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Kids happy, parents content

Starting with an announcement today (especially for those who may be coming directly to the blog, bypassing my front page): The Guestbook feature of the website has been decommissioned – as writing comments to my posts is a better place for guestbook entries anyway. I also created a separate Guestbook blog, although it probably will end up as unused as the old guestbook.

Instead, there is now a Calendar feature that will keep track of our travels and visitor engagements. For those of you who plan to eventually come and visit us – we have probably a hundred verbal promises – this is as close to reservation system as I figure to get. Just check if the dates you are interested in are available, write us an email, and we will block the time for you. As our own travel plans shape up, we promise to keep the calendar up to date.

Today, we continued our museum excursions. Becky wanted to go to Madame Tussaud’s wax museum, which I have been to once before and came away unimpressed. Knowing that, Natasha decided that she would not go. Kimmy probably would not be much interested either, not yet being familiar with who is an important person and who is not (although lifelike wax figures might have had some effect on her). Becky wanted to go rather badly, so we decided to indulge her. But we split forces. Natasha and Kimmy went to the Natural History Museum, while Becky and I schlepped to Mme Tussaud’s.

After spending over an hour in a queue for tickets, we paid – even with a 2-for-1 discount – outrageous ticket price and entered the premises. Tom Cruise, George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp as Capt Jack Sparrow were big hits with my daughter. So was, curiously, Robin Williams. George Bush looked nothing like himself and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the Terminator was a little too unattractive. David and Victoria Beckham appeared more than once and provided a view into Brits’ fascination with them.

There is also a nice amusement-park-like ride through several centuries of London history and an animated movie in which funny aliens discourse on the subject of earthling celebrities. Overall, Becky was very happy, which was definitely a win.

Kimmy meanwhile, was equipped with an “explorer” backpack and helmet, and spent time in treasure-hunting for various animals as well as drawing pictures of others in the Natural History Museum. She did not like dinosaurs much, but immensely enjoyed birds, mammals and fishes, stopping many times to draw and explore. She was also rather happy and never complained once about being tired, which is a small miracle. Of course, it lasted only until we left the museum…

We rejoined forces at the Natural History museum, by which point nature explorers were mighty hungry (Becky and I downed a hot dog each upon exiting Mme Tussaud’s). We walked along Brompton Road and had quite nice dinner in an Italian restaurant not far from Harrods.

The day could have been a disaster, but ended up with an overall successful mark. It started disastrously alright. In the morning, upon exiting the commuter train at London Bridge, we realized that we left our camera on the train seat. We jumped onto the next train, and caught up with the first one at the last station, Charing Cross, where I sprinted through several cars in hopes of finding the camera. No luck. We called Lost & Found service and opened an inquiry, but chances are that the weird family that sat next to us has gotten itself an early Christmas present, albeit the one that will only function until the battery is discharged…

Well, no biggie, we were thinking about upgrading for quite a while anyway. But the occurrence itself was obviously a downer. It’s a good thing that both museums turned out to be fun for our demanding offspring, to make the day memorable for good reasons.

Who’s got suggestion on which new camera we should go for? Give it up.

On the routine front, Becky and I have gotten into a rhythm in the mornings. I wake her up at 6:45, go lie down while she is in the bathroom, then go and do my morning things while she dresses up and has breakfast. We leave house between 7:15 and 7:20 and, while hitting some slow spots along the way, manage to get to school between 7:35 and 7:45. Becky then has to find things to do – mainly, reading – until the classes start at 8:30, but she is apparently fine with that. I get back home between 7:50 and 8:00, depending on which I catch a 8:02 or 8:22 train, the latter allowing me to walk into office at 9 on the hour. Not too bad. My morning commute, of course, is now exactly the length of my erstwhile American trip to work, but I still enjoy a much shorter commute at night.

Becky is joining all kinds of clubs at school. She has been recruited to play grass hockey (???), goes to the theater club, participates in some dancing activity. She is also ahead of her classmates in Spanish, given that she started studying it a couple of years ago, and it is their first year. She already received a number of house points (refer to Harry Potter if you are unfamiliar with the concept), all in Spanish. As we have already noted, with some surprise, she does not appear to be much behind in any subjects where situation is reversed. All in all, she is doing quite well.

Kimmy has achieved a bit of a breakthrough in her mastery of English. She is starting to read some simple books completely on her own. She also now begins all conversations with us in English, and only switches to Russian at our insistence…

There are only two boxes left to unpack! And a couple that needs shipping back to the States – yes, we did bring the stuff that we meant to leave for safekeeping with our parents…

I am getting to be on very friendly terms with several of my business partners and coworkers. One thing that they do here that we do very little in the States is going for drinks after work. Several times a week, as a matter of fact. I was in a week-long offsite meeting, and we went for a lot of drinks on Tuesday, for a management meet-and-greet (with drinks), followed by a Thames boat party (with open bar) on Wednesday, and for “just one drink” on Thursday. As far as I gather, in a normal week, Tuesday and Thursday are almost always going-to-the-pub days. That does lead to more camaraderie and friendship. I find myself genuinely drawn to a large bunch of people. As my accent becomes heavier after a number of Screwdrivers, I probably morph into more of a curiosity for them, but that’s alright.

One of my closest partners, Richard, has goaded me into a chess bet, which started with him saying that his first move would be pawn to rook 4 (i.e., 1.a4 or 1.h4) and he would beat me. I could not refrain from responding that if he made that move, I’d beat him in less than 25 moves. Which I probably should be able to accomplish despite the fact of not really having played in several years, given that our continued conversation led me to believe that he is an occasional player. But, for all I know, he could have been pretending to be a dilettante, and I will fall on my face… There is some friendly money being placed on the bet by eyewitnesses…

By the way, those who ever watched Fawlty Towers might remember an episode where an American guest asks for a Screwdriver (as in cocktail) and John Cleese gets all bent out of shape. When I first ordered a Screwdriver in a pub, several people as one started quoting the dialogue from that episode. I switched to vodka and orange afterwards…


  1. Shemper

    We just bought a Sony W-70 7.2MP before the Thailand trip. It performed really well under Linka’s frontal assault of about a 1,100 snaps in 15 days. Only downside is the average total zoom of 6x.

  2. Putin

    Nu slava bogu chto mi khot’ potrenirovalis’ pered ot’ezdom. A to ti b udaril litsom v gryaz’ s etimi skru driverami. Stavlu $5 chto ti ego zadushish za 20 khodov.

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