I’ve been trying to write this blog for the last 6 days but country living combined with a job is putting a significant pressure on time. Should finish it tonight hopefully.
Despite being the new diet of Latvian flies, despite the 90 min commute to Riga every morning, despite the tap water smelling and tasting awful, despite the acres of weeding I have to do and despite the problems of trying to find reliable, sober tradesman, would I swap my life for anything else? Absolutely not!!!!
The pleasure of coming home in the evening, sitting outside (even in the rain), enjoying my evening meal with a glass of wine whilst listening to the sounds of the cranes and the storks in the background, what could beat that.
That’s not to say there haven’t been moments when I’ve cursed a lot. Particularly one Saturday afternoon when I decided to change the filters to our water supply. We have 2 sources of water. Our deep bore water hole, which I think is about 30 meters deep, and our well. The water hole supplies water direct to the house, but it smells and tastes awful. That’s another story. Our well we use for drinking, tastes fantastic. So I decided to change the filters in the hope the water quality would improve. I successfully managed to replace one filter and then disaster. The copper pipe leaving the pump decided to snap leaving water spraying around our cellar. I managed to stem the flow of water but we were now faced with having no water until Monday and having just spent a couple of hours with my favourite toy, the strimmer, my body odours left a lot to be desired. Fortunately the milk lady who uses our field for winter grass for her cows came to the rescue and recommended a plumber who was with us within 20 minutes. My fears regarding the plumber were quickly allayed as he fixed our problem very quickly and efficiently and even offered to come the next day to fix a few leaks we had. I was waiting for a catch, but there weren’t any. He was a normal professional, who didn’t smell of booze. My confidence in Latvian tradesman was improving. We even found out he was a heating engineer and could install our central heating system. We won’t be cold now hopefully.
Our three main tasks since arriving have been:-
- Reclaim the land from the weeds
- Collect all the berries on the bushes
- Plan for what I expect to be a very cold winter. (2 consecutive mild Latvian winters is a long shot)
With the help of my new toy, I think we are 70% there on task 1. Although we have a freezer and cellar full of berries and John/Džons from Jokas Winery helped himself to our surplus of gooseberries, there were many we didn’t manage to collect. Will have to do better next year and employ some help. Inta has been very busy making jams whilst I’ve made some blackcurrant and gooseberry wine and I’m going to attempt blackcurrant flavoured vodka. Delicious from all accounts.
Our main task is to get the house ready for what I expect to be a cold winter. The house has primarily in the past been used as a summer/country house so is probably not ready for living in during the winter. So I have discovered three things need to be done: A central heating system needs to be installed, double/triple glazing installed and a new roof with more insulation. The old roof is corrugated concrete asbestos, something that was very popular in Latvia during Soviet times.
Now in the UK, finding tradesman to do these jobs would be a piece of cake. A quick search on the internet would give me a list of recommended tradesman to call. I would phone a few, get some quotes and make a decision. Here, the competitive free market seems much less developed and sophisticated and I can only assume that people use traders that friends or family recommend. The other thing I’ve noticed is that nothing is ever what it seems. We visited a local builders merchant to look at some sample types of roofing materials. When there, we asked did they know any roofers. There were very obliging and supplied a telephone number. I assume they expected that we would buy the roofing material from them and the roofer would do the job. To be honest that is what I expected. So Inta phoned the guy, who reliably turned up on time, appearing very knowledgeable and professional and took all the measurements. He phoned later, asking to meet him at his office. On arriving we found out that although he was a roofer, he thinks he is too old for all the physical aspects of the job and now works as a administrator for a roofing manufacturer and he would find another roofer to do the job but was quite happy to supply us the roofing material. Well this is the system, so I’m just going to have to learn to live with it. At least I’ve found someone I think I can trust.
Double glazing has appeared to be a simpler job. Contacted 2 firms, received 2 quotes so just have to make a decision. Another infuriating feature of Latvian trades is that they still have not really grasped the concept that the customer is king. Customers pay the bills. We didn’t like how one of the window companies was going to finish off the job cosmetically and we asked could we have it done a different way. The immediate response was “we’ve always done it that way, why would you want it another way”. It was only when they could see they were about to loose a 4500 euro order, they started to think.
The other thing I’ve noticed here is that quotes are broken down into lots of different subsections and you have to add up all the sections to find out your total cost. I can only assume that there are lots of handyman in Latvia who like to do as much of the work on a job themselves if they can. I just want a price for the job, simple. Well if I can get all these jobs done before winter we should be warm.
Before I finish, I have a request. I have a mole infestation. They are ruining my lawn. Every day several fresh mountains appear in the lawn. Now some people tell me that there is nothing you can do about it. I’m a positive thinker so I don’t believe that. Someone told me to collect my urine and pour it down the holes. Not sure about that one. So any suggestions on how to get rid of my moles would be gratefully received