We continued to disprove my earlier statement regarding diminished activity by making visits to friends over the weekend.
On Saturday, we drove to Reading area to spend the day with a family who hails from the same neck of the woods in Russia as we do. In fact, all four of us attended the same college at about the same time. But we did not really know each other then, and only got introduced recently through a common acquaintance.
We met for a hearty lunch at a local inn, and later, after an impromptu driving tour through the area, retired to our friends’ house. The time was spent admiring each other talents (I presented some of my movies, Andrey showed us his photography), drinking wine with cheese, playing the guitar, singing songs, and generally catching up on anything that popped into our heads. My kind of get-together!
Mila and Andrey have two boys, the elder exactly of the same age as Becky (with birthdays less than two weeks apart), and the younger actually sharing the birthday with Kimmy, but a couple of years junior. The older kids quickly found common language and spent the evening chatting and playing video-games. Kimmy was not at her most sociable, which caused both her and the little boy to keep looking for things to occupy themselves independently, and that was the only negative for the entire event.
In the end, 75% of participants thought the occasion a resounding success, and immediately started thinking of arranging follow-ups. The distance between our residences is of concern, but we’ll think of something. It should be noted that on the way there, we went through the central London (short route), which took us a bit over an hour and a half. On the way back, we took the longer motorway route (longer by about 15 miles), and zipped home in just a bit over an hour, albeit in the middle of the night. The direction is not dissimilar to driving to Heathrow, but with considerably smaller distance difference between motorway and local road alternatives, which certainly makes the motorway route much more attractive.
The next day, Sunday, we spent the afternoon with our friends Anya and Ari in Northwest London. The weather fluctuated between sunny and rainy, literally changing every few minutes, but was also steadily windy and cold, so we spent most of the time indoors, same as Saturday. But it was another great get-together.
It actually started with a mishap. Ever since I first mentioned about weekend train service closures, we have gotten into a habit of checking the TfL website for available routes before setting off from home. But this time, we did not want to do the commuter train + subway trip (which is not too bad time-wise, but with commuter trains only running once every 30 minutes on Sundays, prone to causing long waits for transfers), and instead decided to drive to the nearest station on the Jubilee underground line (which goes directly to where our friends live), and leave our car on a parking lot there. When we reached the parking lot – you may have guessed by now – there was a sign advising us of “planned engineering works” and replacement buses being in operation. Waiting for one of those is even worse than waiting for a commuter train. I’ve done it before – there is no schedule, rhyme or reason to their movement. So I put my foot down and said We are driving.
It turned out ok. Especially on the way back – again, fairly late at night, – when we drove 14 miles through the city centre and all the way to our house in 45 minutes. Given the unofficial London driving pace of 10 miles an hour, the time we made was rather remarkable.
We had a good time as well. Kimmy, properly ashamed of her recent lack of congeniality, wonderfully played with little Ben. The fact that he is too little to have strong opinions about which game he wants to play next was probably a deciding factor here, but who’s analysing! Becky, left to her own devices, positioned herself in front of a laptop and spent a couple of blissful hours doing whatever it is the she does on the web. The adults, while keeping an eye on the little guy, socialized on a variety of topics. Wine and cheese figured as required.
Overall, the weekend provided an approximation of our customary old lifestyle in New Jersey. Which was extremely enjoyable.
It also illustrated a couple of talents that I do not possess that other guys have. In the case of Andrey, he is involved in creating a computer video game of exploration/quest nature. I do not know the first thing about how to approach that stuff, and while I am technology-savvy enough to muck around with websites and such, I clearly no longer have any hard-core programming skills. I was honestly surprised that I felt a bit envious looking at the brilliant results of Andrey’s work.
With Ari, there is no envy on my side, only admiration. Ari likes to cook and is quite good at it. Watching him perform his magic, I could only remark that as far as the process of meal preparation is concerned I am good at the consumption part of it… Natasha gave me a predictable See what other husbands do? You better watch and learn… observation, to which I could only retort in a tried and tired way that I did not get married all those years ago to have to prepare food for myself :>
Well-fed and content after a great weekend, we are now back to our regular programming. Actually, it is possible that regular programming is weeks away; we seem to have quite a lot planned for the upcoming days…