How a former Norwich Hewett School pupil ended up having dinner with the president of Latvia

Ulla, 36, (left), Toby, 34 (right), with son Luke (five months) with Latvia's president Raimonds Vej

Ulla, 36, (left), Toby, 34 (right), with son Luke (five months) with Latvia's president Raimonds Vejonis. Pic: Submitted. - Credit: Submitted

There won't be many former Norwich school pupils who have had dinner with the president of Latvia.

Toby Fraser's Latvian resort. Pic: Submitted.

Toby Fraser's Latvian resort. Pic: Submitted. - Credit: Submitted

But then, Toby Fraser's life has taken a few surreal turns after he hurt himself playing football. A back injury set in motion a remarkable chain of events which culminated in him running the PIZA Guesthouse and Campsite in a beautiful part of Latvia – more than 880 miles away from his home city.

Mr Fraser, 34, a former Colman Middle School, Hewett School and City College Norwich student, explained: 'Unfortunately I needed a back operation after injuring myself playing football and I decided to go to India to study rehabilitative yoga and this is where I met my wife Ulla, who is from Latvia.

'My wife had a piece of ancestral land in Latvia, in an area called Mikeltornis, which was under heavy military control in Soviet times. She won it back through the courts when the Soviet Union ended. It is right next to the beach and truly in the middle of nowhere. The nearest shop is 40km away.'

Mr Fraser, who grew up in Eaton Rise and used to work in the Last Wine Bar and Loch Fyne, said: 'It is a beautiful area, basically untouched with a pristine beach, forests, lakes and rivers.

Toby Fraser's guesthouse in Latvia.

Toby Fraser's guesthouse in Latvia. - Credit: Submitted

'We decided to try to breathe new life into her old homestead and set about building a family home and healthy living guest house, guided by our environmental and ecological values. It was a far more difficult task than we thought and ended up taking six years, but we finally finished this summer just gone.

'The hardest part was not knowing the language when dealing with builders and suppliers, but I became an English language teacher, so now there are quite a few people walking around Latvia speaking English with a slight Norwich accent.'

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Mr Fraser, who has a five-year-old Norwich-born son, Alistair, and a five-month-old son, Luke, was invited to a presidential dinner after the green credentials of his business netted him a European award.

But, despite mixing in such circles and living in unspoilt wilderness, Mr Fraser admitted he pines for a few things from his home city.

He said: 'I miss lots about Norwich – family, friends and mushy peas with a cup of tea on the market, and also the genuine warmth that people in Norwich have.'

Are you a former Norwich person with an overseas success story? Call Dan Grimmer on 01603 772375 or email dan.grimmer@archant.co.uk