Friday, February 27, 2009

Independence Day

Last Tuesday, February 24th was Independence Day, in fact it's one of two such days over here. This one was a celebration of a battle in 1920 when Estonia beat back a Russian invasion after the Germans pulled out at the end of the First World War.

The second day commemorates August 20th 1991, when the Soviet Empire partially collapsed and Estonia broke free, followed by her slower neighbours Latvia and Lithuania a month later. Eighteen years on and relationship between Estonia and Russia is still pretty awful. But that's a topic for another day, this story is about the activities of February 24th.

There is usually a small military parade in the city centre, but as the main thoroughfare in Tallinn is presently being rebuilt the parade was moved to a provincial town. Incidentally that small town is populated mainly by Russians, many of whom can't and won't speak a word of Estonian.

Coincidentally the Estonian back holiday of "VASTLAPÄEV" fell on the 24th this year and tradition dictated that I go sledging and bake pies. Well far be it from me to ignore a dictator, so I helped bake minced meat pastries, Cinnamon rolls and smoked pork and pea soup. In between plenty of eating and a generous consumption of wine, we went sledging. To the surprise of my companions I didn't crash into anything, instead this time I just fell off with style and a little grace.

In the evening the Estonian president gave his traditional speech. Unfortunately instead of giving the usual “It's great to be a free and Independent European“ , it was more concerned with the economy. Anyway that's Independence Day 1 over with, I'll let you know how the sequel turns out in August.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Breaking the Ice

On Saturday I went to the coastal town of Pärnu and saw something that could only be described as incredible and yet even this word, as grand as it sounds fails miserably to describe the awe inspiring site that lay before me.

Looking out to the horizon the sea was completely frozen, the snow on the ground was so bright and blinding that I needed to wear sunglasses, yet if I removed my gloves my fingers would start to burn from cold within minutes.
We walked for two kilometers on what, within a few more weeks will be open seas once again and then drilled holes through the ice to go fishing.

Listening to crunch of snow under foot, the occasional cracking sound of the ice, the vast emptiness of the landscape is something that can’t be truly appreciated by watching it on television. This is something you need to experience for yourself, this is part of the reason I came here.

Yet inspite of my initial fears that the ground must surely give way underneath me as it was only ice after all, I saw the unbelievable site of a car driving, neigh speeding and spinning ahead of me.
Without a solitary marker on the landscape it would be frighteningly easy to lose direction and walk in circles and that is even without falling snow or attempting it after dusk. And that is another thing of note, the sun doesn’t slowly descend beyond the horizon, it drops like a stone and within moments that same horizon falls into darkness.

The drive home took less than two hours, but what I witnessed that day seemed like a million miles away.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I Lost twenty Kilos

Back in August I was somewhat concerned that my Pizza diet was having a negative impact upon my chances of playing Premiership football, my total lack of talent or age off course played no part in my thinking.

In that fateful month my weight reached 100 kilos.
100 kilos!

Holy Shit that was a scary day, not just for me, but also the weighing scales that had to take my bulk. I knew that I had to do something as I found climbing stairs exhausting and breathing difficult.
Well today I reached my target 79.9 kilos (12.5 stones) Yes twenty full kilos gone.
Gone is the beer belly and double, neigh treble chin. Well at least most of it.

Five months of little to no chocolate, crisps or the usual hot junk food, but instead it was vegetables, fish, chicken and lots of water which finally did the job. At Christmas all the good work went down the proverbial toilet as a beer, wine and Doner kebabs made a welcome comeback, like long forgotten friends.

Once in Estonia I got back to the task in hand. Now five weeks after arriving, 100kg became 79.9. Its hard to believe. The last time I weighed this much or perhaps I should say this little, was when “Jack Charlton was giving it a lash and Packie Bonner made that penalty save against Romania“ .

The secret of my success is not exercise or a totally stringent diet, but having someone take part with you. I had Tiiu's support throughout this exercise. When I craved Taco fries or she wanted chocolate, we were able to see each other through those times.
Exercise had no impact upon my weight loss. For the fist three months I was doing an hour of cardio, while Tiiu did none, yet we practically lost the same amount of weight.
Ironically I bought some dumb bells two weeks ago and was putting weight on using then. However following a difference of opinion I had with a tree while sledging I hurt my back and was forced to give up exercising and then the weight fell off again.

I've heard that losing the weight is only half the battle and that keeping it off is the rest. Well only time will tell.

I should also add that life is now so much better and my girlfriend is a oh so much happier with my new levels of energy and performance.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How did History suddenly become boring?

I had planned to study something while away and not just Estonian. The other day I decided to take an Open University course, to be precise a History degree, afer all most of the books I read are history related.

Unfortunately after reading the syllabus on offer I found my interst diminishing rapidily, rather than being captivated by tales of Revolutanaries, Tyrants and scientic discoveries, I was faced with the history of French art and Western television since the 1950’s amongst other stuff.

This is why is history is called boring, padding courses with stuff that happened more than a year ago doesn’t make it history, it’s simply old news.

Why cant I enjoy what I want to study?
Is this too much to ask for?
Does anybody out there know of a course that meets my expectations?

Prison Break

On Friday I watched Episode one of “Prison Break“.
It’s one of those shows that unless you’ve it from the beginning, there really isn’t any point in watching it.I watched episodes one to five that night and a little over an hour ago season one came to a close.

As there are four seasons of this show the chance of the main characters being killed were slim, but somehow that just didn't matter as we were totally drawn into it.

Coming over to Estonia I brought numerous TV shows, movies, games and books with me, simply because I didn't know how busy I was going to be. The fact that this was the first thing that I’ve sat down to watch, answers the question of how busy I have actually been.

As always I welcome your comments, but if you know who this show progresses please don’t tell me.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Is it really wrong to complain?

It may not be the Irish way and it certainly isn’t the Estonian way of doing things, but it does my heart good to complain.

Recently I wanted to submit my Book Reviews onto, for a wider audience to appreciate. However after a failed attempt, an automatic response told me that I couldn’t upload a review until I registered.
So I registered.
Then I was told that I still couldn’t until I had bought something. This was hardly fair, so I wrote to complain. Unforgivably they wrote back with an acceptable explanation.

But this is not the end of my rant, oh no. For once again, that monumental bureaucracy that is the ESB came charging into my sights, like General Custer merrily galloping through the Little Big Horn .
Just before I left Dublin, I sent them my last metered reading. To my amazement it was nearly four times the usual price. I politely phoned, I politely emailed and I not so politely emailed my concerns.
All to the sum total of being told they were rounding up my bill and not just estimating the cost. But as I was leaving Ireland they promised to investigate my query further and email me in a week or two.

Three weeks later another bill arrives, this time looking for a further €102.00.

Putting pen to paper once again, I expressed my disdain for their performance in words that would have shamed the devil himself.
And then it happen. The following day in fact, an apology no less.
Yes, yes it was true. The all knowing, all loving Electricity Supply Board had realised that they had made a mistake and in fact, they owed me €102.00 Euro and the cheque is now on its way.
It may not be the Irish, Estonian or even your way, but when your cause is just, complain, complain and complain some more

Saturday, February 14, 2009


Traditions have to start somewhere and so Football Saturdays at “The Bar with No Name“, started here four weeks ago.
Better known to the locals as “Nimeta Baar“, it serve the excellent A La Coq beer at €2.20, while the food is relatively inexpensive, quickly served and it's taste would rival pub grub anywhere

Every Saturday afternoon, I found myself in this watering hole watching a premiership match surrounded by a bunch of lads over here on a stag night. Some wearing Liverpool or United jerseys, others nursing hangovers, with most making some attempt to chat up the numerous barmaids. But with little success..

With the two hour time difference between here and Ireland, the first game kicks of at 5:00 and a second at 7:00. The odd thing is that back in Dublin I`d rarely watch a match. but over here it makes the weekend stand out and off course it an opportunity to mix ever so slightly with the locals.

Tomorrows match is West Ham Vs Mboro, hardly a clash of titans, but I`ll be happy with a 5 - 4 win for the Hammers, along with a glass or two of the local brew in the presence of wonderful company (yes thats my Valentine in the picture).

Saturday, February 7, 2009


For my second book BOOK REVIEW, its time for a complete change of pace, a blast from the past no less, not another history book, but Tom Clancy's RED RABBIT

Kindly click on "BOOKS REVIEW" amongst my LINKS down to the Right.

RED RABBIT by Tom Clancy

Inspired by Sean Connery’s portrayl of a Russian submarine commander in “The hunt for the Red October“ oh so many years ago, I read a bunch of Tom Clancy books, such as Patriot Games, A Clear and Present Danger, and of course Red October.
However that was back in the day when the Russians could be counted on to play the nasty super power. With a slight suspicion that Clancy’s books may have lost their relevance I took up “Red Rabbitt“. Written in 2002, its a prequel to the character “Jack Ryan“ and his adventures years before he had heard of the Red October.

Red Rabbit takes place in the 1980s when Reagan and Thatcher defended the borders of democracy and it was still better to be dead rather than red. Jack Ryan is once again the hero through whom we live this adventure. He is a cross between a reluctant James Bond and an accountant, a strange mix to be sure.
Working for the CIA he has to help a Russian with a conscience defect to the west, along with his head full of top secret secrets and news of a KGB plot to kill the pope.

The story moves along at the steady and imaginitive pace you would expect from this author, the desciption of life behind the iron curtain is interesting and at times this book is quite entertaining.
But, thats about it. Maybe my suspicions were right and this is the type of story you cant really appreciate it so long after Reagans “Evil Empire“ speach. Which is a shame as I really wanted to enjoy those halcyon days of submarines, spies and lots and lots of bad guys getting their comeupance.

6,5 out of 10
Yeah its worth a read, but Patriot Games and Red October told similar type of adventures so much better, or maybe that just my memory playing tricks on me

Friday, February 6, 2009


In the World War II movie “MIDWAY­“an Americans analyst proudly announced “We cracked the Jap codes general, or at least 10% percent of it anyway“. Well in the movie that was enough to figure out where the Japanese were going to attack, if not precisely when.
Yeahhhh, erm, well in the real world understanding one word in ten or in my case, one in twenty leaves me all at sea when trying to understand the locals. Fortunately nearly everyone here has sufficient English so I can get by, but “when in Rome, you do as the Romans do“or in this case the Estonians.

My planned English - Estonian class has been postponed indefinitely due to lack of numbers. So until then i'm stumbling along with my flash cards and note pad, scribbling down the occasional word or turn of phrase. It’s a frustratingly slow, but when opportunity allows I throw in a word or two no matter who clumsy or funny it sounds to those around.

To the untrained ear, Estonian words starting with Ts sound like Ds and those with Ps sound like Bs. The other day I had a few people looking around for a Tiger, when I was pointing out a digger (JCB).
A bit of information useless information for you, is that the “Picnic“ is spelt Piknik. However if you pronounce it slowly “Pic _ Nik“ it means „“Long F**K“. Oh yes, guess how I learnt about that?Until next time dear reader.

Until next time dear reader.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


OK, This story has nothing at all to do with me, in fact I got it from "The Times online". But it was to good of an opportunity to let pass as it gives me one more opportunity to make fun of the Russians.

Anyway, my thanks to Tony Halpin from The Times"

Passengers stop flight after 'drunk' pilot sparks panic

It is normally a moment of cheery reassurance when an airline pilot greets passengers during preparations for take-off. But Alexander Cheplevsky sparked panic on flight Aeroflot 315 when he began to speak.
His slurred and garbled comments ahead of a flight from Moscow to New York convinced passengers that he was drunk. When he apparently switched from Russian into unintelligible English, fear turned to revolt.

Flight attendants initially ignored passengers' complaints and threatened to expel them from the Boeing 767 jet unless they stopped "making trouble". As the rebellion spread, Aeroflot representatives boarded the aircraft to try to calm down the 300 passengers.

One sought to reassure them by announcing that it was "not such a big deal" if the pilot was drunk because the aircraft practically flew itself.
Mr Cheplevsky did little to ease passengers' fears by refusing to leave the cockpit to show that he was sober. When he was finally persuaded to face them, witnesses said that he appeared unsteady on his feet and had bloodshot eyes.
"I don't think there's anyone in Russia who doesn't know what a drunk person looks like," Katya Kushner, one of the passengers, told the Moscow Times, which had a reporter travelling on the flight.
"At first, he was looking at us like we were crazy. Then, when we wouldn't back down, he said 'I'll sit here quietly in a corner. We have three more pilots. I won't even touch the controls, I promise'."
Aeroflot's bad day got worse when it emerged that the socialite and television host Ksenia Sobchak was on board. Ms Sobchak, one of Russia's best-known personalities, demanded that all four pilots be replaced.

The airline finally relented and summoned new pilots to fly the jet to New York three hours late. More than 100 passengers passed the time as they waited by signing a petition declaring that they believed Mr Cheplevsky had been drunk.
Ms Sobchak told Ekho Moskvy radio a few days later that she believed the pilot had been in no condition to fly. She said: "It took him three attempts to say the words 'duration of flight'. Even after Aeroflot personnel asked him to do so, he barely made it out of the cabin."
An Aeroflot spokeswoman said that tests had revealed no trace of alcohol in the pilot's blood. She blamed "mass psychosis" among passengers for the decision to replace the crew, although the company later issued a statement saying that Mr Cheplevsky could have suffered a stroke just before the flight.

The pilot told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda that he had been celebrating his 54th birthday with friends the night before the flight on December 28, but insisted that he not been drinking.
The row is a public relations setback for an airline that has worked hard to overcome its "Aeroflop" image. In the Soviet era, it was known for its unsmiling air hostesses, poor customer service and inedible food.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Brass Monkey Weather?

Last night temperatures dropped down to -24 degrees in the countryside and its now a mere -12 degrees outside these walls, oh yes its 12:50 in the afternoon.

Brass monkey weather? I hear you ask.
Well actually no it isn't, its felt a lot colder in Dublin at -1.

"It's Life Jim, but not as we know it"