Last night I am at a fund raiser for President Obama in Notting Hill at Elizabeth Murdoch's house (one forgets how groomed and toned is the American ex-pat crowd. The women aren't bad looking either). Gweneth Paltrow was the co-host but had to "dash off to America" to be on the Jay Leno Show leaving us with a note stating "Barak is great" and blah blah blah. In truth, the Senator is great - he joins to us from Indiana on the evening's later-side following a "red-line" (the cool expression for a hand-shaking and flesh-pressing) via conference call. Barak talks for 30 minutes including Q&A. He describes his campaign as a thesis (I paraphrase): "18 months ago I believed the American people to be a decent folk whose beliefs and desires today are not matched by the country's leadership over these last eight-years. I am proud to report that my views have been supported in this extraordinary campaign.... " His voice and tone are measured and direct - no worry here of a mis-quote or gaffe. Obama's speech-pattern has mini-pauses which offer natural "page-breaks" or suggest carefully chosen words. How nice to feel confidence or more in an American official - which has so not been the case since 1998. The last question posed - "what is your favorite colour?" - is batted down first: "is my daughter in your audience?" and then: "blue." Bravo. Speaking to Murdoch on the way-out, I note with some pride my Berkeley roots and we all agree that Barak brings it on. Now he needs to bring it home.
Tuesday, April 29
Monday, April 28
Here is another one from yesterday. Shortly before it starts raining, I might add. Things are back to whatever normal as the kids behind in their home work and Eitan particularly grumpy feeling that everybody is against him. This is a hold-over from last night's punishment when I threatened him with exclusion from the ManU v. Barcelona re-match Tuesday after he drew in Madeleine's game book purchased by her, Dear Sister, with hard earned cash. Eitan must repay her five-quid ("squid") and to add to the measure, I take an oversized Cadbury chocolate bar until Madeleine is made whole. Anyway, the boy's homework is to draw an instructional book, describe some action and make a five-word glossary. Eitan choses The Atlas and targets Australia. He gets into the thing - "this is fun!" - and pulls words like North Pole, continent, wild life and nature. He colours in his mapping then happily skips off to school with Sonnet - task complete. Phew!
The other main activity this past weekend is our school's Fun Run or five-miles of Richmond Park. Roger and I lament: "so where's the fun?" but have a great time anyway. Both kids complete then we have a BBQ on the school grounds and in glorious - and well appreciated - sunshine.
Roger at Kew Gardens yesterday, pictured - he gets the wise-cracker from Texas mother Geenie, God Bless Her. I have been familiar with the look since August 19, 1985 when we first met at Brown. Today, Roger is Microsoft Exchange after joining Microsoft five years ago. He manages a team of 11 and offers, I imagine, the proper balance of focus, silliness and anxiety necessary to make the $2 B unit hum at top pace. It must be a fun group with him.
Madeleine and I head to Terminal Five to pick up Roger late Friday evening and amuse ourselves watching travelers march past going who knows where? Madeleine has been looking forward to the reunion as any type of routine-change a plus. During the week's run up she calls Roger "that man" as in "when is that man coming?" and now we find her a bit shy upon his arrival. This mood passes quickly - Roger treats her and Eitan as adults, which they surely appreciate. Plus he brings sugary gifts from the continent. Driving home from the airport Madeleine keeps mum but absorbs everything - yes, Dear Sir, Roger and I keep our most treasured college memories for later.
Here is madeleine, with Doggie, at the Sunday table before waffles (thank you Stan). This weekend Roger visits us following a whistle-stop tour with Microsoft. Roger is my dear college friend and the '96 Best Man - we and Eric Connally had a Chinese before the wedding - Dear Reader, I am still in the dog-house and can we blame Sonnet? More from Roger later. Madeleine has her second swimming gala Sunday and "competes" back- and breaststroke. She is all butterflies beforehand and receives a loud applause at the finish - Madeleine is the youngest kid on deck by several years and her "stroke" is more enthusiasm than style. That will come though. I am reminded that swimming attracts a dedicated and unusual support - us spectators bare our tedium by comparing training tips, swim suit fabrics and racing times. The more enthusiastic volunteer as timers or race officials. There is a certain amount of, ahem, bossiness from the organisers but to their credit a military style is required and delivered. The competition is hosted at St Paul's prep, which has an average 25-meter indoor pool. This a far cry from the three or four-day swim meets of my and Katie's yuf often at 50-meter Olympic pools with sprawling green grass, viewing stands and indoor gymnasiums for rain or rest before the evening's finals. Such lavishness undoubtedly impacted performance or at least enhanced the sport's exoticness. Boy was there no free time for anything else. Now I get a kick watching the Olympics run-up (this is a Big swimming year) and of course Eitan and Madeleine's progress.
Friday, April 25
"When you turn your heart and your life over to Christ, when you accept Christ as the savior, it changes your heart. " December 23, 1999
"You can fool some of the people all the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on." March 2001
"America must not ignore the threat gathering against us. Facing clear evidence of peril, we cannot wait for the final proof, the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. " October 7, 2002
"Some have argued that confronting the threat from Iraq could detract from the war against terror. To the contrary, confronting the threat posed by Iraq is crucial to winning the war on terror. " October 7, 2002
"Any government that supports, protects or harbours terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent and equally guilty of terrorist crimes. "
"My answer is bring 'em on." July 2, 2003
"I trust God speaks through me; without that I couldn't do my job." July 9, 2004
"We know that dictators are quick to choose aggression, while free nations strive to resolve differences in peace. " September 21, 2004
"We’re not leaving so long as I’m the president. " August 21, 2006
"One unmistakable legacy of Vietnam is that the price of America's withdrawal was paid by millions of innocent citizens whose agonies would add to our vocabulary new terms like 'boat people', 're-education camps' and 'killing fields'." August 23, 2007
"I've told him he'll have all the time he needs" (Bush on Petraeus) April 11, 2008
George W. Bush. All quotes from the White House or recognised media.
This morning, 6AM, Eitan choses not to join me on a Power Walk in Richmond Park. Fair enough. Madeleine has a night-mare and crawls into bed with Sonnet but unable to talk about her dream. Eitan points out that a giraffe's tongue is 50 centimeters "that's half a meter, dad." Just your typical morning. Now we sit around the table and I give each kid five words that they have to turn into a story. Here is what Eitan does with angel, valley, snow, dog, hole:
"A dog dug a very deep hole. Then an angel spotted it. The angel didn't have a house so she crawled into the hole. When she was in the hole she saw she was in a valley with lots of snow. She suddenly saw the biggest golden statute of a dragon. The she fell asleep. When she woke up she was back at her home with the other ferrys. The End."
Madeleine uses pet, hill, wood, robbers:
"In a small house two robbers lived. They had one pet. The pet went outside. The grass and hills were tall. Goats got some annoyable dogs running around the style (sty?) One day the dog got trapped in some wood and he barked and barked. The robbers heard him and they came. They chopped of the wood around the dog so he could go free. He ran past the style (sty) with the sheep "baa-ing." He went back to the robbers house and he never went out again only if the robbers were with him. And they told the pet to go outside but the pet wouldn't because he was scared. The robbers said "don't be silly there is nothing to scare you." "I'm just scared about that tree" said the dog. "Don't be silly it won't happen again." But the robbers were really scared themselves, after all, because the police took them away once. They didn't want the police to catch them again. So they never went to the valley again. The end. Madeleine"
Eitan shows me his mixture, which he and Harry bottled yesterday. It includes water, hair gel, tooth paste, shampoo, body soap and talcom powder. Says Eitan: "What a potion!"
London sunrise from the BBC gallery.
Thursday, April 24
This evening I relieve our nanny and take the kids to Richmond Park. Eitan runs laps around the duck pond practicing, I suppose, for his football. Madeleine and I play a game of hide-and-catch with loser's punishment: pinching. Hard. Last night I showed Madeleine a glossy of Eitan's hero Christiano Rinaldo kissing some Brazillian slapper. She immediately races downstairs to tell her brother, who is listening to ManU v. Barcelona, of course. "Eitan! Eitan! You HAVE to see this picture! Eitaaaan!" I tell Madeleine to hush-up but the deed is done. Eitan retreats in disgust, disappointed yet again by adults. I tell Madeleine she cannot keep a secret to save her life and she gives me a hummpf. Testing her, we agree to a bowl of B&J's New York Fudge Junk if she does not tell her brother for 24 hours. We agree and shake. Madeleine keeps mum despite my best efforts to crack her. The kids now watch Ben 10 with chocolate faces (Sonnet at a V&A reception). Here Madeleine is in mom's dress.
"And above all... Think Chocolate!"
UK schools go on strike - the first time in 21 years since Thatcher. Eitan gets a freebie while Madeleine must go: she feels gyped so I take her for hot chocolate at The Victoria. A lot is going on in this kid's mind and she remarks on her friend Duncan, who is in braces. "Duncan cannot play football, can he dad?. Or do other games us kids do." She says. "I used to want to be him because he always gets turn on the lights in school assembly. And he has his own place in the classroom." I ask Madeleine how Duncan must feel and she replies "Sad. But he's still my friend." Back at home Eitan, reclining, gets unexpected homework from The Boss - I tell him five books read and marked before playground (pictured). He is a good sport and his reading has progressed nicely. He now completes chapter books fairly easily and devours the sports pages. This week he has returned to Hexigons, or the "clever" table in his classroom. His teacher moved him last month to distribute the classroom - to his distress (and some mild parental concern). It is all back to good.
Monday, April 21
"Uncle" Anthony is over for Passover and receives a happy reaction from Eitan and Madeleine, who throw themselves at our guest. We take the Shakespeares for a pre-dinner walk and work a few time trials to burn off energy before the readings, which Sonnet organises to success. While I do not have a particular history to my Jewishness, I do recall family Passovers with big dinners, long ceremonies and us kids usually anxious to get away often crawling under the table or playing dradles somewhere. The women would get tipsy while the men did the readings sometimes handing off to us young to ask Alijah a question or two. Eitan finds the afikomen BTW. The kids return to school and we to some normalcy, excluding Sonnet whose commute has become a monster thanks to road works in Barnes slowing traffic and her bus to a stall. Me, I'm happy to save some carbons and walk to my office in 15. Somewhere I read one's commute time is directly correlated to happiness and may be the most impactual variable.
I splurge and buy a 50mm lens with a f/1.4 meaning faster shots and good for limited light. The lens is pretty close to how we see the real world - pictured. I miss my Pentax SuperME but the dark-room is just too time-consuming. At some point I will scan my black & whites and maybe put them up here.
A glum report by Morgan Stanley predicts that 1.2-million UK households face home values less than the mortgage or £165-billion of negative equity. The danger surrounds those who took out recent mortgages for houses at at sky-high prices (the mortgage-to-income ratio has shifted from 1.9X when we arrived in '97 to over 4X today). In many cases buyers took on loans for up to 125% of their property's value and already see red in now's decline. Morgan Stanley predicts prices to fall 10% this year and 5% next year, though the bank says this forecast could be optimistic, warning a correction could exceed 25%. Around half of all UK mortgage lending for house purchases since 2006 has involved deposits of 20% or less representing £77-billion of high-risk borrowing, according to The Daily Mail. Many put no deposit down at all. For those who need to sell their home because they can no longer afford the mortgage, negative equity is scary shit.
Sunday, April 20
After swimming this morning, Eitan accompanies me to the news agent to get the Sunday papers. He is motivated by football and ManU, who tied their match last night after trailing 1 to nil (the sports now spread on the table and he belts out the scores and news: "Dad! Chelsea is trying to buy Stevie Gerard from Liverpool!"). In the car this morning the boy reminds me that he was once transfixed by Bob the Builder, then Spider Man and now football.
Britain is towards the bottom of the European league table when it comes to female representation in our government. Despite the Iron Lady Thatcher, there are 125 of women MPs or 19% of the total. This compares Sweden (47%), Spain (37%) and Germany (32%). Since 1918, when women became eligible to stand for parliament, there have been 4,365 men elected to the Commons and 291 women. The figures are more startling in the British board room where there are 16 female full-time Executive Directors in the FTSE 100, according to The Guardian. This despite board pay increasing 37% the last year. This group makes up, er, half the vote. Hello Gordon Brown.
The Elgin Marbles, removed in 1801 by Thomas Bruce, 7th Earl of Elgin, include 17 figures from the east and west pediments, 15 (of an original 92) of the metope panels depicting battles between the Lapiths and the Centaurs, as well as 247 feet of the Parthenon which decorated the horizontal course set above the interior architrave of the temple (my photo of the east pediment). The marbles represent more than half of what now remains of the surviving sculptural decoration of the Parthenon. Elgin's acquisitions also included objects from other buildings on the Athenian Acropolis: a Caryatid from Erechtheum; four slabs from the frieze of the Temple of Athena Nike; and a number of other architectural fragments of the Parthenon, Propylaia, Erechtheum, the Temple of Athena Nike and the Treasury of Atreus. The cost to Lord Elgin was £75,000 and the last piece arrived in Britain in 1812. They were eventually sold to the British Museum for £35,000 in 1816. Not too surprisingly and spurred by the 2004 Olympics in Greece, the Greeks want their treasures back.
Eitan is more interested in the evening's ManU v Blackburn Rovers and we make a ten minute tour of the Greeks than bolt. Before so, I beg Eitan to look at the Rosetta Stone which he does for several focused moments as I describe its importance. His mind, Dear Sister, is elsewhere.
Saturday, April 19
I am mano-a-mano with Eitan and we head into Central London to do some shopping and go to the British Museum - pictured. We start our morning at Lillywhite's, billed as the largest sports store in Britain, to buy - what else - Manchester United gear and football boots (also red). Backing up, this past week has been busy for all of us as Sonnet recovers from her race and the kids their last week of spring break and football camp. Both play football all day and poor Natasha has to drag herself over to do the drop-off (otherwise she is with us in the afternoon). On football, Madeleine says: "Fun, ldals, energy. Cold. Fong, tiring, feet ache" while Eitan weighs in: "Brilliant." It keeps 'em busy, any case. I am in Rotterdam Thursday night and manage to sneak in the Contemporary Arts Museum (mediocre) and the Nederlands Fotomuseum located in the old, now burned-out docks which have moved to greener pastured (Rotterdam remains Europe's biggest port). I view an exhibition on "The Child Ideal, 1840 Until Now" which includes, amongst other things, a montage of tweenie runway competitions in Texas and the Mid-West. Here the young girls are dressed like adults in cowboy, swim suit and fancy dress before parading themselves in front of an audience. We learn the outfits run from $2,000 and many girls go to as many as 100 competitions in a year. We all know who motivates and the parents invariable hold cigarettes and expectations to the camera for us to ogle. Also up are the finalists for the best urbans with images from around the world.
Sonnet reads the kids "Harry Potter" and it all starts from here. Both are mesmorised by Hogwarts and beg for her reading before bedtime. Vaguely I follow JK Rowling's case against a fan preparing a Potter dictionary, which Rowling wants to prevent. Her trump card: "If I lose I may not have the enthusiasm to write my own." Fans are unsettled.
Monday, April 14
I take this moody picture from the center of the Waterloo Bridge pedestrian walkway facing Westminster Bridge or due West. Westminster Bridge opened in 1750 establishing one of the most important links across the Thames, joining the ever expanding (and important) Westminster to what is now Waterloo. The thing stood for 70 years before structural checks revealed problems with the foundation resulting in a rebuild - designed by Thomas Page and Charles Barry. The new bridge opened to great fanfare in 1862 and today is one of London's busiest foot and road bridges. And most proud crossings, I might add. It also serves as a convenient link between the London Eye and Houses of Parliament - as can be seen for sure. The kids and I have seen a river's eye view on many occassions taking the Tate-To-Tate from the Tate Britain to the Tate Modern.
Sunday, April 13
Sonnet finishes the marathon in 4-21 and is relieved and happy to have it done. We meet her by Downing Street below Pall Mall and next to St James's Park where there is a runners meeting area. As usual for the British, it is perfectly orderly. Sonnet's time is taken from a shoe-chip as it otherwise takes her 20-minutes to cross the front-line with her 35,000 associates. At the end-zone, both kiddies are a tad wiggy from waiting (it pours rain and hails) relieved momentarily by fantasy sword-fighting which gets the evil eye from Dad (on the train ride home I command: silence! until Clapham Common, which elicits funny faces and hand-gesturing). It has been a long day and we are all happy to be home. Sonnet is in the bath while Eitan listens to Manchester United v Arsenal, currently one-one. Madeleine plays with her doll-house upstairs singing to herself. A nice Sunday of accomplishment overall. Everybody is proud to have a marathoner in the house.
And today's race winner is: Martin Lel in 2-05-15, a new London record. Another three men are under 2-06 making London the deepest marathon in history. Smashing. The women's race is won by Irina Mikitenko of Kazakhstan, in 2-24-14, well below Paul Radcliff's standard of 2-15-25 in 2003 and perhaps one of the greatest athletic performances ever, which I watched start-to-finish on the tele (properly reclined on the sofa). It is hard not to be inspired and in truth I would love to line up again for the long-race (my body has a different plan). Bravo!
The kids and I find a good observation and await Sonnet. The Shakespeares are bored and restless but we carry-on. It is fun to watch costumes including Mr and Ms. naked (several), Elvis (many), Green Bay Packers (football helmet and pads legit) and Mr Happy - pictured. We are not quite sure about Mr Happy but he gives us a thumbs up and a thrill. Unfortunately, he also passes before Sonnet. Oh well, these jokers are here to run.
London, we know, is one of the World Majors and part of a two-year series of elite marathoning that includes Boston, Chicago, New York and Berlin. An unusual feature about London is the fund raising: race organisers note the London Marathon has become the largest annual fund raising event in the world. 2006 saw £42-million for charity, bringing the grand total to £315-million. In 2007, 78% of all runners raised money. Sonnet for her part sponsors the Anthony Nolan Trust and happily brings in £1,800 for breast cancer. Go girl!
Sonnet is out the door by 7AM while I and the kids have a more leisurely morning. After bagels, we drive to the train station, train to Waterloo, underground to Canary Warf and Docklands Lite Rail to Cutty Sark - pictured. Phew! We arrive just in time to see the elite men race past. They are thin and lite on foot - the surface area of their lungs the size of a basketball court. This is true actually. According to my very old "Running A Marathon:" gas diffusion is directly related to surface area (Fick's equation). Normal lung space is 50 to 100 square meters in an adult and perhaps twice that for a marathoner. At rest, only 30 to 40 m2 is employed for gas exchange, with as few as one-third of lung capillaries perfused. With exercise, however, both pulmonary blood flow and tidal volume increase to enlarge surface area for gas exchange. By perfusing more capillaries and ventilating additional alveoli, the surface area for gas exchange is increased and diffusion increases proportionately. So there it is.
Both kids are troopers and stay close by my side as everywhere is jammed with spectators. We connect with Nat and Justin at the Cutty or Mile-Six. It's a good meeting point as it allows us to hustle underneath the Thames via the Greenwich footpath to Canary Wharf to see Miles 16 and 19.
Madeleine on the Marathon: "Do they have to do that?"
Saturday, April 12
The marathon is nigh. Sonnet is horizontal in anticipation of tomorrow. She carbo-loads the past few days and finishes her training with yoga and sports message. Her kit is laid out and tonight I am sure we will be to bed by 2100h. Sharp. The race begins at 0945 in Greenwich where Sonnet will take a train with some 35,000 runners. Just like rush hour - face stuffed in arm pit. Runners are like a bunch of rabbits BTW twitching and pissing where ever a free bush. Tomorrow's 28th race will include most of the world's elite excluding Paula Radcliffe, who suffers an injury. Somewhere in the crowd will be our gal huffing and puffing. Sonnet's last marathon was New York in 1996 in her twenties. Tomorrow is the last chance for her 30s, though perhaps this won't be the last chance - she has already signed up for the Richmond Half Marathon next month. I will take the kids to meet Justin and Natalie and their children at the Cutty Sark. We will then bolt to Tower Bridge to see two passings before the finish. Oh, and the weather: rain by mid-day.
Friday, April 11
Marie Antoinette was a dog. No matter what the text books report or the paintings try to hide - this basic fact holds true. That out of the way, Marie was also a remarkable, and tragic, Queen of France from 1775 to 1793 when her head was chopped. I learn of her from yesterday's visit to Le Grand Palais in Paris where she and her treasures are on display in a fabulous exposition. As the Kirsten Dunst movie says: Rumour, Scandel, Fame, Revolution. This pretty much sums it up. M-A was a vivacious child who pursued music, theatre and the arts. At 14 she was married to King Louis the XVI to secure France's best with Austria, a long-time arch-enemy. From there it is all about extravegance, which knows no bounds. Despite her lavish lifestyle while most of France suffered deprivation, she was revered by her public and every gala watched breathlessly by society. M-A bore her country two children but sadly Louis XVII died, age 10, and her daughter taken from her during the revolution. Eventually she is charged of treason and with XVI is restricted to Versailles until her destiny fulfilled at the block. On display are her final letters which suggest a cold and cruel conclusion to a most operatic life.
"The more sophisticated the circles in which one moves, the more it is taken for granted that a women's promiscuity is no more a reflection on her general morality than a man's."
Barbara Amie, wife to Conrad Black
Undoubtedly Heathrow's Terminal Five has not been smooth since The Queen (photo from the Daily Mail). Luggage has been lost. Flights have been canceled. Today it is announced that British Airways will re-route to their old Terminal 4, disrupting other airlines at their cost. Naomi Cambell throws a hissy-fit when her bags go missing and she, Dear Brother, is now no longer allowed on British Airways. Ever. Naomi is for once cheered. Terminal 5 has been under construction, like, always and has cost nearly nine-billion dollars to complete. It is for good reason called the largest roof in Britain. I have now had the pleasure, without problem, of using T5 twice and it is indeed impressive: gun metal steel, expansive views, marbled floors and people everywhere. The terminal is ten stories and the first weird thing is the departure drop-off, which begins at the top-floor. From there, a traveler proceeds through gate check, customs and security then travels downwards to the waiting lounge crossing restaurants, shops, coffee bars and duty-free. The staff all seem pretty jazzed to be here and most are friendly and provide advise on how to catch a plane, which is by no means obvious. So unlike the media and everybody else, I do not have a gripe with BAA. Expectations were high. The airport screwed up. Luggage will be returned and eventually Terminal 5 will World Class. It screams success - success! - and finally there is a terminal that lives up to London's billing. It is all money.
Wednesday, April 9
I am in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands yesterday to visit a pension. It is a nice two-hour train ride from Euston Station, North London but unfortunately the tube there is miserable. I don't often travel rush-hour so it is a shock to be underground with so many people - all pretty unhappy, I might add. London's transportation needs an upgrade and barely creeks along following mis-management and public-private investment schemes that have not worked, thank you very much Gordon Brown who implemented them as Echequer. We hope the 2012 Olympics, now transforming East London, will do the same for the rest. At least we can dream and keep our fingers crossed. Wolverhampton I know from their football club, but otherwise this a first-time visit. There is an impressive church, St Peter's, which was built in 1425 receiving a ho-hum in a country dotted by many older (picture from the City Council). An art museum nearby is trying. A highlight is the discussion I have with a pensioner showing off his military emblems as part of council show. He describes the various pins and medals pointing to several Americans: "those were worn by the dough-boys" his voice scratched. "They were in WWI. And saved our bacon. And Europe's too." We have a chuckle about California and why anybody from there would be here. Hmmm.
Eitan and Madeleine's yard sale net: zero. Both are chastened and we discuss ways to improve cash-flow. Eitan suggests lowering price (check), better stuff (check), more signs and knocking on doors (check-check). I think the lessons learned plus our neighbor Nicki sees the idleness and puts her and our kids to work cleaning her garage. Enterprising her.
I'm off to Paris for the night. Heavy rain is predicted for Sonnet's Marathon.
Monday, April 7
Well, here is an interesting photo taken this evening in front of our house (missing from shot: yard sale propaganda, in front window). Yes, I walk inside and assaulted by the little Shakespeares who scheme, with Natasha, for tomorrow's Big Event: Yard Sale, dude. All their crappola is laid out in the living room with price tags (oh, so precious): broken helicopter (£2), plastic sword (£5.99; behind Eitan's head, pictured), flashing sun-glasses, broken (£3.55). Madeleine also plans to sell her clothes but I put the kabol on this one. Between encouraging remarks and (mostly hidden) guffaws Sonnet and I are deeply proud of our young entrepreneurs and their introduction to capitalism. I may further add that this is the first bona fida in either Eitan or Madeleine's class and totally self-motivated. Neither Sonnet, Natasha or I suggested secondary value to their junk but hey, if they can extract it - good on 'em.
Eitan fills a full-page reading list in return for a subscription to one of the sports dailies, excluding The Sun and Page Three, thank you very much. The boy is proud of his accomplishment driven forward by Manchester United box scores. Tonight we will send in the cheque.
Moe and Grace on the OP, Monterey, where they visit Katie who stays the week end following her Op-Ed project. We love Moe's shades. In fact, in Los Angeles Adam took me to Melrose to buy some sporty kicks (also known as "trainers") at Sporty L.A. then we hunted sun glasses but with no success. Over-sized aviators are à la mode and particularly silly on my peanut-sized head but hey they're fun and fashionable. My problem is not the frames but the prescription which steals the immediate gratification (Adam helpfully notes that "seeing is not the point"). Back to reality, London is embarrassed by the anti-China protesters who try to tackle the Olympic flame yesterday - this despite a year's planning and 2,000 police re-enforcements and 11 bad-ass Chinese who arrive on a chartered jet with mission to shadow and protect the thing. The Chinese wear track suits and surround the torch, communicating via ear-pieces. Organisers say they are employees of the Beijing Olympic Organising Committee but nobody is really sure - Ministers report that they have no knowledge of their diplomatic status. I think these dudes will apply serious whoop-ass to any hippy or peace sympathiser foolish enough to get in the way. Meanwhile at our favorite airport, Terminal 5 cancels all flights yesterday thanks to bad weather. T5 and British Airways just can't get a break.
I jump into Madeleine's bed this morning, much to her irritation. She warms up for a game of thumb-wrestling (One-Two-Three-Four! I declare a thumb war!). Eitan barrels in and on top of us to make a morning sandwich. Madeleine hollers, Sonnet screams, and I'm out the door to swim some laps.
Sunday, April 6
On blogging: no doubt obsessive. I try to make one or two entries a day which takes maybe 30 minutes of focus. On the weekends I often spend too much time in front of my computer so I try to keep it away - this is not easy, Dear Brother. Mostly I aim to communicate the kids to the grand-parents and extended family, at least this is whom I have in mind as I write. Sometimes the news catches my eye or I find a thing weirdly British which I post. I do not intend to be mean-spirited (unless railing against Bush politics) nor gossipy. I do not include last-names and try to avoid specific locations or venues. I also write for the future - it is fun to revisit older postings and things I would not otherwise recall. At some point Eitan and Madeleine, already tired of my photography, will look aghast at my missives concerning them. Then I will take my weblog private or stop writing but for now and as long as I feel it safe &c. I continue.
We get a legitimate snow, the first of the season and it is April. We have not had powder for at least a year. The kids are excited any way and squeal for the outdoors. We head for Richmond Park where Eitan works a snow man - pictured. All the kids in the neighborhood have the same plan and we see snow-ball fights and snowmen galore (Madeleine: "what about snow woman? Yeah?!). The fun is fun until it ends in tears as Madeleine is cold and soaked and feels her brother unfair. No sympathy from me: No rules in a snowball war. Afterwards at home the kids swap out of their wet clothes for pajamas and Eitan gears up for Manchester United v Middlesborough (he now fantasizes Rinaldo giving Penecheck a nut meg - Penecheck being the Chelsea goalie and a "nut meg" is through the legs). Madeleine reads with Sonnet and we button down the hatches for a day indoors.
Saturday, April 5
Eitan returns from the toy store blowing his cash on 26-packs of football trading cards (35 pence a pack). For him, he gets the better deal when the first opened offers Steven Gerard "Man Of The Match" in all-black. He pumps his arms and dances around the room. I do remember how such simple things made for joy - who can forget the feeling of a rare comic book made valuable in your collection? My youth was spent between Comics & Comics and Comics World, both on Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley. On sunny Saturdays I walked across the Berkeley campus with allowance in my pocket. Back then, a comic book went for 25 cents and I would buy the monthlies then troll through the older boxes on a hunt for a trophy. The most dear - Spider Man #1 -10, say, were on display behind the cashier away from our grubby hands. Afterwards I would hit Blondie's for a peperoni slice then a bench to read my new issues. From there, the goods sealed in plastic now sit in my parent's basement appreciating daily, presumably, in value.
Katie is in California for her Op-Ed Work Shop and Grace and Moe join her for the weekend. She sends me this photo from yesterday. I recover from last week's trip and everything else by sleeping until 11AM, oblivious to the kids who build a fort in the bedroom. Madeleine gets right into my face: "are you awake yet, dad?". Half-term break begins and Eitan and Madeleine have two weeks no school. Lucky them. We stay in London conserving Sonnet's vacation days at the museum for summer, when we will spend five weeks in Colorado, New Mexico and California. Lucky us.
On the tabloids, Chris Tarrant and his former wife have settled their divorce, with Ingrid Tarrant securing about half the couple’s £25 million fortune including £5.5 million cash. After 15 years of marriage, the couple separated in September 2006, after Ms Tarrant, 53, hired a private detective and discovered the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire host and radio DJ was having a long-running affair with a primary school deputy head teacher. Middle aged men and their dicks - pathetic.
Friday, April 4
Sonnet prepares for the Big Day - 13 April - when she will line up for the Flora London Marathon. It is her fifth marathon and first in 12-years. Whether she breaks four-hours or no, we are all proud of her commitment while her V&A colleagues find her to be a tad eccentric (sometimes, Dear Sister, Sonnet runs three-hours before work). The kids just find in normal and I roll over at dawn's crack when she laces up her trainers. The photo BTW was taken at a race in Clapham Common three years ago.
While on running: it is spring in London so I celebrate with an eight-mile loop around Richmond Park with Edwin, who bikes over from Chelsea. I do this despite several martini cocktails last night at the Lanesborough's Library Bar with my French friend Louis. Rest assured today I get no sympathy from Sonnet nor Edwin, who in my book is a professional athlete and a 2:49 marathoner, he reminds me. Despite my weighing anchor, we manage an enjoyable lunchtime comparing our running, races and injury. No doubt I am an imposter not having trained for something since maybe 2002, but it is always great to see Edwin and be outside when the sun is shining. Oh yeah.
I tell Eitan that Liverpool's Peter Crouch was stretching his butt at Wednesday's game and the team was doing the wave.
Thursday, April 3
Arsenal ties Liverpool 1-1 in the all English Champions League quarter-final last night (Roy and I catch the Big Show). The Gunners go up 1-nil in the first half but conceded the tie two minutes later. Worse, Dutch referee Pieter Vink failed to award Arsenal a second-half penalty against Liverpool's Dutch striker Dirk Kuyt - Vink, whose home town is 5 kilmotres from Kuyt, failed to spot a blatent foul five-yards from his nose. Don't think for a moment the fans let it go and, Dear Brother, I cannot recall hearing mostly respectable men shouting C--- at the top of their lungs. Of course we already know the English take their national past-time seriously from start to fisticuffs. In fact, the world's first professional soccer league was formed here in 1888 which now includes 72 clubs evenly divided among three divisions but the Championship is the one that counts: this is where the Big Boys play. Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool duke it out for glory while the bottom fear relegation to a lower division. The top teams are over-capitalised and house the world's best talent (shame our stars cannot win the World or European Cups when forced to play together). Football rakes billions of pounds while unifying a nation behind key internationals and providing identity otherwise lost from different class and cultures.
Madeleine pulls a sick-day, the fist spring of the season, so her timing good. We sit around for Natasha and she fills in her picture book. Mostly Madeleine wants some extra attention - no problemo from us missing a day of school for that.
Wednesday, April 2
Eitan watches Manchester United v. Roma in last night's Champions League action and is thrilled by the result: 2-0 (guess who won). His biggest hero and most valuable trading card, Christiano Ronaldo, strikes first with a powerful header while Wayne Rooney provides the security during the second half. The boy plays inside footie as he watches and exults when ManU scores; Madeleine is bored but refuses to go to bed despite the hour: "that's unfair, dad." Consequently, everybody drags this morning and I push the kids to yoga. Unbeknownst to me, there is Spring Assembly and Madeleine forgets her lines. Panic. I race home, returning in time for a front-row seat and a gaggle of well sung cheer (Eitan gives me the blank stair while Madeleine happy to bat eyes). Tonight I will go to Arsenal v. Liverpool at Emirates.
"They breathe through gills which look a bit like feathers. The gills are on the sides of their heads."
Madeleine at this morning's assembly. She describes a tad-pole
Tuesday, April 1
Back in London and feeling loved: "Dad!" the little Shakespeares scream as I walk through the door. Then: "What did you bring us!" There is no disappointment as I unload new clothes and presents straight from Targé. Things are otherwise back to normal that is to say, Diana is Top Of The News. Lord Justice Scott Baker, the poor sod forced to render a final obvious decision on Paris, reports that Al-Fayed's claim that the Duke of Edinburgh somehow murdered the Princess and his son holds no merit. This after ten years, investigations by the Paris and London Police, Scotland Yard and the media. Plus £6 million of tax-payers money to field a defense (though it may have been worth it if Fayed's legal team had been successful putting the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh on the stand. Their effort failed). Adding further humor to the tragedy is Paul Burrell, Diana's faithful, ass kissing butler and blowhard, who the judge accused of being "pretty shabby" and lying to the jury, possibly because: "Whatever he said might have an impact on his future enterprises." (Mr Burrell now resides in Florida - won't return to England any time soon). The real loser, Dear Reader, is us - the aggrieved Diana fan who cannot get enough of the beloved People's Princess. We buy the crapolo every day keeping the story alive and alive and alive and .. .. .