Tuesday, May 23

A Dog's Life

Sometimes I think the dog has one over on us.

I make a two hour hike of Richmond Park weighted down with my 65 liter back-pack loaded with tin cans to simulate the gear for the JMT.  I've sorted the kit but the food drops still have me worried. Two months to get myself sorted (as these Brits would say).

Madeleine and I go to the movies - totally irregular for a Monday school night but homework be damned, it's Alien Covenant. We settle in for a couple hours of alien gore. Not nearly so good as the first Alien, Ridley Scott's master work (watched at the Grand Oak theatre with my mom in 1979 btw), but still fun. Madeleine is Big into film and photography, with her photos taped on her bedroom wall.

The reason I love my blog is the randomness: for instance, I would have never recalled that Madeleine wanted to name her turtle 'Alonzo Smith' before choosing Eric and Nelson.

Sunday, May 21

Sonnet Tedx

Birthday Gal

Sonnet's birthday is celebrated by her with an early morning run around Richmond Park with her girlfriends (she does it every Sunday anyway). We go to a matinee in Barnes with Madeleine - how decadent on a sunny afternoon - and tonight we will have an early family dinner at the local gastro pub (Madeleine begs for sushi but me: No way).

Observing Madeleine, who is so cool and up for anything, who will make some guy a great companion, I appreciate how lucky I am to have shared the Adventure with Sonnet. Like mother, like daughter.

Madeleine texts me: "I am rediscovering old bands" and rattles off a bunch of groups from two years ago.

Angleterre

It's a queen size bed
Back in London I am reminded that we own a couple of teenagers.

Of course the weather grey and wet upon arrival home following a week in the mid 80s. But, after so many years, I appreciate Britain's temperate climate.

I recall a dude I worked with at Botts & Co., Michael, who, flying into Heathrow together, clucked his tongue and said "Good old Angleterre." (Michael also reminds me of an advertisement for a Jaguar sports car whose slogan read: "Turn mister average into mister universe". Shortly after Michael drove in with a Jaguar)

I crash early after the long flight and Sonnet retrieves Madeleine from Will's at a negotiated 10:15pm pick-up.  She reports that Will is playing guitar and the crew is singing.

Office Lady

The Japanese are famously polite. I am greeted by a row of similarly styled Japanese women (called "Office Ladies" or OLs); one (always standing) bows and takes my details. I am then greeted on the floor by another woman (bowing) who shows me to a conference room.  Afterwards, the same front desk women (all standing) bow and wish me on my way.

Meetings in Tokyo go well; for a few it is 50-50 whether I am understood. When the English dubious, my counter-party stairs furiously at the presentation and scribbles hard notes in Japanese. I know that if I crack a smile they will too. Or if I laugh for no reason they will join with equal enthusiasm.

Kallan informs that ex-pats get "the fever" when it comes to Asian and Japanese women.

Itamae

A master
I love Tokyo. For a city so big - 26m people - it is clean and orderly, not a gum on the sidewalk nor a wrapper in the street.

And super modern - the high rise towers are destroyed and rebuilt every 30 years to remain earthquake compliant. I stay in the Roppongi district famous (I am told) for the affluent Roppongi Hill development and the popular night club scene. Of course sushi too.

We visit a restaurant where I have perhaps the best sushi of my life. The sushi chef slices raw fish with a longsword of valyrian steel so sharp it would cut through human bone and sinew in a whisper, separating a Lannister's head from his body in an instant. 

Some of the sushis are still living. There is a sea urchan of beautiful white and purple trim that arches upwards looking for air and perhaps some way out. The Japanese businessman contemplates it for a brief moment then down the hatch, followed by sake. Mine are a bit more tame but equally beautiful. 

Self Portrait XXXXXII

Early morning flight from Seoul to Tokyo; airport lounge
During my trip I am accompanied by Park Hill, our placement agent, who we have worked with on funds V and VI.

So (one might ask) what does one do on these road shows besides catch planes and eat Asian food? For starters, I am visiting fund investors who have supported Astorg in past funds (Asian limited partners account for 10% of Astorg VI). I am also setting up the base for the next fundraising, which will take place in 2019 (likely).

In London, Eitan works his way through the GCSE exams. The kid (Sonnet reports) is No Drama. Eitan now about half-way through the exam schedule with the worst part is over : It is no longer the unknown. Or, as I compare, a marathon not a marathon after the first step of the race.

Day 4 : Seoul

Fired up and ready to kick some ass
From HK I am in Seoul to speak at the Alternatives Summit Korea Global Private Equity & Debt conference (My subject is "Co-investment" which is increasingly demanded by limited partners as there are no fees on co-invest deals unlike on the fund).

The guys, pictured, represent over USD 1T of investment.

I am not quite prepared for the conference size - comfortably over 500 Asian delegates staring at me blankly - yet it goes swimmingly well. My words simultaneously translated to Asian languages and sent to ear pieces provided to the attendees.

Afterwards there is a formal dinner and we are treated to a Korean soprano who belts out: "I did it my way" (I did-a it my-ya wuay). With the right people next to me I would have busted a gut.

Day 3 - Hong Kong

High rising
Hong Kong is impressive. The first impression, on the drive to the island from Chek Lap Kok airport, is the density. Then the height. Racks of 40 story condominium towers fight for air space and not only that : arriving at night, they are all lit from inside. 100 pc occupancy which is so very different from, say, Toronto or, now Central London, where the real estate is a financial investment (and the emptiness a worry and a blight).

7 million people on 5 square acres.

The thing of it is - Hong Kong works. The city is amazingly efficient: Roads wind and weave about, connecting office towers to hotels to walkways and on ramps and residential towers. One pays for it though. Rent on a four bedroom family condo easily goes for USD 30,000 a month. A salaried man might live his life in 200 square-feet for 3k.

I meet the Hong Kong Monetary Authority. They are making investments of up to 500m a pop.

Joe

Joe and I reunited
From Taipei to Hong Kong.

I connect with Joe, who I worked with at First Boston. Joe has been at the clipper for 32 years which has to be a record for investment banking. He now heads m&a Asia and has lived in HK since 1993 - the first tour as a single dude living an expat lifestyle (I visited him in '94) and now as a married dude with three kids in their teens.

Joe and I have some good laughs which I can only share with a handful of people from those early years of banking - the urgency of the dealmaking and the stakes that seemed so high (I was informed, "This is not casual sex!" on some project by one particular jerk, which still gets mirth today).  It was exhausting and miserable and now, in the rearview mirror, an adventure. I hesitate to say 'fun' but it was .. something. And now a joy to re-examine it with those who lived it with me.

Taipei

Night Market
I begin a week of Astorg meetings in Asia, starting with Taipei, Taiwan. 

Taipei is typical as far as Asian cities go: modern western buildings of impressive steel and glass design surrounded by sprawl and lush green ridgeways that make it feel .. unfamiliar.

In the urban jungle people are crammed together forcing a pace of lifestyle that rivals Hong Kong and New York, though the scale smaller in Taipei at c.3m population.

I visit the Night Food Market which is a jammed one mile row of cheap shops selling faux Nikes and food stalls making bubbling fried food: chopped octopus, fried crabs and shrimps, Chinese vegetables, chicken hinges and other unrecognised edible parts. I am told to try the 'Stinky Toffy' - it does stink and I don't try it.

Taiwan has one of the world's remarkable museums - The National Museum - about an hour's drive from Taipei - with 700,000 pieces of ancient Chinese imperial artifacts and artworks, making it one of the largest of its type in the world. I have been but not this time.

Friday, May 12

After

After two and a half years we have white teeth.

Before


Swanage Camp

Emanuel School backdrop
Lest we forget Madeleine during the GCSEs, our gal away to .. Swanage for a school field trip to explore nature (the name 'Swanage' gets an eye-roll. Sounds like "sewage" which is apt). She goes against her will, of course, and must suffer two nights in the cold and damp then up pre-dawn to watch the tides come in. How we suffer.

She is happy when we pick her up. Sushi.

Me: "Say something for the blog."
Eitan: "Um .. "
Me: "What peps you up?"
Eitan: "Looking forward to football camp this summer. Celebrating after GCSEs. Occasionally looking forward to getting good some studying done."
Me: "That it?"
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me
Eitan: "Food."

Saturday, May 6

GCSEs

The General Certificate of Secondary Education, or " GCSEs," are upon us. 21 standarised exams covering 10 subjects administered over a five week period.

The GCSEs, along with A levels at the conclusion of secondary school, determine where - and if - a student goes to university. In the UK, Admissions see the results and a one-page personal statement. That's it (For US colleges, a GPA is extrapolated from the GCSE). To suggest there is pressure is an understatement.

Sonnet and I aware of the GCSEs since, well, Eitan's birth. It has always been a curious and distant event, over the horizon and safely in the future. No more.

Eitan has done his preparation - perhaps not like the girls who grind out the hours - but he is organised and committed. Eitan projects no fear though we know the he is anxious.

And so they begin with a Bang - History, English and Drama yesterday

Monday, May 1

Eitan 24 Hours

Eitan wraps up the football season as Captain for the Sheen Lions, followed by a BBQ and send-off for the manager Jon, with the Lions for five years, who is relocating to Tampa Bay, Florida, in September.  Eitan gives a lovely speech. Shortly before, Eitan is selected "Player's player" by his team mates.

Today, the boy races the 800 in Tooting Bec and blasts a PB of 2:06.

All this between his GCSE studies.

Sonnet and I could not be more proud of him.

Marbred Moment

Nothing like a bummed cigarette
Eric is is emerging from his concussed haze, suffered from a traumatic bike accident six weeks ago, to resume work on his computer software project to carry the day for the common core states standards in mathematics initially backed by Bill Gates. He prepares to write a calculus and differential equations final for the Harvard Extension School on his triumphant return to Boston.

Abney Cemetary

Verdant
We do what we love to do, which is walk. On Saturday we exit Waterloo Station and walk to Seven Sisters, crossing Holborn, The City, Shoreditch, Tower Hamlets, Dalston and through ethnic neighbourhoods which change every five or six blocks.

Abney Park cemetery in Stoke Newington (borough of Hackney), in the middle of all the concrete, is one of London's Magnificent Seven cemeteries, a historic parkland originally laid out in the early 18th century by Lady Mary Abney and Dr Isaac Wattas. (Nb. The "Magnificent Seven" is an informal term applied to seven large private cemetries in London that were established in the 19th century to alleviate overcrowding in existing parish burial grounds).

Dylan

Pre concert
Eric arrives in time for Bob Dylan, who we see on Friday night.

Bob arrives on stage at precisely 8PM, plays two hours, takes a bow, and is gone without uttering a word to the audience. Unusually he sits at the piano instead of his normal blues guitar. He plays Blow'n In The Wind and Tangled Up In Blues from his youth, while the remainder is from his recent arsenal.

Dylan's voice is no longer the twangy voice we recognise from the 60s or 70s yet it is impossible not to juxtapose those times on the man now.

Me: "Are you going to work on the backyard like I asked?"
Madelien: "No."
Me: "I will pay you."
Madeleine: "I'm not going to."
Me to Eric: "This is what happens when a kid is bloated with money. There is no incentive to work."
Eric, Madeleine:
Me: "How much money do you have in your account ? Couple hundred?"
Madeleine: "Yeah, so?"
Me: "When you're flush, you don't work."
Madeleine: "Whatever."

Sunday, April 23

It's The London Marathon

Mary Keitany flies (photo from the www)
Madeleine and I watch the London Marathon, which is inspiring. This year's race won by 35 year-old Ethiopian Mary Keitany in 2:17.01 and 24-year old Kenyon Daniel Wanjiru in 2:05.56.  Mary's time a World Record for the 'women's only' marathon and the 2nd fastest women's marathon ever behind the great Paula Radcliff's 2:15:25 in 2003, a time which may remain another 10 years.

Meanwhile my fellow couch potatoes sit around a dinner table drinking wine discussing the benefits of long distance bicycling which most of my peers seem to engage by 50. It is all about the gear.

Me: "You were so happy when I wore the cow suit to school." [Dad's note: I wore my marathon cow suit on the school run c.2009].
Madeleine: "I was so embarrassed."
Me: "No you weren't. In fact, you were introducing your friends to The Cow. Like the Cow was Prince or Madonna."
Madeleine: "Eitan was was mortified."
Me: "True. He didn't walk with us, poor kid."
Madeleine: "Why did you do it anyway?"
Me: "Madeleine, all the things I've done that embarrass and humiliate you .. "
Madeleine: "Yeah?"
Me: "You will do to your kids. "
Madeleine:
Me: "And it might make you a better parent."
Madeleine: "Gracie wore a gorilla mask when she visited you at Brown."
Me: "Fair point." 

Sunday, April 16

Martin's Tool Shed

The neighbour's garage
Martin has a lifetime of cool shit in his garage - today, he is fixing an ancient generator as a favour to a friend. He has chords and sockets, soldering irons, power instruments for God Knows What, spools, vice grips, drills the size of my arm, measurements and all sorts of tools. Tools and more tools. Today I borrow his 32 foot retractable aluminium ladder hung securely from the garage ceiling.

Better, Martin knows how to fix things. No project is too simple to be made complicated; no complicated project is too complex for the right tool. We spend a lot of time discussing this principal.

Me: "Eitan please finish up the dishes when you are done." [Dad's note: Eitan makes a bacon fry-up while I am doing the dishes].
Eitan: "Why do I have to?"
Me: "Because you're the last one making a mess."
Eitan: "I just don't see your reasoning."
Me: "You're right. Actually I hadn't thought of it before but you are doing the hard part. Eating."
Eitan:
Me: "Sonnet, check this out. All the time I think to myself, Eitan should clean up after himself but, really, he is doing the hard bit."
Eitan: "Okay, Dad, I get it."
Me: "I insist. Here, let me wash that pan for you."
Eitan: "I can do it, alright?"
Me: "Oh, no, I wouldn't dream of it."
Sonnet: "I think you've made your point."
Me: "Time will tell."


Saturday, April 15

Loco Motion

Heading to London
Barnes Railway Station is one stop from Mortlake Train Station where I begin my commute.

The station is seven miles from Waterloo and opened in 1846 when the Richmond line was built and Richmond a far away village relying on horse and buggy or the river to London.  Trains brought commerce and connection and, eventually, the London garden suburbs.

My commute takes about 25 minutes to W'loo (rush hour, no seat) then two stops on the underground to Green Park Station and a brisk walk to St James's Square.

Mind you, the first public steam railway in the world was 1825 with the Locomotion for the Stockton and Darlington Railway. In 1830 the Liverpool and Manchester Railway offer exclusive use of steam power for passenger and freight trains.

Eitan: "Dad is that safe?" [Dad's note: Dad is at the top of a fully extended ladder, power washer in hand, washing the second floor windows].
Me: "Yes."

Easter Weekend

Self image XXXXXII
Eitan: "Can we get Sky Sports again?" [Dad's note: I stopped the Sky Sports subscription to save 25 quid a month].
Me: "I'll think about it."
Eitan: "It's so much better than watching sport on my computer."
Me: "Would you be willing to share the costs?"
Eitan: "What do you mean?"
Me: "How bout we reduce your allowance some amount." [Dad's note - Eitan's monthly allowance is £40]
Eitan: "How much?"
Me: "Make me an offer."
Eitan: "How about four pounds?"
Me: "So it doesn't mean that much to you."
Eitan: "Well how much?"
Me: "Your the one who watches the football. So how about 10?"
Eitan: "That's getting kind'a expensive - it's 25 percent of my allowance."
Me: "How much do you want it kid?"
Eitan: "I'll think about it."
Me: "Deal."

London Rise

Facing East
I cross Waterloo Bridge and am always struck by the ever changing skyline. Even NYC has not seen such construction. I've been to Singapore, Tai Pei and Beijing - maybe.

I am reminded of London's forgotten Golden Rule that no tower could exceed the height of St Paul's nor obstruct its view.  Now skyscrapers poke up like sprouts through the moss. Unfortunately the new build is distributed across the city and the towers look .. erectile.

But what a magnificent river. She flows in and out, from pregnant possibility to renewal.

Hoxton

Her Majesty
It is Easter "bank holiday" weekend - a Big Deal in the UK - and, for once on a bank holiday, it is not raining. Overcast though, of course

Sonnet and I meet in Central London following a breakfast ladies catch up with Sonnet and Diana Clark, who has relocated to Washington DC to save America (Diana was Obama's No.1 fundraiser outside the US in 2008; she is friends with, and supports, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and is on the Board of the Holocaust Museum. Son Michael is graduating from Annapolis in May so Trump is more than personal).

Sonnet and I spend the day walking London, heading East beyond The City and into the East End of Hoxton and Tower Hamlets. The architecture, languages and people change along the route. We go from tourists and theatre to hipster, artist and coffee. And Indian, Iraqi and Paki. And Muslim.

Outside the city center, and before the protected greenbelts, London becomes hard urban - first thing to go are the trees. There are only small parks and a few poorly manicured squares. We walk along cobblestone roads and, thrillingly, wonderful graffiti that scream of anger or suppression or death.

We finish our effort at Waterloo very happy to make the end-run on public transportation.

Friday, April 14

Megadyne !

Megadyne belts
I spend a day in Turino with one of our CEOs touring the factory and being updated on the company's progress. Megadyne is the world leader in the production of high precision polyurethane belts used in industrial applications. Think of a transmission belt shifting power across a machine. Or a conveyer moving a billion cigarettes down the packaging line. The belts making it possible are very likely made by Megadyne.

The company was founded in the 1950s by Carrado Tadolini and now run by his two sons, Giorgio (CEO) and Marco (R&D).  Giorgio's three children are in the business and maybe will continue the family story.

Giorgio is charming and cunning - Carrado started Giorgio on the factory line and today he knows everybody on the floor, who stop their work to say 'hello' or nod their respects.  When Giorgio took on the business in 1995, sales were 2m. Last year they were 300m - a 150-fold increase. Astorg became Co-owner in 2014.

Over lunch, at Giorgio's golf club, I tell Giorgio the story of my great grandfather crossing Ellis Island into lower Manhattan to escape the Russian pogroms of the 1890s. He owned nothing and spoke only Yiddish. My grandfather, Jacob Bernard, Moe's father, left school in the 8th grade to found Star Binding and Printing, which pulled the Orensteins into the great American middle classes. We were fortunate to visit Star Binding in 2014, on its 100th anniversary.

Sunday, April 9

Test Run

Self portrait XXXXXI
I'm up bright and early to break in my hiking boots and try-on my new 75 liter back-pack, which is stuffed with tins of black beans and other items to add some weight to mimic the JMT, or about 40 pounds. I walk the Thames path for two hours and no blisters.

As Eitan and I will pack everything in, and out, I have a small spreadsheet with items weighed to the gram. My Cannon 7D DSLR camera, for instance, comes in at a whopping 1,657 grams (excluding the strap) which will feel like a boulder by the 2nd or 3rd day on the trail. As I tell Sonnet, I can either buy a new camera (mirror cameras weigh about 500g inc lens) or have the boy carry the 7D.

Madeleine runs the first 800m of the season at the Carlshalton track and is disappointed by her time which is slower than her PB set at the last race of last year's season. At least she knows where she stands (advice given, 50-50 useful).

Eitan's Sheen Lions play their last match of an inglorious season losing 2-0, concluding at the bottom of the league table. Onward and forward ho!

Saturday, April 8

First Concert

The band goes on
Madeleine and I see Phantogram at the Shephards Bush Empire - her first concert. The reaction reminds me of Eitan's first movie - Shrek 2 in 2004 - when his eyes went wide as he took in the venue and large screen. Same for Madeleine this time. Of course I was lucky enough to catch her first headphone experience which was mind blowing.

I notice a couple incoming approaches from lads who are half my age. Ok, one third my age. One asks Madeleine for a date and is frozen out. Good girl.

Before the show we have dinner and discuss the usual breezy stuff. She has a lot going on and lives a life 90 percent outside my visibility. Her interests cover 1970s vinyls (posters on her wall of Fleetwood Mac and Led Zeppelin) and film. She and her soft-spoken pal Alfie - who btw is on a Rugby scholarship and owns a Flock Of Seagulls hairdo - kick around London snapping photographs which are pinned to the wall.

Squeeze

Madeleine allows for a hug
We are still allowed to shower affection on the kids as long as it is not public. Fair enough.

The Shakespeares on holiday. Madeleine lounges in bed.
Me: "I'm going to give you a choice."
Madeleine: "Oh, no, Dad. I hate your choices. Don't give me a choice."
Me: "You can rake the leaves and water the plants."
Madeleine: "Or?"
Me: "You can rake the leaves and water the plants and I will pay you for it."
Madeleine, grudgingly: "Pay for it."

Tooting Bec

Hercules Wimbledon
Eitan and Madeleine begin the summer track season in tooting. Madeleine competes the 200m  in 27.66 seconds (best is 25) while Eitan races the 1500 in 4:31 (best of 4:16). The first race of the season is always rough.

Afterwards we take advantage of the weather and I bbq and plant my tomato seedlings.

Me: "How was the race?"
Eitan: "It was pretty fast in the beginning and hurt in the end."
Me: "Takes a while for your body to get used to the pace."
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "What's your goal for the season?"
Eitan: "I'd like to go under 4 minutes [for the 1500]. I've dropped 15 seconds each year the last two seasons."
Me: "Sounds ambitious and reasonable."

Trafalgar Squae

Trafalgar Square on an early springtime evening pulses with the energy of the city. I walk by on my way to the tube most evenings, reflecting on Nelson who graces us passengers with his presence of history.

The Square bordered by the National Gallery and St Martin In The Field church to the North and the Pall Mall to the southwest. 17 bus routes pass Trafalgar Sq making it the hub for central London transportation. It was once famous for its feral pigeons until Ken Livingstone got rid of them with 4 hawks.

My first visit to TS was the summer of 1981. Gulp.

Madeleine calls Sonnet's mobile, interrupting a dinner party: "There's no food in the house."
Sonnet: "There are meatballs in the refrigerator."
Madeleine:
Sonnet: "You have to heat them in the oven. No microwave."
Madeleine: "What?"
Sonnet: "Madeleine you will have to sort yourself out." [Dad's note: meatballs untouched]

Sunday, March 19

Madeleine In Flow

200 psi
Madeleine gets down and dirty power washing the front of the house for some dough. On the day, I must remind her she committed herself to the project. She does a bang up job.

A bottle of vodka goes missing from the pantry.
Me to Sonnet: "I'm pretty sure I put it there. I bet one of the kids took it."
Sonnet: "Would they do it?"
Me: "Madeleine would."
Later, me to Madeleine: "Did you take a bottle of vodka from the pantry?"
Madeleine: "I'm not going to lie to you Dad."
Me: "Well I'm glad for that."
Later, me to Sonnet: "Well you have to admit I nailed that one."

I get Madeleine a book, "The Joy Of Socks"
Madeleine: "You know there is another book called like that."
Me: "I hadn't thought of it."

Madeleine looks at my phone: "Why do you have your mobile number on your phone?"
Me:
Madeleine: "It's not your number, is it?"
Me: "I'm not sure who gets the credit here."


Royal Russell School

Post match
The morning spent in Croydon, a town as ugly as the name. Kate Moss is from here but other than that not much else. A giant Ikea. Rows of unloved houses with concrete fronts abutting busy traffic; the High Street spotted with a Sam's Chicken or bathroom tiling forcing one to think of toilets.

Above it all, on a hill in a park, is Royal Russell, an independent school with one of the best football clubs in the country, playing the Hampton 1st II, the top team at Hampton School. Eitan called up last week from the U16s and is one of the youngest on the pitch.

The match set for the Semi Final of the Trinity Cup. Both sides evenly matched in a thriller which sees Royal up 1-nil which Hampton equalises in the opening 2nd half. A 2nd Hampton goal appears to assure a victory but in the last moments Russell nails a corner kick. Extra time. Neither draws blood. Eitan almost nearly catches everybody off guard with a 20m shot that forces the goal keeper to go parallel to the turf.  Inches. Inches. In the end, the dreaded PKs.

Hampton loses but there is no shame.  Eitan plays over his head and the lads do their school proud.

Saturday, March 18

Tristram

The VA's 70% female curators could just eat up the new Director
Sonnet and I attend the Directors Circle dinner in the Rafael Cartoon Gallery at the VA, a resplendent location surrounded be the famous canvases in their perpetual state of preparation for the final tapestries.  Two long tables are graced with the museum's finest China and silver while cherry blossoms adorn the setting - perfect for the season.  The lighting is dark and sombre, appropriate for the wealth in the chamber. Nic Coleridge, the Trustee's Chair, introduces the new Director Tristram Hunt.

Talk about pressure on poor Tristram. The museum's patrons are primed for his presentation and looking to be convinced by the former Labour politician who is only just in his forties at 42. What the heck does he know and why does he deserve it?

Tristram bounds to the podium and delivers a masterful speech full of enthusiasm and familiar words used by the rich - words like wonderfully, enormously, unrivalled, immensely and so on and so forth. It comes across.

I meet Tristram before the reception and naturally we discuss Sonnet's NYT Op-Ed and TEDx talk about museums not hiring female directors. It was a bit awkward, we both awknowledge.

Saturday, March 11

Goldcrest

A friendly visitor
This little Goldcrest spent 40 minutes in the same spot outside our living room window. It was difficult to get a photo since he was in constant motion. It's hard to say what he was doing but I think likely eating the aphids off the tree.  

The Goldcrest is the smallest bird in Europe.

The British are mad about bird-watching. Not far from us is the Barnes Wetland Centre on the old reclaimed Barnes Elms reservoir on the Thames between Barnes and Fulham. The 29 hectares host birds not found anywhere else in London or on migration to somewhere else. As entertaining are the bird spotters in their camouflaging outfits with sturdy portable chair and hi-tech binoculars. Each bird recorded in a trusty ledger. It is one vision of retirement.

DiGiCo

A sound engineer works his magic
As interesting as the concert itself is the mixing console - a DiGiCo - as Astorg acquired Audiotonix which owns the DiGiCo brand. The deal closed last month.

Mixing consoles combine, route and change the volumes, tones and dynamics of many different audio coming from the stage like the vocals, drums, saxophones and drums. There may be as many as 200 channels for the sound engineer to optimise before blasting the data to 1000s of speakers. DiGiCo is the world market leader used by the Rolling Stones, Beyonce, Adele and, of course, the Xx.

Chris, Madeleine's new friend, knocks on the door.
Me: "I'd better put my serious face on."
Madeleine: "Just don't act weird, OK?"
Me: "Whose acting weird?"
Madeleine: "Whatever."
Me to Chris: "Good evening, Chris."
Chris: "Hello, sir."
Me: "How was rowing this week?" [Dad's note: Chris rows for The Oratory school]
Chris: "It was fine, sir. We caught a crab though. In our race."
Me: "You caught a crab, did you?"
Chris: 'Yes, sir. We caught a crab. In the eights."
Me: "Well I'm sure it was a healthy crab."
Madeleine: "Oh my god."

Friday, March 10

The Xx

I duck out to see The Xx at Brixton Academy on the first night of 7 sold out concerts.

The double header continues to last night when Sonnet and I see Edward Albee's 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?" made famous by Elisabeth Taylor and Richard Burton who allegedly lived out their real lives in the film. And, boy, is it miserable but amazing theatre. Imelda Staunton (who also plays Dolores Umbridge in the Potter movies) is devastating.  Sonnet spots Judi Dench who offers a standing ovation.

And happily it is Friday again.

Sunday, March 5

Eitan Attacks

No weekend is complete without an action-shot so here it is: Eitan heading the ball against RGS Guilford.

Hampton play the semi-finals of the Trinity Cup (an important one, Eitan says), defeating Guilford with a satisfying 2-1 result after being down one goal.  The boys deserve the win having outplayed their opponent - it is often not the way with football. Eitan plays to his strength at center mid-field with flawless execution setting the tone for the come-back win.

Next up : Royal Russell, the best independent school in the country.

TV Berlin

The Fernsehturm, at 368 meters, is the 2nd tallest structure in Europe, a half-meter shorter than the Riga tower in Latvia. But hey - who's competing ? Completed in 1969, Berlin's tower was made to be a symbol to East and West Berlin.

So I am in Berlin last week for the Super Return conference, the largest conference dedicated to private in the world, and 25 meetings with investors. It is a grind but also fun: following the fundraising I know many people here so we catch up on various activities and gossips.

I make sure to visit Berlin's 'museum island' and, this time, it is the Pagomon Museum which owns the world's largest collection of Islamic art, including the Ishtar Gate, which was the 8th gate to the inner city of Babylon, constructed from about 575 BC and excavated in the early 20th century.

While beautiful, Islamic art is void of human representations due to the Islamic believe that the creation of living beings is unique to God, and therefore the role of images and image makers is considered controversial.

The A Squad

Emanuel competes in a field hockey tournament. Maddy is on the A team.

The girls arrive at 45 the night before for an over-night, ostensibly to get a good night sleep before the 7AM ride to the school pick-up (Sonnet reports laughter at 1Am). They are joined by two boys which adds to the gaiety. When I see them together I think : Kids, but Madeleine is confident and mature.  I remind myself what my friends were up to at this age. My eyes are open to it.

Me: "How nice of you to join me and your mother for an adult conversation." [Dad's note: We have dinner together while Eitan studies]
Madeleine: "Yeah, so ?"
Me: "It's taken me 15 years to get here."
Madeleine:
Me: "15 years of hard work."
Madeleine: "Gee, thanks Dad."
Me: "You are my masterpiece."
Sonnet: "How do you expect her to talk to us when you tease her like that:"
Me: "One word: Food."
Madeleine rolls her eyes.
Me: "A second word: Allowance."
Madeleine: "I get it, OK ?"
Me: "Kid, you can always count on food and allowance from your Dad. Even when you are 40."
Madeleine:
Me: "As long as you talk to us."

New York 90s

Photo from Adam in 1995 taken during the first weeks of my re-location to NYC for the Columbia Business School.

That was a hard transition leaving everything I held dear : family, friends and of course Sonnet. The mountains and blue Pacific and an easy life living at home, running a non-profit I valued and training my ass off for road races and a marathon. I suppose : it needed to be shaken up.

When I arrived in New York (it was 50:50 I would remain, having deferred Columbia for 2 years), I stayed with Christian before finding an apartment suitable for Sonnet and her cat Dominique. Katie was there. Before long, Adam arrived and, with other waylaid Berkeley friends, we spent a brief summer escaping the oppressive heat while hacking around Manhattan : Jogs in Central Park, martinis at MOMA, night clubs, Sheeps Meadow , Long Island beaches and New Years in Soho. It was a wholly unsettled time, too busy to be enjoyed, miserable and yet glorious. And now romantic.

Sunday, February 26

The Nationals

Back straight
The course inside ancient Wollaton Park complete with an Elizabethan mansion and gatehouse. Think Sherwood Forrest and Robin Hood. The course is complicated, starting in an open field that consolidates rapidly onto a narrow mud path covering two loops across flagged open fields, along a swampy crick and through deep sucking puddles. I agitate to compete, ah to be 18 again and injury free.
Post race relief
Madeleine and Eitan in good spirit, each competing towards the mid or upper half of the pack for their age-bracket. The races are 600-700 athletes and a scrum for the first kilometre before the beast widens into the gazellean front-runners followed by everybody else huffing and puffing in various states of concentration and agony.

Afterwards we find a nice family pub that takes dogs before the 2 hour drive home.

Pre Race

We drive the M1 (called, simply, The North) to Nottingham so the kids can compete the English national cross country championships the following morning (Saturday). Here we are pre race carbo loading from what's available at the local restaurant : sausages, bacon and anything fried. I force the kids to eat porridge which I imagine has not been ordered here yet this year or ever.

I find I use my camera less these days. The kids remain good models letting me stick a lens in their face most of the time. They encourage me to keep the blog going for family record and enjoyment while my subject matter narrows : Sonnet and I are in-career so not much drama to report while Eitan and Madeleine have their private lives to tend to. They don't want it splashed on the web. There is always the dog.

Volare

Sunday morning with the Stones
Every now and again I get a new band on the Shakespeares - recently it's been 'tennis' and 'Car Seat Headrest', thanks mostly to Christian in LA.  But what has been equally encouraging is their taste in retro 1970s music, dumping the useless 90s and jumping over the cheery synth pop of the 1980s.

I overhear songs by The Doors, Led Zeppelin, Simon & Garfunkel and the Stones floating around the house or played in the car, which makes me smile. The classics only get more classic.

Walking on a public street I sing 'Volaire Oh Oh."
Madeleine: "Oh my God dad."
Me: "What, You don't like Volare ?"
Madeleine:
Me: "Given the absurdity of the human experience, singing Volare is hardly going to move the needle."

Sunday, February 19

My Urban Chica

Thames, north side
Having turned 15 this moth, Madeleine continues to experiment with being a teenager. It means swings from clothes, moods, interests and music. All about right. 

Lately she is excited about film and screened Taxi Driver and Apocalypse Now, which we discuss over the dinner table. I make a few suggestions ("Coming Home" with Jane Fonda; "Ghost In The Shell" by Kôkaku Kidôtai before ruined by Scarlett Johansson). She covers her room with photos of her friends and places and her walls with rock posters from the 1970s. She has moved from comics to film photography; from insects and bugs to vinyls. 

I embarrass her to death (but can also make her smile or, on occassion, laugh - moments I live for). And she makes me feel my age. Sonnet and I are observers to this next generation. Our youthful complexities are not theirs.

She has become the most interesting human being to me.

Brave New World

Everyone should have one of these
This happy face has greeted me every day for nearly 25 years.

Yesterday we go for a walk in the Surrey Hills initially planned for the family but the kids have other plans: Madeleine with friends, Eitan in the books. Fair enough. So it is me and her and the Dog. Soon it will be like this every day. Woof.

It strikes me that there is a possibility that Madeleine will end up in the US - California! - while Eitan, who is more cautious by nature and likes to have his ducks lined up, could remain in the UK. Does it mean if, one day, we return to America we desert the boy ? It's never going to happen.

Donald Trump is a narcissist, a bankrupt and now a defunct Leader. His cabinet a disaster of billionaire hacks of ideologues or money (or both). The transition painful to observe while the Republicans have no plan for anything. Health care? You poor suckers. Manufacturing jobs ? Sorry, Charlie, it is not about Mexico nor killing free trade. The Wall ? 25 billion spent on this nonsense instead of schools. Russia is celebrating while Trump keeps his Russian secrets. Whatever happened to those tax returns anyway ?

No smugness from the UK as we soon activate Article 50.

Tuesday, February 14

Father Son

The boy and I on Saturday after a x-country race on the Wimbledon common where Eitan finishes 14th of c.60 runners.

I return same morning from California and a busy trip, meeting some large institutional investors interested in Astorg, seeing ancient friends and connecting with others including Barney, a former Nasa scientist who sold his company, Power Set, to Microsoft ten years ago. Barney founded Moon Shot and expects to place a robot on the moon in 2018, carried by the Chinese. His expertise is neural networks and AI, where he is tops in the field.

I also connect with Josh, a GP at Top Class Matrix Partners. Josh and I played poker in London for 7 years or so before he went Big Time and founded Flutter, which merged with Betfair, becoming the largest online gambling site in the world, and now publicly traded. I envy Josh who meets the most interesting people, doing (or trying) extraordinary things, at the centre of the tech universe.

In London, Madeleine and I check out the Paul Nash exhibition at the Tate Modern. I am new to his work, which progressed from WWI to abstract paintings, no doubt in part for what he saw on the battlefield.

Thursday, February 9

OSA

I visit Dave at the Oakland School of the Art in downtown Oakland. He is the Jazz Program Director and teaches a couple hundred students to make music. Together. And it's good. Dave's life has waited for this job.

The OSA is straight outa Fame (1982 TV where students at New York's famous High School for the Performing Arts pour their hearts and souls into their training to become stars in their chosen field) . The school founded in 2002 with a mission to provide students with immersive, conservatory-style arts training in a college prep setting. The school curriculum revolves around the concept of integration between academic subjects and the arts. OSA currently serves 700 students in grades 6–12. Most of the kids are from challenged backgrounds yet, at school, it is left at the door.

Sunday, February 5

Tunitas Creek Beach

Moody cliffs
I exit San Francisco to connect on HW1 to return to Tunitas Creek Beach where I was with Madeleine in October. Last time I only had my iPhone to take a photo of this beautiful Pacific landscape; this time I have a proper camera and hang around several hours as the skies clear from heavy rains.

I meet a friendly Dutch couple who recently moved to SF from Minnesota and they are excited to be living The Dream. We discuss various places to visit (easy one : Napa, Yosemite, Point Reyes) and differences to Europe (more open space here; California has it all). They wish me luck on my picture taking and I wish them luck with their lives.

Moe and Grace are doing a fabulous job keeping each other fit and loved. Getting old is hard work but not without its dignity.

California Natives

Tyler and I meet 8AM at the Dolphin Club on the northern end of Fisherman's Wharf and below Ghirardelli Chocolates (last time I was in this spot was 1994 when I ran 59:59 for a 10-mile road race knowing full well at the time it was my shot to break an hour. Another story).

Our aim : to swim, well, in the Bay which is 53 F (13.5 C). I've never been in temps like this - coldest perhaps around 60 in the Pacific in a 3/2 density wet suit.  There are a bunch of swimmers, kooks and enthusiasts huddled in the clubhouse drinking coffee and encouraging each other forward or telling stories of when it was really cold. Tyler, Matt and I tip-toe to the small beach in our swim suits and insulating caps then, without preamble, race into the Bay.

It is f***ing freezing and the shock is agonising. The first 15 minutes I am concerned I will hyper-ventilate or worse. Tyler provides encouragement and security though I am not sure he would be so useful if I seize up and go down.

Then, blissfully, the exertion heats the body, the blood rushes inward to protect some organs and my limbs go comfortably numb. We laugh and chat and float in the sunshine, looking across the water at Alcatraz before returning to shore.

The rest of the day I have a distinct buzz. I can see how it is addictive and could be life changing if done regularly.