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Visiting parents and random notes

Famous England weather. It is not too cold, just cold enough to be unpleasant, and with wind, dark skies and intermittent rain, it is hard to will oneself to go outside…

We still do, though. My parents arrived for their very first visit to England, and I am using my vacation leftovers from the last year. It would be a waste to spend these days inside the house, so we keep figuring out things to do. Thursday was not too bad, and we drove all the way to Brighton, walked around, had a dinner. We went to Greenwich on Friday, and visited Royal Observatory. On Saturday, the rain started from the early morning and continued throughout the day. We piled into the car – six people cannot fit inside normally, so my dad spent quite some time with Kimmy on his lap, – and drove into London, on a sort of introductory tour. We then decided to forgo the search for parking and subsequent walking under the rain, and instead drove back to our area for a dinner in Blackheath. The rain continued pretty much into Sunday, but we still organized an expedition to the city via public transportation with the explicit purpose of getting onto a tour bus. Becky and I stayed home, on a lame excuse that we start school and work, respectively, early tomorrow morning.

Kimmy still has an off day on Monday, so her, Natasha and my mom and dad will follow up with another outing to the city.

Fun life!…

The kids, who have been always deprived of a pet on account of their father, skillfully negotiated acquisition of a fish. In all honesty, I simply could not come up with a good response to “How come we do not have one in England, since we had one in New Jersey?” Sending them out to buy a fish with my father miraculously resulted in two specimens for the price of one. Or, rather, a small tank came with a goldfish included, so they obviously needed to actually buy another fish. Well, who ended up preparing the tank and then transferring the fish in? If you point to the only person who did not care to acquire a fish in the first place, – your faithful narrator, – you are very perceptive…

Our New Jersey aquarium dweller was some kind of a survivor, enduring through spotty care and irregular feeding for several months (we gave it to a neighbor when we were leaving – Becky does occasionally wonder if it is still alive). I have a feeling that European fish will not turn out as lasting…

Several random notes.

For those who care about this stuff, a word of caution about our new camera (Canon PowerShot S3 IS). Shooting in Auto mode under less than perfect lighting conditions produces grainy pictures that no amount of Photoshop retouching can fully repair. If you have read my camera selection treatise, you may rightfully inquire whether making snapshots in fully automated mode was not the whole point. True; when we caught onto this shortcoming several days ago, our first thought was that we had seriously goofed with our choice. However, there are a couple of dozen preset modes for a variety of conditions, which we have not really explored yet. Stay tuned.

One observation that have not found its way in any of my previous posts is the number of eastern Europeans in London. In 2004, the European Union expanded into Eastern Europe, with the likes of Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary, along with Baltic states, joining in. Now, citizenship of any of those countries allows freedom of movement and unencumbered right to work throughout the Union. For some reason, Poles especially flock en masse to the United Kingdom. Everywhere you look, low-skill low-income jobs, such as janitors or fast-food servers, are occupied by Poles. They must still be financially better off here than in Poland, and the local employers surely pay them less than they would Brits.

From a certain point, these erstwhile satellites of the great Soviet Union have now attained an upper hand against the citizens of their onetime Big Brother. Russia is gradually becoming more authoritarian again, and while it is still a formidable world power, – thanks to whatever gas-related shenanigans it can pull off, – its common citizens live more or less behind an iron curtain again. Conversely, common citizens of Poland and its like now possess freedoms unimaginable just a generation ago…

And another long-shelved observation. I remember that my first lengthy stay here yielded a reflection on the number of good-looking women in London. That was obviously erroneous, as only an exceptional Englishwoman can be called beautiful and the percentage of foreign beautiful women is probably lower in London than in New York (even though London is a veritable melting pot on par with the Big Apple). Upon careful consideration, I have a pretty good explanation as to why I had that impression in the first place. The explanation is two-pronged.

First, you rarely see obese people in London. For every gorgeous woman that you see in New York, you probably bump into at least two overweight shapeless bodies, no? Absence of such physiques in London makes the entire female population instantly more attractive on average.

The second reason is the dressing up. Women traveling to work here do not have a habit of wearing athletic socks and sneakers and changing into formal attire at the office. It’s high heels all the way. No sweatpants either; in fact, much fewer pants, period. Skirts and dresses abound. I have to admit that it is easy to confuse well-dressed people for beautiful ones. In any case, seeing well-dressed people is much more pleasing to the eye…

On this sexist and also somewhat elitist note, I sign off for the day.


  1. Kisintin

    Random thoughts(as I always have a lot):

    When you are not busy at all, i am going to use that fairly amazing brain of yours and expertise in Russian movie triva, to help me out with a small project.

    I am very glad to hear that you are able to capitalize on your free time to travel around Europe. What’s next?

    You need to publish yourself in National Geographic or some such magazine.


  2. Ilya

    I take exception at your insertion of the word “fairly”. Simply “amazing” was not good enough? 🙂

    The next trip is Brussels (for no particular reason beyond that Eurostar goes there direct). In the spring, we’ll plan weekend trips around UK, as well as to “near” continent (Amsterdam, Brugge, Antwerp, Reims, etc.) Tuscany in April, probably Paris in May, then we’ll see…

    As far as NG goes, thanks for the compliment. A man should know his limitations, Dirty Harry once so poignantly said. My current career goal is to have an audience that extends beyond family and friends. But I am not working hard at it…

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