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Balls To The Baltic - Latvia or Bust



Scoring Emotional Opiates

This was made more interesting when the singer leaned into the microphone and asked “can we have a bit more base in the monitors and switch the guitars over”. They were English. Oh Joy! Suddenly we found ourselves in amongst a whole horde of Spinal Tap references. Jonathan started bantering with them between ‘songs’ and when they finally came off the stage and sat down to have a beer he went over to talk to them. I caught one part of the conversation which will stick with me for a while “So why are you touring the Baltics?” Jonathan asked. “We love it, ‘cos it’s kind of depressing” came the reply.

As bizarre as that sounds, as a man who spent his formative years listening to The Smiths (supposedly the band voted most likely to slash your wrists to), I have some sympathy with his reply. I always liked The Smiths because Johnny Marr was such a stunning, often jubilant guitarist, and come to think of it, the rest of the band were staggeringly talented too, but there is something in Morrissey’s dry wit and somber outlook on life that was also very alluring. Having said that… I never actually found their music or lyrics depressing. It sometimes even cheered me up when I was down, possibly because it was nice to know that someone else’s life was crapper than mine, but more likely it was just good to know that when down, I wasn’t completely alone in the boat.

It is true that Misery does like itself for company. Tom Robbins wrote that ”Among our egocentric sadsacks, despair is as addictive as heroin and more popular than sex, for the single reason that when one is unhappy one gets to pay a lot of attention to oneself. Misery becomes a kind of emotional masturbation.”

So maybe the quest for depression was merely a search for similar souls, or maybe it was a case of trying to score emotional opiates, but it did make me wonder why there should be something so particularly depressing about The Baltics.

So far, I hadn’t experienced it, but I was surrounded by a particularly creative group of people. Individual creatives may get depressed. Groups of creatives tend to fire off each other which can be stimulating or sodding annoying if they’re firing in opposite directions, but I digress.

One of the reasons that I’d come on this trip at this ridiculous time of year was that Jonathan had explained to me that a lot of the children tend to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which put simply means, when it’s cold wet and horrible, there’s not as much daylight and very little sunshine, people tend to get miserable. I know for a fact that I’m generally a happier bunny in the summer than the winter so I have some sympathy with this. Of course one of the other major reasons is that they’re coming out of years of Soviet control, switching to a more capitalist economy, and such a transition can hit pretty hard while it works itself out.

Having said that, it frequently amazed me at just how western a lot of things were there. They had the same kind of things in the supermarkets as we do here (I presume they’re also all imported from China and the like), but although things like food were much, much cheaper, consumer electrical goods all seemed to be around the same price, so I’m assuming that the relative costs of these things compared to earnings were much higher.

A constant source of amusement to us was the state of the roads around their houses. If you ever want to get rich quick, move to Latvia and set up a business fixing car suspensions.

In summation, reasons why people might find the Baltics depressing is that the weathers crap in the winter, and they’re coming out of a state of relative poverty. Reasons why you might enjoy it are that you can have serious snow ball fights, and … they’re coming out of a state of relative poverty. And the booze is really cheap.



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