Every two seconds 94 Kit Kats are purchased, or 1.5 billion a year
Every three seconds, the British eat 18 chicken sandwiches
Every ten seconds, someone buys Premium Bonds, a customer switches to broadband, and there is an accident on the road
Every 20 seconds a cleavage-enhancing Wonderbra is sold on the high street
Every 30 seconds, 8,333 packets of crisps are consumed (1 million per hour)
Every minute an immigrant arrives, the police receive a '999' call about domestic violence, and 100,000 text messages are sent. A person dies.
Every one and a half minutes a plane takes off from Heathrow Airport.
Every three minutes a married couple is divorced
Every five minutes a UK citizen emigrates
Every six minutes a driver is caught speeding
Every ten minutes: 15.38 million litres of water used, and a bottle of San Tropez fake tan is sold
Every 30 minutes: 4.1 million cups of tea are drunk, or 80,000 per person per year. Speed cameras issue 30,000 speeding tickets
Every 45 minutes: 98.2 tons of chips eaten. 873,288 eggs fried-up.
Every hour, over 41 smokers quit, a London house goes up £3.7 in value, 150,000 passengers enter the Underground and 14,500 pass through Heathrow Airport, 47,965 tons of solid waste is produced (enough to fill the Albert Hall), 110,000 kilos of chocolate eaten, 74 babies born, 20 tonnes of sausage consumed, £9,000 gambled away, 58,000 litres of alcohol drunk, 23 book titles published and more than 208,333 custommers served at the UK's 1,200 McDonald's.
And there you have it.
(list mostly from the Daily Mail)
Friday, December 29
Wednesday, December 27
Today I go into the office to organise myself for the New Year. This includes wrapping up Industry Ventures, which has raised their Fund IV at $107 million. Kicking off January 1st is Astorg Partners in Paris, who will also raise a fourth fund, targeting €800 million. With my partner Giuseppe Ciardi, we invested in Astorg III in March 2005, which as been an above average performer, returning capital and marked up over 2X. Sonnet to the V&A next week, but not before East Anglia.
I'm not sure what is on Madeleine's mind in the photo, but she is working something out, that is clear. Madeleine provides good camera fodder unless I push her too far, then she switches off. It may also be her age, her personality or the fact that she is still under-exposed compared to Eitan but regardless, I'm having fun snapping away.
Sonnet takes down the Christmas tree: b-r-u-t-a-l. Rather than deposit the Holy in the street depressing anybody who walks by, the thing is hauled off to the backyard where it will probably stay until January 1.
Tuesday, December 26
Sonnet's 20 pound goose cooked to perfection. The weather cold and grey. London shut down - even public transpo. The kids bloated on television, peanut brittle and our attention go to bed after 2100. Sonnet and I organise the house. I, along with every other British father not skiing in the Alps or lying on a beach somewhere, cannot wait to get back to work.
Monday, December 25
Christmas morning and the kids are up at .... 0845? A strange start for presents, but likely due to a relaxed curfew and restless night (Madeleine: "How is fat Santa going to make it down the chimney?"). This morning she rushes into our bedroom ecstatic with a new set of finger rings: "It's just what I ordered!" We put on our swim suits and head for the "Hampton Heated Open Air Pool," somehow open 365 days a year, and where it is "a tropical 82 degrees." This burns off some energy and prepares everybody for an otherwise indoor day with lots of television. Gifts come from around the world, and we are grateful to everybody- thank you. They are opened in less than five minutes. Sonnet prepares coffee cake and everybody happy to be home for the holidays.
Sunday, December 24
Eitan, who has accompanied me the past three years to pick up the Christmas Goose at local butchery R. Chubb & Son, flat out refuses this morning. He's no dummy, and knows that we will stand in line for at least an hour with the other Men Of The Community freezing our asses off. I offer the tradition to Madeleine, and sweeten the deal with a treat from the nearby newsagent. She demures, on a razor's edge: to leave the warmth of our house and her pajama's or brave the winter outside for a candy? Finally she asks: "even chocolate?" and I know that I have her.
Madeleine, at the butcher's, points to the hanging carcasses: "Those are decorations, dad. They are just visiting."
Saturday, December 23
Madeleine, with empty box: "Dad! do you want to see a magic trick? Ok, close your eyes. Now stick your fingers in your ears." She runs into the other room, returns with empy hands. "See Dad - Magic!"
We have dinner with local friends Steve and Louisa and their children twins Daniela and Sophia and Tobias. Eitan and Sophia are in the same school class. Also with us tonight is Sarah, pregnant with her fourth and so on permanent leave from teaching philosphy at St. Paul's. Not joining us is Sarah's husband Simon, who is a forensic examiner for the Home Office - there are only 37 actives in the UK. Before turning CSI, Simon was a doctor for the NHS, but decided it was more interesting to deal with (or not) dead people. His team covers London and so is responsible for the Putney Murder (women found chopped up in a suitcase), Ipswitch serial killer, and most famously the Litvinenkco case where the former KGB agent was poisened to death by plutonium 210. Interesting work, no doubt. Fired up by this, I watch The Descent when we get home.
Friday, December 22
Jingle Bells! Jingle Bells!
Jingle all the way
Oh what fun
It is to ride
on a one horse open slay
Robin flew away
He landed in the football pitch
and didn't know how to play
Robin flew away
Lost his willie
On the motor way
Eitan and Madeleine are today at the Art Yard, where they will make artsy crafty sorts of things for their pleasure, some of which will be sent to the grandparents no doubt. London remains covered by a Jack-The-Ripper fog, without let-up for four days. Heathrow has cancelled 600 flights stranding 200,000 passengers. We are grateful not to be travelling by airplane this season.
Thursday, December 21
I'm with the kids today. The morning starts at Yoga-Bugs where they stretch, meditate, and work themselves out. Aftewards, I take the Little Shakespeares to lunch at... wait for it.... McDonald's! Who says you can't buy love? Afterwards we shop in Richmond. I try on a sweater and ask Madeleine what she thinks. She, with zero interest rolling her eyes: "It's sooo cool dad." Man, she's going to be a great teenager. From here Eitan goes to Bertie's birthday party and Madeleine and I will do something special, tbd. This evening: "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" while Sonnet is out for cocktails with her girlfriends Dana and Rana.
Wednesday, December 20
Things are beginning to slow down for Christmas, and this is a Catholic country. Eitan and Madeleine had their last day of school yesterday, and Sonnet greets them with a trip to Richmond Park where Eitan works his bicycle machine. After the Merry, we will head for East Anglia and the town of Holt, not far from the seaside in the county Norfolk. Everbody warns that it is flat and the weather dreadful but the scenery splendid. I plan to re-engage my Pentax SuperME and take some black & whites. I also intend to to catch-up on some reading, including favorite trash mags Hello, Esquire, and Paris Match.
This photograph taken above the Rio Grande.
Tuesday, December 19
I have lunch today at a local caf (sic), that takes its street cred from the construction and working set who gulp black coffee and smoke cigarettes while eating chips, baked beans, sausages and other disgusting over-the-counter fair. It amazes me how this country excites itself over the bubbling sizzle of animal oil where just about anything is dumped for culinary "preparation." A delicacy in Scotland, for instance, is the deep fried candy bar - most famously for us Americans, a Snickers. Yes, sadly, Britain is catching up to the USA in weight - nearly 25% of these Brits are now considered clinically obese (1980: less than 10%) making us the fattest country in Europe. Worse, child obesity and related diabetes is growing even faster. The British goverment has responded with a tepid publicity campaign to no effect. A better result comes from celeb chef Jamie Oliver, who shamed Tony Blair into giving him $500 million and responsibility for 20,000 public schools in England, where he now prepares healthy and tasty lunches. An individual can make a difference, now if only the fat would follow.
Sunday, December 17
Richmond Park currently sustains 300 Red Deer and 350 Fallow. The general trend over recent years has been to reduce the total herd from numbers that peaked in 1985 at just under 1,000 but suffered a significant die off over the severe winter (approximately 40 Red and 50 Fallow). Even with a smaller herd and plenty of warning notices around the park, road traffic accidents still take 30 deer each year. The deer became the determining factor upon the park’s landscape as soon as Charles I compulsorily, but supposedly at a fair price, purchased the land in 1637 and emparked it with eight miles of wall (now Grade 1 Listed and on the English Heritage register). Charles moved his court here to avoid plague. Today, the deer are free to roam wherever. For this reason plantations are deerfenced as it generally takes 40 to 50 years before an oak may be able to stand unprotected. One hundred and fifty trees are planted each year in open areas of the park and with time may come to match the old oak pollards in the Highwood area of the Park which are 700 to 800 years old. Apparently trees in the 400 to 500 year old bracket are relatively common. Not surprisingly it is the Red deer, standing taller than Fallow, which determine the Park’s browse lines. There are many traditional rutting stands around Richmond Park, most notably Spankers Hill which is important for Fallow.
I took this photograph in the late afternoon at Spanker's Hill wood.
Eitan has been jonesing about his birthday bike, which has remained unused since October. Today we make the quick drive to Richmond Park, which offers a number of tarmacs for walkers and cyclist - perfect for his two wheeler. This is the boy's first time without training wheels, so Sonnet and I hold him up as he works for balance. Madeleine runs behind shouting her enouragement: "Come on Eitan! You can do it!" To our great surprise he goes! I remember Eitan's first steps following 18 months (and some anxiety): one morning, arms out wide, he simply hydro-planes, never to revisit his hands and knees again. The same is today, as Eitan bikes well outside our of our eyesight pushing yet another set of bounderies between him and us.
My photo taken at the the White Lodge, nearby the Duchess Wood.
Favorite food: Sweeties. Any kind
Favorite dinner: Pizza
Cartoon: Bart Simpson
Teacher: Liz (Montessori) and Ms. Sedan (reception teacher)
Best friend: The two Nicholases
Vacation: Colorado and California, especially California to see Sweetie Pie (Gracie Moe's cat)
Day of the week: Sunday and Friday
Movie: Monsters Inc and Tarzan
Summer or Christmas? Christmas
Boats or trains? Trains
Cars or planes? Planes
Pony tail or pig tail? Pony tail
Bed-time or morning? Bed-time
Ice cream or cake? "That's a both one"
Cats or dogs? Both
Smooches or hugs? "That's a both one."
Letters or numbers? Numbers
Books or stories? "Books, because they are longer then stories."
Biggest wish: "I can't tell you because then it won't come true."
I pick up Madeleine this evening from Katie's birthday party. A clown gives out lolly-pops and Madeleine asks for two - the second for Eitan. On the car-ride home:
Madeleine: "Dad, do you remember the time Eitan said he didn't like lollies?"
She: Well, it's true. He said he liked ice cream more than lollies.
She, after a pause: Dad, I would hate to waste this lolly.
Me: Well, Madeleine, it's yours to give to Eitan.
She: I'm going to eat it.
Me: It's your decision honey.
She: Thanks Dad. Just don't tell him I ate it, OK?
Favorite food: Chicken nuggets and chips. And spaghetti
Toy: Manga Men
Super-hero: Hulk and Spider Man
Teacher: Ms. Reynolds (school, year 1) and Ms. Adams (reception)
Vacation spot: California mountains
Best friend: Imogen and Harry
Desert: Chocolate ice cream
Trains or planes? Planes
Cars or boats? boats
Football team: England
Football club: Chelsea, Manchester United
Football star: Ronaldino
Friday, December 15
Aggie puts the tired kids, somewhat confused, to bed early last night at 6:30PM. Madeleine greets my arrival home: "Dad, I'm sooo awake." This morning for once she is up before us- and bounces into our room to make a "family sandwich." Eitan also joins in, at which point I bail out to go running. Aggie leaves for Poland tomorrow, where she will celebrate the holidays with her family. Tonight she takes the kids to dinner - tbd - and then movies at home. With the weather so warm, it doesn't yet feel like the holidays. Sonnet bought a tree, which we will decorate tomorrow. Birthday parties and trips to the Kew gardens are also planned for the weekend.
Thursday, December 14
Could Eitan have the makings of a rock star? This photograph taken over the summer after I have clearly taken too many.
Madeleine in bed crying.
Me (sternly), from downstairs: "Madeleine: enough with the tears."
Me "One! Two! Three!"
Me: OK, that's it. no TV!
She, thoughtful pause: Forever?
Eitan, over breakfast this morning, boasts about having the last bagel. Madeleine, indignant, counters that she has the last croissant. "Don't care!"
Madeleine: Dad can I have some cereal?
Wednesday, December 13
Sonnet and I watch "Pretty In Pink" last night. If I recall correctly, I saw the film for the first time with my mom at the Oak's theatre on Solano Avenue, Berkeley, in 1986. Molly Ringwald was at the peak of her teen powers with films like 16 Candles, Breakfast Club, P-I-P and Fresh Horses. And I of course was a teenager. The film has dated mostly well, and niceley captures the cliquishness, and stereotyping, of a big public high school (could have been Berkeley High School, for sure). The clothes are a hoot (especially Molly's prom git-up - fantabulous), and James Spader's Seth a wonderful rich slime-ball. In all, on the 20th anniversary viewing of the film, I feel much older then then, and ready to revisit other temporal classics like Say Anything, The Sure Thing, About Last Night, and St. Elmo's Fire. Who says we cannot live youth again?
Tuesday, December 12
Brad visits London for four hours, and for the first time, on a stop-over traveling to Mount Kilimanjaro which he will climb. We have lunch at the British Museum, overlooking the 'reading room,' then visit the Elgin Marbles including, of course, the Rosetta Stone. Brad and I met in First Boston's Natural Resources and Energy Group (known simply as "N-R-G" to us faithfuls) back in August 1989. It was generally known to be the busiest in a busy firm, and the most miserable for its underlings. Our bond of friendship stems from a shared heritage of Berkeley, where Brad went to undergrad 'out-of-state' and the entrapment of investment banking. Today, Brad is a Managing Director at Countrywide, the 8th largest bank in the United States, where his team of 25 oversees $30 billion of assets. When not running money, Brad leads the good life in Santa Monica and still occasionally surfs the warm So-Cal Pacific's waves nearby his home.
Saturday, December 9
Today the last Saturday of football before the winter holidays (team coach and organiser Loraine off to Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro for charity). The kids are organised into teams and a tournament played for Madeleine and Eitan's age groups. Afterwards, Christmas arrives with our Santa-dressed coach who congratulates the kiddies for a season well done - chocolate biscuits all-around.
Eitan selected as the Player Most Valuable in the tournament, which his team takes with three wins. A proud moment for him; for me, the the dad's pat my back.
Eitan: "Do you know how I can tell three billion, five billion and seven billion are odd?"
Eitan: "Well, it is because three, five and seven are odds."
Madeleine asks me (while I'm taking a bath) if I want to play dogs-and-owner. She chooses to be the dog. OK, I say, let's go for a walk outside. She: "Nooo Dad! That is NOT how you play!"
Eitan (and Madeleine) are excited about Eitan's bunk bed, which arrived this week. Sonnet sets the rules: 1. No jumping from the upper bunk to the floor. 2. No rough-housing on the upper bunk. 3. No socks to be worn when climbing the ladder. Eitan, Madeleine and I agree to her rules.
Friday, December 8
Sonnet meets me at work, and we drive to the kid's school to pick up Madeleine and Eitan from "Disco Night." We arrive with 30 minutes to go, and are treated to the auditorium filled with hyper-active 4 to six year olds dancing to Michael Jackson, the Bee Jees, Beyonce, Madonna, and other modern fair, middle-age friendly tunes. Eitan races about pink-cheeked with his pals Harry, Oscar and Samuel. Imogen, Emily and Jackson are also present. Madeleine took a few lessons from Aggie, and danced away on the stage, completing a tres cool foot-step and finger point a la Travolta '77. Madeleine falls off the stage - dramatic for watchers - but head mistress Elaine and I are there to give her a hug and put her on her feet. Now we watch Scooby Doo and look forward to the weekend. Life is good.
"I've been on the other side to these wild and woolly sluts that we are seeing around our lives these days and I've taken the other side. I started my life out as pretty wild but I have decided, after much growing and living, that it's time that we got nicer. I'm wearing underwear, in fact a lot of underwear. In fact I'm wearing all the underwear that those girls are not wearing - at least two bras and several pairs of panties. Get a life, get a grip. I mean someone should sit those ladies down." Bette Midler, on Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears
A Tornado hit the north-west London suburb of Kensal Rise yesterday injuring six, and damaging at least 100 properties (photo from The Telegraph). Rooftops were ripped off and cars were badly dented when the freak weather struck at 11am. Elsewhere and nearby me, a massive storm passed overhead dropping buckets of hail and rain. Sonnet was running in Richmond Park and had to take cover avoiding trees for fear of lighting. Britain, believe it or not, has more tornadoes per land mass than any other country in the world. Go figure. (photo from www.abob.libs.uga.edu)
Sonnet takes two days off from work to organise herself for the holidays. The last two nights we have school related drinks, and mingle with the other parents from the neighborhood school. Tonight is the Holiday School Disco for Eitan's class: 6PM to 7PM in the auditorium drop-off, though parents invited to stay - ha! The older kids go to 2100. I await with eagerness the boy's outfit, which he has considered the past several days.
Wednesday, December 6
The Christmas production is in full swing this morning, and the theme is "Global." The story of Baby Jesus is told from around the world, while the children are transported to different countries and the state of Hawaii (Sonnet and I wonder if this in error). Eitan's Year One class represents India, and Sonnet on her lunch break several weeks ago goes to Brick Lane in the East End to purchase an Indian camisole four sizes too big (I tell my neighbors it is a shalwar kameez, and meant go to the ankles). Madeleine's reception class is China, and the red dress she proudly wears from Letty. The kids belt out their numbers and a cowboy theme is used for America (surfing for Hawaii, of course). Madeleine and Eitan have been working on this Top Secret song-and-dance project for some months now, and are pleased as punch to see Sonnet, Aggie, me, and an auditorium full of glowing parents.
Tuesday, December 5
Today I visit the Royal Academy of Arts on Piccadilly, Mayfair, to see "Chola: Sacred Bronzes of Southern India." A small but comprehensive exhibit presents bronze and stone sculptures from 850 to 1200 A.D. when the Chola Empire came to power unifying South India, Sci Lanka and the Maldives. Very erotic, as you can see from this scanned post-card. I take the opportunity to buy a CD "Chola Music of Southern India" which Sonnet cautions me not to present to the kids as a gift.
Monday, December 4
I tell Eitan that all the cool cats wear their polo coller's up. He: "you don't know anything about being a kid." I threaten to sing on the way to school, which really bothers him. At the playground, a mum asks Madeleine about her weekend and she tells her we saw a movie about "rats in the sewer." I quickly add that this is the Hollywood film Flushed Away.
Sonnet is going to the ballet tonight with Dana and Tabatha, so I'm with the kids solo. I promise something fun ("television!" they shout in unison) and look forward to an early evening of it.
Sunday, December 3
Eitan in the industrial wing of the NSM in front of a 1950s Japanese car (unfortunately I don't have the model). He is particularly interested in how the giant turbine, built in 1795 and located in the front hall of the museum, works. We watch the earth move beneath a pendulum hanging from five stories, and observe the elevator weights moving people up and down between floors. After the museum, the kids and I play on the grounds of Imperial College, where I have parked the car. In particular several England lions, chiseled from portland stone, draw our attention for a good half hour.
Madeleine brings her stuffed 'doggie' along for the day, but s/he stays in the car for my fear of it being lost, and Madeleine's dependency which I am trying to ween. I give in eventually when we go to the movies and Madeleine brings "dog" to sit next to her in the theatre. From our very Catholic English school, Eitan and Madeleine are aware that Christmas portends to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. When I note that we are Jewish and have a different set of beliefs, Eitan ponders for a moment and weighs up the risk of switching teams - Santa Claus does bring presents afterall. Sonnet and I contemplate this, but religion is not a big part of us, so likely not for the kids either.
This is a rather creepy photograph of Arthur C. Clarke, taken by Madeleine at the National Science Museum (it's a billboard). Sonnet still plays catch-up at work. Clarke's image appropriately adorns the entrance to the space travel, and we learn about rocket boosters, planets and satellites and the space race. Did you know, for instance, that Saturn's famous ring is only 150 feet thick? The museum is crowded as it's Sunday, and Madeleine gets herself lost for about three minutes which has me and her in a frantic tizzy until she turns up in tears. She tells me she was afraid of "staying forever " at the museum. The late afternoon is spent at the Movies in Richmond where we cheer on a bunch of rats in Flushed Away. Sonnet is home for dinner, and I blog in front of the T.V. while Eitan does his homework.
Saturday, December 2
Sonnet volunteers for the annual school event and is surrounded by a crowd of kids doing their arts craft. The day before a group of mothers spent hours preparing for today's affair - we have dinner with two of the organisers last night. Interesting for us, the evening is entirely English. Normally these things are a mixture of countries drawn from our ex-pat community. Following four years, the PTA and kiddie play-dates, we are now (mostly) accepted as locals by the community. While our American attitudes are of course different, Sonnet and I appreciate the British sense of humour (subtle), organisation (superior), and reserve (famous). I observe that England's welcome to newbies is longer then, say the United States - the British are generally wary of foreigners or perhaps transients - and invitations of friendship more cautious than the American style of open hospitality and puppy-dog enthusiasms (their perception of us with some truth). Any case, the evening was enjoyable with champagne cocktails and cheer.
This photograph of Harry, Eitan, Billy and Oscar (hidden) on the spinning tea cup amusement ride.
"Uncle" Anthony has been a part of our house since we worked together at my Internet company eZoka.com during Web 1.0. Anto is from Australia, has an Italian passport, and lives in the cool part of Islington with three other lads. He splits between the nightlife and adulthood, and recently joined a software company for the entertainment industry and is proudly employee Number One in the UK. When with us, the kids have a run around and burn off some energy. On this particular occasion, Anthony bravely joins us for the school's Christmas Fair complete with Santa's Grotto, mold wine, and a thousand reved up mums including Sonnet who volunteer their afternoon to the holiday affair.
Eitan pastes his Christmas List above the fireplace. He has written the selection himself- see if you can match his words with his wants:
1. camr not toy
3. gardnign cit
4. sord and sheeld
5. pantign cit
6. u wokign santclos
7. bunch uv rings for magnomen
8. u wotargun
10. set uf ces
a. set of keys for the house
b. a computer
c. a water gun
d. bunch of rings for Madeleine
e. a walking Santa Claus
f. painting kit
g. sword and shield
h. gardening kit
j. camera (not a toy)
Answers: 1j, 2i, 3h, 4g, 5f, 6e, 7d, 8c, 9b, 10a