Going strong! For the second weekend in a row, we, true to our purpose, explore the new environs. Can we keep it up? The kids must be having second thoughts, for sure… Watch this space!
Today we decided not to travel all the way to the city, but instead visit Greenwich, which we live practically inside of. Greenwich itself has got several dozen interesting sights and museums. We picked National Maritime Museum for this outing. It is a nice compact museum, with several interesting galleries, some interactive performances, hands-on workshops and a small planetarium. One of the performances, for instance, taught us about the rules of navigation, accompanied by stories about naval explorers.
Museum entrance is free – donations are expected – but planetarium is extra for adults (kids go free, but have to be accompanied by an adult). We paid and sat through an interesting show about constellations and the origin of their names.
We need to limit ourselves to one point of interest at a time, otherwise it quickly becomes too much for our young ladies. Change of scenery is important. Even with a museum of a fairly small size, such as this one, we had to leave some things for another time. Whenever that comes (those who come visit us with the kids have a good chance of seeing this museum!)
We strolled through Greenwich center a bit, spending some time at its market. It’s an interesting place – lively, colorful, fragrant. There are three parts to it – crafts, food, antiques – crammed together under one roof. Glassware, shawls, carpets, camel-fleece blankets, purses, accessories – Natasha found at least a dozen items that would do as her birthday gift. Plus, pastries, spices, coffee of dozens different flavors…
November 5th happens to be the anniversary of the famous Gunpowder Plot of 1605, when a bunch of Catholics attempted to blow up the king and the parliament. The plot was unsuccessful, and ever since then, all of England celebrates the occasion with fireworks, compared to which our 4th of July ones are a child’s play. Everybody seems to have started celebrating it a week ago with numerous shows out of their backyards. The festival culminated tonight in a variety of professionally organized displays.
We had to immerse ourselves in the culture of our new home, and therefore found ourselves joining some fifty thousand revellers on the huge meadow called Royal Blackheath. Despite the cool temperatures, the crowd gathered well before the show, equipped with their own Bengal lights and lightsabers, among other accessories (beer and, surprisingly, champaign was consumed in large quantities). The display went on for almost half an hour, accompanied by Strauss and Mozart. Awesome!
All day long we used public transportation. Weirdly enough, we had to pay £2 for each kid, even though when we went into the city last time, we paid only £1 per each. The ticket agent started explaining something to me, but I am pretty sure that he screwed up. The train, however, was approaching the station, and I did not have time to figure it out. (Natasha remarks here that I hardly ever spend time on figuring this stuff out, preferring to be on my way, rather than investigate social injustices). Ironically, we travelled today along routes where there is almost never any ticket controls, and no one checked our tickets today…
We also ran into a problem that had to happen sooner or later. Missing our train by a minute left us stranded at the station for half an hour. If there is a shortcoming of our house location, it is a rationed train service. If you time it right, you get to where you want pretty quickly. Just don’t miss your train.
I have mentioned in passing before that there are foxes in our garden. It turns out that there are at least four of them, since that is how many we daily observe in the mornings sunbathing. A black cat and a bunch of squirrels also make regular appearances, but foxes ignore them. I guess we will learn to ignore them too, but for now the girls are really excited at the abundance of wildlife…
Thursday night happens to be the biggest night out in London. I have heard several explanations to this phenomenon, the likeliest of which is that nobody wants to really work on Fridays. Anyway, some of my new co-workers invited me to a pub, and I cannot miss the opportunity, for obvious reasons… Not the ones you thought 🙂 Drinking is fine with me, but blending and fitting in is more important.
The pubs are packed, there is loud and completely unnecessary music, and almost everybody smokes. Yet, this was surprisingly a fun outing. I had a couple of Kronenburgs – which is more than enough on a stomach longing for dinner – and had a pretty good time. I still left one of the first, and checking in on Friday with a couple of people who had stayed later, I noticed their slight difficulty in keeping up the conversation. These British love their beer!
Becky spent her two days at the private school that Natasha and I found underwhelming on Thursday and Friday. Not unexpectedly, she liked it, primarily because she quickly made friends with some of the kids. She also made enough of a good impression herself, as we have immediately received an offer of a place for her, accompanied with uniform price list – a blazer for £55, a cardigan for £20, a skirt for £35, blouses at £15 per… We have a visit and a test at another private school on Monday, and then a visit to the public one on Tuesday, after which we’ll be making a decision.
Tomorrow we are driving to Brighton, a pretty town on the coast, 60 miles from us, where I found a friend who studied at Rostov University with me. Should be fun!