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. "
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."
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.


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.


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."
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?"
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


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


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.


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."
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."
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.


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 ?"
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


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.

Saturday, February 4

St Paul's On A Rainy Day

The Saint Paul's skyline never grows tiresome. 
St P remains the friendly face in the ever changing and rapidly heightening skyline. When we arrived, building codes famously prevented skyscrapers from surpassing the dome nor blocking the views of it. In response, tall buildings were concentrated in The City (the Natwest Tower being the tallest for several decades at 43 floors, standing out like a giant boner) and Canary Wharf on the Isle of Dogs, which no banking professional loved nor wished to work - though today, there is a young professional community around it.

Now, buildings shoot up like stalks above the moss : the counsels get big development dollars and any resistance, other than a few cranky letters from Prince Charles lambasting Qatar and other gulf funders, is lame. London will never be ghastly Singapore nor wonderful Tokyo, but its cityline does creep into the 21st Century.

I take the jumbo from East Sheen to the North Berkeley Hills in under 13 hours, all in. Remarkable how normal this is.

Friday, February 3

Parent Teacher

Feeling fine
Sonnet and I join Madeleine at Emanuel for Madeleine's teacher reviews on 10 subjects. The reports place our gal at where she needs to be for her 2018 GCSEs. Room to improve but on track for good results.

I sure don't recall meetings with my teachers in high school or, for that matter, in college. Brown assigned us Freshmen an Academic Advisor and mine was  professor Thomas Banchoff, a famous mathematician who was on the cover of Time Magazine two weeks before I arrived on campus. Probably not the best match as he scared the hell out of me. I took his calculus class so it wasn't without trying.

Trumps first two weeks have been as expected. We are getting pounded. To think, China may replace the US as the world's global advocate on free trade.

Sunday, January 29

Ze Tate

A father daughter moment
Madeleine and I check out the Robert Raushenberg retrospective at the Tate Modern. Here is our hero on the train ride home.

For a period of time we lost Eitan to adolescence and today I fear it is Madeleine. I still get the occasional slight smile or even giggle for my jokes but more often then not it is the rolled eyes, or . . silence. I feel for the kid : routine, hard work and no end in sight. What is the payback ? It is for her and us to find out.

Eitan At The Races

Back stretch
Eitan finishes in the middle of the pack and with a good attitude: It is a hard race, run two days after the Middlesex school qualifier, where he places 9th of 60 with the top 6 assured a spot; Eitan is an alternate. Today it is on to football.

Me: "You have a choice. You can pick the museum we go to."
Madeleine: "What ? What's my other choice?"
Me: "I can pick it."

The Calm Before The Storm

Hamstead Heath, -2 degrees
Eitan runs the U17 Southern Cross Country Championships on Hamstead Heath, pictured, and it is like the Somme before the battle. The race start is at the base of Parliament Hill giving us spectators a perfect vantage point, a half mile out and on top of the hill, to watch the huffing and puffing beast heading towards us at a rapid clip.

The course is 7k and unforgiving -  the first kilometre includes the hill and separates the conditioned and natural athletes from the rest; there is really no recovery from the start.

Sonnet returns from a week in Colorado where she has been with Stan. I have duly managed the household without her and pizza delivery only once. Otherwise I fall into a routine without comfort: 6AM dog walk; defrost the car, prep the kids for school nd drive to train station. I keep the evenings free to pick up Eitan and Madeleine from track or other activities then dinner at home, often in front of the TV. Not ideal, but they are working hard.

Me: "Why do you have a bottle of ketchup in your room?"
Madeleine: "No idea."

Sunday, January 22

Winter Day

Back streets
It is one of those dark winter days that casts long shadows. It reminds me of NYC walking around the Bowery or Lower West Side but never California. It is a mood.

Eitan and I go to the Imperial War Museum (his pick, against his will). We catch the Sunday train to Waterloo and walk the 15 minutes across Southwark, greeted by the two 15 inch diameter, 54 foot long naval guns commissioned in 1914 and today posted at the front museum entrance. They saw last action on D Day, sending missiles 16 miles into German occupied France at reasonable precision.

I lose myself in the The Great War while Eitan studies the Holocaust and Cold War period, which he studies in school. Walking home we find a hole-in-the-wall Korean restaurant on a shabby Victorian side-street. It is excellent.

Eitan: "How much does a flat cost?"
Me: "In London, depends where, but let's say 800k."
Me: "That means you will have to save 80k for a deposit on a mortgage."
Eitan: "I'm not really sure what that means."
Me: "Well, let's assume you get a good job after uni paying 40k.. ."
Eitan: "How much is that per hour ?"
Me: "It's not really something you calculate. You do a good job, you get 40k. If not, you get fired."
Eitan: "Yeah."
Me: "So assuming you can save 10k a year, it will take 8 years for the down payment.'
Eitan: "That's a long time."
Me: "Or you could live in some cool cheaper city where young people go like Berlin or Barcelona. I would love to have done that."
Eitan: "And learn Spanish ?"
Me: "You already know it. Or you could go to the United States. There are wonderful cities other than New York. Like Seattle, or LA or Boston. "
Eitan: "I get kind of stressed thinking about leaving. I would never see my friends again."
Me: "You guys have media that I didn't at your age. You can stay in touch with them."
Eitan: "I think once I leave, I will never come back."
Me: "It might be the case. It is all part of life."

Pussy Power

Grosvenor Square
I join college friend Katy for the Women's March which is also a de facto protest against The Clown and all he stands for. Katie joins the walk in Washington DC, which attracts something like 500,000 people while London it is 100,000 (Madeleine unable to join given a hill session in Richmond Park).

It is freezing at Grosvenor Square where the march begins but nobody complaining and the vibe is good, if defiant. We stand about for an hour waiting to .. walk. The female: male ratio is 6 or 7 to 1 by my estimate. I have never been surrounded by so many women demanding their reproductive and sexual rights which makes me think: none of these folks went to Brown. And its corollary: I went to the wrong college.

Our walk accompanied by chanting, the inevitable Caribbean drums, bands and encouragement along the way. It is a powerful tour de force. Will it create momentum or be swept away by current events?

Sunday, January 8

Surrey XC Champs

Madeleine and Rebecca compete
Madeleine competes the Surrey Cross Country championships. It's a hilly 4k course and Madeleine battles the mud and elements valiantly, finishing in the middle of the pack (60 girls in here age bracket). Eitan out with the flu.

I join Dave and Tabitha and their family in Bath for their Twelfth Night party, which Tab has been hosting for 29 years. Sonnet and I first joined in 2001. Our families met in Maida Vale when the women pregnant with Eitan and Neta.

At the party I always meet a bunch of interesting people and this year re-connect with Holly, a fire-cracker who founded the Bath Film Festival. Holly a feminist who created the F Rating which rates films based on female participation (Director, production, actors ) which is now used by 40 organisations including the BAFTA in the UK. Holly did a TED ex talk on it in November.

Thursday, January 5

Cold Mornings

Rusty smells a deer
The dog, for his part, never misses the opportunity to roll around in deer shit.

The hard shock of post-holiday re-entry is now behind us. At least, for those who bit the bullet and went back to work early. 

The Christmas trees begin to line the streets. Every year I "call" the last one with a text to Sonnet : ie, the final hold-outs of the holiday season. The record is mid March.

Madeleine up at 6:30AM in a chipper mood and ready to take on physics at the morning bell. Her first exam in the New Year.

Wednesday, January 4

A Day At The Office

Madeleine cranks out the physics
Madeleine joins me at work to do some studying. It seems like a good idea until I have to wake her at 8:30AM and am reminded, dear reader, that teenagers live by a different rhythm.

The resentfulness lasts until late morning while I earn a few lines of conversation for lunch - her favourite, sushi.  Shopping establishes further goodwill until the commute home, when we split so she can visit friends in Wimbledon.

She is utterly charming with my colleagues.

Madeleine: "Your work friends seem pretty posh."

The Jets

West Side Story is a hit
The photo a bit late, but here is Eitan from the October production of West Side Story. 

The boy made significant sacrifices of football practice and matches to ensure his performance of Pepe was well delivered. And it was.

Sonnet and I most delighted by Eitan's willingness to take on something outside the comfort zone. The production complex with choreographed set pieces and singing. Eitan had a few lines, too.

Monday, January 2

A Year In Review

Self portrait XXXXX

Eitan 16

Eitan is a fine young man
Today, setting the tone on the first working Monday of 2017, Britain takes a bank holiday. I roll with it.

Madeleine and I head to the pool to swim laps, me with flippers to work on stroke technique. Swimming truly is the best middle-age exercise but for the nuisance of it all. If I had a decent pool nearby, preferably outdoor, I would be a changed man.

Sonnet goes into post-holiday action, unleashing 2 weeks of building tension: tree stripped and hauled outside. Check. Christmas decorations to attic. Check. Refrigerator defrosted, house scrubbed and aired, shelves re-organised. Check and double check.

Tomorrow it is back to official work.

Sunday, January 1

A New Year

11th episode in a row
The New Year rolls in .. and rolls out. I pick up Eitan and three girls at a party in Teddington, then Madeleine and Wills at a party in Wimbledon.  All in, two hours of driving but who's complaining ? It's a window into the Shakespeares lives though, last night anyway, the pay load is minimal. It's 1AM and the kids too tired to banter.

Seeing out the New Year, Sonnet and I start on "The Good Wife", a cable series about a woman who returns to lawyering after her cheating husband in jail for scandal. I bail after three episodes but Sonnet watches an entire series in 24 hours.

Me, over dinner: "Your mom is really into The Good Wife."
Sonnet: "It is rather addictive."
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "She's watched 11 hours of television."
Sonnet: "Last year we listened to War & Peace on the BBC."
Me: "And she's wearing her pajamas.  It's 6 O'Clock. Next thing you know she's going to have a second piece of pizza and ice cream for desert."
Eitan: "What's wrong with that?"
Me: "This is your mother we're talking about."
Eitan, Madeleine:
Me: "She's on the edge."

Saturday, December 31

Jeff And Grace

Following 16 weeks, Gracie's chemo is over and done with. Good riddance.

Next week Gracie will have a mold made for the radiation treatment. The mold keeps her body in place at the same angle while they zap her with radiation.. Starting in February, she will have six weeks of daily treatments. The hard bit, however, is behind us and we may

Celebrate !

Of course I select a photo of her and me for this blog - it is taken at my parents' 25th wedding anniversary celebration at the Brazil Room in Tilden Park, Berkeley. That would be so 1987.

Trump Loves Putin

The path is dark
Even my neo-con friends are scratching their heads over Trump's jerk-off of Vladimir Putin. No Reagan-Brezhnev kiss to the lips is this.  The CIA presents evidence that Russia hacked the DNC website and may have thrown the US Presidential elections and Trump tweets, "Let's move on." WTF ? 

Where is the anger over Mitch McConnell blocking the Supreme Court nomination ? The outright lying and skullduggery by Trump during the election year backed up whole-heartedly by his party ? The 'Lock her up' and now a cabinet of the most unqualified white people one can imagine ? OK, Ben Carson is black but what does he know about housing ? Enough to let Trump in the door to buy the properties once Carson de-funds the program. The wolf is at the door.

I suppose the anger is there and reflected by the elections. But what happens when the voters realise they have been conned ? The appeasement via the political process may have reached its end I fear.

Friday, December 30

Good Bye Katie

Katie is a good vibe
We say our sad farewells to Katie and I drive my sister to the airport. It was too brief a visit and a wonderful holiday gift to be together.

As I watch Katie disappear into the gate, I walk over to a Cafe Nero in Terminal 2 to do some work. A bit weird, I admit, but it is a chill and friendly cafe which I pass frequently on my way to somewhere so today - I sit. Tapping away on my notebook, I overhear conversations from different pre-boarders : the three teenage girls who giggle about who's cute and how often they change their pants (not enough); the foreign exchange student who talks America with her British hosts; the security guards who talk about their year-end bonus.

Madeleine searches the charity shops for vinyls and returns home with Lenard Skynyrd, Tears For Fears and John Cougar Mallencamp for 1 quid each. She is ecstatic with her records, which sound excellent on her turntable. And I was concerned her collection would turn into a money-suck; instead, it is a lesson on how to find value.

Frozen Sunrise

Two Storm Wood
A freezing fog settles over Richmond Park as the temperatures nestle at -2 degrees. Enough to freeze one's fingers inside a glove.

Madeleine and I leave the grocery store.
Madeleine: "OMG Dad. Do you have to do that?"
Me: "What?" [Dad's note: I use the grocery bags as barbells].
Madeleine: "That. Everybody's looking."
Me: "No they're not. And if they were - so what."
Madeleine: "I am not walking with you. Please walk ahead." [Dad's note: I do some squats at the intersection].
Me: "Don't you want me to be healthy?"
Madeleine: "I want you to be a block away."