Grandma Silver sends Madeleine this post-card, and challenges her to turn the photo into a story. Here she goes:
It.... is.... the.... Eiffel Tower, and the windows are made of glass with snow on the top. And the blue thing coming down is an arrow dragon. The arrow dragon goes side-to-side on the windows and snow. The black things are cannon. The arrow dragon burrows down under the snow to find beatles to eat. If he's unlucky, the beatles will pinch him. The little lines on the 'X' are a cut in the building from the snow dragon. The other lines are for the snow dragon's house. The little black mark is the path the mommy dragon takes to work. The blue dragon knows his mommy because of those lines. The gap means that they are in danger from a grizzly bear. The bottom black line means the snow and the snowflake are friends.
Thursday, November 30
This year 2006 is proving to be the hottest in England since record keeping began 350 years ago.
The summer saw near-record breaking temperatures that, while not surpassing 2004, were sustained over unusually long periods of time. Further, it has been the warmest extended summer period on record, according to the Met Office - and temperatures look likely to remain unseasonably high for the rest of autumn and early winter. Gardeners have seen their summer flowering plants lasting longer, late migrating birds are feeding up on bumper numbers of insects, and Mediterranean moths and butterflies are heading to Britain. According to Met Office figures, between May and September the average temperature was 16.2C. That is 2C warmer than in any year between 1961 and 1990. July was also the warmest month ever, September hit record temperatures, and now the first half of autumn has seen temperatures about 3C above average.
Kyoto, Mr. Bush?
Wednesday, November 29
Here's Eitan at less then three months. From the start he has been a happy personality and pleasure, including his big smiles which instantly bond him to us and, more pragmatically, to Sonnet's boob.
Last night we have dinner at the River Cafe in Hammersmith and one of London's finest. The restaurant, adored by foodies of all shapes and sizes, was opened by Chefs Rose Grey and Ruth Rogers, and has trained up many culinary stars most famously Jaimie Oliver. We join friends Dave and Tabitha Claydon for a four course Italian meal - the food is as simple and unpretentious as Italian should be, with great kicks of lemon, parmesan, tomato or chili. Tabitha and Sonnet became friends around babies in North London, and our paths nearly crossed at Columbia where Tabatha was a TA for Jimmy Rogers popular class on value-investing. Jimmy and Tabitha travelled together on a pair of BMW motorcycle, visiting 180 countries in their trek to establish a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records, which they did. Rogers wrote a book, "The Investment Biker," which can be found on most MBA book shelves, though I don't have one. Today, Tabitha and Dave have three children, a house in St John's Wood, and a country home in Bath where Sonnet and I have visited with the children on a number of warm occasions.
Monday, November 27
Madeleine and Eitan display their own interpretations of the world surrounding them. These paintings created yesterday, Sunday, during a rainy day inside. Madeleine's painture above presents the moon-lit sky with stars and street lamps on our block. She cuts off the corner edges for some reason. Eitan shows the night-time sun in the upper left corner, a smiling earth and the Milky Way on the bottom right. The blotches of blue-black and red are stars, and the wiggly lines and pointy dots gravity. These treasure now hanging in my offices.
Sunday, November 26
Madeleine, talking to (grandma) Gracie in California this evening, asks to speak to "the cat," also known as "Sweetie Pie," which she does for several moments then promises to draw the cat some pictures.
On our Sunday afternoon drive in Richmond Park we pass a buck mounting a doe. Madeleine pipes up from the back seat: "Look! The deer are hugging!"
Eitan, drawing quietly at the dining room table, starts: "Aw, man- I peed in my pants!"
Madeleine: "Daddy will you have square eyes forever?"
Me: "What are square eyes?"
Madeleine: "Square eyes are when your brain goes mush, you can't think properly, and you have to wear glasses."
Me (to kids arguing about some toy): "Stop fighting - we share everything in this household."
Eitan: "Well, you don't share your computer!"
Me: "That's because you don't know how to use it."
He, storming off, slamming door: "I do know how to use it. I use it at the library where I play catching-parcels!"
And it continues....
Eitan to Madeleine: "You don't know how to play the computer."
Madeleine, indignant: "I do to!"
Eitan, matter-of-factly: "No, you don't Madeleine."
She: "Yes- when you are at school, I played with Aggie's six times."
Madeleine at the table playing with her waffles: "Look mum, I've made a boat with people on it."
Eitan's favorite story: 'There is a bear in the woods having a poo. He is standing next to a rabbit. The bear says to the rabbit "does poo stick to your fur?" The rabbit says no, so the bear wipes his bottom with the rabbit.' This gets the usual guffaw, and especially effective when told at a dinner party to our older guests like last night's Thanksgiving. Another funny I have taught him is to break a rubber band, wrap each end around a finger, and pretend sneeze separating hands quickly so rubber looks like snot.
Saturday, November 25
We endure a rain-soaked, and cold morning of football at Palewell common. What starts out as a lovely clear morning turns sour - and we are stuck on the pitch with little more than an umbrella and good cheer (mostly). Madeleine scores four goals - two actually legitimate - as her side triumphs in the pee-wee division. She is the largest kid in the group and, I'm proud to say, the most nimble on her feet though she can bludgeon the ball on occasion. Eitan is slippery, and has mastered the "tackle" - he slides onto his knee, other leg fully extended, and strips the ball from an attacker. As the kids play at different hours, Madeleine and her friend Wylfie entertain themselves by climbing a tree.
On the walk home: "Madeleine, what is one plus one?"
No, you're guessing.
Dad! you always ask me the hard ones!
Rana and Kambiz, Darya and baby Alexander, and Rana's mom Ann join us for a belated Thanksgiving dinner (it's Saturday). Sonnet and Rana prepare an 18 lb. turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, mashed potatoes, peas and of course pumpkin pie. We drink champagne and talk about the war, babies and the good 'ol U.S. of A. (Ann is visiting from Indiana, and in London until January). The only thing missing is eight hours of (American) football. Afterwards, Eitan and Madeleine stay up late watching Ice Age 2, a reward for helping me rake up the leaves in the back-yard.
Friday, November 24
I return to London yesterday on the red-eye. After a quick nap (Madeleine I find staring at me at some point), I visit my office and organise myself and make a few semi-coherent Skype calls. Sonnet and I meet for dinner (she looks fabulous) and then see Gomez at the Hammersmith theatre in London. Gomez is a British band formed in 1996, who signed their first album with Virgin Records in 1997. In 1998 they won the Mercury Prize for 'Best Album', and have continued to produce interesting alternative rock ever since. They remind me of Pearl Jam. Eric Price introduced me to the group, and while not to everyone's taste including Sonnet (we leave after one hour) I like the sound. It's groovy.
Bring it on, make it right
Bring it on into the light
Pick me up satellite
If its wrong, make it right
I drop the kids off at school , and Madeleine and I practice our West Coast slang. I tell her to ask Aggie if her lunch today is "righteous" , or "totally gnarly." She tells me matter-of-factly that she does not want to be a surfer when she grows up. I ask why? and she says "because there are Tiger Sharks, and they will eat you." This is a fair point. Eitan chimes in that "Tiger sharks are the most dangerous shark there is, but only found in Hawaii."
Wednesday, November 22
I see Mary for breakfast this morning at The Brasserie, just across Park Avenue from Park Avenue Plaza where I worked at First Boston as a Finanacial Analyst - my first job out of college. The Brasserie used to be open 24 hours, and always a good option when pulling an all-nighter for a next-day-pitch for some high-demand-client at who-knows-where. Mary is vibrant as usual, and on her way down-town to the NASDAQ, meeting a friend who is ringing the closing bell and is the CEO of the national food bank network called Second Harvest (Mary drops this in as we separate). Otherwise, she and her family are well and educated or educating on the Upper West Side, and her career marches forward at The Boston Consulting Group.
Letty, our former nanny and beloved by the kids and Madeleine especially, stays the night with us (she now lives in Norfolk). To their delight, Letty picks the children up from school, spends the afternoon with them at the park and elsewhere, then takes them to a special dinner at Pizza Express (their choice!). Madeleine and Eitan set up a military style sleeping camp in their room, and insist that Letty is there for the sleep-over.
Katie and I meet today at the MoMA in Midtown to spend some time with Pablo, Eugene Delacroix, Van Gaugh, Jackson Pollack, Seurat, Monet (of course) and other friends. My favorite is Picasso's 'boy leading a horse' which I remember seeing vividly for the first time in 1991.
Katie tells me that her favorite is the Joseph Cornell box with the doll and twigs, which she likes because it reminds her of Edward Gorey's children's (sort of) book, the Gashleycrumb alphabet (especially "N is for Neville who died of ennui").
We also visit photographers Jonathan Monk, Barbara Probst, Jules Spinatsch. Probst has an interesting approach of training four cameras on her at different angles and wired to take a picture at precisely the same moment. The result is disorienting and forces the viewer to consider how the environment forces Probst's reflection.
Tonight Katie and I have dinner in the Village with long ago First Boston colleague and friend J. Kelly Flynn and his fiancee of three weeks Christine, Tim Larrison and his girlfriend Kitty (whose father has published a book on his experience of the Holocaust in Poland), Jim Ledbetter and his friend Anne, who I learn is the Senior Editor for the New York Times Book Review, and a bunch of Kelly's friends including Mike who generously provide us with wine from his collection covering many vintage years and locations. Well done.
Monday, November 20
Thursday I have dinner and spend the night with the Rob and Sloan Klein family in Mill Valley. Sloan founded Sextant Search three years ago, informing me casually that she was going to start a business as we swam across Lake Alpine in the Sierras. Today, Sextant is one of the leading executive placement and advisories to private equity and finance companies in the United States, and many of Sloan's clients are the most recognisable in their particular expertise. After founding her company with several partners, and reaching a point where the business is now stable and profitable, Sloan has stepped back to find professional balance and focus her spirit on her two children Sophie and Jaimes. She still keeps a client or two, but now her time is spent where it counts, and it shows during my visit.
Saturday, November 18
Here I am at the Cal-USC football game (thank you Christian Wright). Otherwise, the hype this weekend is about the #1 Ohio State v. #2 Michigan in Columbus, Ohio. The two teams are both undefeated, only the third time they have met unblemmished in their 103 rivalry and first time both ranked so highly. The winner will take the Big Ten title, and go on to the BCS championship bowl for a shot at the national title. If not for Cal's maddening defeat by Arizona last weekend, our game in L.A. would have enjoyed similar attention.
I meet with the fellow who is opening investor Fondinvest's US offices. Fondinvest manages money for CDC and the French postal service and so an important private equity player. At a cool bar, we converse in french receiving quite a few bemused glances. This makes me feel pretty good. Pardieu!
Thursday, November 16
At 0630 this morning I drive across the Bay Bridge to avoid rush-hour traffic (I don't) and am welcomed by an orange and pink sunrise pointed by the Campanile on the UC Berkeley campus with the North Berkeley seismic hills in the background.
I admit that it feels a bit like 1999 all over again, and I am happy to see companies like Squidoo, Bebo and Moblabber get funded. As one entrepreneur says to the Times: "We lose money on every transaction, but we'll make it up in volume."
AOL announces a new business mode: 100% free! America, unlike Britain, is a can-do country and California is the heart. Why Silicon Valley exists must date back to the earliest 49ers, when people crossed the country at their peril to find gold and re-create themselves. This continues onward today, and Californians are special in their spiritual outlook.
Where else can blowing millions of dollars of venture funding be viewed as part of the learning experience? Those who do overcome the J-curve want the rush again - retirement is not an option for those under the age of, well, never. Along with Industry Ventures and Walden Venture Capital, I will meet the founders of PayPal tomorrow.
These guys made their money when they sold to Ebay in 2002, and now they have launched new companies Friendster, LinkedIn, Slide, Facebook and others.
Another photograph from last weekend, this shot taken in Green Park at the Canadian Memorial.
Today I arrive in California to spend the night in my old bedroom in Berkeley. Tomorrow I will be with our fund Industry Ventures in San Francisco, then the Cal-USC football game on Saturday in Los Angeles. The Bears loss to Arizona last weekend dropped a sure top-5 ranking and a shot at the championship bowl series in January. Still, if we defeat the Trojans, now ranked third in the country, we will go to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1959.
While driving from the airport this afternoon, I listen to Henry Waxman on NPR. Waxmen will soon chair the House Government Reform Committee and drew a funny reminder that the Republicans investigated Clinton for sending Christmas cards, and failed to look into Iraqi contracts, wire tapping, the war.... Ah, it's good to be in the Bay Area!
Monday, November 13
Saturday, November 11
I ask Madeleine, sitting next to me now, what she was thinking about when I took this photo. She: "I was thinking about a baby lion when the hunters killed the baby lion (Madeleine makes a growling face). The baby lion then stood up on her hind legs. Then the hunters killed her again. The hunters killed the lion because they didn't have anything to eat, and that was not a way to respect the baby lion. The owner of the baby lion and the woods was angry at the hunter. The next morning, brown smoke cleared up the air. A horse came by and saw the meat . He ate the meat. And then he ran away because the hunters came. He was shot because the horse bent down. the owner thought she was dead, so the owner put him in prison. Then a man from a station came, with a crocodile. And a phone. He said to the hunter: 'are you dragging him away to jail? You will not be a hunter if you go to jail.' "
Madeleine gets a free ride in The Green Park, which is one of the Royal Parks of London.
I tell Madeleine that a boullion cube is a caramel. She stuffs it into her mouth, grimaces and spits into the sink. Eitan and I have a hardy laugh; Sonnet rolls her eyes.
Bruce and Diane Friend visit London on their return trip to Berkeley from India. I have known the Friends since the early 1970s when our families and others celebrated the Jewish Cedar. I am happy to report that they are vibrant and remain true to their liberal roots. After breakfast at The Wolseley in Mayfair, we walk through Green Park on our way to Trafalgar Square to pay tribute to the fallen soldier. Today, and the same every November 11, 1100 hour, since 1919 England stands still for two minutes to honor wartime dead. The somber moment begins with a fly-over by six Royal Navy carrier helicopters as the St. Martin's bells clang. Precisely two minutes later four Harrier jets pass overhead. After saying our good-byes to Bruce and Diane, Sonnet and I walk The Mall towards Buckingham Palace and the kids stop to build a fortress in Geeen Park. On our return to the car, we pass by the New Zealand War memorial in Grosvenor Square, to be opened today by Queen Elisabeth II. Madeleine takes a nap in the back seat on the drive home.
Eitan to me this morning, very seriously: "Do not come into my room. It's booby-trapped."
Thursday, November 9
The world is righting itself, following Virginia who gives us a Democratic Senator with the slimmest of margins or less than 8,000 votes from 2.3 million cast (surely a recount) following Montana and so the Senate. We also gave the Republicans a "thumping" in the House. The times they are a' changing.
Tuesday’s election was an overwhelming victory for us Democrats. Candidates planning to caucus with the Democrats took 24 of the 33 Senate seats at stake this year, winning seven million more votes than Republicans. In House races, Democrats received about 53 percent of the two-party vote, giving them a margin more than twice as large as the 2.5-percentage-point lead that Mr. Bush claimed as a “mandate” two years ago — and the margin would have been even bigger if many Democrats hadn’t been running unopposed.
I do the school drop-off this morning, wearing my running kit for a loop in Richmond Park afterwards. I've not worn these togs before, so I'm not surprised when I get several unusual looks from the mums. Yes, I am American and eccentric. Madeleine, in the school line-up pulls me close and asks "why is everybody looking at you dad?" Me: "because I'm wearing my running outfit." She: "No, it's because you've got that paper on your chin." Gasp: I had cut myself shaving and forgot to remove the toilet paper.
Here is a cool new word I learned today from my friend Dale West:
Solipsism - 1. The theory that the self is the only thing that can be known and verified.; 2. The theory or view that the self is the only reality.
Monday, November 6
Halley and Ava spend the night with us, as Ava must renew her American passport. We last saw Halley at Catherine Majkut's June wedding in Southern California, so we have a chance to do a re-cap and relive the affair, including the Madeleine Episode when she pulled a runner (broadcast announcement moments before the ceremony: "has anyone seen a little girl in a blue dress?"). Ava is in year 1 at the St Leanard's school in Exeter where, she informs me, she has "lots of friends" and is having fun. Together with Madeleine and Eitan, the kids run wild and I have to take them for a cool-down walk and some 'time-trials' (running up and down the block so they can burn off energy). Following dinner, the kids plop themselves down in front of The Muppets, while the adults drink a glass of wine. Bedtime antics keep the house up well past bedtime for everybody.
Eitan takes his sport seriously, and this afternoon Sunday we head for the the common to practice some ball skills. I no longer handicap myself when playing with him - Eitan is quick, and agile. We first practice run-and-shoot drills, then ball control and finally the two of us square off for a one-on-one, which he wins 4-3 (okay, I let the last goal slip through as I wanted to leave). Eitan plays Saturday mornings as always, and Monday afternoons with his school club. And his favorite premiership team? Could be Arsenal, could be 'spurs, could be Chelsea... we will see which way the wind blows regarding this all-important, life time commitment.
Sunday, November 5
Food for thought in Britain:
-there is one CCTV camera for every 14 people. On average, a citizen is caught on camera more than 300 times, or once every five minutes
-there are 5,000 speed cameras and 8,000 automatic plate recognition devices. London's Metropolitan police have introduced "eye in the sky" cameras attached to helicopters that can read numberplates on the ground.
-a mobile phone stores information, and in 2002 law enforcement made more than 400,000 requests for data from mobile network operators
-all UK Internet service providers must monitor the websites British users visit, and pass the information to MI5 under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill
-Loyalty Management UK, the private company that operates the Nectar loyalty card, has over 50% of the UK population holding one of their cards
There's a bit of a grumble this morning when I ask the kids if they wish to accompany me on my Sunday chores run. Eitan rejects the idea out-right, so on the fly I promise ice cream. Madeleine jumps on the opportunity, but Eitan, alas, must learn the hard way not to commit himself until all the facts are on the table. Madeleine and I go to Homebase for some household stuff including a potted flower she picks for Sonnet. Already Christmas is here, and a large area offers various holiday lights (on Oxford Street the other day I note that the decorations are way on). Following a few more stops, we visit the local ice cream parlor and not surprisingly given the temperature (8 degrees Celsius), we are the only customers. Madeleine is unperturbed and gets her favorite always - strawberry.
Halley, one of Sonnet's closest friends from Smith and now in Exeter, and her daughter Ava will spend the night as Ava must renew her passport tomorrow at the US Embassy on Grosvenor Square.
Saturday, November 4
This evening I oversee the Guy Fawkes BBQ. I bring home 800 frozen beef burgers, 500 hot dogs and the equivalents in buns. Eitan re the BBQ: "are you going to be the only one?"
FYI this is the poster I drummed up for the bbq, where I managed to sucker seven volunteers to flip burgers and sausages which, by the way, contain "53% pork fat." Otherwise, the Sheen Mount fireworks celebrating the quartering of Guy Fawkes are impressive and culminate with a bon fire spectacular that lights up the sky. Madeleine is, frankly, terrified and Sonnet takes her into the school for comfort. In all, we, the PTA, sell over 1,400 tickets making the evening one of our top yearly fundraisers.
Eitan, last night, being ordered to bed: "Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. It's all so boring."
Madeleine this morning on scoring a goal during football: "My coach was really happy, but he did not give me any gold."
Me, discovering the kitchen dishes in the backyard filled with mud: "what kind of a mess is this!?"
Madeleine, matter-of-fact: "It's not a mess, dad - it's a mud stew."
Thursday, November 2
The Big Day arrives Tuesday, equally anticipated to a birthday or even Christmas. Eitan and Madeleine, costumes on and raring to go, bolt out the door and down the block to Andrew and Karen Pickup's house to meet them and one other family. On the way we pass pumpkins and Eitan amps out: "DAD WE'RE GOING TO MISS EVERYTHING!" Things settle down, and several bags of candy are collected by each child. The neighborhood turns out for the evening, including haunted-houses complete with faux spider webs, a stereo blasting spooky sounds and carved pumpkins. Two hours later, satiated, we return home and Eitan and Madeleine race upstairs to regard their loot. After hours, I foolishly nick a piece of candy not anticipating the boy to count each piece of his hard-earned stash. The next morning, half-asleep, I am accused of pilfering the treasure. No white lie on this one, and when I come clean the response is to be expected. Beyond tears and rage, Eitan marches into his room to hide the candy, and never to trust his paw again.