Dievs Svētī Latviju

Choppers fly past Riga castle

…or ‘God bless Latvia’. It’s Latvian independence day and I’ve just witnessed the modest but enjoyable military parade.

Even better was the warm feeling of the crowds looking on. It reminded me that, like the emotions generated by the twentieth anniversary of the Baltic Way earlier this year, Latvia deserves to be a proud and independent nation and has done more than most countries to earn its status. If it can tap that well of feeling and strength, Latvia has many good years ahead of it.

Perhaps the best proof of that came later in the day. Having interrupted the celebratory atmosphere to report Lithuania’s first death from swine flu, I dropped in at my local cafe, which has already cropped up in these pages as an example of Latvia’s potential.

The cafe was closed on this day last year despite the thousands of people swarming over Akmens Tilts (the Stone Bridge) to watch the evening firework display. The rather grotty off-licence was the sole facility catering for them and a long queue formed with revellers allowed in one by one as others exited.

Realising their missed payday, this year the cafe’s owners are keeping it open. In fact a sign on the door says it will be open “until the last client leaves”. The tables are decorated with candles, fresh cauldrons of carbonade and potatoes are simmering away and even the napkins have been ordered in such a way that they resemble the Latvian flag. And as previously noted, this in an establishment where the owners usually (but by no means always) address each other in Russian.Fireworks over Riga

Working as a journalist I inevitably spend a lot of time writing about things which aren’t necessarily pleasant – after all news, like any story, is essentially a record of unexpected disruptions and most unexpected disruption has negative consequences initially.

But even while writing about a corruption scandal, a depressing crime or a piece of political incompetence I still consider it a privilege and a pleasure to live in this country which, to tell the truth, I love rather more than my own.

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