Well, I’ve been waiting almost a year and half and summer has finally arrived!! Why a year and half, you might ask? Because last summer seemed to never happen. It never got properly sunny or hot, so I completely missed out on a summer. However, the past week has been a “heat wave” in the UK, and just in time for good ole 4th of July!
This was the second year in a row that I had to work on July 4th, and it felt just as wrong as last year. July 4th is supposed to be about celebrating America and our freedom and independence. And that freedom is from the one place I am currently located: England. So instead, I’m being oppressed and having to work on my Independence day. No matter, we managed to plan an evening BBQ with a mixture of American expats, other foreigners (Spanish, Italian, Indian, Dutch, Polish, etc), and even a few token Brits. The weather turned out fantastic for the event and it was a celebration, even if we couldn’t manage to get fireworks. Special thanks to Vivek for letting us use his backyard, since we don’t have any outdoor space (or a grill).
Friday, we went to our first ever cricket match. Since living here, we’ve gone to see football (soccer), rugby, and even horse-racing, so we figured we needed to see cricket as well. Although cricket originated in England, it seems to be most popular in India. I work with a lot of Indians, and in fact, my two neighbors at work both have Indian heritage, so I’ve heard a lot about cricket during my time here. I think it has slowly sunk in, and by finally seeing a match, I think I get the gist of it.
Here is my very basic explanation. We went to a 20/20 match, which means twenty overs for each team. This is the shortest version of the game, and only lasts about a couple hours. Some of the other versions can last a day, or even a week! An over is similar to an inning in baseball, although only one team is bowling (like pitching). One team bowls for all of their 20 overs, and then the other team will bowl. In each over, there are 6 balls (so imagine 6 pitches); after 6 balls, you go to the next over. Additionally, the team that is bowling (pitching), is trying to get wickets, which is equivalent to getting the batsman out. There are 11 batsmen on each team, with 2 batters up at a time, so once they get 10 wickets, there are no more batsmen left, so its the other teams turn to bat, even if there haven’t been 20 overs. However, in 20/20 cricket, normally the overs are finished before reaching 10 wickets. As a batsman, you are only allowed to get out one time, you don’t rotate back through the line-up. In order to get a wicket, the ball has to hit the wooden stumps behind the batsmen, or the ball has to be caught in the air after being hit by the batsman. In a “test match” which can last multiple days, there is no limit to the number of overs, and one team bats until all the batsmen are out (10 wickets), and then it’s the other team’s turn to bat.
In order to score points, the batsman hits the ball with the bat, and runs between the wickets, with each run counting as 1 point. Additionally, if the ball goes out of the park, it is worth 6 points, or if it goes past a certain line, it is worth 4 points.
The match we saw was the Derbyshire Falcons versus Nottingham Outlaws. It was a Friday night 20/20 match, and it sold out with a stadium capacity of 5,000 people. The atmosphere reminded me of an Indianapolis Indians baseball game, with a good family vibe, and a lot more socializing than actually watching the game. There were even some cheerleaders and costumed Falcons! Unfortunately, Derbyshire lost by 6 wickets.
On Saturday we got gorgeous weather again! We headed to the Cotswolds with some of our favorite expats and travel buddies, Jeff and Kerry. Unfortunately, this is one of our last travels with them since they are headed back to the land of freedom in a month. We enjoyed the day together, and headed down to the Cotswolds, which is an area of outstanding natural beauty and quaint English villages. We did a circular walk down there, enjoying the sunshine, and also checked out Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of Shakespeare, on the way home. Quite an amazing day.
The walk didn’t seem too bad, as we weren’t hiking to a particular summit, and we also weren’t walking through pouring rain. Amazing how the weather can make a huge difference. It was also warm and sunny, but it wasn’t boiling hot, so that made it quite pleasant. Overall, a very nice walk out in the Cotswolds.
Next, we headed to Stratford-upon-Avon, since it was basically on our way home. Driving into town, we got stuck in a traffic jam, with less than a mile to go. Doug got out of the traffic and pulled into the Old Tramway Inn, and it turned out to be the perfect stop, with free parking, a great outdoor garden, decent pub food (we ate a late lunch), and a secret pedestrian pathway into town. Winning!
The path into town led us through a public park, and I’ve never seen a park this crowded before! I guess the English just stop all their plans in order to get outside whenever the weather is this good. All the kids were enjoying the playground and the pool. The pool especially since I imagine it doesn’t get much use throughout the year.
We didn’t know it, but this weekend happened to be the River Festival in Stratford-upon-Avon. It occurs one weekend in the summer, and we just so happened to stumble upon it without even planning. There were tons of people about, with stalls of food and crafts set up, live bands playing, and narrow canal boats docked on the river Avon. The atmosphere was very lively, and it seemed to be like the English equivalent of a county fair in the States. We found out there were even fireworks that evening, but we weren’t going to stick around to half past ten in order to see them.
We left the festival atmosphere to check out the rest of Stratford-upon-Avon, which includes the birthplace of Shakespeare. You can buy a 5-house pass in order to see all the important Shakespeare homes, but we decided to save our money and admire from the outside. None of us are huge Shakespeare fans, so we didn’t feel the need to go in. We just walked around the area, admired the Tudor buildings, and went in some of the touristy shops selling anything and everything Shakespeare.
Honestly, the festival and river were more interesting to us, so we headed back that way and hung out a little more.
Overall, an amazing Independence weekend basically due to the fact that we finally got some summer weather. Hopefully it will last longer!