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With friends

Our best friends from New Jersey have come to visit us for a bit over a week, which means kids are happily playing, beer is freely flowing, fun is being had all around. Notably less sleep can be secured in return, but I managed to catch up on some this Saturday morning.

Our guests certainly have grand plans to see London and environs, which we will gladly participate in, but only to a degree. After all, our kids will mostly be in school and I will keep my regular office hours. But today, everybody but me went on an excursion to the city center, and tomorrow we plan on making a day trip to one of the countryside castles. We actually had to rent a car for the weekend, a toy-like Nissan Micra, so that we have enough space for two families. Hopefully Artyom, me and two little kids can fit inside, leaving the X3 to big kids and their mothers. We’ll know soon enough.

Prior to the arrival of old friends, we planned another outing with our new friends who have now officially relocated to London (I first introduced them several weeks ago). Since they are currently staying in corporate housing in the City, the plan was for them to take DLR, meet me along the way, and then for Natasha to pick us up in Lewisham, from which we would proceed to a restaurant in Blackheath.

Earlier on that day, Wednesday, the Blackwall tunnel, which is the main river crossing in Southeast London, experienced some sort of accident and was closed. In a story familiar to any perpetually congested traffic area, once one major node was choked off, and the drivers started looking for detours, every single road in the area slowed down to a crawl. The resulting traffic jams caused Natasha to spend almost 4 hours – fours hours! – to make 9-mile round-trip required to pick the girls from school. As Anya and Ari met me on the DLR around 7pm, the roads were still entirely congested.

With no chance of getting to the restaurant, Natasha improvised a dinner, we opened some wine, and spent several hours in pleasant discourse at our house. Cozy environs, good food, interesting company. Not a bad substitute to a dinner out, if I say so myself!

The echoes of the traffic problems were felt next morning, as people stayed away from the tunnel, continuing to clog lesser arteries. By midday, though, the tunnel was re-opened, and my evening trip to Heathrow to pick up arriving guests was rather uneventful.

It appears that every week I spend several hours correcting something with my blog. The recent security problems necessitated software upgrades for some out-of-the-box components. One unfortunate side effect was my sudden inability to use Russian characters in my posts. After a good friend pointed me to a web resource that outlined corrective steps, I managed to fix that issue. But the patch inexplicably caused truncation of posts where special characters (such as French letters) had appeared previously. About 30 posts lost parts of their texts that way, and I had to spend about three hours restoring them from backups. From now on, I’ll stick to using unicodes every time I need a special character.

On a subject of Russian, Kimmy started to occasionally forget Russian words (never mind the fact that her British accent and intonation are becoming quite discernible). So, we try to make sure that she has enough practice. The other day, she was asking Natasha for some grapes in English, and Natasha asked her to repeat the request in Russian. Kimmy could not remember the word, so helpful Becky gave her a prompt, “It starts similar to what mommy and daddy like to drink in a restaurant”1. To which puzzled Kimmy responded, “Vodka?” Oops! 🙂

The weather lately turned to prototypical British – overcast and rainy, with cold winds blowing incessantly. So warm and pleasant was the second half of April that we surely expected more sunshine and warmth in May…

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1 For my non-Russian readers, the Russian word for wine is literally the first half of the Russian word for grapes, виноград.

Posted in Chronicles