Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Josh!

Today was Josh's birthday.  Yesterday morning I was reading the book I got at the American Women's Club meeting on Tuesday, and one thing in particular caught my eye.  "On your birthday, it is customary to bring treats for everyone in your department."  Uh oh.  Even if I went out and bought treats for Josh to take to work, how was he going to transport them there on his bike?  Anything he brought with him would end up a squashed mess by the time he got to the office.

Fortunately, I had his assistant's email address, so I sent her an email asking if this was indeed the custom.  She confirmed that it was -- although even she thought it was odd that people were expected to provide their own birthday treats -- and offered to pick something up at M&S if I could give her some suggestions on what Josh would like.  I gratefully accepted the offer and promised to send reimbursement in with Josh the next day. 

Since Josh ended up working late last night, he slept in this morning and went in a couple hours later than usual.  That was probably a treat in and of itself, since he's usually heading out the door at 7 am, which is half an hour later than he used to wake up for his previous job.  He called me this afternoon to let me know that not only was there copious amounts of cake, but someone had decorated his office, and nearly everyone he walked past wished him a happy birthday.  Excellent!

When he got home from work, we went out to dinner at a local restaurant near our house.  There are nicer restaurants up in Wimbledon Village, but we didn't want to compete with the hordes of tennis fans for a table, so we'll have to save those until after the tournament ends.  After dinner, I gave Josh the birthday cards that had come in the mail (from his mom and my sister) and his gift from me:  an iPad 2!  They are much more expensive here, so I ordered it online in the US and had it shipped to Ben, who brought it with him when he and Laska visited a couple weeks ago.  (Thanks, Ben & Laska!)  Josh isn't allowed to bring his work computer with him when he travels, so he lugs my old MacBook around to check email and access the Web.  Now he can leave the laptop and just bring the iPad.

Josh hasn't had much of a chance to play with the iPad yet as he had a ton of emails, Facebook posts, and phone messages to respond to.  We also had a fun Skype session with our friends the Nelsons, whose youngest daughter just turned one.  All three girls were in a celebratory mood, some of which could probably be attributed to the birthday balloons and cake in their house, which they pretended were for Josh.  It's always a treat to Skype with friends and family, and the two older girls made it especially entertaining by putting on a little song-and-dance performance for us.   Hilarious!  

Overall, I think it was a pretty good birthday for Josh, despite being so far away from everyone.   Saturday we are planning to do a walk out in the country, and Sunday we are likely to attend an Independence Day celebration with a bunch of other American expats.  After celebrating the 4th in DC for the past 15 years with the crowds and huge fireworks display, it's going to be strange to spend it in a country that goes out of their way to ignore it.  Someone told Josh they call it "Good Riddance Day" in the UK.  There's going to be a huge Canada Day celebration in Trafalgar Square tomorrow, but the 4th of July is just another day here in London.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Heat Wave

Yesterday was an unusually hot day here in London -- it got up to 32 degrees!  Yeah, I still can't relate to  temperatures in Celsius, either.  It was freakin' 90 degrees here!  Now, you'd think after living in Fresno, CA, where it routinely gets over 100 in the summer for weeks on end, and Washington, DC, where the heat and humidity combine to make for some miserable summer days, that I'd have a pretty high tolerance for hot weather.  And I do.  Much more so than cold weather.  But air conditioning is rare here, so it's hard to find relief from the heat like we are used to.  We don't have it in our house, and most modes of public transport and shops and restaurants lack A/C as well.  In fact, unless they advertise it out front, you can assume most places of business don't have it. 

Since we were going to be dining at a fancy Michelin-starred restaurant last night, I decided to take the bus, rather than the tube or the train, as it involved less walking and I didn't want to arrive a sweaty mess.  Of course, it was sweltering on the bus, and even the fancy restaurant didn't seem to have air conditioning.  Bleah.

I met Josh and the recruiters, Richard and Annabel, at Chez Bruce in Balham.  It's a very cute, unassuming little place.  They offer a 3-course dinner menu for £45 ($72) per person.
Chez Bruce
The food was very tasty, the service was good, and the portion sizes were just right.  It didn't change my life, but I'd definitely go back for a special occasion.  Richard and Annabel were interested to hear how we were settling in and, of course, how Josh was liking his new job. Clearly, they have a vested interest in making sure that Josh was a good fit, but it was nice that they chose to have this conversation over dinner rather than just making a phone call.  Richard treated us to dinner, despite Josh's best efforts to grab the check or at least add his card to it.  We took the bus home -- not our accustomed mode of travel for fine dining.

We were glad we had bought a fan over the weekend, because our converted attic bedroom was like a sauna.  It doesn't have any proper windows, just two skylights and a set of small balcony doors, so we had to put the fan in front of the open doors to cool it down enough to sleep.  When it started raining at 4 am, we had to get up and shut the doors.  Now I understand why our landlords slept in the guest room downstairs when it was hot.

This morning I took the tube to Green Park to attend an American Women's Club meeting at the Lansdowne Club.  Since the club has a strict dress code, we were instructed not to wear denim or trainers (sneakers).
The Lansdowne Club
As a result, many of the ladies looked like they were dressed for a cocktail party, even though it was 10 am and we were going to be watching a cooking demonstration.  They asked the newbies to introduce themselves, where they were from, where they lived in London, and how long they had been there.  Since I was the most recent arrival, I won a door prize:
Yanks in Blighty, by Donna Marsh
I haven't had a chance to read it yet, but it looks like it has some useful information in it.  It may have saved me some aggravation if I had read it before we moved here, but I'm sure I still have PLENTY more to learn.

A couple of the women I had met at the new member coffee last week were there, including Ingrid, who also lives in Wimbledon.  She lives right across from the tennis club, in the more posh part of town.  Since there are no decent hotels in Wimbledon, most of the tennis players -- and many of the attendees -- rent out private homes during the tournament. Ingrid said Rafael Nadal is renting the house next door to hers, and apparently last night he had a physiotherapy session in the front room, in full view of the neighborhood.  In.  The.  Nude.  Clearly, we moved to the wrong part of town.

Anyway, the bulk of the meeting was a cooking/All-Clad pan demonstration by Neil Armstrong.  No, it wasn't THAT Neil Armstrong, it was this one.  He made several different dishes, while his assistant passed out pre-made samples of each one.  Yum!   One of the club members sold raffle tickets for an All-Clad pan, with the proceeds going to the Ronald McDonald House, one of several charities they support.  I didn't win that, but at least I got a book.

Afterwards, several of us went to lunch at a nearby hotel restaurant.  This is a standing lunch after their monthly meeting, so they had a special fixed menu for us.  Nice.
Lunch menu
It was nice to get a chance to talk informally with some of the other club members.  They were all pretty friendly and helpful, and we had some interesting discussions about foods we miss and new foods we've discovered here.  During lunch, a big thunderstorm passed through, so we lingered a while until the rain let up and then made a beeline for the tube station.  It was still pretty warm and humid, but the temperature finally dropped later in the afternoon, and forecast is sunny and in the 60's for the rest of the week.  Fingers crossed that it really happens!


Monday, June 27, 2011

A Productive Weekend

Other than the gardening photos in my previous post, I don't have any pictures to share from this past weekend.  After spending the previous two weekends hosting Ben & Laska and the two before that in DC, we had lots of catching up to do on the home front.  Most of our time was spent running errands,  shopping, fixing stuff, doing laundry, and catching up on our sleep and TV watching.  Pretty boring stuff to read about, I'm sure.

Summer has finally arrived.  June has mostly been cool and rainy, but the weather was gorgeous over the weekend and today it is downright HOT.  It's currently 88 degrees here, which is well above average.  It's supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow and cool back down to the 60's for the rest of the week, which is a bit of a relief.  88 degrees feels a lot warmer when you live in a 115-year-old house with no air conditioning.  They don't believe in window screens here, either, so when I open the front and back windows (no side windows in a rowhouse!) to get some cross-ventilation, the incoming fresh air is often accompanied by a variety of flies, mosquitoes, ladybugs, and other insects -- most of which fail to find their way back out.  I've noticed a small pile of dead flies forming in our dining room, which has an entire wall of floor-to-ceiling windows and two skylights.  At least the warm weather makes doing laundry much easier.  By the time the washer has completed its 2-hour cycle, the previous load is already dry out on the clothesline.

Tonight we are having dinner with the people from the executive search firm who recruited Josh for his job here.  We're not sure if he is thanking them for landing him this job, or if they are thanking him for the tidy commission they earned when he accepted the position.  I guess we'll find out when the check comes...  ;-)  We are eating at Chez Bruce, a Michelin-starred restaurant that's less than 3 miles from our house.  This will be my first fine dining experience in London since we moved here, so I'm really looking forward to it.

Oh, and I was pleasantly surprised to discover that our food waste bins were delivered to our house this afternoon, just a month and a half after my initial request.  But it was 5 working days from my most recent request, as promised.  Now we have a small caddy to keep in the kitchen, a larger bin to empty it into for weekly collection, and a 6-month supply of biodegradable liners.  Now I just need to find a place in the kitchen for the compost caddy, which may require some serious re-organization...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The All England Lawn Tennis Club

After a fun-filled, action-packed two-week visit, Ben and Laska flew back to Seattle on Friday morning.  We woke up at 6 am to apply for the second round of 2012 Olympic tickets (since we got NONE in the first round) and see them off, and then went back to sleep for a couple hours.

Josh took the day off work, so after our mid-morning nap, we showered, ate breakfast, packed a picnic lunch, and walked up the hill to The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club to catch Day 5 of the Wimbledon tennis championships.  Yes, that's right: we WALKED!  One of the benefits of living in Wimbledon is that we are less than 2 miles from the world-famous tennis club.  We also have the option of taking the bus, but it's a nice walk that takes you through some of the swankier parts of Wimbledon. 

One of Josh's co-workers, whose father is a member of the AELTC, gave him two ground passes, so we didn't have to go through the queue, we just walked up to the gate and went in.  Sweet!
 These passes admit you to the grounds and courts 4 through 19, so you can still watch plenty of tennis.
And if you really want to see what's going on in Centre Court or No 1, you can sit on the hill and watch the action on the big screen.  Josh and I found great seats under a wisteria-covered trellis at the top of the hill to watch local favorite Laura Robson play Maria Sharapova.
Seated nearby was Chito Salarza-Grant and a friend.  If you watched the Royal Wedding on TV, you might recognize him as the guy in the crowd with the elaborate home-made hat.  They both were fitted out in their finest Wimbledon tennis hats.  She was filming a documentary about "the hat man of London" and had me take another photo of him after this one so she could film me taking the photo.  I wish someone could have taken a picture of that for me...
The Hat Man!
After the match, we enjoyed some traditional "strowbries and cream" while watching a ladies' doubles match.  Two women from Russia and India were playing two women from Kazakhstan and the Czech Republic.  I noticed on the schedule that many of the doubles pairs were from two different countries.  Not sure how they practice together, but they seemed to do pretty well.
After that match ended (the Indian/Russian pair won), we partook of another Wimbledon tradition: Pimm's.  We thought we should cheer on some Americans, so we headed over to Court 7 to watch Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Meghann Shaughnessy play against a pair from Spain.
It was a pretty good game, and we were right next to Centre Court, so we could keep an eye on the scores of the games going on in the big show courts at the same time.  Venus Williams seemed to be having a much easier time of it than when I watched her on TV on Wednesday.
And then it started to rain.  Within minutes, they halted play, dismantled the net, and pulled the cover over the court.  It only lasted about 10 minutes, so although most people cleared out, we decided to stay put and keep our seats dry in case they resumed the game.  While we were waiting, a British couple walked over and asked if we were planning to stick around.  When we said yes, they handed us  their Centre Court tickets and said they had to get home to their kids.  After thanking them profusely, we found our way to our new seats.  They were a bit high up, but we weren't going to complain!
Centre Court!!!
Soon after that they announced that play on all other courts had been cancelled for the rest of the day due to rain, so Centre Court which has a retractable roof, was the only game in town.  We watched the end of a ladies singles match that had been interrupted by the rain, and then it was time for the main event.
Andy Murray is the biggest tennis star in the UK, so the crowd was very excited to see him play.  We started feeling kind of bad for his opponent, who was from Croatia, but Josh speculated that he would get pummeled by thousands of Brits if he started cheering from him.  About 10 minutes later, we heard a male American voice yell out, "Yay, other guy!" from somewhere to our right.  Cheeky Americans!
 It was a very close game...
 But Andy triumphed in the end.

Andy, will you sign my giant ball?
It was still raining when we emerged from the stadium a little after 10 pm.  We made our way through the crowds and back home, still pinching ourselves that we were able to watch a game in Centre Court.  I'm not even much of a tennis fan, but it is a beautiful venue and I really enjoyed the experience.

If you are considering visiting us for next year's tennis tournament (June 25 - July 8), try to let us know well in advance.  I think you have to apply in December for tickets to the show court events.  It's a lottery, so there are no guarantees, but it beats having to stand in a long queue on the day of the event.  Our you can just get grounds passes and hope for a lucky break like ours...

This morning we decided to tackle our sadly neglected yard, perhaps inspired by the perfect lawns and landscaping at Wimbledon. Josh mowed the lawn with our electric mower...
 And I tacked the weeds that have sprouted up in our front garden.
When I got sick of all the snails and sowbugs, I went out back to help Josh.  When we finally called it a day around 1:00, the back yard looked significantly better
The front yard looked better, too, but it could still use some work.  It's hard pulling all those tiny weeds out of the gravel.  Not a great landscaping strategy
Our landlords are lovely people, but with a toddler and another baby on the way, they didn't have much time or energy to devote to gardening, so it wasn't in great shape to begin with when we moved in.  We have to keep reminding ourselves that we are renting the house, so it doesn't make sense to invest in making improvements to the property -- as tempting as it is now that we have a major home renovation under our belt -- we just need to maintain it.  Our yard will NEVER look as nice as either of our neighbors', but now that we've set their expectations incredibly low, I hope they'll at least appreciate any efforts we make to keep it looking neat and tidy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

American Women's Club

Tuesday morning I took off my tour-guide hat and took the tube up to Kensington to attend a new member coffee at the American Women's Club.
South Kensington station
One of Josh's co-workers had suggested to him that it might be a good way for me to meet people in London and help with the transition.  While I don't want to end up only hanging out with other Americans, it would be nice to know some people who have been through this experience and can offer advice, support, and a additional opportunities for social interaction.  My friend Bethie met me there with baby Charlotte, who was an instant hit with the rest of the ladies in attendance.  Bethie finally had to make her a name tag with her name and age so she wouldn't have to answer the same questions every time someone new walked into the room.

It was a pretty diverse group of women, some of whom had lived in other countries as well (France, Australia, The Netherlands).  One woman was from New Zealand, but was married to an American and had just moved from Texas.  Even though there were only about 10 women, four of us (including Bethie and myself) had moved from the DC area, including another woman who's husband works for BAE.  There was also another woman who lived in Wimbledon.  Small world!   After introductions, we went over some of the regular activities the club sponsors -- hikes, theater/movie outings, afternoon teas, museum visits, day trips, book clubs, coffee groups -- and then spend some time asking questions and sharing advice about life in London.  Where are good places to shop?  How do the buses work?  Are there any decent Mexican restaurants?

The woman who led the meeting told us that Americans find the expat experience in London to be (ironically) much more difficult than in most other countries because they expect that without a language barrier it will be easy for them to integrate into society.  Not so much.  Imagine moving to a new city where you don't know anyone.  Now imagine that you've never heard of most of the shops, banks, restaurants, and other businesses in that city.   You aren't familiar with any of the utility companies, cable/internet/phone providers, or even how to send something by mail.  The cars are different and they drive on the other side of the road -- and good luck trying to decipher the symbolic road signs.  Oh, and even though you think you speak the same language as everyone else, the locals use words and phrases you've never heard, have different names for things than what you're used to, and spell everything differently.  Like I've said before, it's like being transported into an alternate universe.

After the meeting, some of us went to lunch at a nearby Italian restaurant (no shortage of those here!) and continued our discussion.  It was nice to have a group of instant friends to hang out with, and the club seems to have enough of a variety of activities to appeal to my interests, so I'm glad I went.

After lunch, I met up with Ben and Laska at the Victoria & Albert Museum down the street.  They had been there since 11 am, so we spent another hour or so admiring the jewelry and glass collections and then took the tube over to Leicester Square to get tickets to a show.  Since we had already seen a musical last week, we decided to see a play this time, and managed to get half-price tickets for Pygmalion, starring Rupert Everett and Diana Rigg!  Sweet.

We had some time to kill before dinner, so we hung out in Trafalgar square for about 45 minutes and engaged in some people-watching and photography practice from the steps in front of the National Gallery.
The National Gallery
Outside the gallery was an amazing "living wall" reproducing this painting by Vincent van Gogh:

For dinner, we found a nice French brasserie a couple blocks from the theater.  Josh met us there at 7 and helped us finish our leftovers, and we got to the Garrick Theatre just as they were ringing the bell to indicate that it was time to find your seats.  Perfect.  If you are not familiar with Pygmalion, it is a play by George Bernard Shaw on which the musical My Fair Lady was based.  So, it's the same story, but without the songs about the rain in Spain being mainly on the plain, and so forth.
The first half of the play was fantastic, although we could occasionally hear trains and sirens going by, which was a little distracting. The second half was a little darker and the ending was rather abrupt and unsettling, but overall, we enjoyed it.

Since it was the longest day of the year, it was still light out when we emerged from the theater, even though it was nearly 10 pm.  I think the 18 hours of daylight during the summer will be a lot easier to adjust to than the 6 hours of daylight in the winter.  Not looking forward to that!

Yesterday Ben and Laska took the train to Cambridge for an overnight trip to visit some friends, so I've been taking advantage of the downtime to catch up on laundry, email, blogging, and giving my tired feet a well-deserved break.  It was cool and rainy, so a good day to stay home.  I watched a great tennis match between Venus Williams and Kimiko Date-Krumm on TV.  Even though I'm not much of a tennis fan, I feel like I should try to keep up with what's going on less than 2 miles away here in Wimbledon, and even I could tell that was a fantastic match.  Josh hasn't been yet, so we'll try to make it back up there sometime soon.

While I was watching, I was curious if the two American guys who sat at the next table at the restaurant where we ate dinner on Monday night were tennis players.  The first guy who walked in looked more like a football player -- tall and brawny.  The hostess directed him towards a small table for two, but he pointed to the 4-top next to ours and said that would be better, as his buddy was a big guy.  We were curious who that guy would consider "big," and then his buddy walked in.  Ben whispered, "Oh my God, that guy is seven feet tall!"  He nearly bumped his head on the light fixture.  I had my back to them during dinner, so I couldn't get a good look, but I figured there couldn't be many American tennis players that tall.  Sure enough, a quick search revealed the tall guy as John Isner, who is 6'9".  His claim to fame is playing in the longest game in Wimbledon history in 2010.  It lasted over 11 hours! 

Well, it's threatening to rain again, so I'd better bring in my laundry and run to the store for some milk before it starts.  If you want to know what the weather is like here over the next week and a half, just tune in to tennis.  Maybe you'll even see us!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

This is Rubbish!

Yes, we've been having a great time touring London and environs with Ben and Laska, but lest you think that I've turned the corner from being frustrated by the way things work (or don't) around here, I'll share another story with you...

Our trash ("rubbish") is collected every Thursday morning.  We have one small metal trash can ("rubbish bin") and two recycling bins, and we are also supposed to have a small bin for food waste.  We don't.  Several weeks ago, I  checked our local council web site, and they had a form you could fill out to request a new one.  I filled it out and submitted it.  Nothing happened.  We were out of town for 10 days, so I waited til we got back and tried again.  This time I got an email confirmation:
Request for food waste bins - Reference: AF98849E
"" <>

Thank you for using the online request form. Your Complete set (outside bin, kitchen caddy and liners) will be delivered within 5 working days to your front garden.

If you have any enquiries regarding this request please email or call 020 8274 4902.

Information regarding our food waste services can be found at

Your reference number for this form is AF98849E
Seven working days later, there was still no sign of any bins, so I called the number.  The conversation went something like this:

Naina: Hello, I'd like to check the status of a request for replacement food waste bins.  I have a confirmation number, if that helps.

Council lady: OK, what's the number?

Naina: A - F, as in Foxtrot ...

Council: What? That doesn't sound like a confirmation number.  Where did that number come from?

Naina: I submitted a request online and this is the number I was sent in the confirmation email.

Council: No, you can't request food waste bins online.

Naina: Well, then why do you have a form on your website?  And how did I get this confirmation email.  [Reads contents of email to Council lady.]

Council: If we let people request replacement bins online, then everyone would be doing it.  Do you see what I mean?

Naina:  Uh...  No.  Look, I just moved here from another country.  The house we are renting does not have a food waste bin.  How can I get one?

Council: I can submit an order for you.  What's your post code and house number?

Naina: SW19 8TH, number 35.

Council: And what's your home phone number?

Naina: 0-2-0-3...

Council:  Don't you mean 0-2-0-8?

Naina: No, it's 0-2-0-3-...

Council: The numbers in our calling area start with 0208.

Naina: I don't know what to tell you.  This is the number assigned to us by Sky.

Council: What's your surname?

Naina: Mistry.  M-I-S-T-R-Y

Council: That's not showing up in our records.  Are you sure you gave me the correct post code and house number?

Naina: Yes.  We are renting the house.  We just moved in two months ago, so maybe the records haven't been updated yet.  We've paid our council tax.  Can we submit the order?

Council: Yes, here is your order confirmation number: [xxxxxxx I don't have it handy]

Naina: And how long will it take to receive the bins?

Council: When is your regular food waste collection day?

Naina: I don't know -- we don't have a food waste bin.  Is it normally collected the same day as the trash and recycling?

Council: Yes.

Naina:  OK, then Thursday.

Council:  In that case, you may get them on Thursday when they collect your trash.  If not, it usually takes 5 working days.

Monday, June 20, 2011

MisFitz B&B, London

After living in Washington, DC for many years, we are used to having a steady stream of visitors who come to town on business, for vacation, to attend special events, or just to see us.  Now that we are in London, we are looking forward to more of the same.  Even more so, since we are so far away from friends and family. 

Our first house guests arrived last weekend, and we've barely stopped to catch our breath ever since.  Josh's brother, Ben, and his elder daughter, Laska are here.  (Some of you might remember Laska as the flower girl from our wedding when she was 3 3/4.  Now she's 14!)  They arrived last Saturday afternoon (June 11) from Seattle.

Our dining table arrived that Saturday morning, just in time.  It was delivered in 4 boxes, so Josh and I scrambled to assemble the table and 6 chairs and clear the rest of the stuff out of the room before Josh had to leave to meet Ben and Laska at Heathrow.
Our new dining table!
Ben and Laska were both at the tail end of a nasty cold when they arrived, and since Ben already has a weak immune system -- due to all the drugs he takes to keep his body from rejecting Josh's kidney -- he decided to take it easy for the first couple days.

I took Laska shopping in Kingston Sunday afternoon, and Monday afternoon we took the tube into the city and walked across London Bridge and along the Thames.
Laska on London Bridge
Contrary to popular belief, that iconic bridge you see in the background is NOT London Bridge, it's the Tower Bridge.  London Bridge is pretty nondescript, as bridges go.
London Bridge
Meanwhile, Josh set up our Wii with the transformer that Ben brought us, so we played some games.  I think Ben and Laska are now completely addicted to Lego Star Wars.
Monday was rainy, so I took Laska shopping in Kingston in the afternoon while Ben finished grading papers.  Tuesday was a lovely day, so we took the tube to Westminster and hopped on a boat to Greenwich.  Along the way, we saw several iconic London sites.
The London Eye

The Tate Modern

Replica of the Golden Hind

Tower of London
Tower Bridge
Greenwich! (Royal Maritime College, Queen's House, Royal Observatory)
We walked up the hill to the Royal Observatory first, since Josh and I didn't get to see it on our previous visit.
We took the requisite photos at the Prime Meridian.

When everything had closed for the day, we took the DLR back into central London, and walked through Trafalgar Square.
Past Parliament and Big Ben.

And across the bridge, where we had a nice view of the London Eye.
Josh with a halo?
Wednesday we went to the National Gallery, had dinner at an Indian restaurant, and saw Billy Elliot.
Thursday we rented a Zipcar and drove down to Guildford, where we visited a castle dating back to 1066.

Next door was The Chestnuts, a house once occupied by Lewis Carroll.  A sculpture of Alice Through the Looking Glass is in the adjacent park.

Alice Through the Looking Glass
Then we drove to the tiny hamlet of Crondall to meet up with some of Josh's work colleagues for a friendly game of cricket.  Josh had never played before, but my dad used to play when I was a kid, so I tried to explain it to him as best I could.  He took a few practice shots before his turn at bat.

He did remarkably well - better than many of the people who actually knew what they were doing -- and even scored a 4!
They took a break when it started raining, but it cleared up in about 15 minutes, and we were graced with a beautiful double rainbow.  (Sadly, no good vantage point from which to photograph it, though.)
Josh's team ended up winning the game, and then we retired to a nearby pub for dinner and drove back to London.

Friday was rainy, but we decided to visit the Tower of London, as did about 500 other Americans.
The White Tower

Our tour guide
Tiny armor, giant armor!
Dragon made from Tower artifacts
We didn't have time to see the entire compound, but we hit most of the highlights, including the Crown Jewels, which has a long, Disney-style line culminating in a moving walkway that sends you past a 10-foot long display case.

We had Ben take Saturday off to rest and catch up on work and laundry while Josh and I took Laska to Camden Market.  She was a little overwhelmed by it -- as were we the first time -- but said if she lived in London she'd probably go every weekend with her friends.
Sunday we rented another Zipcar (a VW Golf again) and went on another day trip adventure.
Unfortunately, we had a little trouble getting out of the city thanks to a jillion cyclists.  This "Advance Warning" sign was about a block away from the route.  Thanks!

We finally reached our first destination around 1:00.  STONEHENGE!  Sadly, we did not get the memo about the audio tour being free, so we just walked around and took photos.  There were a fair number of people there, but the area around the stones is roped off, so the photos make it look nearly deserted.
That won't be the case today, as they are expecting 20,000 people for the summer solstice.  Good thing we got there before the mad rush.
Ben (who is an archaeologist) bought a book in the gift shop and read to us about Stonehenge on the way to our next destination: Bath.  It is beautiful town on the Avon River, as evidenced by our first glimpse.
We visited the ancient Roman baths that the city is named after and famous for.

Then we had a spot of tea and walked around to take in all the lovely architecture.
This crescent of homes was built in 1767 and looks much the same today.

We ate dinner there and then drove back home, reaching our house around 12:30 am.

Today Josh had to go to work, but the rest of us slept in.  In the afternoon, Ben, Laska, and I walked up to the All England Lawn Tennis Club and scored some grounds passes to the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, which started today.

We could not get in to the main courts where the big-name stars were playing, but we found seats at the #15 court and watched the end of one match and the first half of another.

Then it started to rain, so they abruptly halted play and pulled the cover over the grass court.  Bummer.
We took the opportunity to find the restrooms and snack bar and then stood in the rain to watch the action in Centre Court (which has a retractable roof) from the giant video screen. 
It was an exciting match, with the final set tied up for what seemed like an eternity as each player kept gaining and losing the advantage.  When it ended, they announced that they would no longer be broadcasting the game from Centre Court on the screen "for health and safety reasons."  Not sure what that means, but we took that as our cue to leave.

We stopped for dinner in Wimbledon Village on the way home, and caught up with Josh back at the house.  Speaking of catching up, I am FINALLY up to the present, so I'm going to bring this lengthy post to an end and go to bed.  I hope I'll have a chance to update again soon...