Event - International Trip to Riga




Roly enjoying the contentment that only a 41 Club International trip can confer

The house of Blackheads ....

Paul contemplating his next drink, time is 2 hrs advanced in Riga

Sunday morning stroll facing into the Baltic wind at Jumela

Your taxes paid for the upgrade given to these trains

Her Majesty the Queen dined in this hall last year on her visit to Riga

Ceremonial guard doing the last 4 hour stag of the day under the national monument.  National monuments in Latvia are frequently adapted as new occupiers come and go.

Maffioso are never far from the surface in the new former soviet republics

Late afternoon panorama from the hotel.

Waiter joins in the fun during our medieval banquet

All too much for the VC - but the Int Off is awake!

At 05:30 hrs ten bleary eyed club members, in search of new international experiences, assembled at the Lufthansa desks in BHX Terminal 1 , round the far north-easterly corner.  The two last arrivals, Whittaker and Stanley speeded their check-in processing by circumnavigating the large queue.  Quickly mastering the English commands of  the touch screen machine they were soon in possession of their boarding cards as they were disgorged from the front of the machine into their hands.  This entitled them to hand in their baggage, with zero delay, at a special desk and catch up with their colleagues. 


No alcoholic beverage was consumed pre-boarding but Paul again distinguished himself by making a last minute decision to buy a paper from WH Smiths.  He had been in the queue for only 30 seconds before the flight was called.  He rushed to the front of the queue and thrust loads of dosh (three times more than required) at the bemused assistant and ran off, without the change.  Imagine the feelings of stupidity when at the end of the air-bridge immediately in front of the aircraft door the self-same paper was available without charge, courtesy of Lufthansa. 


All flying sectors BHX – FRA – RIX both there and back, were on-time and managed with true German efficiency.  The filled bread rolls were of basic construction and taste but were also free.  Two complimentary drinks were offered per sector.  Not Business Class, but not bad.  The VC came up against rigorously thorough security staff in the FRAport and found it hard to follow their simple and precise instructions.  He was heard getting uppity and frustrated when told not only to remove his belt, his shoes but also to take everything from his trouser pockets.  He narrowly avoided being picked up by the scruff of the neck by a thick-set member of the Flugplatz Polezei.


My tenure as Int Off has seen the style of our perambulations change.  Stressing the values of delegation, taking adult responsibility for one’s own plans and actions and using electronic means of communication with airlines and hotels have not been universally popular, particularly the self booking requirement.  It is sad that the likes of ‘Wallace and Gromit’ have been unwilling to step up to these challenges, but there are those who have. 


Within the airport arrivals complex was a man besporting a card saying TOMO.  This meant something to the other Paul, Blewitt as he had booked the mini-bus and taxi needed to take us to our Hotel.  Although the driving standards were better than Milan, passengers were heard to take large intakes of breath when ‘cutting in’ and frequent high speed lane changing skills were honed.


The Hotel Tomo was a newly built structure with an expansion plan in hand.  For those who booked a single room en suite for £30, it provided a comfortable place to rest one’s head and recover from the excesses of the night before.  The foursome who thought they would save themselves a few Lats (£1 = 1 Lat) got what they deserved.  A sparsely furnished dormitory with a walk down the corridor for that middle of the night pee, now so prevalent as we ever so gracefully age.  They got themselves a bad name by turning up late for breakfast and holding up the party generally at key times in the programme.  Needless to say Her Majesty’s representative to the court of late appointments, Mr Roland Robson, was a member of this group.


We soon got to handle the local No 17 tram, a modern machine paid for by EU handouts.  It went from the hotel to the central railway station, a distance of about 4 miles.  All 10 of us could travel for 3 Lats, although in the evenings we preferred the taxi at an equivalent cost of 40 Lats.  All our payments were managed by the Kitty Master, Tony Davies.  A damn fine job he made too!


For our evening meals we  munched our way through Latvian Steaks, French cuisine and a medieval banquet, lunches were lighter and the hotel breakfasts were cold, even if you took the hot items.  Some took to eating large cakes with their afternoon tea.  We drank in moderation, but so regularly that some rarely surfaced from a permanent haze.  Thankfully, behaviour was good and there were no incidents, accidents or calls to or from the police. 


Whit ‘lost’ his mobile phone, but recovered it from the same establishment the following day.  No money was lost.  The VC drove everyone mad by telling us every keystroke he made in an attempt  to get his phone to connect with the outside world.  Hash, star , zero and plus were used in every combination known to man and the code-breakers of Bletchley Park.  After 24 hours we were mercifully saved as he surprisingly succeeded on the zillionth attempt and avoided someone murdering him to gain some solitude from his repetitious rantings.


Paul Blewitt came to the fore again by leading us round the city to the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia, visited by the Queen only last year, the House of the  Blackheads, restored only 5 years ago and the Reval Hotel, which was housed in a skyscraper and sported a top floor bar with spectacular views over every direction of the compass.  Visiting at sunset as we did gave us lasting memories of a Latvian sunset.  We also strolled around the largest indoor market in Europe. Paul was not impressed by the Cathedral, so this spared us from visiting every church in the capital. 


The museum guides were keen to vary their scripts and talk to us about the economic, political and cultural problems of modern Latvia, which added greatly to the interest value of the trip.  We took the obligatory coach tour of the city and on Sunday also took a train ride up the coast to the seaside town of Jurmala.  For those who went to Gdansk this was the double of Sopot.  The weather was sunny and clear throughout, although walking along the sandy beach at midday for a quarter of an hour into the wind was a bone chilling experience.


We enjoyed the usual repartee and humour that only former Tablers understand and wives will be pleased to know that the flesh and sex establishments for which Riga is famed saw no patronage from our band of brothers.  On two night we watched world class rugby on wide screen TV’s and on the third entertained the VC with endless games of pool. 


Jonathan Whittaker


Int Off



Those attending:


Paul Blewitt, Mike Cooper, Tony Davies, Phil Jones, Dave Ollis, Roland Robson, Paul Stanley, Jonathan Whittaker,  Peter Williams, Bruce Wilson





  40 - Last edited 28th November 2007