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A summer weekend

Of the newly selected Seven Modern Wonders of the World, I’ve only been to one, the Colosseum – and actually was left underwhelmed by it. I have been to a few places that did not make the final cut – Alhambra, Neuschwanstein, Eiffel Tower, Red Square, plus a tour boat took me close enough to the Statue of Liberty once to count that as well, – but the list highlights how many things there’s yet to see… The only consolation is that almost every single entrant has been on my personal list of future destinations long before I became aware of the contest.

That’s not what I planned to write about today, though. Enough of idle musings, let’s go back to the family chronicles.

The summer has finally given us something to be cheerful about. Both Saturday and Sunday were sunny, warm and inviting. After so many rainy days – June this year was truly the wettest in England in recorded history – we had to take advantage of it.

The weekend was actually kicked off on Friday night, when we went to the city center for a dinner with friends. Trafalgar Square was in its full “event” mode, for the opening ceremony of this year’s Tour de France. Since the opening festivities and ensuing prologue and first stage only served to increase congestion problems in and around the city for three days, – as if London traffic needed any help in getting worse, – and road cycling has got to be one of the boringest spectator sports, I can’t see the point of all that brouhaha. But the opening ceremony certainly drew a huge crowd, which we safely skirted on our way to Chinatown.

We went to a rather modern Chinese restaurant, both in terms of dishes and their presentation, and also in terms of staff equipment – all waiters had hands-free phone cords hanging down from their ears, into which they continuously barked what I could only assume were orders and requests. They also immensely annoyed Natasha with all too frequent visits to our table to take away plates, even ones that we were still working on and simply paused our consumption of.

And we had to pause plenty, as the cuisine was decidedly on the spicier side. Very delicious, but very hot. I had mixed meat in a “fiery” sauce, which required some careful picking through to avoid unbearable sensations. The portion was huge as well, and I had to admit defeat at some point… It was certainly a great culinary experience!

Realizing that we haven’t been out on any sightseeing in England in almost two months, we spent Saturday at the Hever Castle, in Kent, about 25 miles away from our house. Having had been built about 800 years ago, it was acquired by the Astor family (of Waldorf-Astoria fame) at the end of the 19th century and exquisitely rebuilt. The inside of the castle is not overly remarkable, but boasts several beautiful period rooms and holds a couple exhibitions (including an extensive one on the ubiquitous topic of Henry VIII and his six wives). But the grounds are nothing short of spectacular, with pristine lawns (heavily used for picnics), several gardens (amongst them an absolutely magnificent Italian garden), a lake (we hired a paddle boat for a leisurely ride – the girls spent most of the time alternating in a largely futile attempts to move the boat along), a water-obstacle maze (we came prepared with additional sets of clothes for the kids), a children’s playground, and so on.

We did not have picnic supplies with us, and instead spent time walking around and partaking in all attractions. The day went by in a flash…

We at first considered doing something similar on Sunday, but instead decided to chill at home. But thinking ahead to an upcoming charity golf event that I am participating in, I went to a nearby driving range. After all, the last time I picked up my clubs was more than a year ago.

Turns out you skills positively deteriorate when you don’t practice them… but you also pick up different ones. I am a terrible golfer, rarely able to hit it straight, never long, and struggling with pretty much any club. I am not too bad around the greens, when a 50-yard flop shot is the recipe, and can two-putt on most occasions. It’s the process of getting close to the green that is always the problem, with only a 3-wood providing some semblance of consistency, albeit for no more than 150 yards off the tee. And then it’s a choice of a succession of 9-irons (which occasionally mean reaching a par-5 green in 6 shots) or hitting worm-burners with long irons (which almost never brings about a better result than reaching a par-5 green in 6 shots, if that).

But I pull out the driver at the range, and suddenly I am hitting straight and reasonably good-looking shots that go beyond 200 yards. Then I try a 5-iron, and I can lift the ball off the mat and have it carry 120 yards (which is certainly much longer than my best 9-iron shot). But I can’t hit a good one with a 3-wood, nor can I get any consistency while practicing my flops.

So, the bottom line: I am still a terrible player, and I will most likely come in last or close thereabout in the tournament. And if I thought I knew my limitations, I obviously do not anymore. Now I am going to be screwed up mentally as well…

The driving range is excellent, though, with various amenities and an electronic ball feeder on every practice tee (not something that I’ve ever seen in the States – maybe in some private clubs?). And it is practically around the corner from where we live, although due to its highway-side location, I have to drive past it in an opposite direction, circle a roundabout a mile away and then come back…

After I had my fun, Natasha and Kimmy had some of their own, at a birthday party for one of Kimmy’s friends. The family is from Croatia, and they celebrate in style that is very familiar to us, with friends and neighbors bringing stuff, the man of the house barbecuing, with loud music and lots of drinks. Natasha, who was driving, had to limit herself to a single glass of champaign, but still had a good time, making an acquaintance was a couple from Kiev. Kimmy simply did not want to leave, drinks having nothing to do with that…

Alas, the summer weather did not last long. I got seriously soaked on my way home today…

Posted in Chronicles, In London

1 Comment

  1. Kisintin

    Automatic tees are rare, but the driving range that i go to regulary has them, 2 minutes away from work. Best thing since sliced bread. Although i have noticed that when you hit a mat, it’s not the same a hitting as hitting ground, teeth jarr themselves loose.

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