Sunday, February 28
Saturday, February 27
Friday, February 26
What a strange and wonderful monument at the heart of Paris that honors France's fallen soldier, particularly during the Napoleonic Wars. On the inside top, a list of Generals and wars fought; underneath, the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I. Access is via an underground tunnel, thank goodness, as the circling drivers mad. I see two near collisions while another attempts a dramatic inside-to-outside move that earns little respect: "connard!"
Thursday, February 25
Wednesday, February 24
This Parisian anti-smoking ad receives critical attention which is not surprising as it equates fags and porno suggesting an abusive, submissive relationship. God bless the French, who have no problem putting it out there. At least they are not hypocrites.
Tuesday, February 23
Madeleine gets her book on - I do not recall the title from work but it really does not matter. She is into it. London's grey cold weather continues and I am forced to wonder: am I participating in a Ray Bradbury novel? Who can forget "All Summer In A Day" which I read around the seventh grade. Recall the story about Margot, who has been relocated to Venus from Earth somewheres in the future. On Venus it is constantly raining and the sun visible for one hour every seven years. Margot is the only child in her class who remembers sunshine so the kids bully her, locking her in a broom closet. Suddenly the sun arrives, the teacher takes the class outside where they whoop for joy in their new freedom; then a girl starts crying, a raindrop falls and thunder. Everybody runs inside remembering Margot who they find pale in the gloom and darkness - the sun has come and gone.
Monday, February 22
Of the photos I take yesterday from my mobile, this one captures the strange lonely scene best. The young woman pictured perfectly miraged: connected to us and yet a million miles away. The models tone dark - expressionless with heavy eye-shadow never making eye contact as is the norm at these things. A jutted walk makes their appearance all the more alien. Designer Louise Goldin's clothes dazzle, too: slinky, shiny leggings, wedge shoes and padded curves. The show in Covent Garden in the basement of a deserted building off the square and ideal for runway lighting and atmosphere. I am invited by new friend Izzy, from Croatia via Duane so not surprising his friends ueber cool; Izzy is dating Goldin.
Sunday, February 21
Reviewing Madeleine's photo from this morning, and all my photos for that matter, I realise many (most?) are a battleship grey. A combination, no doubt, of reduced sunlight and rain+dull overcast skies. At the fashion show I meet a single-mother living in Shoreditch (the cool part of town where all the gays are) whose older boyfriend in a band in Los Angeles. They commute. I am surprised to learn she does not like El Lay - most Brits adore the idea of California and all else unobtainable to them. But don't we all? I digress. She finds the relentless sunshine monotonous and lack of seasons unsettling. What do people talk about? she laments. And the traffic - nobody has time for the beach. It cannot all be Baywatch, I admit, but my high school experience pretty 90210. We compare notes on working and child-raising but, in honesty, I cannot imagine being solo for the biggest Project of one's career. It would not be half as much fun, for one. And requires tremendous courage and fortitude. Respect.
We have your typical London Sunday: up at 6:30AM for Eitan's swim practice; Sonnet takes Madeleine to the Betty Jackson catwalk at Somerset House; Aggie arrives 9:30AM to take both kids to the Waterloo IMAX where they see African Safari 3D then lunch at the dreadful Giraffe ... meanwhile, I go to the afternoon Louise Goldin show who is the fashionista of the hour and the pap there in full force, as are the celebs, but I will post something on them or this tomorrow.
And here is Madeleine on the Waterloo Bridge. I ask her about her day and get the usual "good." I probe: "'Good' like what happens every day at school?" (she now sits on the counter next to the oven, which is the warmest spot in the kitchen). Sonnet reading "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" which is the seventh of seven volumes (just asking the title, interrupting Sonnet's flow, gets screeches from the Shakespeares). Any attempt to gather more insight into Madeleine's (or Sonnet's) day for the next 100 pages null and void. Like Louise Goldin, I shall revisit.
PM Gordon Brown under fire for abusing his staff. I can see this - he seems to me a dour personality. Sure, his style maybe suitable for a good financial melt down but who would want to work for him? Despite it all, the Tories indefensible 28 point lead over Labor six months ago fallen to a measly six. They panic and David Cameron promises us, the people, stock in the banks we have baled out. Free money! Go figure. For the record: I will vote, for the first time in my life I might add, conservative in the June elections. A 50% tax rate does that to a fellow. Conservatives commitment to junk Heathrow's third-runway another. Most recently, Govt. has introduced a car-park charge in Richmond Park despite massive local resistance and protest (a rally drew 1,000 old-age pensioners and a few families). Unfortunately for us, the over-flow will be on our block as visitors attempt to avoid the charge. Conservatives have said bluntly they will repeal the charge earning my and a few other votes.
Eitan has been clamoring for bowling so yesterday we do. Here we are on Queen's Way in Bayswater touching Hyde Park's north side. Queen's Way is one of those strange, incredible streets found only in London. Crowded, a bit run down and rather low-brow (as is the neighborhood, despite Tony buying a pad on Connaught Square) it attracts young people from everywhere by the horde. As it should: the other side anchored by Whiteley's shopping mall - London's first mall suffering from the economy and Westway which opened in Sheperd's Bush and home of Tiffany, Apple and everything bling. In between, the street has restaurants and pubs from every quarter: Lebanese, Italian, German, Japanese, American (Subway, Starbucks, KFC - fast food), Iranian, Chinese, French, Scottish, Dutch .. it is the only place in London as Cosmopolitan as we know the city to be - over 250 languages spoken here after all, making us the most linguistic capital in the world [An aside: in 2000 Government surveyed 850,000 London school children's first-language finding Lugenda (Uganda), Ga (Ghana), Tigrinya (Sudan), German and Japanese equal at 800 per tongue; English 608,500.]
Friday, February 19
Thursday, February 18
Sonnet dresses in her best dungarees and spends the day at the V&A Battersea Storage Facility which is on the river next to the Battersea Power Station. Eventually, the museum will move its storage outside London to reduces costs, but for now, Sonnet and a colleague must sort the wheat from the chaff. Pictured, a possible treasure - Sonnet think it might be a Biba, a fashion label from a groovy shop on Kensington High Street in the '60s and '70s. So the storage: "A sixties warehouse filled with over-flow from the V and A's collection, architectural remnants, broken bits of pottery, mannequin and lots of dust" she says.The last point not surprising since the building's other neighbor a cement facility.
Wednesday, February 17
Here we be before dinner. Sonnet, who has been suspiciously absent from my blogging, at the Design Museum for a cocktail schmoozer. Initially, as I have the Shakespeares to myself, I thought ice skating and Chinatown but that nixed by Manchester United v. AC Milan ("David Beckham playing for AC Milan!" Eitan yelps) and kick-off at 7:45PM (thanks to the dead Monty we still have no TV so Eitan goes to Jackson's). We cycle through different options - Persian, Fish-and-chips, burgers or noodles before agreeing on the ghastly "Giraffe" which provides African themed fair with accompanying plastic toy cartoon animals. Sambo's lives. Even this thwarted by road-works to Richmond village so we end up at a local Thai (dumplings "lovely" - rest, thumb's down). So the venue .. forgettable on (another) rainy night but we do have engaging conversation. Madeleine blurts that a girl professed her love for Eitan making our hero distinctly uncomfortable. Madeleine, meanwhile, teased for pal Marcus "and we most definitely are not getting married." The first blush of the opposite sex - could it be?
Tuesday, February 16
Nodar Kumaritashvili ripping down the track before his untimely death on the same course (photo from the mirror.co.uk). These dudes race at speeds up to 100 mph around narrow high-banked curves experiencing centrifugal pull of up to 7G. Seven gee! From my way back physics I recall that a g equals the force on the body from acceleration or gravity, in units equal to one g. So the 200 Kumaritashvili experienced forces of 1,400 pounds. Steering is done by flexing the sled's "runners" with the calf of each leg or exerting opposite shoulder pressure to the seat. Kumaritashvili's ending tragic yet I would suppose that this why the sport seductive - the joy a razor's edge.
Monday, February 15
Saturday, February 13
I find - and scan - this old post-card "Spenger's Fish Grotto" which has been in Berkeley for, like, ever. Johann Spenger, a Bavarian immigrant, opened a crab counter here in 1890 to complement a small fishing fleet. His son, Frank Sr., opened a restaurant in 1930 and died in '73, leaving it to his son, Frank Jr. This was in the way-back when the Berkeley pier an important dock for bay and Pacific crawlers and before the 80 separated the restaurant from the water, though the highway surely increased Spenger's customers - for many years it was the number one restaurant in America by volume and revenue. Go figure. The neighboring Brannon's, a blue-collar, old school Irish Bar with 75 cent vodka tonics as recently as last decade was in the Top Ten thanks, I would assume to Spenger's - what better way to hit the road then a belt of something following dinner? Moe and I used to go to Brennan's for carved roast beef and sour-dough sandwiches on the way back from his law office where I sometimes joined him on Sundays.
Friday, February 12
Eitan and Madeleine on their way to mufti day at school. So I investigate this expression. mufti, and here is what I learn: "Mufti, or civies (slang for "civilian attire") refers to ordinary clothes, especially when worn by one who normally wears, or has long worn, a military or other uniform." (Wikipedia). Now it is a day where schools allow the students and staff to wear normal clothing instead of their schoo uniform. In return, students are usually required to pay a small fee whose proceeds go to fund raising efforts - today, for Haiti.
Alexander McQueen took his life in Mayfair yesterday. At 40, he had become known for his unconventional designs and shock tactics. McQueen worked as head of Givenchy for five years before founding Alexander McQueen and McQ Labels. McQueen's dramatic designs, worn by celebrities like Rihanna, Bjork and Lady Gaga, met with critical acclaim and earned him the British Fashion Designer of the Year award four times. I first became aware of his work with his "lobster shoes," pictured, which are like nothing else - they are alarming and horrific, changing the model's dimensions and making her that much more objectified for it. Brilliant. Sonnet notes she acquired one of McQueen's costumes days before his death.
Thursday, February 11
Re this pic, Eitan says: "I think I look famous and my teeth are whiter then usual and I look a bit broader." Yes, Eitan experiments with hair gel. The jacket, meanwhile, "is turned inside out because in the 1960s the jackets were very important." Tomorrow, you see, the weirdly named "muftie day" where the children dress as they wish and the theme ... 1960s. The kids study art - Art Week! - and the '60s seem to have some .. resonance. Eitan jingles "Lucy In The Sky Of Diamonds." They also do and watch drama and must bring in a re-construction of a London something. Most kids, including Eitan and Madeleine, do Big Ben though the craftier bring the London Eye or Tower Bridge. I suppose it depends on the parent's involvement and on this one we ain't.
This one from this morning, shortly before departing for school (Sonnet to work early and I get to do the school-run, lucky me). Our sad news yesterday: Monty died following a brief illness which sapped her strength. Madeleine momentarily destroyed considering how the hamster may have suffered. Eitan, too, upset but he internalises his grief without a tear. We tell Monty stories on the walk to school, like the time she was on the lam and the whole family on hands and knees to trap her excluding Sonnet who stood on a chair - who would have thought such weakness? Eitan notes that "our house shouldn't have a pet" following four goldfish and now the second hamster. I assure the kids this the way of the world: pets die and you get another one. Monty compares nothing to the passing of Robin's beloved Ray and I make sure, without undermining grief for Monty, that we keep life in perspective.
Wednesday, February 10