Monday, 29 April 2013

If it's Monday it's.......

This has been my blurry view for much of this week. I spent
a lot of time sitting staring out of the window, whilst our
son drove us up and down the country. Hope he doesn't
need a week off to recover
What a week! We seem to have spent most of it on the road or eating. Of course we started off our journey by plane as we flew from Perth in Australia to the UK via Singapore. The planes had much better air conditioning this time and were nice and cool. On a 13 hour flight that is quite important I think. The outward journey was a little stuffy. What I do like about the Singapore flights are the friendly staff and the relatively good food. Even the tomatoes and prawns had taste, which can be a rare things these days. We did wonder if we were going to have an incident though as a couple of men got a little irate as they wanted a smoke. They didn't seem to comprehend that smoking is banned on the flights, even if they are that long. It was the one and only time I saw the staff not smiling and talking quite abruptly to any passengers. With voices raised I wondered if they were going to end up being restrained, but in the end they settled down and we didn't hear much else from them. Not sure if it was the alcohol that rendered them quiet or the staff had worked their magic.

Spring captured!
Our eldest son and his family picked us up from Heathrow. We were all dreading the journey, as the English road system is not noted for its free flowing traffic at the best of times and late afternoon is about the worse time to travel, or so we thought. It has been known for it to take us eight hours to drive from London to Sheffield a distance of 168 miles (270km) and an expected journey time of 3 hours, but this time the journey was relatively problem free. We of course had to stop, so the little one wasn't continually cooped up in his car seat and so all of us could stretch our legs. There was only one point in the journey when our hearts sank as we saw the cars stacking up, but we quickly realised it was purely due to cars slowing down to see a very recent accident of about five cars or vans, on the opposite carriageway, so recent the emergency services were still some distance away. Once passed the accident, the traffic speeded up and we were safely on our way, unlike the opposite side, which was already stacked up for several miles.

Pops and our grandson having a laugh
after a nappy (diaper) change
Our first stop was with some good friends of ours who we had planned to stay at a couple of years ago, but couldn't because it snowed so heavily. On the night we were due to stay we wouldn't have got to their place the snow was that bad, or if we had got there we would have been stuck for several days - a risk we couldn't take because we were heading to parents before heading to Australia for our first visit and our daughter's wedding. Thankfully, although the weather was cool and England has experienced a bad winter, we weren't hampered by the snow this time around. Sometimes when we meet friends we have known for a long time, we wonder if we will ever see them again - no not because we are that old or they are, but because our paths take us on such different trajectories. Even though we have shared many years together as our children have grown, our lives have taken us to different places and much as we would like to, we can't visit every one. Thank goodness for social networks then that help us to stay in touch.

Ian's mother and our little grandson
Next was our journey up North, to the Northern most shire in the land, Northumberland. Jokes were flying about the land that would gradually turn black and white, and then the appearance of the horse and carts. Well it didn't quite turn black and white, but browner as spring gradually lost its grip and we entered a world where winter had only just slipped away. There was much evidence of the effects of the hard winter with bare patches in fields or even some fields still waterlogged. It never ceases to amaze me how a few hundred miles can make such a difference in the climate. The weather may not have been warm, but as usual the welcome was. We managed to meet many of Ian's nearest relatives, his mother, his brothers and their wives, and even one of his nieces, who also has a little one we haven't seen before, born since our last visit. We did find out where Ian gets his baby whispering gift from though, his mother. Despite his mother being in her mid-80's and in poor health, she could still cuddle in our son's little one and get him off to sleep without much bother.
A family get together. Ian's niece is at the back on the left
and her daughter at the front. 

Great-grandma number 2 gets another cuddle
and it looks like our grandson is attempting
to sing a song
Next stop was to my parents house and a meal with my sister and her family. Although we are similar in age, I am almost two years older, my sister has a younger family than I do, she had one of 13 and one who is 2. The two year old is a little whirlwind and reminds me so much of our youngest. I have to say, I was grateful to have had my whirlwind when I was 25 and not now. Fortunately the little chap is a sweety with lovely curly locks, just rather active. It was really lovely to see his older sister, taking part in keeping him entertained too, that must be a great help for my sister for some of the time at least, but I can understand what she means when she is so tired at the end of the day.
A Lancashire view from my parent's house

Blue skies on our return to Southern shires
And so we wended our way back down South, gradually entering a greener and greener land, with more and more flowers. Our luck with the traffic also held out, even as we entered into Coventry to see my little whirlwind - only he is not such a little one or a whirlwind any more. He has grown up and is now in his last year at Uni, nearly ready to set off into the world of work. We could only spend a few hours with him, which for his part is probably just as well as he draws his work to a close and gets closer to his deadlines. He had promised his older brother and wife a Christmas present and somehow didn't manage to get one, so a bacon and brie baguette sandwich was on order as a belated present. We wished each other a Merry Christmas and bemoaned the lack of fairy lights, as you do on such occasions- yes we are all completely batty. At least it meant that my son finally got to meet his nephew for the first time and we got to see a bit more of his fiancé and her daughter.

Kite-surfers catching the waves
And now is the last day of our excursion. Ready for home after a month away and much travelling, but sad to be saying goodbye to our little grandson and his Mum and Dad. We have had a lovely time, with much laughter, much food - which all seems to have gone up in price since we left the UK ten years ago and probably an extra few inches of baggage around the middle (not sure the Banoffie pie today helped), as well as the extra baggage in our suitcases. So Latvia, here we come once again!

Monday, 22 April 2013

Chilled out in Oz

Yay! Oh little granddaughter, already growing up fast
Our little granddaughter is gorgeous, but then you would expect me to say that wouldn't you? In just the nearly two weeks we have been here, there are many changes going on, she is starting to take notice and you would almost think she really is smiling at you and it isn't just wind. We haven't got up to much whilst here, having a baby around with frequent feeds, does tend to curtail outdoor activities. My health hasn't helped either. I was back to the dentists for a second prescription of antibiotics after the first lot didn't agree with my system. Fortunately with the second prescription and the recommended probiotics I actually felt human for the first time in weeks and I am finally off the painkillers.

We did manage a short walk and were rewarded with the
sight of some wallabies
So much of our time here in Perth has been hanging around at home, taking trips out to the shops, taking the baby out for a walk to let Mum sleep and in the process testing out the waterproofness of the new pram - fortunately it passed, and a barbecue. We have been looking at the photo updates from back home in Latvia and the snow has now almost gone, with quite a rapid thaw in the last few days and so barbecue weather may have arrived or be about to arrive in Latvia, whereas here it was just about the last of the season with temperatures finally cooling, much to the relief of our daughter and son-in-law. It has been an unpleasantly humid summer for them here.

Not the most glamourous of photos, but showed I did get a
look in, in the cuddles stakes. Grandad is still the best at
getting little ones off to sleep
My daughter surprised me at the barbecue by putting candles into the cupcakes she had made and getting everyone to sing happy birthday to me. I hadn't realised that was what she intended to do with the cupcakes and nearly spoilt the surprise by tucking into one, as she was busy feeding the baby during the barbecue. Fortunately no one else decided to follow my lead. My birthday is not actually until today and so the celebrations have continued on this our last day of our visit to Oz. I have been thoroughly spoilt, first by my son-in-law going out first thing to get us croissants for breakfast, then out for a quick trip to the shops to find some elusive sandals (haven't been able to find many - well it's autumn here isn't it), next for lunch out. We let my daughter and son-in-law out and about for a few hours on there own too, while we babysat - a treat in itself, as it has meant lots of cuddles with baby

Australian scerey
The problem with not feeling quite so human is that I haven't been able to get on with my studies which was kind of worrying with assignment deadlines looming. I managed one assignment on the plane on the way here and checked it when I arrived, while I still felt reasonably human, but the statistics defeated me. Many of my notes weren't written up after the lectures due to not feeling well and when I look back at the work I did it isn't making a great deal of sense, partly because not all the information is translated from Estonian, which slows me down a lot. Fortunately my lecturer has proved very understanding and given me extra time to get the work done and a book recommendation. It would have been nice to get this finished off, but such is life!
Snow has nearly gone back home

I bet these guys are pleased to see the back of the snow too!

Monday, 15 April 2013

Down under

Singapore airport
Well to continue on from last week's blog, I am now sitting in Australia typing up the blog. My very quick update to say the blog would be late because I was travelling was sent from Singapore, our stopover to Perth. We have never been to Singapore and didn't get to see much of it at all, or many people come to that as the airport was rather quiet. The view from the airplane showed a very green land with lots of flowers, rather different from the cold Spring we had just left in the UK. It was sad to say goodbye to our new grandson and his parents, but exciting in another way as we were about to see our daughter, her husband and their even newer baby. Our daughter was fortunately discharged from hospital in plenty of time to meet us at the airport and so we got to see the new baby straight away.

Picnic in the park. Yes no blue skies but I think I still
caught the sun a little
We haven't done a great deal here in Australia for several reasons, firstly tiredness of course, secondly our daughter is not up to long trips out just yet and mainly because the whole purpose of our visit was to visit our little Aussie grandchild. One of our daughter's friends came to visit, someone who we got to know quite well from our last visit as we stayed in her house and our daughter's wedding was held there, so it was nice to meet up again. Whilst she was here she called Ian a "baby whisperer" which sounds very apt, as he is still showing his flair for being able to get little ones off to sleep. We have though visited a glorified car boot sale place or in this case called a community market, as our daughter wanted some metal art that costs a fortune in boutique kinds of places, but was more reasonable in this particular market, we have walked to the shops - a feat in itself with a new buggy, they just don't handle the same way they used to  and we had a picnic in the park today. Not the sort of thing that we could do in Latvia and was even a tad too cold in England, but despite sliding into autumn in the land down under we are in shorts and t-shirts and revelling the sight of green grass.

The picture you were waiting for, our little granddaughter.
There is one visit I would rather have not have made this week and that is to the dentist. My teeth felt fine when in Latvia, but whether it is the travel or the change in diet they started to ache in the UK and by the time we got to Australia I was starting to have some real problems. Our daughter and her husband haven't had the chance or necessity to find a good dentist yet and so I ended up scouting one out for them that had been recommended. An honour I assure you I would rather have not undertaken on their behalf. It would appear that one of the nerves in my tooth was dying and an infection setting in, so an x-ray, a new filling, some digging around in nerve canals and antibiotic paste and you can tell the dollars were adding up. Let us say it cost a tad bit more than it would have done in Latvia and was only a temporary fix until I get back home for the works - aren't I looking forward to that!!!!!!! I will have to let you know next week if it was a success as my tooth still aches and I went and got the antibiotics that   the dentist gave me on prescription today, as it is still not settled yet.

Not something you see every day in Latvia
I have to say I am a little tired of being sick now, it seems to be one thing after another. My arm is still not 100%, although much better than it was last week. I have been threatened with the doctors when I get back, unless my arm is up to lugging bales of hay around. Typically of course I very, very rarely get stopped in security and yet with my sore arm I did, not once but twice. Each time I had to explain I couldn't hold my arm up properly as it was sore, especially problematic in an all body scanner where you are supposed to assume a pose with feet wide apart and hands above your head. Fortunately the lady security officers in both cases, were very sympathetic and gentle, in fact I think they were a little scared of injuring me further, which I found mildly amusing. In the end I did work out that even though my shoes appeared to have very little metal in them, there must have been more sewn into them and so on the third trip through a security scan I took them off. I shall have to remember that on future occasions, as I am likely to be travelling a little more often in the next few years.
The grey skies may seem familiar but the
trees somehow do not

The hoover duck, it just seemed to go around as if it was
hoovering up any little tasty treats, rather like our cat
I love visiting our children now that they are adults and seeing what kind of people they have grown into. I am very proud of their thoughtfulness and the conscious decisions they make around what and where they spend their money. Maybe something rubbed off on them, or maybe I can't take any credit for it, but it blesses me anyway. Both our children use local businesses to buy their fruit and veg rather than the local supermarkets by preference, which I find very encouraging. Our son and his wife in the UK use a local greengrocer - such a rarity these days, and my daughter uses a local delivery service. Both are finding the benefits of using these more personal services, getting to know the folks or just enjoying the fresher produce and variety.
This week back home, our alpacas with their other little
helper. I think the weather is a little different to here

The snow melting and the lake filling in. At
least it is going.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013


Our little helper in the snow that has fallen
since we left Latvia
Last week was a little fraught, trying to get ready whilst still not quite so well. I had hoped to get my uni work done before going away, but that wasn't going to happen, I just couldn't manage getting all our stuff washed, the house clean and be coherent enough to work my way through my assignments. Ian had also hoped to get a lot of preparation work done on the land to make sure we didn't get flooding whilst away, but that needed some snow to start melting and there wasn't much of that happening, in fact he was even on yet more snow clearing duty just before we went after another snow fall. When we left to travel to England on the Wednesday it was -18C - rather cold for March, even in Latvia. Our neighbour from our apartment block is looking after things while we are away and sent pictures of even more snow since we have gone. Apparently her son was going to clean the snow away, bless him, that would be a lot of cleaning if he managed it and he's only little - my little helper in the summer for those who remember those posts.

Pops in his favourite pose
England was warmer, but not as much as we would have thought. Although it was cold in Latvia, it is often without the stiff breeze that you get near the coast in England. Our leggings went back on and the fleeces dug back out as it tried to snow, fortunately it didn't succeed in doing more than producing a few flakes in the breeze. Our welcome from our son, his wife and new baby was warm though. It has been a pleasure to see our son enjoying fatherhood and working well with the baby. None of this hands off or awkwardness that you sometimes see in new fathers. Ian hasn't lost the knack of getting babies off to sleep though. The little one had been ill the week before and so was a little more grizzly at times and Pops, as Ian is called, was able to get him off to sleep. As the week went on, the little one got better and we could see his smiley little character come through more and more - yes we are quite smitten and yes we got plenty of cuddles.

After the Thanksgiving, four generations!
My parents came down for the weekend too as there was a Thanksgiving for our son's little one, so we went out for walks, ate out quite a bit and generally enjoyed the company. We went out to a lovely fish restaurant and Ian and I shared a meze fish meal - well it saved us having to decide which fish we wanted to eat. We do like fish and it is not something we can easily obtain in our rural village in Latvia, unless we take up fishing ourselves. On one of our walks we found a little craft fair, which wasn't brilliant, apart from one stall which had novel gift items. There were cup cake baby socks and baby items put together in such a way it looked like a pram - very ingenious, maybe more expensive than buying just a pair of socks and a couple of mini silicone rubber cupcake cases, but so interesting and different they made a lovely little gift for grandchild number two.

Arundel castle
It was a sign of the times that our new granddaughter was announced to us via email on our son's smartphone while we were out and about, but the announcement was almost instantaneous. Despite the fact our daughter was in Australia and we were in the UK, we were able to keep up-to-date with the labour, or unfortunately, the lack of labour and the resulting c-section. We were able to send comments and encouragements along the way and when she was bored in hospital waiting for the her baby to put in an appearance we were able to email back and forth. Makes quite a difference to the times when someone might be aware that a family member was going into hospital but you then had to wait until after the birth and dad had got sent home to find out what happened. Amazing what differences new technologies can make.

A little different from Latvia, still cold though
By the way, sorry for the delay in updating the blog but all will be revealed next week

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


Sorry this is late but I'm travelling. I will catch up soon with you all and update you about our trip to see our new grandson.

Monday, 1 April 2013

Spring? Remind me what that is again!

Not what I wanted to see today, more snow showers
It's April! I know you know that, but I'm just trying to remind myself that, as the snow continues to fall, which it has done pretty much all day today. It takes a lot to make me winter weary, but I am today. I opened the curtains this morning and uttered an "Oh no!" as I saw the carpet of white unsullied by human prints, yet again! It was melting quite nicely yesterday, even heard the drip, drip sounds that seem such distant memories. It was a lovely sound, the promise of warmer days ahead, the promise of a more colourful future and not the monochromes of winter. Even the Vitamin D tablets couldn't banish the winter blues this morning. I suppose that it doesn't help that I have been sick pretty much all week too. Ian even came down with the dratted bug too and we have done rather a lot of sleeping. In fact we haven't done a great deal of much else.  I went out with Ian to the land and we both sat in the greenhouse and slept in the caravan on a couple of nice days, the problem was that Ian recovered quicker than me and ended up tip-toeing around, so I wasn't much use as company out there. 

Our new crocheted coasters
I was meant to go to Tartu again this week to finish off the practicals and lectures in statistics, but I was far too sick to travel up that far, in fact I even ended up sleeping on the couch for three nights so Ian wasn't disturbed by my coughing. So as you can tell, it hasn't been the best of weeks here. Easter sort of came and went. A neighbour of ours made some lovely coasters for our cups of tea, such a lovely idea and I know how busy she is, so much appreciated too. I summoned up enough energy to make some teacakes, they were going to be hot cross buns, but I just couldn't quite summon up that amount of energy to do the pastry/paste crosses on the top, so they ended up as teacakes. Latvia has a similar tradition to one I used to know as a kid of rolling eggs down the hill, that is a bit of a joke this year, it would be more snowballs that they would end up with. 

Ian chipping away at ice, in preparation for
the thaw!!!! Now filled with snow again
To cap it all our favourite chocolate bar has changed their recipe. We could pretty much guarantee being able to find Tupla bars in our local shops and they were chocolately enough to really satisfy a good old chocolate craving. They had little bits of almonds in the chocolate outer layer and that was fine, but they have changed to peanuts last month and they taste awful. Not only that but peanuts brings Ian out in cold sores, which is not exactly helping when our immune system is pretty low this week too. I am just grateful that we managed not to pass on the bugs to our visitors of last week, I think they have had pretty much everything going this winter and been far worse than we have with the viruses. I suppose I should be grateful, just it is rather hard when I feel so tired and my arm still hurts quite badly after the fall three weeks ago. So where do we now turn to for our chocolate fix? Some serious investigation will have to ensue and maybe this is the kick we need to get us back on the fair trade stuff - not that they sell it locally of course!!!!!

Ice on our pond. Ian used the chainsaw to cut away the top
layer. There was a layer of water and then another layer of
ice. At least oxygen can now get to the pond. Who would
have thought, using a chainsaw for cutting ice blocks!
Well it hasn't all been doom and gloom. We were rather surprised to receive voting papers this week, which means we can actually participate in the local up and coming elections. I am quite excited about this, as we really feel there is a need for change in the local politics and we can get a chance to put our two pennyworth in. Okay two votes aren't going to change the whole system, but it's a start anyway. Now all we have to do is to find out how to go about it and get someone to show us how it is all set up. 

After several years of locking each other in or out of the
greenhouse and having a problem if it was windy of the
latch dropping down on the inside of the greenhouse,
Ian came up with a brainwave. The double sided latch.
Now it does not matter whether you have fastened the
door on the inside or the outside, you can still get it.
Clever heh! Now why didn't we think of that before?
The other exciting piece of news is that the international trade negotiations seem to be paying off nicely now. I am needed less and less now help, as understanding grows between the trading partners and I'm just there if there is a problem. We are so excited for our neighbour as her company gets a good boost and there has even been another link developing. They work so hard to create the links and ensure a quality product and it is good to see that hard work paying off.

Tomato seedlings started off. I started repotting them today
In between sleeping, I have as usual spent far too much time on the internet and an article about the anger amongst teachers in the UK grabbed my attention, particularly this quote

"The current annual rises for teachers, intended to reflect their growing experience, are to be replaced by a system linked to performance."
Now do pray tell me, how does one measure performance without subjecting children to endless rounds of testing? Which I thought they had decided, fairly recently was not ever so healthy for children. Also how does one measure a seed planted in a child that germinates into a desire to learn? I know that at times you can train a child till your blue in the face and they still don't respond/learn etc. then a few months, years, decades down the line they suddenly get it. Now how do you measure that? When I made a similar comment on facebook, a friend of mine retorted that maybe they should put MPs on performance related pay and see how they fare under that. Would be an interesting exercise indeed. We would soon find out who are the hard working members of Parliament then.

The trees are showing signs of life,
honest! They are starting to bud now
I then began to wonder how they would measure the success of some of my old teachers. Mr. Sharrock is one that stands out as a giant amongst my teachers. A very strict disciplinarian, but as I discovered a soft heart too for those who weren't so fortunate in the academic circles. I didn't go on to study history, his subject, but I did come away with a love of the subject and a fascination for the industrial revolution and the transformation it wrought - not bad for a 16 year old. Okay in my case I also came away with good results, but in many ways that wasn't the point, I could have got good results and no love of history. What is more important? I came away knowing without a doubt the importance of getting out to vote. I came away with a respect for the social pioneers that helped me forge my passion for justice and is resurfacing in my studies over 30 years later. How on earth do you measure that? I came away from my secondary schooling with a love of learning and a hatred of exams. I did well, I was a good and hard working student, but I was so tired of exams by the time I had finished. I would much rather that students finished their studies with a continued desire to learn more, to have a wonder of the universe around them and a love and care for their environment and people around them. That is far more important and yet so elusive to measure.