Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
Estonia has vast open fields stretching out to the horizon, it's a country that makes it impossible not to relive the history that passed this way. As the snow turns this country white, laying a meter deep in places and temperatures dropping to minus fifteen it was so easy to imagine Hitler's and Napoleon's troops retreating this way.
With their animals and trucks collapsing, their weapons seizing and their armies just lying down and succumbing to the cold. Okay, so Napoleon didn't exactly pass through Estonia, but rather a couple of hundred miles to the south in Latvia, but you know what I mean.
Well today I went to the Maritime museum and clambered aboard the Estonian World War II Submarine Lembit and this history was literally all around me. The closest I've gotten to a submarine before today was watching one pass by a cross channel ferry many many years ago. But today was something completely different, although it was free of diesel fumes, the pounding sounds of its engines or the voices of its crew, this was the real thing. I could picture the submariners standing where I now stood beside the torpedo tubes preparing to fire or crouching as depth charges exploded all around them. Yet the cramped working conditions, bunks resting above torpedoes, small compartment doors and the famous periscope, these were all still here.This particular submarine had quite a history. Built in Scotland for the briefly independent nation of Estonia, it was then taken over by the Soviet Union in 1941 when they occupied the country while the majority of its officers were "Removed for being untrustworthy". This last comment usually meant that they were put against a wall and shot, for believing that Estonia had any rights to be a free state. It actual war record is still something of a secret.
For a bit more info on all this, click on the link.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Please click on MY BOOK REVIEWS on the right hand side of this page.
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Saturday, March 14, 2009
So here it is.............
A Very Big Small Market
Hidden amongst all the tales of the credit crisis is a small success story that has gone relatively unnoticed, namely the boom in the second hand clothes market.
Prior to 2007 thrifty shoppers went into such stores out of curiosity or the hope of finding a designer label left in during happier times, back when we could buy what wanted and when we wanted it.
Yet even back in the pre-credit crunch days many of us were already shopping in the world’s largest second hand store that is EBAY. This global player may belong to the twenty-first century, but many of the products on its virtual shelves belong to yesteryear.
Ironically while this American giant has seen its own net profit for the final quarter of 2008 fall to $367m (£264m) from $532m for the same quarter the previous year, its much smaller competitors are experiencing happier times.
In the Baltic country of Estonia shoppers are saving their cents while also easing pressure on the environment by purchasing items in the local second hand and charity shops.
A spokesman for the country’s National Statistics Office said “that in January 2008 to 2009, sales in household goods fell by one third, but during the same period there was nearly a 40% increase in the sale of second hand items”
Although there has been a steady increase in business from this sector since 2004, it was after 2007 that this increase became so dramatic.
However, the Statistical Office offered a word of caution, stating that although the increased turnover was remarkable in its own sector, it was still a small percentage in the overall economy and will have little impact upon it.
Meanwhile in England two hundred million tonnes of stock are disposed of every year, with only 16% being left over for recycling. In an interview with the B.B.C. Beverly McDermott from the Saint Bernardo’s charity stated that “in the economic downturn more and more people are visiting their stores, but at the same time donations are falling, leaving more and more shelves empty”.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Saturday, March 7, 2009
Today was another first. I went ice skating for the first time. In the space of sixty minutes a went from an "ice skating novice" to an "ice skating novice with sixty minutes of experience".
Actually it was a lot better than that. In fact I loved it. My sixty minutes on the ice passed in what seemed like twenty. Yes Yes I absolutely loved it. Cant wait to go again. Indeed my next spin on the ice, apart from walking and sliding on the roads every day, should be one day next week on an indoor rink.
But enough about what will be and back to what is and what was.
The rink as you can see from the pictures was outdoor, surrounded by the medieval towers of Tallinn and a bunch of English tourists, who for once weren't here just for a stag night. Fully aware of my inability to stand up on ice on the street and my wonderful ability to fall over, even on escalators. I made sure that I was well padded, so that when I would fall, which I was bound to , at least I would be well padded this time.
Wearing bright orange skates, I was given my instructions, to lean forward, bend my knees, stand in a "V" stance and push off. Knowing all this I still looked like what I really was. Namely a terrified amateur, convinced that I was going to fall and fall again.
Yet to my surprise and those around me, I only fell once and within the hour I was picking up speed and leaving the safety of the side railing far behind me.
Snow, Ice, Frozen coast lines, this is what travelling is all about.
Oh yes, one more thing. Having convinced myself that I can now skate, I went out and bought a pair of roller blades. I'll let you know how that works out in a later episdoe.
Thursday, March 5, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
After eight weeks away from the constant rain, frustrating traffic congestion and over charging of every product and service that is Dublin, I felt a tinge of nostalgia. OK maybe nostalgia is too strong a word for it, but yesterday evening as I sat down to watch Ireland beat England at Croke Park, I heard an Irish accent for the first time since arriving here.
No longer did it sound like the background noise that once blurred into nothingness that I used to hear a million times a day, but now it was rather unique sound, if not exactly the voice of an angel. With tricolours flying around Croker and the BBC cameraman offering a birdseye view of Dublin it somehow seemed cleaner, fresher and better than I remember.
Perhaps it wasn't nostalgia afterall, but rather an awarenes of my Estonian assimilation. I found myself looking at these images of Dublin and saying to the Norwegians, Germans and Estonian who were about to watch this "strange version of football" beside me and saying “Yeah, yeah, Dublin looks like a nice place to visit“.
At the bar and to my immense pride, I not only ordered a round of drinks in Estonian, but was complemented by the staff for my efforts. Later on I even exchanged a few words with one or two of the locals.
I'm now finding my way around Tallinn, the transport system and currency exchange no longer present the problems they once did and although I still look the wrong way when crossing the streets I'm feeling more and more at home.