Why I Heart Latvia

Brainstorm

This Latvian band I was a great fan of in my early teens. They also introduced me to the country and its language. A lot of other girls my age liked Brainstorm and Renars Kaupers. I remember being annoyed by one girl out in the yard singing their song. What’s she doing singing it?! This is MY favourite band. I even got their autographs and all the usual fangirl stuff. When I first heard their song”Under My Wing” in Latvian, I fell in love with the sound of the language.

Language

To me, it’s one of the most melodious languages in Europe. I love it’s soft L’s. University made it possible for me to learn a little as well. Not enough to hold a conversation, but the little I do know has proven quite useful when travelling in Latvia.

Ice cream

They actually make ice cream out of milk and cream in Latvia, not water and milk powder which head the ingredients lists here. The variety of flavours is greater too.

Cats

Latvians seem to love cats a lot more than Estonians.  The souvenirs of Riga feature a black cat from the roof top below, the Sigulda town centre is dominated by a chain that calls itself Cat’s House, including a cafe that serves a cake with a cat decoration on top. Or used to serve it anyhow. There’s a cat hostel in Riga’s old town, a cat feeding house in the town park, and one curious spot behind the opera house that I have started to call the Cat Park. There’s always cats there in that park. I don’t know why they are there, but they always are.

 

Cat hostel

Cat hostel

Flowers

Latvians also appear to love flowers more than we do. I love their Midsummer’s Eve tradition of wearing wreaths. I wish we had something like that still alive and it wasn’t just about making a fire and getting drunk. It was enchanting the first time I experienced it. They do get drunk too of course. Also, I have this quirky habit of smelling flowers while walking past them in the park. I don’t do it when I’m alone – that’d be too weird – but when there’s someone along, I tend to make a stop and smell a flower or two if they look promising.  Naturally, of all places, it should be in Latvia that I encountered the first and only person with a similar quirk. He too walked with his friend and stopped to smell the flowers in the park. It was heart-warming to spot a fellow-weirdo.

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Sigulda

Beautiful views and nature. Valleys, hills, rivers, castles, manors, shortage of ugly houses – what more could one want. A main square perhaps.

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And of course the plums! I got the best plums ever from one of the local supermarkets.

Cecis

I love the compact cute town centre. Sadly, lacking pictures of it. Never took any or deleted them, god knows, but lack is great.  Only found this castle.

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Kuldiga

Charming little town with beautiful nature around it. I wish I could go for long walks around there.

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I could live in any of these three towns much rather than I live in my own.

 

 

Snippet

A few weeks ago, maybe a month, I noticed I had grown tired of pop music. One day I had found it vacant, lacking in variety, and couldn’t see any value in it any more. I thought – oh good, my music taste has finally improved. It took its time, but better late than never. I was really proud of myself.

But alas, I’m listening to Ed Sheeran as I type this. So it’s back to old ways, and it was only a momentary loss of interest. I think pop music has its place with me, its moods. I don’t know what would have to happen for me to grow forever tired of it. Brain surgery perhaps.

 

It’s interesting because some sentimental type of literature I’m quite allergic to. The other day even Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensbility made me go “eww, none of that stuff please.” But music is different.

Wodehouse

“He has the most distorted ideas about wit and humour; he draws over his books and examination papers in the most distressing way and writes foolish rhymes in other people’s books. Notwithstanding he has a genuine interest in literature and can often talk with enthusiasm and good sense about it.”

Dulwich College report on P.G. Wodehouse, 1899

 

I want to write foolish rhymes in other people’s books too. It sounds like a charming thing to do.

 

Getting a sore throat

My vocal chords are clearly not used to my recently more extroverted personality. I got a sore throat from talking for 6 hours in a row. It’s not the first time either, but the other time I assumed it had been air conditioning or a draught.

Continuing on truth

I’m struggling to find things to write about on the blog now that I’ve banned introspection and incompetent statements expressed with unfitting confidence.

I’d just end up producing lies or texts that embarrass me upon a second reading.

Introspection defines the self. The moment I do that and realise that I’m X rather than Y, I cancel out the Y. Even though the Y might also exist in me. A while back, I wrote about how I assumed I was an introvert for most of my life and my lifestyle adapted to this. Currently, it’s taking a lot of effort from me to adjust my life to my extroversion. Making new friends at my age is not the easiest thing etc.

I think all these introspective thoughtlings that I have – and continue to have because I am simply like that and cannot help it – they should stay amorphous like my dreams. I will think and analyse as before, but I shouldn’t drag them out into the open. Just as with dreams, when expressed outside the mind, they become one’s prison bars, limiting a person to a homogeneous identity, which mine is not.

Some time ago, I was rehearsing a difficult conversation in my head. I didn’t seem to get anywhere with figuring out the best way of saying what I wanted to say. In the middle of yet another clumsy monologue, I stopped: “Just tell the goddamn truth!”. But what is the truth? All the four or five monologues I had been having were true, but they emphasised completely different aspects and would create a completely different emotion and reaction in the recipient. That was my struggle. They were all true, but I couldn’t easily tell them all because they seemed inconsistent with each other. How can you invoke – or desire to invoke – anger and pity and hurt and disappointment and amiability at once? I would have to choose my preferred narrative, my preferred emotion and tell that. But that would be a lie because the others are as essential.

To my surprise, I do continue on this course of truth-seeking. The mood Jean-Christophe and perhaps a certain person I know (whose name begins with the letter J) have led me to, seems to be more lasting than I initially dared predict. In the end, I resolved the above situation by deciding to offer no explanation whatsoever and simply say the gist in one sentence. At least I wouldn’t be lying and avoiding that seemed topmost.

I hope in the future I can focus more on simply being and not trying to force the inconsistent manifestations of character into something like a personality. I think it is the right thing to do  – for me, at this point – and not for anyone else, because this is my journey, my shedding of skin I have grown too big for.

It seems old-fashioned to be valuing and striving for truthfulness at our time, but it feels fresh to me, like spring water.

The blog, though, maybe I’ll just start making outfit and recipe posts. This dress is perfect, for example. I don’t think I’ve ever ended up with a dress that fitted me so perfectly in almost every way (it could be a bit longer, that’s the only downside). I’m going to live in it come autumn.

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I look positively cross-eyed on this picture. So maybe mirror selfies are not going to be my new blog direction after all. I think I will do cat pictures instead.

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Practising what I preach

One should read books one can love, I mean.

And well, I chanced on something I loved from the second page onwards. My recent Jean-Christophe infatuation took 200 pages to develop.

I will keep the identity of this author secret at this point, lest I change my mind and come back to this later to blush at my rash adoration. But….

…..the style is wonderful – rich, lyrical, intelligent, decorated with references to classic works of literature, it is like a more “alive” version of Byatt for lack of a better comparison. I now wish I could be reading this in the original.

 

(What’s the point of this declaration? No point. Just recording an enthusiasm.)

Midsummer

I don’t live in the nicest area or the nicest house, but one great redeeming factor is the proximity of the forest and coastal meadows. Even if one day I will be living in a nicer house, in a prettier spot, it’s doubtful whether there’d be woods or seaside within such a short walking distance.

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I’m glad I have these places to go to for walks. Most towns or districts don’t have a lot of pleasant wildness, with a low number of other people disturbing the enjoyment of nature.

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I missed the forest and seaside a lot when I lived in a different town, totally inland, with no sea and even no forest groves at all. That town had only tiny pathetic parks you could walk through in 10 minutes. Provided you take it extra slow. To me, that’s no walk – a proper walk is 3 km or thereabouts.

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Sometimes I don’t feel like walking quite so much, so I take a bike. And walk with it by my side when I change my mind.

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My camera and photographic skills are not good enough to get a decent shareable image of the forest, but there really is one. It’s there behind the meadow.

 

Authenticity dream

Sometimes, truth hits you in the face with a frying pan. And everything you are and were becomes a lie.

I have no wish to disseminate more lies by writing about myself. I don’t like this self.

Let’s see how long my rebellion against falseness lasts. I’d give it two weeks.

Of course, I’d like it to be more. I’d like a rebirth as a purer and truer version of myself.

 

Other than that, my rose is blossoming.

My rose is blossoming

Book impressions: Jean-Christophe I

In my book destroyment post, I mentioned my ugly old editions of Jean-Christophe. I do exaggerate for effect quite often, but as one can see below, I was truthful, wasn’t I?

"Get thee off the shelf and on to the table. You will have your picture taken for the blog. Please be good and try to look romantically and artistically aged."

Get thee off the shelf and on to the table. You will have your picture taken for the blog. Please be good and try to look romantically aged.

These were published in 1958. They have been repaired with adhesive tape in places, the covers are somewhat loose, there’s pages sticking out, some staining, and general wear and tear. I got them for free at the library’s book give-away day.  Since I was so enamoured with the first book, I naturally checked whether there were any newer editions available so I could replace mine.

There weren’t. But what should I come upon but an advertisement on a local forum. Some person seeking other individuals who had read and been deeply impacted by Jean-Christophe, with a half-apologetic “I’m seeking kindred spirts, you know” at the end. If it hadn’t been posted 10 years ago, I’d have replied.

I don’t think I’ve ever come upon an ad like that on a local forum. A person seeking soulmates based on a book they liked? Yet I can totally see why this particular book.

It tends to inspire and pull into itself if you can at all relate to the main character’s aspirations and temperament.

I’ve been yammering on about Jean-Christophe on the blog for a while. I would apologise for it if I was sorry, but I am not. I want to write of what inspires me at a particular moment and sometimes it just happens to be one and the same thing. It took me more than a year to finish the first volume because I’m weird. The more I like a book, the more likely I am to put off reading it, and go for something else instead. I want to draw out the enjoyment of it.

The first book consists of four volumes and focuses on Christophe’s childhood and early adulthood. His struggles with an alcoholic father, the death of his grandfather, his developing musical talent and fame, his disappointments, humiliations, numerous infatuations, rebellion against falseness and unearned high status in society and in music.

Speaking and thinking truth

The final volume, Christophe’s rebellion years, was where I grew to dislike Christophe a little. Part of the charm of this book is that we are very similar, both highly emotional neurotics, passionately idealistic, who love life but hate what society is doing with it. Our personalities make us be tossed about by life, but we love it still, and find meaning in it, somehow. Just as he was crying by the river, face in the dirt, and was consoled by the awareness of “life” in the grass and birdsong, I’ve been consoled by the winds and the mists on similar days. Yet I couldn’t relate or like this Christophe who had nothing but contempt for every musician who didn’t share his preferences or was less talented, the Christophe who was difficult and alienated everyone with his frank nastiness. I didn’t like the pleasure he took in hating and destroying under the guise of speaking the truth.

I would not disagree with him. My understanding of music is very poor, but I too could relate to his sentiments on singers being full of affectation and theatrical performances being ‘unnatural’, with middle-aged ladies playing Hamlet. I would not disagree, but the manner in which he did it and what the results of it were – is truth in this form wise or necessary?

Truthfulness towards ourselves and towards others is one of the hardest things to successfully execute. Christophe failed and alienated everyone. When I start reading the second book, he will probably achieve a better compromise than that witnessed in the final volume where he had become a complete outcast as a result of his frankness.

Maybe the compromise could be that you remain truthful, but do not hate those with inferior abilities and discernment. A kind of sympathy rather than contempt? This might soften the harshness and antisocial way of expressing one’s truth.

However, the falseness one sees around ourselves has rubbed me the wrong way for a very long time, and inspires rebellion too, so I found Jean-Christophe’s frankness inspiring as much as I found it excessive and distancing.

I too have been comparatively more sincere and unversed in the art of social pretense, so I have a soft spot for such frankness, a kind of rational appreciation, even if emotionally I may recoil from it.

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Christophe rebelled against people who only make a pretense of liking music, but don’t love it.

There’s always been a lot of that about. It’s pretty classic to complain about upper and middle class people attending concerts or art exhibitions more for the prestige than for the love of the thing.

Of the countless girls who show themselves as great book lovers on social media, posting pictures of themselves reading a book in the wild, how many actually read that particular book? Isn’t it more often simply a decoration to get a good romantic look? Because reading books is romantic and if you want to ‘do’ the dreamer type convincingly, you got to have a couple of pictures of yourself reading, preferably on the beach, on a mossy stone near the ruins. I have no doubt some professed book lovers are sincere, but I have as little doubt that some are just putting it on as an element of their public image. And believing in it. That’s why Christophe alienated people to this extent. They believed their own lies.

I’m not above this either. I can create a good public image and in job or university interviews it has served me well. I can believe in it too. Don’t we all do this to some extent? I regret to say, however, that I’m a lot less intelligent and a lot less well-read than I appear. With the pace at which I read books, I couldn’t be all that well-read. I take it as a compliment when people assume I’m familiar with the authors they refer to, but frequently I am not and need to google not to lose face.

I think reading this book made me a lot more aware of my own lies to myself and this is what I’d like to reduce. To dare be a truthful version of myself. To find that truthful version from underneath the exaggerations and image-making. It has always been my goal to be authentic, but reading Jean-Christophe reminded me of how far I am from it still, how lost I’ve become.

The love of a thing. It really ought to be the primary guiding force for enjoying and selecting art to enjoy. Not curiosity, desire to understand and know what people are talking about, or the desire to appear educated. Pure love of a good book, film or musical piece. Not put on appreciation or faked interest. Genuine curiosity is of course different, but even that never beats love.

Maybe one way of uniting truthfulness with pro-sociality would be through a kind of trickster figure? As long as the tricks are friendly. And then there is comedy, of course. Laughing with, not at. I often feel that the only chance I would have of speaking absolute truth would be in my creations, because there I would not be limited by character. I could express all my contradictory truths and inclinations without causing dissonance.

I suppose what I would like to move towards is truthfulness even if it harms my self-image or disadvantages me. Today I caught myself once again denying a truthful assessment of character because I didn’t want to appear pitiful. I didn’t lie while denying it, but I diverted conversation to behaviours that I do possess and which contradict it. Yet, the former assessment was true too. I just happen to suffer from excessive pride and a disinclination to show weakness.

I think our Western society is suffering from the same problem. We attempt to eradicate and deny self-harming truth. It goes as far as the academia and science. We don’t want some hypotheses to be proven correct. We want to do away with truth that does not fit our desired image of ourselves and our humanist ideals, what we’d like us and humanity to be like. This would of course require a separate post of its own, so I won’t dwell on it further.

 

(Some more thoughts coming when inspired…)

Not practising what one preaches

Today is a hopeless one, so I decided to take a sick day in, read a book in bed and try a new comedy starring my current favourite actor. Writing on the blog also fits nicely into a day like this, so here I am.

While reading someone else’s blog, I noticed the blogger criticising one man, who was defending traditional family values publicly, but not being able to keep his own family together. This sort of criticism is often used to discredit what a person is saying. Even the most intelligent people employ it unthinkingly.

But if one thinks a bit.

Consider the people that practice harmful behaviours and preach it. Apologists of paedophilia and zoophilia, for example. Western society being heavily geared towards moral relativism, it is unsurprising that people dare to justify even such behaviours or that criminals may garner sympathy for having had a “difficult childhood”.

The main thing is, however, do we want to have apologists for behaviours that cannot be considered particularly ‘healthy’? Should people really be preaching what they practise? Or should the people whose families did fall apart, who can’t quite avoid cheating or be monogamous, who can’t quite quit drinking or eat healthy, should those people really begin to preach cheating as a justified necessity, drinking as beneficial to one’s creativity, and being fat from overeating as a new lifestyle choice? I think I’d much rather people didn’t preach their weaknesses, but joined the ranks of the “hypocrites” who preach what they fail to practise but believe in as a value. Who try to encourage others and society to be better than they are (even if this is not a concious aim, but more of an attempt to save face?).

I suppose this dislike for people who don’t live according to their ideals comes from the fact that some of them sound moralistic.  And no one likes a moralistic attitude – “You think you are better than us, eh? Look at your own relationship!” “My friend’s daughter’s grandmother saw you eating a burger in McDonald’s! Your healthy eating business is a fraud!” etc. Or maybe it’s simply the easiest way of discrediting someone’s opinion.

Personally, I cannot imagine turning my worst weaknesses into things I’d advocate. If I were an apologist, then an apologist of well-intentioned hypocrisy for the benefit of society, our values and healthier lifestyles. We really don’t need to have paedophilia normalized. The people that cannot help it should at least publicly denounce it, not try to paint it in a positive light. I can understand why they do it – they want a positive self-image, but well. If you are a terrible person, you should deal with the consequences.

Having said all that, I, like anyone else, much prefer a person who actually manages to live up to the ideals he or she preaches. Yet I don’t see why we should automatically discredit someone’s opinion if they fail to live up to what they publicly support. People are not ideal, people are often weak, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have some standards and ideals to aspire to. Speech over and out.