Monday, 25 October 2010

Where to start

Bride and groom
Such a problem to know where to start after two weeks of little internet access and so much has happened. I mentioned that our son's wedding was lovely and indeed it was. It was fabulous to see the smile on the faces of our son and his new wife throughout most of the day, although I noticed he was tearing up during the wedding service but then again so was his dad - what a pair. Gotta love 'em! I was given a gorgeous bunch of flowers which I got to enjoy for a couple of days and then gave them away to some folks in a nearby caravan to where we were staying. I think the lady was a little surprised but I didn't want to waste them as there was at least a week's worth of life left in them and I didn't think they would survive our journey back to Latvia.

The very happy couple
We had a buffet meal for the wedding as funds were short but goodness me the food wasn't short, we were eating sausage rolls on the way back home as well as cakes and pizza, and who cares that we hadn't had a three course meal for the wedding? We didn't, that's for sure, it's just not important. The promises they made to each other were important, after that it is all secondary. The cake was made by the bride's mum, and it was a stunning creation with carnations made from icing which she made herself, certainly a talented woman. Some friends of the young couple teach Salsa lessons and so the entertainment for the evening after the obligatory first dance was learning to Salsa and the vast majority of folks were all up practicing Salsa steps, very funny! I did notice though that Ian's brother who was the photographer for the event was adamant that he really needed to video the proceedings which meant he couldn't join in, didn't look too upset about it though. Certainly a bit different to the embarrassing discos where many folks don't want to join in, as most people were up dancing or in my case trying to. At least my waltzing when we had to join in the first dance as the grooms parents was a little better than my Salsa skills. Those ballroom lessons in my childhood had some use after all.

Mother of the bride, bridegroom, bride, best woman and me.
The mother of the bride and I were witnesses (and no I am
not wearing a plastic bag as Ian keeps saying)
Our son and his wife had a few other non-traditional touches such as a best woman instead of a best man, and the bride's mum walked her down the aisle. The best woman was a Danish friend of our son's from a time that he spent attending a youth bible college when we were living in Denmark (obviously). They got on really well and folks made all sorts of assumptions but they were always just good friends and she even spent one Christmas with us as she couldn't make it to her parents as they lived in Kenya. Fortunately she was comfortable enough with English to give a great speech and talked about their time in the bible college and how she was responsible for our son not being fluent in Danish as they spent so much time chattering away in English. She even got into trouble for it from the principle, but in the end it didn't matter too much since our son returned to England after the course.

Forgot to get a photo of the finished cushion and this is
a scanned picture before making it into a cushion. Still
you get the idea. The wheels are bike wheels since
our son works at a bike shop and they both go cycling
together and the lace is possibly tatting that my
grandmother made.
As the young couple were getting ready to leave our son turned to me and asked me for the red bag. Red bag!!!! O-oh! He had handed me the red bag when we were getting ready for the service in the caravan so that we could take it with us and I had dutifully taken it outside to put it straight in the car but I hadn't got the keys and I couldn't get Ian's or any guys attention whatsoever at the time, the reason being they were all entranced with the car that had arrived to pick our son up. Our son's boss had borrowed a friend's car - as you do, in order to take him, which just so happened to be a black ferrari. Aren't they always? Well failing to get anyone's attention I took the bag back in and promptly forgot about it in the hurry to take the best woman to church (she couldn't fit in the ferrari of course and so had to travel with us). Well our son had to give us directions to hotel where he was staying on his honeymoon night so we could take the clothes in the morning but we did keep the information to ourselves. Couldn't resist sticking a couple of bows, we happened to have in the car, on the windscreen wipers of their car as we left after handing the clothes over, well they had removed all the bows and paper chains from the night before and the car looked quite bare apart from just married written in lipstick on the windows. The funniest thing was the hotel was full of Jane Austen fans on a tour and down comes our son in his shirt and trousers from the wedding, proper dapper. Wonder what they thought?

The fabulous cake. All those flowers
are hand made in icing. Amazing!
Well it was rather a hectic weekend as we not only helped to clear up the hall after the wedding we also helped to clear our son out of his old flat and shifted into their new flat. It was rather surprising how much stuff they had in a one bedroomed flat. Doesn't help that they both come from a family of hoarders and his sister had cleared out her house a few months ago and taken much of it down to him. They did say they were going to get rid of some stuff on e-bay but first they will need to find the chairs to sit down on before deciding what they are keeping and what they are getting rid of. I was proud to hear though that as soon as the table was free they sat down to eat their evening meal at it, even if it meant sitting on speakers. Eating around the table is so important and something we are pleased for sticking with even with the odd grumpy meals due to someone being in a bad mood. Even now we sit and chat around the table for hours when we get together.

Mother and daughter
Well I guess so this doesn't get too long I shall summarise our trip home.
Folkestone - blessed with a bed and a meal out so we didn't have so far to travel to catch the ferry in the morning. Wish the rest of the trip had been that easy.
France - only 20km so we weren't affected by the strikes thank goodness.
Belgium and Holland - Boring! Tedious! Slow! Just too much traffic and we hit Antwerp at 3:30pm ish and apparently that was not a good time to get there (is there a good time apart from the middle of the night like the last time we drove around it?)
Germany - roadworks, even though we chose a different route there were still roadworks on the autobahns and so I must conclude they are digging up all their autobahns (okay maybe not all of them but it sure feels like it). It was funny though to hear Kraftwerk on the radio singing "Autobahn", not something that either of us thought we would ever be listening to whilst actually driving on an autobahn.

Fairy lights and balloons. Very simple and yet effective
Our wonderful room (courtesy of the hotel website)
Germany was redeemed in my eyes though by the sweetest of hotels, the Pension-am-See in Neustadt-Glewe which has a gem of an owner. I rang to say we were running late due to traffic in Belgium and Holland and he said not to worry they would still be there. Well, shortly after that conversation we missed our turning due to yet more roadworks and ended up with me having to navigate our way around Osnabrück at night, not happy was I! Further roadworks added to the length of the journey and meant we arrived at the hotel at 1:30am and I had to ring the owner and wake him up to let us in, which he did with a gracious smile of welcome. I was never so grateful for a warm welcome as I was that night. (Actually I tell a lie, it was the same sense of relief to be welcomed into a warm home after having to abandon a leaking tent and turning up cold and wet on someone's doorstep one holiday in Scotland). We collapsed into bed but despite the comfortable bed I didn't have a restful sleep at all as I was still navigating our way across Europe in my dreams and woke up exhausted. Breakfast was wonderful though, with a table in a nice warm conservatory full of autumn decorations and fairy lights on the table (had to put that after putting up hundreds of them at the wedding as our son and wife really likes them and they had bought them in the January sales for decorating the venue). At least that was a good start to the day, well nearly! I forgot to read all the details on the booking form and missed the bit about only cash accepted, so had to dash out to a cash machine. (Just a note for anyone planning on staying and I would highly recommend it, not just the hotel itself but also because it is in a really pretty area of Germany, but the cash machine is inside the bank and so only available during working hours).

The only photo of our whole trip. A view of the lake from
the hotel car park as we were leaving. The view from the
room was much better but it was raining and we just wanted
to get on our way and the camera was in the car.
Poland was lovely again and the northern route through it is well worth the travel. This time we stopped in a hotel next to a pretty lake. The rooms were large but spartan and for some reason the plug sockets didn't work but since we arrived late-ish again, we hadn't time to sort that out - it may have just been an isolator switch to the room that hadn't been switched on or something simple like that. It would have been hard to explain anyway as the receptionist only spoke German. Now I have done a bit of German at school and even have an O'level in it but wouldn't be able to speak it all these days but I can still remember some words and numbers and can understand some things, Ian however who professes to have no skills in languages at all, was far faster at translating what the receptionist had said than me. I told Ian later that I was really impressed with his ability to understand German since he supposedly didn't know German at all, at which point it was Ian's turn to be surprised, "he spoke German?" he said. Ian has been in so many hotels whilst working that he thought it sounded something like breakfast seven till 10 and not frokost sieben zu zehn, which is what the receptionist actually said and fortunately means the same thing.

Lithuania was still flat and the route a bit monotonous and boring but I do understand that Vilnius is nice but we decided not to call in, a little tired of navigating around cities unintentionally. At least they didn't have loads of roadworks and so better than Germany on that score. It was nice to get to familiar landmarks in Latvia, even if we had never actually seen them in the dark before (we only ever go to Jekabpils shopping so never there at night) and we made it back to our home village just before the hotel finished serving meals. Perfect timing or what? And judging by the snow that started whilst eating I think we did indeed get the timing right. After that epic journey, would we do it again? Don't know! The next time we fly, we are not going to do that route in the middle of winter, that is guaranteed.

Our friend's husband assembling one of the machines at
the orphanage. Just heard they have some money to
redecorate which will be good.
Saturday we went to the local orphanage to handover 9 sewing machines that we had transported back from the UK. A friend of ours had managed to get information out to folks about the orphanage's need for them to teach the youngsters sewing techniques and then to set up a project for unemployed youths to give them a diploma in sewing. Within weeks she had had the offer of the machines and organised them to get to us during our stay, she even brought some across herself to us. Some more will be coming later in a container but at least the orphanage can get started on the project with the ones they have now. The husband of the lady who managed to organise this tremendous feat happened to be in Latvia too so he came to see the place and take pictures and find out a little more about the orphanage and then joined us for tea.

Sunday I rested! How Biblical! Has something to do with a cough and a cold as well though, picked up in England! Thanks guys! And so to today, no chance of a rest this week either as I have an assignment to complete and so I am up to my eyes in the habits of wild boar, and the methods of monitoring their activity, preparing for a possible project next year for my Masters thesis. Ian meanwhile was back into his normal-ish routine too, transporting a neighbour, picking up our tractor from its holiday home at the nearby to the land neighbours (boy this is confusing), and checking to see how far our Swedish friend has got with the apartment. It is in serious danger of actually being finished but I won't hold my breath, it does look absolutely lovely though (I think lovely springs to mind far too readily, need to find a new word). Progress on the barn has been slow though, but I don't think the fact it snowed while we were away has helped either.


  1. An epic journey indeed! But glad you had a good time at the wedding and good for them for doing things a little differently. That appeals to the unconventional side of me and that cake looks absolutely gorgeous. 'Well done' to bride's mum!

    Quite an eventful two weeks but it doesn't take long for it all to diminish into a distant memory as life goes on. Still, what nice memories to have.

  2. It did indeed feel like an epic journey but well worth it. We were quite nervous before we set off, wondering how we would get on but it was fine. Even understood a German petrol attendant in one garage where we stopped off, ok he was only commenting because I was shivering and wished us a good journey which was nice of him.

    I love unconventional weddings too. Ours was quite unconventional at the time and we only managed a night in a hotel before heading back to Uni the following day. We got married just before the start of the last year at Sheffield Uni. We had to wait 25 years before we got a honeymoon, but we weren't that bothered. We were married and that's what mattered to us.

  3. I agree with Mavis, Joanna - unconventional weddings are tops and more imaginative. Never heard of a "best woman" before, but why the heck not.
    Everybody looks so happy in your photos and thanks for the great description of your epic journey. Like you say, having time to appreciate the sights along the way makes any long journey more enjoyable, less stressful and more memorable.
    Well done to all involved.

  4. Thanks Danny. Quite agree, a best woman why not? In fact highly recommended as much more sensible :oD

    Seeing everyone so happy, especially the bride and groom, made the trip even more worthwhile, including the late nights we seemed to accumulate along the way. I hope for a little more sleep the next time we set off on epic journeys


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