Ok we've arrived in Oz and I completely intend to spend the next few posts describing our visit "home", but before I do that I wanted to write a little report on our last month before we left for Oz. It was focused on getting as much done to the house before we went... and as the drab pseudo-winter dragged by with its fair share of lurking lurgies and sleet, our 'renovators delight' was rapidly reduced to a sad shell. The demolishing crew started work on a Monday morning and by Monday afternoon the place was practically unrecognizable. Seven young strapping lads ripping up floorboards and smashing out old stoves. By the time I got there they had already over-enthusiastically demolished one old stove I wanted to keep and most of the plaster off the walls which didn't have to be removed! But at the end of the two weeks we had got over our losses and were beginning to understand the gravity and enormity of the job we have taken on board... As it turns out, (I know, I know, you all knew this was going to happen) under the plaster, the house was in a much sadder state than we had originally suspected. Everything in the roof structure is rotten and needs replacing; many internal walls need parts rebuilt; almost nothing of the original old finishes remains.
For a museum curator and self-confessed collectibles addict, there were difficult moments, where 'out with the old' was a bit of a nightmare. At times I almost wept in front of all of those manly builders who were ridiculing me for admiring the archaeological layers of wallpaper - which could be peeled off in eras: early 1990s independence with trendy ugly wallpaper; then numerous layers of old-fashioned 1970s soviet wallpaper; then earlier 1950s soviet stencil-rollered paper; then the regal floral or Latvian traditional symbols stencilled in the 1930s; finally to newspapers in the old Germanic font which were dated 1878. The hardest day was arriving when they had begun tearing down an mdf wall which had been painted with groovy 60s retro geometric designs - it would have made a fabulous feature wall in our living room... see photo above.
We are now faced with a much bigger (and more expensive) job than was originally expected, but at the same time, the demolition has also opened the house out to light and let in a fresh breeze, and we are excited about what the final product will be like. And to give the house credit: it is 120 years old. It's seen more winters than any of us will ever experience, and it's still standing. How many of the cinder-block gyproc numbers being built today in the suburbs will look this good in 110 years time? So below are a few snaps of work in the last few weeks. And the next blog will be all sun and meat pies, I promise.

Our newly concreted cellar (which we once called the "hair basement" because it used to be a refuse tip for all the hair clippings which were swept up in the hairdressing salon in the shop above)

Mikus found a way to keep himself amused in the yard.

The winter low point -
we were all sick and tired, whingeing and wanting to be cuddled by mum. Misery.

So there's only one more day until we fly out to Oz - a trip for 6 weeks - haven't been back for three years. We are very excited here and frantically trying to get everything organised before we go. The boys can't wait to get to this legendary land that they hear about all the time that neither of them can remember. They are also looking forward to meeting all the kids we keep telling them about - and animals, beaches, theme parks, etc! Jem and I are also looking forward to it. We are wondering if anything will have changed - people here (Aussies) have been telling us that we will be shocked by how expensive everything is in Australia, although I don't think anything like that could shock us, considering we are currently living in a country which clocked 16.7 percent inflation last month!!! Now THAT is shocking. Jem suspects that the EASE of life in Australia will seem very alluring - a part of that never-ending equation we are pondering, regarding the advantages of life in both countries. The HEAT and SUNLIGHT is certainly something we are pining for, and seeing old friends, and having friendly strangers in the street and museums geared for inquisitive children, meat pies and sausage rolls, Milo, takeaway chinese, garage sales, bare feet, mangoes, frangipani flowers , passionfruit and thunder storms. Hopefully we get to enjoy all or at least some of these when we are back. So for those of you in Oz - see you soon (if we survive the flight)! And those of you in LV - see you when we get back!!!
PS. i wrote this a few days ago but forgot to post it - we have now arrived in Melbourne in one piece, very jetlagged, shall post again soon with pics of the great sunburned land


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