Bubble in the desert

A blog I started whilst on a GE "Bubble" assignment in Nevada. I'm back in Cambridge (UK) now but still miss the desert and my friends out there.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

The Perfect Birthday

What an awesome day! I really can't imagine a better birthday party, apart from by adding all the other people I wished could have been there. If I had $10 million in the bank I would be dreaming about how to have a birthday this good.

I should say a huge thanks to those that came out and played on the beach and the others who inspired and advised, sent cookies (on a plate with 'Cheers' on it), sent presents, cards and well wishes.

Julie came over bringing a blueberry buckle cake she'd made for breakfast, which we accompanied with PG Tips tea that Carol, the English nurse at work, had given me. We then prepared the party food, consisting of:
- cheese and pineapple on cocktail sticks arranged porcupine style into half a grapefruit;
- cheese and silverskin onions on sticks;
- olives (with pits in);
- cucumber sandwiches (which went down surprisingly well).

We headed up and over the mountain pass (Kingsbury 7,300ft) and then down to Nevada Beach (6,300ft). It's a bit of a joke about English weather that it can rain unpredictably even in July, so it was with no small amusement that I watched the rain coming down as we went up Kingsbury.

We arrived a little after 2 o'clock due to some parking problems but quickly put up the tents and found some folks. By this stage the sand was too hot to walk on for more than about 10 seconds.

Here we have Pete, Scott S, Sienna, Chris and Ron S, Kathy W, Mark & Teresa T with Kelly and Eric...

I bought a Volleyball net and Bocce (Boule/Ptonk?) at Target yesterday. We put the net up early on but didn't do anything with it for a while. Dave and co bought me a giant frisbee for my birthday/party so we played with that a bit, then a bit of bocce, and some sitting around eating and drinking all quite mellow. I even dragged all my presents out and opened them all up. I was told that custom in the US is for the person opening the presents to read all the cards aloud. The card from Hector (Fred's dog) was perhaps the most popular but they were all great. From Mum and Fred I got some great books by the Dalai Lama which we tested on Buster (Joe and Michelle's dog). He was pretty interested in the two books on happiness but found the one on forgiveness to be totally put downable (I think he was thinking about not forgiving the cats about then). Other presents included socks with really cool patterns underneath (I was wondering how to display the pattern but they work really well with my Berkenstocks). Also pants (US Eng: Underwear), a t-shirt from my swimming club back home, a spinning thing and a kite and Johnathon Livingston Seagull, and extra juggling balls. All pretty useful things to have at the beach. Dad got me this year's Death Ride t-shirt too (in addition to a new camelbak). Amy and Scott got me a t-shirt too, with London on it (I wonder where from) and Amy made some cookies too and promised a dinner of my choice!! Chris W got me a massively loaded starbucks gift card. I was quite embarrassed but he was pleased that I got him connected with some web design work, so it was thanks for that (I thought 1 Chai Latte and appropriate finders fee but he got me quite a few more than that). Michelle and Joe got me some home made jam (US Eng: Jelly) made by a "stubborn frenchman" (Michelle's Dad I think). This reminded me of jam making things we used to do at my Gran's house about this time of year with the greengages (see picture below). Buying a cake also reminded me of my Gran on my birthday, the first one without her around. Homemade cake was always an important part of birthdays and it was nice, and sad as well, to remember back.

The presents (expressly forbidden on the invite) and sitting around drinking and relaxing were good fun, but there came a time when the Baywatch moment had to begin and we got up to play beach volleyball. Surprisingly, everyone gravitated towards the pitch together and nobody needed extra urging (though some desperately needed a practice session - thank goodness Sienna arranged that).

Here we have Joe, Marisa, Michelle, Dave, Julie, Chris, Pete, Sienna, Scott.

To say these guys were formidable would be an understatement. On the field we had a power yoga instructor, an ex-pro skier, a scholarship winning tennis player, a karate black belt and on top of that, some naturally athletic people without neat sound bite accolades but not lacking in skill or commitment. Pete had the spring of tigger and the commitment of Beckham. And then there was the all around athletic machine that is Marisa. When Marisa hit the ball you could see her whole body move into the shot, starting from the core and then careful alignment of the arms for perfect directional contact - textbook! We were glad when we stopped her serve. Chris was none too shabby either. The couples who played on the same teams worked pretty well together too (impressive).

We played with scant regard for the score (I think Julie knew the score the whole time) amongst ourselves. Everyone seemed to quickly find their own style with some more intimidating than others (Marisa being near the top of the list). Dave's tennis skills showed. Sienna's power was incredible but it took a while to direct it towards inbounds, though by the end of the day she was as focused as a jedi princess (without the coiled hair bunches). Pete soon became 'Deep Court Pete' though he seemed to spring from anywhere to where the ball was most of the time. Julie became 'The Annihilator' which seemed to go with the Karate black belt. I fumbled the ball so much that I think my name should have been that, but it was my birthday so any time I even hit the ball I got encouragement - well everyone did but I was so bad I got a lot of it!

Sienna, me and Michelle... (photo by Kathy)

Julie, Joe, Chris and of course, Marisa... (photo by Kathy)

Buster looks on, probably really looking at the food... (photo by Kathy)

Joe, Julie and me... (photo by Kathy)

After a while we reluctantly stopped for a bit of a break and to take on some fluids. While we were stopped a few mexican guys, who were on the beach with their families, asked if we'd like to play against them (one of them had helped us set up the net earlier). They seemed like really nice folks but potentially deadly volleyball players (which a couple of them were). They came out and drew proper lines on the court and our top 6 lined up against theirs and we got on with it. The skill level took and upturn at this stage. I didn't make the squad to begin with (luckily) so took a few action shots instead. It was great to watch. They suggested early on that the losing team could go for a swim in the lake, so we played for the opportunity to not have to get cold (Lake Tahoe stays pretty chilly but wasn't too bad).

One of our dangerous opponents serving. After 3 excellent serves he would put one in the net, which I suspect was deliberate so we made a game of it.

Julie getting up to knock one back...

Deep Court Pete at the front of the court for a change, poised like a coiled spring for the return...

Scott S gets up there...

Julie busy annihilating, team mates poised...

The kids came over to play. Extremely polite and well mannered kids. There were loads of crisps (chips) and cookies all over the place and they didn't take any until offered. Their Mum's thought it quite funny that I checked with them before filling the kids full of chips and sweets. Very nice kids, here with Kathy and Michelle (with Joe and Buster the dog obscured).

Chris in the air, Marisa (far right) looking poised and intimidating (look at the textbook arms) and the rest of the team looking pretty focused.

Oh dear, he's serving again...

We kept having just one more game until it got dark, and then the losing team had to swim. So, we made good on our part of the bargain but as a yoga class decided hand stands in the water were the appropriate way to go. Here's Pete holding the pose, and my feet from me not holding the pose.

A more perfect birthday is hard to imagine. I count myself very lucky indeed to have spent it in such a beautiful place, but more importantly, with such a nice bunch of people.


At 9:27 am, Anonymous Steve said...

Happy Birthday Listl. Wish we could've been there.


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