Latvia


Sorry (again) for the recent silence. I’ve been a bit poorly (again). A bit of explanation at the end of this post.

I have a somewhat eclectic taste in music but I wouldn’t have thought at my advanced age I’d be discovering new forms of music that I enjoy but it’s happened twice in recent months. Anyone who’s followed me for a while will know me as a ‘classical music man’.

Post Modern Jukebox

The first ‘discovery’, being introduced to it by my Latvian blogging pal Ilze, was Post Modern Jukebox. If you don’t know it they do an amazing variety of covers of well-known songs with a variety of amazing singers and other musicians. The pianist, and founder of PMJ, is just wonderful.

Scala Radio

But this post is about Scala Radio, a much more recent discovery. I won’t go into why I was looking for an alternative to my regular radio listening for the past 16 years or so – the ‘other classical music station’.

You can listen to Scala Radio on an app as I do, on internet, on a ‘smart speaker’ (whatever that is) and on DAB if, unlike me, you can tune to it.

Experiencing new classical music

First, after over three quarters of a century of listening to classical music it was rare indeed to encounter something that I didn’t know or at least did not recall hearing before. It’s happened several times with Scala Radio in the short time I’ve been listening to it, perhaps particularly on the ‘show’ from 4 to 7pm weekdays hosted by Mark Forrest. He usually broadcasts from his historic farmhouse high in the Yorkshire Dales.

Enthusiastic chat

There’s quite a bit of chat from the presenters, and banter between them on changeover. I thought I’d find this irritating but quite the reverse. They are so enthusiastic it’s catching and often amusing. Not one of the presenters has me reaching for the off switch; I cannot say that about other stations.

Interviews

There are interviews with artists who come into the London studio and most of these are really interesting. The most recent I heard was with the Balanas Sisters from Latvia – incredible talent (they played live in the studio) and a really interesting story. It was great to hear John Rutter too; in my opinion he’s one of the great living composers, equally deserving of a ‘Sir’ as those who have it.

Food

There’s a food man on a show once a week and recently a ‘tinto’ from Portugal was  recommended. After a trial bottle I went back and bought every bottle on the shelf!

Early morning birdsong

There’s a great show from 5am to 7am called ‘In the park’, alternating  calm music with sounds of wildlife – birdsong etc. It’s a perfect accompaniment to my morning tea, Yorkshire tea of course!

I don’t like all the shows: I’m not a fan of film music without the film, nor music from ‘musicals’ except live on stage (there are exceptions to both), and I avoid video game music, so some shows which feature only these get switched off. But on the app I can catch up on something I missed, for a week.

Brass bands and choral music

Being a tyke I really like the fact that brass bands appear now and then. And of course choral music.

I’m not enthusiastic about the some of the musicians(?)/composers(?) championed by the presenters. One I really dislike. I dare not tell you the three I most dislike. They are all very popular. They get paused.

I’ve said enough. Try it!


Regular followers know about the overriding health condition. In recent weeks I couldn’t eat, losing well over 10kg in little over a fortnight. It culminated in camera and surgical instruments being shoved down my throat while I was awake. Far worse than the open surgery I’ve had in the past. But, as ever, I was well looked after by the Airedale Hospital nurses and am now am eating well and feeling good.

 

Picture of the Latvian natural wool socks on my feet

My natural wool hand knitted Latvian socks; teddy looks on enviously

Yesterday was ‘National Sock Day’. Although I believe that ‘National’ in ‘National Sock Day’ (4 December) refers to the USA I celebrated it anyway. My tootsies have been warm and cosy despite the worst that November could throw at us and this has continued into December, thanks to one beloved pair.

Not that we’ve been together for very long; I’m living up to the stereotypical male image and have forgotten our first anniversary, but I’m hoping that by remembering them on the ‘national day’ I might be forgiven.

Natural wool socks from Latvia

They are both immigrants who entered the country not long before we met. It was love at first sight. Born in Latvia, still wearing a kind of national dress in natural wool when they arrived; the white symbols against the background grey might be stars or snowflakes.

We are in a comfortable threesome; I haven’t noticed any tension between left and right and I have no favourite, they are both beautiful and each lavishes the same care upon me.

They are my constant companions around the house and were I able to take long walks as I used to do (30 miles over the Yorkshire moors or through the Dales was not unusual) they would be my constant companions on those too

They were hand knitted by the mother of a blogger, Ilze, who I’ve followed for about two years, becoming particularly close ‘blogging friends’. She blogged about these socks recently herself, at:

Pure wool socks

She has an Etsy shop where you can buy them, either what’s in stock or to order’. You’ll find it here:

Etsy shop ‘FamilyBizzBuzz’

There are also some interesting educational items, for small children, in the shop.

I’ve never been a fan of Advent calendars (usually too many sweets) and for this year it’s a bit late for an Advent calendar but I must mention a free one you’ll find on Ilze’s blog. Last year I used is as intended, cutting a little off Santa’s beard each day. This year I’m doing something different: each day I add a new Latvian word and the English translation. You’ll find the calendar here:

Printable Santa’s Beard Countdown Calendar

Latvia's flag

Latvia’s flag

Today is Latvia’s ‘Independence Day’. In fact the country is celebrating its 100th birthday today. Two years ago I would not have known that, nor would it have had any importance to me. Now, thanks to the wonder of blogging, I know far more about this small (certainly in terms of current population) country and take an interest in its culture, history and language. Admittedly that’s down to one blogger, Ilze, with whom I’ve developed a particularly close blogging relationship.

Many years ago I did visit Riga briefly, on the way to Helsinki and St Petersburg (it was then called Leningrad), though which way round I don’t remember but probably Finland first as that was work, USSR as it was then was just an interest in the city, as it was for Latvia’s capital. In those days, running my own business with overseas clients, I often used a client visit as an excuse to make an itinerary to take in other places of interest.

Would Riga now be ‘disappointing’?

I would probably be disappointed now by Riga – I suspect that though the architecture would be the same, as in Sibiu in Romania, the culture which attracted me has probably been overwhelmed by commerce – tourist cafes and restaurants, etc. I’m not a city person but nevertheless I would like to see the city again now that I know much more about the country.

Latvians are rightly proud of their independence; they fought hard for it in every sense of the word. Again, thanks to blogging I know not only much of the overall story but even some individual, personal stories.

The general story you can find elsewhere on internet, so I will not repeat it here, but personal insights are thanks to my special blogger friend, which I will not repeat here either. What I will do is pick out some unusual facts which have intrigued me.

Aerial photo of the beach at Salacgrīva

The beach at Salacgrīva

Seven things you may not know

  • Latvia is believed to be now the country with the tallest women, though I believe there are individual women who are taller elsewhere. Although I am well past doing anything about that now it is interesting because I have always found tall women attractive, as anyone reading my short story ‘The Girl in Block 18’ might have concluded.
  • Latvia is a leader in terms of internet connectivity.
  • It is also a leader in use of open source software. Perhaps that is more linked to freedom than saving money. Internet was, of course, intended to be free to all but has been largely taken over by commercial or governmental interests. I use a lot of open source software and had I not been introduced to PCs with an Apple computer (Europa II) long ago (actually 44 years ago) I would probably be using Linux today.
  • I knew of course Latvia had a coastline but I didn’t know it had a beautiful seaside, golden sands stretching from sand dunes to an inviting sea. So, if I ever manage to visit the country a stop in Salacgrīva, the home town of my ‘special’ blogging friend, will be a must.
  • Latvian food is mostly extraordinarily simple but delicious, from what I’ve learned from following blogged recipes from my good Latvian friend.
  • The country in which you will find the most Latvians who have left their own country is right here, the UK. You are all very welcome.
  • Latvia should be referred to as a ‘northern’ country, not an ‘east European’ country. If you know the history you will know why Latvians dislike being referred to as ‘east Europeans’. That’s not just because it is geographically incorrect.

So, on this day especially I wish my good blogger friend Ilze and her family, along with all Latvians everywhere, a great celebration and a bright future.