Robin and I have been in England since mid-June and it has taken me a while to figure out my daily "routine". Just before we left home I got 2 new contract jobs lined up but had kind of put them on hold while we did some work on the garage (repairs and painting) and I tried to make up for a whole spring of neglect in the yard and garden. We have a wonderful housesitter this time who is an avid gardener (and horticulturist by training) so I wanted something she could get into and maintain (and as a bonus have some homegrown vegetables awaiting our return!).
The first week and a half here Robin was working 2nd shift and we both struggled with sleeping since it is getting light here around 4:30am and we are used to getting up early anyway. This week he switched to first shift which suits our personal styles better especially for these long summer days.
I am finding a completely different rhythm of life here this time around. My first long trip here I was training for Ironman Canada which gave me a very structured schedule and the 2nd and 3rd trips I was fortunate enough to make fast friends with first Brenda and then Rachel (other Boeing spouses) giving me some wonderful pals to explore and play with. Rachel was due to come this time as well and I was very much looking forward to spending time with her again but her mother became gravely ill and she instead went to Tennessee to spend her last days with her. A blessing for both of them. After getting the apartment set up the way we like I got stuck in with a daily work schedule trying to get a firmer handle on the more demanding of my new jobs (still working on that!) and this week I have incorporated an exercise routine as well so finally I am in a groove.
So, what exciting things have we been up to since we got here?
We've done a couple of nice walks with Steve - one to a beerfest and another past one of my favorite houses - Dipley Mill. I've only ever seen Dipley Mill zooming by on the road on our bikes so taking a walk that actually went around 3 sides of the property was a treat. Here we are on the little humpy bridge in front of Dipley Mill.
and a photo of the house and garden. We pretty much think our place will be looking like this soon...
Over the weekend we drove to Wales to watch the British Cycling Road Race Championships. We arrived on Saturday just in time to see the Junior Men finish their race and then the Women had their race in the afternoon. The women's' race ended with 2 circuits of the town and we found a great place to see them pass by a couple of times and then got to the finish line to see Nicole Cooke take her 9th consecutive national title and 10th altogether. Nicole is also the reigning Olympic and World Champion and is Welsh so we were very surprised at the lack of crowd there to witness the event. I had deliberately reserved a B&B in a neighboring town to avoid what I assumed would be a zoo in the host town of Abergavenny. A few pictures of the day:
The start/finish in town:
The start of the Women's Race - that's Nicole in white and the world champion stripes:
Walking around Monmouth Robin liked this wonderful 4-story skinny building:
Sunday was the men's race and there were a few more people around but still not at all what we expected with big names like David Millar, Bradley Wiggins, and Mark Cavendish - all big Tour riders. We stayed in the lovely town of Monmouth, visited the ever-present local castle ruins, had a great dinner, got a bit lost on a walk, and had time the next morning to drive to Skenfrith and ride the 13 miles to Abergavenny. We watched the start and then headed out to catch the action on the big climb up and over Iron Mountain. That's where we finally saw some crowds as many people drove and rode to the top. We got there early at about noon and decided to go to the nearby pub for some lunch. I made the mistake of skipping the prepackaged sandwich and ordered the jacket potato (that's a baked potato back home). The result - we missed the race going by! Oh well, back down the mountain and into town to catch the 10 finishing circuits which were very exciting and then the finish.
At the start line for the Men's race one of the neutral support mechanics is put to work before the race starts:
Here are some folks riding to the top of Iron Mountain to catch the action:
The view from Iron Mountain over the southern Welsh countryside:
The longtime race leader on the finishing circuits - cruel fate dictated he ended 4th on the day:
We both thought the ride back to the car might be a bit of a grind but the quiet road over the rolling hills with the fabulous views of the Welsh hillsides dotted with farms and sheep was very enjoyable. Back in Skenfrith the ruined castle was now a bustling local craft fair with lots of folks out enjoying the warm and sunny afternoon. Two boys were hitting a tennis ball against the side of the castle - how casual is that?
Back in Farnborough on Monday evening I grilled some sausages from the organic farm shop and Robin fixed some greens then proceeded to eat THREE of the sausages which he immediately regretted. He was sick for the next 2 days! I did my best to nurse him and he seems back to his usual self now. No pictures to share of that you'll be thankful to know!
So, life goes on here with extensive coverage of Wimbledon on the telly and the Tour de France starting this weekend seeing us spending a bit more time on our fannies than we should! Pair that with my complete lack of will power when in comes to the plethora of high quality cakes and goodies here and I'll be having a hard time wearing anything but a (large) sack soon!
As I've been typing this Serena Williams has been playing her semi-final match against Elena Dementieva and she just won a very tough match! Oops - it has taken me a day to get the pictures loaded and since then now Venus Williams won her semi-final making a Williams' Sisters Final on Saturday and tonight Andy Roddick upset British favorite Andy Murray and will meet Roger Federer on Sunday. GREAT tennis watching and a guarantee of at least 1 and possibly 2 American Wimbledon Champions this year!