I remember that when I first came to America, I used to literally write at least one letter a day to many of my friends in Russia. After a while, that exercise became less and less important, I started to skip days, then weeks, and then – in probably 7 or 8 months – stopped writing altogether. There were many reasons for that, not least of which was the fact that once my life had become more or less routine, it was harder and harder to find topics for writing.
This blogging thing is not much different, I guess. It was surely rather naive of me to expect that I would have interesting adventures to write about daily. But my days are quickly becoming familiarly routine: Commute, work, commute, family dinner, a bit of horseplay, bed. To keep a captivating narrative is definitely a challenge.
Well, I’ll be damned if I ever shied away from a challenge!
So, what happened lately?
For starters, I practically forgot my own anniversary. 15 years! I could have been getting out of the prison now1. My sort of excuse for forgetting it is that Halloween is not widely celebrated here. No, really! Had I ever forgotten it in the States, hordes of dressed up kids would be a constant reminder. Here, in Britain, there is some sporadic dressing up, and the kids go trick-or-treating to close friends and relatives, but nothing on the scale that we are used to. Without visual clues, I have completely forgot what date it was (until my lovely wife reminded me herself). Just think how much marital discord we would have collected over the years, had our anniversary fallen on an otherwise unremarkable day…
Our kids really missed the Halloween excitement. Kimmy even suggested that we do trick-or-treating inside the house, visiting every room separately…
While nothing is finalized, on the date of our anniversary, suddenly, two important things happened. The guy whom I am offloading my Infiniti to wrote to me that he had received the final papers, meaning that the car – and the lease payments – would be his in a matter of days. We also got our first offer for the house – not a great one, but reasonable in the current market.
Natasha and Becky went to visit a private school, and came away unimpressed. There are nice facilities and many available activities, but the space itself feels very small. For the price of their tuition, Natasha assumed accommodations that are state-of-the-art. Tomorrow and on Friday, Becky will have two trial days there.
A person from the only public school on our list called me today and literally asked me whether we would be able to buy the uniform for Becky in time for her to start school on Monday. They definitely got their priorities straight! I nicely explained that we’d like to look at the school first, which elicited surprised response and a promise that somebody else would call me to arrange for the tour. Nobody called so far…
Natasha, meanwhile, is really getting the hang of British specifics. She drives around, parks the car, examines shops and stores, etc. Among the things that she figured out is: You have to have one pound sterling or euro with you if you plan to use a shopping cart in a supermarket, to stick it in a slot that allows the cart to be taken out; when you return the cart at the end of the shopping, you use the pointy locking device to push the coin back out of the slot. This procedure must have been devised to deter rampant cart-jackings…
She also encountered groups of seemingly Mexicans (in Europe???), armed with mops and buckets, who offer to wash you car right in the parking lot while you do your shopping. She declined.
The nearest skating rink is about 10 miles away from us. Guess how long it takes to get there? 50 minutes, give or take. Compare to our house in Old Bridge, going to Woodbridge – 13.5 miles, 20 minutes. One more illustration of how different the driving is here. No freeways, tons of traffic lights, and slow traffic in general. The ice was not great either. Becky was still the star of the session, and Natasha and Kimmy had good time, too. I guess once in a while, this could become a casual diversion.
By the way, imagine an empty stretch of the road where speed limit is 40 mph. How fast do you think I’d be driving – 50+? In the States, definitely (barring a policeman directly tailing me). In England… not so fast. These guys spend tons of taxpayers’ money on installing cameras that constantly spy on you, including speed enforcement ones every kilometer or so. Go over the limit within specially marked stretch of road, the camera will catch you, the ticket will be in the mail. You are also constantly reminded that cameras are in operation – there are huge signs that warn you. I guess it is effective – with very rare exceptions, everybody drives much slower here than what I am used to.
On a totally unrelated note, I have started looking for my first employees. Of the first 6 candidates whose resumes were sent to me, three are Indian, one Nigerian, one an Armenian born in Yerevan, and one a Moscow Jew. All British citizens. Eclectic mix!
OK, don’t know about captivating, but I think I am doing well so far…
1 For my non-Russian readers, this is a reference to an ancient joke, playing on the old Soviet criminal code of 15 years for a murder. “If I’d killed my wife on our wedding night, I’d be getting out of prison now”, laments a man on his 15th anniversary… The “getting out of prison” bit has long entered the vernacular.