And there will be Bombs
As we left Fontain’s we briefly met up with everyone
else, and Jonathan embarrassedly gave the dressing room key from
the civic centre back to Solvita. A group of us then headed off
for what was the first of a few tourist trips that had been arranged
for us by our hosts.
It was dark, wet and wild winds howled, as we made
our way back to the residential area. Little lakes filled the pot
holes in the roads that wormed their way between the flats. We left
the comfort of the van and were lead around the back of a four or
five storey block. As we turned the last corner, Jonathan decided
that he wasn’t sure if he had locked the van or not (he only did
this several hundred times on the trip) and headed back to check.
Standing around waiting in the cold and wet was about as much fun
as, well, being soaked by freezing cold water with large amounts
of wind chill, so I promptly decided that some more entertainment
was needed, and the obvious thing to do in the freezing cold wet
and tempestuous night was a game of hide and seek. I was surprised
at how quickly everyone else agreed.
So there we all were, hiding behind various things
in the dark, waiting for Jonathan to come back, giggling and whispering
like school children. When he returned to find the area deserted,
for the briefest of moments he must have wondered where we had all
vanished, before someone giggled just a little too loudly and gave
the game away. The moral of the story being… never play hide and
seek with Latvians. They’re crap at it.
We were led down a set of stairs underneath the
block of flats. It smelled of cats piss. I was informed that it
was in fact rats piss, and there is apparently a distinction in
the odors. I stood corrected and hoped that I never got to the point
where I could tell the difference. Martinch unlocked a heavy steel
door and led us inside something that it would never have occurred
to me in a hundred years would have been there.
Underneath the block of flats, in an area now populated
mostly by rats, was a nuclear bunker. It took me so much by surprise
that it never occurred to me to ask obvious questions, like, “is
there one of these at the bottom of every block of flats?” This
particular one had been turned into a museum. There were gas masks.
There was a huge machine at one end of the floor for purifying the
air. There were models depicting the beauty of radiation sickness.
I must admit to have not actually been that interested
in the paraphernalia. What grabbed me was the simple fact that this
building was normal housing built for normal people. It was built
with the preconception that it may have to one day house those people
after the worlds leading lunatics had been going hard at it with
their nuclear hand bags. Or … the people who built that housing
wanted the people who lived in them to believe that they were under
However you look at it, and I certainly don’t claim
to make judgments, half an hour, maybe an hour later, we left a
lot more somberly than we went in, and maybe I was getting a better
impression about why our friends from earlier in the evening found
this place so gleefully depressing.
The storm was still approaching and was undoubtedly
closer. The wind howled and was touched with flecks of ice as we
said our goodbyes to Martinch and Lelda and clambered back into
We offered to give Ieva and Ed a lift back to their
flat which was on the other side of town to save them a half hour
wait for the bus in the foul weather. They were quit happy to stand
around having their bits either frozen or blown off or both, which
says something about the Latvian attitude to these things, but we
eventually convinced them of the virtues of the warm van.
We stopped at the supermarket on the way, and as
I said, it was filled with most of the same things you’d find in
a British supermarket. Nothing of amazing interest there, unless
it’s the fact that in this globalised world
(if that’s not a tautology) there are coming to be less and less
differences amongst us. One day we will all be …. American.