Madeleine, pictured, during a self-imposed interlude - it doesn't look particularly relaxing, does it? Our morning is filled with Halloween and Sonnet prepares herself for a Martha Stewart styled assault on the pre-Trick 'O Treating party at our place. The kids are allowed three friends each who will join them today post school pick-up to put on their witch-ghost-Spidey outfits (Joe-Y-H confirmed on the playground this morning that blood is allowed in our house). Otherwise we are loaded up on Smarties, Milky-Ways (Eitan's pronounced fave), Twix bars and the like. Our neighborhood is Big on the Night and many houses are decorated Haunted House style. There's a large turnout in past years and we expect the same this evening given the unseasonably mild temps and no rain (thank goodness). In an interesting move, Eitan pulls out his candy stash from last year and notes: "I can eat it now because I will get more tonight." Unfortunately, many of the chocolate bars, and etc, are hard as a brick. We discuss the idea of "having your cake and eating it too" -- Madeleine is focused on the eating.
Wednesday, October 31
Monday, October 29
I snap these happy snap traps at Kew. Did you know tat the Venus Flytrap is a small herb forming a rosette of four to seven leaves, which arise from a short subterranean stem that is actually a bulb-lik rhizome? Each leaf reaches a maximum size of about three to seven centimeters, depending on the time of year; longer leaves with robust traps are generally formed after flowering. Flytraps that appear to have more leaves are generally colonies, formed by rosettes that have divided beneath the ground. We also oggle a 10cm millipede, tree plant and Tanzania scorpion which crawls on the hand, sans stinger. It feels like fifth grade all over again.
A large potential client interested in my French fund decides not to commit. It's a roller-coaster for sure. Locally, there has been a run on Star Wars action figures (recall that the kids barter for the things) and I am left with one choice: Darth Vader! I score the Best Figure Of Them All and Eitan shouts "Hurray!" when I hand him the toy (to balance, I give Madeleine a special writing pen for her Top Secret Diary - she still feels cheated). Both kids now back at school and Eitan over his ear-ache, no problem.
Beautiful Sonnet yesterday morning at Kew Gardens. It's a wet day and after a visit to the Princess Diana glass house to see the Lilly pads, poisonous frags and cacti we head home for an afternoon inside as Eitan is feeling under the weather. With us Saturday night is long-time college friend Katy Janda who is now teaching at Oxford - but more on her interesting subject later. Poor Eitan misses Elliot's birthday party which only makes the boy even more miserable. It's a rough life sometimes. Sonnet cheers everybody up with jumbolia and books - currently, she reads the kids the "Narnia" series whose first book - "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe" is most famous. Thanks to British daylight savings, the kids are to bed at 6PM and we not much later.
Madeleine does her own interpretation of a Moore at Kew Gardens yesterday. She forgives me my photography and in fact, will ham it up on occasion including this image. Eitan, on the other hand, is very serious about my snap shots. He finds it bothersome and worse- embarrassing should other kids be around. Still, I persevere with the knowledge that any proud father does the same. At dinner, we play "faces" and I ask Madeleine to show me her perfectly bored look: she immediately rolls her eyes heavenward presenting an otherwise hung face. Perfect. Eitan practices his grumpy and mean looks - and we all agree, "it's good practice for being a teenager."
Saturday, October 27
Daffy first appeared on in "Porky's' Duck Hunt" in 1937. While the cartoon, I read, is a standard hunter/prey kind of thing for which Leon Schlesinger's owner-studio was then famous, Daffy represented something new: an assertive, combative protagonist, completely unrestrainable. Irreverent. As the then short's Director Clampett recalled, "At that time, audiences weren't accustomed to seeing a cartoon character do these things. And so, when it hit the theaters it was an explosion. People would leave the theaters talking about this daffy duck."
The early Daffy is short and pudgy, with stubby legs and beak. The Mel Blanc voice characterization, and the white neck ring contrasting with the black feathers, are about the only aspects of the character that remained consistent through the years.
The origin of Daffy's voice is a matter of some debate. One oft-repeated "official" story is that it was patterned after producer Schlesinger's tendency to lisp. However, in Mel Blanc's autobiography, That's Not All Folks!, he contradicts that conventional belief, writing "It seemed to me that such an extended mandible would hinder his speech, particularly on words containing an s sound. Thus 'despicable' became 'desthpicable'."
Photo, thank you, from Warner Bros.
Who would know that the T.V. is turned on? After morning 'tunes, we head for the common and play footie for a couple of hours before returning to London. Eitan has an ear infection from the pool which upsets his afternoon. Sonnet greets us with open arms following two nights apart. What a nice weekend.
Friday, October 26
Here is Joseph pulling his best sword-in-statue (we have just visited the Elgin Marbles at the British Museum). When not portraying a Roman, Joseph helps private equity funds raise money. The Elgin Marbles, BTW, are a collection of marble sculptures that originally decorated the Parthenon and other buildings on the Acropolis of Athens. Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1799 to 1803, obtained permission from the Ottoman authorities to remove sculptures from the Acropolis. From 1801 to 1812 Elgin's agents removed about half of the surviving sculptures of the Parthenon. The Marbles were transported to Britain, and were purchased by the British Government in 1816 after public debate in Parliament. They were placed on display in the British Museum, where they are now on view in the purpose-built Duveen Gallery. Should they be here or there, one debates.
I give Madeleine our room-key for safe-keeping. She promptly loses it. On the way to the front desk for a duplicate I tell her we may have to sleep in the lobby. She, bug eyed to Eitan: "Is it true?"
Here I am the other day at the Greek antiquities inside the British Museum. I report, dear reader, that the BM was established in 1753, opening with the collection donated mostly by Sir Hans Sloane (yes, of Sloane Square, South Kensington) in Montague House in Bloomsbury. The collection today numbers more than 13 million objects of which less than 2% are on display at any given time. In the archives are wall paintings from Central Asia's' Caves of Bezeklik, which Sonnet and I visited in 1997. The cave retreats were once inhabited by Buddhist monks near the Turpan Peninsula in the Taklamakan desert (translation: "those who enter do not come out)" and remain a testimony to the heyday of Chinese Buddhism. The caves were hidden for hundreds of years buried in sand or riverside cliffs. Upon their discovery in the 1920s by British explorer Sir John Younghusband, portions were carved out and delivered to London in straw and rope, leaving gaping holes where once there were horse-heads, weapons and painted men. In London I contacted the Curator of Central Asia to see what I missed, but never did she return my communication.
1,400 scientist submit their report to the United Nations today, concluding our planet is in peril. According to them, thirty percent of amphibians, 23 percent of mammals and 12% of birds are under threat. The report was drafted and researched by almost 400 scientists, all experts in their field, whose findings were reviewed by another 1,000 of their peers. Findings show that the world's population has grown by 34% to 6.7B in 20 years; 73,000 hectares is lost annually (3.5X the size of Wales) and 60% of the world's major rivers have been dammed or diverted. Ten million children under age 10 die each year and more than half of all cities exceed WHO pollution guidelines. Photo from AirFlow.
Chipping Marlow in Buckinghamshire - the town name is Anglo Saxon in origin, and means 'land remaining after the draining of a pool'. In the Doomsday Book in 1086 it was recorded as Merlaue, though previously it was known as Merelafan. Otherwise, Marlow has been an important town for many years. This is because of its location on the River Thames. It has had its own market charter since 1324 at the latest but ownership of the charter has been lost and no market has been held since at least 1940. As early as 1299 the town had its own Member of Parliament As for the pictured bridge, it has been there since the reign of King Edward III. The current bridge is a suspension bridge, designed by William Tierney Clark in 1832, and was a prototype for the nearly identical but larger Szecheni Chain Bridge across the Danube in Budapest. Cool.
Rest assured, dear reader, that we are up at 0600 for a swim (last night, following two movies and dinner on the bed, we are asleep at 8PM. I can't remember the last time I've done that). After the pool and breakfast we head for the Marlow town center and find a fabulous, well-populated playground where the kids let lose. I chase them around their pretend space ships pretending to be an evil invader. Other kids join in and soon its a free-for-all and I am somehow happily in the center. This beats swimming laps any day. From there we go to lunch with a stop at the book shop where Madeleine pleads for a "secret journal." I give in telling the elderly cashier "It's a game of endurance and today they have won." She accepts this with a smile. At lunch, Eitan writes "Top Secret" and "Confidential" in his notebook while Madeleine scribbles her name and today's date.
Thursday, October 25
The Big News this week is Madeleine's front tooth, which fell out Tuesday while at Kew Gardens (pictured). "Dad! There was blood everywhere but I wasn't scared" she tells me breathlessly. The tooth had been wobbling for the past two weeks and it seemed she was playing with it ALL THE TIME or at least WHENEVER I AM LOOKING. So happily the Tooth Ferry delivers £2, which is the going rate on the playground.
In the pool, I tell Madeleine I will give her one M&M if she swims a lap: "No way, dad" she replies.
"OK- but it's not because I want to."
While driving, I ask the kids to keep their eyes open for the hotel. Madeleine from the back: "What will you give me?"
This week has been school half-term, which basically means 10 days of holiday or hardship for working parents like us. Happily Natasha has a busy program and the kids have been to the movies, had play-dates and visited Hampton Palace where the hedge-row maze kept them entranced. Today, while Sonnet works away, I take Eitan and Madeleine to Marlow on the Thames next to Henley and nearby Oxford. Marlow is charming but it ain't Italy or Spain where most of these Brits seem to go this time of year. That said, we're staying at a five star hotel complete with pool and room service. And limitless movies! I tell the kids we're going to Hollywood and they have been abuzz since Monday. We arrive and head straight for the pool - no disappointment there following two hours and pruny hands. The Little Shakespeares now watch the movie "Mr Bean" and wait for their cheese burgers and chips. Yum!
I wonder aloud where the traffic is going on the crowded M40. Eitan replies "they must be going to our hotel" and Madeleine: "We will have no where to stay!"
Madeleine is motionless in the pool. I ask if she is peeing and she replies, guilt all over her face: "No dad."
And more: "Remember that time on holiday when I peed in the Jacuzi?"
I overhear a conversation in the bathroom about peeing. Madeleine insists girls have it better off because they sit down. "Well" counters Eitan "that doesn't work very well if you are away in nature."
Monday, October 22
Eitan is a serious footballer, and so we practice at a nearby common Saturday afternoon. I have him running all sorts of drills including fast-breaks, ball control and one-on-one's with me. When I tell him his shoe's untied and steal the ball, he is pissed off: "No trash-talking dad!".
Later walking home I ask him what kind of an office he imagines for himself one day and without missing a beat: "Old Trafford" which, of course, is Manchester United's stadium.
Our weekend is otherwise routine: swimming practice Sunday morning for Eitan; performance and singing for Madeleine. Sunday is spent with friends Ramsey and Jennifer in Hamstead on a beautiful autumn afternoon. Ramsey used to work for the Prince Al Walid of The Kingdom and the fifth wealthiest person on the planet. The Prince is a night owl who arrives at his offices after noon then works until 2AM. Ramsey and he shuttled from meetings in a private jet - in this case, one of two 747's housed next to the office and private run-way. Jennifer is from up-state Michigan and their children are about the same age as ours. In other words, just your normal London family.
Saturday, October 20
Ah, the Tower Bridge. The crossing opened in the twilight of the 19th century following 8 years of construction work. Prior, over 50 Tower designs were submitted, including one from Sir Josepth Bazalgette who built London's sewer system, before Horace Jones took the cake (Jones was one of the judges). Two massive piers, containing over 70,000 tons of concrete were sunk into the river bed to support the construction. Over 11,000 tons of steel provided the framework for the towers and walkways. This was then clad in Cornish granite and Portland Stone, both to protect the underlying steelwork and to give the bridge a pleasing appearance. The original raising mechanism was powered by pressurised water stored in six hydraulic accumulators which were replaced by new electro-hydraulic drive system in 1974. The longest span is 61 meters while the total length is 244 meters. It's not the Golden Gate but is equally iconic as a working architecture: over 40,000 cars pass daily.
"It represents the vice of tawdriness and pretentiousness, and of falsification of the actual facts of the structure"
H. H. Statham"Bridge Engineering", Wiley, 1916.
"A more absurd structure than the Tower Bridge was never thrown across a strategic river"
Brangwyn, F., and Sparrows, W.S., "A Book of Bridges", John Lane, 1920.
Photo thanks to Creative Commons Attribution.
Dave Ellis models his inner Storm Trooper, sent from London via me. This is a nice seguay to Eitan's schoolyard where the kids trade action figures. Eitan gets a free start when neighborhood pal Jackson gives him Luke Skywalker which is then traded up for Venom (from Lucas) and then Thumper (from Harry). The ultimate prize is Spider Man and the boys huddle around an outside table and share notes on value. Thumper BTW is one foot and has a wind-up arm that destroys any standing plastic. Of course: No Girls Allowed.
Cal vs UCLA at the L.A. Coliseum and England vs South Africa in the World Cup Rugby championships. Another Big Day of sports.
Madeleine plays "LeapPad" (a touch-and-sound game) telling me her favourite instruments are the Drums and the guitar - she will begin lessons shortly though not the drums.
Friday, October 19
I enjoy a day-trip to Dublin and sneak a visit to the National Museum next to Trinity College. The museum enjoys Western Europe's largest collection of gold casts dating from 1200 B.C. There is also a gallery dedicated to the 795 A.C. invasion of the Vikings, who had a lasting influence on the island's civilisation: the Nords introduced modern weapons (many gruesome devices like the two-sided axe with nail-like thruster), farming techniques and eventually currency which was used to trade with bits of Europe. Dublin herself is a Viking city and today is one of Europe's fastest growing capitals - evident by the traffic and property value, which makes even London blush. The city looks rich - not the case as recently as two years ago - with a new highway tunnel connecting the airport and an inner city tram system. The BBC surveyed 11,200 residents of 112 urban and rural areas in 2003 and Dublin was found to be the best capital city in Europe to live in, and Ireland the most content country in Europe. I pinched this photo from the WWW and unfortunately cannot spot a four-leaf clover.
Ireland's recent wealth BTW has accumulated from 1986 when Ira Magaziner, who famously created the New Curriculum at Brown University, advised the country to reduce corporate taxes (today, 12.5%) to attract Big Business from Dell to Pfizer
Thursday, October 18
I visit the Royal Academy to view a retrospective of the German artists work. It is dark, gorey, confused, bleak and angry and includes well known paintings "B for Larry" (pictured), "Oberon" and "Big Night Down the Drain" which is a gruesome self-portrait of a boy masturbating. The painting was seized by the police at its showing in 1961 and kick-started Baselitz's career, which began in earnest in the 1950s. He was otherwise trained in East Germany before moving to West Berlin. During his formative years, Baselitze was profoundly effected by Germany 's wretchedness during and following the War - and his work seeks to communicate its deprivation shockingly. And he succeeds.
Wednesday, October 17
Joey Junior celebrates numero uno and Joey Senior serves up the cake. It is always even odds as to who is having the most fun at the party. This morning is Harvest Festival at Eitan and Madeleine's school and the children march into the Tim Bernard Lee Hall full of joy and vigor - Head Master Elaine England does a fine job settling them down and orchestrating a number of autumnal songs like: "red, orange and golden brown - see! the leaves are falling down." Madeleine in the front row is wonderfully off-key and Sonnet and I are delighted as her voice soars across the auditorium. Sonnet gives her a secret double thumbs-up, which makes her glow. From the festivities I assist Eitan's teacher in the class-room and today's lesson focuses on imperatives which, the teacher explains, "are bossy instructions." The kids get this one pretty quickly, especially the girls who have younger brothers.
Moe and Grace's cat, photographed by Katie, relaxes in Berkeley. Madeleine fell in love with SP at first sighting two summers ago and chased the cat around the house. Now, when we call home, Madeleine asks about SP and to talk to her. This has fuelled her desire to own a cat (or dog) and we have promised when she is a teenager: and so she saves away. Sweetie Pie replaced beloved Pootsy ("stinky" in Italian - thank you, Katie) who was feral and the runt of the litter. Grace found Pootsy in a vacant Oakland lot befriending her with tuna before throwing her into a pillow case and bringing her home to Euclid. She led a good life, as does SP today.
Tuesday, October 16
Here I am in Madrid next to the Prado museum during the Great Internet Bubble (yes, the Internet has outlived the title of this blog). For those lucky enough to experience the thrill of it all - the world was, and is, at your finger tips quite literally. While I founded eZoka.com too late in Cycle I to earn the spectacular windfall of many of my West Coast brethren, the experience was nonetheless rewarding and positive. I learned, for instance, that there is love in action: and no regrets doing a thing with conviction. The momentum from then carries me today.
Eitan shoots away at Kew; skull courtesy of Aunt Martine for the early Halloween. I'm up at dawn to do my power-walk, check email and listen to the Stereophonics. Power walking, for the record, is not a replacement to running but easier on the bod. Afterwards I shuttle the kiddies to school bumping into the usual suspects on the way. It's a good community vibe and the children chat about who knows what? while the parents compare notes on nits or the moment's passing subject. Today Eitan has Spanish which he looks forward to. "I also speak Italian!" he exclaims.
Monday, October 15
Shai is a friend from Columbia Business School though we met in London. Before CBS Shai procured weapons for the Israeli government. Now, he invests in clean-tech for Sir Richard Branson. He is a serious guy. This morning I sit in Madeleine's class and smile as Mrs. Reynolds takes the children through their steps. The kids are asked to draw the various ways they got to school - walk, scooter, car, plane - which are then used to create a pictorial. We compare which methods are most popular, counting the totals and the differences. Mrs Reynolds explains that a pictorial is an easy way to see the difference between things. From there, it's indoor pe then lunch. Fun!
"I brushed my teeth with gun powder!"
Eitan uses my sodium bicarbonate toothpaste
"It just takes me longer to chew!"
Madeleine wales, always the last at the dinner table
"Chips! Cookies! Chocolate! Sweeties! Coffee cake!"
Belt Eitan and Madeleine when asked their favorite school lunch
Yesterday morning we meet Shai and Ada Weiss and their boys Yuval and Ynon. Photo of Madeleine at Climbers and Creepers, an indoor play area which, among other things, has a living bee-hive where the insects enter and exit via a system of see-through tubing. C&C is experience oriented which means the kids run amok and here I chase Madeleine to her delight and my exhaustion. Otherwise Kew is the temporary home to 32 Henry Moore bronzes which spread across the grounds like something from the Beatles' "Yellow Submarine." Several years ago Sonnet and I visited Moore's work at a sculpture garden in West Yorkshire which was by itself cool but the scale and farm-like setting made it more so. Any case, the kids love climbing in and out of the sculptures which seem to welcome their participation.
"The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is, it must be something you cannot possibly do. "
"To know one thing, you must know the opposite. "
Henry Moore (1898-1986, England)
This is Camilla's dog Poppy, which the family picked up Sunday morning. Camilla has been anticipating the family addition for some time and Paul has prepared her for this new responsibilty with a play-game offering pointers on pet care. Very 21st century. Madeleine is jealous (of course) but we have promised her an animal when she is a teen-ager. Madeleine is saving her allowance. Coincidentally, Poppy is a dead-wringer for Paul in the back seat driving home from Natalie and Justin's dinner party late Saturday night.
Sunday, October 14
England football defeats Estonia 3-nil. England rugby defeats France 14-9. But Cal, number two in the country, can't get their business done against unranked Oregon State in Berkeley. Worse, top team LSU is upset by Kentucky so if the Bears had won... we would have been Number One for the fist time in six decades. Well of course the season is not over and a Rose Bowl appearance is still a possibility (we haven't been there since '59) but Cal is out of the hunt for the best team in the nation and the Championship Bowl in January. I am resigned to a sense of inevitability but thought we would have another week or two before our history came crashing down on the Bad News Bears. One Boiler Maker please!
But wait: the Bears fight back! In one minute Cal scores, recovers the ball and moves to Oregon's 12! But red shirt freshman quarterback Riley doesn't throw the ball away! He takes a sack! the clock runs out - no equalising field goal or game-winning touchdown! Stunning. Fuck. I'm bitter and going to bed with a head ache.
Saturday, October 13
Photo from the La Veta, CO, country store (elevation 7,100 feet) in July. I walk the kids to football at Palewell Park and Eitan and I discuss cement. He's curious to know what it's made of and why it "sticks" (there is construction work on Vicarage Road as the Victorian water pipes are replaced). Madeleine is in the first group so Eitan and I play tennis - he's keen to learn and why not? From there, I watch Madeleine hustle back-and-forth during a mini-tournament: No goals from her but not for want of effort. Eitan jumps onto the pitch following Madeleine, who is picked up by Sonnet to go to "performance class" in Richmond- acting and singing lessons with her fellow blue Jaye's. Eitan's group plays other teams and he is no longer the best kid on the field now that he is one of the youngest. Still, he's skillful and thoughtful with the ball and the new grouping raises his game.
This is a BIG day for sports: England versus France in the semi-finals of World Cup Rugby; England versus Estonia in a European Cup qualifier and #2 Cal versus Oregon at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley. All are key games but the rugby has captured the country's attention since England are World Champs from '03 (the rugby cup is played every four years). France is the better and bigger team but England pulled off an upset against Australia last weekend so who knows? Personally a Bears defeat would be a greater set back as Cal has not been ranked like this since the early 1950s. Enjoy it while it lasts, I say.
Friday, October 12
Last night Sonnet and I catch the utterly cool Maxïmo Park, whose name comes from Maximo Gomez Park, a Havana meeting place for Cuban revolutionaries. Despite this, the band formed in in the Midlands' Newcastle. Their 2005 release "A Certain Trigger" was one of the best Brit-pop albums of that year and rose quickly on the charts. Last night's show was energetic.
Madeleine is still fixated on global warming and asks: "will it kill the rain deer?" (her thoughts on Christmas).
This pretty much sums it up:
"The Nobel Committee's recognition of Vice President Gore shines a bright light on the most inconvenient truth of all -- the selection of George Bush as president has endangered the peace and prosperity of the entire planet,"
John Edwards, the 2008 White House contender
Thursday, October 11
While we are on modern art, I've been invited to Franz West's opening at Place Vendome in Paris next week. West was born in Vienna in 1947 and here is what he as to say from artseensoho.com:
"Early On I realized that the purely visual experience of an artwork was somehow insufficient. I wanted to go beyond the purely optical and include tactical qualities as well. My works aren't things one just looks at, but things that the viewer is invited to handle. There have been many theories of art that try to break down the border between art and the world, but I don't find such attempts to be particularly meaningful. Art remains art. I really see my work as quite compatible with the l'art pour 'lart philosophy. One may think that I try to bring the art object out into the world since my works sometimes appear to have a practical function, but really it's the other way around: things in the world can, under certain special circumstances, enter the realm of art. And, in fact, once they have entered this realm they are art."
In Dusseldorf yesterday I visit the Kunstsammlung, which houses art from the German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. A mediocre collection is housed in a spectacular building, which opened in 1986 - pictured. Before, the art was located in the small castle Schloss Jägerhof in the Hofgarten (Central Park of Düsseldorf) but soon outgrew its space. The museum consists of two wings: K20 (twentieth century with deep point on classic modern art) and K21 (artwork beginning from the 1980s). The U.S. is represented with work from Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol. Photographers include Andreas Gursky (who I love), Candida Hofer, Thomas Ruff and Thomas Struth and Jeff Wal. A nifty display on moving film is exhibiting but I found this rather shallow excluding one display of five reels showing different stories with antagonising words: "Jill climbs the electrical tower." "The tower maintains 240,000 volts." "Jill drinks vodka" and so on.
Last night watching "March of the Penguins" I tell Madeleine they are all goners due to global warming. This morning Madeleine tells Sonnet that we have to stop driving our car "because we are going to kill Santa and the penguins!"
Tuesday, October 9
Sonnet and I catch the Editors last night at the Brixton Academy - pictured (Christian and I saw them recently at San Francisco's Fillmore). The concert is sold out and probably the biggest the band has played. Matching the moment is loud- very loud- rock and roll snatching influences from Joy Division and The Cure. Our date begins at a cool gastro-pub underneath the rail tracks and we watch the interesting people sail by including blacks, the ubber cool and down-and-outs, models and beggars - in other words, this is an up-and-coming part of London and still raw.
Brixton's ethnic mix is striking and African-Carib. Unlike whitie, the brothers live their lives on the street corner talking, selling, hustling, smoking and gossiping. Our block has no similar gathering point unless you count the school drop. Brixton has no public space yet masses of people making a cramped, urban feel. The neighborhood is famous for its riots in the '80s, jerk chicken and weekend markets where one can buy halal meat, a pink wig or just about anything.
Eitan rides a donkey at Tia and Stephen's farm. Unlike horse fur, donkey fur is not waterproof and so donkeys must find shelter when it rains. Donkeys have larger ears, pictured, than horses to hear the distant calls of fellow donkeys, and to help cool the donkey's blood. I also learn that a mule is the offspring of a male donkey and a female horse (the reverse, the offspring of a male horse and a female donkey, is called a hinny). A female mule is called a "molly." A jackass, a burro and a donkey are different names for the same beast. And there, my Equus-loving friends, you have it.
Madeleine continues to bring things to school for show-and-tell but really, I think, to receive some attention from head teacher Mrs. Reynolds. Items rejected include my passport, mom's pearls and other decorative bobbles, Thomas Pynchin's "Gravity's Rainbow" (that was this morning), clocks, walke-talkies and other items which somehow match her code. Today Sonnet decides enough-is-enough and we lay down some rules: Monday's only. Madeleine cries, whines and begs to take something today and I relent, telling her that if she presents a reasonable argument we may allow her an extra day. A condition, however, is that she must write her position on a piece of paper. We shall see where it goes.
Monday, October 8
This is Bendigo, Nathan's dog on the farm. Bendigo is a cross between greyhound and dear hound - a breed popular with groundskeepers in the early 19th century. Nathan figures the dog can make 40 mph on the trot - he's certainly lean enough. As for the name Bendigo: In 1851, Mrs Margaret Kennedy and Mrs Farrell, wives of two farmhands from the Ravenswood sheep run, found gold in the Bendigo creek. Word of the discovery spread quickly and soon after the township of Sandhurst was established. By the 1880s, the city was considered the richest in the world due to the size of the local goldfields and many dogs across the Commonwealth got the name "Bendigo."
We watch Sir David Attenborough's acclaimed series on the oceans "The Blue Planet."
Madeleine sees a killer whale eat a seal: "Dad, why does stuff have to be so mean to stuff?"
Madeleine: "What can lightening do to a fish?"
Eitan, seeing a wave: "Surfers would most definitely like that tunnel."
Eitan, listening to the tides on the t.v. show: "It sounds a bit like Connecticut."
And a little later: "No, definitely not Connecticut."
Nathan tosses gleeful, unrelenting, Madeleine: "Again! Again!" she shouts. Dana and Nathan are the kids' God Parents - we have known Dana twelve years from New York and Columbia; she has lived in London the past eight or so. We spend Sunday with Nathan's mum and step-father at their 17th century farm house aptly named "Sunnyside Farm", which is warm and cozy and perfect for an overcast fall day. We and the kids pick decorative gourds and blackberries (last of summer), ride donkeys and horseplay for most of the afternoon. For lunch with champagne, Tia makes a thick English stew with multi-grain bread. Everybody is sad to leave and Eitan hugs Nathan good-bye.
Major-General Gerald Cavendish Grosvenor, the sixth Duke of Westminster, is Britain's third richest with an inherited fortune of £7 billion, according to the Sunday Times Rich List (he trails only Russian robber-baron Abramovich and Lakshmi Mitall, the steel magnate). The Duke is also Major-General of the Territorial Army, and likes to be called "Your Grace." The General's fortune comes from his property and 156,000 acres of land in Britain including 300 acres in Mayfair and Belgravia. He also owns large estates in Lancashire, Scotland and Cheshire, home to his family seat, Eaton Hall. Gerald's assets have an estimated worth of £11 billion and turnover of £508 million in 2006. Ain't it grande?
Cal moves up a spot to Number 2 on the NCAA football rankings, the highest the Bears have been since, my dad points out, the days of Pappy Waldorf. So who is Pappy Waldorf, and when were those Golden Days?
Pappy began his major college career as head football coach at Oklahoma A&M from 1929 to 1933. In his five seasons at Oklahoma A&M Waldorf went 34-10-7, won three Missourie Valley Conference championships, and never lost to arch-rival Oklahoma. In 1932, Waldorf was also promoted to Director of Athletics at the school. Nevertheless, in 1934, Waldorf was coaxed north to Kansas State, to replace Bo McMillin as football coach. Although Waldorf only coached K-State for one season, 1934, it was a remarkable year, as Kansas State captured the Big Six Conference championship – the first Big Six title in football for the school.
In 1935, Waldorf moved again, to Northwestern, where he would remain head coach until 1946. In his very first season at Northwestern, he was named college football's first national coach of the year. In his second season, he took Northwestern to the Big Ten Conference crown. His 12-year mark at Northwestern was 49-45-7. While at Northwestern, Waldorf also convinced future legend Otto Graham to try out for football.
As head football coach at Cal from 1947-1956 and where Pappy's life becomes interesting, he revived the program and established a 67-32-4 record. His teams were undefeated for three seasons, 1949-1951, winning three Pacific Coast Conference titles, and qualifying for three consecutive Rose Bowls. Waldorf also posted a 7-1-2 record against Stanford. After retiring from Cal in 1956, he joined the San Francisco 49ers head of personnel and scouting, remaining with the team until 1972.
Photo from the Cal website.
Friday, October 5
We are are all pleased and relieved - especially the paparazzi - that the Prince has finally returned to his senses and picked up his relationship with Kate Middleton, who has stolen Britain's heart with her down-to-earth style and rugged good looks (they broke up, dear reader, in April). On the balance, Wils is fast losing his hair, has no career prospects whatsoever and doesn't seem particularly involved in charities or world travel. He's frequently pictured stumbling from Boujis or some other Mayfair nightclub and even the dreadful Harry is making ground on him. So all I can say is: "Thank God for you, Kate" who single-handidly restores some dignity to this situation.
I fly to Bad Homborg then Hannover yesterday, returning to London and my blog today. Meetings go well with the fall-like weather and I have dinner at Titus- one of best in Lower Saxony. It has been a while since I have had foie gras but man do we indulge last night in what becomes a five course meal with three different wines by dessert. This alone makes the trip worthwhile but everything else makes it better.
Wednesday, October 3
The boys before football at Palewell Common. Saturday morning, rain or shine, hot or cold, us dads are out there on the pitch drinking coffee, comparing property values and talking about the boys' prospects. It's all about us, you see - never mind those playing. Wilfie, on the left, is destined to be a world-class rugby player. He's only five yet twice the size of Madeleine who herself is a big kid. Brother Bertie is a gentle natured soul with a mean tackle which has been known to make a boy cry. Eitan and Bertie have known each since Montessori at St Mary's in Mortlake.
"They say football is a matter of life and death - but it's more important than that."
Bill Shankly, footballer and manager for Scotland
“Me having no education. I had to use my brains"
“Aim for the sky and you'll reach the ceiling. Aim for the ceiling and you'll stay on the floor.”
A man walks into the produce section of his local supermarket and asks to buy a half head of lettuce. The boy working in the department tells him that they only sell whole heads of lettuce. The man insists that the boy ask his manager about the matter.
Walking into the back room, the boy says to the manager, "Some butthead wants to buy a half head of lettuce." As he finishes his sentence, he turns to find the man standing behind him, so he ads, "And this gentleman kindly offered to buy the other half."
Later the manager says to the boy, "I was impressed with the way you got yourself out of that situation earlier. We like people who think on their feet here. Where are you from, son?"
"Texas, sir", the boy replies.
"Well, why did you leave Texas?", the manager asks.
The boy says, "Sir, there's nothing but whores and football players down there."
"Really?", said the manager. "My wife is from Texas."
Replies the boy. "Who'd she play for?"
--Joke from Dale West
Sonnet's cousin Molly, center pictured, surrounded by her family at her graduation from Denver University where she studied International Affairs. On the far right is husband Tim, who everybody calls "Tim Bob" (don't ask me why). They enjoy their honeymoon year. Bravo and bravo!
This morning I am up with Sonnet at the crack of dawn to swim some laps at the Richmond pool. I think I am a better swimmer today than 20 years ago - at least my technique has improved. I now try to stretch my stroke as far as it can go, and use force underneath my body feeling the water. These sound like obvious things but when I was younger it was all about turn-over. Many times gold medalist Matt Biondi took six or seven strokes per 25 yards whereas I was around 18. Any dummy can do that math. Still, my freestyle took me to Junior and Senior Nationals and of course Norcal and the high-school swimming championships. College was less satisfying but I had my moments at Brown too.
Madeleine gives me a ferocious hug last night and says: "I wish I could do this all the time" and when I tell her she can, Madeleine notes "I'm so happy you are my dad." She dampers the feel-good mood by telling me she once hated me "but I changed my mind" she says. And thank goodness for that!
Monday, October 1
I start my day in Richmond Park doing a power walk and checking emails. It is dark in the mornings now - the earth's tilt, as at last week, ensures equal parts day and night. Sonnet heads to the V&A to take down her exhibit and return the Costume Gallery to its permanent collection. She's a bit wispy about this I think. I and the kids head for school and I assist Eitan's teacher with her in-school chores - mainly filing and sorting. I also assist the kids with their reading and today, gulp, they are introduced to multiplication. Man, try explaining this to a seven year old! It strikes me that the girls have an easier time grasping the concept of a times table simply because they appear to have a greater ability to focus. I give encouragement and examples, which is like throwing a chair of the titanic at this stage. Practice will make perfect and we all have faith that the lads will come through.
Eitan, after I inform him that he "will be in Big Trouble, mister" if he ever says "Blah! Blah! Blah!" to Natasha again, writes: "Blah! Blah! Blah!" on three pieces of paper which he shows Sonnet during a cross exchange. I must say we are both gob-smacked by this cunning.
More sports excitement: Cal to be ranked No. 3 in the nation following its win over the Oregon Ducks Saturday. The Women's World Cup is won by Germany, who defeat Brazil 2-0. The German ladies did not allow one goal throughout the tournement. The NY Mets collapse on the last day of the baseball season, losing 8-1 to Florida and so fail to win the Division Title or advance to the playoffs. Three weeks ago they were seven games up. The Mets' slide is compared to the '62 Phillies, who proved equally impotent in the home stretch.