Things of Latvia: Not writing about the "Caurvējš"

Take note – story published 5 years ago

This is the last Thing of Latvia. Looking back, we have written about more than 30 different Things of Latvia. Some have proved popular, some not. Some have been well written, some less so. But of one thing we can be certain, in one thing we can take some pride: we have never stooped to writing about the "caurvējš".

We have been told to do so many times. Usually these forceful suggestions have been made in good faith by people who enjoy the Things of Latvia strand but perhaps don't quite get it, or at least think of it in a way that is not quite what we intended.

We are never going to write about the caurvējš. It's not a Thing of Latvia. It is the anti-Thing of Latvia. It is our Kryptonite, and every time we come in contact with the idea that we should write about the caurvējš we slump to our knees feeling human, all too human.

In case you didn't know, the caurvējš is a draught or draft. A waft, gust or breeze, usually but not necessarily cold in character, blowing between two bodies of air as a result of a differential in air pressure. A small wind, credited with incredible levels of malevolence.

The joke is supposed to be that Latvians have an exaggerated fear of the caurvējš, which is taken to be doubly hilarious because of their hardiness in the face of much more extreme climatic conditions. The general idea is that a Latvian will shrug off a howling gale at minus 30 without bothering to turn down the ear flaps on his cap, but will regard sitting in a chair next to an open window as a virtual death sentence due to the certainty of contracting some unspecified but inevitable fever, virus, infection or other ailment as a result of exposing his organism to the life-threatening caurvējš. It is an embodiment of hypochondria, all the more powerful for being invisible, like all the best monsters. 

The caurvējš is a thing of Latvia but it is not a Thing of Latvia. It is much too obvious, a fact proven by the annoying regularity with which people tell us to write about it. Well, we won't write about the stupid caurvējš, about how grannies tell off total strangers for placing their children near a door that is slightly ajar or how passengers on public transport would rather go into a state of oxygen-deficient hallucination than open a window when the temperature is anything below 40 Celsius. These are well-trodden tropes.  

A Thing of Latvia about the caurvējš might be a crowd-pleaser, but Things of Latvia was supposed to be about the things other people didn't notice until we told them, rather than the things people told us because everyone noticed them already.

Therefore, we have reached the end of the line with Things of Latvia. We did two seasons of them on Latvian Radio, in the form of Latvijas Kolorīts which were surprisingly popular, but as Fawlty Towers and The Office prove, quitting after two seasons is always a smart move.

Had we opted to continue with Things of Latvia, we would have had no option but to finally deploy the secret blacklist of X-rated, shocking and depressing Things of Latvia we have compiled in parallel with the jaunty, whimsical and funny ones we have written about so far. Any one of these after-dark Things would likely result in our instant dismissal and criminal charges for defamation, spreading false rumours and possibly treason, but we like our jobs and have no wish to offend. So Things of Latvia ends here.

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