So next year should be a sowing into our future harvest that will be reaped later. Interesting to see where that will lead.

 I will send you such a blessing in the sixth year 
that the land will yield enough for three years. 
While you plant during the eighth year, 
you will eat from the old crop 
and will continue to eat from it 
until the harvest of the ninth year comes in.
Leviticus 25:21-22

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